Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Reflecting on 2017 in the Australian nuclear-free movement

DAVE SWEENEY | Nuclear Free Campaigner, Australian Conservation Foundation | www.acf.org.au  | @AusConservation

A note to reflect on 2017 which has seen the Australian nuclear free community restrict uranium exports, derail plans for a global high level radioactive waste dump and help advance an international initiative to abolish nuclear weapons and receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Not too shabby!

The end of the calendar year provides a pause to welcome the entrance of new life and to mark and mourn the passing of old.

It is also a time to reflect on our collective efforts and achievements – the below observations are by no means comprehensive but my sense of gratitude, solidarity and respect is.

With all best wish for a refreshing and recharging break.

I look forward to seeing and working with you in season 18,

Uranium:

 A big year of activity that has seen the industry further contested and constrained.

In March the WA state election saw the defeat of the aggressively pro-nuclear Barnett government. WA Labor were elected with a strong no uranium policy but have disappointingly failed to clearly implement this and are allowing four projects to continue to be advanced. All projects remain the focus of community concern and active opposition. The WA Conservation Council and Traditional Owners have taken Supreme Court action to oppose the approval of Cameco’s Yeelirrie project with a decision expected in the first quarter of 2018 and pressure is growing on Vimy Resources, the most enthusiastic uranium hopeful. There are no commercial uranium operations in the West and any wannabe miners face a very tough road.

In November Queensland Labor were returned to government with a strong anti-uranium position and the door remains tightly shut on the uranium sector in the sunshine state.

In the NT further assessment is under way about rehabilitation and clean up options for the contaminated Rum Jungle site and issues around the closure and rehabilitation of the heavily impacted Ranger mine site on Mirarr land in Kakadu moved to centre stage. The era of uranium mining in Kakadu is over: Jabiluka is stopped and stalled, Koongarra is finally and formally part of Kakadu National Park and Ranger has stopped mining and is in the final days of mineral processing. The challenge now is a massive one – to help ensure that the NT and federal governments and Rio Tinto have the commitment, competence and capacity to clean up, exit and transition in the most credible and effective way.

South Australia remains the nations sole uranium mining state but even the pro-nuclear Royal Commission found that there was no justification for increased mining. The global uranium market remains over-supplied and the commodity price remains deeply depressed. Our planets energy future is renewable, not radioactive and Australia is ripping and shipping less uranium oxide each year. In contrast to the continuing column inches and Mineral Council of Australia drumbeats – the market and the community both continue to have little confidence in, or time for, the uranium sector.

International radioactive waste:

 One of the best news stories of 2018 was the declaration in June that the plan to ship, store and ultimately bury one-third of the world’s high level radioactive waste into South Australia was dead’.

This result is a massive tribute to the sustained efforts, action and advocacy of so many – especially SA Aboriginal communities and representatives who spearheaded the community resistance. The result is also a real validation of the potency of people power over poisoned power. There was deep and well-resourced political, corporate, media and institutional support for the dump plan and this was stopped by the little people stepping up and doing big things. This result has significant international implications as the absence of an Australian based ‘disposal pathway’ makes it harder for aging reactors overseas to gain license extensions.

This is the second time in as many decades that the Australian community has successfully opposed plans to open a global high level radioactive waste dump with Pangea Resources seeking to advance a plan in WA in the late 1990’s. Some of the same players then were also behind the recent SA push and, like liberty, the price of keeping Australia free from being a global dumping ground is eternal vigilance.

National radioactive waste:

The federal government continues to lurch along an increasingly dry gully in its search to find a site to develop a national radioactive waste dump and store. Three sites in South Australia – one in the Flinders Ranges and two near Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula – remain the focus. All sites are strongly contested by large numbers of locals and in the Flinders Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners are continuing to lead the campaign. There has been lots of activity with publications, films, songs, exhibitions, rallies, actions, speaking tours, gatherings, public meetings, media events, Canberra trips and much more.

The government faces a set of sustained and significant procedural and community roadblocks in advancing this plan. It has had its eyes off the ball and been playing musical chairs over Ministerial responsibility – the song has now stopped with Matt Canavan in the hot seat. A growing range of groups are advocating a revised approach to responsible waste management based on extended interim storage at the two federal sites where 95% of the waste is currently stored and a detailed examination of the full range of future management options, not simply a search for a remote postcode. Hardly rocket science and set to be an area of key movement focus in 2018.

Nuclear weapons abolition:

Viva ICAN!

Against a backdrop of increasing global nuclear tensions an Australian born initiative has provided hope and a pathway to peace. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was formed in Melbourne a decade ago and ICAN was behind the UN’s adoption of a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons earlier this year. The treaty seeks to make nuclear weapons illegal and to challenge and change the ways these weapons are viewed and valued. It is our shared planets best chance to get rid of our worst weapons. In October ICAN was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its efforts. Surreal, timely and important. In 2018 work will continue to grow the treaty, including pressuring Australia to sign and ratify.

Along with ICAN’s Nobel there was other external recognition and acknowledgement of the efforts of Australian nuclear free work in 2017 including WA’s Judy Blyth’s commendation in ACF’s Rawlinson Award, respected and beloved Yankunytjatajara elder and prominent anti-nuclear and land rights campaigner Yami Lester was posthumously awarded a SA Environment Award lifetime achievement and the makers of the remarkable Collisions virtual reality film telling a key part of the Martu story won an Emmy Award. And more….congratulations to all.

Of course most of our work is not seeking and does not receive awards. It is done to move Australia away from fuelling and facilitating a trade that disrespects and endangers community and country today and far into the future. It is profound and pivotal – and it is making a real and demonstrable difference and I am proud to work and travel alongside you in this continuing journey.

 

 

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December 30, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Opposition to nuclear, politics

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