ENVIRONMENT CENTRE NT – AUSTRALIAN CONSERVATION FOUNDATION 5 JUNE 2015 On World Environment Day NT and national environment organisations have called on the NT Department of Mines to explain why Energy Resources of Australia, operator of the embattled Ranger uranium mine, should not be prosecuted over a major radioactive spill inside the boundaries of Kakadu National Park.
“Today – World Environment Day – marks twelve months since Energy Resources of Australia gained approval to restart processing at Ranger following a major radioactive spill from a collapsed leach tank in December 2013,” said Lauren Mellor from the Environment Centre NT.
“That a spill of over 1.3 million litres of radioactive slurry happened inside a World Heritage listed National Park is unacceptable: that we still don’t know why twelve months after operations have been resumed is derelict”.
Environment groups are concerned that a subsequent string of regulatory failures indicates that the NT Mines Department is ill-equipped to meet its responsibilities to protect the environment, workers and communities.
In the 12 months since the Ranger restart was approved DME has:
- Failed to release its report into the 2013 radioactive spill accident, even to other Investigative Taskforce member agencies or Traditional Owners.
- Failed to prosecute ERA for clear operational breaches under the Mines Management Act to improve safety and environmental protection at Ranger.
- Been unable to oversight ERA’s water monitoring due to staff shortages and deficient testing, meaning at some sites with contamination trends there was no independent oversight.
- Not implemented a key recommendation of the Independent Expert’s incident report into the leach tank failure and radioactive spill calling for a complete regulatory overhaul at Ranger.
- Failed to address contamination trends in Gulungul Creek, part of Kakadu National Park downstream from the mines leaking tailings dam. DME must apply statutory requirements to its deficient monitoring program as recommended by a 2003 Senate Inquiry into Ranger Uranium Mine. This is despite significant spikes of electrical conductivity indicating impacts from the mine are now being seen in Kakadu waters.
“The NT Mines Minister’s inaction on this major incident appears to be a case of prioritising the operations of Energy Resources of Australia above the protection of Kakadu National Park,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney.
World Environment Day is a perfect time to send a clear message that poor mining practises are neither acceptable, nor above the law. Kakadu deserves better than complacency,” concluded Mr Sweeney.
Contact: Lauren Mellor, Environment Centre NT, 0413 534 125 Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Foundation, 0408 317 812
In their report, the EPA have said that they “have concerns with aspects of the site operations and management” and are issuing Santos with two legally binding Pollution Reduction Programs (PRPs) to improve groundwater monitoring.
“The myth that no cases of aquifer contaminations have occurred in NSW was busted by this incident where elevated levels of Uranium and other heavy metals were found in the groundwater near Santos’ holding ponds,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.
“No level of Uranium or other heavy metal contamination from coal seam gas is acceptable and the pathetic $1500 EPA at the time is hardly a deterrent to Santos or other companies.”
“It is alarming that the EPA have confirmed Santos does not have a sufficient monitoring program in place. Yet again we find that the management of a coal seam gas operation is not up to scratch and that pollution incidents cannot be properly assessed.”
“The Greens believe that coal seam gas is unnecessary, unwanted and unsafe and that Santos should pack up and leave NSW,” Mr Buckingham said. Contact: Max Phillips – 9230 2202 or 0427 713 101
for the traditional owners to have any confidence in the capacity of ERA and the regulators to manage Ranger the recommendations of the report must be acted on “swiftly and completely”.
photo – uranium tank collapse at Ranger December 2013
Uranium miner ERA ‘did not meet expected standards’, new report over Kakadu acid spill says By James Dunlevie ABC News 24 Oct 14 A report has criticised standards at a Kakadu uranium mine, but local Aboriginal people say the investigation process had broken down and they had not been told the report was being released.
The investigation looked into the circumstances surrounding the incident at the Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) Ranger uranium mine in the national park, where 1,400 cubic metres of acidic slurry was spilt out of a collapsed tank about 1:00am on December 7, 2013.
The report found “at the time of the tank failure ERA’s management of process safety and its corporate governance did not meet expected standards”. In a joint statement announcing the release of the report, Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane and his Territory counterpart, Willem Westra Van Holte, thanked the members of the Ranger Incident Taskforce for their efforts “in particular, the contributions by the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation and the Northern Land Council”.
It’s just absurd that you would establish a taskforce to investigate … over a nearly 12-month period and then release the report and not have any dialogue with any taskforce members.
Justin O’Brien, CEO Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation
“This report has taken too long and delivered too little. It fails to address the cause of the failure or actively reduce repetition – and its key recommendation has already been ignored,”
ERA to lift safety standards at Ranger Uranium Mine 24 October, 2014 Ben Hagemann Australian Mining, The Ranger Uranium mine has been directed to engage in improvements to process safety procedures on site, as a result of inadequate safety at the time of the failure of a leach tank in December last year.
The Department of Industry released a summary joint statement for the investigation which said that at the time of the failure of Leach Tank 1, the management of process safety and its corporate governance did not meet the expected standards. Continue reading
Kirsten Blair, 22 Oct 14 Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation was disappointed to learn that Ministers Ian MacFarlane and Willem Westra van Holthe had released a summary report of the investigation into the collapse of a leach tank at the Ranger uranium mine within the bounds of Kakadu National Park late last year without consulting all members of the investigation taskforce.
Gundjeihmi, which represents the Mirarr Traditional Owners of the Ranger mine site, has a position on the taskforce which was established to investigate last year’s radiological accident but was not informed of the intention to release the report yesterday.
Justin O’Brien CEO of Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation said “We are bitterly disappointed that the investigation taskforce process has broken down, not for any want of trying on our part. It is critical that the recommendations of this report are fully implemented with highest priority given to a comprehensive review of the regulatory framework at Ranger, a point which the ministers have acknowledged but up to this point have not committed to act on.
“The tank collapse which sent over a million litres of radioactive acid spilling across the mine site was yet another example of the poor management and failed systems at Ranger. For Traditional Owners to gain have any confidence in the capacity of the Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) and the regulators to manage this mine the recommendations of this report must be acted on swiftly and completely.
“ERA wants to expand the Ranger mine underground. Without a comprehensive regulatory review and implementation of the remaining recommendations it would be ludicrous for the Federal Government to even consider such a proposal.” Mr O’Brien concluded
Why Australia should shut down the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, Independent Australia Last week’s fire on a nuclear waste ship off Scotland shows why Australia’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor should to be shut down, writes Noel Wauchope. 15 Oct 14, “……. The ship, the Parida, was carrying radioactive wastes that were being returned to Belgium……
, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
and SNP MSP Rob Gibson
have expressed concern about nuclear waste travelling by sea. ……Highly radioactive wastes from the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor have been sent to France, Argentina and Dounreay under contracts that require Australia to take back the processed wastes. Indeed, the French batch is due by the end of 2015.
In the case of Dounreay, there is now pressure on the countries where the wastes originated, because the Dounreay nuclear site is being decommissioned and demolished……
Transport of radioactive wastes to and from Lucas Heights is indeed a hazardous operation, requiring much expensive security. However, transport is not the only safety consideration. The previous HIFAR reactor ‒ and the present OPAL one ‒ have troubled safety records…….
Australia’s most notorious terrorist, Willie Brigitte was gaoled in France in 2007 for joining an al-Qaeda backed Pakistani terror cell that had conspired to blow up the Lucas Heights nuclear plant. …….
We should shut Lucan Heights down before we regret it. http://www.independentaustralia.net/life/life-display/why-australia-should-shut-down-the-lucas-heights-nuclear-reactor,6999
Lucas Heights nuclear reactor’s security may be cut DANIEL MEERS THE DAILY TELEGRAPH SEPTEMBER 24, 2014 THERE are fresh fears federal police numbers may be cut at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, the site of a security breach on Monday.
Just a day after police intercepted bushwalkers at the restricted site 31km southwest of Sydney, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union claimed Australian Federal Police numbers would be cut from 21 to six at the site next month and restructured. The union’s claims follow funding cuts for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) which the organisation says has led to a restructure in operations.
Safety supervisors would also be outsourced under the restructure.
A spokesman for ANSTO yesterday said the union figures on policing were wrong but conceded there had been changes to roles…..
AMWU NSW secretary Tim Ayres said he was concerned about security at the site. “In a climate of heightened security risks, we’re about to hand over security of a nuclear reactor to a contractor firm. How can this deliver better safety?
“The community expects our high-risk security targets are patrolled by professional federal police officers and a strong on-site safety culture. But ANSTO … has decided to go with the cheaper option.”….http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/lucas-heights-nuclear-reactors-security-may-be-cut/story-fni0cx12-1227068424540
Greens want Barnett to make emergency nuclear plan for WA http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/greens-want-barnett-to-make-emergency-nuclear-plan-for-wa-20140919-10iutv.html September 18, 2014 Brendan Foster With Australia on the brink of new conflict with Iraq, Greens MP Lynn MacLaren says she can’t believe the Barnett government doesn’t have an emergency plan if a nuclear accident happened at Fremantle Port.
On Monday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia would send 600 troops, including SAS soldiers and eight FA18 Super Hornets, to the Middle East in preparation for military action against the Islamic State terror group.
And on Thursday, more than 800 police officers raided homes in Sydney in an attempt to foil a plot to “commit violent acts”, including plans to behead a member of the public.
Ms MacLaren asked Attorney-General Michael Mischin on Wednesday night in State Parliament if the Liberals had an action plan for workers and residents living near the port in the event of the nuclear reactor incident from a nuclear-powered warship. Mr Mischin said a nuclear detonation was not a defined hazard prescribed within the Emergency Management Act 2005.
“The state emergency management arrangements allow for a controlling agency to be appointed for any hazard not prescribed in the act,” Mr Mischin said.
Ms MacLaren said as Australia prepared to send troops to Iraq, “we cannot afford to have a head-in-the-sand approach to an emergency response”.
“Since nuclear-powered vessels visit our shores, we need to be ready in the event of an accident or incident. The report tabled in response to my question was last updated in 2010,” she said.
“Nuclear weapons have been a major threat to world peace for decades, how can the state government not have an emergency response to the risk of a nuclear weapon detonation or accident?
“The consequence of even a small incident would be catastrophic. Yet, we should have a plan which factors in health care facilities and staff to provide triage care in the event of a nuclear detonation or other nuclear incident.” Ms MacLaren said with the Mayors of Peace Conference in Fremantle next week, the call to prohibit nuclear weapons was more important than ever.
Junko Morimito who will describe her experience as a 13-year-old in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb went off is one of the guest speakers at the conference.
“I will be attending the Fremantle Peace Walk which will take place on International Peace Day, Sunday 21 September – celebrating the opening of Fremantle Peace Grove. Tthis issue must be kept as a priority for leaders and the community,” Ms MacLaren said.
Darwin and Adelaide likely export hubs for Queensland uranium (includes audios) ABC Rural By Marty McCarthy 14 Aug 14 “……..Queensland announced this month it is now accepting applications from uranium miners wanting to operate in the state after a 32 year ban, raising questions about where the uranium will be exported from.
There are no ports in Queensland licensed to export the material, and the Newman Government says ports in Adelaide and Darwin will likely be used instead, rather than shipping over the Great Barrier Reef.
Queensland’s Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Andrew Cripps, says it’s not up to him to decide which city becomes the hub for Queensland’s uranium exports. …….
Mr Cripps would not rule out exporting uranium from Queensland directly……..
Northern Territory Mines Minister, Willem Westra van Holthe, says he supports transporting uranium oxide from Queensland through the Northern Territory……..
“Taking another state’s commodity and transporting through the Darwin Port is a good way to promote us as an important strategic location [? target – CM.] for the rest of the country.”……..”It would probably travel through Tennant Creek, having travelled along the Barkly Highway and then up the Stuart Highway to Darwin.”……
not everyone sees trucking uranium across the country as an opportunity. Continue reading
We know what a suicide plane crash can do to buildings. We know what missiles can do to planes. But what about the radioactive devastation that terrorist missiles, bombs, computer hacking could do to nuclear facilities?
While the nuclear nations ramp up their nuclear weapons – supposedly for “security” “defense” – they are in fact increasing their vulnerability – setting up targets for terrorists.
Nuclear reactors, nuclear fuel pools, nuclear waste containers, nuclear transports – these are indeed the perfect targets for terrorist attack. Meanwhile the nuclear lobby spins out its guff about “energy security” blah blah. Governments worry about earthquakes, floods, tsunamis – and well they should.
The “twin towers” attack of September 2011, the missile attack on a civilian plane over Ukraine – surely these are indications of why it is time to get rid of those even more terrible targets – the world’s nuclear facilities.
Fears for safety at Lucas Heights nuclear reactor: permanent supervisors to be dumped as part of cost-cutting GEOFF CHAMBERS THE DAILY TELEGRAPH JULY 25, 2014 PERMANENT frontline safety supervisors will be dumped and Australian Federal Police roles overhauled as part of cost-cutting measures at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal that six permanent safety positions will be outsourced from next month at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).
Workers at the facility in Sydney’s south have expressed concern about the removal of permanent safety inspectors.
The AFP will retain an armed presence but it is expected that light duties, including boom gate operation and CCTV monitoring, will be outsourced.
With 260 production, laboratory and technical staff on its books, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union has firmly opposed what it describes as a “cost-cutting exercise” by ANSTO.
The union’s state secretary, Tim Ayres, said that the reactor site was an important local employer and crucial for the innovation and manufacturing industry.
“This is in no way an improvement to safety at Sydney’s only nuclear facility, this is a decision to wind back the safety protections purely on the basis of costs,” he said.
“This is a nuclear facility in the middle of a very large population centre — they’ve had to work very hard to get the confidence of the community that it can operate safely. But outsourcing the senior level safety inspectorate to some private company is going to absolutely shatter the confidence that this place can be run to the standard of safety and quality that the community expects.”
Mr Ayres said having permanent safety inspectors on staff should be a priority for management.
The inspectors, many with years of experience, are the first point of contact at Lucas Heights during an emergency situation.
“This sends a message that safety is a second-order issue. It will set the safety culture back,” he said………
Cr Veitch, who will address an anti-uranium protest rally in Townsville later this month, said he believed that aside from the “extreme consequences” for Townsville if something went wrong at the mine, it could invite terrorists into our backyard.
“There is a risk nuclear products could fall into the wrong hands in the Middle East or Eastern Asia,” he said.
Cr Veitch said “there is always that possibility,” that the uranium mine could make Townsville a target for terrorists. Especially with the large military base (at Lavarack).”…….
With any uranium mining operations at Ben Lomond certain to include a highly radioactive tailings dam, he said it was an “impossibility” to ensure safety at the mine in a tropical region prone to cyclones.
“They definitely haven’t been able to contain spills in tropical Australia and I think it would be an impossibility at this location,” he said.
“The State Mining Warden of the time closed it down (in 1981) because they considered it unsafe … what makes it safe now?……
Citizens Against Mining Ben Lomond spokesman David Sewell fears radioactive materials could be transported via the city to the port and then on to the Great Barrier Reef.
The protest march will start at 9.30am on July 27 on the grassed area behind the Picnic Bay Surf Life Saving Club.
Shaft collapse brings new setbacks to Ranger 3 Deeps uranium operation Australian Mining 12 May, 2014 The Ranger 3 Deeps exploration decline project has suffered another setback after a collapse during works on a new ventilation shaft last week. Energy Resources Australian reported that soft ground had “gradually subsided” beneath the top of the vent opening, and that crumbling of material has created a cavity in the shaft wall, about 20 metres below the surface running to the top, which was observed after the completion of drilling by a raise bore.
ERA said this type of crumbling is common, and that ground movement was identified in the development of the raise bore design.The crumbling, which began midway through last week, created a cavity in the ventilation shaft wall which led to the gradual subsidence of material to the top of the shaft…….
The Australian Conservation Foundation, outraged at the “litany of management and material failures at Ranger”, has called upon ERA to suspend development of the Ranger 3 Deeps project altogether. “All mine development operations at Ranger should be immediately halted,” said ACF nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney. “The Ranger mine is a dog’s breakfast with eroding shafts, collapsing tanks and the company routinely losing contaminants and credibility,” he said.
“There have been enough warnings, now there needs to be a stop to works and a comprehensive and public assessment of the full impacts of this aging and failing facility.”
The new setback comes immediately after the issue of funding for the rehabilitation of the Ranger site was raised several times at the Rio Tinto AGM in Melbourne on Thursday.
In 2021 ERA are legally obliged to end all mining and mineral processing and start the comprehensive clean-up of the existing Ranger site, however in their 2013 report ERA has stated they will not be able to fund the clean-up unless the Ranger 3 Deeps project goes ahead.
Rio Tinto again refused to commit to underwrite the cost of Ranger’s rehabilitation.
The structural failure of a leach tank in December 2013 resulted in the spillage of 1.4 million litres of sulphuric acid and uranium ore, which caused ERA to voluntarily cease operations, bringing attention to the issue of maintenance on site.
This has called into question the issue of regulatory approval for the Ranger 3 Deeps expansion. “The ultimate cost of rehabilitation is uncertain and whilst ERA has used its best estimate, costs may vary in response to factors such as legal requirements, technological change and market conditions,” the 2013 report reads. “In addition, if the Ranger 3 Deeps mine is not developed, in the absence of any other successful development, ERA may require an additional source of funding to fully fund the rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area.
“Any inability to obtain additional capital or to monetise assets would have a financial impact on ERA’s business and financial performance.”Under the Ranger permit, rehab works must be completed by 2026, which a strategy review has found will cost $603 million……..http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/shaft-collapse-brings-new-setbacks-to-ranger-3-dee
Audit finds nuclear shortcomings PS News 8 May 14 An audit of the regulation of nuclear radiation and related activities in Australia has found that while the Agency responsible had been generally effective in managing key aspects of the regulatory framework, shortcomings identified in a 2005 audit had yet to be rectified.
In his audit report on the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), Auditor-General, Ian McPhee found that only 11 of the 19 recommendations made by the previous 2005 audit had been implemented.
The 2005 audit found ARPANSA “did not have a systematic approach to planning, undertaking and monitoring its activities”.
“By not implementing agreed recommendations in a timely manner, ARPANSA has foregone opportunities to enhance its performance,” the Auditor-General said……..Mr McPhee said the licence assessment process could be further improved and there was also scope for ARPANSA to extend its risk‑based regulatory approach.
The audit found that aspects of the inspection process, particularly unannounced inspections, were largely driven by geographical convenience rather than risk.
He also recommended ARPANSA strengthen its approach to managing conflicts of interest, assisted by its Audit and Risk Committee.
The audit team was Stewart Ashe, Tara Rutter and Donna Burton. http://www.psnews.com.au/Page_psn408f6.html