The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties today recommended the conditional ratification of the nuclear co-operation agreement with Ukraine even though the committee’s own investigation conceded existing safeguards were ‘not sufficient’ and there was a risk Australian nuclear material would disappear off the radar in Ukraine.
“Australia, the nation that fuelled Fukushima should not sell uranium to the country that gave us Chernobyl,” said ACF’s Dave Sweeney.
“The treaties committee’s report found ‘Australian nuclear material should never be placed in a situation where there is a risk that regulatory control of the material will be lost’ (2.53), yet that is exactly what could happen under the inadequate checks and balances that apply to exported Australian uranium.
“The committee’s report clearly states the Australian government must undertake a detailed and proper risk assessment and develop an effective contingency plan for the removal of ‘at risk’ Australian nuclear material.
“There can be no justification for seeking to fast-track uranium sales based on this report.
“Australia should be very cautious about contributing nuclear fuel to an already tense geo-political situation in eastern Europe. Tensions recently flared again in Ukraine.
“Ukraine’s nuclear sector is plagued by serious and unresolved safety, security and governance issues.
“Two-thirds of Ukraine’s aging fleet of 15 nuclear reactors will be past its design lifetime use-by date in just four years.
“This is an insecure and unsafe sector and a risky sales plan.
“ACF calls on the federal government to be a responsible global citizen and not to advance uranium sales to Ukraine.”
Kado Muir, Chairperson of the West Australia Nuclear Free Alliance said, “I’m disappointed, but it’s not over, we’ll keep fighting against the Yeelirrie uranium mine proposal. The project doesn’t add up and the risks for the environment as well cultural heritage are far too great.”
“The Ministers decision to make many species extinct against the advice of experts and the EPA shows how little our environmental laws mean to this Government.”
Richard Evan Koara Elder said “Cameco and the Government have no respect for our heritage or for life.”
“The Minister who gave approval to mine Yeelirrie, he does not own the land. He does not have the right to destroy our cultural heritage or the subterranean fauna. He’s supposed to protect the environment not approve its destruction.”
“This is our sovereign land and we do not want Cameco to mine here. We’ve fought against this mine for 40 years, our old people said not to touch that area, we have to listen to them. We will continue to say no to Yeelirrie. We will keep fighting, our country is too important.” https://nuclearfree.wordpress.com/media/
State and national environment groups condemn yesterday’s decision by the Environment Minister to approve the Yeelirrie uranium mine, which the EPA recommended be rejected in August 2016.
Conservation Council of WA Director Piers Verstegen said, “The approval goes against the advice of the EPA, against the wishes of the local community, and against the economic reality that this project is not feasible.
“This decision sets a shocking new precedent for WA environmental law – a decision which clearly and knowingly breaches one of the core objectives of the Environmental Protection Act, the Precautionary Principle. This decision allows the extinction of multiple unique wildlife species which exist nowhere else on Earth, which raises some serious legal questions.
“The EPA has made it clear that this project threatens the extinction of unique wildlife. If the Minister allows wildlife of any sort to become extinct for the sake of an unwanted and uneconomic uranium mine, then all of our wildlife is at risk everywhere.
“Minister Jacob and the Barnett Government has long held an ideological position that uranium should be mined – against the wishes of the community, against market reality, and now against the recommendations of the State’s independent environment umpire and the future of unique species.
“In the last few months, the decision to go ahead with the Roe 8 project in known breach of environmental policy, and now to reject EPA advice for the sake of an unviable uranium mine, demonstrates that the Government is willing to put their ideology ahead of their responsibility to protect the environment, and ahead of public interest.”
CCWA Nuclear Free Campaigner Mia Pepper said, “Despite the Minister’s recent rush to see uranium mined in WA, and after two terms of a pro-uranium Government, not one of the WA uranium proposals will have final approvals granted before the State election in March – and none will be economically viable.
“This project and the Minister’s approval will continue to be strongly contested by state and national conservation groups and the local community, and will continue to struggle to attract investors.”
Yeelirrie uranium mine approval defended by Albert Jacob amid environmental fears, ABC News 18 JAN 17 By Briana Shepherd and Sam Tomlin Western Australia’s Environment Minister has defended his decision to back Canadian mining company Cameco’s Yeelirrie uranium project, despite the environmental watchdog advising against it. The Barnett Government has granted approval for the Yeelirrie mine in the Goldfields subject to 17 “strict conditions”, five months after the Environmental Protection Authority knocked back the proposal.
It is the third WA uranium mine proposal approved in the past month, and WA Labor Leader Mark McGowan said it was a clear sign the Government was in a hurry.
“The Government obviously has an ideological addiction to uranium mining — they’re putting their approvals through now before the state election,” he said.
The EPA advised against the Yeelirrie project based on what it said was a risk to tiny stygofauna — a microscopic underground shrimp-like species……….
Uranium market soft, production unlikely anytime soon
Price remains the largest challenge for the state’s would-be uranium miners, with the global spot sitting at just over $US21 per pound.
The collapse from highs of $US137 per pound came in the wake of the Fukushima Nuclear disaster in 2011.
Minelife.com.au senior analyst Gavin Wendt said the historically low price meant progress would be challenging for any of WA’s four proposed mines.
“I think it’s highly unlikely Cameco will bring this mine on stream anytime soon,” Mr Wendt said.
“There’s a big difference between having environmental approval and the economics of the operation being clear and justified — I don’t think we have a situation like that at the present time.”
Mr Reilly conceded price remained the key concern for Cameco.
“The market is oversupplied, and like any commodity [uranium] goes through its cycles,” he said.
“We’re optimistic that down the track we will see better and stronger prices, but right now the uranium market is soft so we’re working with the objective to get the projects ready.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-17/yeelirrie-uranium-mine-approval-defended-by-albert-jacob/8189108
Toro Energy’s Wiluna uranium mine in Goldfields gets green light from WA Government, ABC News, By Jarrod Lucas, 9 Jan 17, Western Australia’s first uranium mine is a step closer after the state’s Environment Minister Albert Jacob granted approval for a project at Wiluna in the northern Goldfields.
The owners of the proposed mine, Toro Energy, still need the green light from Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg.
Toro told the stock market on Monday afternoon it hoped federal approval would be granted by March…..
, uranium miners rushing to get approvals in place before March’s state election were thwarted in their bid for a hat-trick when Canadian giant Cameco’s proposed Yeelirrie mine was knocked back on environmental grounds last year……
Drop in Australian uranium production predicted
Uranium prices remain near historic lows, depressed since the 2011 Japanese tsunami sent the Fukushima plant into multiple meltdowns.
The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science today released its Resources and Energy Quarterly which forecast Australian uranium production to decrease by 6.8 per cent this financial year to 7,141 tonnes……http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-09/toro-energy-wiluna-uranium-mine-approved-by-wa-government/8171398
The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.…..A variety of factors underlay the harm to public health, Aboriginal culture and the natural environment which the British tests entailed. Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program….There seems little doubt that the secrecy in which the entire testing program was cloaked served British rather than Australian interests…..Information passed to Australian officials was kept to the minimum necessary to facilitate their assistance in the conduct of the testing program. The use of plutonium in the minor trials was not disclosed……
A toxic legacy : British nuclear weapons testing in Australia, Australian Institute of Criminology. “…… Three days after the conclusion of the Totem trials, the Australian government was formally advised of British desires to establish a permanent testing site in Australia. In August 1954, the Australian Cabinet agreed to the establishment of a permanent testing ground at a site that became named Maralinga, Continue reading
Western Australia: Cameco’s Yeelirrie uranium project halted due to risk to 12 species of subterranean fauna.
The Appeals Convenor and the Minister for Environment have released the findings of the Appeals process. The Minister will continue to deliberate and make a decision soon. He has been clear to say that the EPA report will be considered along with economic considerations.
There is still every chance the Minister will approve the mine – but at this stage he has rejected Cameco’s appeal in regards to subterranean fauna:
In relation to subterranean fauna, the EPA’s report concluded that there remained too great a chance of a loss of 12 species that may be restricted to the impact area and therefore concluded that the proposal could not meet its objectives for this factor
Western Australia’s Premier (like South Australia’s) risks political oblivion in promoting nuclear power
With a state election around the corner it is time for all candidates to understand that support for clean renewable power will increasingly be a community pre-condition for access to political power.
Premier’s nuclear push is proof of a government in meltdown, http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18719 By Mia Pepper . 12 December 2016 “…..At the recent COAG meeting our Premier has gone out on a glowing limb in a bid to revive the debate on nuclear power. Now there’s nothing wrong with a healthy debate, but this debate has been had repeatedly and the answer is always the same. It is time to put this tired talking point to bed and get on with the energy transition we can no longer ignore.
In 2016 the SA Government’s Royal Commission into the Nuclear industry found that “it would not be commercially viable to develop a nuclear power plant in South Australia…”
A decade earlier in 2006 the Switkowski Report found that “Nuclear power is likely to be between 20 and 50 per cent more costly to produce” than existing power sources and acknowledged that the reality that disposal of “high-level waste including spent nuclear fuel remains an issue in most nuclear power countries.”
Both these reports were initiated with a pro-nuclear agenda. Both sought to progress the contested nuclear industry within Australia. Both found insurmountable barriers including cost, time, contest and the complexity of nuclear waste.
None of these key factors have changed and they are not likely to. Many in the community remain deeply sceptical of nuclear power – and in the shadow of the Australian uranium fuelled and continuing Fukushima nuclear crisis – this too is unlikely to change.
A mystery akin to whale beachings is why do conservative politicians periodically wash up demanding that ‘we should include nuclear in the debate’ when we all know that the numbers simply do not add up?
Well, in short it is not a real proposal rather a headline grabbing convenient distraction from the very real issue of the need to rapidly transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
The reality is that we do not have the decades that nuclear reactors take to build, license and start. Our emissions are rising alongside global temperatures and the global climate clock is ticking loud.
The Premier’s latest foray into the nuclear space shows how little he understands about the risks – both nuclear and climatic. In 2015 when there was talk of West Australia possibly hosting Australia’s nuclear waste his reaction was effectively ‘don’t worry about it as it’s just a couple of X-rays’. The national nuclear waste problem in Australia has zero to do with x-rays and everything to do with spent nuclear fuel from the Lucas Heights reactor in Sydney – material that is far more serious and long Continue reading
Writing on the wall for Paladin Energy Ltd, The Motley Fool, Mike King – December 1, 2016 Uranium miner Paladin Energy Ltd (ASX: PDN) faces the prospect of being unable to repay US$212 million due in April 2017 and being forced into liquidation.
The troubled company has seen its share price slump more than 65% this year alone. The planned sale of 24% of its Langer Heinrich Mine (LHM) to CNNC Overseas Uranium Holdings (COUH) for US$175 million appears unlikely to complete before the end of 2016. Now Paladin has been forced to consider other ‘contingencies’ to repay the 2017 convertible bonds.
Not only that but Paladin also needs to raise working capital as it struggles to generate positive cash flow with uranium prices trading under US$20 per pound – the lowest prices in more than 12 years. As Paladin admits, that’s a level that no producer in the world can sustainably break even, and most producers are experiencing negative cash flows.
That’s a long way away from Paladin’s all-in cash expenditure of extracting uranium of US$38.75 per pound (lb). Even the company’s C1 cash costs of US$25.88/lb are well above the spot price of uranium. Paladin is forecasting all-in costs of around US$30/lb for the 2017 financial year, but it’s clear that even at that level, the company is going backwards.
Energy Resources of Australia Limited (ASX: ERA), majority owned by Rio Tinto Limited(ASX: RIO) faces a similar prospect to Paladin and is likely to shut up shop in 2021, once it has finished processing stockpiles at its Ranger uranium mine.
The problem for uranium miners around the world is that since the Fukushima nuclear incident in 2011, uranium prices have steadily fallen from above US$60/lb to its current price under US$20/lb……
Paladin faces the prospect of sinking into administration unless it can find a white knight willing to take a minority stake in its mine – or make an outright bid for the whole company.
That appears highly unlikely. http://www.fool.com.au/2016/12/01/writing-on-the-wall-for-paladin-energy-ltd/
Toro Energy rings in the changes at the top as Dr Vanessa Guthrie departs http://www.proactiveinvestors.com.au/companies/news/169921/toro-energy-rings-in-the-changes-at-the-top-as-dr-vanessa-guthrie-departs-169921.html
Major parties push a losing uranium sector to India at great risk http://www.smh.com.au/comment/major-parties-push-a-losing-uranium-sector-to-india-at-great-risk-20161128-gszld4.html Dave Sweeney , 29 Nov 16
With little fuss or fanfare, Australia’s two major parties have this week agreed to fly under the radioactive radar and pass an innocuous enough sounding law with some very far reaching implications.
The Indian Civil Nuclear Transfers Act exists to provide “certainty to Australian uranium producers” who want to sell the controversial product to India.
In 2015 a detailed investigation by Parliament’s treaties committee found there were serious and unresolved nuclear safety, security and governance issues with the proposed sales plan. It also found a high level of legal uncertainty. Continue reading
The Federal Government …remains resistant to an independent cost-benefit assessment of Australia’s uranium trade, as directly requested by the then UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon in the wake of Fukushima.
instead of the requested industry review there has been a retreat from responsibility and a rush to rip and ship more uranium ore by fast-tracking risky and contested new uranium sales deals, including to India and Ukraine.
Despite Canberra’s irresponsible fire sale approach the Australian uranium sector is facing tough times…..
On shaky ground: Australian uranium and Fukushima https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/on-shaky-ground-australian-uranium-and-fukushima,9778 Dave Sweeney 28 November 2016
THE POWERFUL EARTHQUAKE that struck off the coast of Fukushima prefecture in Japan last week, is a stark reminder of the deep and continuing safety concerns following the 2011 nuclear disaster.
The stricken reactor complex remains polluted and porous and every added complication leads to further contamination.
Closer to home the renewed tectonic instability highlights the need for urgent Australian government action on the industry that directly fuelled the continuing nuclear crisis.
In October 2011, Robert Floyd, the director general of the Department of Foregn Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) confirmed to the Federal Parliament that
“Australian obligated nuclear material [uranium] was at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in each of the reactors.”
Earlier this week without fanfare, a group of federal politicians gathered to take a very quick look at an issue with very long consequences. As far as ideas go, a uranium sales deal between the country that fuelled Fukushima and the one that gave the world Chernobyl doesn’t sound like a good one.
And it’s not. There are serious and unresolved nuclear security, safety and governance concerns with the plan and putting more unstable nuclear material into a deeply politically unstable part of the world is force-feeding risk.
There is a lack of detailed information to support the safety and safeguards assumptions underpinning the proposed treaty action, and DFAT’s National Interest Analysis of the plan is deeply deficient, especially in relation to key safeguards and security concerns and the implications of the Russian conflict.
The NIA’s under-stated noting ‘that political tensions currently exist between Ukraine and Russia’ completely fails to recognise or reflect the gravity of the situation. Continue reading
BHP Billiton living in la la land on uranium: mining giant faces difficult questions at its Annual General Meeting
16th November 2016 Company Directors of BHP Billiton will face some difficult questions tomorrow at the mining giants Annual General Meeting in Brisbane. The operator of the Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia’s north has been receiving much attention over the past year after the tailings dam collapse at its jointly owned Samarco iron ore mine in Brazil in November 2015, causing what’s been described as the worst environmental disaster in Brazil’s history.
Anti-nuclear and social justice campaigner Adam Sharah is one of several delegates attending the meeting to challenge company directors on matters including the Samarco disaster and issues surrounding the Olympic Dam mine. Mr Sharah will question company directors about BHP Billiton’s position regarding nuclear regulation in Australia, new expansion plans for Olympic Dam, and plans to increase the height of the tailings dams at the mine.
In its submission to the recent South Australian Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, BHP Billiton recommended that nuclear actions should not be regulated under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the key piece of legislation for environmental protection in Australia, on the basis that uranium is just like any other mineral. The company claims that “there is no scientific basis for uranium mining to be defined as a Matter of Environmental Significance…”
“BHP Billiton is in la la land if they still believe that uranium is just like any other metal – no other metal has such an enormous range of international treaties – uranium is fundamentally risky, and BHP Billiton should act accordingly,” said leading Environmental Engineering academic, Dr Gavin Mudd.
“What would have been the impact of the tailings dam collapse in Brazil if the tailings were radioactive?” asks Adam Sharah. “Uranium and the tailings produced by uranium mining are unique both in their health and long term environmental impacts.”
“In the wake of the tailings dam collapse in Brazil, there are concerns here in Australia about reports that BHP Billiton are seeking approval to increase the height of their tailings dams at the Olympic Dam mine,” continued Mr Sharah. “It is important that the company clarify this for the Australian public, Aboriginal custodians of the area, and its shareholders.”
Mr Sharah will also seek clarification on the progress of the company’s plans for an on-site heap leach trial at Olympic Dam as part of a cheaper expansion plan, after it shelved it’s grand expansion plans in 2012.
“It is always a concern when corporations start seeking cheaper, cost-cutting alternatives,” said Nectaria Calan, of BHP Billiton Watch. “These concerns are magnified by the fact that federal approval of the heap leach trial did not require any environmental assessment even though heap leach mining is not a method currently used on-site at the Olympic Dam mine.”
“Yet despite by-passing environmental assessment for the trial, and despite the legal privileges and exemptions BHP Billiton enjoy under the Indenture Act, which only applies to the Olympic Dam mine, the company is still lobbying through forums such as the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission to reduce regulation further. This type of regulatory race to the bottom, characteristic of third world nations competing for foreign capital, will only make disasters like Brazils more common.”
BHP Billiton’s AGM will be held on Thursday 17th November, 11 am, Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
Miner contemplates NT town’s future http://www.news.com.au/national/breaking-news/miner-contemplates-nt-towns-future/news-story/ebc248cbfd26edd555465ae79964e8ad NOVEMBER 15, 2016
Discussions over the future of a community near the Northern Territory’s Kakadu National Park have begun as a mining company prepares to pull out.
Jabiru town was built for a uranium mine which has been operating for more than three decades.
It was always intended to be temporary and its head lease will expire in about four years.
ERA operates the Ranger mine and has started a social impact assessment (SIA) to determine a transition and rehabilitation strategy for the township.
ERA says it’s not developing a plan for the future of Jabiru beyond the lease expiration in 2021 when production stops, which is expected to cost 350 jobs.
“It is important to note that a separate process involving the commonwealth government, Northern Territory government and traditional owner representatives has commenced to develop and agree a future plan for Jabiru,” ERA said.
“The outcome of those discussions will also have a significant influence on ERA’s plans.”
Traditional owners warn that if the NT government doesn’t commit to the town’s future it will effectively be demolished.
Justin O’Brien, chief executive of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation which represents traditional owners, says Jabiru is the gateway to Kakadu and should continue to function without the mine.
Jabiru residents and local business owners have been invited to attend 30 information sessions in November and Deccember, while more will take place early next year.