Archive for November, 2016

The legal barriers to Australia importing nuclear wastes

November 21, 2016

Nuclear waste debate re-emerges in Australia. Moulis Legal 17.11.16

“…….A long history of talk but with little “legal” support

South Australia’s proposal to encourage the world to export its high-level nuclear waste to Australia is in stark contrast to the previous positions of both the Federal and South Australian Governments. Moreover, significant reform to State laws and to existing Federal practice would be required to facilitate the proposal, none of which has been formulated.

In 1998, the responsible Federal Minister condemned a recommendation by nuclear waste management consortium Pangea Resources for a repository for international high-level nuclear waste in the Western Australian outback. He reiterated Australia’s long-standing bipartisan opposition to such a development:

…no high level radioactive waste facility is planned for Australia and the government has absolutely no intention of accepting the radioactive waste of other countries. The policy is clear and absolute and will not be changed. We will not be accepting radioactive waste from other countries.1

After only cursory consideration of the repository idea in 1998, Western Australia actually went the other way, passing a law to make it illegal to establish a nuclear waste storage facility in the State, or to use any part of the State to store or dispose of nuclear waste, or to even transport nuclear waste in the State.2

Other Australian states – New South Wales;3 Queensland;4 Victoria;5 and South Australia6 – have enacted similar legislation either completely prohibiting a nuclear waste facility in their jurisdiction or making it necessary to seek certain approvals to build one. These legislative constraints would first need to be addressed before any facility were to be capable of being built in any of those States.

At a Federal level, a nuclear waste facility is not prohibited, however the statute responsible for creating the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (“ARPANSA”) also places a blanket ban the construction of nuclear fuel fabrication plants, power plants, enrichment plants and reprocessing facilities.

ARPANSA can permit imports of radioactive waste

Despite the above State prohibitions on the building of nuclear waste facilities and on the transportation of nuclear waste, no absolute prohibition applies to the importation of radioactive waste into Australia. Regulation 4R of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 (“the Regulations”) stipulates that radioactive substances can be imported into Australia, but only if permission has been granted by the Customs Minister or an authorised officer, such as the CEO of ARPANSA.7

ARPANSA administers Australia’s rights and obligations under a number of specific international treaties, with the most relevant to radioactive waste disposal and storage being the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (“IAEA”) Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management(“the Joint Convention”) which was ratified by Australia in 2003.

The discretion under regulation 4R of the Regulations to approve radioactive imports has rarely been afforded with respect to radioactive waste and never on a premise of the commercial disposal of international nuclear waste. ARPANSA officials readily advise interested parties that “current Commonwealth Government policy prohibits importation of spent nuclear fuel or radioactive waste of foreign origin into Australia”.

The international framework

The Joint Convention enforces a commitment to achieving and maintaining a consistently high-level of safety in the management, transboundary movement and disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste. The Joint Convention notes:

… radioactive waste should, as far as is compatible with the safety of the management of such material, be disposed of in the State in which it was generated, whilst recognizing that, in certain circumstances, safe and efficient management of spent fuel and radioactive waste might be fostered through agreements among [the] Parties to use facilities in one of them for the benefit of the other Parties, particularly where waste originates from joint projects8

These principles are also recognised in the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, to which Australia is also a party.9 The Joint Convention also recognises that any state has the right to ban import into its territory of foreign spent fuel and radioactive waste.10

Additionally, just as Australia exports unspent nuclear material, being uranium, to foreign countries under safeguards, countries like Canada do too. Those safeguards are essentially accounting and inspection procedures designed to ensure that neither the uranium nor any by-product of it (such as plutonium) could be used to contribute to the construction of a weapon. Bodies such as the IAEA and the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (an office within the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) track exported nuclear material through its whole lifecycle, all the way through to the spent fuel and the reprocessing and/or the recycling of that fuel.

Any facility that were to accept international nuclear waste could also expect to be subject to scrutiny against the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (“NPT”). The overall quality and security of any nuclear waste disposal facility, as well the country that hosts it, need to satisfy extremely high domestic and international standards to be commercially – and politically – viable.

By virtue of both the Joint Convention and the NPT, Australia would need to establish treaties with overseas governments interested in disposing their nuclear waste in the facility, to specify the arrangements that would be put in place for the management of nuclear waste. Australia may also be obliged to seek evidence of “upstream” agreements in circumstances where the original nuclear product and/or the waste has moved between third party countries before its exportation to Australia…….. http://moulislegal.com/nuclear-waste-debate-re-emerges-in-australia/

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Nuclear-free New Zealand and its Australian hero – Helen Caldicott

November 21, 2016

Helen did not hold back, explaining that nuclear war means “blindness, burning, starvation, disease, lacerations, haemorrhaging, millions of corpses and an epidemic of disease”. Helen’s dramatic and blunt style reduced many in her audiences to tears. She always ended her talks with a call to action – especially to parents – as she strongly believes that nuclear disarmament is “the ultimate medical and parenting issue of our time.”

To those who would claim New Zealand was not a target she had a short reply: “Trident submarines in ports are targeted. They are a first strike target. It is much easier to destroy subs when they are in dock than it is when they are submerged in the ocean.”

The new Labour Government of 1984 passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act in 1987, the world’s first national nuclear-free legislation. Dr Helen Caldicott’s influence had culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.

Marilyn Waring on the Australian hero of nuclear-free New Zealand http://thespinoff.co.nz/society/14-11-2016/the-australian-hero-of-nuclear-free-new-zealand/  November 14, 2016 The former National MP whose decision to support anti-nuclear legislation led to the 1984 snap election writes on the transformative influence of the passionate Australian physician Helen Caldicott, who speaks in Auckland this week

If you were growing up in New Zealand and Australia post World War II, there’s a chance you knew about the United States using the Marshall Islands as a nuclear testing site from 1947 until 1962. In an agreement signed with the United Nations, the US government held the Marshall Islands as a “trust territory” and detonated nuclear devices in this pristine area of the Pacific Ocean – leading, in some instances, to huge levels of radiation fall-out, health effects, and the permanent displacement of many island people. In all, the US government conducted 105 underwater and atmospheric tests. You would have also known that the British conducted seven atmospheric tests between 1956 and 1963 on traditional Aboriginal land, in Maralinga, Australia.

It may be that you read Neville Shute’s 1957 novel On the Beach, in which people in Melbourne, Australia wait for deadly radiation to spread from a Northern Hemisphere nuclear war. This book made a memorable impact on Helen when she read it as a teenager.

Both Helen and I saw Peter Watkin’s The War Game, a BBC documentary drama about nuclear war and the consequences in an English city. In New Zealand the film was restricted for children unless accompanied by an adult, so I had to get my father to take me. The War Game won the Oscar for the best documentary in 1965.

France began its series of over 175 nuclear tests at Mururoa, in the South Pacific, in 1966. At least 140 of these tests were above ground. In 1973, the New Zealand and Australian governments took France to the World Court for continued atmospheric testing, and forced the last tests underground. The testing finally came to an end in 1976.

In New Zealand the US Navy made regular visits between 1976 and 1983 with nuclear-powered and, most likely, nuclear-armed, ships. These visits produced spectacular protest fleets in the Auckland and Wellington harbours, when hundreds of New Zealanders — in yachts of all sizes, in motor boats and canoes, even on surf boards — surrounded the vessels and tried to bring them to a complete stop. By 1978, a campaign began in New Zealand to declare borough and city council areas nuclear-free and, by the early 1980s, this symbolic movement had quickly gained momentum, covering more than two-thirds of the New Zealand population.

Helen Caldicott and I had not met up to this point, but these were shared parts of our history and consciousness when Helen visited New Zealand in 1983. Helen Caldicott graduated with a medical degree from University of Adelaide Medical School in 1961. She moved to the United States, becoming an Instructor in paediatrics at Harvard Medical School and was on the staff of the Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in Boston, Massachusetts. In the late 1970s, Helen became the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility. This group was founded when Helen was finishing medical school, quickly making its mark by documenting the presence of Strontium-90, a highly radioactive waste product of atmospheric nuclear testing, in children’s teeth. The landmark finding eventually led to the Limited Nuclear Test Ban treaty, which ended atmospheric nuclear testing.

But it was the Three Mile Island accident that changed Helen’s life. An equipment failure resulted in a loss of cooling water to the core of a reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania, causing a partial meltdown. Operator failure meant that 700,000 gallons of radioactive cooling water ended up in the basement of the reactor building. It was the most serious nuclear accident to that date in the US Helen published Nuclear Madness the same year. In it she wrote: “As a physician, I contend that nuclear technology threatens life on our planet with extinction. If present trends continue, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink will soon be contaminated with enough radioactive pollutants to pose a potential health hazard far greater than any plague humanity has ever experienced.” In 1980, Helen resigned from her paid work positions to work full time on the prevention of nuclear war.

In 1982, Canadian director Terre Nash filmed a lecture given by Helen Caldicott to a New York state student audience. Nash’s consequent National Film Board of Canada documentary If You Love this Planet was released during the term of US President Ronald Reagan, at the height of Cold War nuclear tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The US Department of Justice moved quickly to designate the film “foreign propaganda,” bringing a great deal of attention to the film. It went on to win the 1982 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. That same year, Helen addressed about 750,000 people in Central Park, New York in the biggest anti-nuke rally in the United States to that date.

In 1983, I was serving as a member of the New Zealand parliament, having been elected eight years earlier at the age of 23. Our parliament established a Disarmament and Arms Control Select Committee to conduct hearings on the possibility of making New Zealand a nuclear-free zone. During this critically important time, Helen was invited to New Zealand on a lecture tour. The documentary If You Love This Planet was shown at her speaking engagements.

I did not get to meet her, nor hear any of her lectures in person, as I was working in parliament every night. But I did follow the media coverage.

Helen told the Listener about having observed five-star generals in US congressional and senate committees complaining that the Russian missiles were bigger than the American ones. “The Russian missiles are very big [and] inaccurate and clumsy. America has very small, very accurate missiles, which are better at killing people and destroying targets,” she explained. A frequent message in her talks to New Zealand audiences was the redundant overkill capacity of both superpowers. Caldicott noted to her audiences that “The US has 30,000 bombs and Russia 20,000.”

I had sat in a New Zealand parliamentary committee hearing some months earlier, when a government colleague, brandishing a centrefold of a Russian submarine, excitedly called for us to “Look at how big it is.” I had thought that no one would believe me if I had repeated such an inane banality – when an adult male was more impressed by the size of the submarine than its capacity to destroy life on this planet.

Helen’s public addresses were grounded in the potential impact of nuclear weapons. “Imagine a 20-megaton bomb targeted on Auckland,” she told audiences in New Zealand. “The explosion, five times the collective energy of all the bombs dropped in the Second World War, digs a hole three-quarters of a mile wide by 800 feet deep and turns people, buildings and dirt into radioactive dust. Everyone up to six miles will be vaporised, and up to 20 miles they will be dead or lethally injured. People will be instantly blinded looking at the blast within 40 miles. Many will be asphyxiated in the fire storm.”

Helen did not hold back, explaining that nuclear war means “blindness, burning, starvation, disease, lacerations, haemorrhaging, millions of corpses and an epidemic of disease”. Helen’s dramatic and blunt style reduced many in her audiences to tears. She always ended her talks with a call to action – especially to parents – as she strongly believes that nuclear disarmament is “the ultimate medical and parenting issue of our time.”

To those who would claim New Zealand was not a target she had a short reply: “Trident submarines in ports are targeted. They are a first strike target. It is much easier to destroy subs when they are in dock than it is when they are submerged in the ocean.”

In 2015, I asked Helen how she managed to deliver such bad news and yet keep her audiences with her. “Being a doctor helps because you have to learn to negotiate with a patient and with language they can understand,” she explained. “You have to convert the medical diagnosis and treatment to lay language. I also have to keep them awake sometimes by letting them laugh because it relieves their tension and because the stuff I say is pretty awful.” Helen told me that she practises “global preventative medicine”.

Helen’s tour through New Zealand in 1983 had a huge, and lasting, impact. At one stop, Helen addressed over 2,000 people at a public event in Auckland. The librarian with whom I corresponded looking for old newspaper reports of Helen’s visit, wrote to me: “Her chillingly detailed description of the effects of a nuclear device detonated over the hall in which we were sitting remains rooted in my psyche to this day! …The other message I most recall is the dichotomy she evoked between the destructive drive of ‘old men’ rulers, the instigators of war, versus the procreative energy of mothers most impelled to oppose them — which, however reductive, retains the compelling logic of a truism!”

Helen’s approach was transformative in New Zealand. Helen’s speaking events packed auditoriums, and overflows of audiences had to be accommodated using loud speaker systems. People responded strongly to this woman, whose life work involved caring for children, speaking about medical effects of fallout, and speaking without the use of the clichéd military and defence ideological rhetoric that treated people as if they were simpletons who couldn’t understand. Her speeches inspired people to act. After Helen spoke, the volume of mail delivered to my parliamentary office increased—particularly from women.

On May 24, 1983, 20,000 women wearing white flowers and armbands and holding banners with peace signs marched quietly up a main street in Auckland to hold a huge rally and call for New Zealand to be nuke-free. It was one of the largest women’s demonstrations in New Zealand’s history. In her book, Peace, Power and Politics – How New Zealand Became Nuclear Free, Maire Leadbetter writes: “I am one of many activists who think of Helen Caldicott’s visit as the point when the peace movement began to grow exponentially … Helen had a magical ability to motivate previously passive citizens to become activists.”

Shortly after Helen’s visit to New Zealand, in 1984, I advised that I intended to vote for the opposition-sponsored nuclear-free New Zealand legislation. This prompted conservative Prime Minister Rob Muldoon to call a snap election. Muldoon told media that my “feminist anti-nuclear stance” threatened his ability to govern.

The new Labour Government of 1984 passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act in 1987, the world’s first national nuclear-free legislation. Dr Helen Caldicott’s influence had culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.

This essay is one of 28 stories by notable women about remarkable women peacemakers, When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. 

The toxic legacy of British nuclear bomb testing in Australia

November 21, 2016

One wonders if the interests of a ‘handful of natives’ might on some future occasion again be deemed subordinate to those of the dominant culture.

Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.

While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.

Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public.


Chapter 16: A toxic legacy : British nuclear weapons testing in Australia  Published in:  Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989 ISBN 0 642 14605 5
(Australian studies in law, crime and justice series); pp. 235-253 “……..In 1950, Labor Prime Minister Clement Atlee sent a top secret personal message to Australian Prime Minister Menzies asking if the Australian government might agree to the testing of a British nuclear weapon at the Monte Bello Islands off Western Australia. Menzies agreed in principle, immediately; there is no record of his having consulted any of his Cabinet colleagues on the matter. A preliminary assessment of the suitability of the proposed test site was conducted in October-November 1950.
The Monte Bello site was deemed suitable by British authorities, and in a message to Menzies dated 26 March 1951 Atlee sought formal agreement to conduct the test. Atlee’s letter did not discuss the nature of the proposed test in minute detail. He did, however, see fit to mention the risk of radiation hazards:

6. There is one further aspect which I should mention. The effect of exploding an atomic weapon in the Monte Bello Islands will be to contaminate with radio activity the north-east group and this contamination may spread to others of the islands. The area is not likely to be entirely free from contamination for about three years and we would hope for continuing Australian help in investigating the decay of contamination. During this time the area will be unsafe for human occupation or even for visits by e.g. pearl fishermen who, we understand, at present go there from time to time and suitable measures will need to be taken to keep them away. We should not like the Australian Government to take a decision on the matter without having this aspect of it in their minds (quoted in Australia 1985, p. 13).

Menzies was only too pleased to assist the ‘motherland’, but deferred a response until after the 195 1 federal elections. With the return of his government, preparations for the test, code-named ‘Hurricane’, proceeded. Yet it was not until 19 February 1952 that the Australian public was informed that atomic weapons were to be tested on Australian soil.

On 3 October 1952 the British successfully detonated a nuclear device of about 25 kilotons in the Monte Bello Islands.

The newest member of the nuclear club was by no means content to rest on the laurels of one successful test, however. Indeed, even before the Monte Bello detonation, British officials had visited sites in a remote area of South Australia with an eye to conducting future tests.

In December 1952, the new British Prime Minister, Churchill, asked Menzies for agreement in principle to a series of tests at Emu Field, some 1,200 km northwest of Adelaide in the Great Victoria Desert. Menzies replied promptly, in the affirmative. On 15 October 1953, Totem 1, a device with a yield of approximately 10 kilotons was detonated; two days later, Totem 11 was exploded with an approximate yield of 8 kilotons.

By this time, the British government had become firmly committed to a continuing nuclear weapons program. Three days after the conclusion of the Totem trials, the Australian government was formally advised of British desires to establish a permanent testing site in Australia. In August 1954, the Australian Cabinet agreed to the establishment of a permanent testing ground at a site that became named Maralinga, north of the transcontinental railway line in southwestern South Australia.

Following the ‘Mosaic’ tests in mid-1956, which involved the detonation of two weapons at the Monte Bello site, the British testing program in Australia was confined to the mainland. Four ‘Buffalo’ tests were conducted at Maralinga in September and October 1956, and three ‘Antler’ explosions were detonated there the following year.

Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.

A series of British hydrogen bomb tests was conducted in the Pacific Ocean during 1957 and 1958 without Australian involvement.   In addition to the major weapons testing programs, the British undertook a number of minor trials at Emu and at Maralinga during the period 1953-1963. The ‘Kittens’, ‘Tims’ and ‘Rats’ series of experiments tested individual components or sub-assemblies of nuclear devices. Subsequent series, called ‘Vixen A’ and ‘Vixen B’ sought to investigate the effects of accidental fires and explosions on nuclear weapons.

While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.

Thus, Australia’s hospitality, largesse and loyalty to Britain were not without their costs. Moreover, the sacrifices made by Australians on behalf of the ‘motherland’ were not equally borne. Whilst low population density and remoteness from major population centres were among the criteria for the selection of the testing sites, the Emu and Maralinga sites in particular were not uninhabited. Indeed, they had been familiar to generations of Aboriginal Australians for thousands of years and had a great spiritual significance for the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people.

In the interests of the testing program, it was decided to curtail the movements of those Aboriginal people traversing the Maralinga area. In addition, a number were taken to a reserve which had recently been established at Yalata, some distance to the south, across the transcontinental railway line. The removal of Aboriginal people from their traditional homelands was more than an inconvenience. The Maralinga lands contained mythological sites of spiritual significance for their inhabitants, a significance which was at best only vaguely appreciated by white officials. Indeed, this lack of sensitivity was illustrated by the consideration given by authorities to identifying sacred objects and ‘removing’ them to areas of resettlement (Australia 1985, pp. 300-1). During the 1950s, hundreds of former inhabitants of the Maralinga lands sought to reaffirm their threatened culture by travelling considerable distances from the Yalata area in order to attend ceremonial functions and to visit other Aboriginal groups. These movements extended as far west as Cundalee, Western Australia, and as far east as Coober Pedy and Mabel Creek.

Some Aboriginal people were even less fortunate. Security patrols in and around the Maralinga area were intermittently effective, and from time to time some Aboriginal people were evicted from the area. Years later, Aboriginal people from Western Australia would recall how they were directed away from Maralinga along a road which diverged from their standard water hole routes, and how some of their party died from lack of access to water.

For those who survived, there seems little doubt that for the Western Desert (Maralinga) people the alien settlement of Yalata and lack of access to their desert homelands contributed significantly to the social disintegration which characterises the community to this day. ……..

…Although most of the British and Australian personnel involved in the testing program were equipped with film badges and dosimeters to record the extent of their exposure to radiation, some did not. Moreover, those measuring devices which were provided did not record exposure with perfect accuracy.

Nor could the risk to the general public be assessed with any real rigour. Despite the fact that airborne radiation from the Monte Bello tests was detected as far away as Townsville and Rockhampton, official fallout measurements were not compiled, and available data was insufficient to estimate collective exposure. Whilst it is probable that some cases of cancer and genetic damage were caused by radiation generated by the nuclear tests, a realistic estimate of their extent is not possible.

A variety of factors underlay the harm to public health, Aboriginal culture and the natural environment which the British tests entailed. Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public. During the entire course of the testing program, public debate on the costs and risks borne by the Australian public was discouraged through official secrecy, censorship, misinformation, and attempts to denigrate critics…….

There seems little doubt that the secrecy in which the entire testing program was cloaked served British rather than Australian interests. From the outset, the British were under pressure to demonstrate to the Americans that they were able to keep secrets at all. Full disclosure of the hazards and potential costs to Australia entailed in the testing program were out of the question. Information passed to Australian officials was kept to the minimum necessary to facilitate their assistance in the conduct of the testing program. The use of plutonium in the minor trials was not disclosed.

Australian tolerance of the British and their obsessive secrecy may be explained by the deference and loyalty to the ‘motherland’. Prime Minister Menzies identified so strongly with Britain that he considered British national interest as Australia’s national interest…….

….British secretiveness and imperfect review of test proposals and consequences by Australian officials notwithstanding, the degree to which Australian authorities went in limiting debate and discussion of the testing program and its effects cannot be ignored.

Such media coverage of the tests as was permitted by British and Australian authorities tended to be trivial and generally celebratory (Woodward 1984). Restrictions were onerous, in some occasions to the point of absurdity. D-notices were applied in such a manner that Australian journalists were forbidden from reporting items which had already been published freely in the United Kingdom.

Dissent or criticism by Australian personnel involved in the testing program was not tolerated. One patrol officer who objected that the development of testing sites was proceeding without due regard for the protection and welfare of local Aborigines was ‘reminded of his obligations as a Commonwealth Officer’ (Australia 1985, p. 304), and warned against speaking to the press.

Occasionally, when Aborigines were sighted in restricted areas, reports of these sightings were disbelieved, or less than subtly discouraged. One officer who reported sighting Aborigines in the prohibited zone was asked if he realised ‘what sort of damage [he] would be doing by finding Aboriginals where Aboriginals could not be’ (Australia 1985, p. 319).

After the Milpuddie family was found in the restricted area at Maralinga, the Range Commander invoked the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cwlth) to prevent disclosure of the incident by any personnel on the scene.

The flow of information within government departments was at times impeded, with adverse consequences. According to one account, incomplete information about plutonium contaminations at Maralinga was given to Vic Garland, a Minister in the McMahon government, causing him to mislead Parliament in 1972 (Toohey 1978).

The full legal and political implications of the testing program would take decades to emerge. The secrecy which surrounded the British testing program and the remoteness of the tests from major population centres meant that public opposition to the tests and awareness of the risks involved grew very slowly………

In 1984, the South Australian Parliament passed the Maralinga Tjarutja Land Rights Act conferring freehold title to the Maralinga lands upon their traditional owners. But Aboriginal control over their land was not absolute. Mineral rights remained vested in the Crown, and the Act did not confer a right of veto on the Aboriginal owners. Rather, in the event of a dispute over whether the lands could be explored or mined, an Arbitrator would weigh the interests of the traditional owners against the economic significance of the proposed operations to the state and to Australia.

One wonders if the interests of a ‘handful of natives’ might on some future occasion again be deemed subordinate to those of the dominant culture. http://aic.gov.au/publications/previous%20series/lcj/1-20/wayward/ch16.html

Australia must rethink the way that it is a nuclear target, because of Pine Gap

November 21, 2016

when China looks at Australia, it will see Australia as an American base

“I think fundamentally we have to ask is that really the way we want to go. The signal we’re sending to Americans is that if they go to war with China, sure, we’ll be part of that.”

“It is embedding us in global military operations for which there is little strategic benefit for Australia.”

We are told mass surveillance makes us safer and in our fear we accept growing militarisation….. these facilities most likely don’t protect us, but put us at greater risk….These are the questions we don’t discuss.

US military bases in Australia: Protecting us or putting us at risk? http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/us-military-bases-in-australia-protecting-us-or-putting-us-at-risk/news-story/274681984ca0959242829f9da8fa338e    Emma Reynolds news.com.au @emmareyn OCTOBER 2, 2016 THE US is strengthening a network of secretive military bases across Australia that could be used for waging wars against our interests, it was claimed at a weekend summit.

We are providing the US with extra capacity to make that happen, says Prof Tanter.

PINE GAP — ‘THE POISONED HEART OF AUSTRALIA’

Pine Gap was established in Alice Springs in 1966 when the CIA came up with the idea of putting satellites 36,000 kilometres above the earth’s surface. These had giant antennae that could listen to very weak signals from Soviet missiles testing, allowing the agency to work out the capability of enemy weapons.

The spy base was placed in isolated Alice in the NT because at the time, the massive amount of data had to be collected over 130km of land.

Prof Tanter says Pine Gap rivals Uluru as the symbolic centre of Australia, with its strange, mysterious power.

“It’s the poisoned heart of Australia and it is increasingly having an effect on our defence policies and the way in which we conduct our foreign policy,” he says.

The establishment of Pine Gap heralded the start of the American early warning system, which involved powerful infra-red telescopes staring at the earth looking for the heat bloom of nuclear weapons. And it continues to grow in strength long after the Cold War, with the number of antennae growing from two or three in 1970 to 33 today.

It has also grown in capability — picking up satellite and mobile phone transmissions that are important for conducting war in Iraq and Afghanistan and monitoring people allegedly carrying out terrorist activities. It spots jet aircraft in the sky and explosions on the ground.

If a North Korean missile takes off, its trajectory can be rapidly beamed to the US, triggering a possible drone assassination. Prof Tanter says such behaviour makes Australia a target.

“Do we really want to be implicated in that?”

DARWIN — TROOPS ON THE GROUND
In 2011, President Barack Obama visited Darwin to announce US troops would begin making regular visits to the Northern Territory as part of the country’s “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region.

The Gillard government agreed to the “permanent rotation of US marines and US air force aircraft”, meaning we have a constant flow of US soldiers on the ground in Australia. There are currently 1500, but this could rise to 2500.

It was this development that triggered the establishment of IPAN in 2012 as onlookers became alarmed at the move from “the invasion of nerd and computer freaks” to actual “troops in uniform with rifles”, Denis Doherty, national co-ordinator of the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign, told news.com.au.

Some of the world’s best fighters and bombers, and Osprey hybrid aircraft, now regularly fly into Darwin and nearby Shoal Bay Receiving Station and RAAF Tindal in Katherine, with huge ships coming down from a US base in Okinawa, Japan.

The purpose is officially for training, but IPAN delegates say Australia has also acquiesced to potential deployment.

A few thousand troops may sound like small beer but in conjunction with marines at US bases in Hawaii, Okinawa and Guam, it is a significant force.

OTHER BASES The Defence Satellite Communication Station at Geraldton in Western Australia, along with Kojarena 20km inland, was one of Australia’s spy bases. It is now shared with two large American operational military communication systems that pull down information on Indonesian and Chinese satellites from the sky. This is part of the Five Eyes surveillance system used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kojarena is creating “battlefield conditions”, says Mr Doherty, providing data a soldier in Iraq can use to ascertain what’s behind a hill — the visual, weather and so on — making it “an American war fighting base”.

Australia paid $800 million for one of the satellites used by this system. But if America does not approve of an operation the Australian Defence Force requests, for example in Timor, it can turn off our access, says Prof Tanter.

The US also has access to the Delamere Air Weapons range and the Bradshaw Ranges (which are the size of Cyprus) in the NT, and the multinational training facility of Shoalwater Bay in Rockhampton, which boasts a mock town complete with pub, mosque and church.

America trains its troops in Australia in all conditions — jungle, savannah, woodland and desert.

Mr Doherty believes there are effectively almost 50 joint bases from Broome in WA to Richmond in NSW, since the US can use all Australian bases in a poorly defined “emergency”, and regularly does. The government insists there are only two joint bases, Pine Gap and North West Cape, since troops rotate out of Darwin — a claim Prof Tanter slams as “specious”.

“If it was built by the United States, if it was paid for by the United States, and if it can only function as part of an American global technology, then it’s an American base to which Australia might have some access; greater or lesser access as time goes on.”

AUSTRALIA’S PROBLEM

So why is the US using our bases a problem? Well, we aren’t just passive bystanders.

“Australia is very, very deeply involved,” says Prof Tanter.

Aussies work in every division of Pine Gap. The Aboriginal woman who introduced Friday night’s public forum revealed her mother worked there as a cleaner in the 1960s and knew nothing about its purpose. Even the hotel where the conference takes place is a supplier for the base, providing catering and accommodation for staff.

“At least we’re not locked out the way we were before, but with that comes culpability,” says Prof Tanter.

“The government seems to lack the ability to ask the question, ‘When do Australian and American interests coincide, and when do they not?’”

He suggests nuclear war or unethical activity in countries where we are not at war might be examples of that. We could be implicated in human rights offences.

“It is embedding us in global military operations for which there is little strategic benefit for Australia.”

The agreement seems “asymmetrical” to the professor. We have spent 13 years in Afghanistan and lost 40 soldiers and seen 250 seriously wounded, he notes.

“We’re an island a long way from anywhere. The most important thing is to get over this psychology of dependence.”

We find ourselves integrated with other US bases across Asia-Pacific, with bombing information from Delamere weapons range fed back to Canberra, Hawaii and then Washington.

Prof Tanter warns that when China looks at Australia, it will see Australia as an American base

“I think fundamentally we have to ask is that really the way we want to go. The signal we’re sending to Americans is that if they go to war with China, sure, we’ll be part of that.”

A Defence White Paper released in March emphasised the paramount importance of the US and its role in “global security”, stressing Australia’s desire to maintain strong military ties to America and increased “interoperability” of the two countries’ systems. The paper asserts the US “will continue to be Australia’s most important strategic partner”.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says the two main parties are strangely bipartisan when it comes to not criticising defence decisions.

“The Liberals don’t stand up and say, why has there been no discussion on Darwin.”

He believes our submission to US interests, particularly in the case of the Iraq invasion that ordinary Australians were against, “paved the way for IS”.

A Defence Department spokesman this week told news.com.au facilities like Pine Gap make an important contribution to national security.

He said it provides intelligence on priorities such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and foreign military capability and weapons developments. It also supports monitoring of compliance with arms control and disarmament agreements and provides ballistic missile early warning information.

We are told mass surveillance makes us safer and in our fear we accept growing militarisation — but the conference speakers contest that these facilities most likely don’t protect us, but put us at greater risk.

Where should the decision to deploy lie? Do we need to host these bases? Should they do all the things they do? These are the questions we don’t discuss.

Solar energy powers South Australia’s desert Sundrop Farms

November 21, 2016

Desert farm grows 180,000 tomato plants using only sun and seawater http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/desert-farm-grows-180000-tomato-plants-using-only-sun-and-seawater

Farms that grow food in arid deserts, without groundwater or fossil fuels, could be the future of agriculture. BRYAN NELSON October 10, 2016, No soil, no pesticides, no fossil fuels, and no groundwater. And yet, a thriving farm in the heart of the arid Australian desert. How is this possible?

An international team of scientists has spent the last six years fine-tuning a system that pipes seawater in from the ocean and desalinates it using a state-of-the-art concentrated solar energy plant. The water is then used to irrigate 180,000 tomato plants grown in coconut husks instead of soil, kept in a network of greenhouses.

The result is Sundrop Farms, a commercial-scale facility located just off the Spencer Gulf in South Australia that began construction in 2014. Today it’s producing an estimated 17,000 tons of tomatoes per year to be sold in Australian supermarkets.

Given the increasing demand for fresh water around the world — a problem that’s particularly apparent in the sunburned landscape of South Australia — this might just represent future of large-scale farming, especially in coastal desert regions that have previously been non-arable.

The heart of the farm is the 23,000 mirrors that reflect sunlight towards a 115-meter high receiver tower. All of that concentrated sunlight produces an immense amount of power, up to 39 megawatts. That’s more than enough to cover the desalination needs of the farm and supply all the electricity needs of the greenhouses.

The seawater, too, has other purposes besides just irrigation. During scorching hot summers, seawater-soaked cardboard lines the greenhouses to help keep the plants at optimal temperature. Seawater also has the remarkable effect of sterilizing the air, meaning that chemical pesticides are unnecessary.

All in all, the facility cost around 200 million dollars to get up and running. That might sound excessive, but in the long run the facility should save money compared to the costs of conventional greenhouses that require fossil fuels for power. It’s a self-sustaining, cost-efficient design so long as the initial investment can be provided. Facilities similar to the Australian one are already being planned for Portugal and the U.S., as well as another in Australia. Desert areas like those seen in Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates could be next in line.

“These closed production systems are very clever,” said Robert Park of the University of Sydney, Australia, to New Scientist. “I believe that systems using renewable energy sources will become better and better and increase in the future, contributing even more of some of our foods.”

The future of energy – decentralised renewables

November 21, 2016
Why the Future Belongs to Decentralized Renewables, Not Centralized Hydrogen and Giga-Scale Nuclear November 18, 2016 by Energy Post

“……….Let me develop the real reasons why conventional renewables are likely to emerge as the dominant primary energy sources in the first half of the
21st century. The fundamental advantages of renewables, as revealed by practical experience in China as well as in industrialised countries like Germany where an energy transformation is well under way, are these.As they scale renewable energies do not present greater and greater hazards. Instead they are relatively benign technologies, without serious riskThey are clean (low to zero-carbon); they are non-polluting (important in China and India with their high levels of particulate pollution derived from coal); they tap into inexhaustibleenergy sources; and they have close-to-zero running costs since they do not need fuel. They are also diffuse, which should be viewed as an advantage, since this means that renewable sources are decentralised, and can be harvested by both large and by small operations. So they are eminently practicable.Some advantages of renewables are not at all obvious and need to be made explicit. Fundamentally, they are scalable. They can be built in modular fashion – one solar panel, 100 solar panels, 1000 solar panels. As they are replicated in this fashion so their power ratings continue to rise, without complexity cutting back on efficiency. This cannot be said of nuclear reactors, which have an optimal operational size – below which or above which the plant under-performs.

Moreover as they scale they do not present greater and greater hazards. Instead they are relatively benign technologies, without serious risks.

 

When they use hazardous materials, such as the cadmium in Cd-Te solar, the solution would be to recycle materials in order to minimise the use and waste of virgin materials.

Most importantly, the superiority of conventional renewables lies in their cost reduction trends which are linked to the fact that they are always the products of manufacturing – and mass production manufacturing, where economies of scale really play a role. This means that they offer genuine energy security in so far as manufacturing can in principle be conducted anywhere. There are no geopolitical pressures stemming from accidents of chance where one country has deposits of a fossil fuel but another does not. Manufactured devices promise an end to the era in which energy security remains closely tied to geopolitics and the projection of armed force. As Hao Tan and I put it in our article published in Nature, manufacturing renewables provides the key to energy security.

Manufacturing is characterised by improving efficiencies as experience is accumulated – with consequent cost reductions captured in the learning or experience curve. Manufacturing generates increasing returns; it can be a source of rising incomes and wealth without imposing further stresses on the earth. Add to these advantages that renewables promise economic advantages of the first importance: they offer rural employment as well as urban employment in manufacturing industry; they offer an innovative and competitive energy sector; and they offer export platforms for the future.

The real driver of the renewable energy revolution is not government policy, or business risk-taking, or consumer demand. It is, quite simply, the reduction of costs

This is to list the advantages of renewables without even mentioning their low and diminishing carbon emissions. Indeed they offer the only real long-term solution to the problem of cleaning up energy systems.

With all these advantages, it is little wonder that China and now India are throwing so much effort into building renewable energy systems at scale. These are not exercises undertaken for ethical or aesthetic purposes, but as national development strategies of the highest priority.

So the real driver of the renewable energy revolution is not government policy, or business risk-taking, or consumer demand. It is, quite simply, the reduction of costs – to the point where renewables are bringing down costs of generating power to be comparable with the use of traditional fossil fuels, and with the promise of reducing these costs further still. Supergrids are also being promoted for renewables, but these are very different conceptions, based on integrating numerous fluctuating sources in IT-empowered grids, offering the same practicable, scalable and replicable energy future.

Against these advantages, the obstacles regularly cited are small indeed. There is the fluctuating nature of renewables, which can be addressed by various forms of systems integration (smart grids, demand response) and of course through energy storage, which is moving into the same kind of cost reduction learning curve that has characterised solar and wind power, promising rapid diffusion of both commercial and domestic energy storage units. With rapidly falling costs of storage providing the buffer that can even out fluctuating levels of generation, there is no further serious argument against renewables……..

by 

This article is based on a scientific paper by John A. Mathews, Competing principles driving energy futures: Fossil fuel decarbonization vs. manufacturing learning curves, which was published in Futures in November 2016 (.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016328715300227)

John Mathews is author of the Greening of Capitalism: How Asia is Driving the Next Great Transformation”, published by Stanford University Press: http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=24288. His latest book, “China’s Renewable Energy Revolution” (co-authored with Hao Tan) was published by Palgrave Pivot in September 2015: http://www.palgrave.com/page/detail/chinas-energy-revolution-john-a-mathews/?isb=9781137546241.

See his author’s archive on Energy Post.

Europe’s new rules on disposal of nuclear waste

November 21, 2016

Under the new law, export to countries outside the EU will be allowed but only under strict and binding conditions.  

The third country must have a final deep geological repository in operation when the waste is shipped. [Ed note: This kind of regulation would finish off South Australia’s crazy plan to commercially import nuclear waste]

At present, such deep geological repositories do not exist anywhere in the world nor is a repository in construction outside of the EU.

Europe Adopts Long-Term Nuclear Waste Storage Law  http://ens-newswire.com/2011/07/19/europe-adopts-long-term-nuclear-waste-storage-law/     BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 19, 2011  For the first time, the European Union has committed itself to the final disposal of its nuclear waste. Heads of government today adopted the radioactive waste and spent fuel management directive, “in order to avoid imposing undue burdens on future generations.”…..

The directive will enter into force at the latest in September of this year. Member States will have two years to transpose its provisions into their national laws.

By 2015, governments must submit their first national programs to the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, which will examine them and can require changes……

Some 7,000 cubic meters of high-level nuclear waste are produced across the EU each year. Most Member States store spent fuel and other highly radioactive wastes in above-ground storage facilities that need continuous maintenance and oversight and are at risk of accidents, such as airplane crashes, fires or earthquakes. Hungary and Bulgaria currently ship nuclear waste to Russia.

In its most controversial provision, the new law allows export of nuclear waste to countries outside the EU. In its initial proposal, the Commission had advocated a complete export ban.

On June 23, 2011, the European Parliament in its plenary session voted in favor of a complete export ban as proposed by the Commission. In a close vote, MEPs backed a ban on exports of nuclear waste to non-EU countries, with 311 votes in favor, 328 against and seven abstentions.

However, the European Council today approved a version of the directive that allows export.

As the legal basis for this directive is the Euratom Treaty, the European Parliament is only consulted, an its opinion is not binding. The final decision is taken only by the Council, composed of the heads of government of every EU Member State and the president of the European Commission.

Under the new law, export to countries outside the EU will be allowed but only under strict and binding conditions.

The third country must have a final deep geological repository in operation when the waste is shipped.

At present, such deep geological repositories do not exist anywhere in the world nor is a repository in construction outside of the EU.

It takes a minimum of 40 years to develop and build a deep geological repository, the Commission said today in a statement on adoption of the new directive.

According to already existing EU laws on the shipment of spent fuels and radioactive waste, the export to African, Pacific and Caribbean countries, as well as to Antarctica, is explicitly ruled out.

Greenpeace EU nuclear policy adviser Jan Haverkamp was critical of the new law, saying shipment of nuclear waste to countries outside the EU should not have been allowed.

“Despite pressure from the European Commission to block exports, the new rules will allow Hungary and Bulgaria, countries that currently have agreements for the export of nuclear waste to Russia, to continue transferring radioactive material,” said Haverkamp.

“European governments have adopted an out of sight, out of mind approach to radioactive waste, but all they are doing is dumping the long-term problem on someone else and putting Europeans at risk by allowing dangerous waste convoys,” Haverkamp said. “Only countries that face the unsolvable problem of radioactive waste head-on by ending their reliance on nuclear power can stop the vicious circle that shifts responsibility to the next generations.”

Under the new directive, national programs have to include plans with a concrete timetable for the construction of disposal facilities, as well as a description of the activities needed for the implementation of disposal solutions, costs assessments and a description of the financing schemes. They will have to be updated regularly.

Safety standards drawn up by the International Atomic Energy Agency will become legally binding.

Information will be made available to the general public and workers, and the public will have opportunities to participate in the decision-making process.

At least every 10 years, Member States are required to invite international peer reviews to exchange experience and ensure the application of the highest standards.

Finally, two or more Member States can agree to use a disposal facility in one of them.

More than 50 years after Europe’s first nuclear power reactor became operational – the UK’s Calder Hall power plant in 1956 – there are still no final repositories for nuclear waste.

Under the Euratom Treaty, the EU has the legal competence to protect the general public from ionizing radiation. The energy mix is a national competence.

The Commission said it will “closely and carefully” monitor the implementation of the new directive, in particular progress made in building disposal facilities for radioactive waste and spent fuel and, if they occur at a later stage, possible exports of radioactive material.

American Navy’s Use of Depleted Uranium Weapons in Coastal Waters – threat to humans and other species

November 21, 2016
The Navy’s Use of Depleted Uranium in Our Coastal Waters Threatens Humans, Wildlife Monday, 31 October 2016 By Dahr JamailTruthout | Report
 Earlier this month, Truthout reported that the US Navy is knowingly introducingtoxic metals and chemicals into the environment during its war game exercises.

Sheila Murray with the Navy Region Northwest’s public affairs office, when asked what the Navy was doing to mitigate environmental contamination from the large numbers of Depleted Uranium (DU) rounds it left on the seabed off the Pacific Northwest Coast claimed current research “does not suggest short- or long-term effects” from the release of DU to the environment that could result in its uptake by marine organisms.”

She also said that DU rounds “are extremely stable in sea water and pose no greater threat than any other metal.”

In response to this, Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist and winner of the 2015 Rachel Carson Prize environmental award for her work on DU and heavy metal contamination, told Truthout, “The US Navy representative’s views exhibit an alarming level of amnesia.”

She said this because Murray’s statement has been one that has been recycled by the Navy for years. Reuters reported in January 2003 that the Navy confirmed its use of DU shells in arms tests off the Washington State coast, at which time the Navy claimed, “The DU rounds dissolve so slowly that they would not contribute to naturally occurring (radiation) levels … and do not pose a significant risk.”

Meanwhile, ample scientific reports — including Savabieasfahani’s own research — demonstrate the deleterious health impacts caused by DU.

“When those bullets and bombs explode, dangerous nanoparticles of metals, including uranium nanoparticles, are released into the environment,” she explained to Truthout. “Laboratory research has already established that exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of uranium has negative impacts on fish embryogenesis, and on the reproductive success of fish.”

Naval documents show that as much as 34 tons of DU could be present on the seabed just 12 miles from the outer coast of Washington State.

Even more distressing, the Navy’s own documents reveal that the extent of its use of DU off the coast of the US is far more pervasive than it admits to the public.

And results of a Freedom of Information Act filing provided to Truthout show that the Navy, which claims in its environmental impact statements it has not used DU since 2008, has actually shipped it from a Puget Sound munitions area as recently as 2011.

A Bogus Study

The Navy’s public affairs officer, Murray, also told Truthout that a “recent study” of an area off the south coast of England that was used for test firing DU rounds “did not show presence of DU in sample of intertidal and ocean bottom sediments, seaweed, mussels, and locally caught lobster and scallops. (Toque, 2006).”

However, the study Murray cites — and which the Navy consistently cites when arguing that DU is not harmful — is heavily disputed.

Carol Van Strum, an Oregon-based environmental advocate who has researched DU for years, told Truthout that Murray’s statement is “an out-and-out lie.”

Van Strum, who has read the Toque study closely and knows it well, pointed out that, for starters, the study’s author works for a British military contractor. She went on to point out two very serious flaws in the study.

“While the study relied on ‘locally caught’ lobster and scallops as samples for testing for depleted uranium, the samples were never ‘caught’ but rather bought in a local market, and thus could have come from anywhere,” Van Strum explained. “Second, and most worrisome … the actual study reports depleted uranium contamination in nearly all of the samples.”

The Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the matter claims “the survey results show no evidence of DU being present in any marine environmental sample collected in the year 2004.”

But Van Strum called their claim “incontrovertibly false” because the study itself stated it had found DU contamination in the soil in many areas where the military was operating cannons, in the soil where ordnance had been fired, and in the soil, sea water and marine life where the ordnance they had fired had landed.

“The study’s methodology would not pass muster for even a high school science project,” Van Strum said. Karen Sullivan, a retired endangered species biologist who co-founded the website West Coast Action Alliance that acts as a watchdog of Naval activities in the Pacific Northwest, questioned why the Navy would open itself up to accusations of bias by relying on only a single study done by someone who works for a group affiliated with the British military.

“Why would the Navy rely on such a flawed and obviously biased study to ‘prove’ that DU in seawater poses no threat greater than any other metal?” Sullivan, who worked at the US Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 15 years and who is an expert in the bureaucratic procedures the Navy is supposed to be following, asked in an interview with Truthout. “Probably because the enormous body of properly conducted and unbiased science completely refutes it.”

Van Strum went on to point out additional significant problems with the study, including the almost laughable procurement and use of the samples……..

Human Health Impacts of DU “Quite Relevant” to Naval Exercises

“Navy exercises in the waters of the Pacific Northwest will release contaminants into the marine environment, with an undeniable potential to harm human health,” Savabieasfahani said, noting that this would apply even to low-level amounts of DU being introduced into the oceans. “It is long established that explosives can contaminate soil, sediment and water and thereby impact environmental and human health.”

She explained that the human and environmental impacts of the Navy’s use of DU in past exercises is “quite relevant,” and cited a report that showed how DU exposure has been linked to lower cognitive ability in adults.

“This leads us to expect much worse impacts on growing children, newborns and infants — to say nothing of unborn babies,” Savabieasfahani added. “Furthermore, epidemiological evidence is also consistent with an increased risk of birth defects in the children of people exposed to DU.”

She also heavily emphasized the fact that the internalization of uranium in any form will result in both chemical and radiation exposure. “Once inside a living body, DU and uranium’s effects are virtually the same,” Savabieasfahani explained. “This is a point worth repeating.”

Moreover, Savabieasfahani emphasized that it’s dangerous to guesstimate “safe” levels of DU, whether or not it reaches levels determined to be “toxic.”

“Our knowledge of the human health impacts of DU is consistent with laboratory studies of other mammals,” she said. “DU exposure affects neurogenesis during prenatal and postnatal brain development by disrupting patterns of cell proliferation and cell death. Even sub-toxic levels of DU have been shown to alter brain function.”

She also took issue with Murray’s argument, which Savabieasfahani described as, essentially, “the solution to pollution is dilution.” This is the nuclear industry’s default argument about radiation and other forms of pollution, and has been for decades, despite the fact that this logic was “decisively rejected” more than 40 years ago. Savabieasfahani pointed out that even Richard Nixon’s EPA administrator, William Ruckelshaus, rejected the dilution argument in a 1972 Congressional testimony regarding the Clean Water Act.

Savabieasfahani noted that any upcoming Naval exercises that introduce heavy metals and other pollutants, regardless of whether they use DU, will increase the environmental “background burden” of DU and other pollutants.

“Increasing that burden is simply irresponsible,” Savabieasfahani said. “Seabed pollutants have already found their way into our bodies. Those pollutants will continue to impact the most vulnerable populations — infants, newborns and growing children — most profoundly, and their imprint will be found in the baby teeth of our children.”

Other Instances of DU

Problems with DU in the Pacific Northwest are not limited to the Navy……. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/38185-the-navy-s-use-of-depleted-uranium-in-our-coastal-waters-threatens-humans-wildlife

United Nations will again study the effects of depleted uranium contamination

November 21, 2016

United Nations highlights cost and difficulty of tackling depleted uranium contamination http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/united-nations-highlights-cost-and-difficulty

Depleted uranium once again on the UN’s agenda as a new resolution is tabled that serves to remind the international community of the absence of rules governing its post-conflict management.
19 October 2016 – ICBUW A resolution submitted to the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee draws attention to the technical and financial barriers that countries affected by the use of depleted uranium face following conflicts when they seek to clear contamination. The resolution also reminds governments that states, communities, health experts and civil society organisations remain profoundly concerned about the health and environmental risks that the weapons can pose.

The resolution is the sixth on the topic to be tabled at the General Assembly since 2007. Shortly before the last resolution was debated in 2014, Iraq called for assistance from the international community in addressing the legacy of DU use in the country in 1991 and 2003. The 2014 resolution, which was supported by 150 states, called on member states to provide such assistance. Disappointingly, assistance has not been forthcoming in the interim and the appalling security situation in Iraq has hampered efforts to assess and clear sites.

“Managing DU contamination to internationally accepted standards is complex, time-consuming and costly,” said ICBUW Coordinator Doug Weir. “Research has repeatedly shown that most countries recovering from conflict are poorly placed to implement these vital risk reduction measures, which are recommended by UN agencies, and it is civilians who all too often pay the cost of inaction.” Part of the problem lies in the fact that unlike land mines and cluster munitions, there are no formal obligations, on either those countries that use the weapons, or are affected by them, to clear them after conflicts.

Previous resolutions have passed by huge majorities, with just four states consistently voting against and, while it is unlikely that the UK, US, France and Israel will vote in favour this year, overall the number of governments abstaining has been on a downward trend since 2007. As a result, there is increasing focus on the likes of Canada, Denmark and a number of EU governments who refuse to vote yes, often on extremely dubious grounds.

However, it is Germany that many will be watching. In 2014, the German government abstained on the DU resolution for the first time, triggering a backlash from German parliamentarians and civil society. A parliamentary question urging the government to vote yes was tabled in September by the Green Party. “Germany has got to accept that the potential hazards from DU contamination are widely accepted by the UN agencies that recommend remedial measures, and by their own military, who take a precautionary approach to DU in their own guidelines,” said PAX’s Wim Zwijnenburg. “Doubtless the German authorities would take steps to prevent civilian harm if DU were dispersed in Germany, why should it be different for other countries following conflicts?”

What will the resolution achieve?

The resolutions do not seek to ban DU weapons, however they do underscore the fact that the overwhelming majority of governments object to their use. Each resolution is also helping to define soft norms around some of the most problematic issues surrounding DU. One of these, the need for DU users to share data on where they fire the weapons, has featured since 2010, and its importance was highlighted by a recent report from PAX and ICBUW over DU use in the 2003 Iraq War. The report showed that more than half the DU fired by the US is still unaccounted for, and that the refusal of the US to release data to UN agencies hampered their post-conflict assessments.

Voting on the resolution will take place in early November. A second vote will take place in early December. You can follow the debate on social media using #FirstCommittee and by following @ICBUW

USA ignored its own guidelines in depleted uranium weapons use in Iraq. Syria too?

November 21, 2016

US broke its own rules firing depleted uranium in Iraq http://www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/us-broke-own-rules-firing-depleted-uranium-in-iraq

An analysis of recently declassified military data shows that the United States military ignored its own guidelines for the use of depleted uranium ammunition in the 2003 Iraq War, firing the controversial weapons at unarmoured targets, buildings in populated areas and troops. It has also tripled the number of sites known to be contaminated in Iraq to more than 1,000; even as fears grow that the US has used depleted uranium in Syria.
5 October 2016 – ICBUW

The targeting data, which details the use of 30mm DU ammunition by USAF A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft – or “Warthogs”, was released under FOIA and accounts for 54,000kg of the 118,000kg of DU ammunition that the US and UK have acknowledged firing in the conflict. Analysis by PAX and ICBUW of the 1,116 strikes, which took place during the first month of the 2003 invasion, and published in a new report Targets of Opportunity shows that DU use was widespread across Iraq.

For the first time, the data also reveal that the majority of targets attacked with the radioactive and chemically toxic weapons were not armoured. This runs counter to claims by the US that the A10’s ammunition is specifically for destroying tanks and other armoured vehicles. A significant number of the 182,000 30mm PGU-14/B rounds fired by the aircraft – each of which contains 298g of DU – were also fired in or near populated areas, increasing the likelihood that civilians would be exposed.

The need to destroy armour is central to the US’s ongoing military justification for the use of the weapons, which place civilians at risk of exposure and leave a complex and costly legacy for years after the end of conflicts. The US’s own legal guidelines, which were placed on the use of the armour-piercing incendiary weapons in 1975, restricts their use to armoured vehicles, a restriction that appears to have been ignored in the 2003 conflict.

Little transparency, even less assistance

While the UK released information to the UN on where it fired 1,900kg of DU, the US is still withholding data on where it fired 62,000kg of the weapons. This is hampering clearance work. PAX has reported that Iraq continues to struggle with the identification and remediation of DU contaminated sites, and the country has called for assistance in doing so from the international community.

“With the current burden of fighting the Islamic State, the Iraqi government’s capacity is already stretched. But people are worried about DU contamination, especially in southern Iraq,” says one of the report’s authors, PAX’s Wim Zwijnenburg. “The US did too little, too late, and now Iraq’s people are facing layer upon layer of toxic health risks as a result of the conflicts.”

“At present countries that use DU weapons, or are affected by them, are under no formal obligations to clear contamination after conflicts in order to minimise the risks it poses to civilians,” said co-author Doug Weir from ICBUW. “This is in stark contrast to land mines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. Governments must take steps to meaningfully address the legacy from DU and other toxic remnants of war that can harm civilians and their environment for years after the end of conflicts.” 

New information suggests that A-10s have used DU in Syria n early 2015, the US stated – contrary to previous claims – that its A-10 aircraft had not and would not use DU in Iraq or Syria in operations against Islamic State. However information obtained by ICBUW suggests that US A-10s have used DU on at least two occasions in Syria.

ICBUW and PAX are calling for urgent clarification from the US authorities on both the incidents and its DU policy for the conflict, and for them to swiftly release the targeting data to ensure that the relevant authorities can conduct clearance and risk awareness efforts and to isolate and recover contaminated material.

A new resolution on DU weapons will be voted on by governments at the UN General Assembly this month.         : https://www.irinnews.org/analysis/2016/10/06/exclusive-iraq-war-records-reignite-debate-over-us-use-depleted-uranium