Archive for the ‘– politics Australia’ Category

The Australian government’s plan to dump Lucas Heights’ nuclear waste on rural South Australia

July 24, 2017

Assuming that the long-lived intermediate-level stuff does go to the sites that you are busy characterising at the moment, how long is it envisaged that it actually stays there before it gets taken somewhere else?

Mr B Wilson: We cannot give a definitive answer on that because we have not commenced a process to identify a permanent disposal solution for the long-lived intermediate-level waste—

Senator LUDLAM: Ouch!

if the really dangerous intermediate-level stuff is to be stored there you cannot tell them how long it is meant to be there for

so we kind of do not really know what is going on there or how long it is meant to be there for.

ECONOMICS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE, Department of Industry – RADIOACTIVE WASTE  1st June 2017

 Full Transcript here: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/estimate/e3ddf88b-3e9c-4546-9d90-8f646689a98c/toc_pdf/Economics%20Legislation%20Committee_2017_06_01_5134.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

Senator Canavan: I have been to Hawker and I am going there again tomorrow, and I would like to put on record my thanks to many in the Hawker community who engage in this process. Some have certainly changed their mind as they have come to have more understanding of it. I think you have probably been to Lucas Heights, and it I think it makes a big difference to people when they see it. There is a lot of misinformation spread about this, and we are trying to engage with people in a genuine way in good faith to give them the information to make informed decisions.

Senator LUDLAM: Who is spreading this information, Senator Canavan?

Senator Canavan: I hear it from time to time. I do not have any particular allegations to make about individual groups here, but you do hear lots of information from time to time about the potential danger of this material. But, of course, as you would probably know, much of the low-level waste is stored safely at Lucas Heights, a place where people go to and from work every day.

Senator LUDLAM: That begs the question of why it needs to move. ……

Senator LUDLAM: Staying in South Australia: has there been any consideration at all—this is for the department or the minister, whoever wants to take this one on—of the tension between the proposed national radioactive waste facility and the existing South Australian legislation, which would be the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000? The tension between the fact that your entire project is presently illegal under South Australian law: what is being done about that?

Mr B Wilson: We are certainly aware of the South Australian prohibition under their law. However, the National Radioactive Waste Management Act that we operate under overrides South Australian law.

Senator LUDLAM: And that is it? You are just going to squash them? Or are there discussions progressing with the South Australian government?….

Senator LUDLAM: Is the department, or you, Senator Canavan, or any of the federal agencies or other actors in communication with the South Australian government environment or heritage departments, or representatives of any body, actually, in relation to the tension between the two acts?

Senator Canavan: I have raised it with the South Australian government. They have indicated that they may seek to make changes. I am not aware of the status of that at the moment. Obviously, they have their own process, which is a separate to ours, on radioactive waste. Certainly, the issue has been raised. Mr Wilson is also right that we are confident that is not a barrier to this project. But Mr Wilson will be giving you that.

Mr B Wilson: We engage—I would have to characterise it as infrequently—with the South Australian government. It is more in the line of updating where we are. We have not had any recent engagements. They are certainly very well aware of the prohibitions under their law about what the South Australian government and its officials can do in this space….

When I said that the National Radioactive Waste Management Act overrides South Australian law, that is the fact. But what we are trying to do in the development of this project is to develop it and act in a way that is consistent with requirements under other South Australian legislation. For instance, in terms of Indigenous heritage protection and other aspects. While we are not necessarily bound by those laws we want to act in a way that is consistent with them.

Senator LUDLAM: With waste that is as dangerous as this, I am very glad to hear it! Is the department still accepting site nominations?

Senator Canavan: The government remains open to further nominations, as we announced on selecting the Hawker site last year. But the ones we have announced are those that we are proceeding with at this stage.

Senator LUDLAM: Wallerberdina and two at Kimba.

Senator Canavan: Kimba, that is right.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes. I will come to the Kimba ones in just a sec. My understanding is—and this goes way back before this project; the same for Muckaty and the same for the ones that came before that—that it was envisaged that it be a permanent repository for low-level waste of various categories, and a temporary or interim storage site for the long-lived intermediate-level waste that may or may not end up going there. That is still ambiguous, unless you can clarify that for us.

Assuming that the long-lived intermediate-level stuff does go to the sites that you are busy characterising at the moment, how long is it envisaged that it actually stays there before it gets taken somewhere else?

Mr B Wilson: We cannot give a definitive answer on that because we have not commenced a process to identify a permanent disposal solution for the long-lived intermediate-level waste—

Senator LUDLAM: Ouch!

Mr B Wilson: What we have told communities—we are trying to be as up-front as we can be—is that it could take several decades, based on the experience in establishing a low-level disposal facility. It could well take a couple of decades to find a permanent disposal solution for the intermediate. There is also some sense in Australia of not rushing to a permanent disposal solution for intermediate. The potential technological solutions—

Pg 108

Senator LUDLAM: Sixty or 70 years certainly could not be called a rush, could it?

Senator Canavan: No, definitely not

Mr B Wilson: The potential technological solutions for that are evolving, and there are potential other new technologies which might reduce the cost to Australia of a disposal solution—if they are proven to be effective and safe. They will be proved up over the next decade or so.

Senator LUDLAM: You a very good at this, Mr Wilson. Are you having any difficulty in the consultation work that you are doing—at any level, really—when communities take you up on the fact that you cannot tell them what kind of waste is proposed to be stored at the site? And if the really dangerous intermediate-level stuff is to be stored there you cannot tell them how long it is meant to be there for—has that come up at all in any of your conversations?

Mr B Wilson: Yes, it does.

Senator Canavan: It does, yes.

Senator LUDLAM: I would think so. Does it bug you a bit that you are not able to provide them with that basic information about what the dump will even be used for?

Mr B Wilson: What we do say is that by the time we come to them with a firm proposal for what this facility will look like—which will be sometime next year—we will be able to tell them, with clarity, what the options are on the intermediate level waste that might be stored there, and how we propose to deal with the low-level waste that will be stored there. So they will have, at that point, pretty good clarity around what the facility will be, what it will handle, and how it will handle it.

Senator LUDLAM: Right, so we kind of do not really know what is going on there or how long it is meant to be there for.

CHAIR: You have a minute and a half for further questions, Senator Ludlam.
Senator LUDLAM: A minute and a half! This stuff is dangerous for tens of thousands of years! Senator CANAVAN: Time flies when you are having fun!

Senator LUDLAM: So it does. I have one or two questions on Kimba and the Eyre Peninsula site. I note that there is a ballot process being advanced by the District Council of Kimba—AEC is overseeing that, which I think is good—to measure community preparedness to progress to stage 2 of consultation. I gather the question is going to be: are you interested in more info, or have you made your minds up? Is that a reasonable characterisation of what you are doing?

Mr B Wilson: It is not our question. It is the council’s question—it is their vote. But it will, effectively, be: ‘Do you support the sites progressing to the next stage of the process,’ or some version of that.

Senator LUDLAM: How do you intend to capture and consider the views of the wider community outside the defined voting area? It is a national radioactive waste dump; you will not be calling it the Kimba radioactive waste dump. I do not have any good answers to this, but how are you proposing to engage broader opinion?

Mr B Wilson: As it was for the previous round of consultations, people who have views from outside the region are perfectly free to submit those views to us. We will compile them and provide them to the minister to take into account. I think there is a sort of reality check here; the facility is proposed to go into an area, and it is that immediate community that obviously will carry more weight than—

Senator LUDLAM: I would hope so; I am not trying to take that away from them.

Senator CANAVAN: We also have people on the ground in both Hawker and Kimba. We have a staffed office there that people can approach, including people from the broader region who might come to Kimba for business or what have you. So we are doing our best to receive those views from a wide area.

Senator LUDLAM: How many people do you have staffing them?
Senator CANAVAN: We have two or three at Hawker, I believe. How many at Kimba? Mr B Wilson: About two at each.

Senator LUDLAM: Senator Canavan, you raised a figure before—you thought there was approximately 65 per cent support last time there was any sort of poll done in the Flinders area. Is that what you would consider sufficient to indicate broad community support?

Senator CANAVAN: I have said before that we are not defining the broad community support level at a precise amount, partly because of the issue that you just raised—there will be a broad set of community interests beyond, potentially, the voting area that deserve to have their voice heard on this issue. Also, within that voting area there might be different categories that deserve special attention, including Indigenous and traditional owners and direct neighbours to any potential site. So it is not, I think, appropriate to characterise a particular level of support. But I have also said we have accepted a site, if it is 65 per cent, as a sufficient level of support. And I would expect any further decisions would need a level of support consistent within a broad range of that amount.

Nuclear agency secretly signed Australia up to The Generation IV Nuclear Energy Framework with no parliamentary discussion

July 24, 2017

Submission to:  Inquiry: The Generation IV Nuclear Energy – Accession. by Noel Wauchope, 24 April 2017

First of all, I find it very strange that this agreement has been signed up to in advance, not by any elected representative of the Australian Parliament, but by Dr Adi Patterson CEO of the Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, apparently pre-empting the results of this Inquiry!

I find it disturbing that this Inquiry is being held without any public information or discussion. Are we to assume that the decision to join this “Charter” is being taken without prior public knowledge?

It is a pretty momentous decision. According to the World Nuclear Association the 2005 Framework agreement “formally commits them (signatories) to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.”

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 currently prohibits the development of nuclear power in Australia. Nuclear power cannot be approved under either the EPBC Act or the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998.  These prohibitions are, as I understand it,  supported by all major parties in Australia?

This would be an extraordinary step for Australia to take, especially in the light of the recent South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (NFCRC) pro-nuclear Royal Commission, which, while recommending South Australia for an international nuclear waste dump, nevertheless stated that

The recent conclusion of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), which issued updated projections for fast reactor and innovative systems in January 2014, suggests the most advanced system will start a demonstration phase (which involves completing the detailed design of a prototype system and undertaking its licensing, construction and operation) in about 2021. The demonstration phase is expected to last at least 10 years and each system demonstrated will require funding of several billion US dollars. As a result, the earliest possible date for the commercial operation of fast reactor and other innovative reactor designs is 2031. This timeframe is subject to significant project, technical and funding risk. It extends by six years a similar assessment undertaken by GIF in 2002. This means that such designs could not realistically be ready for commercial deployment in South Australia or elsewhere before the late 2030s, and possibly later.”

This was hardly a ringing endorsement of Generation IV nuclear reactors.

The South Australian Citizens Jury, Community Consultations, numerous economists, and the S.A. Liberal Party all rejected that nuclear waste plan, as not economically viable.  A huge amount of preparation was done by the NFCRC in investigating the phases of the nuclear Fuel Cycle (more accurately Chain) to arrive at their rather negative view of Generation IV nuclear reactors.

That makes it all the more extraordinary that the Australian government would be willing to sign up so quickly to ANSTO’s request that Australia put resources into these untested, and so far, non-existent nuclear technologies.

I hope that the Committee is aware of the present financial troubles of the giant nuclear corporations, such as AREVA, Toshiba, and Westinghouse Electric. Nuclear power is turning out to be a financial liability wherever it is not funded by the tax-payer, (as in China and Russia). (1)

The World Nuclear Association describes the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) as countries for whom nuclear energy is significant now or seen as vital in the future. Australia’s situation in no way fits these criteria.

Nuclear energy is not significant now in Australia, and even the NRCRC nuclear proponents do not see it as vital for Australia’s future. It is almost laughable, that right now, renewable energy systems are taking off in Australia – both as large solar and wind farms, and as a huge increase in small decentralised systems such as home and business solar panel installations.

That’s where Australia should be putting its resources of human energy, talent, and funding.

The claims made by the nuclear lobby, ANSTO and some politicians, notably Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop, about Generation Iv nuclear reactors, do not stand up to scrutiny:

Non proliferation “-   Furthering Australia’s non-proliferation and nuclear safety objectives.” The well-known claim that a “conventional” nuclear bomb cannot be made from these new types of reactor, might be true, to a certain extent. However, IFRs and other plutonium-based nuclear power concepts fail the WMD proliferation test, i.e. they can too easily be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The use of thorium as a nuclear fuel doesn’t solve the WMD proliferation problem. Irradiation of thorium (indirectly) produces uranium-233, a fissile material which can be used in nuclear weapons.  These materials can be used to make a “dirty bomb” – irradiating a city or other target.  They would require the same expensive security measures that apply with conventional nuclear reactors.

If the purpose in joining the GIF is to strengthen non-proliferation and safety – why is ANSTO the implementing agent not the Australia Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office?

Solving nuclear waste problem? Claims that these new nuclear reactors will solve the problem of nuclear wastes are turning out to be spurious. For example, Nuclear energy startup Transatomic Power has backed away from bold claims for its advanced reactor technology after an informal review by MIT professors highlighted serious errors in the company’s calculations. (2) Even at the best of times, the “new nuclear” lobby admits that their Gen IV reactors will produce highly toxic radioactive wastes, requiring security for up to 300 years.
The Integral Fast Reactor is called “integral” because it would process used reactor fuel on-site, separating plutonium (a weapons explosive) and other long-lived radioactive isotopes from the used fuel, to be fed back into the reactor. It essentially converts long-lived waste into shorter lived waste. This waste would still remain dangerous for a minimum of 200 years (provided it is not contaminated with high level waste products), so we are still left with a waste problem that spans generations. (3)

Climate change. The claim that new nuclear power will solve climate change is spurious. This ignores life-cycle CO2 emissions

Nuclear energy is not zero carbon.

Emissions from nuclear will increase significantly over the next few decades as high grade ore is depleted, and increasing amounts of fossil fuels are required to access, mine and mill low-grade ore.

To stay below the 2 degrees of global warming that climate scientists widely agree is necessary to avert catastrophic consequences for humans and physical systems, we need to significantly reduce our emissions by 2050, and to do this we need to start this decade. Nuclear is a slow technology:

The “Generation IV” demonstration plants projected for 2030-2040 will be too late, and there is no guarantee the pilots will be successful.

Nuclear Economics. For “a time when significant expansion in nuclear power production is underway” – this is a laughable falsehood. In reality, nuclear power economics are in a state of crisis, most notably in America, but it is a world-wide slowdown. (4)

The vagueness of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) agreement is a worry. Australia is to formally commit to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.  Surely Australia is not going to sign up to this, without any detail on what kind of research, what kind of reactor, what amount of funding we would be committing to the GIF.

And all this without any public discussion!

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/11/toshiba-losses-uk-moorside-nuclear-plant-westinghouse
  2.  https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603731/nuclear-energy- startup-transatomic-backtracks-on-key-promises/
  3. https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4555
  4.  http://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-industry-crisis-29735/

 

Scrutinising ARPANSA’s Information for Stakeholders on nuclear radioactive waste facility

February 1, 2017

Effectively this is the same draconian situation that existed under the earlier Commonwealth Noonan, David
Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005 introduced by the Howard government to override State and Territory interests to protect community health, safety and welfare from the risks and impacts of nuclear wastes and to nullify Federal laws that protect against imposition of nuclear wastes.


Public submission to the draft ARPANSA Information for Stakeholders & associated Regulatory Guide to Licensing a Radioactive Waste Storage or Disposal Facility

Summary

Revised ARPANSA “Information for Stakeholders” should address the following:

The nuclear fuel waste Store in the Flinders Ranges is intended to operate for approx. 100 years.

The ARPANSA “Information for Stakeholders” fails to be transparent and is not fit for purpose.

ARPANSA must inform the public on the proposed licence period for this nuclear fuel waste Store.

ARPANSA should also publicly acknowledge the Contingency that the proposed nuclear fuel waste Store may be at a different site to the proposed near surface Repository in the Flinders Ranges.

The proposed above ground Store in our iconic Flinders Ranges is unnecessary as the ANSTO’s existing Interim Waste Store (IWS) at the Lucas Heights Technology Centre can manage reprocessed nuclear fuel waste on contract from France and from the United Kingdom over the long term.

The ANSTO application for the Interim Waste Store was conservatively predicated on a 40 year operating life for the IWS, and ANSTO has a contingency to “extend it for a defined period of time”.

ANSTO also has a contingency option for the “Retention of the returned residues at ANSTO until the availability of a final disposal option” – which does not involve a Store in the Flinders Ranges.

The Lucas Heights Technology Centre is by far the best placed Institution and facility to responsibly manage Australia’s existing nuclear fuel waste and proposed waste accruals from the Opal reactor.

The Interim Waste Store (IWS) at the Lucas Heights Technology Centre can conservatively function throughout the proposed operating period of the Opal reactor without a requirement for an alternative above ground nuclear fuel waste Store at a NRWMF in the Flinders Ranges or elsewhere.

It is an inexplicably omission or an unacceptably act of denial for ARPANSA to fail to even identity or to properly explain Australia’s existing nuclear fuel wastes and proposed further decades of Opal reactor nuclear fuel waste production in the “Information for Stakeholders”.

Australia’s nuclear fuel wastes are by far the highest activity and most concentrated and hazardous nuclear wastes under Australian management, and must be distinguished from other waste forms. (more…)

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/

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.

South Australia nuclear waste import plan would need a dump nearly 30 times larger than Finland’s waste dump

June 12, 2016

Kim Mavromatis, 10 June 16  THE NUMBERS TELL A STORY
At the Royal Commission NFC event at the Hawke Centre in Adelaide (Wed June 1), Kevin Scarce made reference to Finland’s permanent underground high level Nuclear Waste dump, currently being built at Onkalo, which will have a capacity of 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes. Onkalo is featured in the must see doco “Into Eternity”(https://vimeo.com/111398583). The Royal Commission NFC final report specifies a capacity of 138,000 tonnes of high level nuclear waste for the proposed Nuclear Waste dump in SA and Kevin Scarce highlighted this figure at the Hawke Centre Nuclear event.

Comparing the Nuclear Royal Commission numbers with Onkalo, it’s clear that the proposed Nuclear Waste dump in SA will be of mammoth proportions.

Onkalo (Finland), permanent underground high level Nuclear Waste Dump :
• Capacity 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes high level nuclear waste,
• or 2,500 to 5,000 high level nuclear waste canisters.

Proposed SA Nuclear Waste Dump :
• Capacity 138,000 tonnes high level nuclear waste or 69,000 high level nuclear waste canisters.
• Capacity 390,000 m3 intermediate nuclear waste.
• Capacity 81,000 m3 low level nuclear waste.
• Above Ground Temporary facility Capacity 72,000 tonnes high level nuclear waste.
• Above Ground Temporary facility Capacity 175,000 m3 Intermediate nuclear waste.

Just for high level nuclear waste alone, it will require a waste dump 14 to 28 times the size of Onkalo (69,000 high level nuclear waste canisters). And for decades, half of the high level nuclear waste will be stored above ground in a temporary facility. Imagine the risk of nuclear holocaust with all that high level nuclear waste in the one location?

And the preferred site for the proposed Federal govnt’s low and intermediate level nuclear waste dump, in the Flinders Ranges, is in an area where there is regular earthquake activity.

How smart are these people?????

I suspect if the state govnt say yes to one Nuclear Waste Dump (low, intermediate, high), the floodgates will open and there won’t just be one Nuclear Waste Dump site in South Australia, there will be many (50, 100 ????). And saying yes in SA will also open the floodgates to the rest of Australia. And I question whether they’ll stop at 138,000 tonnes (69,000 canisters) of high level nuclear waste????? If the state govnt takes us down this path and we become the world’s nuclear waste dump, there is no turning back

Humungous amount of nuclear waste targeted for importing to Australia

June 12, 2016

Nuclear Waste Brief by David Noonan, Independent Environment Campaigner.  3 June 16   An un-declared Australia port is targeted to receive a globally unprecedented scale of high level nuclear waste transport and shipping, facing some 100 000 tonnes of SNF waste over a circa 33 year period of proposed peak Nuclear port operations from project Year 11 to Year 45 (Jacobs MCM, Executive Summary, Figure 3 Timeline of spent fuel transfers, p.5).

This is some 25 per cent higher than the global total of 80 000 tonnes of SNF waste shipped around the world in a 45 year period since 1971 according to the World Nuclear Association report “Transport of Radioactive Materials(Sept 2015) and the Jacobs MCM consultancy (p.152).

A total of 30 000 tonnes of high level nuclear wastes were shipped to the UK Sellafield reprocessing facility and a total of 40 000 tonnes was shipped to the French La Hague reprocessing facility, by far the world’s largest nuclear ports, in the 45 year period since 1971 (WNA report).

An undeclared Australian port is targeted to take over three times the total tonnage of high level nuclear waste shipped to Sellafield and two and a half times the total tonnage shipped to La Hague.

Some 400 waste ships of high level nuclear waste, totalling 90 000 tonnes SNF waste and requiring 9 000 transport casks, are to be brought into Australia in a 30 year period of peak port operations.

In a comparable 30 year period, there were some 160 high level nuclear waste shipments from Japan to Europe from 1969 to late 1990’s, totalling 7 040 tonnes SNF waste and involving some 4 000 nuclear waste transport casks (WNA report).

Sweden has shipped over 4 500 tonnes SNF waste around the Swedish coast to their CLAB central interim storage facility by mid-2015 (WNA report). Australia is proposed to do so every 18 months.

Questions on the location of a Nuclear port and on the safety of waste shipments:

The SA State government must publicly explain the basis for the farcical claim made by Jacobs MCM (Introduction p.11) of “an abundance of locations” suitable for deep sea Nuclear port sites in SA.

Is a new deep sea Nuclear port and high level SNF waste storage site to be imposed in the coastal region south of Whyalla? Or as reported in The Australian “World’s nuke waste may pass through NT, SA(12 May 2016): Is the Port of Darwin also in the Nuclear target range?

The Final Report Concludes: “…if a cask was lost at sea and was irrecoverable, there is a potential for some members of the public consuming locally sourced seafood to receive a very small dose of radiation”; and Concludes that terrorist attack scenarios are conceivable and rocket attack has the greatest potential to cause a release of radiation (Appendix L – Transport risk analysis p.312).

A further Jacobs MCM desk top Concludes that radioactivity that escapes from an unrecovered and degrading cask is expected “to be diluted in thousands of cubic kilometres of seawater” (“Safety and risks in the transportation of radioactive material to and from Australia”, April 2016, p.50). see http://www.nodumpalliance.org.au/

Australian Labor Party Policy opposed to nuclear industry

June 12, 2016

2015 National Policy Platform states:

  1. Labor will:
  • Vigorously and totally oppose the ocean dumping of radioactive waste; 
  • Prohibit the establishment of nuclear power plants and all other stages of the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia; 
  • Fully meet all Australia’s obligations as a party to the NPT; and 
  • Remain strongly opposed to the importation and storage of nuclear waste that is sourced from overseas in Australia.

It would be good if people could contact Butlers office and welcome this comment. And as many as possible contact Labor contacts, candidates and connections to make them aware of this and call for them to echo it.

South Australia’s government will want to impose nuclear waste importing, whatever the citizens think

June 12, 2016
Ultimately it will be a decision for the Government to make, however this process will enable us to have an informed debate and gain a clear understanding of the community’s position on this important matter for our State’s future.
 
Premier Jay Weatherill Thursday, 11 May 2016
  
Community views critical to our State’s nuclear future 
Letters to 25,000 randomly selected South Australians will be received in the post tomorrow inviting them to take part in the first Citizens’ Jury, part of a comprehensive state-wide program on our State’s involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle.
The first Jury, involving approximately 50 people, will be asked to determine the key questions arising from the Royal Commission’s Final Report that South Australians should consider and discuss in the next phase of state-wide consultation.
 This Jury will meet over two weekends, on 25 and 26 June as well as 9 and 10 July, and members will be remunerated for their time.
Background This marks the first of three phases in the consultation process, following the release of the Final Report of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission:
1. The first Citizens’ Jury (50 people) will determine key questions the community should consider and discuss during the consultation phase.
2. All South Australians will then be given a chance to respond via community meetings, information centres, social media and online engagement, a free-call number and a specific consultation program for Aboriginal people.
A second Citizens’ Jury (350 people) – will then produce a report to the Government outlining the community’s position.
The State Government will then outline its position on South Australia’s involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle by the end of the year
The Royal Commission has identified that South Australia can safely increase its participation in the nuclear fuel cycle to deliver significant economic benefits to the State.
The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission was established in March last year to consider the practical, economic and ethical issues raised by South Australia’s deeper potential involvement in nuclear mining, enrichment, energy and storage.
The Final Report of the Royal Commission was delivered to the Government on Friday 6 May, and publicly released on Monday 9 May.
The report makes 12 key recommendations regarding the deepening of South Australia’s involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle, including pursuing the establishment of nuclear fuel and intermediate level waste storage facilities in South Australia
To download the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission’s Final Report and register to stay informed, visit www.yoursay.sa.gov.au/nuclear.
Quotes attributable to Premier Jay Weatherill
This first Citizens’ Jury will guide the debate by identifying the key issues that need to be considered during the state-wide consultation phase.
This Jury will consider the findings of the Royal Commission, and have access to expert witnesses to help them work through the issues and better understand the options.
All South Australians will have the opportunity to have their say, as we will be conducting a state-wide engagement program following the first Citizens’ Jury.
Ultimately it will be a decision for the Government to make, however this process will enable us to have an informed debate and gain a clear understanding of the community’s position on this important matter for our State’s future

South Australia Nuclear Royal Commission- analysis of its first Issues Paper

April 28, 2015

The paper appears to be totally confused by what is a cyclic process. For example, the phrase “once-through” cycle is an oxymoron and reprocessing spent fuel is just that, not recycling. These terms come from the nuclear industry’s spin doctors.

Nowhere in this Issues Paper is information given on Government funding of the nuclear industry either directly in the form of grants and through government supplied services such as exploration, testing, environmental, and occupational health and safety services or indirect in the form of administrative services associated with the nuclear industry. We have no way of telling, for example, whether government expenditure has been recouped through royalties.


NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE (sic) ROYAL COMMISSION

ISSUES PAPER ONE
EXPLORATION, EXTRACTION AND MILLING (of Uranium and Thorium),  critique by Dennis Matthews, 20 Apr 15 

This, the first issues paper of the SA Government’s commission into expanding SA’s role in the nuclear industry, will confirm the worst fears of those who suspect that this commission is an expensive farce funded by the taxpayers of SA , and that the decision to expand the nuclear industry in SA is an ALP-LP-nuclear industry done deal.

The issues paper is the product of the SA Government’s mining bureaucracy, a bureaucracy that has a long history of a gung-ho environmental vandalism in the name of development. In the days when uranium mining was being considered at Roxby, Beverley and Honeymoon it was called the Dept of Mines & Energy but was known in the environment circles as the Dept of Mines & Mines, there never was any interest in anything form of energy other than coal, gas, oil and uranium.

Thanks to the Australian Democrats we got the Renewable Energy Target (RET) which overnight led to significant investment in wind energy in SA. We then got an even better result in the form of rooftop solar, the ultimate challenge to the fossil-nuclear fuel lobby and to multinational energy corporations in general. Not surprisingly the Liberal-Labor duopoly is now trying to reverse this challenge to big business’ control over electricity generation. To a ruling duopoly, which has given us widespread privatisation of essential services, consumer control over electricity generation is anathema.

The issues paper has four sections. Under BACKGROUND the paper describes in broad terms the geology of SA in respect to deposits of uranium and thorium. The latter are described as “common, naturally occurring radioactive metallic elements in the Earth’s crust.” There is no mention of the associated radioactive elements such as radium and gaseous radon.

The fact that uranium and thorium are commonly occurring and natural appears to be intended to make the reader feel at ease. It is worth pointing out that many dangerous, toxic substances such as asbestos, lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic are also common and naturally occurring.

Because of its carcinogenic nature and because the industry successfully denied that it was a problem for many decades, asbestos is particularly relevant to the exploration, extraction and milling of uranium and thorium.

The use of radioactive thorium mantles for gas lamps used in enclosed spaces such as houses and tents was still common practice in the 1980’s. Such mantles were readily available in hardware and camping stores. When in use these radioactive mantles deteriorated forming a fine radioactive dust.

In this section, mention is made of existing uranium mines in SA but there is no mention of the associated social or environmental problems.

Section A. EXPLORATION also makes no mention of social and environmental costs.

Despite the fact that significant exploration occurred around about 1980 in relation to the Roxby Downs, Beverley and Honeymoon deposits no data is given on the expenditure. Instead the graph “South Australian uranium exploration expenditure” (Figure 3) starts in 1999-2000 with the first noticeable expenditure (about $2mill) occurring in 2003-04, rising to a peak of about $190mill in 2007-08 and falling to about $4mill in 2013-14. There is no information given as to whether the data in Figure 3 is in real $ (say 1992 $) nor whether it is private or government-funded expenditure.

Nowhere in this Issues Paper is information given on Government funding of the nuclear industry either directly in the form of grants and through government supplied services such as exploration, testing, environmental, and occupational health and safety services or indirect in the form of administrative services associated with the nuclear industry. We have no way of telling, for example, whether government expenditure has been recouped through royalties.

Section B. EXTRACTION AND MILLING talks about Radium Hill, Roxby Downs, Honeymoon, Beverley and Four Mile but no mention is made of radioactive waste dumping at these sites.

Honeymoon is said to have operated until 2013 and Beverley until 2014 but no mention is made of when they started operating or of the social, environmental and economic costs to the people of SA. Nor is any mention made of the fact that in 1983 the SA Government withheld permission for the Honeymoon and Beverley mines. It took 20 years for these projects to be resurrected only to be turned off within a decade.
The paper gives the irrelevant figure of an “estimated” 13,800 people “involved” directly in SA mining activities in 2012. No reason is given for using 2012 data instead of the latest figures which are probably lower.

The paper then goes on to state

“It is difficult to estimate the employment figure attributable to uranium extraction and milling alone as multiple commodities are extracted at Olympic Dam and figures are not separated in reported information.”

Presumably the Commission has the power to require that BHP Billiton provides this information.

On the basis that Olympic Dam is the largest employer in the SA mining industry and that uranium is a by-product of extracting copper then employment attributable to uranium extraction and milling in 2012 is probably of the order of less than 200.

Quoting a figure of 13,800 in the context of an issues paper on the nuclear industry is therefore highly misleading.

It is stated that international demand for uranium is primarily driven by its use in electricity generation. This conveniently overlooks the fact that the demand and price for uranium are influenced by the supply and demand for uranium to be used in weapons, including nuclear bombs and weapons containing high concentrations of uranium and its radioactive fission products (so-called “depleted” uranium or DU weapons). This becomes apparent when concentrated fissile uranium (so-called “highly enriched” uranium or HEU) from dismantled nuclear weapons is released onto the uranium market.

According to issues paper 395 nuclear power stations (reactors?) are currently in operation, that 66 reactors are under construction, and another 165 planned. No timelines are given for either the construction or the planning. Given the past history of the nuclear industry, these figures should be viewed with considerable scepticism.

The paper then goes on to state that almost 200 reactors are due to be decommissioned “in the next 25 years”.

The net result of these figures is that there is highly unlikely to be any net expansion of the nuclear industry and no increase in demand for new uranium in the foreseeable future.

The paper quotes the International Energy Agency (IEA) as saying that the expansion of the nuclear industry “depends on listening to, and addressing public concerns, about the technology.”

The South Australian Government has chosen to ignore the advice of the International Energy Agency, and exclude public concerns from its inquiry and the inquiry commissioner has made a pre-emptive strike against such concerns by implying that they are emotional.

The paper appears to be totally confused by what is a cyclic process. For example, the phrase “once-through” cycle is an oxymoron and reprocessing spent fuel is just that, not recycling. These terms come from the nuclear industry’s spin doctors.

Figure 4 purports to show global uranium production (supply?) and demand. The production curve starts in about 1956 whilst the demand curve starts in 1947 with the demand curve much higher than the production curve until about 1986 when the production curve rapidly falls below the demand curve. This suggests that the excess demand from 1947 to 1986 was for nuclear weapons and the excess production from about 1990 to 2013 was due either to nuclear weapons material being put on the open market, or to stockpiling.

It is claimed “the interaction of these (production and demand) factors has been reflected in the traded price of uranium oxide [Figure 5].”
Figure 5 is unusual in several ways. Firstly, it doesn’t cover the same time period as Figure 4, it only gives prices from 1982 whereas the production-demand curves start in 1947.

Secondly, for spot prices, rather than the normal weekly values it uses yearly averages. This has the effect of smoothing out the erratic behaviour of the spot price and reducing the peaks in spot price. For example, the large peak which occurred in April 2007 at a spot price of USD136 /lb is shown in figure 5 as occurring in 2007 at $USD90/lb.

Thirdly, Figure 5 shows average US, Canadian and Australian export prices but not the more relevant average South Australian export price.

Fourthly, the price is expressed in current $ rather than real $, which makes it difficult to compare prices and to detect trends in the real value of the export.

The paper refers to the fact that the price on US long term contracts have increased in the last decade. Not only are the USD not real $ but the apparent increase is from a very low base and, according to figure 5, did not exceed (even in current $) 1982 values until about 2006. In real $, prices did not recover to 1982 values until much later. As a consequence, the vast majority of South Australian uranium was sold at rock bottom prices.

SECTION C. RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES contains only a small amount of material that addresses issues that the International Energy Agency thinks are vital to the future of the nuclear industry. The fact that the commission is trying to ignore these issues means that millions of dollars of South Australian taxpayers is probably being wasted on a futile exercise. This is occurring at a time when the SA Government is crying poor and is looking at new ways of raising more money from taxpayers.

The crucial deficiency of this section is that the commission only wants to consider new or different risks for the health and safety of workers and the community, and new environmental risks or increased existing risks. This presupposes that existing risks are acceptable, an assumption that has no rational or scientific basis and which is the crux of what the International Energy Agency says must be addressed.

When it comes to South Australian finances the paper estimates only one figure on only side of the ledger, the royalties paid to the South Australian Government in 2013-14. It makes no attempt to estimate total royalties starting with commercial extraction of uranium at Roxby Downs in 1988, or the direct financial cost to the South Australian Government, or the net direct financial benefit to the South Australian Government.

Bearing in mind that all mineral resources belong to the people of South Australia, it is crucial that we be told what is the direct net financial return (if any) that we have received per kilogram of exported uranium.