Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

In Western Australia, first Cameco’s Kintyre uranium project was disallowed, now Toro’s uranium project also rejected

Nuclear Free WA, K-A Garlick. Nuclear Free Community Campaigner

13 Jan 22 On Monday we got confirmation from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation that the  Wiluna uranium mine cannot be developed as their environmental approval expired on 9 January 2022 – having failed to “substantially commence” mining. 

Toro could apply to extend the approval but we are hopeful that any request would be rejected. In March 2020 Cameco’s Kintyre approval expired and their request to extend denied. This is a good precedent. We are also tracking the Yeelirrie project which is due to expire on 20 January 2022. We are looking forward to other opportunities to secure lasting protections against uranium mine proposals in WA. Stay posted. 

January 13, 2022 Posted by | politics, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Traditional Owners and environment groups vow to fight Mulga Rock uranium decision

Traditional Owners and national and state environment groups say a decision
by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation to allow a
controversial uranium mine in WA’s Goldfields to proceed is unjustified and
inconsistent with the evidence.

The Mulga Rock uranium project has been declared to have met an important
‘substantial commencement’ condition that is required to maintain crucial
environmental approvals.

A condition of the Mulga Rock approvals – issued by the former Barnett government
– was that the proponent, Vimy Resources, must “substantially commence” mining
by 16 December 2021. Failure to meet that condition would have prevented the
company from pursuing the mine.

The company has failed to meet with the Upurli Upurli Nguratja registered Native
Title claim group, which is entitled to negotiate on an Area Use Agreement.

The company has continually failed to engage with and respect Traditional Owners
or understand processes and protocols on meeting with the claimant group.

Campaigners say to advance the project without consulting with the group is
disrespectful and out of step with community expectation and best industry practice.
“It’s very clear that as a native title group we don’t want uranium mining on our
country,” said Upurli Upurli Nguratja claimant Debbie Carmody. “This decision has
sidelined our voice and undermined the Native Title process”.

“Any progress to continue to develop this mine is done without consent and without
even having met with our claim group. We have been let down by the company and
now by the Government.

“We will continue to fight this project and stand up for our country and culture.”
Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) Nuclear Free campaigner Mia Pepper said it
was fanciful to say the project has substantially commenced.

“We will continue to fight this project and stand up for our country and culture.”
Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) Nuclear Free campaigner Mia Pepper said it
was fanciful to say the project has substantially commenced.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Nuclear Free campaigner Dave Sweeney
said while the company had done some premature and destructive clearing at the
site, it was not substantial

“If this mine proceeds it would cause unacceptable harm to the environment,
including damage to vital habitat for the endangered sandhill dunnart, which is found
in only a handful of locations across Australia.

“Vimy does not have the necessary finance and has not made a Board level decision
to pursue this mine. It still needs a range of approvals, permits, licences and
agreements.”

The Conservation Council of WA and the Australian Conservation Foundation, which
have opposed uranium mining in WA for several decades, are reviewing today’s
decision and exploring all available avenues to stop this mine from proceeding.

December 17, 2021 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Environmentalists and Traditional Owners very dissatisfied with Western Australia’s Environment Department ‘s ruling supporting uranium project.

Green groups angry over uranium project milestone, Stuart McKinnonThe West Australian, 16 Dec 21,

Environmentalists are livid after Vimy Resources was deemed to have met a key milestone in its approvals process that allows it to pursue the development of its Mulga Rock uranium project.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has ruled that the company has begun “substantial commencement” of the project 290km east of Kalgoorlie, an essential component of its approval five years ago.

The former Barnett Government approved the controversial project on December 16, 2016, but ordered that Vimy must have substantially commenced work within five years.

The company had submitted to the DWER that substantial works had begun last month based on the recent clearing of about 143ha, expenditure of more than $20 million over the past five years and a further $8m to be spent on early works before the end of January.

But green groups and Traditional Owners say the decision to allow the project to proceed is unjustified and inconsistent with the evidence.

A statement released jointly by the Upurli Upurli Nguratja claimants and the WA Conservation Council argued the company had failed to meet with the registered Native Title claim group, which is entitled to negotiate a land use agreement.

They say to advance the project without consulting with the group is disrespectful and out of step with community expectation and best industry practice.

Vimy’s works to date have been a clumsy last-minute attempt to hold on to controversial environmental approvals for a toxic commodity that has no social licence.

Upurli Upurli Nguratja claimant Debbie Carmody said the decision had sidelined the group’s voice and undermined the Native Title process.

“We will continue to fight this project and stand up for our country and culture,” she said.

CCWA Nuclear Free campaigner Mia Pepper said it was fanciful to say the project had substantially commenced.

“Vimy’s works to date have been a clumsy last-minute attempt to hold on to controversial environmental approvals for a toxic commodity that has no social licence,” she said.

Ms Pepper said the clearance work completed to date represented just 4.27 per cent of the intended clearing and the company’s expenditure represented just 2.2 per cent of the total estimated capital costs.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Nuclear Free campaigner Dave Sweeney said the mine would cause unacceptable harm to the environment, including damage to vital habitat for the endangered sandhill dunnart, which is found in only a handful of locations across Australia.

The CCWA and the ACF, which have opposed uranium mining in WA for decades, said they were reviewing today’s decision and exploring all avenues to stop the mine from proceeding.

Vimy executive director Steven Michael said the confirmation of substantial commencement was testament to careful planning and executive by the company and was consistent with the Mulga Rock Project Implementation Plan.

“Vimy can now advance Mulga Rock to the next stage of development and will continue to work closely with State and Federal departments to secure the remaining approvals required to bring the project into production by 2025,” he said.

However Vimy is yet to make a final investment decision or nail down a funding solution for the $US255m ($355m) project.

Its shares closed up 1.5c, or 8 per cent, at 20.5c on Thursday.

December 17, 2021 Posted by | environment, politics, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Traditional owners say Vimy Resources is not listening to Aboriginal people

Tom Robinson Kalgoorlie Miner, Tue, 30 November 2021

Debbie Carmody spoke at Vimy’s AGM as a proxy for a shareholder. 

A Goldfields Aboriginal woman has taken her people’s opposition to Vimy Resources’ proposed Mulga Rock uranium mine to the company’s inner sanctum, and says Vimy is not listening to traditional owners.

Anangu Spinifex woman Debbie Carmody is descended from displaced Aboriginal people, who were forced off their country at Maralinga in South Australia by nuclear testing in the mid-20th century.

Now, she is a prominent voice against the proposed uranium mine 290km east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, within her traditional lands on the Upurli Upurli Nguratja native title claim — which was registered on January 22 this year.

She believes her people’s cultural and social relationship with their country is threatened by the prospect of uranium mining.

Ms Carmody travelled to Perth last Friday to join protesters at Vimy’s AGM, and spoke at the meeting as a proxy for a shareholder who was in opposition to the Mulga Rock proposal, and bought the shares to gain access to the company’s meetings.

Conservation Council of WA protesting against the proposed uranium mine in front of Vimy’s AGM last week. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

Ms Carmody said she told the AGM that Vimy had not consulted with UUN traditional owners and outlined the fears she holds for her country, but she said her protests fell on deaf ears.

“Our people have a long history with radioactive fallout and our families have died and have suffered rare and painful deaths as a result of radiation poisoning,” she said.

“We want to protect our special sites, the flora and fauna, and the underground water. We want to protect the destruction of our homelands.”

Last Thursday, Vimy Resources rejected claims it had not consulted with the UUN group, with interim chief executive Steven Michael saying the company met with Central Desert Native Title Services, which was acting on behalf of UUN.

But Ms Carmody said this did not represent proper consultation and felt the miner should have spoken to the UUN group directly.

“Vimy claimed to have consulted with Central Desert Native Title Services, I pointed out that they are not UNN with whom you should be speaking to,” she said.

“I also stated that all registered Native Title claimants have a right to negotiate, and therefore Vimy is not following due process.”

The company was given five years to begin work on Mulga Rock as part of ministerial approval for the controversial project issued on December 16, 2016 — at last week’s AGM the company listed a series of milestones it had met in the interim including the recent clearing of about 143ha at the site, but it is yet to make a final investment decision.

Ms Carmody said the clearing was disrespectful and showed “a lack of social value, moral and ethical leadership”.

December 2, 2021 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Australians should remember our past and continuing uranium/nuclear environmental disasters

Australia has a nuclear past, we just like to forget it, St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, Chris McLennan,  29 Oct 21, No sooner did Australia announce it was going to buy a nuclear submarine fleet, there was talk of nuclear power plants as well.

Am I the only one who fears they unknowingly contracted COVID-19 or some other nasty and it has somehow warped their mind?

Nuclear this and nuclear that – everyone needs to have a nice lie down.

Australia has a poor record when it comes to nuclear power………….

One of the biggest fans of nuclear power in this country is a Senator from the Northern Territory, a veterinarian in her former life, Sam McMahon.

As someone from the Territory, she should know better

I’ll explain why in a bit.

One of the biggest fans of nuclear power in this country is a Senator from the Northern Territory, a veterinarian in her former life, Sam McMahon.

As someone from the Territory, she should know better.   There are quite a few thumping great holes in the ground in her patch which need mending first.

It’s one of our dark secrets and remains one of the biggest environmental disasters in Australian history…..

Australia’s first large scale uranium mine was dug at Rum Jungle on behalf of our “Allies” in the UK and USA to fuel their nuclear weapon programs in the 1950s….

The NT Government has recently lodged plans for another go at the rehabilitation of the old mine which is today filled with water.

If it goes ahead, this will be the second go.

The mine was the first large industrial enterprise undertaken in the NT……

At Rum Jungle, a total of 863,000 tonnes of uranium ore was mined in a project under the ownership of the Commonwealth Government through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission.

The 200 hectare site closed in 1971 and was abandoned.

About $20 million was later spent trying to clean up the NT site, but the pollution continues and may continue for thousands of years.

Large volumes of radioactive mine waste (tailings) are still on the site.   In 2003, an investigation of the tailings piles found that capping which was supposed to help contain this radioactive waste for at least 100 years, had failed in less than 20 years.

The latest rehabilitation efforts at Rum Jungle from 1983 to 1986 cost $18.6 million.   Although at the time of the 1980s works the objectives were deemed to have been achieved, more recent studies have documented the gradual deterioration of the original rehabilitation works.

The NT and Federal Government agree there needs to be an improved rehabilitation strategy for the site.

These latest plans say the clean up would take at least five years.

No estimate was given for how much it would cost or who is going to pay for it.

The soil is contaminated, as is the groundwater and there is still waste rock needing disposal on the site.

In short, it’s a mess…….

There’s Ranger.

There is still no logical explanation as to how a big uranium mine could be allowed in the middle of perhaps Australia’s most famous national park, Kakadu, but it was.

Ranger has recently been closed and the site is somehow to be rehabilitated after more than 130,000 tonnes of uranium oxide was pulled from the place over the past three decades.

Energy Resources Australia, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, says it has spent more than $642 million in the past eight years on rehabilitation of the mountains of tailings complicated by a lake created from a vast flooded pit.

Their work is only a few years from being finished.

Only time will tell if that scar ever heals…………. https://www.theleader.com.au/story/7485098/australia-has-a-nuclear-past-we-just-like-to-forget-it/?cs=9676

October 30, 2021 Posted by | environment, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment

There must be a Conservation Plan before uranium mining operations are permitted at the fragile ecosystem of Mulga Rock, Western Australia

 

Nuclear-Free W,A, 28 Oct 21, We focus on Vimy Resources Mulga Rock environmental approvals, expiring on the 16th of December.  The State environmental approval states under condition 3, that the company must, ‘substantially commence’ by 16 December 2021. Vimy have had five years to get up and running and now we are seeing the unnecessary and unwanted clearing of an airstrip and re-establishment of the mine camp at Mulga Rock in an attempt to demonstrate ‘substantial commencement’.  This is deeply disturbing when we have argued that the project still lacks crucial information and approvals such as; 

they have not entered negotiations with the Upurli Upurli Nguratja registered native title claimant group and do not intend to negotiate with them;  

they do not have a final investment decision to develop the mine;they do not have a Works Approval that they require from the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation;

they have not completed the Sandhill Dunnart Conservation Plan – a Federal requirement for the endangered species that has been recorded at the Mulga Rock area.

We are of strong view that no substantial works should be allowed at the site in the absence of a Conservation Plan for the increasingly vulnerable Sandhill Dunnart. 

October 28, 2021 Posted by | environment, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Greenland soon to reinstate its ban on uranium mining

Within weeks, Greenland’s parliament, the Inatsisartut, is expected to
pass a bill reinstating a ban on uranium mining that was lifted in 2013
following pressure from mining companies. “The Greenlandic minister with
responsibility for minerals has publicly stated that a ban on uranium
mining will put an end to all future uranium mining, full stop,” Mariane
Paviasen, a Greenland MP and leading activist in the anti-uranium mining
movement, Urani? Naamik (Uranium? No), told Green Left.

 Green Left 20th Oct 2021

https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/greenland-set-restore-uranium-mining-ban

October 23, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment

BHP’s legal privileges overOlympic Dam copper-uranium mine have had devastating consequences for traditional Aboriginal owners

David Noonan  Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch, 20 Oct 21

 · “A Way Forward” Juukan Caves Inquiry Final Report https://www.aph.gov.au/…/Nort…/CavesatJuukanGorge/Report Inquiry Report conveys a striking critique of BHP legal privileges over Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine, see Legislative exemptions from cultural heritage protections p.147-148:

“Acts such as these have had devastating consequences for traditional owners as rights to protect cultural heritage are intentionally disrupted and prevented … these Acts remain in force and even when they are repealed their associated histories of injustices will remain … States and territories as well as companies involved in such acts should seek to fast-track transitions and recompense traditional owners for injustices that have occurred.”

October 21, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, legal, South Australia, uranium | 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. ……….https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/oct/18/uranium-in-the-water-remote-nt-community-wants-answers-about-safety

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

Pro nuclear argument has ‘more holes than Swiss cheese’ Ian Lowe

Nuclear argument has ‘more holes than Swiss cheese’ CLARE PEDDIE, The Advertiser p.21 Sat 16 October
Scientist and author Professor Ian Lowe 

The costs of solar and wind are still coming down, while it requires optimism bordering on delusion to see any realistic prospect of nuclear electricity becoming competitive,” 

AUSTRALIA makes more money selling cheese than uranium, according to the author of a new book on the nuclear industry who says those pushing to expand it need a reality check.

 Professor Ian Lowe, an adjunct professor at Flinders University, says he wants to inject cold hard facts into the hot nuclear power debate. Professor Lowe said nuclear power was too costly for Australia, because it was four times more expensive than renewable energy and came with the problem of long term radioactive waste storage. “The costs of solar and wind are still coming down, while it requires optimism bordering on delusion to see any realistic prospect of nuclear electricity becoming competitive,” 

Professor Lowe said. Launching his new book Long Half-life, The Nuclear Industry in Australia, he also referred to the chapter on the SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, for which Professor Lowe was a member of the expert advisory committee and gave evidence to the citizens’ jury. “While the process followed by the royal commission was clearly best practice and its report was an exceptionally thorough document, its most contentious recommendation (on SA becoming a repository for the world’s nuclear waste) failed to achieve the level of social consent needed,” he said. 

To put Australia’s nuclear industry in perspective, he said uranium accounted for 1 per cent of mineral exports, ranking with such metals as tin and tantalum. Export figures for 2019-20 were 7195 tonnes valued at $688m for uranium compared to almost 158,000 tonnes of cheese, worth about $995m. “(Nuclear) safeguards arrangements have more holes than Swiss cheese and Scientist and author Professor Ian Lowe radioactive waste is more unsavoury than an old gorgonzola, (so) I’d rather we supported cheese,” he said

October 16, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster, uranium | Leave a comment

Australia’s new nuclear submarines will have dangerous Highly Enriched Uranium, not the Low Enriched Uranium of the French ones.

The United States and UK operate naval reactors in their submarines that are fueled with 93.5 percent enriched uranium (civilian power plants are typically fueled with three to five percent uranium-235) in quantities sufficient to last for the lifetime of their ships (33 years for attack submarines).Having resisted domestic efforts to minimize the use of HEU and convert their naval reactors to LEU fuel, the United States and UK have no alternative fuel to offer. France, on the other hand, now runs naval reactors fueled with LEU. The new Suffren-class submarine, from which the French conventional submarine offered to Australia was derived, even runs on fuel enriched below 6 percent.

Until now, it was the US commitment to nonproliferation that relentlessly crushed or greatly limited these aspirations toward nuclear-powered submarine technology. With the new AUKUS decision, we can now expect the proliferation of very sensitive military nuclear technology in the coming years, with literally tons of new nuclear materials under loose or no international safeguards.

It is difficult to understand the internal policy process that led the Democratic Biden administration to the AUKUS submarine announcement.  It seems that just like in the old Cold War, arms racing and the search for short-term strategic advantage is now bipartisan.

The new Australia, UK, and US nuclear submarine announcement: a terrible decision for the nonproliferation regime https://thebulletin.org/2021/09/the-new-australia-uk-and-us-nuclear-submarine-announcement-a-terrible-decision-for-the-nonproliferation-regime/

By Sébastien Philippe | September 17, 2021 On September 15, US President Joe Biden, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched a new major strategic partnership to meet the “imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term.” Named AUKUS, the partnership was announced together with a bombshell decision: The United States and UK will transfer naval nuclear-propulsion technology to Australia. Such a decision is a fundamental policy reversal for the United States, which has in the past spared no effort to thwart the transfer of naval reactor technology by other countries, except for its World War II partner, the United Kingdom.  Even France—whose “contract of the century” to sell 12 conventional submarines to Australia was shot down by PM Morrison during the AUKUS announcement—had been repeatedly refused US naval reactor technology during the Cold War. If not reversed one way or another, the AUKUS decision could have major implications for the nonproliferation regime.


In the 1980s, the United States prevented France and the UK from selling nuclear attack submarines to Canada. The main argument centered on the danger of nuclear proliferation associated with the naval nuclear fuel cycle. Indeed, the nonproliferation treaty has a well-known loophole: non-nuclear weapon states can remove fissile materials from international control for use in non-weapon military applications, specifically to fuel nuclear submarine reactors. These reactors require a significant amount of uranium to operate. Moreover, to make them as compact as possible, most countries operate their naval reactors with nuclear-weapon-usable highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel.

With tons of weapons-grade uranium out of international safeguards, what could go wrong?

The United States, UK, and Australia are giving themselves 18 months to hammer out the details of the arrangement. This will include figuring out what type of submarine, reactors, and uranium fuel will be required. Similarly, questions about where to base the submarines, what new infrastructure will be needed, how maintenance will be conducted, how nuclear fuel will be handled, and how crews will be trained—among many others—will need to be answered.

Australia has no civilian nuclear power infrastructure beyond a 20 megawatt-thermal research reactor and faces a rough nuclear learning curve. It will need to strengthen its nuclear safety authority so it has the capability to conduct, review, and validate safety assessments for naval reactors that are complex and difficult to commission. 

How long this new nuclear endeavor will take and how much it will cost are anyone’s guesses. But the cancelled $90 billion (Australian) “contract of the century” with France for conventionally powered attack submarines will most likely feel like a cheap bargain in retrospect. Beyond these technical details, the AUKUS partnership will also have to bend over backwards to fulfill prior international nonproliferation commitments and prevent the new precedent created by the Australian deal from proliferating out of control around the world.

The United States and UK operate naval reactors in their submarines that are fueled with 93.5 percent enriched uranium (civilian power plants are typically fueled with three to five percent uranium-235) in quantities sufficient to last for the lifetime of their ships (33 years for attack submarines).Having resisted domestic efforts to minimize the use of HEU and convert their naval reactors to LEU fuel, the United States and UK have no alternative fuel to offer. France, on the other hand, now runs naval reactors fueled with LEU. The new Suffren-class submarine, from which the French conventional submarine offered to Australia was derived, even runs on fuel enriched below 6 percent.

So Australia is likely to receive HEU technology, unless an LEU crash program is launched that could take more than a decade to complete or in a dramatic reversal, France is pulled back into a deal—two scenarios that remain unlikely at this point and at any rate do not solve all proliferation concerns. Assuming the high-enrichment route is followed, if Canberra wants to operate six to 12 nuclear submarines for about 30 years, it will need some three to six tons of HEU. It has none on hand and no domestic capacity to enrich uranium. So unless it kickstarts an enrichment program for military purposes, the material would need to come from the United States or the UK.

One can only imagine the drops of sweat trickling down the neck of the International Atomic Energy Agency leadership in Vienna when an Australian delegation comes knocking at its door bringing the good news. The agency, which is currently battling to prevent Iran from acquiring enough fissile material to build a nuclear weapon—25 kilograms (0.025 ton) of HEU according to the internationally agreed standard—will have to figure out how to monitor and account for 100 to 200 times that amount without gaining access to secret naval reactor design information.  Managing that feat while keeping its credibility intact will be difficult to pull off.

What could happen if AUKUS moves forward? France clearly feels “backstabbed” by its Anglo-Saxon allies and angered to the unimaginable point of cancelling a gala celebrating the 240th anniversary of the Revolutionary War Battle of the Capes during America’s war of independence. In response, the French could relax their position on not transferring naval reactor technology to Brazil as part of helping the country build its first nuclear attack submarine. South Korea just successfully launched a ballistic missile from a conventional submarine and recently floated the idea of starting a nuclear submarine program in response to growing nuclear threats from North Korea. Seoul could now ask the United States or other nations for an arrangement similar to Australia’s.


Russia could begin new naval reactor cooperation with China to boost China’s submarine capabilities in response to the AUKUS announcement. India and Pakistan, which already have nuclear weapons, could benefit from international transfers as well, possibly from France and China respectively. Iran, of course, has already expressed interest in enriching uranium to HEU levels to pursue a submarine program.

Until now, it was the US commitment to nonproliferation that relentlessly crushed or greatly limited these aspirations toward nuclear-powered submarine technology. With the new AUKUS decision, we can now expect the proliferation of very sensitive military nuclear technology in the coming years, with literally tons of new nuclear materials under loose or no international safeguards.

Domestic political opposition to the nuclear submarine deal is already brewing in Australia. The Green Party has announced that it will fight the deal “tooth and nail.” Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Morrison is very much struggling in the polls and could lose next year’s election—before the end of the 18-month review process announced by AUKUS. The nuclear submarine project could then be buried before it takes off, saving the international community further headaches.

But if Morrison gets re-elected and the program continues, it will be for the United Stated to take up its responsibilities as the guardian of the nonproliferation regime. Poor nuclear arms control and nonproliferation decisions—such as leaving the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and approving the US-Indian nuclear deal—have so far been a trademark of the US Republican Party. It is difficult to understand the internal policy process that led the Democratic Biden administration to the AUKUS submarine announcement.  It seems that just like in the old Cold War, arms racing and the search for short-term strategic advantage is now bipartisan.


September 18, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, reference, technology, uranium | 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.”  https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/life/health/2021/08/14/kakadu-mining-and-radiation/162886320012251#mtr

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…………. https://theconversation.com/aboriginal-people-near-the-ranger-uranium-mine-suffered-more-stillbirths-and-cancer-we-dont-know-why-164862

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

No-one can get finance to build a uranium mine in Australia.

NO-ONE CAN GET FINANCE TO BUILD A URANIUM MINE IN AUSTRALIA   https://www.ccwa.org.au/no_finance_toro?utm_campaign=nuclear_news172&utm_medium=email&utm_source=ccwa
BY K-A GARLICK JULY 26, 2021  
 CCWA nuclear-free campaigner Kerrie-Ann Garlick attended last week’s Toro meeting to raise concerns that the company’s most recent uranium proposal differs from its currently approved plan.

Toro Energy’s general meeting last Friday heard the death toll sounding on WA’s uranium hopefuls.

Toro Chair Richard Homsany told the meeting that no one can get finance to build a uranium mine in Australia. He also acknowledged that Toro’s conditional environmental approval for its stalled Wiluna project expires on January 9, 2022. From this date, Toro will not be able to mine without making project changes that would require further state government scrutiny and approval.

In 2017 the McGowan Labor government introduced a policy ban on uranium mining in WA but inherited four uranium mine proposals with existing approvals granted by the former Barnett government. By the end of January 2022, the current Ministerial approvals for all four of the states proposed uranium mines will expire if they do not commence mining.

Approval for Cameco’s Kintyre expired and was not renewed in March 2020, Vimy Resources Mulga Rock project approval expires in December 2021 and both Yeelirrie (Cameco) and Wiluna (Toro) are set to expire in January 2022. If any of these companies want to mine they will need to seek approval for amendments to Ministerial conditions. This may trigger a new assessment or a suite of other conditions being applied.

CCWA nuclear-free campaigner Kerrie-Ann Garlick attended last week’s Toro meeting to raise concerns that the company’s most recent uranium proposal differs from its currently approved plan. “Toro is now focused on developing a JV uranium project at Lake Maitland. This is completely separate from the existing approval for the Wiluna project and would require a whole new environmental assessment. It is our view that this could not be advanced because of the existing policy ban on uranium mining in WA.”

“The Wiluna uranium mine proposal is uneconomic and they don’t have the funding to develop it. There is almost no scenario in which the Wiluna uranium mine could be developed ahead of the approval expiry in January 2022”

“It is refreshing that the Toro Board are realistic about the current highly negative market conditions for uranium. No one is financing uranium mines and that is unlikely to change by January. It is increasingly likely that we will reach a point in January 2022 where there are no operating mines and no active approvals for uranium mining in WA,” Ms Garlick concluded.

July 29, 2021 Posted by | business, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Historic handback of Kakadu town to Mirarr traditional owners,

Historic handback of Kakadu town to Mirarr traditional owners, The Age By Miki PerkinJune 26, 2021,  For four decades the Mirarr people, led by senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula, have been calling for the town of Jabiru, inside World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, to be returned to its rightful custodians.

At a handback ceremony on Saturday, their decades-long fight for recognition of their traditional ownership over Jabiru culminated in the grant of freehold title over the town, the first of its kind in Australia.

At a handback ceremony on Saturday, their decades-long fight for recognition of their traditional ownership over Jabiru culminated in the grant of freehold title over the town, the first of its kind in Australia.

The fight for land rights in the region began in 1978, when Jabiru was built on Crown Land without the involvement of traditional owners to service the controversial Ranger uranium mine.

Ranger began operations in 1980, and was run by Energy Resources Australia, which is majority-owned by Rio Tinto.

Initially, there were plans to bulldoze the Jabiru town once the mining lease expired, but the Northern Territory government and the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents Mirarr people, have developed an ambitious plan to transform it into a tourism hub for Kakadu, and a regional centre.

The Commonwealth has promised $276 million towards the revitalisation of the town, which includes a new international airport, a five-star eco-tourism lodge, and better access to Kakadu’s natural attractions, but there have been criticisms at the speed of progress.

Justin O’Brien, the chief executive of Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation said the lease handover was a historic milestone in the transition from a mining economy to tourism but the town’s future challenges should not be underestimated.

Energy Resources Australia had failed to engage in a timely way on the town’s transition, Mr O’Brien said, with former mining employee houses not ready for use, and at least 70 ERA houses vacant…….

Processing of ore at the uranium mine finished in January and the mine’s vast pits will be filled in over the next five years, but there are concerns about the rehabilitation process.

Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney welcomed the tenure change but said there were profound challenges ahead for the costly and complex mine rehabilitation, which is set to be completed by 2026.

“There has been 40 years of industrial activity involving heavy metals and radioactive materials in a wet-dry tropical place, surrounded by a World-Heritage listed area,” Mr Sweeney said. “To bring that up to a standard where it could be reincorporated into the surrounding area is a very, very high bar.”

In a statement, Energy Resources Australia extended its congratulations to Mirarr traditional owners and said that after 40 years of production its priority was to successfully rehabilitate Ranger to a standard that could be incorporated into Kakadu National Park.

In the mid-1990s, Ms Margarula and other Mirarr people mounted a high-profile campaign to oppose the Jabiluka uranium mine. Elders also lodged the Jabiru native title claim which was decided by the Federal Court in 2016 after one of Australia’s longest-running native title matters. The court granted native title to the Mirarr.

In 2017, researchers published their findings about a wealth of artefacts on Mirarr country which indicated humans reached Australia at least 65,000 years ago — up to 18,000 years earlier than archaeologists previously thought.  https://www.theage.com.au/environment/sustainability/historic-handback-of-kakadu-town-to-mirarr-traditional-owners-20210625-p584c7.html

June 28, 2021 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, uranium | Leave a comment