Monthly Archives: March 2019

US govt ‘to OK $US6.5bn for nuclear plant’

The US Energy Department is poised to approve $US6.


5 billion ($A7.22 billion) in federal loan guarantees for the first nuclear power plants built from scratch in the country in more than three decades.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was expected to announce final approval of the deal at a speech on Wednesday, a day before he visits the $US14 billion Vogtle nuclear plant now under construction in eastern Georgia.

Three government officials familiar with the deal confirmed its details on Tuesday.

They asked not to be identified because the deal has not been made public.

Atlanta-based Southern Co is building the plant with several partners about 50km southeast of Augusta, Georgia.

The project is widely considered a major test of whether the industry can build nuclear plants without the endemic delays and cost overruns that plagued earlier rounds of building in the 1970s.

Vogtle was originally estimated to cost around $US14 billion, but government monitors have warned the final cost is likely to be higher.

The Energy Department tentatively approved an $US8.3 billion loan guarantee for the project in 2010 as part of President Barack Obama’s pledge to expand nuclear power and other energy sources.

Obama and other proponents say greater use of nuclear power could cut the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and create energy without producing greenhouse gas emissions.

More than two dozen nuclear reactors have been proposed in recent years, but experts now say it is likely that only five or six new reactors will be completed by the end of the decade.

The once-expected nuclear power boom has been plagued by a series of problems, from the prolonged economic downturn to a sharp drop in natural gas prices and the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

Owners of at least four nuclear reactors have shuttered plants in recent months or announced plans to do so, including California’s troubled San Onofre nuclear plant.

Utilities have decided it is cheaper to close plants rather than spend big money fixing them and risk the uncertainty of safety reviews.

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Meridian may end Australian investment

Meridian Energy won’t invest further in Australian renewable energy projects if the Federal government’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) subsidy scheme is scrapped.


Chief executive Mark Binns told the company’s first half-year profit announcement since its partial privatisation in October that investment will be put on hold until a decision is made.

The Australian government announced on Monday that the RET scheme will be reviewed.

“The RET is very significant to the renewables industry (in Australia),” said Mr Binns.

“The message given, if it goes, is a significant one. You will see a lot of people will be reluctant to go back into Australia and invest.”

A decision on the scheme’s future was unlikely before September and Meridian expected to “survive in a form very similar to what it is currently”, at least for existing investments.

“We won’t invest further before the regulatory situation in Australia becomes clearer,” said Mr Binns.

Meridian is in the final phase of building a $260 million, 64 turbine wind farm at Mt Mercer, inland Victoria, capable of generating 131 Megawatts. It also owns a smaller South Australian windfarm, at Mt Millar, purchased in 2010 from Transfield for $191m.

The RET scheme targets 20 per cent renewable electricity generation in Australia by 2020, and subsidises wind, solar and other renewable generation options to compete with low-priced coal-fired power stations, which produce much of Australia’s electricity and give the country a heavy carbon footprint.

The scheme is estimated to cost Australian consumers around $1 a week on the average power bill, and was described in The Australian newspaper this week as a “hidden carbon tax” that was hiking power prices by stealth.

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Door open for Mills as Parker sidelined

AP – Australia’s Patty Mills is set to play an even bigger role in the San Antonio Spurs’ NBA title quest after leading point guard Tony Parker was sidelined.


Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said 31-year-old All-Star Parker, who has played in 47 games for the NBA’s Southwest division leaders this season, was suffering “a variety of maladies” and would be out of action “for the forseeable future”.

“He has got a lot of little things,” Popovich told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Basically a lot of basketball the last three years, all season long, all summer long, it has caught up to him.”

Parker has pursued a hectic schedule, playing for the French national team between NBA seasons the past three years, earning Most Valuable Player honours at last year’s European championships.

Mills is likely to be the biggest beneficiary of Parker’s plight, having already been used extensively off the bench in all but one game Parker has missed.

In his last seven matches, the Australian is averaging 16.1 points, three rebounds, and two assists while playing 20.7 minutes for the Spurs, who reached the All-Star Game break at 38-15 – the second-best record in the Western Conference and fourth-best in the league.

Parker is averaging 17.7 points and 6.2 assists. He scored four points and grabbed two rebounds in just over 11 minutes in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game but had been sidelined before that with a sore lower back.

He is also thought to be dealing with calf and groin injuries as well as assorted bruises.

Less than a fortnight ago he scored a season-high 32 points in the Spurs’ victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.

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Timeline: Ukrainian political crisis

Known as the Euromaidan – literally “Eurosquare” – the recent outbreak of anti-government protests that has rocked Kiev, and now surrounding cities, for the past few months has decade-long roots amid political infighting, charges of corruption, and the ongoing tensions of EU or Russian alliance.


Euromaidan protests

21st November 2013: Thousands of opposition protesters gather in Kiev’s Independence Square (known as “Maidan”) to decry President Viktor Yanukovych failure to pass a major agreement that would strengthen ties with the EU, opting instead to seek closer cooperation with Moscow.

30th November 2013: Police launch a brutal attack on protesters, detaining 35 images of protesters bloodied by police truncheons spread quickly and galvanize public support for the demonstrators. A demonstration on December 1st attracts about 300,000 people, the largest protest in Kiev since the Orange Revolution in 2004.

17th December 2013: Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that Moscow will buy $17 billion worth of Ukrainian government bonds and allow for a sharp cut in the price Ukrainians will have to pay for Russian natural gas. Putin and Yanukovych claim that there were no conditions attached to the agreement, which did not require Ukraine to join a Russia-led free trade pact.

22nd January 2014: Two protesters die after being hit with live ammunition and the third after a fall during a confrontation between police and demonstrators manning barricades, the first protest deaths.

28th January 2014: Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and the entire government resign, scrapping anti-protest laws, in the biggest concessions yet to protesters in a two-month crisis.

16th February 2014: Protestors leave Kiev’s city hall, after occupying the building since December 1 2013. Vacating public buildings formed part of the conditions to the Ukraine Government’s Amnesty Law. Under the amnesty detained protestors will be released and charges against them dropped. Protestors promise to retake city hall if the amnesty is not honoured.

18th February 2014: 18 are killed as Ukraine riot police attack the protest camp in Kiev’s Independence Square. After a 6pm deadline to leave the camp was not met, violence erupts as thousands of police storm the square. The death toll includes 11 protestors and 7 police. Ukrainian opposition leader Vitali Klitschko meets with President Viktor Yanukovich over the crisis.


October 2011: A court jails former Prime Minister and Orange Revolution joint leader Julia Tymoshenko for seven years after finding her guilty of abuse of power over a gas deal with Russia in 2009. EU warns Ukraine of “profound implications”; opposition leaders claim charges were politically motivated.

March 2011: Ex-President Leonid Kuchma is charged over the 2000 murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze. He denies any part in the killing.

February 2010: Viktor Yanukovych is declared winner of second round of presidential election. His main rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, refuses to accept the result, alleging fraud.

January 2009: Russia stops all gas supplies to Ukraine after collapse of talks to end row over unpaid bills and prices, leading to shortages in southeast Europe. Supplies are restored a week later when Ukraine and Russia sign a 10-year deal on gas transit.

December 2007: Yulia Tymoshenko is appointed prime minister for the second time, in coalition with President Viktor Yushchenko’s party.

‘Orange Revolution’

January 2005: Viktor Yushchenko is sworn in as president after Supreme Court rejects challenge by losing candidate Mr Yanukovych.

November 2004: Official count indicates presidential election victory for Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Western and other independent observers report widespread vote rigging. Opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko launches campaign of mass street protest and civil disobedience which becomes known as the ‘Orange Revolution’. Supreme Court later annuls result of poll.

April 2001: President Leonid Kuchma dismisses Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko’s government following a no-confidence vote in parliament. Mr Yushchenko was respected in the West for fighting corruption, pushing ahead with economic reforms and working to attract investment, but was unpopular with the pro-Moscow Kuchma, and powerful Ukrainian businessmen.

1997: Friendship treaty signed with Russia. Ukraine and Russia also reach agreement on the Black Sea fleet.

1991: Ukraine declares independence following attempted coup in Moscow: 90% vote for independence in nationwide referendum in December.

1986: A reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station explodes, sending a radioactive plume across Europe. Desperate efforts are made to contain the damaged reactor within a huge concrete cover. Many armed forces personnel die of radiation sickness.

1954: Armed resistance to Soviet rule ends with defeat of Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

1945: Allied victory in World War II leads to conclusive Soviet annexation of western Ukrainian lands.

1941: Ukraine suffers terrible wartime devastation as Nazis occupy the country until 1944. More than 5 million Ukrainians die fighting Nazi Germany. Most of Ukraine’s 1.5 million Jews wiped out by the Nazis.

1932: Approximately 7 million peasants perish in man-made famine during Joseph Stalin’s collectivisation campaign.

1918: Ukraine declares independence: Ukrainian People’s Republic set up. Numerous rival governments vie for control for some or all of Ukraine during ensuing civil war.


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Turkey president signs internet bill

Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, says he’s signed into force a controversial law voted in by the government that will tighten controls over web use.


Gul said on his Twitter feed he promulgated the law – which the opposition and rights groups say infringes on citizens’ freedoms – after the government assured him it would soften parts of it through later amendments.

“I am aware of the problems mainly on two points…. These concerns will be taken into account in the new law,” he said.

An opposition MP earlier confirmed the planned amendments to aspects of the bill concerning some powers of Turkey’s telecommunications authority.

“The steps are positive but not enough,” Akif Hamzacebi of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was quoted as saying by NTV television.

Under the bill, the Telecommunications Communications Presidency (TIB) can demand that internet providers block pages deemed insulting or considered an invasion of privacy.

But the government is now proposing that the TIB will have to inform a judge about any decision to block a web page, according to the Hurriyet newspaper.

The judge would then have to issue a ruling within 48 hours or the TIB move would be deemed invalid.

The internet bill has sparked outrage both at home and abroad and fuelled concerns over the state of democracy in the EU-hopeful country under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The legislation comes on top of moves to curb the judiciary and a government purge of police and prosecutors in the face of corruption probe that has targeted close Erdogan allies.

Erdogan has vehemently denied accusations of online censorship, and said Tuesday the proposed internet curbs were aimed at countering “blackmail” and “threats”.

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