Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

‘It makes us sick’: remote NT community wants answers about uranium in its water supply


‘It makes us sick’: remote NT community wants answers about uranium in its water supply,  
Laramba’s Indigenous residents fear they are at risk of long-term illness and say they need to know who is responsible for fixing the problem, Guardian, by Royce Kurmelovs and Isabella Moore, Mon 18 Oct 2021,

Jack Cool is looking to hitch a lift out of town.

The 71-year-old former stockman has lived in Laramba, a remote Indigenous community in the Northern Territory, for most of his life

Since his partner, Jennifer, 57, and his youngest daughter, Petrina, 35, started kidney dialysis at the end of last year, he has been trying to make the two-and-a-half hour trip south into Alice Springs whenever he can.

Cool, who also takes medication for kidney issues, says he doesn’t know why this has happened to his family but he thinks it has something to do with the water.

“When we drink the water it makes us sick,” he says.

Problems with Laramba’s water supply have been known since at least 2008 but the scale of the issue was not revealed until 2018, when testing by the government-owned utility company Power and Water Corporation (PWC) found drinking water in the community of 350 people was contaminated with concentrations of uranium at 0.046mg/L.

That is nearly three times the limit of 0.017mg/L recommended in the Australian drinking water guidelines published by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Follow-up testing in 2020 found the problem was getting worse as uranium concentrations – which occur naturally in the area – had risen to 0.052mg/L, and the water also contained contaminants such as nitrate and silica.

A stream of conflicting advice

Prof Paul Lawton, a kidney specialist with the Menzies School of Health Research who has been working in the Territory since 1999, says there is no good evidence to say for sure whether the water at Laramba is safe to drink…….

Assoc Prof Tilman Ruff from the Nossal Institute for Global Health at the University of Melbourne says uranium contamination also delivers “relatively low but relatively frequent doses” of radiation

“The overall consequences from a radioactive point of view is that this will widely dispose in the body and organs, and will contribute to a long-term risk of cancer,” Ruff says.

Because children are particularly vulnerable, with girls 40% more likely than boys to be affected over their lifetime, Ruff says there is “no good amount of radiation”.

Though there are still many unknowns, authorities elsewhere have addressed similar situations by acting with caution. In Eton, Queensland, a bore supplying the community was turned off when concerning concentrations of uranium were found in the water supply……….

A permanent holding pattern’

Laramba is just one of many among the 72 remote Indigenous communities in the Territory whose water is contaminated with bacteria or heavy metals.

This year the NT government promised $28m over four years to find “tailored” solutions for 10 towns, including Laramba, after a campaign by four land councils for laws to guarantee safe drinking water across the territory.

Asked what was being done to fix the problem, a spokesperson for PWC directed Guardian Australia to sections of the company’s latest drinking water quality report that discuss pilot programs for “new and emerging” technologies to “potentially” clean water of uranium and other heavy metals……….

What little information that is available has filtered through in the media or highly technical language that many people, for whom English is a second language, can’t understand.

In the meantime both men say several people, including some in their own families, have been diagnosed with kidney problems or cancer.

“We have to drink, so we are drinking it,” Hagan says. “We don’t know anything about $28m. We’re still here drinking the same water. Nothing’s changed.”

The co-director of the Environment Centre NT, Kirsty Howey, says communities such as Laramba have been left in a “permanent holding pattern” and the lack of engagement is a “feature of a flawed system”.

Boiling point

Andy Attack, a non-Indigenous man who runs the Laramba general store, says in the three years he has lived there he has noticed a change in the community.

“People here are just so respectful and polite and calm,” he says. “The water is something that makes them really angry, and they don’t like being angry. It’s not nice seeing them like that.”

Attack says the first thing he was told when he moved to Laramba was not to drink the water. He installed reverse osmosis filters normally used in hospitals, which cost $130 a year to maintain, on the taps in his house.

Those who can’t afford such sums must either rely on rainwater or buy expensive 10L casks. ……….https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/oct/18/uranium-in-the-water-remote-nt-community-wants-answers-about-safety

October 18, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, health, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Maralinga nuclear bomb tests – British and Australian governments’ callous cruelty to First Nations people.

Australia’s Chernobyl: The British carried out nuclear tests on Indigenous land. It will never heal.   https://www.mamamia.com.au/maralinga-nuclear-testing/ CHELSEA MCLAUGHLIN, JULY 5, 2021  For tens of thousands of years, the Aṉangu people lived on the warm, red earth of their country.

The land provided them with food, water and shelter as they travelled around an area we now know as outback Far North South Australia.

But after colonisation, they were moved off their land: forcibly removed, sent into missions across the region and displaced by train lines linking Australia’s east and west that impacted their water supply. 

Much of the information around the tests was highly classified, and some information remains so.

For tens of thousands of years, the Aṉangu people lived on the warm, red earth of their country.

The land provided them with food, water and shelter as they travelled around an area we now know as outback Far North South Australia.

But after colonisation, they were moved off their land: forcibly removed, sent into missions across the region and displaced by train lines linking Australia’s east and west that impacted their water supply. 

Much of the information around the tests was highly classified, and some information remains so.

Thirty per cent of the British and Australian servicemen who were exposed during these tests died of cancer, though a Royal Commission in 1984 was not able to reach a conclusion linking their health issues directly to the blasts. 

Similarly, many locals died prematurely, went blind and suffered from illness that may have been linked to radiation.

British nuclear scientists, wanting to determine the long-term effects of the tests on Australia and its citizens, ordered the testing of dead Australian infants and children for radiation contamination.

Between 1957 and 1978 in hospitals around Australia, bones were secretly removed from 21,830 bodies. They were reduced to ash and sent away to be analysed for the presence of Strontium 90, a radioactive isotope produced by nuclear fission.

Unsurprisingly, none of the First Nations people of the region were told about the tests and many of the bones were taken without permission.

Associate professor Liz Tynan, the author of Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story, told Mamamia‘s The Quicky First Nations people were still in the area during the periods of testing, and this led to disastrous consequences.

Tynan said the Milpuddie family – Charlie, Edie, two kids and their dogs – were found by British service personnel in 1957, camped on the crater left by the bomb Marcoo soon after it had been detonated. 

They were rounded up and most of the family, not Edie, but most of them, were given showers. Edie didn’t wish to have a shower,” Tynan explained.

“They were tested for radioactivity and the geiger counters did detect radioactivity, particularly on the young boy Henry. Anyway, there were rather insensitively treated I suppose, given showers, had clothes put on them and then take off down south to a mission.”

Their dogs were shot in front of them. Edie was pregnant at the time, and she later lost her child.

“It was a tragic story and indicative of the callous approach to Indigenous people that was displayed by both the British government and their officials that were conducting the tests, and by the Australian government as well,” Tynan said.

Following the testing, many Aṉangu people returned to the area, but the lands that had previously sustained and protected them were now poison.

We still don’t know the truth impact of the bombs at Maralinga, as well as nearby Emu Fields and the Montebello Islands off the coast of Western Australia.

“The South Australian Department of Health commissioned a fairly extensive study, [but] that study was hampered by the fact there was no base-line data from which to understand the general health of the population before the tests,” Tynan said.

The study did show an increase in various cancers, but most of the findings were inconclusive due to a lack of information. Indigenous Australians were not counted in the census at the time and there was very little known about the health of the populations.

In 1964, a limited cleanup of the Maralinga site, named ‘Operation Hercules’, took place. 

A year after a 1966 survey into the level of contamination at the site, a second clean-up titled ‘Operation Brumby’ filled 21 pits with contaminated equipment and covered them with 650 tonnes of concrete.

Tynan said it was later found the survey data was drastically wrong, and the contamination was 10 times worse than thought.

It wasn’t until decades later, with the help whistleblowers and scientists, that the government began to realise the true, horrifying extent of the damage done to the land at Maralinga.

Under an agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and Australia in 1995, another clean-up took place. And while this was more thorough than the previous, it still came with issues.

Whistleblower Alan Parkinson, who wrote the 2007 book Maralinga: Australia’s Nuclear Waste Cover-up, exposed the unsatisfactory methods.

The plan had been to treat several thousand tonnes of debris contaminated with plutonium by a process called situ vitrification. Against the advice of Parkinson, the government extended the contract of the project manager, even though that company had no knowledge of the complex process of vitrification.

Parkinson was let go from the project.

The government and the project manager then embarked on a hybrid scheme in which some pits would be exhumed and others treated by vitrification. After successfully treating 12 pits, the 13th exploded and severely damaged the equipment. The government then cancelled the vitrification and simply exhumed the remaining pits, placed the debris in a shallow pit and covered it with clean soil.

Parkinson told The Quicky another, complete clean-up of Maralinga could take place, but it was unlikely because of the cost and the courage it would take to admit the previous attempts were insufficient.

Around the same time as the 90s clean up was the Australian government push for a nuclear waste dump to be located nearby. 

Fearing even further poisoning of their country, First Nations woman Eileen Wani Wingfield co-founded the Coober Pedy Women’s Council to campaign against the proposal.

The plan was eventually abandoned, but has popped up again in many forms over the decades. Currently, the Coalition is amending a bill that could see a site set up near Kimba.

Glen Wingfield, Eileen’s son, has spent his life working and learning from his parents’ tireless campaign for protection of their country.

The theme of NAIDOC Week 2021 is Heal Country! but as Wingfield told The Quicky, much of the Aṉangu lands in and around Maralinga are beyond healing.

“A lot of the Aboriginal communities that live in and around that area, they just will not and do not go back near that country. I think that’s a word, healing, that we can’t use in the same sentence with that area.”

Tynan agreed, saying there are parts of the area that will be uninhabitable for a quarter of a million years.

“There are parts of the site that you can’t go to, that are still very dangerous,” she said.

“The real problem at Maralinga was the plutonium which was detonated in a series of trials… The particular type of plutonium they used, plutonium 239, has a half-life of 21,400 years which takes hundreds of thousands of years for that radioactivity to diminish.”

Wingfield said the broken connection between these people and their lands is “just downright disgraceful and horrible”.

“No amount of conversation will ever cover what’s been done for people in and around. The lasting effects of health issues on people have been passed through people who were there to generational abnormalities… I think when you talk compensation and stuff, I don’t think we’ll ever get close.”

July 5, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, environment, health, history, personal stories, reference, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Remote communities affected by uranium in drinking water


Uranium in Australian Drinking Water Snapshot,
Friends of the Earth Australia, JUN 12, 2021

THOUSANDS OF REMOTE RESIDENTS EXPOSED TO LEVELS OF URANIUM ABOVE GUIDELINE LEVELS.   The recently published WA Auditor Report “Delivering Essential Services to Remote Aboriginal Communities” has raised more concerns regarding water quality in remote Aboriginal communities in three regions of Western Australia: The Goldfields, the Pilbara and Kimberleys……….

Uranium is a radioactive heavy metal where exposure has been associated with kidney damage. Uranium has also been linked to reproductive problems and DNA damage.

Impacted Western Australian communities

The total number of WA remote residents impacted by uranium above guideline levels in drinking water probably now totals around 500 people (with perhaps an additional 500 – 1000 people in the Northern Territory). There have also been hundreds more people in Queensland and New South Wales exposed to relatively high levels of uranium in their drinking water over the past few years. The majority of people impacted will be Aboriginal.

Uranium in drinking water can be difficult to treat if no alternative supplies can be found. The source of the uranium in impacted communities is sourced from local geological formations and groundwater………

Uranium breaches were confined to four communities in the Pilbara in 2018/20: Pia Wadjari (8), Burringurrah (5), Parngurr (3) and Kiwikurra (1). Crocodile Hole in the Kimberley also reported one breach. …..

Despite problems in Western Australia, the Northern Territory also continues to suffer from uranium in drinking water in a number of communities. Chronic breaches have occurred in 3 communities, Laramba, Willowra and Wilora over the past decade and probably much longer.

The three communities where uranium levels consistently exceed Australian drinking water guidelines in the Northern Territory. Laramba residents have most likely been exposed to uranium at levels 2-3 times higher than the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines for many years. The highest recorded levels at Laramba each year also appear to be increasing……

Uranium in drinking water has also recently occurred in three Queensland communities. The highest levels were detected in January 2021 at Dajarra (population 200 located 1000km west of Mackay) in western Queensland at 0.046mg/L, almost three times higher than the safe guideline…….

In October 2016 uranium above guideline levels was also detected in the New South Wales communities of Kootingal, Moonbi and Bendemeer. Tamworth Regional Council apologised for the “oversight”, which had left residents’ drinking water with high levels of uranium for at least two years…..

Radionuclides or radiating emitting elements in drinking water (breaching 1mSv/yr) over the past decade or so have included the communities Kings Canyon, Alice Springs, Borroloola and Binjari in the NT. The Victorian community of Goorambat also recorded levels of Alpha activity for radionuclides over guideline levels in 2012/13.

Wilmington SA, had radon (a radioactive gas produced from decay of radium 226 in soil and minerals) detected in the community above guideline levels of 500Bq/L in October 2018. In South Australia uranium guidelines were breached at Saltia Creek (October 2019) and Woolshed Creek over 2016/17, however at both of these locations water is deemed to be non-potable.

Existing and “Decommissioned” uranium mines also continue to leach radioactive water into the environment and will continue to do so for thousands of years. BHP’s Olympic Dam mine has a history including seepage from tailing impoundments into underlying groundwater. Ranger Uranium Mine (where toxic tailings are currently being dumped into pits) has leached contamination into Kakadu National Park, Rum Jungle uranium mine (1954-71) caused Acid Mine Drainage pollution to the East Finniss River where 640,000 tonnes of tailings were discharged damaging 100sqkm of floodplains. Mary Kathleen Mine and Ben Lomond Mine in Queensland have also caused downstream pollution. Anyone downstream of these leaking mine sites could also be jeopardised through exposure to waterways downstream of the mines. Nuclear blasts at Maralinga and Emu Field in the 1950’s also lead widespread contamination of Australia through nuclear fallout, including drinking water reservoirs and water tanks.  https://www.foe.org.au/uranium_in_australian_drinking_water_snapshot

June 14, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, health, uranium | Leave a comment

Tough environmental regulation brings economic benefits. Australia lags behind all OECD countries

Using the example nations – Australia, Germany, United States and United Kingdom – against the OECD average, Denmark had the highest and Germany the second-highest average score over the 17 years of all 22 OECD countries (see

And Australia had the worst.

TOUGHER ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES CAN CREATE ECONOMIC WINNERS

There seems to be a working assumption that if Australia adopts tougher environmental policies, our economic growth will be undermined. But new research finds the opposite is true , Pursuit, By Dr Ou Yang, University of Melbourne  31 May 21, No longer concerns for a distant future, climate change and environmental degradation are an urgent challenge facing the planet. And they’re happening now.

According to the 2019 United Nations Climate Change report, between 1990 and 2016, global aggregate greenhouse gas emissions increased by 46.7 per cent. In 2018, the global mean temperature had risen about 1°C above the pre-industrial baseline.

As the US and EU move forward with their green recovery, there was little talk of the climate crisis or the environment in Australia’s 2021 Federal budget.

While Australia’s largest trading partners make bigger and bolder commitments to decarbonisation and use their COVID-19 recovery budgets to maximise the opportunity to boost a clean energy transition, the Australian government has committed to a gas-fired recovery over a green one, pouring billions into fossil fuel projects.


Instead of adopting a wide range of more effective and efficient environmental policies, like price and tax mechanisms, the government has pinned its hopes on a low-emissions technology plan.

The Morrison government’s increasing support for fossil fuel projects seems to have some elements in common with former US president Donald Trump’s 2020 Executive Order which allowed US federal agencies to bypass environmental protection laws and fast-track pipeline, highway and other infrastructure projects.

Trump declared regulatory delays would hinder “our economic recovery from the national emergency”.

Likewise, in 2017, Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement for international climate action for the same reason. The Agreement, he said, would undermine the US economy “and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world”.

All of these recent policy moves seem to be made with the notion that greater action on environmental policy harms a nation’s productivity growth. But experts like Australian economist Ross Garnaut argue that taking greater action on climate change now could actually benefit our economy in the long run.

And this is a position our recently published research supports.

Our study looked at the environmental policies of 22 countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), alongside their productivity growth, finding some positive evidence of the economic effect of environmental policies.

Using the OECD’s Environmental Stringency Policy Index, we rated each nations’ environmental policies including Australia and the US, between 1990 and 2007, in order to investigate the impact of greater environmental policy actions on a nation’s productivity.

These policies include taxes on carbon and subsidies for renewable energy, as well as regulations like limits on sulphur content in diesel.

The model we used is flexible enough to capture country-specific effects of taking greater environmental action on a nation’s productivity growth.

We can also identify the causal impact of environmental policies on productivity by exploiting the time-series variation within each country, which basically measures the movements of productivity caused by changes in policy stringency.

Our research, published in Energy Economics looking at 22 OECD countries, found that all of this group had gradually tightened their environmental regulation between 1990 and 2007.

Using the example nations – Australia, Germany, United States and United Kingdom – against the OECD average, Denmark had the highest and Germany the second-highest average score over the 17 years of all 22 OECD countries (see Figure 1 on original).

And Australia had the worst.

By examining short and long-term effects, our results show that while environmental regulations do increase the cost of production initially – for example, a carbon tax makes coal more expensive, which increases the costs of metal production – adopting tighter environmental policies boosts a country’s productivity in the long run.

This positive effect is more noticeable in countries that showed leadership on environmental protection and adopted tougher environmental policies.

According to our estimates, during the 17-year sample period, if an average OECD country had increased the stringency of its environmental policies by one unit, its annual productivity growth rate in three years’ time would have increased by about 0.71 percentage points from -0.09 per cent to 0.62 per cent………….

Our findings show that while there might be a short-term hike in cost, countries whose governments implement strong environmental regulations reap the productivity – and economic growth – rewards in the long term.  https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/tougher-environmental-policies-can-create-economic-winners

June 1, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

Environmentalists and Aboriginal traditional owners object to rocket launching on South Australian protected heritage land, at Whaler’s Way.

Rocket launching proposals worry traditional owners, environmentalists, but company committed to holistic care of the land, ABC Eyre Peninsula / By Evelyn Leckie 28 May 21,  Popular South Australian tourist spot Whalers Way could become the site of three test rocket launches later this year, causing concern among some environmentalists and traditional owners.

Key points:

  • Traditional owners and conservationists have raised concerns about the proposed site for three rocket launches this year
  • Nature Conservation SA holds concerns over two threatened species
  • Southern Launch says it’s committed to a holistic approach to care for the area during its testing program.

SA space industry leader Southern Launch is looking to conduct test launches on privately owned land, with a view to making the area a permanent launching site in the future to send satellites into space. 

Nature Conservation Society of SA advocate Julia Peacock said the area, on the state’s rugged southern coast, wasn’t the right site to conduct test launches.

“It’s a really special conservation area,” she said.

“It’s actually specifically protected under environment legislation that’s called a heritage agreement, which means a private landholder agreement to protect that area so we would really like to see that agreement honoured.

We’re also really concerned that it is habitat for a number of species of conservation concern.”

Ms Peacock said the society was worried about threatened species in the area such as southern emu wrens and white-fronted whip birds.

“They’re very small and shy birds, so they’re quite hard to see,” she said. 

We’re concerned that we’re building an industrial facility that involves explosions that are noisy and causes vibrations —  that those species are going to be frightened.

“It’s going to change their behaviour and impact the way they want to move through this area.”

‘Let it be natural’

Nauo elder Jody Miller said there were a lot of cultural issues out at Whalers Way.

“It’s significant culturally, there are stories [out there] and we don’t want to destroy anything,” Mr Miller said. 

“If it’s just left alone, let it be natural, people can see this for the next generation — everybody’s children as well as my children.”

Holistic protection

Southern Launch CEO Lloyd Damp said the testing program would provide the chance to specifically measure what the noise effect would have on local species.

“We’re working with one of the best universities in Australia to undertake the measurements and then provide that for the environmental impact statement assessment,” Mr Damp said………..   https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-28/rocket-launching-proposals-worry-environmentalists/100173472

May 29, 2021 Posted by | environment, South Australia, technology | Leave a comment

New research highlights need for international standards to safeguard against plutonium ”hot” particles.

New study delves into issues relating to soils around Maralinga region,  https://www.portlincolntimes.com.au/story/7262167/study-shows-radioactive-particles-from-nuclear-testing-persist-at-maralinga, Luca Cetta,  

A new study has highlighted the first international standards needed to safeguard against contamination from nuclear testing, and a Kokatha Elder says the impact of nuclear testing at Maralinga cannot be forgotten.

More than 100 kilograms of highly toxic uranium and plutonium was dispersed in the form of tiny ‘hot’ radioactive particles after nuclear tests were conducted by the British in remote areas of South Australia, including Maralinga.

Scientists have new evidence these radioactive particles persist in soils to this day, more than 60 years after the detonations.

The British detonated nine nuclear bombs and conducted nuclear tests in South Australia between 1953 and 1963.

There had previously been limited understanding in how plutonium was released from the particles into the environment for uptake by wildlife around Maralinga.

The new study, published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, led by Monash University researchers, warns the hot particles are more complex and varied than previously thought.

Currently, there are no international best practice standards for the environmental impact or risk assessment of plutonium and uranium-rich hot particles released during nuclear testing.

This study provides the first mechanism for future modelling to predict the environmental life cycle of plutonium from hot particles, including how they are slowly broken down in the environment over a long period, and potentially exposed to animals and humans through inhalation, soil or ground water.

“The resulting radioactive contamination and cover-up continues to haunt us,” lead study author from Monash University’s School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment Dr Megan Cook said.

“The results of our study profoundly changes our understanding of the nature of hot particles at Maralinga – despite the fact that those were some of the best studied particles anywhere in the world.”

Sue Haseldine, who grew up in the Koonibba district in the 1950s and 1960s, has long campaigned against nuclear testing and weapons.

She has been part of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), an organisation awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, and has spoken about her experience growing up in the shadow of nuclear testing at Maralinga.

Ms Haseldine said the people in the area had long-suspected there were health issues deriving from those tests.

“Experts would tell you that radiation will not last for 60 years, nor 60,000, but for a long, long time, and it is still causing troubles today,” she said.

“The old ladies told me these cancers and illnesses were not around before the bomb and over the years I have seen the rates go up.

“There are a lot more younger people with heart problems – it is known that radiation problems can cause heart diseases – and it is coming down through the generations.”

Ms Haseldine said the testing and fallout from Maralinga was not spoken about enough and that was why her campaigning with ICAN was so important.

“It is important to let people know what the government’s legacy is to us through their testing and we have to keep the past alive to protect the future, so they don’t do it to future generations,” she said.

“I grew up in the Koonibba district, but the radiation didn’t just stay in the Maralinga area.”

Study co-author professor Joël Brugger said the study invited a revisit of the implications of earlier results for the fate of plutonium at Maralinga.

“Understanding the fate of hot particles in the arid environment setting of the Australian outback is critical for securing Australia in case of nuclear incidents in the region, and returning all the native land affected by the British tests to the traditional Anangu owners of the Maralinga Tjarutja lands.”

The research team used synchrotron radiation at the Diamond Light Source near Oxford in the United Kingdom to decipher the physical and chemical make-up of the particles.

At Monash, they dissected some of the hot particles using a nano-sized ion beam, and further characterised the complex make-up of these particles down to the nano-size.

“It’s a major breakthrough,” study co-author associate professor Vanessa Wong said.

“Our observations of the hot particles from Maralinga provide a clear explanation for the complex and variable behaviour of different hot particles with respect to the chemical and physical weathering that has hindered predictive modelling to this day.

“This study provides a mechanistic foundation for predicting the future evolution of hot particles from high-temperature nuclear events and the likely exposure pathways.”

The researchers demonstrated the complexity of the hot particles arose from the cooling of polymetallic melts from thousands of degrees Celsius in the explosion cloud during their formation.

“We found that the particles contained low-valence plutonium-uranium-carbon compounds that are typically highly reactive – which is unexpected for particles that survived for over 30 years in the environment,” corresponding author Dr Barbara Etschmann said.

May 27, 2021 Posted by | environment, South Australia, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Plutonium ”hot particles” are not as stable as we assumed. Research on contaminated landscape around Maralinga in outback South Australia

We sliced open radioactive particles from soil in South Australia and found they may be leaking plutonium  https://theconversation.com/we-sliced-open-radioactive-particles-from-soil-in-south-australia-and-found-they-may-be-leaking-plutonium-161277

Barbara Etschmann, Research officer, Monash University

Joel Brugger, Professor of Synchrotron Geosciences, Monash University

Vanessa Wong, Associate Professor, Monash University

May 21, 2021 Almost 60 years after British nuclear tests ended, radioactive particles containing plutonium and uranium still contaminate the landscape around Maralinga in outback South Australia.

These “hot particles” are not as stable as we once assumed. Our research shows they are likely releasing tiny chunks of plutonium and uranium which can be easily transported in dust and water, inhaled by humans and wildlife and taken up by plants.

A British nuclear playground

After the US atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, other nations raced to build their own nuclear weapons. Britain was looking for locations to conduct its tests. When it approached the Australian government in the early 1950s, Australia was only too eager to agree.

Between 1952 and 1963, Britain detonated 12 nuclear bombs in Australia. There were three in the Montebello Islands off Western Australia, but most were in outback South Australia: two at Emu Field and seven at Maralinga.

Besides the full-scale nuclear detonations, there were hundreds of “subcritical” trials designed to test the performance and safety of nuclear weapons and their components. These trials usually involved blowing up nuclear devices with conventional explosives, or setting them on fire.

The subcritical tests released radioactive materials. The Vixen B trials alone (at the Taranaki test site at Maralinga) spread 22.2 kilograms of plutonium and more than 40 kilograms of uranium across the arid landscape. For comparison, the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki contained 6.4 kilograms of plutonium, while the one dropped on Hiroshima held 64 kilograms of uranium.

These tests resulted in long-lasting radioactive contamination of the environment. The full extent of the contamination was only realised in 1984, before the land was returned to its traditional owners, the Maralinga Tjarutja people.

Hot potatoes

Despite numerous cleanup efforts, residual plutonium and uranium remains at Maralinga. Most is present in the form of “hot particles”. These are tiny radioactive grains (much smaller than a millimetre) dispersed in the soil.

Plutonium is a radioactive element mostly made by humans, and the weapons-grade plutonium used in the British nuclear tests has a half life of 24,100 years. This means even 24,100 years after the Vixen B trials that ended in 1963, there will still be almost two Nagasaki bombs worth of plutonium spread around the Taranaki test site.

Plutonium emits alpha radiation that can damage DNA if it enters a body through eating, drinking or breathing.

In their original state, the plutonium and uranium particles are rather inactive. However, over time, when exposed to atmosphere, water, or microbes, they may weather and release plutonium and uranium in dust or rainstorms.

Until recently, we knew little about the internal makeup of these hot particles. This makes it very hard to accurately assess the environmental and health risks they pose.

Monash PhD student Megan Cook (the lead author on our new paper) took on this challenge. Her research aimed to identify how plutonium was deposited as it was carried by atmospheric currents following the nuclear tests (some of it travelled as far as Queensland!), the characteristics of the plutonium hot particles when they landed, and potential movement within the soil.

Nanotechnology to the rescue

Previous studies used the super intense X-rays generated by synchrotron light sources to map the distribution and oxidation state of plutonium inside the hot particles at the micrometre scale.

To get more detail, we used X-rays from the Diamond synchrotron near Oxford in the UK, a huge machine more than half a kilometre in circumference that produces light ten billion times brighter than the Sun in a particle accelerator.

Studying how the particles absorbed X-rays revealed they contained plutonium and uranium in several different states of oxidation – which affects how reactive and toxic they are. However, when we looked at the shadows the particles cast in X-ray light (or “X-ray diffraction”), we couldn’t interpret the results without knowing more about the different chemicals inside the particles.

To find out more, we used a machine at Monash University that can slice open tiny samples with a nanometre-wide beam of high-energy ions, then analyse the elements inside and make images of the interior. This is a bit like using a lightsaber to cut a rock, only at the tiniest of scales. This revealed in exquisite detail the complex array of materials and textures inside the particles.

Much of the plutonium and uranium is distributed in tiny particles sized between a few micrometres and a few nanometres, or dissolved in iron-aluminium alloys. We also discovered a plutonium-uranium-carbon compound that would be destroyed quickly in the presence of air, but which was held stable by the metallic alloy.

This complex physical and chemical structure of the particles suggests the particles formed by the cooling of droplets of molten metal from the explosion cloud.

In the end, it took a multidisciplinary team across three continents — including soil scientists, mineralogists, physicists, mineral engineers, synchrotron scientists, microscopists, and radiochemists — to reveal the nature of the Maralinga hot particles.

From fire to dust

Our results suggest natural chemical and physical processes in the outback environment may cause the slow release of plutonium from the hot particles over the long term. This release of plutonium is likely to be contributing to ongoing uptake of plutonium by wildlife at Maralinga.

Even under the semi-arid conditions of Maralinga, the hot particles slowly break down, liberating their deadly cargo. The lessons from the Maralinga particles are not limited to outback Australia. They are also useful in understanding particles generated from dirty bombs or released during subcritical nuclear incidents.

There have been a few documented instances of such incidents. These include the B-52 accidents that resulted in the conventional detonation of thermonuclear weapons near Palomares in Spain in 1966, and Thule in Greenland in 1968, and the explosion of an armed nuclear missile and subsequent fire at the McGuire Air Force Base in the USA in 1960.

Thousands of active nuclear weapons are still held by nations around the world today. The Maralinga legacy shows the world can ill afford incidents involving nuclear particles.

May 22, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New research on the complexity of particles from plutonium resulting from British atomic bomb tests at Maralinga

Print allIn new windowPu particles from nuclear testing more complex than previously thought  https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-05/mu-ppf051821.php Plutonium particles from British nuclear testing in outback Australia more complex than previously thought, scientists warnMONASH UNIVERSITYResearch News   21 May 21

 More than 100 kg of highly toxic uranium (U) and plutonium (Pu) was dispersed in the form of tiny ‘hot’ radioactive particles after the British detonated nine atomic bombs in remote areas of South Australia, including Maralinga.Scientists say that these radioactive particles persist in soils to this day, more than 60 years after the detonations. Previously, we had limited understanding of how Pu was released from these “hot” particles into the environment for uptake by wildlife around Maralinga.

But now, a new study published today in Scientific Reports and led by Monash University researchers warns that the particles are actually more complex and varied than previously thought. This means that the processes which slowly release Pu into the environment are also much more complex and varied.

“The British detonated nine nuclear bombs and conducted hundreds of nuclear tests in outback South Australia between 1953 and 1963,” said lead study author Megan Cook, a PhD student from the Monash University School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment. “The resulting radioactive contamination and cover-up continues to haunt us.”

“The results of our study profoundly changes our understanding of the nature of hot particles at Maralinga – despite the fact that those were some of the best studied particles anywhere in the world,” said study co-author Associate Professor Vanessa Wong.

The research team used synchrotron radiation at the Diamond Light Source near Oxford, UK to decipher the physical and chemical make-up of the particles.

At Monash University they dissected some of the hot particles using a nano-sized ion beam, and further characterised the complex make-up of these particles down to the nano-size in exquisite details.

The researchers demonstrated that the complexity of the hot particles arose from the cooling of polymetallic melts from thousands of degrees Celsius in the explosion cloud during their formation.

“We found that the particles contained low-valence plutonium-uranium-carbon compounds that are typically highly reactive, yet, had been stabilised in the hot-particle matrix for nearly 60 years,” said corresponding author Dr Barbara Etschmann.

Between 1950 and 1988 alone there were more than 230 recorded nuclear weapon accidents, including at least 10 with documented release of radioactive particles into the environment. The risks of such incidents are only increasing as international treaties such as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty were cancelled.

“Understanding the fate of hot particles in the unique setting of the Australian outback is critical for securing Australia in case of nuclear incidents in the region, and returning all the native land affected by the British tests to the traditional Anangu owners of the Maralinga Tjarutja lands,” said study co-author Professor Joël Brugger.

May 22, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia has another go at cleaning up decades old pollution from old uranium mine Rum Jungle.

This is why Rum Jungle is so important: it was one of the very few mines once thought to have been rehabilitated successfully.

We got it wrong with Rum Jungle …….. Getting even a small part of modern mine rehabilitation wrong could, at worst, mean billions of tonnes of mine waste polluting for centuries.

Let’s hope we get it right this time.

The story of Rum Jungle: a Cold War-era uranium mine that’s spewed acid into the environment for decades  https://theconversation.com/the-story-of-rum-jungle-a-cold-war-era-uranium-mine-thats-spewed-acid-into-the-environment-for-decades-160871, Gavin Mudd Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering, RMIT University, May 18, 2021   

Buried in last week’s budget was money for rehabilitating the Rum Jungle uranium mine near Darwin. The exact sum was not disclosed.

Rum Jungle used to be a household name. It was Australia’s first large-scale uranium mine and supplied the US and British nuclear weapons programs during the Cold War.

Today, the mine is better known for extensively polluting the Finniss River after it closed in 1971. Despite a major rehabilitation project by the Commonwealth in the 1980s, the damage to the local environment is ongoing.

 first visited Rum Jungle in 2004, and it was a colourful mess, to say the least. Over later years, I saw it worsen. Instead of a river bed, there were salt crusts containing heavy metals and radioactive material. Pools of water were rich reds and aqua greens — hallmarks of water pollution. Healthy aquatic species were nowhere to be found, like an ecological desert.

The government’s second rehabilitation attempt is significant, as it recognises mine rehabilitation isn’t always successful, even if it appears so at first.

Rum Jungle serves as a warning: rehabilitation shouldn’t be an afterthought, but carefully planned, invested in and monitored for many, many years. Otherwise, as we’ve seen, it’ll be left up to future taxpayers to fix.

The quick and dirty history


Rum Jungle produced uranium
 from 1954 to 1971, roughly one-third of which was exported for nuclear weapons. The rest was stockpiled, and then eventually sold in 1994 to the US.

The mine was owned by the federal government, but was operated under contract by a former subsidiary of Rio Tinto. Back then, there were no meaningful environmental regulations in place for mining, especially for a military project.

The waste rock and tailings (processed ore) at Rum Jungle contains significant amounts of iron sulfide, called “pyrite”. When mining exposes the pyrite to water and oxygen, a chemical reaction occurs generating so-called “acidic mine drainage”. This drainage is rich in acid, salts, heavy metals and radioactive material (radionuclides), such as copper, zinc and uranium.

Acid drainage seeping from waste rock, plus acidic liquid waste from the process plant, caused fish and macroinvertebrates (bugs, worms, crustaceans) to die out, and riverbank vegetation to decline. By the time the mine closed in 1971, the region was a well-known ecological wasteland.

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May 20, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, reference, uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

With uranium mining closed, Kakadu ‘stagnates” during long wait for proposed federal funding.

Fears Kakadu is ‘probably going to stagnate’ during the long wait for promised federal funding, ABC
By Roxanne Fitzgerald  11 Apr 21
, The federal government has been urged to fast-track an investment worth more than $200 million it promised two years ago to revitalise the world heritage-listed Kakadu National Park.

Key points:
Kakadu National Park has been waiting two years for a pivotal federal investmentPoliticians and traditional owners fear Kakadu will ‘stagnate’ without it

A Senior Advisory Group has been established to examine the management of the park.

The Australian government has allocated only $5.4 million so far to transition Jabiru — the community in the centre of the park — from a mining town into a world-class tourism hub.

Outlined in 2019 federal budget papers, the $216.2 million was also meant to fund road upgrades, a new park visitor centre and more than $50 million in tourism infrastructure over a 10-year timeframe.The federal government’s promised spending has now grown to $276 million.

Parks Australia has blamed the COVID-19 pandemic and consultations with traditional owners for delays in approving funding………….. .
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-04-11/nt-calls-for-kakadu-investment-to-be-fast-tracked/100054140

April 11, 2021 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Australia’s part in continuing nuclear havoc in Pacific islands – legacy of atomic bomb tests

75 years after nuclear testing in the Pacific began, the fallout continues to wreak havoc    https://theconversation.com/75-years-after-nuclear-testing-in-the-pacific-began-the-fallout-continues-to-wreak-havoc-158208?fbclid=IwAR3q9QJvy507ds2kD0ibOvkD6ZzxFqgGjfHsGrwqJUVMNpujOu8sAeLVPtY
April 6, 2021 
 Patricia A. O’Brien Patricia A. O’Brien is a Friend of The Conversation.Historian, Visiting Fellow in the School of History, Australian National University and Adjunct Professor in the Asian Studies Program, Georgetown University,    This year marks 75 years since the United States launched its immense atomic testing program in the Pacific. The historical fallout from tests carried out over 12 years in the Marshall Islands, then a UN Trust Territory governed by the US, have framed seven decades of US relations with the Pacific nation.Due to the dramatic effects of climate change, the legacies of this history are shaping the present in myriad ways.

This history has Australian dimensions too, though decades of diplomatic distance between Australia and the Marshall Islands have hidden an entangled atomic past.

In 1946, the Marshall Islands seemed very close for many Australians. They feared the imminent launch of the US’s atomic testing program on Bikini Atoll might split the earth in two, catastrophically change the earth’s climate, or produce earthquakes and deadly tidal waves.

A map accompanying one report noted Sydney was only 3,100 miles from ground zero. Residents as far away as Perth were warned if their houses shook on July 1, “it may be the atom bomb test”.

Australia was “included in the tests” as a site for recording blast effects and monitoring for atom bombs detonated anywhere in the world by hostile nations. This Australian site served to keep enemies in check and achieve one of the Pacific testing program’s objectives: to deter future war. The other justification was the advancement of science.

The earth did not split in two after the initial test (unless you were Marshallese) so they continued; 66 others followed over the next 12 years. But the insidious and multiple harms to people and place, regularly covered up or denied publicly, became increasingly hard to hide.

Radiation poisoning, birth defects, leukaemia, thyroid and other cancers became prevalent in exposed Marshallese, at least four islands were “partially or completely vapourised”, the exposed Marshallese “became subjects of a medical research program” and atomic refugees. (Bikinians were allowed to return to their atoll for a decade before the US government removed them again when it was realised a careless error falsely claimed radiation levels were safe in 1968.)

In late 1947, the US moved its operations to Eniwetok Atoll, a decision, it was argued, to ensure additional safety. Eniwetok was more isolated and winds were less likely to carry radioactive particles to populated areas.

Australian reports noted this site was only 3,200 miles from Sydney. Troubling reports of radioactive clouds as far away as the French Alps and the known shocking health effects appeared.

Dissenting voices were initially muted due to the steep escalation of the Cold War and Soviet atomic weapon tests beginning in 1949.

Opinion in Australia split along political lines. Conservative Cold War warriors, chief among them Robert Menzies who became prime minister again in 1949, kept Australia in lockstep with the US, and downplayed the ill-effects of testing. Left-wing elements in Australia continued to draw attention to the “horrors” it unleashed.

The atomic question came home in 1952, when the first of 12 British atomic tests began on the Montebello Islands, off Western Australia.   Australia’s involvement in atomic testing expanded again in 1954, when it began supplying South Australian-mined uranium to the US and UK’s joint defence purchasing authority, the Combined Development Agency.

Australia’s economic stake in the atomic age from 1954 collided with the galvanisation of global public opinion against US testing in Eniwetok. The massive “Castle Bravo” hydrogen bomb test in March exposed Marshall Islanders and a Japanese fishing crew on The Lucky Dragon to catastrophic radiation levels “equal to that received by Japanese people less than two miles from ground zero” in the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic blasts. Graphic details of the fishermen’s suffering and deaths and a Marshallese petition to the United Nations followed.

When a UN resolution to halt US testing was voted on in July, Australia voted for its continuation. But the tide of public opinion was turning against testing. The events of 1954 dispelled the notion atomic waste was safe and could be contained. The problem of radioactive fish travelling into Australian waters highlighted these new dangers, which spurred increasing world wide protests until the US finally ceased testing in the Marshalls in 1958.

In the 1970s, US atomic waste was concentrated under the Runit Island dome, part of Enewetak Atoll (about 3,200 miles from Sydney). Recent alarming descriptions of how precarious and dangerous this structure is due to age, sea water inundation and storm damage exacerbated by climate change were contested in a 2020 Trump-era report.

The Biden administration’s current renegotiation of the Compact of Free Association with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and its prioritisation of action on climate change, will put Runit Island high on the agenda. There is an opportunity for historical redress for the US that is even more urgent given the upsurge in discrimination against US-based Pacific Islander communities devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some are peoples displaced by the tests.

Australia is also embarking on a new level of engagement with the Marshall Islands: it is due to open its first embassy in the capital Majuro in 2021.It should be remembered this bilateral relationship has an atomic history too. Australia supported the US testing program, assisted with data collection and voted in the UN for its continuation when Marshallese pleaded for it to be stopped. It is also likely Australian-sourced atomic waste lies within Runit Island, cementing Australia in this history.

April 8, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, history, reference, secrets and lies, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New research into the effects of nuclear bomb tests on Montebello islands

 

March 22, 2021 Posted by | environment, weapons and war, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Time for Australia to clean up uranium mining damage, and end this toxic industry

It’s time to clean up not start up!    https://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=21352 On this 10th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it is time to learn one simple lesson; radioactive risk is more constant than a politician’s promise. It is time to move beyond the risk of opening a uranium mine to safely rehabilitating existing exploration and trial mine sites. If we fail to act and allow small unproven company assurances to take the place of evidence, then we are both failing those affected by Fukushima and increasing the odds of fuelling a future one.

By Kerrie-Ann Garlick – , 12 March 2021
On the 10th anniversary of the Australian uranium-fuelled Fukushima nuclear disaster, it is time for a rethink on uranium Australia-wide and for WA to look beyond mining towards rehabilitation. WAs four proposed uranium mines and the 85 exploration sites have been unable to develop into mines and all pose serious environmental, economic and public health risks. Some of the companies involved no longer exist, others are hanging on by a thread. With a stagnant uranium price and a global nuclear power industry that is struggling to maintain status quo, we should be looking to clean up Barnett’s failed attempt to establish uranium mines in WA and close that chapter in our history book.

Ten years after the devastating earthquake and Tsunami and subsequent multiple reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Fukushima is still one of the most radioactive places on earth. It remains a profound human, economic and environmental tragedy one that was fuelled by Australian uranium. In Parliament in 2012 Dr Robert Floyd, Director General, Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation confirmed that Australian uranium was in each of the reactors at the time of the meltdown. Following the disaster, the UN Secretary General urged every uranium producing country to hold “an in-depth assessment of the net cost impact of the impacts of mining fissionable material on local communities and ecosystems.”

Our government did not respond to the catastrophic disaster at Fukushima with any kind of review of our role in supplying uranium. There was no critical review from Australia of the warning signs we missed with TEPCO who had a history of falsifying records, mismanagement and accidents.

In the decade since the disaster there have been no new uranium mines in Australia. After 40 years of imposed mining in Kakadu the Ranger uranium mine has now closed and in attempting rehabilitation. Uranium mining in Australia is now confined to South Australia with just two operating mines – Olympic Dam and Four Mile and three mines – Honeymoon, Beverley & Beverley Four Mile – all in extended ‘care and maintenance’ (not closed but not operating). What is needed to make sure Australian uranium is not fuelling another Fukushima nuclear meltdown, is clearly to leave it in the ground.

The four uranium projects, Kintyre, Wiluna, Yeelirrie and Mulga Rock have all been unable to proceed in the face of high operating costs, a low uranium price and continued and sustained community opposition to mining uranium. With the imminent expiry of environmental approvals for the four uranium sites, the WA Government has an opportunity and a responsibility to manage these sites in a way that protects the environment, public & workers health and the WA taxpayers. The incoming government would be uniquely placed to legislate a ban on uranium mining in WA avoiding a repeat of the last decade of uncertainty, legal and procedural battles, and significant government resources.

There are a further 85 exploration sites, of those 56 projects are listed as being inactive or suspended of those 23 do not have an active owner, any rehabilitation of those sites would now be a cost to WA taxpayers. The risk of uranium will far outlive the uranium companies who have exploration sites across our state. The WA government should act now and ensure the best possible rehabilitation outcomes for those sites while there are still companies who can be held to account.

Small uranium companies like Vimy Resources who have the Mulga Rock uranium proposal to the NE of Kalgoorlie and Toro Energy with the Wiluna proposal, and underdeveloped projects like Cameco’s Kintyre and Yeelirrie have been deferred or placed on extended care and maintenance due to the depressed uranium market and low commodity price. Their time is up, we need to start to clean up these sites – not lock in an industry that has a history of being constrained by political uncertainty, that has a consistent lack of social license and one that has been met with strong Aboriginal and community resistance.

On this 10th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it is time to learn one simple lesson; radioactive risk is more constant than a politician’s promise. It is time to move beyond the risk of opening a uranium mine to safely rehabilitating existing exploration and trial mine sites. If we fail to act and allow small unproven company assurances to take the place of evidence, then we are both failing those affected by Fukushima and increasing the odds of fuelling a future one.

March 15, 2021 Posted by | environment, Western Australia | Leave a comment

The remediation of Ranger uranium mine: will it really restore the environment?

Traditional owners were given land rights in return for their support for the Ranger mine, and Kakadu National Park was born.   ……. the land will finally be returned to the traditional owners… the question is, in what state?  ………    we could find the site an eroding heap of substandard scrub.    

As part of cleaning up the mine site, contaminated buildings and equipment will be buried in one of the mine’s enormous pits.    

  We’ve been told that burying the equipment and the contaminated material in the mine site is out of step with global best practice in the mining industry.

February 25, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Mediation continuing over rehabilitation of Range uranium mine

Mediation continues behind closed doors, but the case is a clear reminder that commitments are not set in stone and that clean-up funding for even the most environmentally destructive projects is not guaranteed.

While national and/or state law jurisdictions regulate specific requirements for closure and associated financial assurance, which also determine the period of rehabilitation, it is essential that members of the mining community are aware of applicable law and regulation in all jurisdictions of operation……….

“In the context of price volatility, investment shifts and now Covid-19, many major companies have been mothballing operations and selling mines to juniors, smaller and/or less resourced companies around the world. The most notable may be Blair Athol coal mine in Queensland, sold for $1 in 2016.”

The socio-economic and financial arrangements for closure agreements are especially important in order to avoid dumping the costs on taxpayers and society .

How long should a miner commit to oversight?  https://www.mining-technology.com/news/mining-rio-tinto/   Yoana Cholteeva11 February 2021 

A subsidiary of Rio Tinto is currently in mediation  with the Australian Government over continuing commitments to scientific monitoring of the Ranger mine. We examine the dispute and take a look at some positive examples of land remediation.

Land rehabilitation as part of mining oversight is an essential process where the land in a mining area is returned to some degree of its former state. Recently, a new dispute over the rehabilitation of the Ranger Uranium Mine in the Northern Territory of Australia, owned by a Rio Tinto subsidiary, once again reignited the debate over how long a miner should maintain oversight once operations have stopped.

Rio Tinto’s oversight dilemma

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February 18, 2021 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment