Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

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

Remote communities affected by uranium in drinking water


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

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

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

Impacted Western Australian communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mulga Rock Uranium Project – VIMY’S MINE – UNWANTED AND UNECONOMIC

VIMY’S MINE – UNWANTED AND UNECONOMIC, https://www.ccwa.org.au/vimy_s_mine_unwanted?utm_campaign=nuclear_news164&utm_medium=email&utm_source=ccwa By Mia Pepper
Deputy Chair of the Mineral Policy Institute.   BY KIM SMITH  JUNE 02, 2021

Vimy Resources (aka Narnoo Mining) advertisement in Saturdays Kalgoorlie Miner is part of an extended last-ditch attempt to start a mine that is unwanted, uneconomic, does not have full and final approval or the financing needed to start mining.

Saturday’s ad suggests that Vimy will begin work at the site in Q4 2021. There are several critical elements for mining to commence that are not yet in place and are unlikely to be resolved by Q4 2021. The companies Mine Closure Plan and Mine Plan are not yet approved by the Department of Mines and previous attempts to have these plans approved have failed. There are also Works Approvals, export and other licenses and permits that are still required. The company does not have an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with the Upurli Upurli Nguratja Native Title claimant group – pre-empting mining without an ILUA drastically impacts that groups ability to negotiate or determine what should or shouldn’t happen on their country. 

Perhaps the clearest pre-requisite to begin mining is a company’s Final Investment Decision and the finances to cover the capital costs. Without the ability to fund the project and meet the requirements of mining any ground-disturbing activities are pre-emptive and irresponsible. The capital cost for the Mulga Rock project is $493 million. Vimy’s March quarterly report shows Vimy raised over $18 million, since then they have raised a further $9 million. $27 million is a far cry from the $493 million needed to meet full capital costs. But it is enough to do some serious damage in the Yellow Sandplain Priority Ecological Community in the Great Victoria Desert, home to the endangered Sandhill Dunnart and other important vulnerable, migratory and priority species of flora and fauna. The company’s share value is down 97% since their inception in 2008 and has a long way to go to secure finance for a project that is just not economic. Until the company can demonstrate they have the capital funds to get the project off the ground they should not be allowed to embark on pre-emptive ground-disturbing activities.

One thing more dangerous than a uranium mine is an uneconomic uranium mine and ideologically driven company. Despite the lack of funding, final licenses and permits, an ILUA, social license and bipartisan support Vimy’s Mulga Rock project still presents a very real threat to the environment and the WA taxpayer. The WA government should make decisions based on evidence, not enthusiasm and should not facilitate this poorly considered project.

June 3, 2021 Posted by | business, uranium, Western Australia | Leave a comment

U.S. Energy Information reports uranium at lowest price since 2007

Uranium Week: Struggling With Low Prices

FN Arena    Weekly Reports By Mark Woodruff May 25 2021, As the uranium spot price rose 2% for the week and 9% for the month, an EIA report revealed the lowest price paid since 2007 by owners and operators of US commercial nuclear plants

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) released both its 2020 US Uranium Marketing Annual Report and its 2020 Domestic Uranium Production Report last week. 

Despite covid roiling energy markets during 2020, the reports pointed to nuclear energy being a fundamental source of base load electricity generation (20%) with capacity factors steady at 94%, explains Canaccord Genuity. The broker believes coverage of future demand will continue to provide an impetus for a more active term market over 2021.

The EIA is responsible for collecting, analysing and disseminating energy information to inform policy making and efficient markets. It also adds to the public understanding of energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment.

The released reports in 2020 quantify developments in the US uranium industry, including decreased inventories, explains industry consultant TradeTech. They also showed an elevated aggregated contractual coverage rate among owners and operators of US civilian nuclear power reactors. Additionally, lower weighted average uranium prices and historically low uranium production were reported.

The Uranium Marketing Annual Report showed owners and operators of US commercial nuclear plants in 2020 purchased nearly 49mlbs uranium from US and foreign suppliers. These were transacted at a weighted-average price of US$33.27/lb, which represents a 1% increase in volume and a -7% decline in price compared to 2019 data. The weighted average price is the lowest price paid by owners and operators of US civilian power reactors since 2007.

Of the US deliveries, 76% were through longer-term contracts, averaging US$34.74/lb. As Canaccord notes, it’s always darkest before the dawn, with pricing failing to represent the marginal cost of production let alone the incentivisation price for restarts or new developments.

During 2020, 11.7mlbs or 24% of sales were on a spot basis, up from 10.5mlbs in 2019 and the highest since 2014. This illustrates that long-term contracts signed post-Fukushima (2011-2015) are starting to expire, explains Canaccord.

The report showed Australian and Canadian-origin uranium combined accounted for 42% of reported volumes by country of origin. Uranium purchased by owners and operators of US civilian power reactors from Russia again was the lowest weighted average price paid at US$25.73/lb, while purchases from Australia occupied the highest cost position at US$39.86/lb.;;;;;;;;;;;;;; https://www.fnarena.com/index.php/2021/05/25/uranium-week-struggling-with-low-prices/

May 27, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium | Leave a comment

Australian company Greenland Minerals fails community test over controversial rare earths and uranium mine plan

Greenland Minerals fails community test over controversial rare earths and uranium mine plan,  https://www.acf.org.au/greenland-minerals-fails-community-test 27 May 21, It is a long way from Greenland to Western Australia, but concerns from the Narsaq community in Greenland about a controversial mining project will be raised at today’s annual meeting of Perth-based company Greenland Minerals, listed on the ASX as GGG, which is behind the Kvanefjeld rare earths and uranium mine.

Opposition to the planned mine dominated Greenland’s recent national elections. On 6 April Greenlanders elected the Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community for the People) party, which campaigned on an explicit platform opposing Kvanefjeld.

The new coalition government has committed to stop the mine going ahead.

“When a mine proposal triggers an election and the results show a clear rejection of the project, it is time for the company to accept the community’s will and end its mining plans,” said Mineral Policy Institute board member Dr Lian Sinclair, who will attend the GGG meeting.

Australian groups are calling on GGG to recognise that it has failed to secure social license for the Kvanefjeld project.

“We need a different approach to mining, one based on free, prior and informed consent,” said Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney.

“Mining materials that are used in renewable energy does necessarily make a company ethical or responsible.

“There are dangerous radioactive elements within these deposits, including uranium, that pose long term environmental and health risks.

“These risks should not be imposed on an unwilling community.

“The Narsaq and wider Greenland community and the new Government have rejected this project. GGG should recognise and respect this clear and democratic decision”.

May 27, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths, uranium | Leave a comment

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

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

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

Let’s hope we get it right this time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The quick and dirty history


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

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

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

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

Continue reading

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

Greenland’s election won by party opposing Chinese-backed Australian uranium and rare earths company

Greenland’s Rare-Earth Election

A vote last month answered an important question about the world’s largest island. The Atlantic
, ROBINSON MEYER  3May 21, ”’……… Since 1979, the ruling Siumut party has dominated Greenland’s elections; in all those years it has lost power only once, in 2009, after the island reformed its government and loosened ties with Denmark, which has ruled it for three centuries. Earlier this month, the democratic-socialist Inuit Ataqatigiit party (IA), Greenlandic for “Community for the People,” won an election with more than a third of the vote, after centering its campaign on a promise to cancel the controversial mining project.

Greenland, the world’s largest island, is populated by about 56,000 people, and its election is, in some ways, an extremely local story. The mining project is called Kvanefjeld, and it would excavate thorium, uranium, and rare-earth elements. Kvanefjeld is less than four miles from Narsaq, one of the larger cities in South Greenland and a local tourism center. (It also has an excellent brewery.)

“There is no way for me to have the mine, because it’s only six kilometers from our town,” Mariane Paviasen, 56, a local activist who ran for Parliament under IA, told me in an interview before the election.

But the election touches on some of the biggest issues in global politics: climate change, mineral economics, and indigenous sovereignty. Rare earths are used to make finely tuned magnets that are essential to modern electronics, including electric vehicles and wind turbines. There is some irony here: Greenland, whose ice sheet is a visual metaphor for the inevitability of climate change, will be mined to power the only technology that can stop it. But the actual interest here is not so overdetermined—like all true climate stories, it draws together questions of money, land, power, and growth. IA’s answer to those questions is not to oppose all extraction, but it has taken a less friendly stance toward some proposed projects. It is particularly opposed to mining that could create radioactive waste……..

The plans for Kvanefjeld had long been paused, according to Zane Cooper, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies how communities respond to mineral extraction. Then, during the pandemic, the plans seemed to accelerate. Greenland Minerals Ltd., an Australian-headquartered but Chinese-backed company, began pressing its plans forward, and the ruling Siumut party complied. The local population had worries, particularly about uranium, which is often found next to thorium, itself a sign of rare earths. A rushed series of public meetings in February gave residents little warning about how rumored uranium dust would affect their farms and settlements. When someone called in a bomb threat to a meeting that Siumut officials were due to attend, they canceled their appearance. Another party, the Democrats, announced it would leave the governing coalition, depriving Siumut of its majority and precipitating snap elections.

The election, on April 6, saw a major victory for IA. It won overwhelmingly in southern Greenland.

IA does not oppose most mining; what it opposes is uranium mining. Another mine, about 30 miles from Narsaq, meets its approval, and the party supports developing mineral extraction as part of a broader strategy. “I think it will work better for us to have our own mining company in Greenland,” Paviasen said. She also supports more economic diversification, embracing a larger role for tourism and local agriculture. Most vegetables in Greenland are imported from Denmark.

Greenland’s blessing and curse is the large block grant, equivalent to more than $500 million, that it receives every year from the Danish government. It makes up about half of Greenland’s annual budget. Greenland has promised to deposit about a third of the revenue from its mineral wealth into a sovereign-wealth fund modeled off the Norwegian oil fund, which could help it replace the Danish block grant

If IA does find a way to instill some measure of economic autarky in Greenland, then it would be the world’s first completely independent indigenous country, Cooper said. Onlookers expect that Greenland would seek independence from Denmark faster under the separatist IA party than the more moderate Siumut. But that remains a ways off: First, IA must figure out how, and whether, it can cancel the mine in a fjord. Greenland Minerals has vowed to fight the decision in court and in international trade tribunals. (Múte Egede, the new IA prime minister, did not respond to a request for comment.) It may seem like a narrow question, but it could have sweeping implications for the island’s 56,000 inhabitants—and for how the world’s largest powers comport themselves with regard to the world’s largest island.

If IA does find a way to instill some measure of economic autarky in Greenland, then it would be the world’s first completely independent indigenous country, Cooper said. Onlookers expect that Greenland would seek independence from Denmark faster under the separatist IA party than the more moderate Siumut. But that remains a ways off: First, IA must figure out how, and whether, it can cancel the mine in a fjord. Greenland Minerals has vowed to fight the decision in court and in international trade tribunals. (Múte Egede, the new IA prime minister, did not respond to a request for comment.) It may seem like a narrow question, but it could have sweeping implications for the island’s 56,000 inhabitants—and for how the world’s largest powers comport themselves with regard to the world’s largest island.  https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/05/greenlands-rare-earth-election/618785/

May 4, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, rare earths, uranium | Leave a comment

Chinese-Australian uranium and rare earths mining company meets political opposition in Greenland

Left-wing party opposed to rare earth mining project wins Greenland election,  A left-wing environmentalist party opposed to a controversial mining project won a clear victory in Greenland’s parliamentary election, according to results released Wednesday. https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20210407-left-wing-party-opposed-to-rare-earth-mining-project-wins-greenland-election 7 Apr 21,

With 36.6 percent of the vote, Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) was ahead of Siumut, a social democratic party that has dominated politics in the Danish territory since it gained autonomy in 1979.

“Thank you to the people who trusted us to work with the people in the centre for the next four years,” IA leader Mute Egede said on KNR public television after the results were announced.

IA, which was previously in opposition, is expected to grab 12 out of the 31 seats in the Inatsisartut, the local parliament, up from eight currently.

But without an absolute majority, the most likely scenario is that IA joins forces with smaller parties to form a coalition.   Siumut, which headed the outgoing government, was partly weakened by internal struggles. It gained 29.4 percent of the vote, still two percentage points higher than its results in the 2018 election.

The dividing line between the two parties was whether to authorise a controversial giant rare earth and uranium mining project, which is currently the subject of public hearings.

The Kuannersuit deposit, in the island’s south, is considered one of the world’s richest in uranium and rare earth minerals — a group of 17 metals used as components in everything from smartphones to electric cars and weapons.

IA has called for a moratorium on uranium mining, which would effectively put a halt to the project.

Divisions over Kuannersuit originally triggered the snap election in the territory after one of the smaller parties left the ruling Siumut coalition.

Opponents say the project, led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals, has too many environmental risks, including radioactive waste.

Egede told KNR he would immediately start discussions to “explore different forms of cooperation” before forming a coalition government.

The 34-year-old, who has been a member of the Inatsisartut since 2015, took over the reins of the left-green party a little over two years ago.

April 8, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics international, rare earths, uranium | Leave a comment

BHP, Rio Tinto given carte blanche to export uranium to global hotspots 

March 17, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, safety, uranium | Leave a comment

Australian uranium fuelled Fukushima 

Australian uranium fuelled Fukushima  https://theecologist.org/2021/mar/09/australian-uranium-fuelled-fukushima, Dr Jim Green, David Noonan 9th March 2021
The Fukushima disaster was fuelled by Australian uranium but lessons were not learned and the industry continues to fuel global nuclear insecurity with irresponsible uranium export policies.
Fukushima was an avoidable disaster, fuelled by Australian uranium and the hubris and profiteering of Japan’s nuclear industry in collusion with compromised regulators and captured bureaucracies.

The Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission ‒ established by the Japanese Parliament ‒ concluded in its 2012 report that the accident was “a profoundly man-made disaster that could and should have been foreseen and prevented” if not for “a multitude of errors and wilful negligence that left the Fukushima plant unprepared for the events of March 11”.

The accident was the result of “collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO”, the commission found.

Mining

But overseas suppliers who turned a blind eye to unacceptable nuclear risks in Japan have largely escaped scrutiny or blame. Australia’s uranium industry is a case in point.

Yuki Tanaka from the Hiroshima Peace Institute noted: “Japan is not the sole nation responsible for the current nuclear disaster. From the manufacture of the reactors by GE to provision of uranium by Canada, Australia and others, many nations are implicated.”

There is no dispute that Australian uranium was used in the Fukushima reactors. The mining companies won’t acknowledge that fact — instead they hide behind claims of “commercial confidentiality” and “security”.

But the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office acknowledged in October 2011 that: “We can confirm that Australian obligated nuclear material was at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in each of the reactors — maybe five out of six, or it could have been all of them”.

BHP and Rio Tinto, two of the world’s largest mining companies, supplied Australian uranium to TEPCO and that uranium was used to fuel Fukushima.

Tsunamis

The mining companies have failed to take any responsibility for the catastrophic impacts on Japanese society that resulted from the use of their uranium in a poorly managed, poorly regulated industry.

Moreover, the mining companies can’t claim ignorance. The warning signs were clear. Australia’s uranium industry did nothing as TEPCO and other Japanese nuclear companies lurched from scandal to scandal and accident to accident.

The uranium industry did nothing in 2002 when it was revealed that TEPCO had systematically and routinely falsified safety data and breached safety regulations for 25 years or more.

The uranium industry did nothing in 2007 when over 300 incidents of ‘malpractice’ at Japan’s nuclear plants were revealed – 104 of them at nuclear power plants.

It did nothing even as the ability of Japan’s nuclear plants to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis came under growing criticism from industry insiders and independent experts.

Vicious cycle

And the uranium industry did nothing about the multiple conflicts of interest plaguing Japanese nuclear regulators.

Mirarr senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula ‒ on whose land in the Northern Territory Rio Tinto’s Ranger mine operated ‒ said she was “deeply saddened” that uranium from Ranger was exported to Japanese nuclear companies including TEPCO.

No such humility from the uranium companies. They get tetchy at any suggestion of culpability, with the Australian Uranium Association describing it as “opportunism in the midst of human tragedy” and “utter nonsense”.

Yet, Australia could have played a role in breaking the vicious cycle of mismanagement in Japan’s nuclear industry by making uranium exports conditional on improved management of nuclear plants and tighter regulation.

Even a strong public statement of concern would have been heard by the Japanese utilities – unless it was understood to be rhetoric for public consumption – and it would have registered in the Japanese media.

Safety

But the uranium industry denied culpability and instead stuck its head in the sand. Since the industry is in denial about its role in fuelling the Fukushima disaster, there is no reason to believe that it will behave more responsibly in future.

Successive Australian governments did nothing about the unacceptable standards in Japan’s nuclear industry. Julia Gillard ‒ Australia’s Prime Minister at the time of the Fukushima disaster ‒ said the disaster “doesn’t have any impact on my thinking about uranium exports”.

Signification elements of Japan’s corrupt ‘nuclear village’ ‒ comprising industry, regulators, politicians and government agencies ‒ were back in control just a few years after the Fukushima disaster. Regulation remains problematic.

Add to that ageing reactors, and companies facing serious economic stress and intense competition, and there’s every reason for ongoing concern about nuclear safety in Japan.

Professor Yoshioka Hitoshi is a Kyushu University academic who served on the government’s 2011-12 Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations.

Regulation

They said in October 2015: “Unfortunately, the new regulatory regime is … inadequate to ensure the safety of Japan’s nuclear power facilities. The first problem is that the new safety standards on which the screening and inspection of facilities are to be based are simply too lax.

“While it is true that the new rules are based on international standards, the international standards themselves are predicated on the status quo.

“They have been set so as to be attainable by most of the reactors already in operation. In essence, the NRA made sure that all Japan’s existing reactors would be able to meet the new standards with the help of affordable piecemeal modifications ‒ back-fitting, in other words.”

In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon called for an independent cost-benefit inquiry into uranium trade. The Australian government failed to act.

Inadequate regulation was a root cause of the Fukushima disaster yet Australia has uranium supply agreements with numerous countries with demonstrably inadequate nuclear regulation, including ChinaIndiaRussia, the United StatesJapanSouth Korea, and Ukraine.

Overthrow

Likewise, Australian uranium companies and the government turn a blind eye to nuclear corruption scandals in countries with uranium supply agreements: South Korea, India, Russia and Ukraine among others.

Indeed, Australia has signed up to expand its uranium trade to sell into insecure regions.

In 2011 ‒ the same year as the Fukushima disaster ‒ the Australian government agreed to allow uranium exports to India.

This despite inadequate nuclear regulation in India, and despite India’s ongoing expansion of its nuclear weaponry and delivery capabilities.

A uranium supply agreement with the United Arab Emirates was concluded in 2013 despite the obvious risks of selling uranium into a politically and militarily volatile region where nuclear facilities have repeatedly been targeted by adversaries intent on stopping covert nuclear weapons programs. Australia was planning uranium sales to the Shah of Iran months before his overthrow in 1979.

Forced labour

A uranium supply agreement with Ukraine was concluded in 2016 despite a host of safety and security concerns, and the inability of the International Atomic Energy Agency to carry out safeguards inspections in regions annexed by Russia.

In 2014, Australia banned uranium sales to Russia, with then prime minister Tony Abbott stating: “Australia has no intention of selling uranium to a country which is so obviously in breach of international law as Russia currently is.”

Australia’s uranium supply agreement with China, concluded in 2006, has not been reviewed despite abundant evidence of inadequate nuclear safety standards, inadequate regulation, lack of transparency, repression of whistleblowers, world’s worst insurance and liability arrangements, security risks, and widespread corruption.

Civil society and NGO’s are campaigning to wind back Australia’s atomic exposures in the uranium trade with emphasis on uranium sales to China.

China’s human rights abuses and a range of strategic insecurity issues warrant a cessation of uranium sales. China’s ongoing human rights abuses in Tibet and mass detention and forced labour against Uyghurs in Xinjiang are severe breaches of international humanitarian law and UN Treaties.

Weapons

China proliferated nuclear weapons know-how to Pakistan, targets Australia in cyber-attacks, and is causing regional insecurity on the India border, in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and in the Pacific.

BHP’s Olympic Dam is the only company still selling Australian uranium into China. There is a case for the ‘Big Australian’ to forego uranium sales overall and an onus to end sales to China.

A federal Parliamentary Inquiry in Australia is investigating forced labour in China and the options for Australia to respond. A case is before this inquiry to disqualify China from supply of Australian uranium sales  – see submission 02 on human rights abuses and submission 02.1 on security risks.

Australia supplies uranium with scant regard for nuclear safety risks. Likewise, proliferation risks are given short shrift.

Australia has uranium export agreements with all of the ‘declared’ nuclear weapons states – the US, UK, China, France, Russia – although not one of them takes seriously its obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to pursue disarmament in good faith.

Carte blanche

Australia claims to be working to discourage countries from producing fissile – explosive – material for nuclear bombs, but nonetheless exports uranium to countries blocking progress on the proposed Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.

And Australia gives Japan open-ended permission to separate and stockpile plutonium although that stockpiling fans regional proliferation risks and tensions in North-East Asia.

Despite liberal export policies, Australian uranium sales are in long-term decline and now represent only 8.9 percent of world uranium usage.

With the Ranger mine shut down and no longer processing ore for uranium exports, there are only two operating uranium mines in Australia: BHP’s Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine and the smaller General Atomics’ Beverley Four Mile operation ‒ both in South Australia.

Uranium accounts for less than 0.3 percent of Australia’s export revenue and less than 0.1 percent of all jobs in Australia.

One wonders why an industry that delivers so little is given carte blanche by the government to do as it pleases.

These Authors

Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia. David Noonan is an independent environment campaigner. For further information on BHP’s Olympic Dam mine click here.

March 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, reference, uranium | Leave a comment