We urgently need a genuine and disinterested examination of the costs and consequences of Australia’s role in fuelling the international nuclear trade.
Earlier this decade the Nobel Peace Prize winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War’s (IPPNW) called for a global ban on uranium mining after finding:
‘Uranium ore mining and the production of uranium oxide (yellowcake) are irresponsible and represent a grave threat to health and to the environment. Both processes involve an elementary violation of human rights and their use lead to an incalculable risk for world peace and an obstacle to nuclear disarmament.’
Six years on from Fukushima: Facing the fallout, Independent Australia, 11 March 2017, Six years after the Fukushima disaster, it’s long overdue for Australia’s nuclear apologists to face up to their responsibilities, writes Dave Sweeney.
SIX YEARS is a long time to do nothing. Australian governments of all shades routinely claim they are on the front foot — innovative, agile and responsive. The Australian mining industry’s rhetoric is full of commitments to world’s best practise, highest standards and innovative community engagement.
But when it comes to the under-performing uranium sector, these adjectives and assurances are simply cover for a profound retreat from responsibility…….
While the headlines might have faded, the radiation, dislocation and complexity has not. Lives have been utterly disrupted and altered, and Fukushima remains a costly, complex and continuing nuclear crisis, and an unresolved environmental and social tragedy today.
So what does this sad story have to do with Australian Government, and mining industry inaction and denial?
Lots. Fukushima was directly fuelled by Australian uranium. Fukushima’s radioactive fallout started its life as a rock in Australia.
In October 2011, there was formal confirmation from the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) that
‘Australian obligated nuclear material (uranium) was at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in each of the reactors.’
Now, Australia rips and ships many minerals to many places and it would be unreasonable to put too much responsibility on the supply chain — no one holds a local miner culpable for a fatal motor accident in a car made overseas from Australian origin iron ore.
But uranium is different. Continue reading
Uranium calls for approved projects to go ahead, Paul Garvey, The Australian, Mining & Energy, March 13, 2017 Resources reporter Perth Labor’s emphatic victory in the West Australian election has cast a shadow over the state’s uranium sector, with the industry urging the incoming government to keep the door open for the most advanced uranium projects.
The Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has given environmental approval to the Mulga Rock uranium mine in WA this week, just days ahead of the election, despite the lack of cross-party support for this toxic industry, the Australian Greens said.
Australian Greens Co-Deputy Leader and Nuclear Issues spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam said, “This week’s federal environmental approval for the Mulga Rock uranium project is premature and deeply deficient.”
“This decision is a real departure from the norm with virtually no conditions for the environment, for mine closure and rehabilitation or for the management of radioactive mine waste.
“Frydenberg has set a dangerously low precedent for one of Australia’s most dangerous and toxic industries.
“The Mulga Rock uranium project is in a pristine environment, a Priority Ecological Community and home to many rare and endangered species. The project would use 15 million litres of water a day in one of Australia’s most arid regions, and turn that water into radioactive waste. The threat of radioactive mine waste in the environment will remain for thousands of years.
“With the uranium price sitting at $25 / lb, half the amount needed for the project to break even, there is certainly no immediate prospects for this mine to begin construction.
“This fast tracked approval seems to be driven by the politics of the WA State election rather than evidence and good process” concluded Senator Ludlam..
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.”