Archive for the ‘National’ Category

At tax-payers’ expense a blanket of pro nuclear hype across South Australia

July 20, 2016

South Australia blanket


What I’m worried about is the amount of tax-payers’ money that is going into this State-wide nuclear brainwash.  Is Premier Jay Weatherill squandering so much of the State’s coffers on this fool’s enterprise that he and the rest of the politicians will feel that they MUST go on and complete the damn thing  – commit to an international nuclear waste dump? Current estimate is $13 million. But will it be more?

From July 29 to October 20 they will be sending teams of nuclear spruikers all over the State of South Australia.

Teams from Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Consultation and Response Agency will be there to spread the jolly word of the biased Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission. Who’s on this Agency anyway? Can we expect to hear, yet again, from Greg Ward and Chad Jacobi giving theirr polished pro nuclear spiel?  Will there be deceptive and trivialised presentations on the healthiness of ionising radiation – as there were at the recent Citizens’ Jury hearings?

Turnbull govt moves further into anti-environment – Frydenberg now Minister for Environment!

July 19, 2016
Frydenberg radiation
Malcolm Turnbull Just Made ‘Mr Coal’ His Environment Minister, New Matilda, By  on July 18, 2016 Greg Hunt is gone, but the man who replaced him is likely to be even worse on climate action. Max Chalmers reports.

For environmentalists, climate scientists, and any Australian who wants the Great Barrier Reef to outlive them, there’s good news and there’s bad news.

The good news is that Greg Hunt is no longer the Environment Minister, stripped of the title and bumped across to the position of Industry, Innovation, and Science, as part of Malcolm Turnbull’s first post-election Cabinet reshuffle.

The bad news is the name of the man who will replace him.

Josh Frydenberg, formerly the Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, is set to take over the portfolio, which has ominously been extended to include both environment and energy.

Frydenberg has been a major advocate for coal, and has echoed Tony Abbott’s belief that the mineral is “good for humanity”. In an interview with Andrew Bolt last year, Frydenberg said “I certainly believe in the moral case that Tony Abbott and others have put that our coal, our gas, our energy supplies do lift people out of energy poverty, and that’s going to be an important theme of my term in this role.”

In the interview Bolt described the Minister as the “new Mr Coal”.

During the conversation the soon-to-be Environment Minister parroted Hunt’s defence of the government’s Direct Action climate change policy, and rehashed the claim that Adani’s planned mine in the Galilee basin would create 10,000 jobs – despite the fact Adani’s own expert witness quoted a far lower number to a Queensland court.

Frydenberg has also been an at times bizarrely enthusiastic advocate for mining, describing resource development as an iconic Australian endeavor.

“Resources is to the Australian economy what the baggy green is to Australian sport: totemic; iconic; indispensable to our national story and synonymous with our national identity,” he said in February 2016.

And he’s not the only one with a curious relationship to coal and the climate who has found himself newly in charge of a portfolio relevant to both. Replacing Frydenberg as Minister for Resources is Senator Matt Canavan, who has said the science on climate change is becoming “less certain”……….

“Mr Frydenberg has repeatedly showed himself to be unfit for office. From spruiking the benefits of coal and gas to blocking the price on pollution and saying no to investing in clean energy, he has consistently put the big polluters ahead of the people he was elected to represent,” Australia Campaigns Director Charlie Wood said at the time.

Turnbull’s selection of Frydenberg appears to confirm the Prime Minister’s adapted willingness to back off on strong climate action, an issue which helped end his first stint as Liberal leader.

Deceiving a jury about nuclear radiation – Greg Ward, Chad Jacobi, Nigel McBride, Jason Kuchel, Michael Penniment

July 17, 2016


banana-spinBananas, brazil nuts and some other foods contain radioactive potassium-40 — but in extremely low doses. Potassium-40 in bananas has a specific activity of 71 ten millionths of a curie per gram. Compare that to the 88 curies per gram for Cesium-137. This is like comparing a stick of dynamite to an atomic bomb. Our bodies manage the ingested Potassium 40, so that after eating bananas, the excess is quickly excreted and the body’s Potassium-40 level remains unchanged.

The radioactive isotopes that come from nuclear fission (such as strontium -90, cesium -137 and iodine 131) were unknown in nature before atomic fission: our bodies are not adapted to them. And as well as being far more radioactive that Potassium -40, they can accumulate in the body.

I had hoped for something sensible to come out of these Citizens’ Juries. That doesn’t look like happening if the juries continue to be fed this kind of nonsense. 

On the matter of ionising radiation and health, Noel Wauchope rebuts five misleading speakers at the Nuclear Citizens’ Jury hearings on Australia’s nuclear waste importation plan.

IN TWO DAYS of 25 Citizens’ Jury sessions in Adelaide (on 25-26 June), about nuclear waste importing, there was minimal coverage of the question of ionising radiation and health.

What little there was, was skimpy, superficial and downright deceptive, in 209 pages of transcripts.

There was not one mention of the world’s authoritative bodies on the subject — The World Health Organisation, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or any of the reports on biological effects of ionising radiation.

There was no explanation of the “linear no threshold” (LNT) theory on ionising radiation and health, despite the fact that this theory is the one accepted by all the national and international health bodies, including the Ionising Radiation Safety Institute of Australia who, on this topic, quote the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

Instead of explaining this basic concept in radiation protection, the slight coverage on radiation and health given to the Jury, was done in a trivial manner as the following examples (listed in the transcript report) illustrate.

First Speaker

Greg Ward, Chief of Staff, Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, was asked the following question by a juror (p 28):

“Why didn’t the commission report to us the effect of radioactivity in these two [Hiroshima and Nagasaki] populations?”

Greg Ward

That’s just one example … There are lots of studies being undertaken … to look at it from other angles as well … I would have to say that there’s a cloudy area, and that’s largely around the impact of low doses of radiation on humans … You’ve got others who would argue that actually small amounts of radiation actually has a beneficial effect on your immune systems, but there’s certainly no — I would have to say there’s no universal agreement at this point.


But there IS universal agreement on the Linear No Threshold theory, as explained by the health bodies named above.

Second Speaker

Chad Jacobi, Counsel Assisting, Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (p. 31):

Chad Jacobi

the effects that we’re looking at, they are what are known as stochastic effects, they deal with lower doses where you need to do epidemiological studies in order to determine the relationship between radiation and a particular consequence … outstanding evidence, from Geraldine Thomas … She gave excellent evidence on this topic and her evidence is very interesting.  


Mr Jacobi did not go on to explain any of this evidence, so the jurors were left in the dark here.

However, Professor Geraldine Thomas of the Imperial College London, cited by Jacobi, is well known as a speaker promoting the message that ionising radiation is nothing to worry about. She pops up wherever the nuclear lobby is doing a soft sell and in particular, downplays the health effects of radiation on all species as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. She also claimed (at an international conference on radiation research in Warsaw in 2011):

Following Fukushima I doubt that there’ll be any rise in thyroid cancers in Japan.

Thomas’ views are greatly contested. Screening has shown an abnormal rise in thyroid cancers in Fukushima. Professor Timothy Mousseau has studied the Chernobyl and Fukushima situations extensively, finding ill effects of radiation — including genetic damage and increased mutation rates in many species.

Third Speaker

Nigel McBride, Chief Executive Business SA — the state’s peak business and employer group. Mr McBride had a lot to say — some snatches (p 88):

Nigel McBride

Maralinga atomic experiments … British atomic tests are not linked to this discussion; they’ve got nothing to do with it very subtle way of linking two completely unrelated issues to bring fear and emotion … 60,000 people work directly in the UK nuclear industry and in 60 years there has not been one fatality. Neither has there been a fatality in Canada, France, Germany, India and even the U.S. … Five and a half thousand people we understand die from some level of obesity yet we don’t ban sugar and sugary drinks … education over hysteria.


On Maralinga, from Keith Thomas, Chief Executive of the South Australian Native Title Services (p 97):

Keith Thomas

For Aboriginal people the past really does shape the present and the future. Significant events like happened at Maralinga very much become a part of that … that’s affected people all the way to the present as there’s people dying young, which shouldn’t be happening … Aboriginal people — “We don’t want that stuff here because we’ve seen what it does to people.”

On nuclear workers’ fatalities:

An investigation in the U.S. last year, revealed at least 33,480 American nuclear workers died as a result of their radiation exposure. International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organisation also reported on nuclear workers’ leukaemia.

Fourth Speaker

Jason Kuchel, Chief Executive South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy. At last, the fun part about bananas and chocolate. He provided these to jurors, as some sort of evidence of the benignness of ionising radiation (p 117):

Jason Kuchel

I took the opportunity during the break to put some bananas and some chocolates on the tables … you will get to see the point of that as we go through. … [the risks of] getting an x-ray, flying in a plane or even eating a bananaAt the Onkalo waste repository in Finland, the worst case radiation dose if someone were to stand on top of the facility for a whole year and there was a defective package, the equivalent radiation would be equal to eating one bite of a banana.  

As the facility is not yet accepting radioactive waste, all that hardly matters. And that was all from Mr Kuchel.

Fifth Speaker

Associate Professor Michael Penniment, Director Royal Adelaide Hospital, went on at length about the present storage of radioactive materials in hospitals and so on in Adelaide. He took a long time to go near the question of health effects of low level radiation but he finally got to talking about radioactive sources (p 124):

Michael Penniment

It may be that you may not want to avoid them anyway … I got the banana association straight up. I didn’t get the Lindt one [the reference is to the Lindt chocolate factory, which is quite near a nuclear power plant]; I didn’t see that coming. But certainly there’s some radioactive potassium.

You can decrease your risk by doing a few things: you can live in a wooden house, that will take per cent house; if you live in a tent, that will take 20 per cent off; if you live in the open, that will take 50 per cent off.  (He goes on to elaborate the benefits of radiation in treating cancer).  And that’s it — end of his presentation.

However, later in the Q and A section, Penniment did return to that subject ( p.132):

I saw an article by … David Webb … in the follow-up to Chernobyl … there were 28 deaths, and those were the radiation workers that were sent in to clean up the initial spill … And then there was something of the order of 1500 people that died from suicide because of their concerns about radiation, which he described as really the fallacy of radiation, that those people were so worried, and beyond that nobody has died form that incident.

There’s even data that suggests, and it’s reassuring to me, there was data from the British Radiology Association a number of years ago that low level exposure that’s above what we’ve set as the community limit actually may have an improvement in health in terms of what’s called radiation hormesis. The study of radiation workers in the 50s and 60s where controls aren’t as tight as 30 they are now suggests that it may actually have a very low level exposure to radiation but above what we would deem safe might actually have an improvement in health.


On Chernobyl deaths:

Professor Penniment has taken his information from the World Nuclear News. As well as the sources noted above, eminent Russian scientists have put the death toll at 985,000. The most recent study TORCH-2016, an independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, explains the difficulty in getting an accurate estimate but suggests a conservative estimate of 30,000.

On nuclear workers’ health: 

As explained above, in rebutting Nigel McBride.

On radioactivity of bananas:  

Bananas, brazil nuts and some other foods contain radioactive potassium-40 — but in extremely low doses. Potassium-40 in bananas has a specific activity of 71 ten millionths of a curie per gram. Compare that to the 88 curies per gram for Cesium-137. This is like comparing a stick of dynamite to an atomic bomb. Our bodies manage the ingested Potassium 40, so that after eating bananas, the excess is quickly excreted and the body’s Potassium-40 level remains unchanged.

The radioactive isotopes that come from nuclear fission (such as strontium -90, cesium -137 and iodine 131) were unknown in nature before atomic fission: our bodies are not adapted to them. And as well as being far more radioactive that Potassium -40, they can accumulate in the body.

I had hoped for something sensible to come out of these Citizens’ Juries. That doesn’t look like happening if the juries continue to be fed this kind of nonsense.

Above ground nuclear waste containers – are they really safe?

July 17, 2016

LobbyistsRule, – comment on The Advertiser, 11 July 16 

  The scariest thing about the Royal Commission’s dump proposal is the above ground, decades long “interim” storage. Japan and Germany use expensive solid cast iron containers  (up to 20 inches thick) to hold their waste.  The containers proposed for our dump uses thin pressurised containers that are only 5/8th of an inch (16mm) thick and are not cast but welded – they are like Baked Bean tins compared to the German casks. Sure these thin casks are placed into a thick concrete overjacket, but all that separates the fuel from the atmosphere (via the cooling vent) is just 16mm of welded stainless steel.

The temperatures inside these casks normally sit at 200 to 300 degrees Celcius – but if the vents of the concrete overjacket get blocked the temperature can rise to 500 degrees Celcius.

These casks have only been around for twenty years – they should start popping all over the USA in a decade or two.

All this information is available from the USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission web site for anyone to read.

Some questions that South Australia’s Nuclear Citizens’ Jury SHOULD have asked

July 17, 2016
citizen jury
Here are the 6 questions I placed on the Observer Wall at the Citizens’ Jury yesterday (in no particular order).

1) Jury should ask for access to all submissions made to the Parliamentary Committee currently considering responses to the NFCRC’s Final Report.

2) Jury should realise that future consideration is for a multi-lateral nuclear fuel centre, which could involve enrichment, reprocessing, fuel fabrication etc. Waste storage is an entry point: see “Nuclear Fuel Leasing” in the NFCRC’s Report for details.

3) Jury should ask: What is the defence sector’s interest in the nuclear fuel cycle? If defence wants it, how important is the economic case for further processing? Could these proceed without a commercial proposition?

4) Jury should consider the USA’s Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program and discuss why this was not considered in the NFCRC’s Final Report. it was submitted to the Commission as evidence.

5) Jury should consider the USA’s Radiation Exposure Compensation Act and discuss why this was not considered in the NFCRC’s Final Report. it was submitted to the Commission as evidence.

6) The jury should ask the question: what evidence did the Commission receive and choose NOT to include in its Final Report? Particularly on the topic of safety.

$13 million of taxpayers’ money squandered on Weatherill’s nuclear waste dump dream

July 17, 2016

Parnell blasts allocated nuclear waste money, Transcontinental   Matt Carcich  @MattCarcich  July 8, 2016, SA Greens state Member of Legislative Council (MLC) Mark Parnell, says the South Australian government’s allocated $3.6 million in the state budget to ‘advance the case for an international waste dump in South Australia’, is deeply flawed.

This advance includes pursuing a waste dump, simplifying mining approvals processes and seeking a relaxation of federal restrictions on nuclear power generation in Australia. It means $13 million will have been spent on the project by the end of the year, a worrying sign, according to Greens SA Parliamentary Leader, Mark Parnell MLC.

“Spending $13 million of scarce taxpayer funds on a project that doesn’t add up economically, is throwing good money after bad,” Mr Parnell said. Mr Parnell says the alleged costs before any substantial announcements is detrimental to the state budget.

“According to consultants engaged by the Royal Commission (and paid for by the Government), the amount of government expenditure prior to any decision to go ahead with the dump and BEFORE any contracts have been signed would be around $300 million to in excess of $600 million, over the next 6 years!” Mr Parnell said.

“Spending in excess of $600 million preparing for a nuclear waste dump that will never eventuate is a shocking waste that will eat a massive hole in the projected surpluses over the forward estimates.”Mr Parnell says if the state government proceeds with the nuclear waste dump, they will inflict further costs to the budget.

However, Mr Parnell says if the state government abandons it, more money could be re-allocated to other projects in Port Augusta. “My number one in Port Augusta would be the solar thermal power plant, replacing the Alinta with solar thermal is a key measure,” “On top of that, rural mental health is far substandard to what’s available in metro areas.”…… 

Australia’s Aboriginal traditional owners say NO to nuclear waste importing

July 13, 2016

Nuclear waste dump case unravels, World News Report, 13 July 16 , Green Left By Renfrey Clarke  “……..Yankunytjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation chairperson Karina Lester told a packed venue at a June 16 meeting: “The overwhelming majority of traditional owners … continue to speak out against establishing an international waste dump.”

Indigenous spokespeople have condemned the project since it was first mooted. In May last year, soon after the royal commission on South Australian involvement in the nuclear cycle began its work, representatives of 12 Aboriginal peoples met in Port Augusta.

The gathering issued a statement that said: “South Australian Traditional Owners say NO! We oppose plans for uranium mining, nuclear reactors and nuclear waste dumps on our lands.

“We call on the Australian population to support us in our campaign to prevent dirty and dangerous nuclear projects being imposed on our lands and our lives and future generations.”

The prime site for the long-term waste repository is on the lands of the Kokatha people, near the towns of Woomera and Roxby Downs.

The Transcontinental Railway crosses the region and, as the Australian explained on June 27, the ancient rocks of the underlying Stuart Shelf are “considered by experts to have the best geological conditions for a nuclear dump”.

Early this year Dr Tim Johnson of the nuclear industry consulting firm Jacobs MCM told the royal commission his company envisaged a new port being built on the South Australian coastline to service the project. An interim storage facility nearby would hold newly-arrived wastes above ground for some decades, until they had cooled sufficiently to be transported by rail to the permanent dumpsite.

The only practical location for the port and above-ground repository would be on the western shore of Spencer Gulf, south of the city of Whyalla. Spencer Gulf is a shallow, confined inlet whose waters mix only slowly with those of the Southern Ocean. Any accident that released substantial quantities of radioactive material into the gulf would be catastrophic for the marine environment. Profitable fishing, fish-farming and oyster-growing industries would be wiped out, and the recreational fishing that is a favourite pastime of local residents would become impossible.

To connect the above-ground repository to the rail network, a new line would need to be built from the present railhead at Whyalla. Taking wastes north for permanent storage, trains would pass by the outskirts of Whyalla and Port Augusta.

Initially, the materials transported would be large quantities of low and intermediate-level waste, also planned for importation and burial. But after several decades, transport of high-level wastes would begin and would continue for another 70 years.

Awareness is growing in the Spencer Gulf region of the dangers posed by the nuclear industry. On June 24 in Port Augusta about 80 people took part in a protest against the federal plans to site a separate dump, for Australian-derived low-level radioactive wastes, near the Flinders Ranges’ tourist area………..

South Australian company has another plan for importing nuclear wastes

July 13, 2016

waste burial

Mr Hundertmark said his firm’s plans were quite advanced and had already included talks with state and federal governments.

Push for high-level nuclear waste storage at Maralinga, former British atom bomb test site PAUL STARICK, CHIEF REPORTER, The Advertiser February 16, 2016 DUMPING imported high-level nuclear waste at Maralinga after shipping it through a deepwater port south of Whyalla is being pushed by a high-powered company.

In a multibillion-dollar plan similar to that recommended by the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, radioactive waste would be taken by rail to the former British atomic bomb test site.

SA Nuclear Energy Systems is proposing to bury the waste in giant pits, where soil and equipment contaminated during the British tests was stored in the 1990s, while the Royal Commission recommends underground storage.

But the site criteria, such as its arid location free from seismic activity, is similar to that proposed by the Royal Commission, as is a dedicated port.

Where could a site go?

The company’s board includes former Premier’s Department chief Ian Kowalick, two Adelaide
University scientists and a former US nuclear industry executive. It is chaired by businessman Bruce Hundertmark……..In a submission to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, Mr Hundertmark also highlights the fully operational air strip at Maralinga which is capable of receiving the heaviest transport aircraft……

Mr Hundertmark said his firm’s plans were quite advanced and had already included talks with state and federal governments, along with the area’s Aboriginal people, but would require state and federal legislative change.

He said his company’s plan could start far sooner than the late 2020s, because of the existing infrastructure, but did not specify a precise time frame…….

The web of climate denialism, and Australia’s part in it

July 13, 2016

liar (2)

US Senators detail a climate science “web of denial” but the impacts go well beyond their borders Australians have been both helpers and victims of the fossil fuelled web of climate science denial being detailed in the U.S Senate,Guardian, , 12 July 16, By the middle of this week, about 20 Democratic Senators in the US will have stood up before their congress to talk about the fossil fuelled machinery of climate science denial.

The Senators are naming the fossil fuel funders, describing the machinery and calling out the characters that make up a “web of denial”……

Australia has been a consumer, a contributor and a victim of the web of climate science denial.Australia has long provided personnel and contributors to the efforts of several of the key groups being named in the US Senate.

The late Dr Robert Carter, once of James Cook University, was an advisor and active contributor to several of the groups, including the Heartland Institute and the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI).

Malcolm Roberts (the wannabe One Nation Australian Senator) and bloggers JoNova and her husband David Evans have all written reports for the SPPI that claim human-caused climate change is some sort of elaborate hoax.

Retired Australian meteorologist William Kininmonth is also an SPPI science advisor.

Australian politicians have flown over to the United States to speak at conferences for climate science denialists hosted by the Heartland Institute – the group that once compared the acceptance of human-caused climate science to the values of terrorist and mass murderer Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski.

Former Family First Senator Steve Fielding, current Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi and the current Nationals MP George Christensen have all spoken at Heartland’s conferences. The conferences themselves have been enthusiastically sponsored by several Australian groups over the years.

Australia’s role in the web of denial has been running since the 1990s, when groups like the CEI flew staff to Australia to firm up opposition to greenhouse gas regulations around the world.

Partnerships were formed with groups like the Melbourne-based Institute of Public Affairs, which has hosted and supported many visits from US-based climate science denialists.

Once here, those speakers will write columns for newspapers, do radio and television interviews and travel around the country to give talks.

In 2011 when the Gillard Government was trying to introduce laws to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions, the enlisted Pat Michaels, of the Cato Institute, as a science advisor. Cato is another member of the web of denial. Michaels once estimated that about 40 per cent of his funding came from the petroleum industry.

The impact of all this on the Australian public and the way the media covers climate science is clear.

There remains a split among Australians about the cause of climate change, despite multiple studies showing that more than 90 per cent of climate scientists are in agreement that it’s the burning of fossil fuels that’s driving up temperatures, fuelling weather extremes, raising sea levels, melting ice sheets and killing corals (and that’s just a few of the impacts).

The public becomes doubtful and the media, so often looking for controversy and conflict, has been a conduit for the fossil fuelled messages.

The fossil fuel companies, meanwhile, retain a grip on their so-called “social licence to operate.”

When Senator Whitehouse said the web of denial is “so big, because it has so much to protect” we might also think that we have so much to lose.

In failing to unravel the web of denial and by allowing our public discourse to be polluted by fossil fuelled PR outfits, ideologues and pseudo-science, who knows how much time we may have lost.

Twenty five years

Dodgy economics, but Right Wing Labor and Big Business backing South Australian nuclear waste plan anyway

July 13, 2016

McBride, Nigel puppet

Nuclear waste dump case unravels, World News Report, 13 July 16 , Green Left By Renfrey Clarke   “……….Business backing  The waste dump project may not have good arguments, but it certainly has powerful friends. “We’re absolute advocates,” Nigel McBride, CEO of the industry and commerce peak body Business SA told the Independent Dailyon June 17. “We’re now absolutely saying this is not only feasible but absolutely viable.

“I can tell you Business SA is overtly advocating for a high-level nuclear waste facility in SA, subject to an educational process that will get social consent.”

If this typifies the business skills of South Australia’s moneyed elite, then the state’s economic woes are no mystery.

The Weatherill government has made no formal commitment to the waste dump project, and will not do so before a process of “consultation” with South Australians ends in November.

But few people take the premier’s claim of open-mindedness seriously. Influential figures within the state Labor Party’s dominant right faction are on record as enthusiasts for the waste scheme and big business is cracking the whip.

Weatherill made his views clear when he defied the anti-nuclear thrust of federal Labor policy to set up the royal commission and named the conservative-technocratic retired rear-admiral and former state governor Kevin Scarce as commissioner.

More recently, the government has funded two “citizens’ juries” to hear the testimony of (mainly) pro-nuclear figures and to deliver reports that can be claimed as indicating popular agreement to the nuclear-waste plans……..


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