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Health, environmental, disaster at North Korea’s nuclear test site

Kim Jong Un’s Nuke Test Site Appears Dangerously Contaminated RYAN PICKRELL, China/Asia Pacific Reporter  North Korea’s nuclear testing appears to have spread devastation for miles, according to testimony from former residents.

The Punggye-ri nuclear test site in Kilju County, North Hamgyong Province, where North Korea has conducted a total of six nuclear tests, and the surrounding area have become a wasteland. The most recent test, during which the North detonated a suspected staged thermonuclear bomb with an explosive yield several orders of magnitude larger than anything the regime has previously tested, has reportedly exacerbated the environmental degradation.

The Research Association of Vision of North Korea interviewed 21 North Korean defectors who recently lived in Kilju. The defectors revealed that trees have stopped growing in certain areas, wells have dried up, and babies are born with abnormal birth defects, according to the Chosun Iblo, a South Korean media outlet.

“I heard from a relative in Kilju that deformed babies were born in hospitals there,” one defector revealed. “I spoke on the phone with family members I left behind there, and they told me that all of the underground wells dried up after the sixth nuclear test,” another said. “If you plant trees in the mountains there, 80 percent of them die,” a former forestry worker explained.

North Korean people drink the water that runs down from Mt. Mantap, under which North Korea conducts its nuclear tests. There are reportedly complaints in the area of a “phantom disease” that appeared after North Korea began conducting regular nuclear tests. Defectors have revealed that residents suffer from unexplained fatigue, headaches, weight loss. Some others have reported an unusually high mortality rate and and nervous system disorders, such as the loss of certain senses, including smell and taste.

Defectors revealed that North Korean citizens living nearby are not notified prior to the detonation of a nuclear device, making it impossible for them to prepare for the tests, the most recent of which caused earthquakes and landslides.

Since North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, defectors have testified about the dangers to the local civilian population. Now that North Korea is testing more powerful weaponry, the risks of irradiation and contamination may be much higher. South Korea is now carrying out radiation screening for former residents of Kilju County. Around 30 North Korean defectors will be checked for radiation exposure this year.

North Korea appears to be worried about contamination as well. After the most recent nuclear test, local residents were barred from visiting Pyongyang. Additionally, North Korea has reportedly established a hospital to treat irradiated soldiers working at the nuclear test site. It is unclear if the North provides such treatment for prisoners brought in to clean up after a nuclear test without proper equipment and protection, but North Korea’s human rights record suggests that such services are not available for these individuals.

If reports from in country are accurate, it appears that the North Korean people in the area are paying a high price for the regime’s nuclear ambitions.



November 8, 2017 Posted by | environment, North Korea | Leave a comment

Around World’s Largest Climate Change Summit

The World’s Largest Climate Change Summit Starts Today. Here’s What’s Happening. Huffington Post 6 Nov 17 It is the first annual meeting of the United Nations group since President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate deal. Representatives from nearly 200 countries gather at the United Nations’ 23rd climate change conference beginning Monday, an annual effort to tackle global warming and its impacts already inflicting havoc on the planet.

 This year, however, the U.N. faces a new challenge: Addressing the phenomenon after U.S. President Donald Trump, leader of the planet’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, pledged to do nothing to curb emissions.
The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change will deal with that question in Bonn, Germany, from Nov. 6 to Nov. 17 as countries work to firm up their commitments to adapt to a warmer world in line with 2015′s landmark Paris Climate Agreement. Scientists say the world should prevent the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius beyond pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst effects of climate change, a benchmark set by the Paris accord. Meeting the target means dramatic reduction in global emissions, and the Paris pact urges signatories to craft voluntary pledges to do that.

However, the agreement is not legally binding, and Trump followed through on a campaign pledge to withdraw America from what he calls the “draconian” pact in June. It is a multi-year process to do so, and the U.S. cannot leave until Nov. 4, 2020 ― the day after the next presidential election.

The Trump administration announced last week it would actively promote fossil fuelsduring a presentation at the climate conference, also known as the Conference of the Parties, or COP. Delegates sent by the White House will host a talk titled “The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation,” which will tout the supposed benefits of coal, natural gas and nuclear power.

delegation of U.S. negotiators are expected to work in Bonn to help write the rulebook for the Paris agreement, but their presence will be awkward. It’s unclear if negotiators from other countries will be willing to listen to a White House, which, under Trump, would not abide by any rules that emerge.

The summit will feature some U.S. star power, however. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and billionaire activist Tom Steyer are funding a pavilion to showcase climate action by U.S. cities and businesses. The federal government usually pays the $200,000 or so cost of the showcase, but declined to do so this year.

“The American people and American industry are pretty much all behind doing what the Paris agreement is designed to do, and that is to cut the amount of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere so we will slow down and maybe even stop climate change, which has the potential to destroy the world,” Bloomberg told The New York Times last month.

Environmental groups and local governments around the U.S. reacted with fury following Trump’s decision to quit the Paris deal, but pledged to do their part to combat his agenda with or without federal support. Other world leaders have vowed to move forward regardless, and in July, every member of the G20, aside from the U.S., unveiled a detailed policy to abide by the Paris pact in a clear rebuke of the White House. …..

China and India, are on track to meet their emissions-reduction targets years earlier than expected, and both have invested heavily in renewable energy.

The talks in Bonn will be relatively low key compared with prior summits, as countries work to refine guidelines and review procedures to ensure signatories are meeting their commitments. The U.N. has agreed that negotiators will need to have such a framework in place by a 2018 deadline to make sure nations are doing enough to combat climate change.

November 8, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

$10.6 Billion Per Year: estimated cost of Rick Perry’s Coal And Nuclear Subsidy

Rick Perry’s Coal And Nuclear Subsidy Could Cost The U.S. Economy $10.6 Billion Per Year, Forbes, Silvio Marcacci, 6 Nov 17, The U.S. Department of Energy’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) directing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to subsidize coal and nuclear generation is opposed by nearly every side of America’s electricity industry – from market operators and conservative analysts to a bipartisan group of former FERC commissioners – except for those who would directly benefit from it.

Reasons for opposing the NOPR range from potentially destroying wholesale power markets, to free trade principles, or insufficient review time, but beyond Rick Perry suggesting the proposal’s price was equal to “the cost of freedom,” DOE hasn’t quantified the NOPR’s economic impact or which plants it would subsidize.

New research from Energy Innovation (EI) and the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) finds DOE’s NOPR could cost up to $10.6 billion annually, and would be paid by U.S. businesses and residents . This subsidy would flow to roughly 10 companies and 90 power plants, and harm cheaper generation from natural gas and renewables.

Wrecking U.S. power markets won’t improve grid resilience

DOE’s NOPR is the latest Trump Administration attempt to prop up older, inefficient coal and nuclear generation that utilities find increasingly uneconomic to operate against cleaner, cheaper generation and efficiency resources…..

November 8, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear lobby not winning hearts and minds, so a propaganda drive is needed

Public Outreach Is Needed to Gain Support for the Nuclear Power Industry Power Magazine, 11/06/2017  Gary J. Duarte “……….Nuclear proponents must spread the message of the energy source’s value: rebrand, redirect, recycle, and renew……

the benefits of nuclear power far outweigh the perceived problems. Engagement with the public is necessary in order to offset political obstruction. Educated grassroots constituents can raise their voices against political correctness, and point out the sound science and engineering behind nuclear technology…….
Media distribution of information must provide equal time and print to inform both sides of complex issues……..
Aside from the country’s need for a nuclear waste storage garage, new technologies are on the horizon too. Tomorrow’s nuclear players should be utilizing grassroots education to advance their causes. The public needs to be made more aware of small modular reactors (SMRs), lead-cooled fast reactors, and molten salt reactors. The best way to improve public knowledge of these new technologies is through outreach.
In recent years, the U.S. Nuclear Energy Foundation (USNEF) has been one of the loudest nuclear advocacy voices. The group is working to become the go-to source for nuclear technology information. A paradigm shift is necessary, and USNEF is involved in multiple programs to address this through grassroots education.

USNEF provides local presentations, industry presentations, American Nuclear Society workshops, Advanced Reactor Technical Summits, Yucca Educational Symposiums (YES), open invitation tours to the Idaho National Laboratory, print collaterals, and TV and YouTube videos available via website download. The foundation is promoting the same advanced reactor designs and SMRs that the industry is currently pitching to government legislatures, agencies, and others.

The bottom line is that rebranding, redirecting, recycling, and renewing “Atoms for Peace” involves understanding the value and importance of grassroots education, and engaging with the general public to promote the nuclear industry’s benefits.

—Gary J. Duarte is director of the U.S. Nuclear Energy Foundation

November 8, 2017 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Japan’s nuclear regulator is unsure about Tepco’s nearly completed ice wall around Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant

Frozen soil wall nearly complete; NRA still doubts effect ,, November 07, 2017 The Yomiuri Shimbun, A construction project to create frozen soil walls that encircle the ground beneath Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is nearly finished.

Although TEPCO insists that the inflow of groundwater beneath the reactor buildings has been reduced, some members of the Nuclear Regulation Authority are skeptical about the project’s effectiveness. With ¥34.5 billion of public funds being spent on this project, the centerpeice of countermeasures for contaminated water, its cost-effectiveness is being carefully watched.

The project entails building a 1.5-kilometer-long frozen soil wall encircling the Nos. 1 to 4 reactors, with 1,568 pipes buried to a depth of about 30 meters below ground and coolant running through the pipes at minus 30 C to chill the soil.

The process is expected to prevent groundwater from flowing into the contaminated, highly radioactive underground water at such sites as the reactor buildings, and to avoid an increase of contaminated water.

The project began in March last year, and operations to freeze the final section, about seven meters wide, on the mountain side began in August this year.

The temperature of the underground soil has remained below zero, except for a part close the surface that is affected by outdoor air, meaning the project to create the 30-meter-deep walls is almost complete.

According to TEPCO’s assessment, before the project started, about 400 tons of groundwater was flowing into the ground underneath the reactor buildings and other sites daily. TEPCO had initially calculated that the daily inflow of groundwater could decrease to dozens of tons once the walls were installed. However, between April and September the inflow per day was between 120 tons and 140 tons, and in October it was around 100 tons. That the amount of inflow has decreased in stages as the soil freezing progressed seems to prove that the project has been effective to a certain extent. However, it is unclear if the inflow will decrease further in the future.

In parallel with the frozen soil wall project, TEPCO dug about 40 subdrain wells to pump up groundwater before it flows into the reactor buildings. It also reinforced measures to prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground by paving 1.33 million square meters of surface.

In the NRA view, those measures must also contribute greatly to reducing the inflow, casting doubt on the frozen soil walls project by saying the effect of them alone may be limited. The agency has become distrustful of TEPCO and urged the company to verify the effects.

Hiroshi Miyano, visiting professor at Hosei University specializing in system safety, said: “There is sure to be a part that doesn’t freeze completely, and it’s impossible to reduce the inflow to zero. TEPCO must continue applying this measure in tandem with draining the nearby wells for a while.”Speech

November 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Japan’s restart of nuclear power will not happen quickly – regulators

Japan nuclear watchdog says restart approval pace unlikely to speed up, BY OSAMU TSUKIMORI AND AARON SHELDRICK, REUTERS The pace of approvals for nuclear reactor restarts in Japan, where most plants remain shut following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, is unlikely to pick up in the coming years, the new head of Japan’s nuclear regulator said in an interview on Tuesday.

The comments from Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa suggest Japan may not make headway in meeting its electricity generation targets. By 2030, the country was expecting nuclear to power about one-fifth of its generation. However, utilities are having difficulty grappling with tougher rules on protecting reactors from natural disasters in the earthquake-prone country.

Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, the world’s worst since Chernobyl in 1986, the NRA was set up in 2012 to draft new safety standards that have been described as among the world’s toughest.

Since then, 12 reactors at six nuclear plants have passed the safety requirements needed to restart, but only four reactors are currently operating. One more reactor that resumed operations after meeting the requirements has been shut down for scheduled maintenance.

Most of the approvals have been for reactors in western Japan and not on the east coast where Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 station is located. The plant suffered multiple reactor meltdowns after an earthquake on the northeast coast caused a tsunami that swamped the site.

“We have accumulated experience in safety reviews, but comparatively speaking, many of the plants in eastern Japan that we are reviewing now have difficult natural conditions,” Fuketa, 60, said in the interview. “It’s doubtful the pace of approvals would quicken.”

A majority of Japanese oppose nuclear power after Fukushima, and restarts are a delicate political issue rather than just a matter of meeting technical safety requirements.

When asked if he could place a number of how many reactors may be approved for a resumption of operations in the next five years, Fuketa said: “I honestly do not know.”

About a dozen other reactors are going through safety checks as part of a relicensing process under the new rules.

Fuketa is known for taking tough positions during safety reviews of reactors and has been instrumental in directing the clean-up of the wrecked Fukushima plant.

The government set an energy mix plan in 2015 that forecasts relying on nuclear power to generate between 20 to 22 percent of the country’s electricity in 2030. That requires having about 30 reactors operating by then.

The nation’s nine regional power utilities and a wholesaler, Japan Atomic Power Co., have 42 nuclear reactors for commercial use, with a total generating capacity of 41,482 megawatts.

November 8, 2017 Posted by | Japan, politics, safety | Leave a comment

USA now the only country opposed to Paris climate accord, as Syria now joins

Paris accord: Syria plans to join climate agreement, leaving US only country opposed ABC News 8 Nov 17 Syria has announced it intends to join the 2015 Paris agreement for slowing climate change, leaving the United States as the only country in the world opposed to the pact.

Key points:

  • Nicaragua signed up to Paris deal last month
  • Unclear how US will withdraw from agreement
  • Countries continue to urge US to reconsider opposition

Syria, racked by civil war, and Nicaragua were the only two nations outside the 195-nation pact when it was agreed in 2015.

Nicaragua’s left-wing Government, which originally denounced the plan as too weak, signed up last month.

“I would like to affirm the Syrian Arab Republic’s commitment to the Paris climate change accord,” deputy Environment Minister Wadah Katmawi told a meeting of almost 200 countries at the November 6-17 climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

Membership for Syria under President Bashar al-Assad would isolate the United States, the world’s biggest economy and second largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China, as the only nation opposed to the accord.

US President Donald Trump, who has expressed doubts that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are the prime cause of global warming, announced in June the intended to pull out and instead promote US coal and oil industries…….

November 8, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Syria | Leave a comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors: the last desperate hope of UK’s failing nuclear industry

For many in the nuclear industry, having watched all their much-touted GW-scale reactors go down the pan, and having had to accept that their long-cherished dream of a new generation of fast-breeder reactors will never materialise, SMRs are almost the last resort.
There are literally dozens of different SMR designs out there, with the USA, Russia, South Korea, China and now the UK bigging up the superiority of their particular whizz-bang design – but there are NO CLIENTS anywhere in the world….. billions of dollars ploughed into one prototype or another, but very little to show for it at the end of the day. 
Just as I don’t believe we’ll ever see Hinkley Point finished and generating electricity, nor do I believe that a new generation of SMRs will ever materialise, ensuring that the insane dream of the UK as ‘a vibrant nuclear nation’ will remain just that – an insane dream.
Small Modular Reactors: The Nuclear Industry’s Latest Pipe Dream,  Jonathon Porritt, 4 Nov 17  You’ve got to hand it to the nuclear industry: they’re one resilient bunch of never-say-die hard-arses! By any standards, 2017 has been an annus horribilis for the industry, with one body blow after another, all around the world. And 2016 wasn’t that much better either.

This is spelled out in almost excruciating detail in this year’s ‘World Nuclear Industry Status Report’ (WNISR), an annual stocktake that dispassionately lays out what’s been happening in the preceding year from technological, engineering, political and financial points of view. Continue reading

November 8, 2017 Posted by | technology, UK | Leave a comment

Jordan’s water crisis – a sign of climate change troubles to come

Climate change: Jordan water crisis ‘to get worse’  Water shortages in Jordan are likely to get far worse over the coming years, according to a recent study by Stanford University.

The researchers said that, in the absence of international climate policy action, the country could receive 30 percent less rainfall by 2100 and annual temperatures could increase by 4.5 Celsius.

This would double the number and duration of droughts when compared with the 1981-2010 period, raising concerns in a country already dealing with water shortages.

The study reinforces a warning issued by the World Bank in August when it named Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco and Syria as the countries in the Middle East and North Africa that will experience significantly increased water stress driven by climate change.

In its report, the World Bank described the region as the global hotspot of unsustainable water use.

Currently, the reservoirs in Jordan are at a record low – only one-fifth full – and the vital winter rains are becoming increasingly erratic.

There seems little respite for the country, which draws 160 percent more water from the ground than is replenished by nature.

But despite its importance, there is little incentive to conserve the precious resource. The use of water irrigation remains heavily subsidised, and wastage is a major issue. More than half of Jordan’s water is used for agriculture, which produces only a small share of the local food supply. It is estimated that almost 50 percent of the water supply is lost due to misuse or theft.

The subsidy also means that some farmers grow water-intensive crops such as bananas and tomatoes.

The government is cracking down on illegal water use and has announced a slight increase in price, but Ali Subah, assistant secretary-general in the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, says the country views desalination as the answer to its water issues.

The trouble is that solutions often depend on cross-border cooperation. Jordan’s flagship Red Sea desalination project, for example, has faced repeated delays, most recently because of a regional diplomatic crisis that led to a scaling back of cross-border contacts since the summer.

Until a solution is found, the fear is that the water crisis in Jordan will only get worse.

November 8, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Jordan, water | Leave a comment

UK accounting firm found that Small Modular Nuclear Reactors would not be cost-effective

FT 7th Nov 2017, British ministers are preparing to revive the UK’s faltering effort to
create a new generation of small-scale nuclear power plants in spite of an
official analysis that cast doubt on the economic case for the technology.

Talks have intensified in recent weeks between government officials and
companies including Rolls-Royce, the UK engineering group, over potential
public funding to support development of so-called small modular reactors

Greg Clark, business secretary, is keen to put the UK at the
forefront of technology seen as a more affordable alternative to
large-scale nuclear reactors such as those under construction at the £20bn
Hinkley Point C plant in south-west England.

Development of SMRs is regarded as crucial to the future of the nuclear industry as it struggles
to remain competitive against the rapidly falling cost of renewable wind
and solar power. The UK faces competition from the US, Canada and China in
its effort to establish a leading position in the technology.

Support for SMRs is expected to be part of a wider commitment to nuclear engineering in
a new industrial strategy to be unveiled by the government this month.

However, the enthusiasm has been complicated by a technology assessment,
commissioned by the business department and carried out by EY, the
accounting firm, which reached a negative verdict on the cost-effectiveness
of SMRs. The findings are expected to be published in the coming weeks and
will confront the government with awkward questions about why public money
should be used to help commercialise the unproven technology.

November 8, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, technology, UK | Leave a comment

Trump says that he and South Korea’ President will “figure it all out” – about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions

Trump vows to ‘figure out’ North Korea nuclear crisis with Moon SBS News, 7 Nov 17,  US President Donald Trump arrived in Seoul on Tuesday vowing to ‘figure it all out’ with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-In, despite the two allies’ differences on how to deal with the nuclear-armed North.

As tensions over Pyongyang’s weapons programme have soared, the US president has traded personal insults and threats of war with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, but the South’s capital and its 10 million inhabitants would be on the front line of any conflict.

On Twitter Trump described Moon as “a fine gentleman”, adding: “We will figure it all out!”

The tone was in marked contrast to a previous Trump tweet in which he accused Moon — who has backed engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table — of “appeasement”.

Trump arrived from Japan, where he secured Tokyo’s full support for Washington’s stance that “all options are on the table” regarding Pyongyang, and declaring its nuclear ambitions “a threat to the civilised world and international peace and stability”……..

while Trump has threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury”, Moon is mindful that much of Seoul is within range of the North’s artillery and in an address to parliament last week demanded: “There should be no military action on the peninsula without our prior consent.”

November 8, 2017 Posted by | politics international, South Korea, USA | Leave a comment

USA lawmakers intend to comply with Iran nuclear deal

U.S. lawmakers aim to comply with Iran nuclear deal: EU, Reuters Staff,  Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Richard Chang, WASHINGTON (Reuters) 7 Nov 17,  – U.S. lawmakers signaled they plan to ensure the United States complies with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s misgivings about the pact, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said on Tuesday.

“I got clear indications that the intention is to keep the United States compliant with the agreement,” EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters at a news conference in Washington.

Trump on Oct. 13 dealt a blow to the pact by refusing to certify that Tehran was complying with the accord even though international inspectors say it was.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.

Trump’s decision has thrown into doubt the future of the pact negotiated by Iran, the EU and six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. Congress has until mid-December to decide whether to reimpose sanctions lifted under the deal, something few diplomats expect.

Mogherini, one of the negotiators of the agreement, sought to avoid publicly becoming embroiled in the debate among U.S. lawmakers about what kind of legislation, if any, to pass regarding the nuclear deal even as she stressed the EU’s desire to see the United States stick with it.

“I made clear any outcome of any process – that is an internal process and as such has to be respected – has to be, at the end of the day, compliant with the deal,” she said. She added that she had voiced her willingness to help U.S. lawmakers “find solutions that are compatible” with U.S. compliance under the agreement.

November 8, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Australium uranium company Paladin going bust, leaving Malawi with a horrible environmental mess

Paladin has ignored our requests to provide its estimate of the cost of rehabilitating Kayelekera, but we can safely say that the figure will be multiples of the US$10 million bond. Just keeping Kayelekera in care-and-maintenance costs US$1012 million annually.

As things stand, if Paladin goes bankrupt and fails to rehabilitate Kayelekera, either rehabilitation will be coordinated and funded by the Malawian government (with a small fraction of the cost coming from Paladin’s bond) or the mine-site will not be rehabilitated at all.

It does Australian companies investing in mining ventures abroad no good whatsoever to leave Kayelekera unrehabilitated, a permanent reminder of the untrustworthiness and unfulfilled promises of an Australian miner and the indifference of the Australian government.

The company’s environmental and social record has also been the source of ongoing controversy and the subject of countless critical reports.

Julie Bishop, the WA government, Paladin and its administrators from KPMG need to liaise with the Malawian government and Malawian civil society to sort the rehabilitation of Kayelekera. An obvious starting point would be to prioritise the rehabilitation of Kayelekera if and when Paladin goes bankrupt and its carcass is being divided up. (picture below shows uranium sludge going to river)

Australian uranium miner goes bust ‒ so who cleans up its mess in Africa? By Morgan Somerville and Jim Green, Online Opinion, 8 November 2017

Perth-based uranium mining company Paladin Energy was put into administration in July and the company is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Critics of the uranium industry won’t miss the company if it disappears. Other uranium mining companies won’t miss Paladin; in an overcrowded market, they will be pleased to have less competition.

But the looming bankruptcy does pose one major problem. Paladin’s Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi, the ‘warm heart of Africa’, needs to be rehabilitated and Paladin hasn’t set aside nearly enough money for the job.

Under the leadership of founder and CEO John Borshoff, described as the grandfather of Australian uranium, Paladin has operated two uranium mines over the past decade. The Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia was opened in 2007, and Kayelekera in 2009.

They were heady days ‒ there was an endless talk about a nuclear power ‘renaissance’ and the uranium price tripled between June 2006 and June 2007. The Australian Financial Review reflected on Paladin’s glory days: “John Borshoff was once one of Western Australia’s wealthiest businessmen. The founder of Perth-based Paladin Energy developed an enviable portfolio of African uranium mines supposed to satiate booming global demand for yellowcake. When the company’s Langer Heinrich mine began shipments in March 2007, as the spot price for uranium eclipsed $US100 per pound, Paladin was worth more than $4 billion.”

Paladin was once the best-­performed stock in the world according to The Australian newspaper. The company’s share price went from one cent in 2003 to A$10.80 in 2007. Borshoff made his debut on the Business Review Weekly’s ‘Rich 200’ list in 2007 with estimated wealth of A$205 million.

But the good times didn’t last. The uranium bubble burst in mid-2007, and the Fukushima disaster in 2011 ensured that there would be no nuclear power renaissance and that the uranium industry would remain depressed for years to come. Borshoff left Paladin in 2015, and in 2016 Paladin’s new CEO Alexander Molyneux said that “it has never been a worse time for uranium miners”.

The loss-making Kayelekera mine in Malawi was put into care-and-maintenance in July 2014, leaving Paladin with the modest Langer Heinrich mine plus a number of projects the company describes as ‘nonproducing assets’ (such as uranium projects in jurisdictions that ban uranium mining).

Paladin was put into administration in July this year, unable to pay its debts. Even if Paladin sold its 75% stake in Langer Heinrich, its only revenue-raising project, it couldn’t repay all its debts.

Administrators from KPMG are attempting to sort out the mess and bondholders are reportedly being asked to fund a recapitalisation of Paladin. Bankruptcy would seem a much more likely option given the weakness of the company and the weakness of the global uranium market.

Paladin has said that a uranium price of about US$75 per pound would be required for Kayelekera to become economically viable ‒  almost four times the current uranium spot price, and well over twice the current long-term contract price. Even if the uranium price did rebound, Kayelekera would operate for only around four years; it isn’t a large deposit.

The likelihood of uranium prices reaching US$75 in the foreseeable future is near-zero. John Borshoff said in 2013 that the uranium industry “is definitely in crisis … and is showing all the symptoms of a mid-term paralysis”. Former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd said in May 2014 that the industry is set for “a long period of relatively low prices, in which uranium producers will find it hard to make a living”. Nick Carter from Ux Consulting said in April 2016 that he did not anticipate a uranium supply deficit until the late 2020s. Other industry insiders and market analysts have made similar comments about the bleak future for uranium ‒ and the bondholders being asked to recapitalise Paladin would surely know that their money would be better invested in a long-shot at Flemington.

Who cleans up Kayelekera?

Assuming Paladin goes bankrupt, who cleans up the Kayelekera open-pit uranium mine? The company was required to lodge a US$10 million Environmental Performance Bond with Malawian banks, and presumably that money can be tapped to rehabilitate Kayelekera. But US$10 million won’t scratch the surface. According to a Malawian NGO, the rehabilitation cost is estimated at US$100 million ‒ ten times the amount set aside by Paladin. The cost of rehabilitating the Ranger uranium in the Northern Territory ‒ also an open-pit uranium mine, albeit larger than Kayelekera ‒ is estimated at just under US$500 million.

Paladin has ignored our requests to provide its estimate of the cost of rehabilitating Kayelekera, but we can safely say that the figure will be multiples of the US$10 million bond. Just keeping Kayelekera in care-and-maintenance costs US$1012 million annually.

As things stand, if Paladin goes bankrupt and fails to rehabilitate Kayelekera, either rehabilitation will be coordinated and funded by the Malawian government (with a small fraction of the cost coming from Paladin’s bond) or the mine-site will not be rehabilitated at all.

Is it reasonable for Australia, a relatively wealthy country, to leave it to the overstretched, under-resourced government of an impoverished African nation to clean up the mess left behind by an Australian mining company? If the Malawian government cleans up Paladin’s mess, that will necessarily come at the expense of other priorities. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. According to a 2013 U.N. report, more than half the population live below the poverty line, and about half of all children under the age of five show signs of chronic malnutrition.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop should intervene to sort out the situation at Kayelekera and to prevent a repetition of this fiasco. We imagine that the Minister’s eyes might glaze over in response to a moral argument about the importance of Australia being a good global citizen. But there is also a hard-headed commercial argument for intervention to clean up Kayelekera.

It does Australian companies investing in mining ventures abroad no good whatsoever to leave Kayelekera unrehabilitated, a permanent reminder of the untrustworthiness and unfulfilled promises of an Australian miner and the indifference of the Australian government. Australia is set to become the biggest international miner on the African continent, perhaps as early as this year, according to the Australia-Africa Minerals & Energy Group. But Australian companies can’t expect to be welcomed if travesties such as Kayelekera remain resolved.

‘Overly sophisticated’

Back in 2006, John Borshoff told ABC television that Australia and Canada have become “overly sophisticated” with their thinking about environmental and social issues associated with the mining industry. Hence Paladin’s focus on projects in Africa.

One advantage ‒ if that’s the word ‒ of mining in Africa is that Paladin hasn’t had to set aside sufficient funds to rehabilitate Kayelekera. The company’s environmental and social record has also been the source of ongoing controversy and the subject of countless critical reports.

Paladin has lost money on Kayelekera, and the economic benefits for Malawi have been pitiful. Paladin has exploited the country’s poverty to secure numerous reductions and exemptions from payments normally required by foreign investors. United Nations’ Special Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter noted in a 2013 report that “revenue losses from special incentives given to Australian mining company Paladin Energy, which manages the Kayelekera uranium mine, are estimated to amount to at least US$205 million (MWK 67 billion), and could be up to US$281 million (MWK 92 billion) over the 13 year lifespan of the mine.”

The official line from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is that “mining offers African countries an unparalleled opportunity to stimulate growth and reduce poverty. If well managed, the extractives sector can drive innovation, generate revenue to fund critical social services and upgrade productive physical infrastructure, and directly and indirectly create jobs.”

The reality at Kayelekera is starkly different from the picture painted by the bureaucrats in Canberra.

Two years ago, then WA Premier Colin Barnett told a mining conference in South Africa that Australian mining companies have “brought both expertise and ethical standards. It is a matter of pride for many companies that the standards applied in Australia are also applied in Africa.”

But standards at Kayelekera fall a long way short of Australian standards. Moreover, Barnett’s claims sit uncomfortably with the highly critical findings arising from a detailed investigation by the International Consortium of Independent Journalists. The Consortium noted in its 2015 report that since 2004, more than 380 people have died in mining accidents or in off-site skirmishes connected to Australian mining companies in Africa (there have been six deaths at Kayelekera). The reportfurther stated: “Multiple Australian mining companies are accused of negligence, unfair dismissal, violence and environmental law-breaking across Africa, according to legal filings and community petitions gathered from South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana.”

Not even Collin Barnett would argue that Paladin is a source of pride for Australia. Quite the opposite. Likewise, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop surely didn’t have Paladin’s open-cut mine in mind when she told the Africa Down Under mining conference in Perth in September that many Australian mining projects in Africa are outposts of good governance and that the “Australian Government encourages the people of Africa to see us as an open-cut mine for lessons-learned, for skills, for innovation and, I would like to think, inspiration.”

Julie Bishop, the WA government, Paladin and its administrators from KPMG need to liaise with the Malawian government and Malawian civil society to sort the rehabilitation of Kayelekera. An obvious starting point would be to prioritise the rehabilitation of Kayelekera if and when Paladin goes bankrupt and its carcass is being divided up. Surely Kayelekera should take precedence over debtors such as French state-owned utility EDF, which is owed US$277 million by Paladin ‒ all the more so since the French state has its own sordid history of uranium mining in Africa.

Morgan Somerville is an International Relations student at La Trobe University. Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

November 8, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, environment, Malawi, Uranium | Leave a comment

India -the frontline state in the climate change battle

How India’s battle with climate change could determine all of our fates, Guardian, Damian Carrington and Michael Safi , 6 Nov 17  India’s population and emissions are rising fast, and its ability to tackle poverty without massive fossil fuel use will decide the fate of the planet “It’s a lucky charm,” says Rajesh, pointing to the solar-powered battery in his window that he has smeared with turmeric as a blessing. “It has changed our life.”

He lives in Rajghat, a village on the border of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states, and until very recently was one of the 240 million Indians who live without electricity. In the poverty that results, Rajghat has become a village of bachelors, with just two weddings in 20 years.

“No one wants to give their daughter to me,” says Sudama, another young man. “People come, they visit, but they see the conditions here and they leave.”

For now, the technology is proving most useful to Rajesh as a way to charge his mobile phone, saving a lengthy journey to the nearest city, but he also hopes for future benefits: “I’ll use this to let my children study.”

According to an ambitious pledge by India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, every Indian will have electricity, and the education, health and business benefits that follow, by the end of 2018. But how Modi achieves that, and the development of what will soon become the world’s most populous nation, matters to the entire world.

 Of all the most polluting nations – US, China, Russia, Japan and the EU bloc – only India’s carbon emissions are rising: they rose almost 5% in 2016. No one questions India’s right to develop, or the fact that its current emissions per person are tiny. But when building the new India for its 1.3 billion people, whether it relies on coal and oil or clean, green energy will be a major factor in whether global warming can be tamed.

“India is the frontline state,” says Samir Saran, at the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi. “Two-thirds of India is yet to be built. So please understand, 16% of mankind is going to seek the American dream. If we can give it to them on a frugal climate budget, we will save the planet. If we don’t, we will either destroy India or destroy the planet.”

This view is shared internationally: Christiana Figueres, the UN’s former climate chief who delivered the landmark Paris climate change agreement says India is “very, very important” for everybody, and the nation will play a key role at the UN summit that starts in Bonn, Germany next week………

There are signs of hope, however, driven by astonishing drops in the price of renewable energy in the last few years. Costs are falling faster than anyone predicted, with new record-low prices set this year for solar and wind. State governments can now pay less for clean energy than they pay for new coal power.

Mathur, who was the Indian delegation’s spokesman at the 2015 Paris climate summit, says that once batteries become powerful enough to store renewable energy for night time or when winds are weak, India’s energy emissions are likely to plateau and then fall. “I personally saw this happening around 2035, but in the past three years, that has shifted to 2025, driven by the news in the solar prices and the sharper than expected fall in the price of batteries.”

India’s government has now forecast that no new coal-fired power stations will need to be built for at least 10 years. By that time, Mathur argues, it will be cheaper to supply new demand using renewable power. “As [existing] coal plants retire they will be replaced by renewables, because that’s what makes economic sense.”……..

The whole world would benefit from a clean, green India and can help make it happen, says Stern, by bringing down the interest rates on the loans used to fund the low carbon transition: “The best thing the world could do is help bring down the cost of capital.” That means long term finance and help to cut project risks.

The path India’s chooses will affect the whole world and, despite the uncertainties and risks, the mood is optimistic, for a variety of reasons. “India has all the institutions of democracy and a very smart entrepreneurial class which will respond, and that gives me optimism,” says Saran…….

November 8, 2017 Posted by | climate change, India | Leave a comment

Nuclear company NuGen is now strangely silent, as China and South Korea moanouvre around funding Moorside project

CORE 5th Nov 2017, NuGen’s updates on progress with its Moorside new-build project are an
extremely rare commodity these days in the UK. The last update, made six
months ago, reported CEO Tom Samson as saying that ‘a universe of
options’ remained available to NuGen – even with the bankrupt
Westinghouse and its AP1000 reactors apparently kicked into the long grass.

This starry-eyed view of available options must, in reality, be limited to
the current interest expressed in NuGen’s project by Chinese and South
Korean investors, both of whom are likely to insist on the deployment of
their own ‘in house’ reactors.

With little information on progress by the traditionally inscrutable Chinese Government and its state-backed China
General Nuclear (CGN) seeing the light of day recently, South Korea has
been busy number-crunching behind the scenes to work out how the $18Bn
(around £14Bn at today’s exchange rate) might be raised to buy out
Toshiba’s stake in the moribund West Cumbrian project.

A little reported article by Business Korea on 17th October states that a Nuclear Power Plant
Export Strategy meeting in Seoul on 10th October had devised a plan to
raise the $18Bn (around £14Bn at today’s exchange rate) required to take
control of Moorside. Under the plan – and through a ‘project financing
structure’ overseen by the South Korean Government – $7Bn in primary
financial arrangement would be provided by three export financial
institutions – the Export-Import Bank of Korea, the Korea Development
Bank and the Korea Trade Insurance Corporation. An additional $2.2Bn would
come from KEPCO itself and a further $5.6Bn raised jointly from the UK
Government (Infrastructure and Project Authority), the Japan Bank for
International Cooperation and the US Export/Import Bank.

The balance of $3.2Bn would be raised by ‘project operators’. Whether or not these
plans are turned into reality, they provide at least some clue as to what
is happening behind the scenes.

This is more than can be said for NuGen for, despite CEO Tom Samson’s astrological ‘110% certainty’
(curiously upgraded later to 120%) that Moorside would go ahead, its last
public pronouncement on 16th May 2017 advised that it had been forced to
hit the pause button on the project because of investor uncertainty, and
that a strategic review had been initiated on Moorside’s future.

Since then, having virtually disappeared as an entity from the Cumbrian radar
screen and consigned its local stakeholders and consultees to the darkest
black hole, NuGen’s sole website contributions have been confined to the
opening of a memorial beach garden north of Whitehaven and a cycle ride
around Moorside by students from NuGen’s ‘Bright Sparks’ educational

November 8, 2017 Posted by | politics international, UK | Leave a comment