Archive for July, 2017

Australia’s history of massacres of Aboriginals is revealed in a map

July 24, 2017

For the full map by the Centre for 21st Century Humanities and the Centre for the History of Violence, visit

Mapping Aboriginal massacres makes it time to recognise the colonial wars, say leading historians, Julie Power.  5 July 17, Almost every Aboriginal clan experienced massacres at the hands of early settlers in the “colonial wars”, according to the first stage of a new online mapping project.

So far the project has documented 150 massacres resulting in at least 6000 deaths in the early years of the colony. Most happened at dawn with a surprise attack on an Aboriginal camp where people “simply couldn’t defend themselves”, said University of Newcastle historian Professor Lyndall Ryan, who has been developing the online digital map for nearly four years.

Yet those who died defending their people and land have rarely been recognised. Professor Ryan and Tasmanian author Professor Henry Reynolds – whose books documented the “forgotten” and “silent” colonial wars against Aboriginal people – said it was time for the Australia War Memorial to recognise this war.

“Certainly it is time the War Memorial acknowledges these massacres,” said Professor Ryan. By the time the project is completed in several years, she expects it will find that nearly 15,000 people were killed in massacres (defined as where six people or more died). This doesn’t include smaller attacks, which have been estimated by some academics to bring the death toll to more than 30,000 from 1788 until the 1940s. The impact of the massacres reverberates across the generations.

“When I visit Aboriginal communities today the first thing they do is take you to the massacre site,” Professor Ryan said.

“There are children who witnessed it who are now elderly,” she said, referring to survivors of 20th-century massacres in the Kimberleys and the Northern Territory who are still living with the trauma of having seen their families slaughtered.

“We must celebrate NAIDOC because these are people who survived,” she said.

The map shows massacres were widespread, with intense periods of warfare, and often included soldiers and police.  Professor Ryan said the massacres of Indigenous Australians were conducted in secrecy and few perpetrators were brought to justice.

And they were planned in advance. “They were not spontaneous events. They were very well planned, designed to eradicate the opposition,” Professor Ryan said.

The project currently lists massacres from 1788 to 1872 on the eastern seaboard, and includes coordinates, photos of the location, the motive where known, details of when each started and ended, the clan or nation, and the sources of information.

At the Myall Creek massacre on the Gwydir River on June 10, 1838, 28 members of the Wererai clan were killed by settler John Henry Fleming and 11 stockmen. “Aboriginal people tied up in daylight,” reads the explanation on the map. “Driven to a stockyard and killed with swords, pistols and muskets.”

Aboriginal people had little chance of surviving. They had spears, waddies and hatchets to fight the colonists. The colonists wielded swords, pistols, muskets and bayonets.

There were also 11 cases of poisonings – five in Victoria and six in NSW. And in Queensland, around 60 members of the Giggarabarh people died after flour laced with strychnine was given to them by two shepherds.

Even for Professor Ryan, as a white historian who has studied massacres for many years, it took a while for the “penny to drop” before she realised the extent to which perpetrators went to eradicate the local people.

The most shocking for her was the Jack Smith massacre in Warrigal Creek in Victoria in 1843, where about 150-170 Brataualang people were killed over five days in retaliation for the killing of Ronald Macalister, the nephew of a local squatter.

It was a rampage, she said.

“The perpetrators went to huge lengths to keep quiet and hide the true horror.”

An avenging party of 20 horsemen, known as “The Highland Brigade” was organised to look for the killer. The brigade was “sworn to secrecy”.

The research project used settler diaries, newspaper reports, and Aboriginal evidence to form a coherent list.

Professor Reynolds has called the attacks on Indigenous Australians the “forgotten war of conquest that saw the expropriation of the most productive land over vast continental distances”, and the transfer of sovereignty from the Aborigines to the British government.

He said the deaths were almost inevitable given the way the British colonised Australia.

“They didn’t give any rights of property or sovereignty to the Aborigines,” Professor Reynolds said.

That meant there was nothing for the Aborigines to negotiate, and that remained until the law changed with the Mabo case, he said.

“The settlers felt they were the owners of the land, and [they saw] the Aboriginal people as the trespassers and they were the criminals who stole their land and cattle,” he said.

Professor Ryan said many Aboriginal people had contacted her with further details of massacres.

Many artists have depicted the massacres in their works, including Judy Watson’s “a picnic with the natives – the gulf”.

It includes a series of canvases showing dots on the map depicting massacre sites across the country.

These works “could possibly be the catalyst for instances of coming together to speak these stories out loud,” she said in notes accompanying the work at the Art Gallery of NSW.

For the full map by the Centre for 21st Century Humanities and the Centre for the History of Violence, visit

Australian Greens REJECT Australia joining Generation IV Nuclear Energy Accession

July 24, 2017
Dissenting Report – Australian Greens, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young Australian Greens Senator, 
While not always supporting the outcomes, the Australian Greens have acknowledged previous JSCOT inquiries on nuclear issues for their diligence and prudence. We are disappointed on this occasion to submit a dissenting report into the Generation IV Nuclear Energy Accession. The inquiry process into the Framework Agreement for International Collaboration on Research and Development of Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems has been unduly rushed and lacked adequate public hearings or detailed analysis and reflection of public submissions. This is particularly disturbing given that this inquiry relates to public spending for an undefined period of time towards a technology that is prohibited in Australia.
The Australian Greens’ dissent to Report 171 (Section 4: Generation IV Nuclear Energy Accession) is based on a range of grounds, including:
The lack of transparency regarding the costs to the Australian taxpayer over an undefined period of time;
The technology that this agreement relates to is prohibited under Australian law and its promotion is inconsistent with the public and national interest;
The lack of consideration of the global energy trends away from nuclear technology;
The lack of procedural fairness in refusing adequate public hearings and consideration of public submissions;
An unjustified reliance on the submissions from the highly partisan Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). The Australian Greens note that ANSTO is not a disinterested party in this policy arena. Furthermore, ANSTO has made a number of unfounded assertions, particularly regarding the Agreement’s impact on Australia’s standing on nuclear non-proliferation.

Unchecked capacity and resourcing

The timeframe for the agreement is loosely stated as being between 10 and 40 years. Over this period there is a commitment for Australia to pledge resources and capacity at the expense of Australian taxpayers. In exchange for this undefined public expense for an undefined period of time, there is no clear public benefit – given that the technology is, properly and popularly, prohibited in this country.
Point 4.20 states that the Framework is in essence about spreading the significant costs associated with the development of Generation IV reactors. In public submissions made to JSCOT there are detailed cost estimates for individual projects that are all in the range of billions of dollars. There have been numerous delays, cost constraints and problems with the various types of reactors described as Generation IV. While some countries continue to pursue this technology, there is no clear end-game in sight and many nations are stepping away from this sector. Most Generation IV reactors only exist on paper while some others are modified plans of expensive failed projects but are still just conceptual.
It is understandable that countries who are invested in Generation IV would seek to transfer costs and inflate the potential benefits. It is unreasonable, however, for a Government agency to commit Australian resources to fund and develop this technology which is decades away from being anything more than a concept.
ANSTO submits in the National Interest Analysis that the “costs of participation in the Systems Arrangements will be borne by ANSTO from existing funds”. The Australian Greens note that in the last financial year ANSTO reported a loss of $200 million (including $156 million in subsidies). The commitment of funds and resourcing from an agency that operates with an existing deficit that is already funded by the Australian people is fiscally irresponsible and has not been investigated through the JSCOT process.
The Australian Greens maintain that there is a particular need for the rationale of any contested public expenditure to be rigorously tested. Sadly, this Committee has failed in this role.
Point 4.24 of the report states that “Australia was required to demonstrate that it could contribute to the research and development goals of the GIF” yet the inquiry process failed to establish exactly what form those contributions will take and the cost of those contributions to the Australian people.

Prohibited Technology

Point 4.39 on the question of nuclear power in Australia brushes aside the fundamental issue that the future of nuclear energy in Australia is entirely dependent on changing Commonwealth laws.
Report 171 section 4 fails to acknowledge that the technology in question is prohibited under two separate pieces of Commonwealth legislation:
Section 37J of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999;
Section 10 of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998.
These Acts reflect considered positions, public opinion and the environmental and economic risk associated with nuclear technology which has repeatedly proved to be dangerous and expensive. The position reflected in these laws has been repeatedly reiterated in subsequent Government reports into the technology and prospects for development in Australia. For example:
The Switkowski Report – Uranium Mining, Processing, and Nuclear Energy – opportunities for Australia? (2006)
The Australian Power Generation Technology Report – Summary (Nov 2015)
Department of Energy and Science Energy White Paper (2015)
Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (South Australia) (May 2016)
These reports all arrive at the same conclusion: that there is no case to develop nuclear power in Australia, albeit for different reasons. These reasons include costs, time constraints, legal constraints, public opposition, restrictions on availability of water and other environmental factors.

Lack of Procedural Fairness and over reliance on evidence from ANSTO

ANSTO has pursued this agreement, signed the agreement, will be responsible for enacting the agreement, drove the National Interest Analysis and were the only agency invited to present at a hearing. This agency is publicly funded, has run at a deficit, and is seeking to further commit Australian resources to a technology that is not only unpopular but is prohibited under Australian legislation.
There is a wide range of experts and public interest groups who have lodged detailed submissions and requested an audience with the Committee to offer some scrutiny and balance to the highly selective view of Generation IV options presented by ANSTO.
These submissions are barely mentioned in Report 171 and additional public hearings were denied. This level secrecy and denial of procedural fairness is of grave concern and, while out of character for JSCOT, is very much in line with the secrecy synonymous with ANSTO and the wider nuclear industry.

Australia’s accessibility to nuclear technology and standing on nuclear non-proliferation

ANSTO claim in the NIA that a failure to accede “would impede Australia’s ability to remain constructively engaged in international nuclear activities and would limit our ability to forge links with international experts at a time when a significant expansion in nuclear power production is underway……. It would diminish Australia’s standing in international nuclear non-proliferation and our ability to influence international nuclear policy developments in accordance with our national economic and security interests.”
The Australian Greens understand that Australia currently pays $10 million per annum to the International Atomic Energy Agency which grants us access to the safety and regulatory fora and to publicly published research. Where there is a commercial interest in the technology this would no doubt be made available to Australia at a price – but a price not borne by the taxpayer in this crude subsidy by stealth proposed in report 171 (Section 4).
Claims that our failure to accede would somehow diminish our standing on nuclear non-proliferation are absurd. While the industry might promote Generation IV as addressing issues of nuclear non-proliferation there is little concrete evidence that it can or ever would be done. It was the same promise industry proponents made about Generation III reactors and failed to deliver.
Australia’s standing on nuclear non-proliferation is currently being diminished because this Government is actively boycotting the current UN process supported by 132 nations on negotiating a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, not because our country has not been funding research into nuclear power.
The Australian Greens fundamentally dissent from this Committee’s findings and believe that no compelling or credible case has been made to proceed with the treaty action. Rushed, limited and opaque decision making processes are a poor basis for public funding allocations in a contested policy arena.

South Australia firmly rejected the idea of becoming the world’s radioactive trash dump

July 24, 2017

Australia’s handful of self-styled ‘ecomodernists’ or ‘pro-nuclear environmentalists’ united behind a push to import spent fuel and to use some of it to fuel Generation IV fast neutron reactors. They would have expected to persuade the stridently pro-nuclear Royal Commission to endorse their ideas. But the Royal Commission completely rejected the proposal

Another dump proposal is very much alive: the federal government’s plan to establish a national nuclear waste dump in SA, either in the Flinders Ranges or on farming land near Kimba, west of Port Augusta.

How the South Australians who dumped a nuclear dump may soon have another fight on their hands   15th June, 2017  The rejection of a plan to import vast amounts of high-level nuclear waste from around the world for profit was a significant result for campaigners but that threat is still far from over, writes JIM GREEN

Last November, two-thirds of the 350 members of a South Australian-government initiated Citizens’ Jury rejected “under any circumstances” the plan to import vast amounts of high-level nuclear waste from around the world as a money-making venture.

The following week, SA Liberal Party Opposition leader Steven Marshall said that “[Premier] Jay Weatherill’s dream of turning South Australia into a nuclear waste dump is now dead.” Business SA chief Nigel McBride said: “Between the Liberals and the citizens’ jury, the thing is dead.”

And after months of uncertainty, Premier Weatherill has said in the past fortnight that the plan is “dead”, there is “no foreseeable opportunity for this”, and it is “not something that will be progressed by the Labor Party in Government”.

So is the plan dead? The Premier left himself some wriggle room, but the plan is as dead as it ever can be. If there was some life in the plan, it would be loudly proclaimed by SA’s Murdoch tabloid, The Advertiser. But The Advertiser responded to the Premier’s recent comments, to the death of the dump, with a deafening, deathly silence.

Royal Commission

It has been quite a ride to get to this point.The debate began in February 2015, when the Premier announced that a Royal Commission would be established to investigate commercial options across the nuclear fuel cycle. He appointed a nuclear advocate, former Navy man Kevin Scarce, as Royal Commissioner. Scarce said he would run a “balanced” Royal Commission and appointed four nuclear advocates to his advisory panel, balanced by one critic.

The final report of the Royal Commission, released in May 2016, was surprisingly downbeat given the multiple levels of pro-nuclear bias. It rejected ‒ on economic grounds ‒ almost all of the proposals it considered: uranium conversion and enrichment, nuclear fuel fabrication, conventional and Generation IV nuclear power reactors, and spent fuel reprocessing.

Australia’s handful of self-styled ‘ecomodernists’ or ‘pro-nuclear environmentalists’ united behind a push to import spent fuel and to use some of it to fuel Generation IV fast neutron reactors. They would have expected to persuade the stridently pro-nuclear Royal Commission to endorse their ideas. But the Royal Commission completely rejected the proposal, stating in its final report:

“[A]dvanced fast reactors and other innovative reactor designs are unlikely to be feasible or viable in the foreseeable future. The development of such a first-of-a-kind project in South Australia would have high commercial and technical risk. Although prototype anddemonstration reactors are operating, there is no licensed, commercially proven design. Development to that point would require substantial capital investment.”

SA as the world’s nuclear waste dump

The only thing left standing (apart from the shrinking uranium mining industry) was the plan to import nuclear waste as a commercial venture. Based on commissioned research, the Royal Commission proposed importing 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste (spent nuclear fuel from power reactors) and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate-level waste.

The SA Labor government then established a ‘Know Nuclear’ statewide promotional campaign under the guide of ‘consultation’. The Government also initiated the Citizens’ Jury.

The first sign that things weren’t going to plan for the Government was on 15 October 2016, when 3,000 people participated in a protest against the nuclear dump at Parliament House in Adelaide.

A few weeks later, on November 6, the Citizens’ Jury rejected the nuclear dump plan. Journalist Daniel Wills wrote: “This “bold” idea looks to have just gone up in a giant mushroom cloud. When Premier Jay Weatherill formed the citizens’ jury to review the findings of a Royal Commission that recommended that SA set up a lucrative nuclear storage industry, he professed confidence that a well-informed cross-section of the state would make a wise judgment. Late Sunday, it handed down a stunning and overwhelming rejection of the proposal.

“Brutally, jurors cited a lack of trust even in what they had been asked to do and their concerns that consent was being manufactured. Others skewered the Government’s basic competency to get things done, doubting that it could pursue the industry safely and deliver the dump on-budget.”

In the immediate aftermath of the Citizens’ Jury, the SA Liberal Party and the Nick Xenophon Team announced that they would actively campaign against the dump in the lead-up to the March 2018 state election. The SA Greens were opposed from the start.

Premier Weatherill previously said that he established the Citizens’ Jury because he could sense that there is a “massive issue of trust in government”. It was expected that when he called a press conference on November 14, the Premier would accept the Jury’s verdict and dump the dump. But he announced that he wanted to hold a referendum on the issue, as well as giving affected Aboriginal communities a right of veto. Nuclear dumpsters went on an aggressive campaign to demonise the Citizens’ Jury though they surely knew that the bias in the Jury process was all in the pro-nuclear direction.

For the state government to initiate a referendum, enabling legislation would be required and non-government parties said they would block such legislation. The government didn’t push the matter ‒ perhaps because of the near-certainty that a referendum would be defeated. The statewide consultation process led by the government randomly surveyed over 6,000 South Australians and found 53% opposition to the proposal compared to 31% support.

Likewise, a November 2016 poll commissioned by the Sunday Mail found 35% support for the nuclear dump plan among 1,298 respondents. The newspaper’s report on its own poll was dishonest. Instead of noting that non-supporters outnumbered supporters by almost two to one, the Sunday Mail conflated responses to two different questions and claimed: “Majority support for creating a nuclear industry in South Australia is revealed in an extensive Sunday Mail survey of public opinion, in a rebuff to moves to shut down further study of a high-level waste dump.”

Then the Labor government announced on 15 November 2016 that it would not seek to repeal or amend the SA Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000, legislation which imposes major constraints on the ability of the government to move forward with the nuclear waste import proposal. (The government also said that it would not encourage the federal government to repeal laws banning nuclear power, “recognising that in the short-to-medium term, nuclear power is not a cost-effective source of low-carbon electricity for South Australia”).

Economic claims exposed

Implausible claims about the potential economic benefits of importing nuclear waste had been discredited by this stage. The claims presented in the Royal Commission’s report were scrutinised by experts from the US-based Nuclear Economics Consulting Group (NECG), commissioned by a Joint Select Committee of the SA Parliament.

One of the many lies peddled by the Murdoch press was that the NECG report “backed Royal Commission findings that a nuclear dump could create $257 billion in revenue for South Australia.” In fact, the NECG report did no such thing. The kindest thing the report had to say was that the waste import project could be profitable under certain assumptions, but the report then raised serious questions about most of those assumptions.

The NECG report noted that the Royal Commission’s economic analysis failed to consider important issues which “have significant serious potential to adversely impact the project and its commercial outcomes”; that assumptions about price were “overly optimistic” in which case “project profitability is seriously at risk”; that the 25% cost contingency for delays and blowouts was likely to be a significant underestimate; and that the assumption the project would capture 50% of the available market had “little support or justification”.

The farcical and dishonest engineering of a positive economic case to proceed with the nuclear waste plan was exposed by ABC journalist Stephen Long on 8 November 2016: “Would you believe me if I told you the report that the commission has solely relied on was co-authored by the president and vice president of an advocacy group for the development of international nuclear waste facilities?”

No second opinion, no peer review … no wonder the Citizens’ Jury was unconvinced and unimpressed. The Jury’s report said: “It is impossible to provide an informed response to the issue of economics because the findings in the RCR [Royal Commission report] are based on unsubstantiated assumptions. This has caused the forecast estimates to provide inaccurate, optimistic, unrealistic economic projections.”

Professor Barbara Pocock, an economist at the University of South Australia, said: “All the economists who have replied to the analysis in that report have been critical of the fact that it is a ‘one quote’ situation. We haven’t got a critical analysis, we haven’t got a peer review of the analysis”.

Another South Australian economist, Prof. Richard Blandy from Adelaide University, said: “The forecast profitability of the proposed nuclear dump rests on highly optimistic assumptions. Such a dump could easily lose money instead of being a bonanza.”

The dump is finally dumped

To make its economic case, the Royal Commission assumed that tens of thousands of tonnes of high-level nuclear waste would be imported before work had even begun building a deep underground repository. The state government hosed down concerns about potential economic losses by raising the prospect of customer countries paying for the construction of waste storage and disposal infrastructure in SA.

But late last year, nuclear and energy utilities in Taiwan ‒ seen as one of the most promising potential customer countries ‒ made it clear that they would not pay one cent towards the establishment of storage and disposal infrastructure in SA and they would not consider sending nuclear waste overseas unless and until a repository was built and operational.

By the end of 2016, the nuclear dump plan was very nearly dead, and the Premier’s recent statement that it is “not something that will be progressed by the Labor Party in Government” was the final nail in the coffin. The dump has been dumped.

“Today’s news has come as a relief and is very much welcomed,” said Yankunytjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation Chair and No Dump Alliance spokesperson Karina Lester. “We are glad that Jay has opened his ears and listened to the community of South Australia who have worked hard to be heard on this matter. We know nuclear is not the answer for our lands and people – we have always said NO.”

Narungga man and human rights activist Tauto Sansbury said: “We absolutely welcome Jay Weatherill’s courageous decision for looking after South Australia. It’s a great outcome for all involved.”

Lessons learned?

There is much to reflect on. The idea of Citizens’ Juries would seem, superficially, attractive. But bias is inevitable if the government establishing and funding the Jury process is strongly promoting (or opposing) the issue under question. In the case of the Jury investigating the nuclear waste plan, it backfired quite spectacularly on the government (Daniel Wills’ analysis in The Advertiser was arguably the most perceptive). Citizen Juries will be few and far between for the foreseeable future in Australia. A key lesson for political and corporate elites is that they shouldn’t let any semblance of democracy intrude on their plans.

The role of Murdoch tabloids needs comment, particularly in regions where the only mass circulation newspaper is a Murdoch tabloid. No-one would dispute that the NT News has a dumbing-down effect on political and intellectual life in the Northern Territory. Few would doubt that the Courier Mail does the same in Queensland.

South Australians need to grapple with the sad truth that its Murdoch tabloids ‒ the Advertiser and the Sunday Mail ‒ are a blight on the state. Their grossly imbalanced and wildly inaccurate coverage of the nuclear dump debate was ‒ with some honourable exceptions ‒ disgraceful. And that disgraceful history goes back decades; for example, a significant plume of radiation dusted Adelaide after one of the British bombs tests in the 1950s but the Advertiser chose not to report it.

The main lesson from the dump debate is a positive one: people power can upset the dopey, dangerous ideas driven by political and corporate elites and the Murdoch press. Sometimes. It was particularly heartening that the voices of Traditional Owners were loud and clear and were given great respect by the Citizens’ Jury.

The Jury’s report said: “There is a lack of Aboriginal consent. We believe that the government should accept that the Elders have said NO and stop ignoring their opinions. … Jay Weatherill said that without the consent of traditional owners of the land “it wouldn’t happen”. It is unethical to backtrack on this statement without losing authenticity in the engagement process.”

Premier Weatherill said that one of valuable things that emerged from the Citizens’ Jury “is that there was an expression of solidarity by the wider community with the Aboriginal community”.

Conversely, the most disheartening aspect of the debate was the willingness of the Murdoch press and pro-nuclear lobbyists to ignore or trash Aboriginal people opposed to the dump.

Another dump debate

Traditional Owners, environmentalists, church groups, trade unionists and everyone else who contributed to dumping the dump can rest up and celebrate for a moment. But only for a moment. Another dump proposal is very much alive: the federal government’s plan to establish a national nuclear waste dump in SA, either in the Flinders Ranges or on farming land near Kimba, west of Port Augusta.

In May 2016, Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie, who lives near the Flinders Ranges site, wrote:

“Last year I was awarded the SA Premier’s Natural Resource Management Award in the category of ‘Aboriginal Leadership – Female’ for working to protect land that is now being threatened with a nuclear waste dump. But Premier Jay Weatherill has been silent since the announcement of six short-listed dump sites last year, three of them in SA.

“Now the Flinders Ranges has been chosen as the preferred site and Mr Weatherill must speak up. The Premier can either support us ‒ just as the SA government supported the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta when their land was targeted for a national nuclear waste dump from 1998-2004 ‒ or he can support the federal government’s attack on us by maintaining his silence.”

Perhaps the Premier will find his voice on the federal government’s contentious proposal for a national nuclear waste dump in SA, now that his position on that debate is no longer complicated by the parallel debate about establishing a dump for foreign high-level nuclear waste.

This Author

Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter.


Australia’s unsafe plan to sell uranium to Ukraine

July 24, 2017

In a statement tabled in the Senate last night, the Turnbull government has confirmed it will seek to proceed with selling Uranium to Ukraine despite significant safety and security concerns raised by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.

Uranium exports to Ukraine

“Australia, the nation that fuelled Fukushima should not sell uranium to the country that gave us Chernobyl,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dave Sweeney.

In February a JSCOT investigation found that existing safeguards were ‘not sufficient’ and there was a risk Australian nuclear material would disappear off the radar in Ukraine.

The government has ignored JSCOT’s recommended pre-conditions around risk assessment and recovery of nuclear materials and is looking to advance the deal despite the risks of war, civil unrest and nuclear insecurity in the eastern European country, which is involved in hostilities with Russia.

“The treaties committee’s report found ‘Australian nuclear material should never be placed in a situation where there is a risk that regulatory control of the material will be lost’, yet this is exactly what could happen under the deeply inadequate checks and balances that apply to exported Australian uranium,” said Mr Sweeney.

“JSCOT recommended the Australian government undertake a detailed and proper risk assessment and develop an effective contingency plan for the removal of ‘at risk’ Australian nuclear material prior to any sales deal.

“Unreasonably and irresponsibly the government response fails to credibly address this. Australia should be very cautious about providing nuclear fuel to an already tense geo-political situation in eastern Europe.

“Ukraine’s nuclear sector is plagued by serious and unresolved safety, security and governance issues.

“Two-thirds of Ukraine’s aging fleet of 15 nuclear reactors will be past its design lifetime use-by date in just four years.

“This is an insecure and unsafe industrial sector in a highly uncertain part of the world. Australian uranium directly fuelled Fukushima and this deeply inadequate response shows the government has learnt little and cares less”.

The Australian government’s plan to dump Lucas Heights’ nuclear waste on rural South Australia

July 24, 2017

Assuming that the long-lived intermediate-level stuff does go to the sites that you are busy characterising at the moment, how long is it envisaged that it actually stays there before it gets taken somewhere else?

Mr B Wilson: We cannot give a definitive answer on that because we have not commenced a process to identify a permanent disposal solution for the long-lived intermediate-level waste—

Senator LUDLAM: Ouch!

if the really dangerous intermediate-level stuff is to be stored there you cannot tell them how long it is meant to be there for

so we kind of do not really know what is going on there or how long it is meant to be there for.


 Full Transcript here:;fileType=application%2Fpdf

Senator Canavan: I have been to Hawker and I am going there again tomorrow, and I would like to put on record my thanks to many in the Hawker community who engage in this process. Some have certainly changed their mind as they have come to have more understanding of it. I think you have probably been to Lucas Heights, and it I think it makes a big difference to people when they see it. There is a lot of misinformation spread about this, and we are trying to engage with people in a genuine way in good faith to give them the information to make informed decisions.

Senator LUDLAM: Who is spreading this information, Senator Canavan?

Senator Canavan: I hear it from time to time. I do not have any particular allegations to make about individual groups here, but you do hear lots of information from time to time about the potential danger of this material. But, of course, as you would probably know, much of the low-level waste is stored safely at Lucas Heights, a place where people go to and from work every day.

Senator LUDLAM: That begs the question of why it needs to move. ……

Senator LUDLAM: Staying in South Australia: has there been any consideration at all—this is for the department or the minister, whoever wants to take this one on—of the tension between the proposed national radioactive waste facility and the existing South Australian legislation, which would be the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000? The tension between the fact that your entire project is presently illegal under South Australian law: what is being done about that?

Mr B Wilson: We are certainly aware of the South Australian prohibition under their law. However, the National Radioactive Waste Management Act that we operate under overrides South Australian law.

Senator LUDLAM: And that is it? You are just going to squash them? Or are there discussions progressing with the South Australian government?….

Senator LUDLAM: Is the department, or you, Senator Canavan, or any of the federal agencies or other actors in communication with the South Australian government environment or heritage departments, or representatives of any body, actually, in relation to the tension between the two acts?

Senator Canavan: I have raised it with the South Australian government. They have indicated that they may seek to make changes. I am not aware of the status of that at the moment. Obviously, they have their own process, which is a separate to ours, on radioactive waste. Certainly, the issue has been raised. Mr Wilson is also right that we are confident that is not a barrier to this project. But Mr Wilson will be giving you that.

Mr B Wilson: We engage—I would have to characterise it as infrequently—with the South Australian government. It is more in the line of updating where we are. We have not had any recent engagements. They are certainly very well aware of the prohibitions under their law about what the South Australian government and its officials can do in this space….

When I said that the National Radioactive Waste Management Act overrides South Australian law, that is the fact. But what we are trying to do in the development of this project is to develop it and act in a way that is consistent with requirements under other South Australian legislation. For instance, in terms of Indigenous heritage protection and other aspects. While we are not necessarily bound by those laws we want to act in a way that is consistent with them.

Senator LUDLAM: With waste that is as dangerous as this, I am very glad to hear it! Is the department still accepting site nominations?

Senator Canavan: The government remains open to further nominations, as we announced on selecting the Hawker site last year. But the ones we have announced are those that we are proceeding with at this stage.

Senator LUDLAM: Wallerberdina and two at Kimba.

Senator Canavan: Kimba, that is right.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes. I will come to the Kimba ones in just a sec. My understanding is—and this goes way back before this project; the same for Muckaty and the same for the ones that came before that—that it was envisaged that it be a permanent repository for low-level waste of various categories, and a temporary or interim storage site for the long-lived intermediate-level waste that may or may not end up going there. That is still ambiguous, unless you can clarify that for us.

Assuming that the long-lived intermediate-level stuff does go to the sites that you are busy characterising at the moment, how long is it envisaged that it actually stays there before it gets taken somewhere else?

Mr B Wilson: We cannot give a definitive answer on that because we have not commenced a process to identify a permanent disposal solution for the long-lived intermediate-level waste—

Senator LUDLAM: Ouch!

Mr B Wilson: What we have told communities—we are trying to be as up-front as we can be—is that it could take several decades, based on the experience in establishing a low-level disposal facility. It could well take a couple of decades to find a permanent disposal solution for the intermediate. There is also some sense in Australia of not rushing to a permanent disposal solution for intermediate. The potential technological solutions—

Pg 108

Senator LUDLAM: Sixty or 70 years certainly could not be called a rush, could it?

Senator Canavan: No, definitely not

Mr B Wilson: The potential technological solutions for that are evolving, and there are potential other new technologies which might reduce the cost to Australia of a disposal solution—if they are proven to be effective and safe. They will be proved up over the next decade or so.

Senator LUDLAM: You a very good at this, Mr Wilson. Are you having any difficulty in the consultation work that you are doing—at any level, really—when communities take you up on the fact that you cannot tell them what kind of waste is proposed to be stored at the site? And if the really dangerous intermediate-level stuff is to be stored there you cannot tell them how long it is meant to be there for—has that come up at all in any of your conversations?

Mr B Wilson: Yes, it does.

Senator Canavan: It does, yes.

Senator LUDLAM: I would think so. Does it bug you a bit that you are not able to provide them with that basic information about what the dump will even be used for?

Mr B Wilson: What we do say is that by the time we come to them with a firm proposal for what this facility will look like—which will be sometime next year—we will be able to tell them, with clarity, what the options are on the intermediate level waste that might be stored there, and how we propose to deal with the low-level waste that will be stored there. So they will have, at that point, pretty good clarity around what the facility will be, what it will handle, and how it will handle it.

Senator LUDLAM: Right, so we kind of do not really know what is going on there or how long it is meant to be there for.

CHAIR: You have a minute and a half for further questions, Senator Ludlam.
Senator LUDLAM: A minute and a half! This stuff is dangerous for tens of thousands of years! Senator CANAVAN: Time flies when you are having fun!

Senator LUDLAM: So it does. I have one or two questions on Kimba and the Eyre Peninsula site. I note that there is a ballot process being advanced by the District Council of Kimba—AEC is overseeing that, which I think is good—to measure community preparedness to progress to stage 2 of consultation. I gather the question is going to be: are you interested in more info, or have you made your minds up? Is that a reasonable characterisation of what you are doing?

Mr B Wilson: It is not our question. It is the council’s question—it is their vote. But it will, effectively, be: ‘Do you support the sites progressing to the next stage of the process,’ or some version of that.

Senator LUDLAM: How do you intend to capture and consider the views of the wider community outside the defined voting area? It is a national radioactive waste dump; you will not be calling it the Kimba radioactive waste dump. I do not have any good answers to this, but how are you proposing to engage broader opinion?

Mr B Wilson: As it was for the previous round of consultations, people who have views from outside the region are perfectly free to submit those views to us. We will compile them and provide them to the minister to take into account. I think there is a sort of reality check here; the facility is proposed to go into an area, and it is that immediate community that obviously will carry more weight than—

Senator LUDLAM: I would hope so; I am not trying to take that away from them.

Senator CANAVAN: We also have people on the ground in both Hawker and Kimba. We have a staffed office there that people can approach, including people from the broader region who might come to Kimba for business or what have you. So we are doing our best to receive those views from a wide area.

Senator LUDLAM: How many people do you have staffing them?
Senator CANAVAN: We have two or three at Hawker, I believe. How many at Kimba? Mr B Wilson: About two at each.

Senator LUDLAM: Senator Canavan, you raised a figure before—you thought there was approximately 65 per cent support last time there was any sort of poll done in the Flinders area. Is that what you would consider sufficient to indicate broad community support?

Senator CANAVAN: I have said before that we are not defining the broad community support level at a precise amount, partly because of the issue that you just raised—there will be a broad set of community interests beyond, potentially, the voting area that deserve to have their voice heard on this issue. Also, within that voting area there might be different categories that deserve special attention, including Indigenous and traditional owners and direct neighbours to any potential site. So it is not, I think, appropriate to characterise a particular level of support. But I have also said we have accepted a site, if it is 65 per cent, as a sufficient level of support. And I would expect any further decisions would need a level of support consistent within a broad range of that amount.

Nuclear agency secretly signed Australia up to The Generation IV Nuclear Energy Framework with no parliamentary discussion

July 24, 2017

Submission to:  Inquiry: The Generation IV Nuclear Energy – Accession. by Noel Wauchope, 24 April 2017

First of all, I find it very strange that this agreement has been signed up to in advance, not by any elected representative of the Australian Parliament, but by Dr Adi Patterson CEO of the Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, apparently pre-empting the results of this Inquiry!

I find it disturbing that this Inquiry is being held without any public information or discussion. Are we to assume that the decision to join this “Charter” is being taken without prior public knowledge?

It is a pretty momentous decision. According to the World Nuclear Association the 2005 Framework agreement “formally commits them (signatories) to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.”

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 currently prohibits the development of nuclear power in Australia. Nuclear power cannot be approved under either the EPBC Act or the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998.  These prohibitions are, as I understand it,  supported by all major parties in Australia?

This would be an extraordinary step for Australia to take, especially in the light of the recent South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (NFCRC) pro-nuclear Royal Commission, which, while recommending South Australia for an international nuclear waste dump, nevertheless stated that

The recent conclusion of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), which issued updated projections for fast reactor and innovative systems in January 2014, suggests the most advanced system will start a demonstration phase (which involves completing the detailed design of a prototype system and undertaking its licensing, construction and operation) in about 2021. The demonstration phase is expected to last at least 10 years and each system demonstrated will require funding of several billion US dollars. As a result, the earliest possible date for the commercial operation of fast reactor and other innovative reactor designs is 2031. This timeframe is subject to significant project, technical and funding risk. It extends by six years a similar assessment undertaken by GIF in 2002. This means that such designs could not realistically be ready for commercial deployment in South Australia or elsewhere before the late 2030s, and possibly later.”

This was hardly a ringing endorsement of Generation IV nuclear reactors.

The South Australian Citizens Jury, Community Consultations, numerous economists, and the S.A. Liberal Party all rejected that nuclear waste plan, as not economically viable.  A huge amount of preparation was done by the NFCRC in investigating the phases of the nuclear Fuel Cycle (more accurately Chain) to arrive at their rather negative view of Generation IV nuclear reactors.

That makes it all the more extraordinary that the Australian government would be willing to sign up so quickly to ANSTO’s request that Australia put resources into these untested, and so far, non-existent nuclear technologies.

I hope that the Committee is aware of the present financial troubles of the giant nuclear corporations, such as AREVA, Toshiba, and Westinghouse Electric. Nuclear power is turning out to be a financial liability wherever it is not funded by the tax-payer, (as in China and Russia). (1)

The World Nuclear Association describes the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) as countries for whom nuclear energy is significant now or seen as vital in the future. Australia’s situation in no way fits these criteria.

Nuclear energy is not significant now in Australia, and even the NRCRC nuclear proponents do not see it as vital for Australia’s future. It is almost laughable, that right now, renewable energy systems are taking off in Australia – both as large solar and wind farms, and as a huge increase in small decentralised systems such as home and business solar panel installations.

That’s where Australia should be putting its resources of human energy, talent, and funding.

The claims made by the nuclear lobby, ANSTO and some politicians, notably Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop, about Generation Iv nuclear reactors, do not stand up to scrutiny:

Non proliferation “-   Furthering Australia’s non-proliferation and nuclear safety objectives.” The well-known claim that a “conventional” nuclear bomb cannot be made from these new types of reactor, might be true, to a certain extent. However, IFRs and other plutonium-based nuclear power concepts fail the WMD proliferation test, i.e. they can too easily be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The use of thorium as a nuclear fuel doesn’t solve the WMD proliferation problem. Irradiation of thorium (indirectly) produces uranium-233, a fissile material which can be used in nuclear weapons.  These materials can be used to make a “dirty bomb” – irradiating a city or other target.  They would require the same expensive security measures that apply with conventional nuclear reactors.

If the purpose in joining the GIF is to strengthen non-proliferation and safety – why is ANSTO the implementing agent not the Australia Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office?

Solving nuclear waste problem? Claims that these new nuclear reactors will solve the problem of nuclear wastes are turning out to be spurious. For example, Nuclear energy startup Transatomic Power has backed away from bold claims for its advanced reactor technology after an informal review by MIT professors highlighted serious errors in the company’s calculations. (2) Even at the best of times, the “new nuclear” lobby admits that their Gen IV reactors will produce highly toxic radioactive wastes, requiring security for up to 300 years.
The Integral Fast Reactor is called “integral” because it would process used reactor fuel on-site, separating plutonium (a weapons explosive) and other long-lived radioactive isotopes from the used fuel, to be fed back into the reactor. It essentially converts long-lived waste into shorter lived waste. This waste would still remain dangerous for a minimum of 200 years (provided it is not contaminated with high level waste products), so we are still left with a waste problem that spans generations. (3)

Climate change. The claim that new nuclear power will solve climate change is spurious. This ignores life-cycle CO2 emissions

Nuclear energy is not zero carbon.

Emissions from nuclear will increase significantly over the next few decades as high grade ore is depleted, and increasing amounts of fossil fuels are required to access, mine and mill low-grade ore.

To stay below the 2 degrees of global warming that climate scientists widely agree is necessary to avert catastrophic consequences for humans and physical systems, we need to significantly reduce our emissions by 2050, and to do this we need to start this decade. Nuclear is a slow technology:

The “Generation IV” demonstration plants projected for 2030-2040 will be too late, and there is no guarantee the pilots will be successful.

Nuclear Economics. For “a time when significant expansion in nuclear power production is underway” – this is a laughable falsehood. In reality, nuclear power economics are in a state of crisis, most notably in America, but it is a world-wide slowdown. (4)

The vagueness of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) agreement is a worry. Australia is to formally commit to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.  Surely Australia is not going to sign up to this, without any detail on what kind of research, what kind of reactor, what amount of funding we would be committing to the GIF.

And all this without any public discussion!

  2. startup-transatomic-backtracks-on-key-promises/


Crushing rejection, from medical association, of Australia joining the Framework Agreement for Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems

July 24, 2017

Here’s another fine submission to Australia’s Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia joining the Framework Agreement for Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems . This one blows out of the water any idea that these so far non existent reactors could solve any nuclear waste problem, or be in any way economically viable.  It also throws the spotlight on The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). Just how much of tax-payers’ money is going to this secretive organisation?

The latest reason for generation IV reactors centres on the unsolved problem of how to safely dispose of spent nuclear fuel. The proposition is that plutonium and other long lived transuranics in reactor fuel (that like plutonium also create a disposal problem) could be used up in so called “burner” reactors.

Analysis by the US National Academy of Sciences found this proposal to have such very high cost and so little benefit that it would take hundreds of years of recycling to reduce most of the global inventory.

Should ANSTO propose collaboration can occur without further cost to the taxpayer, then a funding review should be conducted to establish what research is already being done by ANSTO, at what cost, for what purpose and at whose behest. With an average loss of A$200 million annually, ANSTO should be able to provide disaggregated accounts for both transparency and accountability.

Generation IV Nuclear Energy – Accession  Submission Medical Association for Prevention of War  (MAPW) PO Box 1379, Carlton VIC 3053 Australia (03) 9023 195 m. 0431 475 465 e. w.

Executive Summary

MAPW recommends strongly against Australia becoming a party to this agreement. There is no proposal for Australia to get a nuclear power program.

This framework agreement applies to technologies that are economically, socially, environmentally, and from a nuclear security perspective, very dubious. Generation IV reactors are an assortment of proposed technologies that have been put forward over the last 70 years, tried and failed.

ANSTO is already very heavily subsidised by the Australian government, and extending its operations into this research sphere will require further scientific effort, expertise and funding. This is highly inappropriate given the current major constraints on government spending, and the urgent need to focus research energies on realistic, financially viable and proven measures to contain emissions from electricity generation.

Collaboration would mean taxpayer subsidies would go to an industry which has already wasted many billions in public funds and resulted in major adverse legacies. No private industry is prepared to invest in this research without large government subsidies because none are prepared to lose so much money.

It is also clear that Australia has no policy to use these long promised and never commercially delivered reactors. Therefore any involvement just subsidises those who hope to use them. If Australia wishes to expand its nuclear expertise, then research into “non nuclear waste” generating technologies (such as those to produce medical isotopes) would be much more productive and also be of positive benefit to the Australian population.


Objectives of GIF Framework Agreement (more…)

Wild monkey fetuses affected by ionising radiation following Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster

July 24, 2017

Small head size and delayed body weight growth in wild Japanese monkey fetuses after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster , Nature, Scientific Reports,


Scientific Reports 7, 1June2017


To evaluate the biological effect of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, relative differences in the growth of wild Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata) were measured before and after the disaster of 2011 in Fukushima City, which is approximately 70 km from the nuclear power plant, by performing external measurements on fetuses collected from 2008 to 2016. Comparing the relative growth of 31 fetuses conceived prior to the disaster and 31 fetuses conceived after the disaster in terms of body weight and head size (product of the occipital frontal diameter and biparietal diameter) to crown-rump length ratio revealed that body weight growth rate and proportional head size were significantly lower in fetuses conceived after the disaster. No significant difference was observed in nutritional indicators for the fetuses’ mothers. Accordingly, radiation exposure could be one factor contributed to the observed growth delay in this study.


The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) disaster that occurred in March 2011 exposed a large number of humans and wild animals to radioactive substances. Several studies of wild animals in Fukushima investigated health effects of the disaster, such as morphological abnormalities in gall-forming aphids (Tetraneura soriniTnigriabdominalis)1 and pale grass blue butterfly (Zizeeria maha)2, hematological abnormalities in carp (Cyprinus carpio)3, and chromosomal aberrations in wild mice (Apodemus argenteusMus musculus)4. However, there is no research investigating long-term exposure to radiation on mammals that typically have long life-span to date. This study is the first report to observe long-term biological effects of the pre- and post-NPP disaster on non-human primates in Fukushima.

We previously studied radioactive exposure and its effect on health of Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata) inhabiting Fukushima City, which is located approximately 70 km from the Fukushima Daiichi NPP56. After the NPP disaster, the range of radiocesium soil concentrations in Fukushima City was 10,000–300,000 Bq/m2. Hayama et al.5 investigated chronological changes in muscle radiocesium concentrations in monkeys inhabiting Fukushima City from April 2011 to June 2012. The cesium concentration in monkeys’ muscle captured at locations with 100,000–300,000 Bq/m2 was 6000–25,000 Bq/kg in April 2011 and decreased over 3 months to approximately 1000 Bq/kg. However, the concentration increased again to 2000–3000 Bq/kg in some animals during and after December 2011, before returning to 1000 Bq/kg in April 2012, after which it remained constant.

Fukushima monkeys had significantly lower white and red blood cell counts, hemoglobin, and hematocrit, and the white blood cell count in immature monkeys showed a significant negative correlation with muscle cesium concentration6. These results suggested that the short-term exposure to some form of radioactive material resulted in hematological changes in Fukushima monkeys.

The effects associated with long-term low-dose radiation exposure on fetuses are among the many health concerns. Children born to atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed low birth weight, high rates of microcephaly7, and reduced intelligence due to abnormal brain development8. Experiments with pregnant mice or rats and radiation exposure had been reported to cause low birth weight910, microcephaly11,12,13, or both1415. We identified one similar study on wild animals16, which reported that the brains of birds captured in the vicinity of the Chernobyl NPP weighted lower compared to those of birds captured elsewhere. (more…)

The mothers who fight for a cleanup of St Louis radioactive waste

July 24, 2017

The Fallout, In St. Louis, America’s nuclear history creeps into the present, leaching into streams and bodies. Guernica, 

Joe Trunko from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources … told Dawn that there is a landfill near her home, that it is an EPA Superfund site contaminated with toxic chemicals, that there has been an underground fire burning there since 2010. “These things happen sometimes in landfills,” he said. “But this one is really not good.”

Joe told Dawn that this landfill fire measures six football fields across and more than a hundred and fifty feet deep; it is in the floodplain of the Missouri River, less than two miles from the water itself, roughly twenty-seven miles upstream from where the Missouri River joins the Mississippi River before flowing out to the sea. “But to be honest, it’s not even the fire you should be worrying about,” Joe continued. “It’s the nuclear waste buried less than one thousand feet away.”

Joe explained how almost fifty thousand tons of nuclear waste left over from the Manhattan Project was dumped in the landfill illegally in 1973…….

Weeks later, she found herself standing outside the chain-link fence that surrounds the landfill with half a dozen environmental activists who had gotten hold of some air-sampling equipment……..

Karen Nickel didn’t know much about the landfill—she’d only just learned about it a few weeks before—but she knew about the waste……

Karen did look into it and learned that many of her classmates and neighbors and childhood friends had died of leukemias and brain cancers and appendix cancers—rare in the general population, but, again, apparently common among those who live or had lived near the creek. It couldn’t possibly be a coincidence…..

When Dawn and Karen learned what the EPA had proposed years earlier, in their Record of Decision, they immediately pushed back. They called the media, gave interviews, started a Facebook page. “I remember getting so excited when we hit two hundred members,” Karen told me. “Now we have over seventeen thousand.” They all lobbied their representatives, their senators, City Council members, mayors…….

“We’re just moms!” Karen and Dawn would answer. “We’re just citizens concerned about the health and safety of our kids and our community!”

Soon after, Karen and Dawn, along with another resident, Beth Strohmeyer, officially formed Just Moms STL………

After a few weeks of making these graphs, they realized the fire wasn’t under control, it wasn’t going out. It was, in fact, moving toward the waste, inching toward the known edge, spreading through the old limestone quarry. Now one thousand feet away. Now seven hundred………

Robbin and Mike Dailey moved to this house in 1999, after their kids had moved out and started families of their own. It’s a relief their children never lived here, she tells me. In this neighborhood children fall ill. There are brain cancers and appendix cancers, leukemias and salivary-gland cancers. Up the street from Robin and Mike there’s a couple with lung and stomach cancer. They bought their home just after it was built in the late 1960s.

I ask what they think might happen if the fire ever reaches the waste. The question hangs in the air for a moment as the TV flickers from the far wall. “Look, we know it won’t explode,” Robbin explains. “We’re not stupid. We know that’s not how it works. But just because there’s no explosion doesn’t mean there won’t be fallout.”…….

I’ve looked at thousands of pictures of this landfill, aerial photos and historical photos, elevation photos and topographical maps, but nothing has prepared me to see it in person, this giant belching mound of tubes and pumps and pipes. There’s some kind of engineered cover over the dirt itself, which is supposed to suffocate the fire and capture the fumes. It looks like little more than a green plastic tarp patched together over a hundred acres of sagging hills.

“This is the burning side,” Robbin tells me. “The radwaste is on the other side.” The patchwork is topographical and bureaucratic: the burning side is the southern section of the landfill and falls under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources; the radioactive waste is mostly on the northern side, and under EPA jurisdiction. On the burning side, workers drive over the tarp on utility carts, wearing hard hats and work clothes. No gloves, no masks, no protection from the destruction buried underneath their feet……….


Sickness and deaths: the toxic result of the St Louis radioactive aste dump

July 24, 2017

The reports don’t acknowledge these stories, these illnesses, those who are dying or dead. Most residents of St. Louis—including and especially the residents of predominantly African-American neighborhoods—don’t even know the contamination is there. …….

the half-life of Thorium 232: fourteen billion years, a half-life so long that by the time this element is safe for human exposure

a contradiction I can’t resolve: that the massive crime here began with a belief in a kind of care, a belief that protection comes only in the form of wars and bombs, and that its ultimate expression is a technology that can destroy in a single instant any threat to our safety with perfect precision and efficiency. But hundreds of thousands lost their lives to those bombs in Japan, and the fallout from building them has claimed at least as many lives right here at home.

The Fallout, In St. Louis, America’s nuclear history creeps into the present, leaching into streams and bodies. Guernica, By Lacy M. Johnson, 10 July 2017 “………Months ago, when a high-school friend reached out to me asking that I give my attention to this story, she told me that a company tasked decades ago with disposing of nuclear waste for the federal government had instead dumped thousands of barrels of the waste somewhere in North St. Louis County. The barrels were left exposed to the elements for decades, and the waste had leaked into the ground and into the water of a nearby creek……

When the federal government filed suit to acquire the property under eminent domain, officials refused to disclose the exact nature of the waste “for security reasons.” They assured the local government that the waste they’d be storing there wasn’t dangerous. They shook hands and signed papers. They looked people squarely in the eye.

During the next twenty years, truckload by truckload, the green patchwork of farm fields by the airfield turned into a foreign world. Mountains of raffinate rose up across from row after row of rusty black drums, stacked two or three high.

……..The reports tell only so much, only certain parts of certain versions of the story. The rest I have to piece together using articles in the local newspaper, phone calls with these residents, oral histories collected by others, newsletters from various companies celebrating one anniversary or another…..

In my pile of reports there is a series of letters from Cotter to the Atomic Energy Commission, in which Cotter tries to convince the government to take these wastes back. Commercial disposal would cost upwards of two million dollars (about twelve million dollars today). They couldn’t afford it. They knew that the AEC was using a quarry at the recently decommissioned second Mallinckrodt facility at Weldon Spring, roughly twenty miles southwest of the airport, as a dump for nuclear waste. They asked the AEC if they could use it, asked for guidance, and for help.

That help never came……

A lengthy investigation discovered that from August to October 1973, a private construction firm drove truckloads of the leached barium sulfate—along with roughly forty thousand tons of soil removed from the top eighteen inches of the Latty Avenue site—to West Lake Landfill, all around the clock, sometimes in the middle of the night. To the landfill operator it looked like dirt, so he waved the trucks in and charged them nothing, using it as landfill cover over the municipal refuse…..

the reports express the detection of this contamination in charts, as numbers and statistics. They’ve found contamination at the airport, in the drainage ditches leading away from the airport, and all along the creek—along the trucking routes, in ballfields and in parks and gardens and backyards, in driveways, in people’s basements and under their kitchen cabinets. Even now, as I write this, they are still trying to figure out just how far it has spread.

The reports measure the health risk of exposure to this contamination as an equation, with a threshold of acceptable risk. But what the reports don’t say is that the contamination has already done so much damage that cannot be measured or undone. The Mallinckrodt uranium workers are some of the most contaminated in the history of the atomic age. So contaminated, in fact, that in 2009 all former Mallinckrodt uranium workers were added as a “special exposure cohort” to the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. The act provides compensation and lifetime medical benefits to employees who became ill with any of twenty-two named cancers as a result of working in the nuclear-weapons industry. Because of this special cohort status, if a former Mallinckrodt worker develops any of these named illnesses, exposure to the uranium is assumed. But the people who live near the creek didn’t work for Mallinckrodt. They aren’t entitled to compensation or to medical benefits.

A woman named Mary Oscko, for instance, has lived her whole life in North St. Louis County, most of it near that small creek. Now she is dying of stage-four lung cancer, though she has never smoked a day in her life. Shari Riley, a nurse who lived near the creek, died recently of appendix cancer—rare in the general population, but several dozen cases have been reported among those who live or lived near the airport or along the creek. My friend—the one who contacted me about this story—never lived in St. Louis, but her mother grew up two houses away from that creek. My friend suspects that her mother’s exposure to the contamination as a child changed her DNA in ways she passed on to her children, which would explain why my friend was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer a few years ago, at the age of thirty-five. Could it also explain why my friend’s mother once gave birth to a set of conjoined twins? Conjoined twins are an anomaly in the general population, but these make the fourth set born to women who grew up near that creek. And those are just the ones we know about.

The reports don’t acknowledge these stories, these illnesses, those who are dying or dead. Most residents of St. Louis—including and especially the residents of predominantly African-American neighborhoods—don’t even know the contamination is there. …….

“My librarian,” Kay Drey tells me—has filed the EPA’s Record of Decision for the West Lake Landfill, and then on the drawer where I might find studies that contradict the EPA’s assessment that the radioactive waste in the landfill doesn’t pose a threat to residents—the radiological surveys of the site conducted in the 1970s and 1980s by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy, as well as more current studies by independent researchers. She explains that the radioactive waste buried in West Lake Landfill covers about twenty acres in two locations in one or many layers, estimated at two to fifteen feet thick, some of it mixed in with municipal refuse and some of it sitting right at the surface. It is in the trees surrounding the landfill and the vacuum bags in nearby homes. This waste contains not only uranium, but also thorium and radium, all long-lived, highly radio-toxic elements. And because Mallinckrodt removed most of the naturally occurring uranium from this ore, the Cotter Corporation, in effect, created an enriched thorium deposit when they dumped the residues at West Lake Landfill. “In fact,” Kay muses, “West Lake Landfill might now be the richest deposit of thorium in the world.”

Thorium and uranium in particular are among the radioactive primordial nuclides, radioactive elements that have existed in their current form since before Earth was formed, since before the formation of the solar system even, and will remain radioactive and toxic to life long after humans are gone. We’re sitting back in Kay’s dining room when she pulls out a tiny booklet labeled “Nuclear Wallet Cards.” What its intended purpose is, I don’t know, but Kay flips to the back to show me the half-life of Thorium 232: fourteen billion years, a half-life so long that by the time this element is safe for human exposure, the Appalachian Mountains will have eroded away, every ocean on Earth’s surface will have evaporated, Antarctica will be free of ice, and all the rings of Saturn will have decayed. Earth’s rotation will have slowed so much that days will have become twenty-five hours long, photosynthesis will have ceased, and multicellular life will have become a physical impossibility.

“You know, tritium is my favorite,” Kay tells me before I leave. It’s produced as a side effect of operating nuclear reactors and released into the air, or leaks into the waterways; it contaminates the water supply and condenses in our food. One official who worked at the nuclear reactor Kay had tried to prevent once told her that tritium was no big deal. “It only destroys DNA molecules.” A few years ago they found tritium in the groundwater in Callaway County. “There is no way to remove it,” she says…..

….the Weldon Spring site. After it was decommissioned, the plant—a second one run by Mallinckrodt—was found to be so contaminated that the Department of Energy eventually entombed the whole site in layers upon layers of clay and soil, gravel, engineered filters and limestone rocks, creating a mountain covering forty-five acres, containing approximately 1.5 million cubic yards of hazardous waste. With its own educational center located near the base, the containment dome has become a kind of memorial for a tragedy that hasn’t finished happening. The top of the dome is the highest point in the county.

“Oh, you don’t want to go there anyway,” Kay says, waving the idea away with her slender hand. “It’s leaking.”……..

a contradiction I can’t resolve: that the massive crime here began with a belief in a kind of care, a belief that protection comes only in the form of wars and bombs, and that its ultimate expression is a technology that can destroy in a single instant any threat to our safety with perfect precision and efficiency. But hundreds of thousands lost their lives to those bombs in Japan, and the fallout from building them has claimed at least as many lives right here at home.

There is no one to arrest for this, to send to jail, to fine or execute or drag to his humiliation in the city square. Even if Karen and Dawn win their fight and convince the government to remove every gram of radioactive waste in the landfill and the creek and the airport and the backyards and gardens here, people will still be sick. Thousands of them. Chronic exposure to radiation has changed their DNA, and they’ll likely pass those changes on to their children, and to their children’s children, and on and on through every generation. In this regard, no one is immune……..

The EPA Region 7 offices are located in a sprawling modern government building in a suburb of Kansas City. The small conference room just to the side of the main entrance is filled with a surprising number of people……

During our too-short conversation I learn that the EPA has over 1,300 sites in the Superfund program, and Region 7 alone has ninety-eight sites on the National Priorities List. Each of these communities is demanding that their toxic sites be scrubbed clean. ………