Nuclear issues

February 6, 2015

Informational items on various aspects of the nuclear industry


History of Cameco’s Yeelirrie uranium mining plan

September 13, 2016

WA EPA rejects proposed Yeelirrie uranium mine, Online Opinion,  By Mara Bonacci – posted Tuesday, 16 August 2016 “…….Yeelirrie is located 420 km north of Kalgoorlie in the mid-west region of WA, the land of the Wongutha people. Yeelirrie is the name of a local sheep station and, in the local Aboriginal language, means “place of death”.

In 1973 Western Mining Corporation (WMC) found a uranium deposit there. The Yeelirrie Mine Proposal was submitted to the WA Department of Conservation and Environment in 1979. The proposal was for the development of an open cut mine, ore treatment plant, town and ancillary services and 850 employees. Environmental approval was given by both state and federal governments.

Trial mines were dug in the 1980s, which found the first large scale calcrete orebody in the world. It is estimated that around 195 tonnes of yellowcake were mined in these trials. WMC spent $35 million preparing to develop the mine until the 1983 federal election and subsequent implementation of the ALPs “three mines policy” in 1984, limiting Australia’s number of uranium mines to three.

In 2005, the mine was acquired from WMC by BHP Billiton, who concluded one stage of exploration mining. Then in 2012, Canadian mining company Cameco bought the deposit from BHP for $430 million….

Cameco’s Yeelirrie mine proposal includes:

  • A 9 km long, 1.5 km wide and 10 m deep open pit mine
  • 14 million tonnes of overburden
  • Using 8.7 million litres of water a day
  • Producing 7,500 tonnes per year of uranium (10 percent of annual world demand)
  • To be transported by four road trains a week
  • It would produce 126,000 tonnes per year of CO2 emissions
  • 36 million tonnes of tailings stored in the open pit2,421 hectares would be cleared
  • 22 years of operation
  • Highly variable work force – average of 300………

South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission’s plan – incredibly risky venture financially

September 13, 2016
It is remarkable that the royal commission only used one consultant to do this. Basically, all this conversation, all this energy and momentum, is based on the work of one consultant. Surely we deserve a second opinion.
When you look at examples like in the US, with Yucca Mountain in Nevada, they went a huge way down the path of making a decision about what to do and then they changed their minds after about $13 billion worth of investment.
There are so many assumptions built into Jacobs’ modelling which, when you add them all up, just make this an incredibly risky venture financially.

Citizens Jury Panel 1: Craig Wilkins

COMMITTEE, 15 July 16 
p.55 Mr WILKINS: Yes, I thought I would just give a brief summary mainly around the economics, the safety and the consent issues before we perhaps have a larger conversation after that. Essentially, we are keen to talk about the very specific proposal to make money by importing high-level nuclear waste into Australia and, by doing so, to turn our state into the largest nuclear waste site in the world. For us, the devil is very much in the detail.
Our impression, from the public conversation, is that most people think this is an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ idea, where we bury the waste deep in the outback and that is it. The reality is very different. Before we get there, ships containing that high-level waste enter South Australian waters through the South China Sea and other problematic areas, entering our prawn and tuna fishery areas and other aquaculture zones, going past tourism hotspots, every 24 to 30 days for 70 years. That is a huge amount of transport.
The waste will be unloaded into a purpose-built port built somewhere on our coastline—probably around Whyalla is the most likely bet. Then it is transported to a site around five kilometres or 10 kilometres from our coastline where it will sit for decades above ground, and up to 72,000 tonnes will be left there over that 80 years of the span of the proposal. So, this isn’t out of sight, out of mind. It will be a very prominent feature of our landscape, and it will require a level of security infrastructure and cultural impact around that which I think will change fundamentally parts of our state.

Read the rest of this entry »

Just Not Profitable – exploding the hype about South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission’s plan

September 13, 2016
  • A minimal safety margin requires that high level waste not be imported before an agreed licensed geological disposal site…
  • High level nuclear waste disposal costs can double in a decade…..
  • Dubious claim that disposal of nuclear waste in SA costs one quarter less than in experienced countries…. 
  • SA faces a $60 billion debt in costs across 37 years of ongoing nuclear waste storage operations and nuclear facility decommissioning after the last receipt of overseas revenues for waste imports….
  • Nuclear contingency costs are unfunded…

Brief (July 2016) by David Noonan, Independent Environment

South Australians are being misled by inflated revenue claims, untenable assumptions and under-reported nuclear waste costs. Reality check analysis shows there is no profit in nuclear waste.

Nuclear waste costs are fast rising and unrelenting for decades after the last recite of waste imports regardless of whether or not claimed revenues and fixed prices over time prove to be realistic or illusory.

The Nuclear Royal Commission Final Report Ch.5 “Management, storage and disposal of nuclear waste” and the Nuclear Commission Tentative Findings Report (p.16-20) present a nuclear waste baseline business case that is near solely reliant on a consultancy “Radioactive waste storage and disposal facilities in SA” (Feb 2016) by Jacobs MCM, summarised in Final Report Appendix J.

There is no market based evidence for the Final Report revenue assumptions and claimed income.

Claimed revenues are a tonnage based multiplier: inflated tonnage equals misleading revenues.

Claimed revenues are doubled by an assumption SA can take twice the waste the US failed to achieve. Read the rest of this entry »

The indigenous fightback against South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission’s plan

September 13, 2016

Nuclear waste dump case unravels, World News Report, 13 July 16 , Green Left By Renfrey Clarke  “……..Yankunytjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation chairperson Karina Lester told a packed venue at a June 16 meeting: “The overwhelming majority of traditional owners … continue to speak out against establishing an international waste dump.”

Indigenous spokespeople have condemned the project since it was first mooted. In May last year, soon after the royal commission on South Australian involvement in the nuclear cycle began its work, representatives of 12 Aboriginal peoples met in Port Augusta.

The gathering issued a statement that said: “South Australian Traditional Owners say NO! We oppose plans for uranium mining, nuclear reactors and nuclear waste dumps on our lands.

“We call on the Australian population to support us in our campaign to prevent dirty and dangerous nuclear projects being imposed on our lands and our lives and future generations.”

The prime site for the long-term waste repository is on the lands of the Kokatha people, near the towns of Woomera and Roxby Downs.

The Transcontinental Railway crosses the region and, as the Australian explained on June 27, the ancient rocks of the underlying Stuart Shelf are “considered by experts to have the best geological conditions for a nuclear dump”.

Early this year Dr Tim Johnson of the nuclear industry consulting firm Jacobs MCM told the royal commission his company envisaged a new port being built on the South Australian coastline to service the project. An interim storage facility nearby would hold newly-arrived wastes above ground for some decades, until they had cooled sufficiently to be transported by rail to the permanent dumpsite.

The only practical location for the port and above-ground repository would be on the western shore of Spencer Gulf, south of the city of Whyalla. Spencer Gulf is a shallow, confined inlet whose waters mix only slowly with those of the Southern Ocean. Any accident that released substantial quantities of radioactive material into the gulf would be catastrophic for the marine environment. Profitable fishing, fish-farming and oyster-growing industries would be wiped out, and the recreational fishing that is a favourite pastime of local residents would become impossible.

To connect the above-ground repository to the rail network, a new line would need to be built from the present railhead at Whyalla. Taking wastes north for permanent storage, trains would pass by the outskirts of Whyalla and Port Augusta.

Initially, the materials transported would be large quantities of low and intermediate-level waste, also planned for importation and burial. But after several decades, transport of high-level wastes would begin and would continue for another 70 years.

Awareness is growing in the Spencer Gulf region of the dangers posed by the nuclear industry. On June 24 in Port Augusta about 80 people took part in a protest against the federal plans to site a separate dump, for Australian-derived low-level radioactive wastes, near the Flinders Ranges’ tourist area………..

“Experts” mislead South Australians on the health effects of ionising radiation

September 13, 2016

Bananas, brazil nuts and some other foods contain radioactive potassium-40 — but in extremely low doses. Potassium-40 in bananas has a specific activity of 71 ten millionths of a curie per gram. Compare that to the 88 curies per gram for Cesium-137. This is like comparing a stick of dynamite to an atomic bomb. Our bodies manage the ingested Potassium 40, so that after eating bananas, the excess is quickly excreted and the body’s Potassium-40 level remains unchanged.

The radioactive isotopes that come from nuclear fission (such as strontium -90, cesium -137 and iodine 131) were unknown in nature before atomic fission: our bodies are not adapted to them. And as well as being far more radioactive that Potassium -40, they can accumulate in the body.

I had hoped for something sensible to come out of these Citizens’ Juries. That doesn’t look like happening if the juries continue to be fed this kind of nonsense. 

On the matter of ionising radiation and health, Noel Wauchope rebuts five misleading speakers at the Nuclear Citizens’ Jury hearings on Australia’s nuclear waste importation plan.

IN TWO DAYS of 25 Citizens’ Jury sessions in Adelaide (on 25-26 June), about nuclear waste importing, there was minimal coverage of the question of ionising radiation and health.

What little there was, was skimpy, superficial and downright deceptive, in 209 pages of transcripts.

There was not one mention of the world’s authoritative bodies on the subject — The World Health Organisation, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or any of the reports on biological effects of ionising radiation.

There was no explanation of the “linear no threshold” (LNT) theory on ionising radiation and health, despite the fact that this theory is the one accepted by all the national and international health bodies, including the Ionising Radiation Safety Institute of Australia who, on this topic, quote the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

Instead of explaining this basic concept in radiation protection, the slight coverage on radiation and health given to the Jury, was done in a trivial manner as the following examples (listed in the transcript report) illustrate.

First Speaker

Greg Ward, Chief of Staff, Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, was asked the following question by a juror (p 28):

“Why didn’t the commission report to us the effect of radioactivity in these two [Hiroshima and Nagasaki] populations?”

Greg Ward

That’s just one example … There are lots of studies being undertaken … to look at it from other angles as well … I would have to say that there’s a cloudy area, and that’s largely around the impact of low doses of radiation on humans … You’ve got others who would argue that actually small amounts of radiation actually has a beneficial effect on your immune systems, but there’s certainly no — I would have to say there’s no universal agreement at this point.


But there IS universal agreement on the Linear No Threshold theory, as explained by the health bodies named above.

Second Speaker

Chad Jacobi, Counsel Assisting, Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (p. 31):

Chad Jacobi

the effects that we’re looking at, they are what are known as stochastic effects, they deal with lower doses where you need to do epidemiological studies in order to determine the relationship between radiation and a particular consequence … outstanding evidence, from Geraldine Thomas … She gave excellent evidence on this topic and her evidence is very interesting.  


Mr Jacobi did not go on to explain any of this evidence, so the jurors were left in the dark here.

However, Professor Geraldine Thomas of the Imperial College London, cited by Jacobi, is well known as a speaker promoting the message that ionising radiation is nothing to worry about. She pops up wherever the nuclear lobby is doing a soft sell and in particular, downplays the health effects of radiation on all species as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. She also claimed (at an international conference on radiation research in Warsaw in 2011):

Following Fukushima I doubt that there’ll be any rise in thyroid cancers in Japan.

Thomas’ views are greatly contested. Screening has shown an abnormal rise in thyroid cancers in Fukushima. Professor Timothy Mousseau has studied the Chernobyl and Fukushima situations extensively, finding ill effects of radiation — including genetic damage and increased mutation rates in many species.

Third Speaker

Nigel McBride, Chief Executive Business SA — the state’s peak business and employer group. Mr McBride had a lot to say — some snatches (p 88):

Nigel McBride

Maralinga atomic experiments … British atomic tests are not linked to this discussion; they’ve got nothing to do with it very subtle way of linking two completely unrelated issues to bring fear and emotion … 60,000 people work directly in the UK nuclear industry and in 60 years there has not been one fatality. Neither has there been a fatality in Canada, France, Germany, India and even the U.S. … Five and a half thousand people we understand die from some level of obesity yet we don’t ban sugar and sugary drinks … education over hysteria.


On Maralinga, from Keith Thomas, Chief Executive of the South Australian Native Title Services (p 97):

Keith Thomas

For Aboriginal people the past really does shape the present and the future. Significant events like happened at Maralinga very much become a part of that … that’s affected people all the way to the present as there’s people dying young, which shouldn’t be happening … Aboriginal people — “We don’t want that stuff here because we’ve seen what it does to people.”

On nuclear workers’ fatalities:

An investigation in the U.S. last year, revealed at least 33,480 American nuclear workers died as a result of their radiation exposure. International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organisation also reported on nuclear workers’ leukaemia.

Fourth Speaker

Jason Kuchel, Chief Executive South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy. At last, the fun part about bananas and chocolate. He provided these to jurors, as some sort of evidence of the benignness of ionising radiation (p 117):

Jason Kuchel

I took the opportunity during the break to put some bananas and some chocolates on the tables … you will get to see the point of that as we go through. … [the risks of] getting an x-ray, flying in a plane or even eating a bananaAt the Onkalo waste repository in Finland, the worst case radiation dose if someone were to stand on top of the facility for a whole year and there was a defective package, the equivalent radiation would be equal to eating one bite of a banana.  

As the facility is not yet accepting radioactive waste, all that hardly matters. And that was all from Mr Kuchel.

Fifth Speaker

Associate Professor Michael Penniment, Director Royal Adelaide Hospital, went on at length about the present storage of radioactive materials in hospitals and so on in Adelaide. He took a long time to go near the question of health effects of low level radiation but he finally got to talking about radioactive sources (p 124):

Michael Penniment

It may be that you may not want to avoid them anyway … I got the banana association straight up. I didn’t get the Lindt one [the reference is to the Lindt chocolate factory, which is quite near a nuclear power plant]; I didn’t see that coming. But certainly there’s some radioactive potassium.

You can decrease your risk by doing a few things: you can live in a wooden house, that will take per cent house; if you live in a tent, that will take 20 per cent off; if you live in the open, that will take 50 per cent off.  (He goes on to elaborate the benefits of radiation in treating cancer).  And that’s it — end of his presentation.

However, later in the Q and A section, Penniment did return to that subject ( p.132):

I saw an article by … David Webb … in the follow-up to Chernobyl … there were 28 deaths, and those were the radiation workers that were sent in to clean up the initial spill … And then there was something of the order of 1500 people that died from suicide because of their concerns about radiation, which he described as really the fallacy of radiation, that those people were so worried, and beyond that nobody has died form that incident.

There’s even data that suggests, and it’s reassuring to me, there was data from the British Radiology Association a number of years ago that low level exposure that’s above what we’ve set as the community limit actually may have an improvement in health in terms of what’s called radiation hormesis. The study of radiation workers in the 50s and 60s where controls aren’t as tight as 30 they are now suggests that it may actually have a very low level exposure to radiation but above what we would deem safe might actually have an improvement in health.


On Chernobyl deaths:

Professor Penniment has taken his information from the World Nuclear News. As well as the sources noted above, eminent Russian scientists have put the death toll at 985,000. The most recent study TORCH-2016, an independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, explains the difficulty in getting an accurate estimate but suggests a conservative estimate of 30,000.

On nuclear workers’ health: 

As explained above, in rebutting Nigel McBride.

On radioactivity of bananas:  

Bananas, brazil nuts and some other foods contain radioactive potassium-40 — but in extremely low doses. Potassium-40 in bananas has a specific activity of 71 ten millionths of a curie per gram. Compare that to the 88 curies per gram for Cesium-137. This is like comparing a stick of dynamite to an atomic bomb. Our bodies manage the ingested Potassium 40, so that after eating bananas, the excess is quickly excreted and the body’s Potassium-40 level remains unchanged.

The radioactive isotopes that come from nuclear fission (such as strontium -90, cesium -137 and iodine 131) were unknown in nature before atomic fission: our bodies are not adapted to them. And as well as being far more radioactive that Potassium -40, they can accumulate in the body.

I had hoped for something sensible to come out of these Citizens’ Juries. That doesn’t look like happening if the juries continue to be fed this kind of nonsense.

Australia’s radioactive war on Aboriginal people

September 13, 2016

The plan to turn South Australia into the world’s nuclear waste dump has been met with near-unanimous opposition from Aboriginal people.

The Royal Commission acknowledged strong Aboriginal opposition to its nuclear waste proposal in its final report – but it treats that opposition not as a red light but as an obstacle to be circumvented.

Radioactive waste and the nuclear war on Australia’s Aboriginal people,
Jim Green 1st July 2016
Australia’s nuclear industry has a shameful history of ‘radioactive racism’ that dates from the British bomb tests in the 1950s, writes Jim Green. The same attitudes persist today with plans to dump over half a million tonnes of high and intermediate level nuclear waste on Aboriginal land, and open new uranium mines. But now Aboriginal peoples and traditional land owners are fighting back!

From 1998-2004, the Australian federal government tried – but failed – to impose a national nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land in South Australia.

Then the government tried to impose a dump on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory, but that also failed.

Now the government has embarked on its third attempt and once again it is trying to impose a dump on Aboriginal land despite clear opposition from Traditional Owners. The latest proposal is for a dump in the spectacular Flinders Ranges, 400 km north of Adelaide in South Australia, on the land of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners.

The government says that no group will have a right of veto, which is coded racism: it means that the dump may go ahead despite the government’s acknowledgement that “almost all Indigenous community members surveyed are strongly opposed to the site continuing.”

The proposed dump site was nominated by former Liberal Party politician Grant Chapman but he has precious little connection to the land. Conversely, the land has been precious to Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners for millennia.

It was like somebody ripped my heart out’

The site is adjacent to the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). “The IPA is right on the fence – there’s a waterhole that is shared by both properties”said Yappala Station resident and Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie.

The waterhole – a traditional women’s site and healing place – is one of many archeological and culturally significant sites in the area that Traditional Owners have registered with the South Australian government over the past six years. Two Adnyamathanha associations – Viliwarinha Aboriginal Corporation and the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob – wrote in November 2015 statement:

“Adnyamathanha land in the Flinders Ranges has been short-listed for a national nuclear waste dump. The land was nominated by former Liberal Party Senator Grant Chapman. Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners weren’t consulted. Even Traditional Owners who live next to the proposed dump site at Yappala Station weren’t consulted. This is an insult.

“The whole area is Adnyamathanha land. It is Arngurla Yarta (spiritual land). The proposed dump site has springs. It also has ancient mound springs. It has countless thousands of Aboriginal artefects. Our ancestors are buried there.

“Hookina creek that runs along the nominated site is a significant women’s site. It is a registered heritage site and must be preserved and protected. We are responsible for this area, the land and animals.

“We don’t want a nuclear waste dump here on our country and worry that if the waste comes here it will harm our environment and muda (our lore, our creation, our everything). We call on the federal government to withdraw the nomination of the site and to show more respect in future.”

Regina McKenzie describes getting the news that the Flinders Ranges site had been chosen from a short-list of six sites across Australia: “We were devastated, it was like somebody had rang us up and told us somebody had passed away. My niece rang me crying … it was like somebody ripped my heart out.”

McKenzie said on ABC television: “Almost every waste dump is near an Aboriginal community. It’s like, yeah, they’re only a bunch of blacks, they’re only a bunch of Abos, so we’ll put it there. Don’t you think that’s a little bit confronting for us when it happens to us all the time? Can’t they just leave my people alone?”

Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Dr Jillian Marsh said in an April 2016 statement:

“The First Nations people of Australia have been bullied and pushed around, forcibly removed from their families and their country, denied access and the right to care for their own land for over 200 years. Our health and wellbeing compares with third world countries, our people crowd the jails. Nobody wants toxic waste in their back yard, this is true the world over. We stand in solidarity with people across this country and across the globe who want sustainable futures for communities, we will not be moved.”

The battle over the proposed dump site in the Flinders Ranges will probably be resolved over the next 12 months. If the government fails in its third attempt to impose a dump against the wishes of Aboriginal Traditional Owners, we can only assume on past form that a fourth attempt will ensue……

Now Aboriginal people in South Australia face the imposition of a national nuclear waste dump as well as a plan to import 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate level waste for storage and disposal as a commercial venture.

The plan is being driven by the South Australian government, which last year established a Royal Commission to provide a fig-leaf of independent supporting advice. The Royal Commissioner is a nuclear advocate and the majority of the members of the Expert Advisory Committee are strident nuclear advocates.

Indeed it seems as if the Royal Commissioner sought out the dopiest nuclear advocates he could find to put on the Expert Advisory Committee: one thinks nuclear power is safer than solar, another thinks that nuclear power doesn’t pose a weapons proliferation risk, and a third was insisting that there was no credible risk of a serious accident at Fukushima even as nuclear meltdown was in full swing.

Announcing the establishment of the Royal Commission in March 2015, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said“We have a specific mandate to consult with Aboriginal communities and there are great sensitivities here. I mean we’ve had the use and abuse of the lands of the Maralinga Tjarutja people by the British when they tested their atomic weapons.”

Yet the South Australian government’s handling of the Royal Commission process systematically disenfranchised Aboriginal people. The truncated timeline for providing feedback on draft Terms of Reference disadvantaged people in remote regions, people with little or no access to email and internet, and people for whom English is a second language. There was no translation of the draft Terms of Reference, and a regional communications and engagement strategy was not developed or implemented.

Aboriginal people repeatedly expressed frustration with the Royal Commission process. One example (of many) is the submission of the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob (who are also fighting against the plan for a national nuclear waste dump on their land):

“Why we are not satisfied with the way this Royal Commission has been conducted:

Yaiinidlha Udnyu ngawarla wanggaanggu, wanhanga Yura Ngawarla wanggaanggu? – always in English, where’s the Yura Ngawarla (our first language)?

“The issues of engagement are many. To date we have found the process of engagement used by the Royal Commission to be very off putting as it’s been run in a real Udnyu (whitefella) way. Timelines are short, information is hard to access, there is no interpreter service available, and the meetings have been very poorly advertised. …

“A closed and secretive approach makes engagement difficult for the average person on the street, and near impossible for Aboriginal people to participate.”

The plan to turn South Australia into the world’s nuclear waste dump has been met with near-unanimous opposition from Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal Congress of South Australia, comprising people from many Aboriginal groups across the state, endorsed the following resolution at an August 2015 meeting:

“We, as native title representatives of lands and waters of South Australia, stand firmly in opposition to nuclear developments on our country, including all plans to expand uranium mining, and implement nuclear reactors and nuclear waste dumps on our land. … Many of us suffer to this day the devastating effects of the nuclear industry and continue to be subject to it through extensive uranium mining on our lands and country that has been contaminated.

“We view any further expansion of industry as an imposition on our country, our people, our environment, our culture and our history. We also view it as a blatant disregard for our rights under various legislative instruments, including the founding principles of this state.”

The Royal Commission acknowledged strong Aboriginal opposition to its nuclear waste proposal in its final report – but it treats that opposition not as a red light but as an obstacle to be circumvented.

Radioactive pollution in Antarctica from Australian uranium mining

September 13, 2016

Climate scientists: Australian uranium mining pollutes Antarctic
 June 30, 2016 by Beth Staples  
Uranium mining in Australia is polluting the Antarctic, about 6,000 nautical miles away. University of Maine climate scientists made the discovery during the first high-resolution continuous examination of a northern Antarctic Peninsula .

Ice core data reveal a significant increase in  concentration that coincides with open pit mining in the Southern Hemisphere, most notably Australia, says lead researcher Mariusz Potocki, a doctoral candidate and research assistant with the Climate Change Institute.

“The Southern Hemisphere is impacted by human activities more than we thought,” says Potocki.

Understanding airborne distribution of uranium is important because exposure to the radioactive element can result in kidney toxicity, genetic mutations, mental development challenges and cancer.

Uranium concentrations in the ice core increased by as much as 102 between the 1980s and 2000s, accompanied by increased variability in recent years, says Potocki, a glaciochemist.

Until World War II, most of the uranium input to the atmosphere was from natural sources, says the research team.

But since 1945, increases in Southern Hemisphere uranium levels have been attributed to industrial sources, including uranium mining in Australia, South Africa and Namibia. Since other land-source dust elements don’t show similar large increases in the ice core, and since the increased uranium concentrations are enriched above levels in the Earth’s crust, the source of uranium is attributed to human activities rather atmospheric circulation changes.

In 2007, a Brazilian-Chilean-U.S. team retrieved the ice core from the Detroit Plateau on the northern Antarctic Peninsula, which is one of the most rapidly changing regions on Earth.

More information: Mariusz Potocki et al. Recent increase in Antarctic Peninsula ice core uranium concentrations, Atmospheric Environment (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2016.06.010  Journal reference:Atmospheric Environment  websiteProvided by: University of Maine

Historical Attempts to dump nuclear waste on South Australia

September 13, 2016

The Kungkas wrote in an open letter: “People said that you can’t win against the Government. Just a few women. We just kept talking and telling them to get their ears out of their pockets and listen. We never said we were going to give up. Government has big money to buy their way out but we never gave up.”

Radioactive waste and the nuclear war on Australia’s Aboriginal people, Ecologist Jim Green 1st July 2016  “………Dumping on South Australia, 1998-2004

This isn’t the first time that Aboriginal people in South Australia have faced the imposition of a national nuclear waste dump. In 1998, the federal government announced its intention to build a dump near the rocket and missile testing range at Woomera.

The proposed dump generated such controversy in South Australia that the federal government hired a public relations company. Correspondence between the company and the government was released under Freedom of Information laws.

In one exchange, a government official asked the PR company to remove sand-dunes from a photo to be used in a brochure. The explanation provided by the government official was that: “Dunes are a sensitive area with respect to Aboriginal Heritage”. The sand-dunes were removed from the photo, only for the government official to ask if the horizon could be straightened up as well.

Aboriginal groups were coerced into signing ‘Heritage Clearance Agreements’ consenting to test drilling of short-listed sites for the proposed dump. The federal government made it clear that if consent was not granted, drilling would take place anyway.

Aboriginal groups were put in an invidious position. They could attempt to protect specific cultural sites by engaging with the federal government and signing agreements, at the risk of having that engagement being misrepresented as consent for the dump; or they could refuse to engage in the process, thereby having no opportunity to protect cultural sites.

Aboriginal groups did participate in Heritage Clearance Agreements, and as feared that participation was repeatedly misrepresented by the federal government as amounting to Aboriginal consent for the dump.

We would not do that for any amount of money’

In 2002, the Federal Government tried to buy-off Aboriginal opposition to the dump. Three Native Title claimant groups – the Kokatha, Kuyani and Barngala – were offeredA$90,000 to surrender their native title rights, but only on the condition that all three groups agreed.

The government’s offer was refused. Dr Roger Thomas, a Kokatha Traditional Owner, said:“The insult of it, it was just so insulting. I told the Commonwealth officers to stop being so disrespectful and rude to us by offering us $90,000 to pay out our country and our culture.”

Andrew Starkey, also a Kokatha man, said“It was just shameful. They were wanting people to sign off their cultural heritage rights for a minuscule amount of money. We would not do that for any amount of money.”

In 2003, the federal government used the Lands Acquisition Act 1989 to seize land for the dump. Native Title rights and interests were extinguished with the stroke of a pen. This took place with no forewarning and no consultation with Aboriginal people.

Next – the sham ‘consultation’

Leading the battle against the dump were the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a council of senior Aboriginal women from northern South Australia. Many of the Kungkas personally suffered the impacts of the British nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga and Emu Field in the 1950s.

The government’s approach to ‘consultation’ with Aboriginal people was spelt out in a document leaked in 2002. The document states: “Tactics to reach Indigenous audiences will be informed by extensive consultations currently being undertaken … with Indigenous groups.” In other words, sham ‘consultation’ was used to fine-tune the government’s pro-dump propaganda.

The government’s cynical and disrespectful tactics were the antithesis of Article 29 of theUnited Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that ”no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent”.

This issue of sham ‘consultation’ arises time and time again, most recently with the discussion initiated by a Royal Commission (discussed below) into “building confidence” in the safety of nuclear waste dump proposals. West Mallee Protection (WMP), representing Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people from Ceduna in western South Australia, responded with this blistering attack:

“WMP finds this question superficial and offensive. It is a fact that many people have dedicated their time and energy to investigating and thinking about nuclear waste. It is a fact that even elderly women that made up the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta – a senior Aboriginal women’s council – committed years of their lives to stand up to the proposal for a low-level facility at Woomera.

“They didn’t do this because of previously inadequate ‘processes’ to ‘build confidence’ as the question suggests but because: A) Individuals held a deep commitment to look after country and protect it from a substance known as ‘irati’ poison which stemmed from long held cultural knowledge.

B) Nuclear impacts were experienced and continued to be experienced first hand by members and their families predominately from nuclear testing at Emu Field and Maralinga but also through exploration and mining at Olympic Dam.

C) They epitomized and lived by the worldview that sustaining life for future generations is of upmost importance and that this is at odds with the dangerous and long lasting dangers of all aspects of the nuclear industry.

“The insinuation that the general population or target groups such Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta or the communities in the Northern Territory that succeeded them and also fought off a nuclear dump for Muckaty were somehow deficient in their understanding of the implications and may have required “confidence building” is highly offensive.”

The politicians finally get their ears out of their pockets

The Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta continued to implore the federal government to “get their ears out of their pockets”, and after six years the government did just that. In the lead-up to the 2004 federal election, with the dump issue biting politically, and following a Federal Court ruling that the government had illegally used urgency provisions in the Lands Acquisition Act, the government decided to cut its losses and abandon the dump plan.

The Kungkas wrote in an open letter: “People said that you can’t win against the Government. Just a few women. We just kept talking and telling them to get their ears out of their pockets and listen. We never said we were going to give up. Government has big money to buy their way out but we never gave up.”

Aboriginal people and the botched cleanup of Maralinga nuclear bomb tests site

September 13, 2016

Radioactive waste and the nuclear war on Australia’s Aboriginal people, Ecologist Jim Green 1st July 2016  “……..The 1998-2004 debate over nuclear waste dumping in South Australia overlapped with a controversy over a botched clean-up of the Maralinga nuclear weapons test site in the same state.

The British government conducted 12 nuclear bomb tests in Australia in the 1950s, most of them at Maralinga. The 1985 Royal Commission found that regard for Aboriginal safety during the weapons tests was characterised by “ignorance, incompetence and cynicism”.

The Australian government’s clean-up of Maralinga in the late 1990s was just as bad. It was done on the cheap and many tonnes of plutonium-contaminated waste remain buried in shallow, unlined pits in totally unsuitable geology.

Nuclear engineer and whistleblower Alan Parkinson said of the clean-up: “What was done at Maralinga was a cheap and nasty solution that wouldn’t be adopted on white-fellas land.”

Dr Geoff Williams, an officer with the Commonwealth nuclear regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, said in a leaked email that the clean-up was beset by a “host of indiscretions, short-cuts and cover-ups”.

Nuclear physicist Prof. Peter Johnston noted that there were “very large expenditures and significant hazards resulting from the deficient management of the project”.

Prof. Johnston (and others) noted in a conference paper that Traditional Owners were excluded from any meaningful input into decision-making concerning the clean-up. Traditional Owners were represented on a consultative committee but key decisions – such as abandoning vitrification of plutonium-contaminated waste in favour of shallow burial in unlined trenches – were taken without consultation with the consultative committee or any separate discussions with Traditional Owners.

Federal government minister Senator Nick Minchin said in a May 2000 media release that the Maralinga Tjarutja Traditional Owners “have agreed that deep burial of plutonium is a safe way of handling this waste.” But the burial of plutonium-contaminated waste was not deep and the Maralinga Tjarutja Traditional Owners did not agree to waste burial in unlined trenches – in fact they wrote to the Minister explicitly dissociating themselves from the decision.

Barely a decade after the Maralinga clean-up, a survey revealed that 19 of the 85 contaminated waste pits have been subject to erosion or subsidence.

Despite the residual radioactive contamination, the Australian government off-loaded responsibility for the contaminated land onto the Maralinga Tjarutja Traditional Owners. The government portrayed this land transfer as an act of reconciliation. But it wasn’t an act of reconciliation – it was deeply cynical. The real agenda was spelt out in a 1996 government document which said that the clean-up was “aimed at reducing Commonwealth liability arising from residual contamination.”……

Legal and other serious flaws in South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission’s plan

September 13, 2016

SA NUCLEAR BRIEFING Nigel Carney, June 16, 2016   “…… the issue South Australians are currently facing in the low level waste site selection process has always been a state and federal alliance, no mere coincidence of need…….

The Commission has been criticized widely as being a political stunt, not an independent Commission but rather a rubber stamp. The findings of the Commission released in May 2016 tend to support this view. The report itself presents evidence against its own findings. We are reminded that the Radium Hill mine and Port Pirie treatment plant remain as unresolved radioactive sites. The Commission finds:

‘The failure to consider the environment in the planning, operating and decommissioning of these facilities has resulted in ongoing management challenges….Although subsequent assessments of both sites show they do not pose a serious radiological risk to the health of visitors to the sites the state government is required to continue to monitor and manage potential environmental contamination’  (Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Findings May 2016)

Why then, the public may ask, would a Commission which acknowledges the failure of government to manage the legacy of the nuclear fuel cycle suggest the state has the capability of managing the world’s nuclear waste?

In Australian Atomic Confessions (Kathy Aigner 2005) and Silent Storm (Film Australia) we learn that this very ‘industry’ conducted human guinea pig experiments upon the Australian population during the 1950s and 60s Marshall Island, Emu Field and Maralinga Nuclear tests. The toxic legacy of the nuclear weaponry and fuel cycle upon indigenous and general populations was apparently deemed not worthy of discussion in the report. Yet these documentaries and many more reveal horrific and inhumane attitudes of the governments and corporations peddling their nuclear products.

Again, when thorough, horrific documentation reveals an ‘industry’ that treats people like lab rats, why would any sane person place trust in any aspect of the ‘industry’ or any proponents of it?

So why, you may ask, would a government go to so much effort and expense to produce such a rubber stamp report?

A glance at the unique South Australian Royal Commission Act 1917 may reveal some clues as to why the government has chosen the mechanism of a Royal Commission to lead the way for such risk inherent proposals.

The Act appears to be a black hole into which any further government responsibility conveniently disappears. A Law Reform Commission submission points to the inclusion of ‘privative clauses’, arguably unconstitutional but not High Court tested. The key result is that no comeback exists to challenge the Commission findings, creating what could be viewed as a negligence free zone in which such hasty and experimental decisions can be made.

The reader may not have the inclination to read this antique piece of legislation so I will reveal the controversial clauses which make Royal Commissions in South Australia such a clever tool of government when any sensitive issues arise.

Section 7 – Commission not to be bound by rules as to procedure or evidence.

Section 9 – Acts and proceedings of the commission not liable to be reviewed orrestrained. ‘No decision, determination, certificate, or other act or proceeding of thecommission, or anything done or the omission of anything, or anything proposed to be done or omitted to be done, by the commissioner, shall, in any manner whatsoever, be questioned, or reviewed, or be restrained or removed by prohibition, injunction, certiorari, or otherwise howsoever.’  

The Australian Law Reform Commission (May 19, 2009) commenting on the inclusion of privative clauses in legislation notes: ‘Judicial review cannot be excluded under the Commonwealth Constitution, and the usefulness of conventional privative clauses in limiting the scope for review of decisions under Commonwealth legislation now appears to be debatable at best. Therefore it is unclear what use a privative clause, such as that included in the Royal Commission Act 1917 (SA), would serve, other than to further confuse matters and to encourage arid jurisdictional debate.’…….

within the mechanism of a Royal Commission in South Australia, lies a very clever means to launder and process political skullduggery, neatly and apparently according to the untested Act, legally.

The Citizens’ Jury, the invention of newDemocracy foundation is in continuance of this theme as is the Nu-Clear Public Relations campaign designed to normalize the public to the findings of the Commission and the ‘which colour nuclear’ options embedded in the scheme. The campaign suggests that the results of the independent Commission are clear, now it’s time for the public to become clear and then the government can proceed.

What remains unclarified by this advertising is the implicit government denial of any responsibility for the hazards and risks obviously associated with such an undertaking.

This is apparent within the Premier’s own press statement following the release of the report and apparent in the assumptive approach of the Nu-Clear campaign underway.

‘No international partner will want to be part of entering what is a long term andextraordinary set of investments if they don’t think the community is going to be able todeliver on them. And so the community needs to accept this’ (SA Nuclear dump debate to go before citizens’ juries, ABC, May 10, 2016)

A chilling approach to community engagement but exactly the program now underway and being funded by taxpayers who apparently don’t have a say but rather ‘need to accept this’. ……..