Australian news, and some related international items

Life on a nuclear submarine takes its toll

Do you have what it takes to operate a nuclear submarine?

With nuclear reactors on board there is twice the amount of maintenance compared to diesel-powered submarines and a distinctly different knowledge base.

AFR, Matthew Cranston, 15 Mar 23

Deep in the dark, silent waters of the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, veteran US nuclear submariners Nirav Patel, Joshua Besser and Brent Sadler have endured what no Australian has yet but soon will – months on end under the sea. 

Patel spent four months without surfacing, while Besser and Sadler spent three months. They were in one of the ultra-quiet nuclear submarines operated by the US Navy, which can create its own oxygen and desalinated water, only resurfacing for food.

That ability to spend months under the ocean is one of the biggest advantages of nuclear submarines compared to Australia’s fleet of diesel submarines, which need to resurface frequently to replenish oxygen and battery power.

But living for months under the sea takes its toll. “There is only a finite amount of happiness on board,” Patel says.

“It’s an office without windows, constantly. So if you can stay occupied, you don’t think about it,” he says, noting that daily fire, flooding, weapons and nuclear reactor drills help with focus………………………..

For Joshua Besser, who spent a decade on board nuclear-powered submarines and is now a senior director of nitrogen supply chains at explosives company Dyno Nobel, submarines are for young people.

“It’s definitely a young sailor’s game. The operational tempo is gruelling and deployments are long and arduous,” he says.

………………… A typical operational cycle consists of a six month “work up” where everyone becomes proficient in all watch stations and each department becomes certified in the mission parameters. This is followed by a six months or more deployment to achieve the intended mission. Finally, there is a six-month recovery, repair and maintenance period, he says.

Through all this, chemical amines, used to control the atmosphere, fill the fibres of the submariners’ uniforms worn throughout shifts and while eating their 30-minute meals.

They are only free from them when they take their two-minute showers, their six hours of sleep every two days, or during the extremely rare event of an ocean swim.

“Underway – you can’t tell the smell. When you come home and get off the ship, you can smell the hydraulic fluid, amine and other chemicals impregnated in your clothing and skin.”

Besser says that the level of danger on submarines with nuclear power poses far greater levels of risk than on a conventional submarine. “There are drills on every aspect that could go wrong”, and that creates a much tighter culture with the crew.

…………………. “For nuclear submarines versus diesel conventional subs – there is no comparison regarding sustained speed, electrical power and for advanced sonar systems,” Patel says pointing out yet another difference.

“They truly are hunter/killers.”

March 17, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Julian Assange’s Biggest Fight in Notorious Prison Isn’t Over Extradition

NewsWeek, BY SHAUN WATERMAN ON 01/27/23 “…………………………………………….. Assange’s physical and mental health have declined severely during more than a decade in confinement — first sheltering from U.S. authorities in the Ecuadorian embassy in London from 2012-2019, where he lived in two rooms and never left the building, and for the last almost four years, since he was dragged from the embassy by British police in April 2019, in Belmarsh fighting extradition.

…………………… The proceedings in London continue to drag on. It has been more than a year since the High Court cleared the way for his extradition and his appeal was filed in August. But the court continues to weigh it, with no deadline to reach a decision. Even if he loses, there remains the possibility of an appeal to the British Supreme Court, or to the European Court of Human Rights. Assange could be in the U.S. within months, but he might remain in Britain for years.

His family says that with uncertainty about his extradition hanging over him like the sword of Damocles, he has lost weight and become depressed and anxious.

A confinement of uncertain duration

The worst part about the confinement is having no idea when or how he would be able to leave, Stella Assange said. “It is the uncertain duration that makes it so hard to bear … It’s a kind of torture.”…………..

The uncertainty has exacerbated Assange’s physical and mental deterioration, his wife said. In October 2021, during a High Court hearing about his extradition, Assange, attending via video link from Belmarsh, suffered a “transient ischaemic attack” — a mini-stroke. He has been diagnosed with nerve damage and memory problems and prescribed blood thinners.

“He might not survive this,” she said.

As a remand prisoner, not convicted or sentenced, and facing extradition, not prosecution, Assange is an anomaly in Britain’s most secure prison — designed to hold “Category A” inmates such as IRA militants, jihadis and murderers. One of a tiny handful of unconvicted prisoners, prison regulations require him to be treated differently, his wife said.

“He’s supposed to be able to get visits every day, he’s supposed to be able to work on his case,” she said, “But that’s only on paper. The way the prison system works, it is more efficient to treat everyone like a Cat A prisoner rather than to try to adapt the rules for individuals. In reality, that just doesn’t translate at all.” She said Assange is allowed one or two legal visits, and one or two social visits each week.

In between visits, time can stretch. And the isolation has been hard on him……………………………..

Phone calls, his half-brother Gabriel Shipton told Newsweek from Assange’s native Australia, are limited to 10 minutes. “You’ll just be getting into it and click, it’s over.”

Neither the governor’s office at Belmarsh, nor the press office for the British Prison Service, responded to emails requesting responses to detailed questions.

A source of inspiration and power

Assange gets thousands of letters and parcels from all over the world, Stella Assange said, but the authorities interdict banned items, such as books about national security, paintings and other forbidden objects.

His father, John Shipton, told Newsweek from Australia that Assange draws a lot of inspiration and power from the letters that people write to him. During their phone conversations, he will often read snippets or recall memorable letters, Shipton said. “He loves getting them … You can hear him light up a bit” when he talks about them………………………………………… more

January 30, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, health, legal, politics international | Leave a comment

Bushfire deaths and smoke-related healthcare costs predicted to rise in next few years

In the decade to 2030, more than 2,400 lives will be lost to bushfires in
Australia, with healthcare costs from smoke-related deaths tipped to reach
$110m, new modelling led by Monash University suggests. The lead health
economist with the university’s Centre for Medicine Use and Safety,
Associate Prof Zanfina Ademi, who headed the analysis, said it was
important to get a predictive picture of the bushfire situation in
Australia and its impact on health and the economy.

Guardian 2nd Jan 2023

January 6, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, health | Leave a comment

Why medical isotopes produced in cyclotrons are so much better than those produced in a nuclear reactor.

This is probably the best explanation of the difference between the use of nuclear reactor produced isotopes in nuclear medicine, and cyclotron produced isotopes in nuclear medicine. It is a quote from TRIUMF Canada – an internationally recognised establishment which has celebrated 50 years in the world as a leading authority on subatomic physics.

This definition was released by them in 2011… “The field of nuclear medicine has evolved into what can be considered its third generation. Generation-I originated in the 1950s, with several reactors producing large enough quantities of simple radioisotope formulations that could be distributed for use globally. This allowed for the launch of the era of modern nuclear medicine, and for the next thirty years the medical community developed and implemented dedicated cameras needed to image patients injected with gamma-emitting isotopes. Generation-I radiopharmaceuticals were simple, perfusion-based compounds that distributed within the body based on simple properties such as molecular shape, size, and charge; and the isotopes injected were typically single photon emitters. The world came to adopt nuclear medicine as a cheap, yet powerful tool for the non-invasive diagnosis of disease.”

Generation-1 radiopharmaceuticals – That’s your nuclear reactor generated nuclear medicine isotopes – predominately the Technitium-99m (Tc-99m) used in diagnostic imaging. This is what the reactor in ANSTO Lucas Heights is predominately used to produce – the Molybednum-99 (Mo-99) which then decays to Tc-99m.

“Generation-II radiopharmaceuticals evolved during the 1980s and involved the development of compounds targeted to specific cellular biomarkers. With a rapid growth in understanding of the molecular basis of physiology and disease, and the expansion of a global cyclotron infrastructure, new and powerful positron-emitting compounds such as [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose, or FDG for short, were discovered and widely implemented for the safe and accurate diagnosis and evaluation of diseases affecting millions of patients. Over the next thirty years, the radiopharmaceutical research community spent an enormous amount of time and effort developing a myriad of targeted radiopharmaceuticals that have continued to feed our understanding of biology and medicine at the molecular level.”

Generation II radiopharmaceuticals – that’s your cyclotron generated nuclear medicine isotopes – predominately FDG amongst many others now – MET, FET, FLT, FCH, FMISO, FDOPA, Ga isotopes, Oxygen isotopes…the list goes on. There are currently 18 cyclotrons in Australia – this current list is from IAEA: They are normally associated with diagnostic imaging partnerships on site.

“Today we are witnessing the evolution of Generation-III compounds, which have come to include both imaging and therapeutic isotopes. In a nearly synonymous way to which we came to appreciate the power and utility of imaging isotopes, therapeutic isotopes are now entering the active conscience of the medical community.”

This was remember published in 2011. The problem with radioisotopes is that you cannot control their emissions. You can certainly use low energy emitters, but regardless the ultimate aim of medicine now in 2022 is to have as little damage done to normal cells as is possible. That is why immunotherapy and nanotechnology are the foregrounds for cancer treatment now.–

April 11, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

New cyclotron for Australia – to produce medical isotopes, with no need for dangerous nuclear reactor production

Fom Kazzi Jai, Fight to stop a nuclear waste dump in South Australia, 5 Apr 22, Announced by Scott Morrison today….another CYCLOTRON – this one high energy – to add to the cyclotrons we already have in Australia…. to CUSTOMISE our radioisotopes!

“”The Australian Precision Medicine Enterprise will help cement precision medicine development here in Australia, also helping deliver a stronger economy by growing opportunities for our medical sector and the highly-skilled jobs it supports.”

The 2022-23 Budget demonstrated the ongoing commitment to manufacturing with an additional $1 billion for the Morrison Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy, including an extra $750 million for the Modern Manufacturing Initiative.

Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said these projects will help onshore technology and expertise not currently in Australia, while securing new sovereign capability.

“This project will see the construction of a new facility that will house a high energy 30 mega-electron volt (MeV ) cyclotron, which will be a new domestic source of critical radioisotopes – which are currently imported into Australia – and will be used in the treatment of cancer, kidney disease and other illnesses,” Minister Taylor said.

“By combining research and development and the manufacture of precision medicines locally we are shoring up our supply chain resilience,

“These projects will also create highly-skilled jobs in the medical sector, such as radiochemists, radio pharmacists and engineers, while also reducing our reliance on overseas suppliers of vital medications.”

Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said the project will see incredible collaboration with the Monash Biomedical Imaging Centre, National Synchrotron and the Victorian Heart Hospital.

“Not only will this facility and the precision medicines it will help lead to better patient outcomes, it will help bolster Australia’s entire medical ecosystem,” Minister Hunt said.

“This project will help realise the incredible potential of medicines that are customised to patients, all the way from clinical trials to their local manufacture right here at home.”

The facility will directly support 42 jobs with 105 additional along the supply chain.“ from

April 5, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

Tasmania may get cold, but sunburn is still very much a threat   

Tasmania may get cold, but sunburn is still very much a threat, By Glen Perrin  If you think you cannot get sunburnt in chilly old Tasmania, you are sorely mistaken — the island state has more than its fair share of dangerous ultraviolet rays.

What is sunburn? What is UV?

Sunburn occurs when skin exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is damaged.

The exposed skin becomes red, hot, and often painful.

If you think you cannot get sunburnt in chilly old Tasmania, you are sorely mistaken — the island state has more than its fair share of dangerous ultraviolet rays.

Additional melanin, the skin’s natural protector, is produced when the skin is exposed to UV radiation.However, when the levels of UV radiation exceed the protecting abilities of melanin, sunburn occurs.This can occur in less than 15 minutes depending on the time of year, the location and skin type.

Skin can turn red from sunburn within two to six hours of being burnt.Long-term excessive exposure to UV radiation may also cause skin damage, eye damage, premature ageing or even skin cancer, with Australia and New Zealand having the highest rates of melanoma in the world. UV radiation is a type of energy that we cannot feel (it does not make us feel hot) or see.Three bands of UV radiation are emitted by the sun: UVA, UVB and UVC.

UVB radiation is the main contributor to sunburn, despite the fact most UVB radiation (around 85 to 90 per cent) is absorbed by the ozone layer in the stratosphere about 15 to 30 kilometres above the surface of the earth.Australia has some of the highest UV levels in the world.

Why is sunburn a concern in Tasmania?

Many people relate getting sunburnt to temperature and incorrectly believe that in Tasmania, being generally cooler, means they won’t get sunburnt.Sunburn can occur on hot and cool days. It is intensity of the UV that is important.Such levels of UV are seen in Tasmania throughout most of the year, except for the winter months. It is also possible to burn in the morning and early evening, not just in the middle of the day.

Although cloud can decrease the amount of UV reaching the surface (with thick unbroken cloud reflecting and absorbing more UV than thin cloud), a break in or thinning of the cloud will still allow enough UV through to cause damage.Partly cloudy conditions can even increase the amount of UV at the surface by reflecting it towards the ground from the sides of the clouds.

Pollutants in the air can absorb some UV radiation or reflect it away from the surface.By comparison, air free from pollutants, such as in Tasmania, results in more UV radiation reaching the surface. Although the ozone hole occurs well to the south of Tasmania, ozone depletion can play a role in sunburn.

The ozone hole typically occurs between August and mid-December.When the ozone hole has broken down, it is possible for pockets of ozone-depleted air to mix with mid-latitude air.This air may then move over Tasmania, resulting in more UVB radiation reaching the surface.

What is the UV Index? How does it work?

The UV Index describes a daily UV radiation intensity and ranges from 1 (low) to 11+ (extreme).

A computer model generates the Index considering ozone concentrations, date, time of day, latitude and altitude and assumes a cloud-free and pollution-free sky.

Temperature is not considered.

Sun protection is recommended when the Index reaches 3 and above.

Sunburn occur any time of the year and at any location

UV levels, and therefore the UV Index, do change through the year, being lowest in winter (below 3 and in the low range in Tasmania) and highest in summer (mostly between 10 and 12 in Tasmania and in the very high to extreme range).

But exposure to excessive UV radiation can occur at any time of the year and can be enhanced by being at alpine locations (where the atmosphere is thinner, allowing more UV radiation to reach the surface), in the snow, swimming, or near other reflective surfaces such as concrete.

UV levels are higher towards the equator, as a result of having to travel though a smaller column of the atmosphere to reach the surface than at higher latitudes.

The UV Index is provided by the Bureau of Meteorology as part of city and town forecasts and through UV maps, tables and the BOM Weather App.

You can use the Cancer Council’s SunSmart app to view sun protection times and current UV levels.

The UV Index in city and town forecasts is also accompanied by a sun protection time when the UV Index is 3 or above.

This represents a time-period in which it is recommended that you slip, slop, slap, seek and slide to protect yourself from sunburn.

Remember you can still get burnt on cool or cloudy days – so think UV, not heat.

More information about UV and sun protection times can be found on the BOM website.

Glen Perrin is a senior meteorologist with the Bureau of Meteorology in Tasmania

February 14, 2022 Posted by | health, Tasmania | Leave a comment

Nuclear medicine incidents

Report highlights learnings from nuclear medicine incidents,   Mirage News, 2 Feb 22, ARPANSA has finalised its annual report on radiation safety incidents using data collated from radiation regulators around the country…….The new Australian Radiation Incident Register (ARIR) report provides a summary and analysis of incidents that occurred during 2020. The report includes a focus on workflows in nuclear medicine. Nuclear medicine accounted for 157 of the 803 incidents reported for 2020…….

Findings of the report include:

a total of 803 incidents reported – demonstrating better awareness of reporting

529 of the reported incidents were in diagnostic radiology, with 157 in nuclear medicine, and 40 in radiotherapy

patients were exposed to less than 1 mSv of radiation in 47% of incidents

human error was identified as a factor in more than 65% of incidentsequipment failure or deficiencies accounted for 17% of incidents……..

February 3, 2022 Posted by | - incidents, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health | Leave a comment

Issue for The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA): IS ANSTO’s NUCLEAR REACTOR VIABLE?

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) is the national regulator of all federal government aspects of nuclear and radiation sources and activities with the prime objective of protecting and keeping safe the nation’s population and environment from the harmful effects of radiation and other nuclear pursuits.

In its regulatory role ARPANSA will shortly have to address issues linked to nuclear waste and collectively are probably the most important and significant situation that has had to be dealt with by ARPANSA since its foundation over twenty years ago

The first is the need for ARPANSA to obtain an independent andcomprehensive assessment and report on the proposed increased
production of nuclear medicine by reactor generation by the AustralianmNuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) at its Lucas Heights precinct

The reason behind this is that ANSTO is relying on its production of nuclear medicine as the mainstay of its activities and intends to become a major international producer and exporter of reactor generated nuclear medicine.

However this appears to be a misconceived and purposeless intention since nuclear medicine generated by reactor isotopes is in significant decline throughout the world due to its dangerous inherent state in being used in medical diagnosis and treatment

There is a world wide turning away by the medical profession from using reactor generated nuclear medicine because of its sever danger to patients coupled with its extremely high production costs.

More alternatives to this form of nuclear medicine are already extensively used as they are far safer and pose little risk to patients and additionally are much cheaper to produce with the involvement of major international drug companies

ARPANSA should seek the independent and expert assessment and review of the proposal and intentions by ANSTO as part of the licensing process for the increased storage facility for nuclear waste at Lucas Heights recently proposed by ANSTO

The assessment and review must include a financial examination to determine commercial and economic viability of the activities and proposals by ANSTO as this is an essential ingredient of the qualifications for the licence for the increased storage capacity

Since the suitably qualified experts for the assessment are not in Australia (as in any case this could create a conflict situation) ARPANSA will need to rely on and engage the highly qualified experts in this field available
from overseas

From the general tenor and prescriptions of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 and applicable regulations – which are referred to as the enabling legislation – it seems quite certain that the commercial and financial aspects must be included by ARPANSAin considering an application for a licence

This should be even more imperative since the funds sought by ANSTO for the increased storage capability at Lucas Heights are being provided by the federal government which is in direct and colloquial terms taxpayers’ money and it is an obligation of the government to protect public revenue and expenditure

There has never been any publicly released information by ANSTO on the financial aspects of the production and sale of its nuclear medicine but as justification for the production ANSTO has relied on the emotivearguments that in their lifetime everyone has or will have a need for nuclear medicine.

ANSTO claims that it has given to the government a recently commissioned independent study into future nuclear medicine supply in Australia and this study should be given to ARPANSA with all supporting information for assistance for its assessment and review as part of the licensing process.

November 13, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, health, reference, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

‘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. ……….

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

Opal nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights is simply not economically viable

The BIG question is ECONOMIC VIABILITY given the continued uptake of cyclotrons worldwide. On this basis alone it will fail, but the Feds fervidly will try to continue to prop it up anyway – purely for political and NOT practical reasons!

In fact it is high time to move with the times! Canada has been through all of this already and decided to go with cyclotrons to produce their isotopes. They could no longer justify their taxpayers footing the bill for exporting isotopes and all of its inherent costs! And cyclotrons mean they can tailor make the isotopes they need rather than producing mass “available” isotopes which may or may not be used which is the model currently used for Australia!

Kazzi Jai shared a link.   Fight to stop a nuclear waste dump in South Australia, 8 Oct 21,

So….what do you do when you are ACTING MINISTER FOR SCIENCE, INDUSTRY AND TECHNOLOGY? Seems the lucky ACTING MINISTER for that portfolio- Angus Taylor – knew EXACTLY what to do on 30th September 2021!

ANSTO welcomes the joint announcement from The Acting Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Angus Taylor MP, the Minister for Finance, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham and the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Greg Hunt MP to safeguard the future of Australia’s nuclear medicine production. The government has announced it will safeguard Australia’s sovereign capability to produce vital nuclear medicines by launching a $30 million project to design a new world-leading manufacturing facility to be built at our Lucas Heights campus in Sydney. About 80 per cent of nuclear medicine isotopes used to fight diseases like cancer are produced at Lucas Heights and one of the key facilities that makes this possible is nearing the end of its operating life.” – ANSTO website “Safeguarding the future of Australia’s nuclear medicine”

When the likes of Angus Taylor uses the words “safeguard Australia’s sovereign capability”…you KNOW there’s something shonky going on! Too bad he isn’t worried about “Australia’s sovereign capability” with regards to iron, gas, water, ports, utilities, land acquisition etc etc….the list goes on!

Anyway, this “wish list” is separate to the brand new ANM facility (The Australian Nuclear Medicine Molydenum-99 Facility (ANM Mo99), which has now become known as ANSTO Nuclear Medicine Facility 😳) which cost taxpayers $168 million and has had a number of teething problems since it was built in 2019 and only has become fully functional in March 2020.

Using the wording in the announcement, the “$30 million project to design a new world-leading manufacturing facility to be built”….means this is only a commitment by the Feds to give $30 million to DESIGN the facility which will replace “building 23” which is an “ageing nuclear medical facility” according to the now ex-CEO Adi Paterson back in 2018.Ideally, ANSTO would LOVE for the Feds to cough up $210 million to replace it – probably costing more than that now, since that was quoted 2018 figures not 2021 figures!!

The BIG question is ECONOMIC VIABILITY given the continued uptake of cyclotrons worldwide. On this basis alone it will fail, but the Feds fervidly will try to continue to prop it up anyway – purely for political and NOT practical reasons! In fact it is high time to move with the times! Canada has been through all of this already and decided to go with cyclotrons to produce their isotopes. They could no longer justify their taxpayers footing the bill for exporting isotopes and all of its inherent costs! And cyclotrons mean they can tailor make the isotopes they need rather than producing mass “available” isotopes which may or may not be used which is the model currently used for Australia!

With regard to treatment,which is only a tiny amount of what isotopes are used for – they are predominantly used for diagnostic imaging- the trend now is to do the least amount of damage to normal cells as is possible. Isotopes are rather a blunt instrument in that regards, and now techniques like immunotherapy and nanotechnology are the fields of advancement in that respect.There’s even advancements in radiotherapy which went to LINAC machines (linear accelerators) many decades ago…and now proton therapy units are finding their way into our major capital cities! Neither need nuclear reactors!…/safeguarding…MINISTER.INDUSTRY.GOV.AUSafeguarding the future of critical medicine supply | Ministers for the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

October 9, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, health, politics | Leave a comment

Dr Margaret Beavis on why nuclear waste is best kept at Lucas Heights, and on the advantages of cyclotrons.

concerningly, in terms of nuclear medicine, ANSTO has proved an unreliable supplier with multiple outages and supply shortages in the last few years. You will find references to that in our submission. When you’re sourcing from a single nuclear reactor, one break in the chain shuts down the whole process. If technetium were instead sourced from multiple cyclotrons, which could be based in hospitals around Australia at not a huge cost—certainly much less than a nuclear reactor—if one of these cyclotrons broke down, there would be multiple other cyclotrons to supply technetium. 

Dr Carl-Magnus Larsson, head of ARPANSA, – the ‘waste could be safely stored at Lucas Heights for decades to come’. He said that there was no urgent need for relocation of this waste and that ARPANSA has not raised any safety concerns regarding storage of waste at the interim waste facility [at Lucas Heights]

PARLIAMENTARY STANDING COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC WORKS Intermediate level solid waste storage facility, Lucas Heights, New South Wales (Public) MONDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2021  BEAVIS, Dr Margaret, Vice President, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia) [by audio link] RUFF, Dr Tilman, AO, Member, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia) [by audio link]  

Dr Beavis, Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. MAPW supports the construction of a new facility at Lucas Heights. As noted in ANSTO’s submission, there will be minimal expected impact on the community, and ANSTO has an excellent record of managing this waste on site. This contrasts with the massive distress and community division a succession of nuclear waste storage proposals have caused in regional and remote Australia.

 I’ll now address the sort of individual criteria of the committee. The stated purpose and suitability: the facility is needed and the proposal is suitable. You’ve already heard Dr Carl-Magnus Larsson, head of ARPANSA, say that the ‘waste could be safely stored at Lucas Heights for decades to come’. He said that there was no urgent need for relocation of this waste and that ARPANSA has not raised any safety concerns regarding storage of waste at the interim waste facility [inaudible] ANSTO. Addressing the need for the work: clearly intermediate level waste has to be stored safely and securely. It’s radioactive for over 10,000 years. Putting that in perspective, the Egyptian pharaohs were about 5,000 years ago, so it needs to be kept safe for a very long time. 

Addressing cost effectiveness: this plan may prove to be very cost effective if, as a result of the extra capacity, there is time for an open and independent inquiry looking at world’s best practice management of nuclear waste. Given current world’s best practice standards, it’s very likely that the plan to move the waste will not proceed. 

At some point ANSTO does indeed need to address the proper disposal or long-term management of intermediate waste. Countries, such as Finland, have spent decades researching how best to do this, and Australia could learn a lot from their research and expertise. In terms of the current and prospective value of the work, as noted, this work may provide breathing space enabling the open—and I stress—independent review of the claimed need for a temporary storage facility in South Australia.

 The work would have even greater value if waste production was also reviewed and curtailed. If this were done, the proposed new site at Lucas Heights would take much longer to fill and be available for a much greater time frame. 

It’s worth remembering that the first principle of managing toxic waste is to reduce production. Currently ANSTO is rapidly expanding production of the nuclear medicine isotope called technetium-99 precursors, which is the most commonly used isotope. This export business continues because it is very heavily subsidised. There’s no cost-benefit analysis and no attempt at full cost recovery. Historically Australian supply has been one per cent of the world supply and, as a doctor, I support nuclear medicine. One per cent of the world’s supply has been what Australia has needed. 

ANSTO is in the process of increasing from that one per cent for the last few years and aims to produce 25 to 30 per cent of global supply, with very little acknowledgement of the massively increased quantity of intermediate waste that this will generate. 

On top of that, concerningly, in terms of nuclear medicine, ANSTO has proved an unreliable supplier with multiple outages and supply shortages in the last few years. You will find references to that in our submission. When you’re sourcing from a single nuclear reactor, one break in the chain shuts down the whole process. If technetium were instead sourced from multiple cyclotrons, which could be based in hospitals around Australia at not a huge cost—certainly much less than a nuclear reactor—if one of these cyclotrons broke down, there would be multiple other cyclotrons to supply technetium. 

Additionally, clean cyclotron production of technetium has recently been approved through all the health hurdles in Canada. It’s being implemented now there. This should rapidly become the future of isotope production. It avoids the high cost and the serious accident and terrorist risk inherent in nuclear reactors. It has no weapons proliferation potential, and it creates very little nuclear waste. You can use pre-existing cyclotrons. There are already cyclotrons in hospitals making other isotopes. Japan, the US, the UK and several European  countries are all looking into implementing more reliable, safer, cheaper and much cleaner cyclotron production of technetium-99;fileType=application%2Fpdf?fbclid=IwAR0ZzP4j5ukpfZOgyipP2ak92avAEz19B2wqC_Zz4bcbCDXGB9cRcT2siFo#search=%22Australian%20Nuclear%20Scie

October 7, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, health | Leave a comment

Need to investigate ANSTO’s tax-payer funded, loss-making, unnecessary nuclear medicine production

Australian government watcher, 28 Aug 21, The production of isotopes for medical purposes by nuclear reactors is a declining industry due to its inherently dangerous and risky nature and its extremely high manufacturing costs

These isotopes are being replaced by cyclotron produced isotopes which are practically and completely free of any risk to the patients and can be produced by relatively easier and safer means at a greatly reduced costs

The only reason that isotopes produced by nuclear reactors are used for medical purposes is that their manufacture is highly and unrealistically subsidised by government grants as is the case with ANSTO in Australia

The rapid growth in the international use of cyclotron isotopes for medical therapies is making the production of isotopes by nuclear reactors obsolete

As a result the continued production of isotopes for medical purposes by ANSTO at Lucas Heights could be stopped
immediately with huge savings in government expenditure and no effect on the provision of medical therapies

There were also arguments within ANSTO against the proposed corporatising of the medical isotopes production since this would expose all of its problems including its obsolete and outdated status and the extremely high production costs

In addition there are concerns both externally and within ANSTO internally about the cost and marketing difficulties with the Synroc technology which is far from the initially promoted commercial success and has been overtaken in many countries by their own developed alternatives to reduce the volume of nuclear waste and treat it to make it suitable for long-term storage and eventual disposal

In view of this it is essential for a full and proper independent inquiry and investigation into ANSTO to determine the true situation and make practical and hopefully cost saving recommendations as to its future operations

August 28, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, health, politics, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Eight vital questions about Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and its nuclear wastes.

With respect to the new building being applied for by ANSTO, the extended storage of ANSTO’s Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste on-site at Lucas Heights is warranted – until there is an availability of a proper final disposal option for ALL of the nuclear waste which ANSTO produces and generates. This is the only way that Australians will accept shifting this nuclear waste anywhere other than leaving it safely on site!

What the proposed Kimba site is, put simply, is the last site standing, from a greedy nominator and a dubious selection process and a very flawed and out dated proposal!

Lucas Heights is the very best place for this waste currently. Until a proper solution is found for ALL of the waste ANSTO produces – trotting out the exact same proposal from forty years ago is not a solution.

The new Intermediate Level Solid Waste Storage Facility at ANSTO Lucas Heights should be supported. And here are the reasons why. Kazzi Jai , Fight to Stop a Nuclesr Waste Dump in the Flinders Ranges, 15 Aug 21,

ANSTO’s Work Health Safety and Environment Policy includes the statement,

We are committed to effective stewardship, the sustainability of our operations and to responsibly interact with the local ecology and biosphere, and to protect it. We will minimize our environmental footprint through the sustainable use of resources and by the prevention, minimization and control of pollution.

Powerful words, but does ANSTO mean them?

Their current “stewardship” is to safely and securely deal with ALL the waste that they produce on site. The usage of the word “interim” (or “temporary” which was used in the past) simply refers to dry storage. In other words it does not make Lucas Heights a permanent disposal site for this waste. Other nuclear reactors around the world hold their nuclear site close to where it is generated – it makes good logical sense, because that means it can be monitored and is safe and secure.

The “sustainability” of their operations should include ANSTO’s (given their expertise in this field over the decades) continued stewardship of the waste they generate and produce on site.

It is a logical conclusion, since they were in fact, allowed the replacement reactor (now known as OPAL) to be constructed with the continued stewardship of the nuclear waste right there on site.

This means that the sustainability of ANSTO is, and remains, contingent on responsibility of generating this nuclear waste in the first place.

  1. Why is OPAL research nuclear reactor being touted as commercial one?

.ANSTO’s OPAL reactor is after all a research reactor – and that should be its main objective – research. But it is being used for more than that – it is being used for the industrial production of isotopes primarily diagnostic isotopes.

The OPAL reactor is currently used predominately for the production of what is termed in general terms nuclear medicine…. of which approximately 80% of its primary usage is for the production of Molybdenum-99 – which then decays to Technitium-99m (Tc-99m) – which is then used in diagnostic imaging in nuclear medicine. Not all diagnostic imaging in nuclear medicine uses Tc-99m.

This is as pointed out earlier, a commercial industrial production usage of the OPAL reactor.

We are told that our use of Technitium-99m in Australia is approximately 550 000 “available” doses a year according to ANSTO. We were told by Adi Paterson in 2017 Senate Estimates that Australia was using 28% of Technitium-99m generated by ANSTO, and the rest (72%) was exported overseas. At that stage, the export quantity involved equated to 1% of global demand of Technitium-99m. (5) But now ANSTO wants to increase their commercial production of export to 10 MILLION DOSES PER YEAR FOR EXPORT! That would make ANSTO one of the FOUR MAJOR PRODUCERS of Technitium-99m in the world!(6) But with increased EXPORT comes INCREASED WASTE PRODUCTION!

ANSTO cites COMMERCIAL SENSITIVITY regarding whether the production of Technitium-99m is viable or not – the public are not privy to the details of this information. But the Australian public are the ones SUBSIDIZING this COMMERCIAL VENTURE! Canada got out of isotope production simply because they could no longer justify the cost to their taxpayers!

But not all is doom and gloom! Canada have just released (December 2020) the approval of cyclotron-produced technetium-99m by Health Canada. (1)

ANSTO is also somewhat careful not to mention that they own PETTECH (which trades as PETTECH Solutions), which operates two medical cyclotrons for radiopharmaceutical production at the Lucas Heights campus. PETTECH has routinely supplied NSW hospitals as part of a state tender. In 2019 they sold it off to private company Cyclotek. (2)

Cyclotrons are also found in our major cities. In fact Australia has 18 cyclotrons according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 2019 listing. (3)

Cyclotrons are usually found also in partnerships with imaging services. This is because cyclotrons are used generally with PET scans which allow very precise scans of many parts of the body to be achieved. The thing with cyclotrons is that they do not produce nuclear isotopes and therefore do not produce nuclear waste. Cyclotrons produce isotopes as required by demand.

The world is changing with regards to nuclear medicine. Cyclotrons are coming into their own right. The field of imaging and diagnosis doesn’t rely solely on one technology only. CT-scans, MRI -scans, Ultrasounds – all can be used in conjunction with PET or SPEC scans. And the cutting edge advancements in cancer treatment is now immunotherapy and nanotechnology. Even LINAC machines – the ones used in radiotherapy and do not use a nuclear source and therefore do not produce nuclear waste because they use a Linear Accelerator to produce a high density x-ray beam to treat cancers, may be superseded by proton therapy units which again use a specific accelerator to treat cancers on an atomic level with minimum disruption to normal cells. Minimizing the damage done to normal cells is becoming more and more important in treating cancers. This cannot be done with radioactive isotopes simply because there is no control with regards to their decay and release into normal tissue.

““We can get product from Sydney to Boston as efficiently as it can be shipped there from Europe,” Shaun Jenkinson, ANSTO Nuclear Business Group Executive boasted in 2014.

With radioactive elements, time is of the essence. Technetium-99m has a half-life of just six hours, which means half of it will have decayed into something else in that time. This is why it is shipped as its precursor, molybdenum-99, which has a half-life of 2.75 days.”, he went on to say

.ANSTO’s molybdenum-99 exports bring in over $10 million each year to Australia. This figure is set to triple after 2016, when its new $100 million nuclear medicine processing facility starts up, bringing with it 250 new jobs.” (4)

Mr Jenkinson, who now is CEO of ANSTO replacing Adi Paterson, was at great pains in 2014 to point out that ANSTO could get “product” from Sydney to Boston efficiently. How about the other way round? Our usage of “product” – namely Molybdenium-99 (decays to Tc-99m) is very small in Australia. It actually hasn’t changed all that much even before the advent of OPAL replacing HIFAR in 2007, and with cyclotrons, will probably decrease even more in usage, given advancement in technologies – which is naturally what happens in any field! Why shouldn’t we produce Technitium-99m on cyclotrons like Canada are now doing, or import what we need in Australia – something we do regularly anyway when OPAL is offline for maintenance or other reasons for shutdown. Is ANSTO possibly providing Molybdenium99 (Technitium-99m isotope) below cost price simply to remain a player in the global market, and being propped up by the Australian taxpayer?

Is there still a window of opportunity for such a massive commitment to produce up to quarter of the world’s global demand given that the demand just may not be there any longer?

2. And anyway, is Lucas Height’s medical isotope still a viable proposition?

But is Is it still a viable proposition given the expense already occurring with dealing with the Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste generated by the industrial production of Molybdenium-99. In fact again in Senate Estimates Adi Paterson stated (as part of answers to questions) that increasing output of Molybdenium-99 will in fact increase generation of liquid Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste! (7)This is the liquid part of the production of Molybdenium-99 ….which in itself is classified as Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste. This is separate to the reprocessed spent fuel rods in TN-81 casks plus the Intermediate Level technological waste sent back as equivalent nuclear waste from France.

3.Is the expense of ANSTO’s Synroc process justified ?

Then we have the expense of putting the liquid intermediate level nuclear waste generated from the industrial production of Molybdenium-99 into solid form via a process only Australia uses – Synroc. Why has no other place in the world grabbed the technology using Synroc? Is it because it is too expensive to warrant using? Or is it because Synroc is no different to vitrification into glass which is already being used? Regardless, both techniques still require intact shielding of the final waste product – whether it be Synroc or glass.

4. Is tax-payer funded ANSTO accountable for the decisions they make?

All of these points made should be investigated, rather than rubber stamped by committees who say that “ANSTO is doing a great job” – without actually asking the hard questions, and making ANSTO accountable for the decisions they make.

5.Is it sensible to transport nuclear waste 1700km to a small agricultural community, far from the essential nuclear expertise

With respect to the new building being applied for by ANSTO, the extended storage of ANSTO’s Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste on-site at Lucas Heights is warranted – until there is an availability of a proper final disposal option for ALL of the nuclear waste which ANSTO produces and generates. This is the only way that Australians will accept shifting this nuclear waste anywhere other than leaving it safely on site! The current proposal is flawed in so many ways – the largest gaping flaw is the deliberate intention of transporting Intermediate Level Waste and Nuclear Fuel Waste over state border, over 1700 kms across Australia, into a small agricultural community which exports grain and sheep ….and which has NEVER had any past or current dealings with the nuclear industry EVER…and leave it there SIMPLY AS DRY STORAGE IN THE SAME WAY THAT IT IS HELD AT LUCAS HEIGHTS…without the SAME security, safety and monitoring expertise as Lucas Heights has right there on site at a moment’s notice!

Should there develop a problem with say the TN-81 cask, do you think ANSTO will want it transported back to Lucas Heights – back across 1700kms? Remember too, that the TN-81 casks have only a 40 year guaranteed manufacturer’s warranty. What will happen after 40 years, when in all likelihood the cask will need replacing? Where is the Hot Cell for dealing with this waste in any possible timeframe when a problem with the seal, or a crack in the shielding – the only thing actually enabling safe handling and storage – may develop? Where in the middle of a wheat field in the middle of Australia will the expertise be? It won’t be in Kimba! In fact it won’t be in South Australia! And in fact it won’t actually be ANSTO’s problem!!

What the proposed Kimba site is, put simply, is the last site standing, from a greedy nominator and a dubious selection process and a very flawed and out dated proposal! Read the AECOM report – which they take great pains to point out was preliminary at best – to find out more! Lots of mitigation required with the Kimba site! So much for dealing with this waste in the MOST SAFE way possible WITH NO EXPENSE SPARED, given that this waste is classified as requiring intact shielding to be handled safely and to stop possible contamination to the environment.

Nuclear Waste must be dealt with in the utmost safe conditions with no expense spared. Nuclear waste – this is classified by ARPANSA, so there is no subjective input into this classification – must be highly regulated when it comes to handling and dealing with it. And this also take into account classification as well as quantity. Low level nuclear waste has a classified life of 300 years to decay back to background levels. Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste has a classified life of 1000 years….and High Level Nuclear Waste 1000’s of years – much longer than any of us here today! Even 300 years for the Low Level Nuclear Waste in comparison is BEFORE European colonization of Australia – for that comparison to be put it into perspective!

6. Why the pretend urgency, when Lucas Heights can safely store the nuclear waste until 2060 or beyond?

ANSTO owns and manages approximately 500 hectares at Lucas Heights. Of that, only 70 hectares has been developed by ANSTO.The OPAL reactor has a lifetime of 50 years. It was commissioned in 2007. That takes us into 2060…and then even if it was the end of the use of the reactor, the spent fuel rods from the reactor must be kept ON SITE in the holding cooling ponds for a further 8-10 years BEFORE there is any chance of dealing with them. So there is no urgency to shift ANY of this waste until a proper solution is found to deal with ALL of this waste – Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste FIRST and the Low Level Nuclear Waste can follow that! Handled once only – no double handling! Double handling is definitely against International Best Practise!

7. How much Federal money goes to ANSTO, compared with other scientific research?

What would be interesting is to know how much the Federal Government injects into ANSTO budget every year since its inception! There are over 1000 staff employed at ANSTO. How much of the Federal science budget is used up by ANSTO? Is it at the expense of other sciences like CSIRO and other research endeavours not involving nuclear science?To include into the argument by ANSTO that the proviso of construction of the new Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste storage building at Lucas Heights is contingent on the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) is up and running, is disingenuous since the NRWMF hasn’t even been declared yet!…let alone licenced!

8. Is it alright for ANSTO to cease all responsibility for its nuclear wastes, once they are sent to Kimba?

And keep in mind, ANSTO will ONLY be a customer for this proposed dump. ANSTO will not play any part in its management or development, apart from perhaps on a consultative basis. There is no “stewardship” involvement of ANSTO with this NRWMF – they wash their hands and books of all responsibility of the waste THAT THEY PRODUCE once it lands at the gates of the NRWMF!

The proposal part for the Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste and Nuclear Fuel Waste is to leave it in the proposed TOTALLY ALL ABOVE GROUND NRWMF in INDEFINITE STORAGE which means it will be there essentially forever – in layman’s terms known as STRANDED or ZOMBIE WASTE – not to be dealt with any time soon in the future!

This is a forty year old proposal which has been dragged out yet again, WITHOUT ONE RED CENT SPENT on dealing with the Intermediate Level Nuclear Waste properly at all! “Tag-a-long” does not equate to dealing with this waste properly!

It is simply making this a case of putting this waste “out of sight and out of mind”!

Lucas Heights is the very best place for this waste currently. Until a proper solution is found for ALL of the waste ANSTO produces – trotting out the exact same proposal from forty years ago is not a solution.

The indefinite Store for ANSTO nuclear fuel waste & ILW in South Australia IS UNTENABLE, as the CURRENT PROPOSAL by the Federal Government have put forward.

And that is why the additional Intermediate Level Nuclear Storage building must be allowed to be built at Lucas heights.


August 16, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, health, politics, reference | Leave a comment

Uranium mining and high cancer rates in Aboriginals around Ranger mine

Kakadu mining and radiation, The Saturday Paper 14 Aug 21, Max Opray  Carved out of the pristine surroundings of Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, the Ranger uranium mine has long been a site of deep controversy.

The mine may have been decommissioned in January, but concerns remain about its legacy, as the Mirarr traditional owners suffer through a mysterious health crisis.

The stillbirth rate among Aboriginal people living near the mine is more than twice as high as among Indigenous Australians elsewhere in the Top End, and rates of cancer are almost 50 per cent higher.

A six-year Northern Territory investigation into the issue failed to identify the cause, noting only that risk factors relating to diet, smoking and alcohol consumption were higher in the local population than in other Aboriginal populations.

The investigation was conducted by staff at the Population and Digital Health Branch of the Northern Territory Department of Health  and overseen by an independent reviewer in cancer, epidemiologist professor Bruce Armstrong.

The report, published in November 2020, concluded ionising radiation from uranium mining was unlikely to be linked but did not categorically rule it out.

However, a Flinders University Centre for Remote Health analysis of the government investigation, published in the Medical Journal of Australia this month, found that the parameters of the inquiry were too narrow.

“Cancer is a complex condition,” Dr Rosalie Schultz, author of the analysis, tells The Saturday Paper. “A study like this can’t find a definitive cause.”

The Alice Springs GP was concerned that the main outtake of the report was that Aboriginal people should smoke and drink less.

“Statistically, it didn’t look like smoking and drinking caused the excess cancer rate,” she says. “It’s almost like blaming people rather than looking into the reasons – why is it people are smoking and drinking more in that area in particular, for instance?”

With more than 200 documented leaks, spills and other incidents associated with the mine, Schultz argues the impact of Ranger was multifaceted, including social consequences not considered by the investigation. “Things like destruction of waterbirds and creeks, the worry of that when you get your food and livelihood from the land,” she says.

A senate estimates committee heard in 2009 that 100,000 litres of contaminated water a day was leaking from the mine’s tailings dam into rock fissures beneath Kakadu.

In another breach in 2004, dozens of mine employees were found to have showered in and consumed water containing 400 times the legal limit of uranium.

In response to the release of the Territory government report, Reuben Cooper, chair of the Red Lily Health Board Aboriginal Corporation, welcomed messages “to encourage reduction in smoking and alcohol consumption” but said the findings offered an incomplete picture.

“This investigation does not discuss the reasons for higher rates of smoking and alcohol consumption in the Gunbalanya–Kakadu region,” he said, “which could include factors such as cultural dislocation, stress and royalty payments. Nor does it discuss the potential social impacts that the uranium mining industry has had on the population in the region.”

Schultz’s analysis expands further on these points, noting how unevenly distributed royalty money can increase inequality and the ways in which locals were deprived of a sense of agency and authority.

“The inquiry didn’t look at other knowledge, such as the Dreaming stories about sickness country,” Schultz says.

Centuries before Western science understood the dangers of radioactive substances, Aboriginal people were avoiding the uranium-rich sites near Kakadu, which were considered inappropriate places to camp.

The Dreaming stories of the Jawoyn people warn against disturbing stones or drinking water in what they called “sickness country” south of Ranger, beneath which Bula the creator is said to lie dormant.

In and around the Ranger site itself, the Dreaming stories of the Mirarr warn of sacred sites that are dangerous to disturb……………..

With no data available about individual exposure to ionising radiation, the report authors concluded this was unlikely to have been a contributing factor based on measurement of environmental radiation levels, consumption of bush tucker, and airborne exposure to radon gas.

Justin O’Brien, chief executive of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Mirarr people, says the “shocking paucity of data” extends to all aspects of the health and social impacts of the mine. “It’s a very limited data set, so no wonder the findings are inconclusive,” he says………..

With the mine decommissioned in January this year, O’Brien is concerned about whether operators Energy Resources of Australia, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, will properly rehabilitate the Ranger site, warning that radioactive waste from uranium mining can remain hazardous for tens of thousands of years.

“This is just the first chapter of the legacy of this mine, and the world is watching Rio Tinto,” he says. “The mining company has been given five years to complete all the rehabilitation work – this is patently insufficient.”…………

For Schultz’s part, the monitoring of Ranger failed even in the context of Western science. “They didn’t do what was recommended to consider local perspectives and concerns,” she says. “It was a top-down epidemiological approach, where if you can exclude ionising radiation, the mine is off the hook. It feels like the science is taking a narrower approach now – we used to have researchers embedded in communities. Forty years later … we just look at five data points and that’s it.”

August 14, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, health, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

Higher cancer and stillbirth rates in Aboriginal people living near the Ranger uranium mine

Aboriginal people near the Ranger uranium mine suffered more stillbirths and cancer. We don’t know why,  The Conversation, Rosalie Schultz, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, College of Medicine and Public Health Centre for Remote Health, Flinders University, August 2, 2021 This article mentions stillbirth deaths in Aboriginal communities.

The Ranger uranium mine, surrounded by Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, operated for 40 years until it closed in 2021During this time, Aboriginal people in the region experienced stillbirth rates double those of Aboriginal people elsewhere in the Top End, and cancer rates almost 50% higher.

But a NT government investigation couldn’t explain why. And as I write today in the Medical Journal of Australia, we’re still no wiser.

We owe it to Aboriginal people living near mines to understand and overcome what’s making them sick. We need to do this in partnership with Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations. This may require research that goes beyond a biomedical focus to consider the web of socio-cultural and political factors contributing to Aboriginal well-being and sickness.

Investigating the health impacts

Uranium was mined at Ranger from 1981 until 2012. Processing of stockpiled ore continued until 2021. This is despite community opposition when the mine was proposed and during its operation.

Over the life of the mine, there have been more than 200 documented incidents. Diesel and acid spills have contaminated creeks and drinking water.

The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation represents the Mirarr people of the region. For decades it has expressed grave concerns about continuing incidents and the lack of an effective government response.

When Ranger’s operators proposed expanding the mine in 2014, opponents pointed to suggestions of higher rates of stillbirth and cancer among Aboriginal people living nearby.

The NT health department then set up an investigation. Investigators began by identifying all Aboriginal people who had spent more than half their lives near the mine between 1991 and 2014. These people were compared with all other Aboriginal people in the Top End.

The investigators considered the worst-case scenario would be if Aboriginal people were exposed to radiation from the mine contaminating bush food, water or air, and this exposure increased stillbirth and cancer rates.

Investigators also looked at smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol and poor diet as possible contributing causes.

Here’s what they found

Investigators found the rate of stillbirth was 2.17 times higher among Aboriginal women near the mine. Radiation can lead to stillbirth by causing congenital malformations, and some other risk factors for stillbirth appeared more common amongst women near the mine. However the investigation found neither radiation nor other risk factors explained the higher rate of stillbirth.

The rate of cancer overall was 1.48 times higher among Aboriginal people near the mine than elsewhere in the Top End. No rates of single cancers were significantly higher………….

August 2, 2021 Posted by | health, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment