Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

South Australia’s Nullarbor Plain – a wasteland for nuclear wastes?

At Woomera, I go to look at the grave monuments in the cemetery on the hill outside the town. There are multiple still births and infant deaths, often in the same family. People don’t like to talk about it, but there are stories of women wailing in the streets, driven by unassuagable grief. A local urban myth held that if a pregnant woman stood on the hill facing Maralinga during a bomb test, the sex of the foetus would be revealed in x-ray silhouette……….

This land is already a nuclear waste dump. The locations and proposals change, but the same apparent “emptiness” that brought rockets, nuclear tests and detention centres now attracts commercial interest in storing nuclear waste from other nations. It’s the end of a cycle that starts with the mining and export of Australian uranium. The redistribution of uranium is a very Anthropocene process, part of the dismantling and reassembling of the planet.

Friday essay: trace fossils – the silence of Ediacara, the shadow of uranium, The Conversation, Senior Lecturer in archaeology and space studies, Flinders University , February 3, 2017 As an archaeologist working in the remote areas around Woomera and the Nullarbor Plain, my understanding of South Australia was first informed by rocks and soil. This was a landscape of fossils and trace fossils – the preserved impressions left by the passage of a living body through sediment – jostling for attention. On this land surface, SA presents an arc extending from the “death mask” fossils of early multicellular life to the human leap into the solar system. Sure, you might say, this could be said of other locations on Earth. But here it seems laid bare for any who can read the distinctive pattern of signs.

woomera-island-lagoon

This was once a shoreline in a silent world. ……..
The fossilised fronds and pancake worms of the fauna from theEdiacaran geological period (635–542 million years ago) are now on display at the South Australian Museum. ……..
Aboriginal people would have noted but passed over the sedimentary rocks that preserved the Ediacara fauna. Instead, they searched for chalcedonychert, and silcrete. With an understanding of how these stones fracture, you can make a cutting edge sharper and more sterile than a metal surgical blade. Glassy veins of such stone, nacreous in their own way, occur throughout the Nullarbor plain…….
Uranium and rockets   In 1946, ………. men from the Army’s Survey Corps were on the gibber plains around Mount Eba, mapping an area the size of England to enclose a rocket test range. The Anglo-Australian Joint Project was established to develop weapons for Britain……..

 

Senior British military personnel took a flight to see the proposed area for themselves. …….The Australian author Ivan Southall described this view later in 1962:

Here it was, one of the greatest stretches of uninhabited wasteland on earth, created by God specifically for rockets.

Hidden in plain sight   Aboriginal people became a trace fossil in the land deemed empty – hidden in plain sight. KokathaPitjantjatjaraAdnyamathanha and Barngarla people lived on missions around the state, and gathered in coastal towns that offered them the employment that the rocket range had promised but didn’t deliver…….

From 1956 to 1963, Australia supported Britain in a series of nuclear tests at two locations outside Woomera’s perimeter, Maralinga and Emu Field. Southall visited Emu Field in 1962 where

sprayed with yellow paint, and silent in the sand, are abandoned trucks and jeeps and weapons once too hot to handle. There, near the bomb towers that vanished, the very surface of the desert has become as glass…….

The resonances of these tests aren’t fading any time soon. Generations of Aboriginal people and white Australians still suffer the effects of exposure to radiation. The shadows of the radioactive fallout – the “black mist”, as many Aboriginal people call it – are almost inescapable when you travel west in this state.

At Woomera, I go to look at the grave monuments in the cemetery on the hill outside the town. There are multiple still births and infant deaths, often in the same family. People don’t like to talk about it, but there are stories of women wailing in the streets, driven by unassuagable grief. A local urban myth held that if a pregnant woman stood on the hill facing Maralinga during a bomb test, the sex of the foetus would be revealed in x-ray silhouette……….

This land is already a nuclear waste dump. The locations and proposals change, but the same apparent “emptiness” that brought rockets, nuclear tests and detention centres now attracts commercial interest in storing nuclear waste from other nations. It’s the end of a cycle that starts with the mining and export of Australian uranium. The redistribution of uranium is a very Anthropocene process, part of the dismantling and reassembling of the planet.

In the end it will all be buried, all become an archaeological site. Long after the molecular structure of the human-made materials has broken down, the uranium and plutonium will still be decaying. Future archaeologists may find it difficult to determine if these radioactive deposits are natural or cultural. Maybe the distinction will be irrelevant.  https://theconversation.com/friday-essay-trace-fossils-the-silence-of-ediacara-the-shadow-of-uranium-72058

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February 3, 2017 - Posted by | environment, South Australia

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