Archive for the ‘National’ Category

Many decades to cleanup Ranger uranium mine. Taxpayers to cop these costs?

July 1, 2015

as Ranger was authorised by the Commonwealth Government under 1953 Atomic Energy Act which primarily allowed the uranium to be used for military purposes, the Commonwealth and, ultimately the taxpayers, could be liable for the clean up if ERA was bankrupted.

Ranger-pitERA faces closure after uranium miner’s expansion plans shelved by Rio Tinto, ABC News, 30 June 15  By business reporter Stephen Letts Sorry history, uncertain environmental legacy Apart from the discharge of a million litres of radioactive slurry in 2013, Ranger has a sorry history of accidents with more than 200 environmental incidents being reported to government agencies since 1979.

Just how much Ranger’s clean-up will cost is open to question. Under existing legislation, once the lease expires early in 2021, ERA has five years to complete the rehabilitation program.

Gavin Mudd, a senior lecturer in environmental engineering at Monash University with a long standing interest in Ranger, argues there are problems calculating the final cost as it depends on a number of choices, including how long is an adequate period of monitoring radioactivity levels.

The level of radioactivity around the site is unlikely to be safe any time soon given the half-life of uranium-238 is 4.5 billion years. The half-lives of other principal radioactive components of mill tailings, thorium-230 and radium-226, are shorter at about 75,000 years and 1,600 years respectively, but it’s a rather academic distinction.

Currently there is not a stipulated period for monitoring levels of radiation at the site once the rehabilitation is completed. However, Dr Mudd said a monitoring program should be run over decades rather than years.

“Fifty years would be a good start,” he said.

“The $500 million is the basic truck and shovel number, just the earthworks part of the rehabilitation.

“Sufficient money needs to be put in a fund that will pay for on-going monitoring and I haven’t seen that done yet.”

That leaves a big question mark over what will happen if ERA runs out of cash according to Dr Mudd.

“If ERA ran out of money before the rehab was finished and went bankrupt, who picks ups the tab?” he asked. Dr Mudd argues that the existing rehabilitation fund has always been a small fraction of the total cost, because ERA maintained it was a profitable company and could cover the costs.

The mounting losses and depressed prices bring that argument into question.

Dr Mudd said, as Ranger was authorised by the Commonwealth Government under 1953 Atomic Energy Act which primarily allowed the uranium to be used for military purposes, the Commonwealth and, ultimately the taxpayers, could be liable for the clean up if ERA was bankrupted.

“A lot of the day-to-day regulatory stuff is handled by the

Northern Territory Government, so it’s difficult to say where the liability lies (if ERA was bankrupt),” Dr Mudd noted.

“I’d much rather have cash in a trust to cover it, rather than have taxpayers potentially foot the bill,” he said.

If there has been one constant at Ranger, Dr Mudd said it has been that ERA has failed to invest in good processes as decisions were constantly delayed “waiting for the next big thing”.

“A new water treatment plant would have only cost $10 to 15 million back in 2002,” Dr Mudd said.

“The cost of mine closures, clean-ups and retrofitting other technology since then is probably more than a billion dollars.”

“Mining stopped in Pit 1 back in 1994, but has only now been finally closed, about two decades later.”

Traditional owners demand ‘comprehensive clean up plan’

The traditional owners – the Mirrar people – are reluctant to discuss Ranger’s closure, apart from issuing a statement welcoming the decision.

“As things stand today we will not support any extended term of mining at Ranger beyond 2021,” the statement said.

“We take this position because of our experience of 30 years of environmental and cultural impacts at Ranger.

“We need to see a concrete and comprehensive commitment and plan for the clean up of Kakadu; that commitment and planning needs to start today.”……..

Jon Bok of South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission faced tough questions in Coober Pedy

June 27, 2015

John Bok representing the Royal Commission. Small attendance (5 people) 

This is not a perfect transcript, but is largely accurate. Where you see 1. that means a question from the attendees.

Bok: I’m here to help with providing information for the community, and particularly the Aboriginal community, as the Commissioner looks at risks and opportunities for expanding the nuclear industry in South Australia.

  1. Is there some reason why we are being targeted? We’ve had two Royal Commission community forums, and Roxby Downs hasn’t had one.

Bok:  I’m out an about in the region. I’m going back to Port Augusta in the coming weeks.

  1. You’re not looking at the underground tunnels, are you? – I don’t mean you personally; I mean the government in general.

Bok:  It’s a much broader process. It is my opportunity to meet people who are interested.

  1. AREVA is sending back a shipload of nuclear waste to Australia. What are we going to do with that, when it gets here?

Bok: I simply don’t know. The Commissioner is looking broadly at South Australia.  One question is – should we take nuclear waste in, to South Australia?

I’m not aware if Australia has the obligation to take that waste back. The question is:  is it viable to take back nuclear waste?. The Terms of Reference ask about the feasibility and viability of the four questions . (more…)

South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission chief Scarce is not independent

June 26, 2015

Scarce,--Kevin-glowDennis Matthews, 26 June 15 It does no credit to the Advertiser, or Kevin Scarce, or the SA inquiry into the nuclear industry when Scarce cites misleading statements like no one was killed by exposure to ionising radiation from the Fukushima disaster (The Advertiser, 25/6/15).

This sort of ignorance was promulgated generations ago by the asbestos industry. Gullible, greedy politicians and newspaper editors became part of the problem and it took many decades before action was taken.


Sure, nobody was killed outright by asbestos, and lots of jobs and wealth were produced, but do we really want to lumber the next generation of South Australians with another expensive medical disaster?

It’s time that editors, politicians, and ex-Governors learnt from the past. Learnt that some medical disasters don’t happen overnight and can take decades to be diagnosed.

As with asbestos, the nuclear industry and its supporters will undoubtedly be condemned by history. It’s a pity that the Scarce’s and Koutsantonis’s of this world won’t be around to try to defend themselves.

According to Kevin Scarce – no need to worry about Fukushima nuclear plant

June 26, 2015

Fukushima scarcely a worry Adelaide Advertiser, Adelaide,  Paul Starick 25 Jun 2015  FORMER governor Kevin Scarce says the Fukushima disaster doesn’t pose a major barrier to the nuclear industry’s development in SA.

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commissioner, who toured the Fukushima exclusion zone during a global study tour, says the 2011 nuclear power plant meltdown was a result of poor design and management. In an exclusive interview with The Advertiser, Rear Admiral (retired) Scarce said the six-country study tour had demonstrated SA was technically capable, with help, of developing a nuclear industry, from the enrichment to spent fuel rod reprocessing, if this was financially viable.


……. Rear Admiral Scarce said the disaster had prompted safety rethinks at other sites the three-person delegation visited during the Asian and European tour, completed this month… doesn’t indicate to me that we shouldn’t be looking at this technology. “It means we’ve got to be very careful. We’ve got to be aware of what the consequences are.

“As devastating as Fukushima was, the subsequent improvements made since then enable us to go and look at this technology for our future.”….

latest lie from nuclear lobby

Financial interest in nuclear industry – Royal Commissioner Timothy Stone!

June 24, 2015

scrutiny-Royal-Commission CHAINDr Timothy Stone should be in the same position as any other business or ordinary individual: free to put his opinions to the Royal Commission through the submissions process, but not be a member of the Commission in any form.

Dr Timothy Stone Visiting Professor, International Energy Policy Institute, University College London Adelaide

Current potentially relevant activities:

  • Non-executive Director, Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd (UK)
  • Visiting Professorship, International Energy Policy Institute, University College London (Adelaide)
  • Chairman, Advisory Board of DBD Ltd (UK, nuclear engineering)

South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission is not neutral with propagandist Barry Brook on board

June 22, 2015

Brook,-Barry-glowsSo that’s the game plan − making absurd claims about Generation IV reactors, pretending that they are near-term prospects, and being less than “abundantly clear” about the truth. Time for these people to be held to account and for Brook to be removed from the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission’s ‘expert panel’.

Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce was forewarned about Brook’s track record of peddling
but still chose to include Brook in his ‘expert panel’.

On the troubled worldwide history with fast reactors, see thereport by the International Panel on Fissile Materials.

scrutiny-Royal-Commission CHAINBarry Brook being less than “abundantly clear” about Generation IV reactors  Jim Green, June 2015, An 18 June 2015 guest post on Barry Brook’s website claims that Generation IV fast neutron reactors will be mass produced and “dominating the market by about 2030.”

Compare that Big Fat Lie with the following:

  1. The Generation IV International Forum states: “Depending on their respective degree of technical maturity, the FIRST Generation IV systems are expected to be deployed commercially around 2030-2040.” (emphasis added)
  2. The International Atomic Energy Agency states: “Experts expect that the FIRST Generation IV fast reactor DEMONSTRATION PLANTS AND PROTOTYPES will be in operation by 2030 to 2040.” (emphases added)
  3. A 2015 report by the French government’s Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) states: “There is still much R&D to be done to develop the Generation IV nuclear reactors, as well as for the fuel cycle and the associated waste management which depends on the system chosen.”

IRSN is also sceptical about safety claims: “At the present stage of development, IRSN does not notice evidence that leads to conclude that the systems under review are likely to offer a significantly improved level of safety compared with Generation III reactors, except perhaps for the VHTR …” Moreover the VHTR (very high temperature reactor) system could bring about significant safety improvements “but only by significantly limiting unit power”.

  1. The World Nuclear Association noted in 2009 that “progress is seen as slow, and several potential [Generation IV] designs have been undergoing evaluation on paper for many years.”

In 2009 Brook wrote a puff-piece about Generation IV fast reactors for the Murdoch press. On the same day he said on his website that “although it’s not made abundantly clear in the article”, he expects conventional reactors to play the major role for the next two to three decades but chose to emphasise Generation IV reactors “to try to hook the fresh fish”.

So that’s the game plan − making absurd claims about Generation IV reactors, pretending that they are near-term prospects, and being less than “abundantly clear” about the truth. Time for these people to be held to account and for Brook to be removed from the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission’s ‘expert panel’.
Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce was forewarned about Brook’s track record of peddling misinformation but still chose to include Brook in his ‘expert panel’.
The guest post on Brook’s website was written by barking-mad conspiracy theorist Geoff Russell (who holds me personally responsible for all the death and suffering from the Fukushima disaster).

Russell cites the World Nuclear Association (WNA) in support of his claim that “The Chinese expect these [fast reactors] to be dominating the market by about 2030 and they’ll be mass produced.”
Does the WNA reference support the claim? No. According to the WNA, China has one very small experimental fast reactor and plans for a larger ‘Demonstration Fast Reactor’ by 2023 and plans its FIRST fast reactor “for commercial operation from 2030″.–nuclear-power/–Nuclear-Fuel-Cycle/#FNR

So China doesn’t expect fast reactors to be dominating the market by 2030. China may have ONE commercial fast reactor by 2030 … but almost certainly won’t. One of the reasons China’s fast reactor program is going nowhere fast is that China is collaborating with Russia (see the above WNA links) and Russia’s fast reactor program is going nowhere fast.

Rosatom subsidiary Rosenergoatom recently “indefinitely” postponed construction of the BN-1200 sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor, citing the need to improve fuel for the reactor and amid speculation about the cost-effectiveness of the project. The decision to indefinitely postpone the project might be reviewed in 2020. The reactor had been scheduled to start commercial operation in 2025, depending on experience operating a pilot BN-800 fast-neutron reactor which achieved first criticality in June 2014 but has not yet started commercial operation.

As recently as July 2014, Rosenergoatom’s director general said that Russia planned to begin construction of three BN-1200 reactors before 2030. OKBM − the Rosatom subsidiary that designed the BN-1200 reactor − previously anticipated that the first BN-1200 reactor would be commissioned in 2020, followed by eight more by 2030.
Rosenergoatom spokesperson Andrey Timonov the BN-800 reactor “must answer questions about the economic viability of potential fast reactors because at the moment ‘fast’ technology essentially loses this indicator [when compared with] commercial VVER units.”

Another fast-neutron reactor project − the BREST-OD-300 − is stretching Rosatom’s funds. Bellona’s Alexander Nikitin said that Rosatom’s “Breakthrough” program to develop the BREST-OD-300 reactor was only breaking Rosatom’s piggy-bank.


On the troubled worldwide history with fast reactors, see the report by the International Panel on Fissile Materials.

Revolutionary huge solar powered glasshouse for Hunter Valley, New South Wales

June 22, 2015

solar glasshouseMassive solar-powered glasshouse in NSW Hunter Valley to employ refugees, migrants , ABC News, By Jackson Vernon  21 June 15 Construction is underway on Australia’s biggest glasshouse, in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, which is solar powered and already providing employment opportunities for new migrants and refugees.

Excavators have started the groundwork on the vegetable growing facility at Fullerton Cove, about 40 minutes outside of Newcastle. At more than 16 hectares, it will cover the size of 20 rugby fields.Dutch investor Cor Disselkoen has developed glasshouses throughout the Netherlands and has brought in materials and labour for construction here.

Once operating, the facility will produce 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes, cucumbers and capsicums every year. “We are producing 14 times more per square metre so we have a huge production compared to open field growing,” Mr Disselkoen said.

“It’s year-round, reliable, independent from whatever climactic circumstances so we can guarantee year around delivery to our clients.”

It has taken many years since the project was first announced to get to this point, after assessments in both Port Stephens Council and the Joint Regional Planning Panel. The project was mired in controversy initially, over plans to power it with a nearby coal seam gas well. But now it will be run solely on clean energy.

“We don’t get any natural gas or coal to fire or heat, we don’t use any electricity from coal fired electricity mains,” Mr Disselkoen said. “We catch the rainfall, which falls on our roof, which is enough for us to grow our plants.” “It’s the most efficient way, but environmentally the best way to do in the future.”

Glasshouse employs refugees and migrants

Refugees and migrants in the Hunter region will be among the 125 workers employed at the glasshouse…….the farm would be a major employment opportunity for dozens of people starting lives in Australia…….

Government welcomes growth to agriculture industry

NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said the new facility would help ensure more local produce was grown and consumed.

“[It] means that we can grow different crops out of season and capitalise on some of the markets that traditionally we may have had to rely upon imported products for,” Mr Blair said.

Mr Blair said the alternative farming method worked side by side with traditional practices and will help grow the $15 billion primary industries sector.

“When we look at glasshouse and intensive production it’s something that we’ve done a lot of investment and research into through the Department of Primary Industries,” Mr Blair said.

Tony Abbott will have to kow tow to maverick right wing Senators, to get legislation passed

June 21, 2015

Cross bench starting make demands of Tony Abbott’s government NEWS.COM.AU JUNE 19, 2015 THE cross bench in the Senate has realised its power and is starting to roar. The problem for voters is the Government is listening.

The clutch of independents with minimalist primary votes and huge ambitions want attention to the mishmash of offbeat ideas and prejudices they hold dear.

And if Tony Abbott and his ministers want their support to overcome the combined Labor/Greens bloc, they will have to take some of them seriously. And it’s already happening.

Senators control Abbott

Here are a few of the causes the senators are championing and want action on:

WIND FARMS: Senator John Madigan wants an ombudsman to deal with the complaints against wind farms by those who live nearby. He says he’s not obsessed by the issue, it’s just he doesn’t believe the 25 scientific inquiries which have found the turbines are not health hazards. Prime Minister Abbott, who calls them ugly and noisy, is considering the appointment of a wind farm commissioner. He has not considered a similar appointment to deal with the many more complaints about coal seam gas………….

MORE GUNS: Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm supports same sex marriage. And he wants people to take their firearms to the weddings to help celebrate. After the Lindt Cafe tragedy he urged laws changed to allow Australians to tote more weaponry. “What happened in that cafe would have been most unlikely to have occurred in Florida, Texas, or Vermont, or Alaska in America, or perhaps even Switzerland as well” because “statistically speaking” some of the abducted customers would have been armed. Nobody in Parliament thinks this is a good idea.

GO NUCLEAR: South Australia’s Bob Day is another senator who thinks wind power is dangerous because of what he calls the “harrowing” effects on humans and animals. But he thinks atomic energy is a better proposition and wants Adelaide to build nuclear subs. “One of the major obstacles to Australia considering nuclear submarines has been the absence of a domestic nuclear industry,” fretted the man who considered turbines a threat.

South Australia headed to be an Australian, and world, leader in renewable energy

June 21, 2015

Rooftop solar to cut total grid demand to zero in South Australia,
REneweconomy  By  on 18 June 2015 
See also Rooftop solar to overtake coal capacity before 2030

The Australian Energy Market Operator predicts that the growing uptake of rooftop solar by homes and businesses will reduce grid demand in South Australia on certain occasions to zero by 2023, highlighting the rapid change in the nature of energy markets, and the growing shift from centralised baseload generation.

The predictions from AEMO came in its 2015 National Electricity Forecasting Report, released on
Thursday. It says that the near 575MW of rooftop solar is already accounting for one-third of total grid demand on certain days in the state.

But within a decade this total could treble, pushing minimum demand required from the grid in the whole state to below 0MW (zero) on some occasions in 2023-24, and for several hours at a time by 2024/25 – when AEMO expects 1864MW of rooftop solar.

It says zero demand from the grid could last from 11.30am to 2.30pm local time on some days………..

South Australia will be a test case for Australia, and indeed the world, because of its high level of “variable renewables” such as wind and solar in its energy mix. 

It already stands at more than 40 per cent and AEMO expects this to grow as the renewable energy target encourages more wind generation and households continue to take up solar. One in four homes in the state already have solar PV……………

It explains why Alinta this week announced the imminent closure of its two base load coal-fired generators, giving the state the opportunity to move towards high renewable penetration, possibly 100 per cent.

Renewable proponents suggest that the two coal plants should be replaced with solar thermal and storage facilities, which have the flexibility to provide power when needed, and to store it when it is not required……..

In South Australia, the minimum load has already shifted from the early morning to the middle of the day, and peak demand has been shunted from the late afternoon to early evening, around 6.30pm. This is expected to move to 7.30pm as more solar is put into the grid.

South Australia is considered to be one of the prime markets for battery storage in Australia, given the high penetration of rooftop solar, and the difference between grid prices and payments for solar exports. Large-scale storage, at grid level, is also being considered in a trial co-sponsored by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and AGL Energy.

See this story for state by state breakdown of AEMO solar PV forecasts.

Aboriginal land rights at risk from federal govt’s new White Paper on Northern Australia

June 21, 2015

Don’t use northern development as ‘Trojan Horse’ to undermine Indigenous land rights, Noel Pearson warns, ABC News By political reporter Anna Henderson, 19 June 15  Influential Cape York Indigenous representative Noel Pearson has warned that development of the north must not be used as a “Trojan Horse” to undermine Indigenous land rights.

The Federal Government has unveiled the northern Australia white paper, a blueprint for policy ideas to develop the sparsely populated region and capitalise on lucrative resources.

The white paper included a section on simplifying land arrangements and a commitment that Indigenous Australians should have the “same opportunities as other Australians to leverage their land assets and generate wealth”.

It also said the Federal Government aimed to have all current native title claims finalised within a decade. Mr Pearson — who attended the Cairns launch of the policy — said the white paper’s reference to expediting native title claims was “certainly welcome”.

“They’re good words,” he said. But he said there have always been concerns that state, territory and federal governments may use the policy to erode progress in the land rights campaign.

 “The concern is that we shouldn’t use the development of the north as a Trojan Horse for undermining the Mabo decision and Indigenous land rights,” he said. “We will never agree to being railroaded by developers.”

The Aboriginal leader also said the policy would not achieve anything if land tenure issues were not addressed…….


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