Nuclear Free Movement – where it’s at now

March 1, 2015


Sorry to harp on about South Australia’s Royal Commission into Nuclear Power  – but it IS the most important matter to come up in Australia’s recent nuclear history. And, it’s all being done in such a hurry.

Senator Scott Ludlam wrote  a wonderful, courteous (what a novelty for an Aussie politician!) article, on how this Commission might be done properly. Alas, few people are confident that this will happen.

This Royal Commission looks like a cover for an old agenda – to make South Australia the world’s nuclear waste dump. Last time they tried this, the nuclear lobby was beaten in  a campaign led by a bunch of Aboriginal women The Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta. A court decision in 2004 resulted in the dump plan being abandoned.

The public has until March 13 to send submissions about the draft Terms of Reference. These draft terms areextraordinarily narrow – ignoring comparative costs, health, agricultural and tourist impacts, and they exclude uranium mining and the current situation of radioactive contamination at Maralinga. The Conservation Council of South Australia provides clear and simple guidance for anyone wanting help in sending a submission.

South Australian farmers have lately been flat out selling berries , as uproar has gone out about people getting sick, from eating imported berries. I wonder how our fruit and vegies would go, if South Australia did become the world’s hub for radioactive trash importing.

The Renewable Energy Target saga drags on – but that’s the way that the Abbott government likes it – the inertia that slowly kills off investor interest.  Victoria’s new Labor government now starting some pro renewable initiatives – funding a Community Solar Energy Farm in Macedon. Even some Victorian Liberals are making pro renewable energy noises.


Nuclear weapons. The focus has been on this issue throughout February. This weekend, experts in studying nuclear weapons and war have been gathering in New York at the Symposium: The Dynamics of Possible Nuclear Extinction. It’s streaming live – and podcasts, transcripts and a book will later be available.

This week – Lots of (not very good) news on nuclear weaponry and war risks, e.g USA law-makers wanting to spend $577 billion on defense, China, Russia, India ramping up their nuclear weaponry.  North Korea, too.

This month, the focus on, (and on will be on the growing movement for a clean nuclear-free planet.  At the same time, a global revolution is happening at extraordinary speed – the change from “top-down”  “vertically integrated” systems to “small scale or “horizontal” systems.  Some business examples – Airbnb, Taskrabbit, Uber,  They work through the “digital ecosystem” . Political examples – extreme religious activist groups. So it’s not all good. But most of it is good- based on trust between individuals, building “reputational capital” between strangers with a common vision.

The nuclear lobby has no grasp of this 21st Century transition.

Even the current nuclear PR for Small Modular Reactors is based on huge  centrally organised, government funded, mass purchase and mass distribution – imposed from above.  Compare that with the millions of homes and small businesses and institutions where individuals made the choice for solar energy – it was not imposed by government.

The clean planet movement is happening at the local level, most often led by indigenous people   – and they are linking up globally.  The new digital ecosytem has opened  the way for millions of people to work together for a healthy nuclear-free planet.

Aboriginal women led the last, and successful, fight against nuclear waste dumping in South Australia

February 28, 2015
South Australia’s broad-brush nuclear review is meant to sideline opponents, The Conversation, Peter Burdon Senior lecturer at University of Adelaide  27 February 2015
“……..Lessons from history In February 1998, the Howard federal government announced plans to build a national radioactive waste facility in South Australia. Billa Kalina, a 67,000 sq km region in the arid north, was eventually selected as the preferred site. The plan was defeated after a six-year federal campaign.

One media narrative, as espoused in the AFR, is that this defeat was the result of a revolt by SA politicians. But this version of the story ignores the powerful campaign led by the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, the senior aboriginal women’s council of Coober Pedy.

This story has been recorded by movement researchers Nina Brown and Sam Sowerwine and in a book, Talking Straight Out: Stories from the Irati Wanti Campaign.

Many members of the Kunga-Tjuta were survivors of the British government’s atomic testing in the 1950s and 60s, and so understood the devastating history of the nuclear industry. Upon hearing about the waste dump proposal, the group issued this statement:

We are the Aboriginal Women. Yankunytjatjara, Antikarinya and Kokatha. We know the country. The poison the Government is talking about will poison the land. We say, “No radioactive dump in our ngura – in our country. It’s strictly poison, we don’t want it.

The traditional residents of this supposedly “benign and sparsely populated geology” fought hard to protect their country using the tools they had available. They explained, demanded, marched and sang. They worked with green activists and wrote passionate letters. They urged politicians to “get your ears out of your pockets”. They won.

As South Australia faces another push from the nuclear industry, we would do well to remind ourselves of these stories. To paraphrase the late historian Howard Zinn, we need to emphasise what is possible by remembering those moments in our recent history when people demonstrated their capacity to resist, come together, and occasionally, to win.

Yami Lester’s Statement on Royal Commission, and the plan to import nuclear wastes

February 28, 2015

I’m hoping  you will support us with this very important issue which has arisen from SA Goverenment regarding a Royal Commission into Nuclear Energy and proposal to store high-level nuclear waste at Maralinga, South Australia

Please read. With thanks,  Yami Lester, Yankunytjatjara Walatinna Station, South Australia (08) 8670 5077

Statement on Royal Commission into Nuclear Energy and proposal to store high-level nuclear waste at Maralinga, South Australia:

In 1953 I was just ten years old when the bombs went off at Emu and Maralinga, I

didn’t know anything about nuclear issues back then, none of us knew what was happening. I got sick, and went blind from the fallout from those tests, and lot of our people got sick and died also.

Now I’m 73 years old and I know about nuclear issues, and I have some friends who know about nuclear waste, and they will fight the South Australian Government on their plans to put high-level nuclear waste at Maralinga and to develop nuclear energy in South Australia.

Why does the government keep bringing back nuclear issues when we know the problems last forever?

The Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia (1984-85) revealed

what happened at Maralinga but it never told what happened to Aboriginal people; the findings were left open.Lawyers proved that there was radiation fallout over Walatinna, but because wenever had any doctors records to document what happened to us, (the closest clinic was Ernabella, 160km away as the crow flys and we didn’t have any transport to get there), we only had our stories and they were never written down.

A few years ago they cleaned up Maralinga from the waste that was leftover from the bomb tests; they spent $1 million, and now they’re going to put more waste back there?

That’s not fair because it’s Anangu land and they won’t be able to use that land.

Members from the APY, Maralinga-Tjarutja and Arabunna, Kokatha lands say we don’t want nuclear waste on our land.

The best thing the government can do is the leave the uranium in the ground, stop mining it.

We ask the South Australian Premier, Jay Weatherill, to talk to Aboriginal people on the lands, and to everyone who has been directly affected by the atomic tests and nuclear industry in Australia before he makes any decisions for South Australia.

Royal Commission is not about nuclear power. It is another attempt to establish a waste-dump in South Australia.

February 28, 2015
South Australia’s broad-brush nuclear review is meant to sideline opponents, The Conversation, Peter Burdon 27 February 2015, Senior lecturer at University of Adelaide The draft terms of reference for South Australia’s planned Royal Commission on the nuclear industry, which are open for public consultation until the end of next week, are deliberately broad.

When announcing the commission last month, SA Premier Jay Weatherill said it would “explore the opportunities and risks of South Australia’s involvement in the mining, enrichment, energy and storage phases for the peaceful use of nuclear energy”.

The move caught many by surprise, not least federal opposition leader Bill Shorten, who – unlike his Labor colleague Weatherill – remains opposed to nuclear.

The announcement also generated huge amounts of free PR for the nuclear industry, as shown in the avalanche of media coverage that ensued – some deliberately balanced, some sceptical of the commission and its value, but much of it highly favourable, especially in the business press.

It is not hard to see why. As Naomi Klein contends, nuclear power is an industrial technology, organised in a corporate manner. And as psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton points out, no technology does more to underline humanity’s dominion over nature than our ability to split the atom.

The positive spin

Reflecting this hubris, the Australian Financial Review (AFR) has dedicated no fewer than 15 editorials and columns to favourable coverage of Weatherill’s plan. They have focused on the economics of nuclear power and SA’s uranium reserves, the safety of small modular nuclear reactors, the economic opportunities of waste management, and the possibility of an objective and non-politicised debate about the nuclear industry

Yet this narrow focus on finance and science (themselves live areas of debate) is wholly unsatisfactory for discussing the nuclear industry. Also relevant are history, ethics, politics, and the perspectives of people who will be directly affected by any decisions made. A Royal Commission (or a media debate, for that matter) that ignores these factors is insufficient…… all sounds rather unlikely and, as environmentalists such as Ian Lowe have noted, nuclear makes it more difficult to “move to the sort of sustainable, ecologically healthy future that should be our goal.”

The real motive

What the Royal Commission’s broad terms of reference really do is give Weatherill flexibility, while also diluting oppositional voices. The anti-nuclear movement is, relative to industry, very small and under-resourced. To what aspect of the inquiry ought they dedicate their energy? If one area is prioritised, do they concede another?

Some observers, among them Greens senator Scott Ludlam, contend that the long game for the government is another attempt to build a radioactive waste dump in the state’s outback. Set against the remote chances of Australia embracing nuclear power, or the unfavourable international economics of uranium enrichment, waste storage stands as more of a genuinely live possibility…..

Understood in this context, the Royal Commission is not about nuclear power. It is another attempt to establish a waste-dump in South Australia. Here we must consider history…………

South Australia’s nuclear Terms of reference leave out vital matters

February 25, 2015

This Royal Commission will be seen as not credible, as a farce, if it ignores these issues


Some  Significant omissions from the Terms of Reference for the SA Nuclear Royal Commission Margaret Beavis 25 Feb 15,

Focus on Mining expansion only

No mention of old mines and contaminated areas

No mention of water issues- huge supply required for reactor and risks of contamination of waterways and aquifers. SA is a dry state.

Opportunity cost of focussing on nuclear industry instead of becoming world leader in renewables

Ignores high cost of nuclear power compared to other sources

Large subsidies needed  from government preventing spending on other important issues

Lack of financial/professional conflict of interest declarations being required from all witnesses and commission members

No mention of health impacts of radiation

No provision for how state would respond to Fukushima type scenario from accident/deliberate damage

No mention of possible impacts on SA tourism, food and wine exports (especially fisheries)

Vast majority of Australia’s existing medical waste has a very short period of radioactivity and is not the main reason for a dump.


Some good advice on Terms of Reference for South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission

February 25, 2015
If the Royal Commission is to be a genuine inquiry, the draft terms of reference need significant revision. Otherwise it will lack credibility.
Cat Beaton, 25 Feb 15   You can make an online submission to the Draft Terms Of Reference here.
On February 9, Premier Weatherill promised “a full and thorough examination of the opportunities and the risks that this industry presents for our State.”
When releasing the draft ToR, he said that the government has “ruled out retracting from our involvement in the mining of uranium” and the terms of reference appear to limit consideration of whether there “is any potential for the expansion of the current level” of uranium mining.
The uranium mining industry needs thorough assessment and all aspects of current and past uranium mining operational impacts must be included:
·   The Royal Commission should investigate all aspects of the uranium mining industry in South Australia, including issues such as the Olympic Dam mine’s exemptions from environmental, Aboriginal heritage protection, and Freedom of Information laws.
·   The Royal Commission should investigate the merits and risks associated with government’s current practice of entrusting SA uranium to repressive, authoritarian states; nuclear weapons states; states refusing to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and states blocking the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
·   Following the March 2011 Fukushima accident – a continuing nuclear crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium – the UN Secretary General urged uranium producing nations to conduct ‘an in-depth assessment of the net cost impact of the impacts of mining fissionable material on local communities and ecosystems’. To date this has not occurred and the SA Royal Commission provides an important mechanism to address this omission.
·   The nuclear industry starts with uranium and so should any genuine assessment of the nuclear sector in South Australia.  Uranium mining is SA’s point of connection with the international nuclear industry and to seek to quarantine this from full consideration is inconsistent with the Premiers call for an ‘informed and mature’ debate.
Other issues that should be included in the Terms of Reference are as follows:
·   The reputational risks of a nuclear industry for South Australia and its potential impacts on key industries such as tourism.
·   Contaminated sites such as the Port Pirie Uranium Treatment Complex, Maralinga and Radium Hill. Consideration of Maralinga is all the more important since SA Nuclear Energy Systems Pty Ltd is reportedly proposing to use the site for an international high-level nuclear waste storage or disposal facility. Thus the Royal Commission should be tasked with investigating current radioactive contamination of the Maralinga site, the feasibility of pursuing an industrial venture on contaminated land and other such matters.
If the Royal Commission is to be a genuine inquiry, the draft terms of reference need significant revision. Otherwise it will lack credibility.

Misleading pro nuclear spin on the Adelaide Advertiser

February 25, 2015

Adelaide-AdvertiserThe Editor
The Advertiser

Your correspondent Phil Day (The Advertiser, 24/2/15) is a victim of those nuclear industry spin doctors who try to use nuclear medicine to justify the use of nuclear reactors.

The nuclear waste that is being considered for dumping in South Australia does not come mainly from medical grade isotopes, it comes from nuclear power stations and from facilities for producing the fuel for nuclear power stations and nuclear weapons. The nuclear waste from medical grade isotopes is comparatively trivial.

I also hope I never need a CAT scan or X-ray because both use ionising radiation. However, neither CAT scans nor X-rays use radioactive isotopes or produce nuclear waste and hence their use to justify generating and importing nuclear waste is misleading.

Dennis Matthews

Australia is contracted to take back a very small amount of nuclear waste

February 25, 2015

text-wise-owlNuclear waste dump needed, SA could fill gap, ABC Radio P.M  February 23, 2015  Natalie Whiting reported this story

“……….NATALIE WHITING: Is the Federal Government going to need a sight for waste storage earlier than when we might see this royal commission wrap up?

ZIGGY SWITKOWSKI: Yes it will, there is waste being continuously generated from the one research and production reactor that we have at Lucas Heights and there are agreements in place to that some of that waste has been sent overseas for reprocessing, but with the understanding that it would be returned to Australia.
Now it’s a very very small amount. I mean a small amount that might… would be hard-pressed to fill a truck, but obviously you have to handle it very carefully and so between the management of the so called intermediate level waste as well as the very low level waste associated with nuclear medicine and radioactive therapy, you need a small repository and frankly the engineering – the technical challenges of that sort of storage is trivial. But as we’ve found in Australia, no matter which government is in power, the ability to make a decision to identify a storage site and then to commission it has proven to be very difficult politically and socially.NATALIE WHITING: Nuclear fuel rods from France are set to be returned to Australia before the end of the year

More nuclear waste, which is being reprocessed in the UK, will be sent back by 2020……”

Terms of Reference for South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission

February 23, 2015

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill calls for comments/submissions on Terms of reference for tye Royal Commission   – at

a-cat-CANNo mention of personnel – other than the pro nuclear former S.A Governor Kevin Scarse.  Scarce,--Kevin-glow

Independent, my foot!


Nuclear royal commission draft terms of reference announced by SA Premier Jay Weatherill South Australia’s nuclear royal commission is to inquire into enrichment, storage of waste and power generation, but not uranium mining.

The State Government has r
eleased draft terms of reference and announced there would be public consultation until March 13.

Premier Jay Weatherill said the inquiry would focus on three key areas, but the terms of reference had deliberately been kept general.

“These are the broadest possible terms of reference … they won’t be settled for a further week,” he said.

“The only caveats really are the non-military uses will be the only things explored and it’s not our intention to suggest any retreat from the current involvement in uranium mining.”

The Premier said it would be the broadest possible analysis of South Australia’s involvement and potential for future involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle.

“We think it’s important to go through what is a thorough process of debate and discussion in the community about this important issue,” he said.

When asked if the state were mindful of a looming federal deadline to deal with the issue of nuclear waste storage, he said: “We don’t think this is something that should be rushed.

“The Commonwealth’s been talking about nuclear waste storage for decades so I don’t think our timeline is going to threaten any key decisions.”

Before the year is out, nuclear fuel rods that are being reprocessed by the French are due to be returned to Australia and by 2020 more nuclear waste being reprocessed in the United Kingdom is due to be returned as well.

Inept and unconvincing – South Australia’s rush to a Nuclear Royal Commission

February 23, 2015

SA nuclear royal commission a farce, Independent Australia 22 February 2015 The South Australian government’s royal commission into our nuclear future is a farce, and a dangerous farce, warns Noel Wauchope.

FIRST OF ALL, it is not the province of one State to determine by a State royal commission that a nuclear industry should be introduced in Australia. That is a protected issue as a ‘A Matter of National Environmental Significance’ under the National Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Secondly, this royal commission would be a mammoth waste of money for South Australia The cost would run into hundreds of $millions. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was allocated over $434 million in 2013 for its first four years of operation. Given that nuclear issues are the province of national law, not South Australian, this is a totally unnecessary expense.

Thirdly, the ‘public involvement‘ in the terms of reference for this royal commission is a farce in itself. Just look at how this was dealt with by the South Australian government:

8 February:

The announcement was made. Despite the fact that this whole initiative is clearly of national importance, it has received minimal publicity outside Adelaide. The Adelaide Advertiser ran a poll. The Adelaide Advertiser is pretty much regarded as the nuclear lobby’s free propaganda vehicle. No surprise if their readership turns up the required positive result.

9 February:

Consultations began on the Terms of Reference for the royal commission. Premier Jay Weatherill touted nuclear power for climate change action, though he said it was not economically viable. The better options, he said, were importing and storing radioactive waste, and uranium enrichment.

Pro-nuclear former governor, Kevin Scarce, was appointed as “independent” head of the inquiry. No mention of what scientists, etc. might be on the panel.

16 February:

(closing day for comments on the Terms of Reference for the royal commission)

There is no need for a royal commission into the nuclear industry for Australia. Nuclear proponent, Ziggy Switkowski, concluded in the 2006 Switkowski Report that the industry is not economically viable here. Nuclear reactors often far exceed their construction budgets. The last nuclear power plant built in Canada cost AUD$15.1 billion.

Mr. Switkowski predicted the capital cost at $4-6 billion for our first 1000MWe reactor.

However, we already know that, despite some pious statements by Jay Weatherill about nuclear power’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, action on climate change is not the motivator for this new inquiry.

According to a report by The Australian on 10 February 2015:

‘He [Premier Jay Weatherill] said he was open to the prospect of remote parts of the state hosting a nuclear waste deposit but played down the prospect of a power plant being built.

“I think that’s the least likely outcome of the royal commission,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“I think what’s most likely is that it will be regarded as not viable for either the state or the nation.” ‘

In the same interview on ABC’s The World Today, Weatherill’s enthusiasm for storing the world’s nuclear waste is clear: ……..,7399


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