Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Uranium tailings at Olympic Dam – radioactive for at least 10,000 years- must be SAFELY managed!

Initial Scoping – Olympic Dam Expansion Issues 22 Feb 2019 David Noonan B.Sc., M.Env.St., Independent Environment Campaigner“……….Radioactive Tailings Management

The 1982 Indenture places an onus on the SA Gov. to grant approvals on terms to facilitate mining.

Roxby Tailings Storage Facilities are to be covered and ‘disposed’ above-ground as final landforms.

Civil society must not accept continued downgrade of standards in Roxby uranium mine expansions.

A full comprehensive safety assessment to determine long term risks from radioactive tailings must be a core required part of this assessment AND apply the 1999 standards set at Ranger mine.

The most recent assessment of Radioactive Tailings Management at Roxby granted Federal and SA Gov. Approvals (Nov 2011) to vastly increase tailings production (from the now lapsed open pit mine proposal) prior to actually carrying out this type of safety study on the long term risks from tailings.

The 2011 Roxby Approvals downgraded the key 1999 standards applied to Ranger uranium mine.

Instead of Federal Gov. required final disposal of tailings (in to a pit) “in such a way to ensure that:

  1. i)The tailings are physically isolated from the environment for at least 10,000 years;
  2. ii) ii) Any contaminants arising from the tailings will not result in any detrimental environmental impact for at least 10,000 years;” Olympic Dam Condition 32 Mine Closure (Nov 2011) defers a Mine Closure Plan and only applies unstated environmental outcomes: “that will be achieved indefinitely post mine closure”, and:

“c. contain a comprehensive safety assessment to determine long term (from closure to in the order of 10,000) risk to the public and the environment from the Tailings Storage Facility and Rock Storage Facility.”

Requiring outcomes to “be achieved indefinitely” does recognise that tailings risks are perpetual.

However, rather than specific high standards of outcome set at Ranger for at least 10,000 years, this 2011 approval has unstated outcomes and only references 10,000 yrs as a period of modelling study.

 In April 2013 Condition 32 was amended to further defer the safety risk assessment, from “within two years of the date of the approval”, to: “prior to the construction of the Tailings Storage Facility”.

 A “No Uranium Recovery” alternative leaves all uranium & associated radioactive decay products in the tails. Roxby mine extracts approx. 2/3 of the uranium from the ore, with 1/3 left in the tailings.

In current mining practice, tailings retain some 90 per cent of the radioactivity in the ore (given the decay product radionuclides remain, thorium & radium ect). Deporting all uranium to the tails doesn’t affect the public interest requirement, in any case, to isolate tailings for over 10,000 years.

 Note: BHP “Tailings Facility Update” (19 Feb 2019) claims a review shows “no significant deficiencies” at Olympic Dam Tailings Storage Facilities and says: “BHP supports calls for greater transparency in tailings management disclosure”. The BHP “Dams and Tailings Management” page cites “establishment of independent Tailings Stewardship Boards to undertake reviews”, and says: “A trial of the stewardship program has been completed at our Olympic Dam asset in SA”. https://nuclear.foe.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Noonan-Olympic-Dam-Expansion-2019.pdf

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March 9, 2019 - Posted by | politics, South Australia, uranium

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