Nuclear Information Centre, Conservation Council of South Australia INTRODUCTION The ways in which a country or state can contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons are many and varied. They include direct and indirect, overt and covert, subtle and not so subtle; the line between contributing and not contributing is fuzzy and elusive. What may be ignored at one time may later be seen to be highly significant.
We will concentrate on the obvious and widely acknowledged contributions.
A successful nuclear weapons program requires:
- A pool of knowledge
- A supply of highly trained specialists
- Research and development
- A source of fissionable material
- The facilities for converting the fissionable material into weapons grade
- Testing of guidance and delivery systems, firing mechanisms, various materials, and complete weapons.
We will limit this article to contributions made in the post-war period 1945 to 1965, which constitutes the first phase of South Australia’s contribution to nuclear weapons proliferation.
History will probably record that the second phase started with the discovery of uranium at Beverly east of Mt. Painter (1969), at Honeymoon about 75 km north-west of Broken Hill (1972), and at Olympic Dam on the Roxby Downs station (1975).
The Olympic Dam mine at Roxby Downs has been exporting to nuclear weapons states since it began production in 1988. Continue reading
ASX-listed Paladin Energy has reported a spill near one of its African mines, saying a truck carrying a container of uranium oxide from its Kayelekera mine in Malawi overturned while negotiating a curve in the road…….
The incident comes less than three months after ASX-listed Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) suffered a spill at its Ranger precinct in the Northern Territory. That spill is still under federal investigation and processing at the site has not resumed since.
ERA is majority owned by Rio Tinto, and the incident at Ranger occurred in the same week as a similar spill at a Rio Tinto mine in Nambia…..
The incident occurred just three days after Paladin announced it would cease mining at the loss-making Kayelekera until uranium prices improved significantly…..
Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney said the Paladin incident highlighted the risks that were inherent in mining uranium.
“We have seen costs rising and corners being cut right across Africa,” he said.
“Paladin have announced they are closing Kayelekera and this is a toxic and tragic way to say goodbye.”http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/paladin-energy-spills-radioactive-material-at-african-mine-20140217-32v7v.html#ixzz2td54yjQ1
By Dave Sweeney and Mia Pepper, 17 Feb 14 When we think of National Parks in Australia we generally think of places of renewal and natural beauty where we can take the whole family to recharge and reconnect with nature – places that draw international visitors to our shores looking for a taste of the wild places that have made our state famous.
Yet Western Australia’s largest National Park is current in the cross hairs of a Canadian company for a large scale uranium mining project. Right now the Canadian mining company Cameco is proposing to mine uranium in the Pilbara at Kintyre, in an area that has been excised from WA’s biggest National Park – Karlamilyi (Rudall River).
The area that contains the Kintyre uranium deposit is one of the most unique and diverse ecosystems in the country, including the fate 28 endangered, vulnerable and priority species. The proposed mine site is nestled between two branches of the Yandagoodge creek, which feeds springs and lake systems throughout Karlamilyi National Park and provides water for the communities of Punmu and Parnngurr.
On top of the question of the appropriateness of placing a uranium mine in an area well recognised for its unique and fragile environmental assets, the equation becomes even more fraught when the track record of the proponent – Cameco Resources – is given closer inspection.
Cameco’s track record overseas raises disturbing questions about the risks and potential impacts on this fragile desert ecosystem and the adequacy of the state systems that are meant to protect the people and the place. Cameco’s operating uranium mines in Canada have been dogged by leaks, floods, contamination and unsafe work environments.
Cameco has been through court over license breaches in the US, has been investigated for tax avoidance in Switzerland and has had Chinese companies turn back their leaking uranium shipments. Community division, lowering house values,community court actions and secret deals with the US military are all things that feature in reports about Cameco.
The company is also currently embroiled in a court action with the Canada Revenue Agency, which is seeking millions in unpaid tax between 2007 and 2013. Which all begs the question – is this the kind of corporate track record to which we should be willing to open up our National Parks?
Karlamilyi National Park should not be the testing ground to see if this company can operate safely or treat communities with respect without creating division.
Despite industry assurances and government promises the Australian uranium sector has a sorry track record of failed uranium mines, with leaks, spills and license breaches from exploration projects at Wiluna and Yeelirrie in WA to operating mines at Ranger in the NT and Olympic Dam in SA.
In fact there has never been single uranium mine rehabilitated successfully in Australia – Rum Jungle, Nabarlek, Mary Kathleen and more are all names associated with unresolved radioactive or acid mine drainage legacies.
Giving a blank cheque to a foreign company to operate a dirty mine in one of WA’s most special places is not smart politics or policy. It is a short term trade that would see a long term loss and an uncapped liability on the State and its tax-payers.
We all know from past experience both here and overseas that mining uranium is a risky business. Between the processing acids, heavy metals, radon gas, dust and radioactive mine waste there is a lot that can go wrong. This is sector facing strong opposition internationally with nuclear shut downs in Germany and Japan after the Fukushima disaster – a catastrophic natural and nuclear disaster fuelled by Australian uranium.
When you put this contaminated cocktail next to a National Park that is home to a network of ephemeral rivers and numerous endangered, vulnerable and priorityspecies then the stakes get even higher. WA can – and must – do better than this.
Dave Sweeney is the Nuclear Free Campaigner at the Australian Conservation Foundation. Mia Pepper is the Nuclear Free Campaigner at the Conservation Council of WA.
This reality is not linked to any red or green tape, but rather to the clear absence of economic returns. While the sector’s risks are significant, its economic contribution is not: in total it provides only around 650 jobs and $700 million in earnings – nationwide.
Dave Sweeney: Nuclear pain outweighs economic gain for South Australia THE ADVERTISER FEBRUARY 10, 2014 IF South Australia moved further down the nuclear road by processing enriched uranium or storing nuclear waste, it would threaten the natural environment and put the state in direct conflict with federal policy, global markets and community expectations.
The call by Business SA to process enriched uranium and store nuclear waste stems from misplaced enthusiasm rather than measured assessment.
Any such call can only be made by ignoring the reality that the nuclear industry is, here and internationally, under intense political, regulatory and community pressure since the Fukushima meltdown in Japan.
A market analysis by economic forecaster Morgan Stanley shows the price of uranium has slumped by nearly 50 per cent since the Fukushima nuclear crisis, where Australian uranium became and remains global radioactive fallout. Continue reading
Dave Sweeney: Nuclear pain outweighs economic gain for South Australia THE ADVERTISER FEBRUARY 10, 2014 ”…….Since the Fukushima accident began in March 2011 there have been repeated and wide-ranging calls for an independent review of the costs and consequences of the Australian uranium sector, here and abroad. Predictably – and sadly – these have been ignored by uranium companies, the industry’s lobby association and successive Australian governments.
The most recent independent assessment of the Australian uranium industry – a Senate Inquiry in October 2003 – found the sector was characterised by underperformance and non-compliance, an absence of reliable data to measure contamination or its impact on the environment, and an operational culture focused on short-term considerations.
The small economic gain from uranium can mean big pain. There is a compelling case that Australia’s uranium trade is a major source of domestic and international risks and that an independent inquiry is needed into its effects on the environment, health, safety and security.
SA is blessed with renewable energy resources and is well placed to become a national and indeed global leader in renewable energy production. Renewables are the fastest-growing energy sector in the world and already provide more global electricity every day than the contested, costly and contaminating nuclear sector.
Radioactive waste, legacy mine sites and risky reactors all last far longer than the shelf-life of any politician or the tenure of any industry group. Uranium mining and the wider nuclear industry are high-risk, low-return sectors that pose unique, unresolved and long-lived threats.http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/dave-sweeney-nuclear-pain-outweighs-economic-gain-for-south-australia/story-fni6unxq-1226822892221
Weak uranium prices force closure of Paladin mine, Financial Review PETER KER AND ANGELA MACDONALD-SMITH 10 FEB 2014 Uranium miners are starting to cut back production amid a growing belief that the sector will not recover in the near term.
ASX listed Paladin Energy has confirmed one of its two mines will cease production until the uranium price recovers, while one of the world’s biggest uranium miners, Cameco, has cut its growth schedule and warned the ‘‘stagnant, over supplied’’ market was not going to improve any time soon.Cameco had previously promised to increase uranium production by 50 per cent over the next four years, but on Saturday the company said such long-term production forecasts were no longer appropriate in the current market conditions.
‘‘Market challenges have persisted since early 2011 and we expect they will continue for the near to medium term,’’ the Canadian company said in a statement.
Uranium prices have been on a downward trend since the Fukushima nuclear crisis damaged confidence in the industry in 2011……
Cameco deferred its Kintyre uranium project in Western Australia in 2012, and on Saturday it vowed to ‘‘decrease activities in Australia’’ even further.,,,,,,http://www.afr.com/p/business/companies/weak_uranium_prices_forces_closure_6Jq1zMnOONO3LAxC4jQkTM
Paladin uranium mine shuts, PAUL GARVEY, THE AUSTRALIAN FEBRUARY 08, 2014 PALADIN Energy has bowed to persistently low uranium prices and moved to stop production at its Kayelekera mine in the southern African nation of Malawi.
The mine, which has been in production since 2009, has been bleeding money in recent years……
- Last month Paladin sold a 25 per cent stake in its flagship Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia to China National Nuclear Corporation for $US190m, as well as debt refinancing.
“…..…Recommendation For Assessment Of Environmental And Societal Costs Of Uranium Mining Hansard Page: 13 Question Date: 18 November 2013 Senator Ludlam asked:
Senator LUDLAM: It probably makes more sense to have your answer in front of me, rather than this back-and-forth across the table. What steps have been taken by the Commonwealth, or any agencies, or indeed your agency, to address the UN Secretary-General’s September 2011 recommendation that Australia conduct an in-depth assessment of the net cost impact of mining fissionable materials—that is, uranium—on local communities and ecosystems? It was an SG recommendation of 2011—…..
Mr McAllister: I can look into it, yes.
Just a quick update on Toro – they released their quarterly report yesterday – revealling the estimated start up costs of the Wiluna project has jumped $47 million. With a slump in the uranium price, lack of new investments in mining, and a $47 million cost blow out before they’ve even got final approval does not bode well… http://www.businessnews.com.au/article/Toro-reveals-Wiluna-cost-increase?utm_source=Business+News+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=75e9eadd22-dba&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e5391356e5-75e9ead
ERA narrows loss to A$136m, says toxic spill probe continuing Mining Weekly By: Esmarie Swanepoel 31st January 2014 ”…..During the year, revenue from sales decreased 10%, to A$355.8-million, while revenue from continuing operations was down 12% on the previous financial year to A$370-million…..
ERA produced some 2 960 t of uranium oxide in the year under review, which was 20% less than that produced in 2012, as lower mill rates affected output. The suspension of processing operations following the failure of a leach tank in December also negatively affected operations, ERA said.
Processing operations at the Ranger mine, in the Northern Territory, remain suspended pending the completion of a full investigation and regulatory approvals to restart.
ERA was conducting an independent investigation that would run in parallel with the government investigation.http://www.miningweekly.com/article/era-narrows-loss-to-a136m-says-toxic-spill-probe-continuing-2014-01-31
Reader riposte: N enrichment in Australia and beyond http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2014/01/20/Reader-riposte-N-enrichment-in-Australia-and-beyond.aspx 20 January 2014 Richard Broinowski writes:In his speculative piece on a regional uranium enrichment plant in Australia, John Carlson gets a few things wrong.
First, it is inaccurate to suggest that but for Labor’s opposition, Australia might now be well on the way to establishing a uranium enrichment facility. Whitlam’s Minister for Minerals and Energy, RFX Connor, very much wanted to establish such a plant. Only Whitlam’s untimely fall from grace following the Khemlani affair brought Connor’s plans to a halt.
Nor can opposition to such a scheme only be laid at the feet of Labor. McMahon scotched Gorton’s plans for a nuclear reactor at Jervis Bay in 1971-72. Mindful of deep and pervasive suspicion of nuclear technology in the Australian community, many Liberal politicians continue to be extremely coy about giving any support for an Australian nuclear industry.
Second, on what grounds does John assert that the Asia Pacific is a major growth area in nuclear power? Continue reading
Top China nuclear firm rescues Paladin Namibia uranium mine Business Recorder, 20 January 2014 by Umer Qazi MELBOURNE: China National Nuclear Corp has agreed to buy a The sale rescues Paladin, as it urgently needed to raise funds following three years of pain as uranium prices slumped after the Fukushima disaster, which killed Japanese demand for the fuel and led other countries to halt nuclear expansions.
“Paladin’s out of the woods for the short to medium term. But longer term they need higher uranium prices to pay back their convertible note,” said Simon Tonkin, an analyst at Patersons Securities…….
The company had little bargaining power with uranium prices hovering at $36.05, or nearly half the price they were at before the Fukushima plant was crippled in March 2011…….
While Paladin has booked heavy losses, it is in better shape than rival Energy Resources of Australia Ltd, controlled by Rio Tinto , which had to suspend processing uranium ore after radioactive slurry leaked from a leach tank at its Ranger operation in Australia……http://www.brecorder.com/top-news/109-world-top-news/153926-top-china-nuclear-firm-rescues-paladin-namibia-uranium-mine.html
UraniumSA receives grant for Samphire Uranium project in South Australia Friday, January 17, 2014 by Proactive Investors UraniumSA (ASX:USA) has received a $50,000 grant from the South Australian Government to advance metallurgical test work for its Samphire uranium deposits in South Australia
UraniumSA will work in collaboration with the University of South Australia’s Ian Walk Research Institute to focus on finding a more efficient process for the removal and recovery of uranium from saline leach solutions, and to advance UraniumSA’s existing data and process understanding.
This grant will facilitate the continuation of recent research and test work by UraniumSA which aims to optimise pathways for uranium recovery from hyper-saline solution……http://www.proactiveinvestors.com.au/companies/news/51977/uraniumsa-receives-grant-for-samphire-uranium-project-in-south-australia-51977.html
Paladin revenue dwindles as output rises Justin Niessner Wednesday, 15 January 2014 PALADIN Energy recorded strong production figures for the December quarter but posted lower sales revenue on a stubbornly weak uranium price.
Revenues for the quarter were down 31.6% year on year at $US101.7 million ($A11.2 million) on the sale of 2.8 million pounds of uranium oxide. It represents roughly the same sales volume compared to a year ago but at a 23.8% lower price of $36.67 per pound of uranium oxide……
Safety was a difficult issue for the company over the period, with an electrical incident sending three workers to hospital in early October. The company confirmed that the most seriously injured worker died on October 29. Two lost time injuries were recorded as a result of the incident…..
a price of at least $70/lb would be necessary to support new uranium supply Earlier this week Paladin said it would not pursue development of its Manyingee project in Western Australia due to the low uranium price. http://www.miningnews.net/storyview.asp?storyid=801876475
Paladin Energy uranium mine sale expected in coming weeks, Mining Australia 15 January, 2014 Vicky Validakis Paladin Energy said talks around the sale of its Langer Heinrich uranium mine were progressing as the price for uranium continues to deteriorate.
The Perth-based miner flagged its intentions to sell its stake in the African mine in August when it announced a raft of cost-cutting measures to combat the weakening price of uranium.………While Borshoff the project was a long-term play for the miner, he said the stubbornly low uranium price meant all new developments had been put on the backburner.
“It’s unsustainable at the moment,” Borshoff said.
“Everyone has declared a moratorium on new projects. It’s all hanging by a thread and at some point this year it has got to turn.” Last year the company made a $US173 million loss in the three months to June.
Paladin signalled it would slash corporate and exploration costs by $US10.8 million, a 24 per cent reduction……..Paladin has five uranium exploration projects operating in Australia. http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/paladin-energy-uranium-mine-sale-expected-in-comin