Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s Environment Minister lying about safety of BHP’s Olympic Dam uranium mine

( Once again – so much news on Olympic Damn that we have put  a selection of other items on

A headache of Olympic proportions The Drum, Scott Ludlam, 13 Oct 11 The concept of ‘environmental protection’ has taken on new meaning with the announcement of Commonwealth environmental approvals for BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam copper/gold/uranium mine in South Australia.

“We have the toughest environmental conditions that you’ll ever find imposed on a uranium mine,” Commonwealth Environment Minister Tony Burke stated proudly.

This is known in the technical literature as a ‘bald-faced lie’. We know that, because the toughest environmental conditions found at a uranium mine are 2,000 kilometres northward, at the Ranger Uranium mine on a lease chopped out of Kakadu National Park in the NT. There, the company is required to backfill the mine voids with their radioactive wastes, removing somewhat more than a hundred million tonnes of the stuff from the surface and dumping it back in the pit to be capped and revegetated as best as possible. In Kakadu, the company is required to isolate these wastes from the wider environment for a period not less than 10,000 years. This is clearly an impossible task, but a worthy ambition at least.

No such duty of care will be applied for the benefit of South Australians. Mr Burke has earnestly reassured us that conditions will apply for 10 years after the life of the mine. He has granted approval for the mine tailings waste to be dumped and left out on the surface in apparent ignorance of the fact that the residual inventory of Uranium 238 has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, and that the mine wastes will contain a cocktail of unwanted daughter isotopes including radium, protactinium, radon gas and radioactive lead. Continue reading

October 13, 2011 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, reference, South Australia, uranium, wastes | | Leave a comment

Uranium is not much of an export earner for Australia. Do we really need this dirty industry?

Do we need the money from uranium? How does uranium compare to our other exports? According to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) export data, in the decade from 2000/01 to 2009/10, uranium exports averaged $596 million/year. Lamb, cheese, cotton, barley, sugar, wool, wine, other crops, wheat, and beef-veal, each averaged $664, $806, $955, $1,170, $1,286, $1,825, $2,309, $3,463, $3,665, and $4,002 million/year, respectively…..

Expanding Olympic Dam: with great power comes great responsibilityGavin Mudd,   The Conversation, 12 October 2011,    “……..In a post-Fukushima world, the hard questions need to be asked: what is Australia’s role in fuelling nuclear disaster, creating high-level nuclear waste and feeding nuclear weapons risks around the world? Continue reading

October 13, 2011 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

Energy Resources of Australia begging shareholders for $500 million

ERA begging for $500m boost, The Age Barry FitzGerald October 13, 2011 THE fall from grace of Rio Tinto-controlled Energy Resources of Australia has become absolute, with the Ranger uranium miner going cap in hand to shareholders for $500 million in equity funding in a heavily discounted rights issue.

The 12-for-7 underwritten issue of new shares at $1.53 a share represents a near 30 per cent discount on ERA’s share price before the stock went into a trading halt. The funds will go a long way to overcoming ERA’s water-handling issues, as well as funding potential mine life-extending activities…..  Rio is also to act as sub-underwriter to the equity raising. Should that role be fully utilised, its holding in ERA could increase to 82 per cent, reducing liquidity in what is an already thinly traded stock.

ERA has been producing uranium at Ranger for 30 years and is only the second mine in the world to have produced more than 100,000 tonnes of uranium. But its shares have been in free fall for the past 12 months on the realisation that despite the long production history, it has not been on top of the environmental threat that a record big wet in Kakadu poses.

The build-up of water around the mine and in its pits forced the decision in January to suspend processing operations as a ”precautionary measure” to ensure levels in the operation’s tailings storage dam remained below the authorised limit. More rain forced a further suspension to late July…..

Rio’s decision to back ERA’s equity raising suggests Rio is confident that ERA’s Jabiluka deposit near Ranger might one day be developed.

Jabiluka is one of the biggest undeveloped uranium deposits in the world but its development is being vetoed by traditional owners.

October 13, 2011 Posted by | business, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Warnings on USA nuclear reactors next to earthquake faults

Dr. Helen Caldicott, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said via a live video feed that “it was gross malfeasance” to build two nuclear reactors next to an earthquake fault. She said that in a worst-case nuclear plant scenario – which she sees as possible at San Onofre – 10 million people could be at risk in a nuclear release, depending on the wind direction.

Panel: Japan-level nuclear crisis possible at San Onofre By FRED SWEGLES / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 12 Oct 11,  “……people from all over Southern California gathered in the San Clemente Community Center for the second of three meetings in which the San Clemente City Council is addressing lessons learned from Japan’s Fukushima disaster. At a community meeting two weeks ago, the council heard from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Southern California Edison and an Interjurisdictional Planning Committee that would coordinate an evacuation of San Clemente if that were ever necessary.

On Oct. 18 at a regular 6 p.m. City Council meeting at City Hall, the council will consider whether to take any actions in response to what it has heard.

At Tuesday’s community meeting, Arnold Gunderson, an energy advisor and former licensed nuclear operator, said epidemiologists have told him that as many as 1 million Japanese will develop cancers over the next 20 years as a result of Fukushima’s radioactive releases. Continue reading

October 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not all smooth sailing for BHP’s plan to expand Olympic Dam uranium mine

agreement is conditional on the Indenture Act passing through South Australia’s Parliament. And with the Greens and Opposition poring over the details, that progression is far from assured.
The Indenture Agreement does have some significant changes. BHP Billiton is granted freehold over the expanded mining lease, but the Olympic Dam mine will be subject to the Environmental Protection Act, where it wasn’t previously.
The company will also now be levied for water extracted from the Great Artesian Basin; water it used to get for free….
 it [the Government report] should be in the public domain; it’s a report prepared by a publicly owned scientific organisation, surely we’re entitled to know what information the Government is basing its approval process.
BHP Billiton step closer to Olympic Dam expansion, ABC News October 12, 2011 BRENDAN TREMBATH:BHP Billiton is a big step closer to expanding its huge Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine in South Australia.

The company has signed a preliminary agreement with the state’s Premier Mike Rann. BHP Billiton now has a year to reach a final investment decision. Mr Rann says today will go down in history.

But the Opposition says he has compromised important negotiations. Nance Haxton reports. Continue reading

October 13, 2011 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, South Australia, uranium | | Leave a comment

Never mind Australia’s nuclear non-proliferation policy – Ferguson, Minister For The Uranium Industry is out to sabotage it

‘Opening up uranium sales to India would fuel the nuclear arms race under way between India and Pakistan, which has potentially catastrophic consequences,” ICAN’s Australian director, Tim Wright, said yesterday. ”The threat of a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan is real. Selling uranium to India runs counter to Australia’s own security interests, and makes a mockery of its stated commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons.”

The briefing note was written after Mr Ferguson met Indian Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna in January…

The note was dated February 7, three days before The Age revealed a cable leaked to WikiLeaks that asserted Mr Ferguson had told the United States embassy in Canberra that a deal to supply India with nuclear fuel could be reached within three to five years.

Australia, India in talks over uranium sale, The Age, Michael Gordon, October 13, 2011 AUSTRALIA and India have already begun a ”dialogue” that is likely to canvass the sale of uranium to the nuclear-armed nation if Labor dumps its opposition to the trade at the party’s national conference in December.

A confidential briefing note to Resources Minister Martin Ferguson in February says the dialogue ”may prove a useful avenue to communicate any policy shifts on the issue” of uranium exports, which are banned to India under existing government and ALP policy. Continue reading

October 13, 2011 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, uranium | Leave a comment

With Diesel rebates, BHP’s Olympic Dam Royalties likely to return poorly to South Australian Government

 Mike Rann has claimed that the new open-pit mine will be his “economic legacy to the state.” However, a consideration of the financial return to BHP through diesel rebates alone indicates that this legacy may be somewhat overstated…

 BHP stands to gain $128 million per year in diesel rebates in the initial development period of the mine, $144 million per year in the intermediate stage, and $178 million per year at full production.

Public resources for private profit: free water for the largest open-pit mine in the world  Coober Pedy Regional Times, by: Nectaria Calan, 13 Oct 11,  “………With approval of the new mine announced on Monday, the next stage of the approval process is the negotiation of a new Indenture Act which will apply to the new mine. It is expected that the revised Act will be introduced into the South Australian parliament next week, given Mike Rann’s commitment to finalising the indenture agreement  before his retirement on October 20.

It is within the power of the South Australian government to negotiate a substantially different indenture agreement, or to repeal the Indenture Act completely.  Continue reading

October 13, 2011 Posted by | business, Olympic Dam, reference, South Australia, uranium | , | Leave a comment

Nuclear lobby’s poster boy “New Generation” reactor has more troubles

Completion of Finnish pressurized nuclear reactor now delayed by 5 years until 2014 Washington Post, By Associated Press,  October 12 HELSINKI — Finnish utility TVO says the completion of the country’s fifth nuclear reactor will be further delayed and the company does not expect it to go online until 2014.

TVO says the Areva-Siemens consortium responsible for its construction has informed it of delays in the development of the plant’s instrumentation and control system. Also, piping and electrical installation have taken longer than estimated.

Wednesday’s announcement means the sixth delay at Olkiluoto 3 site, plagued by faulty materials and planning problems since construction began in 2005. The plant was to be online by 2009.

The 1,600-megawatt reactor plant was to be the continent’s first European Pressurized Reactor, planned to eventually replace aging reactors worldwide…

October 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment