Topic: nuke threats
Picture: Australian PM John Howard peers into the reactor at Lucas Heights. Will Australia like the USA be promoting unsafe nuke energy in South East Asia?
Here is a story that senior writer Marian Wilkinson of Sydney Morning Herald reported from Darwin APEC energy minister's conference yesterday 30th May 2007 but it only appeared on the web (!?) not our press version (reproduced in full below).
We telephoned her about this and apparently there was lack of space. But first her pithy story builds on another by the competition here a week earlier from Nigel Wilson, 15 years in that role:
The Herald ran another story to the Darwin fracas 30 May 07 instead about Morris Iemma repudiating John Howard's nuclear plans
[which is funny because it runs in the press but is missing from the web based text index for 30 May. But a bit of googling throws it up here for a different date. Advice found on axing state bans on nuclear - Sydney Morning Herald - 29 May 2007. The googling is guess work because the article is actually printed under the headline "Bid to overturn nuclear ban" bottom right page 6. ]
Whatever the confused (deliberate or otherwise) Herald indexing, the issue of nuclear energy expansion in Australia was the question time strategy it seems in both NSW and State Parliament. Seems its not just Premier Iemma and Opposition leader Rudd who will fight the nuke expansion plans on the beaches: Singapore are obviously very alarmed at the lack of safety implicit in the sleep walk to nuclear proliferation by Vietnam and Indonesian governments. But what about Australia's role in our neighbours' planning? We would be selling the raw materials and probably much technical support out of Lucas Heights reactor, do yer think? Is the Pope a Catholic? Does the bore hole ooze hot mud (ie a disaster in Indonesia recently)?
As explained to journo Wilkinson we see one alternative future like this on a 5 or 10 year horizon:
- USA promotes missile defense system vis a vis Nth Korea, Iran, China leveraging support of Japan, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan and likely others.
- An arms race to prevent USA first strike capacity (via foolproof shield) ensues.
- Tensions rise. Allies of the USA feel the need for a nuke weapon deterrent of their own, as Japan is flirting with right now.
- Australia's PM seeks nuclear energy dual use capacity in order to prepare for this strategic security possibility.
- Somewhere along the line someone makes a human error or comparatively minor clashes are exagerated like the precursor to the Vietnam War, and a nuclear weapon is launched by someone.
- Apocalypse. Do not collect, do not pass go. Game over.
No wonder Singapore are scared about this kind of future, even likelihood under a Howard Bush style regime of the future.
We tipped off some others like MP Peter Garrett and Senator Bob Brown's office about this report of diplomatic rage up in Darwin, and here is the rather scary story in full:
Asia-Pacific nuclear authority plan scuttled after safety debate
Date: May 30 2007
Marian Wilkinson in Darwin
A plan to set up a regional nuclear safeguards authority for the Asia Pacific has been ditched after an intense debate at the APEC energy ministers conference in Darwin which centered on the importance of nuclear safety.
The proposal was dropped from the final declaration of the conference, despite being included in earlier drafts. But the Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, denied there had been a "bitter debate" over the issue after Singapore raised questions over nuclear safety.
The discussion on the role of nuclear power as an option to lower greenhouse gas emissions in the APEC region was strongly supported by the US Deputy Secretary of Energy, Clay Sell. Mr Macfarlane said Singapore had requested that any decision by an APEC country to pursue the nuclear mix should be made in consultation with their neighbours.
Officials from both Vietnam and Indonesia told the APEC conference their countries were studying the option of nuclear power stations that could come on line in the next decade.
The final declaration contained a watered down clause encouraging APEC members to join the organisation's nuclear technologies group to ensure the "safety, security, seismic health and waste handling aspects" of nuclear power were "adequately addressed".
The final declaration by the 21 APEC countries also supported sharing technologies on energy efficiency, biofuels, clean coal and renewable energy as well as measures to increase energy security in the growing APEC region. But there was little support for a regional carbon trading emissions scheme that would put a price on greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuels across APEC.
A report on emissions trading is set to be delivered to the Prime Minister, John Howard, tomorrow. But it is now believed it will be unlikely to set hard targets for Australia to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Macfarlane strongly signalled in Darwin that the targets will be left to another economic committee to assess how they can be achieved without cutting into economic growth.
Mr Macfarlane told reporters any target will depend on the technology capable of achieving it. "The challenge at the moment is not to set targets, the challenge is to actually have the technology to achieve targets."
Labor has set a long-term target of reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, based on emissions in the year 2000 which the Government has dismissed as irresponsible.
Tomorrow's report will, however, pave the way for Australia to finally establish an emissions trading scheme that will put a price on Australia's greenhouse gas pollution.
The importance of clean coal technology in achieving a target for greenhouse gas cuts was highlighted yesterday when a slanging match broke out between Mr Macfarlane and the Queensland Premier, Peter Beattie, over his state's high profile "zero gen" clean coal project.
Mr Macfarlane told reporters in Darwin the project has "collapsed" but Mr Beattie said he had "no idea" what Mr Macfarlane was talking about. "Why would the coal industry invest $600million in clean coal if they weren't serious?" Mr Beattie said. "Ian Macfarlane is repeatedly trying to undermine clean coal technologies?"
Postscript #1 1st June 2007
By coincidence (or not ?) a prominent reflection on widespread public fears of nuclear apocalypse was published today in the high circulation Sydney Daily Telegraph:
Shute's sands of timeBy Gideon Haigh: THEY don't make novelists like Nevil Shute any more: a self-made millionaire who served in both
We now publish Dr Jim's ezine as promised for the Monday following the NSW election. (We will publish later today some post mortems on the election including Minister Tebbutt going directly to the back bench, do not collect $200, do not pass go. )
We have one minor criticism about Dr Jim's newsletter. We disagree that Matthew Warren of The Australian is a safe reporter on climate change issues (as here Rebels of the sun | Science & nature | The Australian ) when it's well known that organ is financially conflicted with its paid for massive 'Special Advertising Reports' pandering to the Fossil Fool and uranium mining sector here in Australia:
Examples are not limited to the March 19th 2007 "Paydirt uranium conference/ A SPECIAL ADVERTISING REPORT" pages 38 and 39 including 'story' with no byline "SA Labor presses for end to no-nukes policy".
Indeed Dr Jim has agreed in correspondence now that such a major reservation is in order when gleaning any value from the corporate voice of one Matthew Warren, as if he can really as mere journo expertly second guess the UN IPCC and other world class scientists like the USA based NASA scientist Dr Jim Hansen. I don't think so.
In this way Warren must be read down severely just as reputable scientists are being attacked for speaking up in the USA under the Bush administration.
Here is our second try at posting this item:
Image provided by Friends of the Earth Scotland.
March 15, 2007
Here is cleric George Pell on the strength of one PR sponsored visit to the new expensive Lucas Heights reactor such that he thinks he has a good handle on this big big white elephant:
So much so he rushes into print without being briefed by the no case. That's a high risk approach to public policy if ever I saw one. Or a biased approach.
One visit with the PR merchants gives the Cardinal about as much credibility on this issue as it does this writer on theological matters having once been an alter boy, 30 years ago at the local Catholic church in Warrnambool.
For instance Pell ignores waste problems: The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority http://www.nda.gov.uk in 2006 estimated 70 billion pound$ clean up cost for their old nuclear gear, admittedly a much bigger sector there:
As if to reinforce the real dual use purpose of nuclear power programmes, the Epoch Times (Australia) runs a biggish story "UK's atomic quest goes on" p5 31 Jan-6th Feb 07, noting the renewed debate over trident nuclear missiles on a new generation of submarines, and noting the UK nuclear arsenal is about 200 strong. Link to story asap, general link here http://en.epochtimes.com
SAM has been reporting China's massive economic dependence on Iranian oil, and China's not very coincidental awesome demonstration of ability to knock USA military satellites out of the sky, which would be necessary for the USA to effectively menace or even politically annexe Iran as it has other Middle East states.
VP Cheney who is visiting here in the next month (refer below), was quoted a few days ago in the major press regarding USS Stenner aircraft carrier steaming into the Persian gulf as 'evidence' of the US intent to curb Iran's influence in Iraq. This reads like putting a brave face on China's frightening warning to back off their oil investment in Iran, that is, to physically stay out of Iran itself.
Now all the chatter in the Big Media is not about military strikes on Iran's dual use peace/weapon nuke research and development sites but a new vicious cold war 'shoot to kill' policy for any 'Iranian agents' found in Iraq, which is after all a neighbour to the war torn country with sympathy over religion and ethnicity.
This reads like something of a tantrum by Secretary of Defence Gates and the US military industrial complex after the China 'test' for being blocked in their escalation agendas against Iran by the next biggest (mostly soft but also hard military) power on the planet .
If these massive geo political players can't fool little old SAM website here about this full on power struggle over US/Iranian influence in the Middle East and its oil resouce or relations with Israel they are not fooling most other serious observers.
Further this scary unstable reality feeds into little old Australia. Paul Dibb ex ASIO for 25 years, now ANU academic, in The Australian newspaper recently reported his 1976 research 'proving' Australia was a nuke target priority of the Soviets back then.
Australia today is surely in the nuke geo politik strategic balance. There was a rumour that US Secretary of State Rice and Australian PM Howard talked about 10 or 15 nuke silos in Australia last June 2006. It's a logical suggestion. We have US military communications sites at Pine Gap, North West and some others from memory. We have Dibb's advice back to 1976, and now we have strategic movement in all of the East Asia: Japan, let alone South Korea, debating nuke weapon deterence on North Korea. Taiwan with nuke power similarly vis a vis China menaces of their democracy. Indonesia, a huge Islamic country, seeking nuke power capacity which again is dual use by 2015 (only 8 years from now), earthquake zone notwithstanding. Iran arming up nuke wise vis a vis Israel already 2nd or 3rd in the world nuke weapon capacity.
Anyone who thinks either the United States Govt or the Australian Govt is not looking at nuke weapons here as part of their global network of super power control has not been paying attention. And Cheney's visit is surely not for holiday talk. World scale politicians like Cheney are not like that. They visit to do serious things.
including these quotes:"A statement issued by the White House said Mr Cheney would travel to Australia and Japan during the week starting February 19.
"He will meet with (Japanese) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and (Australian) Prime Minister John Howard to discuss issues of mutual interest including Asian security and the global war on terror," it said....
"Mr Howard later confirmed that Mr Cheney would visit Australia from February 22 to 27.
"The Australia-US alliance is of enduring importance to both countries and makes a significant contribution to international security," the prime minister said in a statement.
"Australia and the United States continue to work together toward our common goals.
"We are cooperating closely to fight terrorism, address global environmental challenges and enhance energy security, prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and promote an open international economic order."
Mr Howard said the visit would be an important opportunity to reinforce the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Australia.
"(It will allow us) to consult on major international issues such as regional security challenges, Afghanistan, Iraq and the war against terrorism," he said."
Journalist Heath Gilmour took on the environment rounds in about 1994 for Fairfax if memory serves then faded in and out of view. He seemed way too innocent for the cut throat business of land politics back then.
This writer was working in the meat grinder (external and internal issues) of The Wilderness Society world where there was no time for illusions, with plenty of bruises along the way. I recall one commentator telling me privately that the then Liberal's Evironment Minister Hartcher was "a boy" compared to the other thugs in the power game like Peter Cochrane MP (Cooma Monaro), Albie Schultz MP (Tumut area) Deputy Premier Armstrong (Nationals) etc.
HG carries this lead story today:
Which is really just reinforcement of news of the past week. But not this other cracking story also by HG here at p27 of the SunHerald
"Shutdown of reactor will take decade" (possibly offline)
A small teaser which glosses over so much more potential for news and scandal.
Nuclear power is a big topic of this next federal election. The real cost and inconvenience of decommissioning of old reactors is very relevant. This is the story that say ex Nuclear Disarmament Party Peter Garrett would be very excited about, and Malcolm Turnbull would be very queasy.
Seems the old monster reactor at Lucas Heights "had its first chain reaction on Australia Day in 1958": George Collins, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. All sigh patriotically or vomit would be more likely.
The self aggrandising nuke industry rent seekers will need how much to sort out the waste and deconstruction let alone security for the next 10 years? $1 billion, $2 billion. Will we ever find out the real cost?
In the UK it is reported by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority the astronomical cost for an admittedly much bigger sector there of UK 70 billion pounds (at a guess Aust$120 billion?) . Full statement and government referencing below.
And the sector is plagued by problems: Bloomberg reports the latest departure 17th Nov 06:
British Energy Ousts Its Nuclear Chief; Output Cut (Update3) By Lars Paulsson and Paul Dobson http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aoqdlnRtEaQI&refer=home
No wonder Friends of the Earth Scotland are running this 'its a White Elephant' campaign: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/elephant from where the image above is lifted.
Earlier in 2006 FoE Scotland states at: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/press/pr20060314.html
30 March 2006
NUCLEAR CLEAN-UP BILL SOARS
Scottish ministers urged to resist new nuclear power programme
The cost of cleaning up Britain's nuclear sites (including those in Scotland) could soar to £70 billion, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority revealed today . Virtually all of this will have to be paid for by the taxpayer. Friends of the Earth Scotland said that the latest figures a £14 billion jump on previous estimates highlighted the economic insanity of nuclear power, and called on the Scottish Executive to reject any attempts to foist a new building programme of nuclear reactors on Scotland.
The environmental group also warned that the final bill to the taxpayer will be even higher that the NDA estimates released today, because they do not include the following areas:
Friends of the Earth Scotland's Chief Executive, Duncan McLaren, said:
"Today's announcement demonstrates the economic and environmental insanity of nuclear power. The Scottish Executive must strongly resist calls to build new nuclear reactors and invest in a comprehensive programme of energy efficiency and renewables that will tackle climate change while securing our energy needs.
"Nuclear power is dirty, dangerous and massively expensive to clean up after. A further jump in cost to the public is not surprising but should be a warning to all those who foolishly think a new nuclear power programme should be approved. These figures will almost certainly rise again in time.
"Taxpayers should not be fooled into thinking that this figure is anywhere near the final costs they will ultimately be expected to shoulder. These NDA figures cover none of the wastes created by British Energy, wastes generated by the military or any future waste arising from a new nuclear power programme.
"Had we been able to invest this scale of resources into clean and sustainable renewable power, energy efficiency and the cleaner use of fossil energy, we could have met our climate change targets easily. Scotland must embrace the diverse cutting edge technologies of the future, not resurrect failed technologies from the past".
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Postscript #1 [media release follows]
Lucas Heights switch off welcome, but problem of decommissioning just beginning.
Greens Senator Kerry Nettle today welcomed news that the HIFAR reactor at Lucas Heights has been turned off but warned that Australians should be aware that making the site safe (decommissioning) could be a very long process and may never be achieved.
"Today Lucas Heights' old reactor is turned off but the public needs to be aware that the site may never be made safe," Senator Nettle said.
"Humanity has not solved the nuclear waste and decommissioning problem. None of the 100 or so commercial nuclear plants that have been switched off around the world have been successfully decommissioned.
"The British Government in their report 'Managing the Nuclear Legacy' admit that decommissioning their plants will require advances in basic science and technology and the development of innovative solutions to complex engineering, organisational and logistical problems.
"The lesson for Australia is not to pursue this never ending cycle of pollution when safe renewal options are available.
"Today the Australia Institute has released its report Who Wants a Nuclear Power Plant? which lists 17 locations suitable for nuclear power plants in Australia. Their polling shows, unsurprisingly, that populations close to these sites do not want nuclear power plants.
"Instead of talking about 25 possible nuclear power plants the Prime Minister should be looking for another 25 sites for major wind power stations and another 25 solar power stations.
"The Greens invite Australians to vote for a renewable future and reject the polluting, dangerous and massively expensive nuclear power option."
Contact - Jon Edwards 0428 xxxx xxxx
Press release follows
Selling uranium to China a mistake
5 January 2007
Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle said the federal government's
decision to permit the sale of Australian uranium to China was a mistake
which will fuel regional insecurity and that Prime Minister John Howard
will bear responsibility for the consequences.
The government today announced that Australia and China have ratified an
agreement to permit the sale of Australian uranium, from as early as
"Selling uranium to China is a mistake with potentially catastrophic
consequences", Senator Nettle said.
"Prime Minister Howard has ignored serious concerns in paving the way
for Australian uranium sales to China and he will bear responsibility
for the consequences.
"A report by federal parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
on the bilateral agreement to permit this trade last month highlighted
serious shortcomings in safeguards, including deficiencies in the
international inspection regime and the ability to ensure our uranium is
"The world doesn't need more uranium and nuclear power. Australia should
be developing and selling clean and safe renewable energy technology to
China, not adding to regional instability.
"The Greens call on Foreign Minister Downer to rule out selling uranium
to India, which is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation
Contact: Max Phillips 0414 ... ....