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Not a wasteland: Northern Territory nuclear waste dump campaign growing stronger

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Natalie Wasley, Beyond Nuclear Initiative

July 15, 2009 will mark four years since the Howard government announced plans for a federal radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory (NT), Australia. Three Department of Defense sites – Mt Everard, Harts Range and Fishers Ridge - were originally named, with Muckaty later added to the short list after being contentiously nominated by the Northern Land Council.

The July 15, 2005, announcement was made with no consultation with Traditional Owners or the NT government. It was a decide-announce-defend approach, typical of the previous Howard federal government. Senior Australian Labor Party (ALP) politicians called legislation facilitating the dump, the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act (CRWMA), 'sordid', 'draconian' and 'arrogant'.

However, despite ALP election promises clearly stating that the party would repeal the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act, the Rudd federal government has continued to push forward with the plan. Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has not indicated any change in policy, despite ALP national policy on radioactive waste management calling for an 'open, transparent process' that 'allows access to appeal mechanisms'. The current process is vastly different from ALP promises and platform, and far out of step with international standards of consultation. (see Nuclear Monitor 686, April 2, 2009: "Australian Government poised for announcement on controversial waste dump")

The UK Committee on Radioactive Waste Management report from July 2006 recommends that "Community involvement in any proposals for the siting of long term radioactive waste facilities should be based on the principle of volunteerism, that is, an expressed willingness to participate". The report acknowledges: "There is a growing recognition that it is not ethically acceptable for a society to impose a radioactive waste facility on an unwilling community".

In contrast, affected people in the Northern Territory found out about the dump proposal though the media. Pastoralist Barry Utley, who runs Yeltu Park station, surrounding the Fishers Ridge site on all four sides, recalls: "... a friend rang us that night and said, 'Did you happen to get the newspaper'? It mentioned that Fishers Ridge is to be one out of three sites chosen for a nuclear waste dump. The news turned our world upside down."

Traditional Owners, the NT government, national environment and health groups have written time and time again to Minister Ferguson asking when the dump laws will be scrapped and the site nominations revoked. The answers received are literally cut and pasted from one reply to the next. The letters say the Minister "will not take piecemeal steps or decisions on radioactive waste management," which has involved taking no decisions and keeping a closed door on this issue for the past 18 months.

Marlene Bennett, a Traditional Owner from the Muckaty Land Trust, one of the targeted sites, summed it up giving evidence at a Senate Inquiry last year: "I would just like to question why Martin Ferguson is sitting on this issue like a hen trying to hatch an egg".

While the letters from Ferguson state that "no decisions will be taken without appropriate stakeholder consultation," he was quoted on ABC on April 30 saying, "I'm not going to go around this country wasting taxpayers dollars having consultations about a potential site that has not been determined." He said that there would be proper consultation after a recommendation for an 'appropriate site' had been made.

With ALP policy and promises decaying significantly faster than radioactive waste, its no wonder communities are worried that the NT sites will still be targeted. More and more people are starting to speak out and demand action. Traditional Owners and community members from the targeted sites continue to travel around the country, speaking at public meetings and to media, to raise the national profile of the dump campaign.

A letter signed by 58 Traditional Owners of the Muckaty Land Trust was recently sent to Minister Ferguson. The letter reaffirmed opposition to the proposal: "We want you to know that Traditional Owners are waiting to show you that the country means something to them. That is why we want you to come along and to see because we don't want that rubbish dump to be here in Muckaty area".

There has been increasing support from trade unions, which is crucial to building pressure on the government in the lead up to the ALP National Conference at the end of July. On June 4, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Congress voted to support NT communities and workers fighting the proposed dump. The motion, which passed uncontested, demanded repeal of the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act,  a scrapping of all site nominations, called for a public inquiry into radioactive waste management and, crucially, vowed to support Traditional Owners and trade unionists refusing to cooperate with implementation of the current dump policy.

Groundwork for this ACTU resolution began in April, when Muckaty Traditional Owners Dianne Stokes, Mark Lane and Mark Chungaloo spoke at a public meeting in Wollongong, hosted by the Illawarra Aboriginal Land Council. At the meeting, veteran union activist Fred Moore explained the breadth of support for Gurindji people during the Wave Hill station walk off in the late 1960's, recalling how the Seaman's Union had refused to load cattle from NT Stations in solidarity with the striking workers. The potential for similar action was raised by Maritime Union of Australia Illawarra secretary Garry Keane, who proposed that workers refuse to unload radioactive waste returning to Australia if earmarked for any of the Northern Territory sites.

The secretive transport and export of radioactive materials through Wollongong and out of Port Kembla only weeks earlier was strongly condemned by the local community. Everyone spoke about building alliances with people in the NT to collectively oppose government support for the nuclear industry.

South Coast Labor Council Secretary Arthur Rorris said: "It disappoints me knowing, and I think its shameful, that the lands of the first Australians, the Traditional Owners, are treated in such a way that they are regarded as a waste dump ... What was shown with the Lucas Heights [radioactive transport] is that the people of this region still support the nuclear free policy, it is something that the union movement will not change ... it's not going to change. "

On July 15 targeted communities in the Territory will be calling on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to immediately drop the waste dump plan and to remove Martin Ferguson from the radioactive waste portfolio. The campaign opposing the national radioactive waste dump proposed for South Australia was a six-year battle, but was won through community resilience and perseverance. People from targeted areas, living along potential transport routes and supporters nationally and internationally must maintain unwavering and vocal opposition to the Northern Territory dump plan to achieve the same result.


Source and contact: Natalie Wasley. Natalie is a campaigner with the Arid Lands Environment Centre and the Beyond Nuclear Initiative.

"Our land is our life. Once our great grandfathers walked this land. This waste dump will destroy our land and animals. We say no. No to the waste dump."
Christine Morton, Muckaty Traditional Owner.

"This land is not empty - people live right nearby. We hunt and collect bush tucker here and I am the custodian of a sacred site within the boundaries of the defence land. We don't want this poison here."
Steven McCormack, Traditional Owner living 4km from Mt Everard.

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Indonesia: Tender postponed indefinitely.
Indonesian State Minister of Research and Technology Kusmayanto Kadiman announced late last month (May) that the tendering process for new nuclear power plants, expected to be completed by the end of the year, have been postponed indefinitely. The process has lacked political support and with presidential elections due in July, the government has pulled the plug. Kusmayanto said, ‘It's impossible to decide now. For the fastest, it will possibly take at last six more years.’ This destroys plans to have a nuclear power plant operating in the 2016-2019 timeframe established by Indonesian Law No. 17/2007.

Nuclear Reaction, 18 June 2009

Sweden: smiling sun banned from Parliament.
Seven antinuclear activists who went to the Swedish Parliament to listen to the energy debate on June 16, were forced to leave the public gallery and were thereafter taken into inquiry by the police. This has never happened before. The reason was that five of them where wearing t-shirts with the smiling sun, the well known antinuclear symbol. Most of them activists were members of the Swedish antinuclear movement and some belong to the Swedish Green woman.

Email: Eia Liljegren-Palmær, 19 June 2009

U.K.: Serious accident averted at Sizewell.
A serious accident at the Sizewell A Magnox reactor was only averted because a worker cleaning clothes in a laundry noticed cooling water leaking from a spent fuel storage pond. In January 2007 40,000 gallons of radioactive water (1 gallon (UK) is about 4.54609 liter)  leaked from a 15ft (4.5 meter) split in a pipe in the cooling pond, containing 5,000 spent fuel rods and alarms failed to warn staff or were ignored. If the pond had emptied of water and exposed the highly-radioactive rods would have caught fire with an airborne release of radioactivity. Thanks to the worker in the laundry staff were able to contain the leak - discharging the radioactive waster into the sea - and re-fill the pond.

A new report on the accident has now been published. It is written by nuclear consultant Dr John Large, commissioned by the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign and based on Nuclear Installation Inspectorate reports released under Freedom of Information. The NII report highlighted a number of serious concerns surrounding the accident. Not only did the pond alarms fail, but had it worked it would have triggered another alarm that had already been on for two days but ignored by staff. There was also poorly designed and poorly installed instrumentation and control equipment. The NII report also suggests that it chose not to prosecute the operators because of staff shortages.

N-base briefing 618, 17 june 2009

Spain: renewal of operation license Garona?
On June 8, the five-member board of Spain's Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) unanimously agreed to recommend that the Garona nuclear plant in northern Spain should get a new 10-year operating licence if it upgrades its safety equipment. The 38-year-old nuclear plant's licence expires on July 5. Nuclear Safety Council chairwoman Carmen Martinez Ten said the decision was taken on technical and security grounds and not for reasons of "energy policy, economics or another nature".

The Spanish government will have to take a clear stand for or against nuclear power before July 5, when it decides whether to renew the operating licence Garona, the oldest of the country's six nuclear plants. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose socialist government has backed the developmentof  renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, has said he wants to phase out nuclear energy in the country when the life span of its six nuclear plants expires. A decision to prolong the life of the Garona plant would be a major u-turn for Zapatero, who pledged to gradually phase out nuclear power during general elections in 2004 and 2008. However, the prime minister said. "The decision regarding Garona will be coherent with the commitments in our election programme as long as the supply of power is guaranteed," This statement was seen by some observers as a sign that the government was leaning towards renewing, maybe for a short period. Later in June, CSN said the government asked their opinion about renewing the permit for two, four or six years, rather than the 10 years. The 500 megawatt Garona plant provided just 1.3 percent of Spain's electricity last year and grid operators say its closure would pose no supply problems.

The Spanish branch of Greenpeace has urged the government not to renew the licence of the plant, arguing it is unsafe. It has called it the "plant of 1,000 fissures". The two utilities running the plant, Iberdrola and Endesa, estimate it will cost 50 million euros (US$70 million) to carry out the upgrades to the plants safety equipment recommended by the CSN.

Spain, along with Denmark and Germany, is among the three biggest producers of wind power in the European Union and the country is one of the largest world producers of solar power.

AFP, 11 June 2009 / Reuters, 19 June 2009

Blows for IAEA Fuel Bank proposal. Developing countries blocked plans by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for nuclear fuel banks that aim to keep countries from acquiring sensitive nuclear technology by offering them alternatives. The Vienna-based agency and Western countries had hoped the IAEA's governing board would give the green light for fleshing out plans to sway countries to buy rather than make nuclear fuel, by offering an insurance in case their supply is cut off for political reasons. But a June 18, joint statement by the Group of 77 (a coalition of developing countries and the Non-Aligned Movement) said that "none of the proposals provide a proper assurance of supply of nuclear fuel." The plans "should not be designed in a way that discourages states from developing or expanding their capabilities in the nuclear fuel cycle". The 35 members of the board agreed only that the nuclear agency "may continue its consultations and discussions" to further work on the fuel bank proposals, according to diplomats at the meeting.

The idea of the IAEA Fuel Bank was to keep countries from acquiring uranium enrichment and reprocessing technologies, which can be used not only for energy purposes, but also for making nuclear bomb material. However, developing countries fear that such plans would pressure them to give up their right to peacefully using nuclear energy.

Meanwhile, in May the Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs Verhagen, concluded that the British, German and Dutch (the countries that form the Urenco enrichment consortium) initiative for assured supply for low enriched nuclear fuel failed. In May he wrote to Dutch Parliament that “many countries see this condition (giving up enrichment and reprocessing) as discriminating and an unacceptable violation of their rights under the non-proliferation treaty”.

Another blow for the concept of Multilateral Approaches, which is seen by many proponents of nuclear power as one of the main ways to counter proliferation worries.

Earthtimes, 18 June 2209 / Laka Foundation, 18 may 2009

Discussion on new-build in Germany heats up. Germany's economy minister ruled out building new nuclear power stations but said the life of some reactors might be extended and the development of alternative technologies stepped up. "We need limited extensions until we are able to work with sensible alternative technologies in an economical and environmentally friendly manner," Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily in an interview, published on June 19.. "That includes the possibility of equipping existing nuclear power stations with state-of-the-art technology in order to make them even safer and more efficient," the conservative minister said. "But I see no need to build new nuclear reactors." General elections are due in September. On September 5, a nationwide demonstration will take place in Berlin.

Nuclear Reaction, 22 June 2009

Japan: MOX target delayed. Japanese plans for 16-18 reactors to be using mixed oxide (MOX) fuel by 2010 have been put back by five years, the country's Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) has announced. Up until 1998, Japan sent the bulk of its used fuel to plants in France and the UK for reprocessing and MOX fabrication. However, since 1999 it has been storing used fuel in anticipation of full-scale operation of its own reprocessing and MOX fabrication facilities. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd's (JNFL's) reprocessing plant under construction at Rokkasho-mura is scheduled for completion in August 2009, but earlier this year the company put back the completion date for its planned J-MOX fabrication facility from August 2012 to August 2015. Construction work on the fabrication facility is scheduled to begin in November 2009. Four shipments of reactor-grade plutonium recovered from used fuel have been sent back to Japan from European reprocessing plants since 1992. The most recent arrived in Japan from France in May 2009.

World Nuclear News, 12 June 2009

Australia: union action on radioactive waste. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has welcomed the support of Australia’s peak trade union body ACTU in pushing for an end to any federal government move to impose a radioactive waste dump on the Northern Territory and developing a credible and responsible approach to radioactive waste management in Australia. On June 4, the ACTU Congress in Brisbane passed a resolution critical of the government’s delay in delivering on a 2007 election commitment on radioactive waste management and called for an independent and public inquiry into the best options for dealing with radioactive waste.

“The ACTU’s active support in this issue is powerful and very welcome,” said ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney. “The federal government was elected on a promise to scrap the heavy handed waste dump laws and make radioactive waste policy responsible and transparent.  It has failed to deliver on this promise and this resolution is an important reminder to the government and to Resources Minister Ferguson that the community expects better.”

The ACTU now joins a broad range of environment and public health groups, Indigenous organisations and state, territory and local governments concerned by the federal government’s lack of responsible and inclusive action on this issue.

ACF Press release, 5 June 2009

U.S.: doubts about decommissioning funds. Two days after Associated Press reported that operators of nearly half of the US' 104 nuclear reactors are not setting aside enough funds to cover projected decommissioning costs, the NRC has contacted owners of 18 nuclear power plants asking them to explain how the economic downturn has affected funds they must set aside to cover future decommissioning costs. The AP report said the shortfalls have been caused by a combination of falling investments and rising decommissioning costs. Plant operators are required to establish funding during a reactor's operating life to ensure the reactor site will be properly cleaned up once the plant is permanently closed, the NRC said, adding that its review of the latest reports from reactor operators "suggests several plants must adjust their funding plans." Tim McGinty, director of policy and rulemaking in the NRC's Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation said: "This is not a current safety issue, but the plants do have to prove to us they're setting aside money appropriately."

Platts, 19 June 2009

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Norway: New report on hypothetical Sellafield accident.

On 23 March, the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority published a report on the possible consequences for Norway of an atmospheric release of radioactivity from the storage tanks for highly active liquid waste at Sellafield. The report shows that an accident could entail considerable fallout over Norway. The release of just 1% of the tanks' contents could result in levels of radioactive fallout in Western Norway that are five times higher than those measured in the worst affected areas of Norway after the Chernobyl accident.

If an accident caused the release of 10% of the tanks' contents, it is calculated that the fallout would be 50 times the maximum level experienced in Norway after Chernobyl. A major accident is of course considered to be less likely than more limited releases. However, the British authorities have not provided Norway with any specific information indicating that such an incident can be ruled out.

The report considers an accident involving the storage tanks for highly active liquid waste. These currently contain about 1000 m3 of radioactive waste from several decades of reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

Norway would be vulnerable in the event of a large release of radioactivity from Sellafield, both because of its geographical position and because of the prevailing weather conditions. The impacts of a major atmospheric release could be particularly severe. The Norwegian authorities consider that in the worst case, an accident at Sellafield could have significant impacts on agriculture, the environment and society for decades to come.

Ministry of the Environment (Norway), 26 March 2009

Australia: Queensland: The return of an anti-uranium state government.

PULL down the bunting, recork the champagne, throw out the sausage rolls -- there will be no celebration party for the Queensland uranium players. Labor is back. There will be no uranium mining for at least the next three years…so began a report in the conservative daily newspaper The Australian shortly after the recent Queensland state election. Uranium mining emerged as an issue in the 21st March election with the incumbent Labor party pledging to retain its long standing ban on mining while the conservative Liberal National Party (LNP) threw its weight behind an open slather mining policy. The Greens committed to legislate against the industry and ruled out any preference deals with the LNP on the back of their uranium policy. The uranium industry lobbied hard in the lead up to election and mobilized considerable media support for its spurious claims of employment and revenue benefits. National and state environment groups worked to keep the issue live and publicly rated the various party’s performance and promises against a range of issues, including their position on uranium mining. The return of an anti-uranium state government has been welcomed by campaigners as an important development in the continuing and very active national uranium debate.

Dave Sweeney, email, 29 March 2009

No new IAEA-DG, yet.

The IAEA Board again is inviting governments to nominate candidates for Director General. Neither of the two candidates that the Board voted upon on march 26, received the necessary two-thirds majority of votes during successive rounds of secret balloting. The Board’s Chair - Algerian Ambassador Taous Feroukhi noted that in accordance with the Board’s agreed procedure, the slate of candidates is considered to have been wiped clean. She said she will again be inviting Member State governments to nominate candidates on 30 March 2009, with nominations to be submitted within four weeks thereafter. The Board voted on two candidates - Ambassador Yukiya Amano of Japan, and Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty of South Africa. Under the Board’s agreed procedure, either or both of these candidates can be re-nominated by Member States.

The Director General is appointed by the Board of Governors with the approval of the General Conference for a term of four years. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei´s term of office expires on 30 November 2009. He has served as Director General since 1997. (see also: Nuclear Monitor 685, Briefs)

IAEA Staff Report, 27 March 2009

France: cancer-figures temporarily workers are increasing.

In February, a man perished at a building site at the nuclear reactor in Paluel, France. This was not given much attention, because he was "only" a temporary worker. There are 20.000 temporary contractors working in nuclear power stations in France. Without them, reactors would not keep going or get repaired. A confidential report by EDF reveals that 84% of the subcontractors in the nuclear industry would like to quit because of bad working conditions. Safety measures are minimal, and the employees are under enormous pressure since every day the reactor is offline (because of maintenance, for instance) costs EDF 1 million Euro's. Research by the Centre International de recherche sur le cancer shows that while temporary workers get 80% of the radiation, the employees of EDF get 20%. The group of EDF employees show an increase in cancer of "only" 8%, the subcontractors 40%.

Siné Hebdo (Fr.), 18 March 2009

Too little too late: Financial compensation for French test victims.

The French government says it will pay out at least 10 million euros (US$13.6 million), initially for one year, to people with health problems as a result of French nuclear tests carried out in the Algerian Sahara and in Polynesia, Defense Minister Herve Morin was quoted as saying on Tuesday, March 24. Some 150,000 people are estimated to have been affected.

France tested its first nuclear bomb on February 13, 1960 in the Algerian Sahara. Between 1960 and 1996, France carried out a total of 210 nuclear tests in Algeria, French Polynesia and the Pacific Ocean. Participants in the tests and people living in areas close to the testing zones have long complained of health problems including leukemia and other forms of cancer. France has for a long time refused to officially recognize a link between its testing of nuclear bombs and health complaints reported by both military and civilian staff involved in the tests.

Compensation in other countries:

  • Russia: Test veterans get a medal, pension, pride of place in parades and use of a special radiation hospital.
  • China: announced last year that military and civilian veterans would get pensions.
  • U.S.A.: Ronald Reagan introduced a compensation deal (the 'Radiation Exposure Compensation Act') in 1990 which has since paid out a total of US$1.4 billion.
  • Australia/New Zealand: Veterans with any illnesses known to be caused by radiation are entitled to subsidized private medical care.
  • U.K.: Government still insists veterans were not harmed and denies any responsibility.

AP, 24 March 2009 / Sunday Mirror (UK), 29 March 2009

India: first uranium delivery from France.

(April 1, 2009) Following clearance by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, first batch of 60 tons uranium ore concentrate imported from Areva NC France was received on March 31, by the Nuclear Fuel Complex, Hyderabad. India. This uranium ore would be processed and used in pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) in India.
India and France had entered into an accord for supplying reactors and fuel consequent to the Indo-US nuclear deal, the 123 agreement. As a first step, Department of Atomic Energy had entered into a contract with French Nuclear supplier AR EVA NC for the supply of 300 tons of uranium ore concentrate 31 March & 1 April 2009

Australia; Ranger:

The controversial Ranger uranium mine inside the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory is again under scrutiny following confirmation of the extent of a long standing and unresolved seepage problem at the operations main tailings dam. In February the Supervising Scientist, a federal agency set up to monitor the impacts of Ranger, confirmed the existence and extent of the seepage problem to a parliamentary Senate hearing. Around 100,000 litres of contaminant is leaking in an uncontrolled fashion from the dam every day. Australian environmental and anti-nuclear groups have been active in highlighting this and a series of other operational failures at Ranger in the national media. The timing of the leak has been highly embarrassing to mine operator Energy Resources of Australia (ERA – 68% owned by resource giant Rio Tinto) as the company has just applied for federal approval for a major expansion of the aging mine. ERA are seeking approval to build a new tailings dam and a large scale acid heap leaching facility to process low grade ore and waste rock stockpiles. The company has further flagged plans to construct an underground shaft from the base of the current open pit operation to exploit a lens of uranium ore that runs towards the Magela floodplain, a pivotal component of Kakadu’s unique wetlands environment. The expansion plans have been fiercely opposed by ERA’s critics who are calling on the federal government to veto the move and initiate an independent inquiry into the performance and environmental and social impacts of Australia’s oldest uranium mine.

Dave Sweeney, 28 March 2009

Quote of the month:

“We have continued to see incidents over the last few years that indicate that safety culture was not a priority through all the staff at all the plants,” NRC Chairman Dale Klein, 10 March, at the 21 annual Regulatory Information Conference of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) cited in Nucleonics Week, 19 March 2009

Australian government poised for announcement on controversial waste dump

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Natalie Wasley, Beyond Nuclear Initiative

After a decade of a haphazard and bullying approach to radioactive waste management, there had been a cautious sigh of relief when Labor committed to a different approach. The Rudd Labor government has continued with a culture of secrecy and broken promises regarding radioactive waste management in Australia. Recently the Australian Labor Party voted against a motion put up by the Greens to repeal the controversial waste dump laws, leaving targeted communities extremely concerned that an announcement of a dumpsite will be made soon.

The previous conservative Liberal/National government spent ten years trying to force a national radioactive waste dump on Kokatha land in South Australia. A strong community campaign led by Senior Aboriginal cultural women, the Kungka Tjuta, and supported by national environment, health and student groups and the South Australian government forced the federal government to abandon that plan in 2004.

The Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta 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. We told Howard you should look after us, not try and kill us. Straight out. We always talk straight out. In the end he didn't have the power, we did."

Though there was a ‘categorical assurance’ that a federal radioactive dump would not be imposed on another location in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia, in July 2005 it was announced that three Department of Defence sites - Harts Range, Fisher’s Ridge and Mt Everard- had been short-listed for assessment.

There was no consultation with the Northern Territory Government or affected Traditional Owners and communities. None.

The draconian and undemocratic Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act (CRWMA) 2005 was then pushed through federal parliament, overriding NT laws prohibiting transport and storage of nuclear waste. A raft of environmental, public health and safety protections went out the window because of this legislation. The legislation even prevents the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 from having effect during investigation of potential dumpsites.

Amendments passed the following year to the CRWMA override Aboriginal Land Rights Act procedures requiring informed consent from all affected people and groups. In fact, these changes explicitly state that site nominations from Aboriginal Land Councils are valid even in the absence of consultation with and consent from traditional owners.

Under the amended process, a site in the Muckaty land trust (120 km north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory) was nominated by the Northern Land Council. Former Science Minister Julie Bishop accepted the contentious nomination in September 2007.

Though a small number of traditional owners agreed to the nomination in return for an Aus$12 million dollar conditional package (if the site is finally selected), there has been sustained public opposition from a much larger group of traditional owners from the Land Trust.

 Sammy Sambo, an elder of the Milwayi clan of Muckaty expresses the concern held by many people; “We use that land for men’s cultural ceremonies which came from our great grandfather. If they put a waste dump at Muckaty it betrays the next generation”.

Julie Bishop had arrogantly asserted that the sites under assessment were “far from any houses” and “some distance from any form of civilization”. Traditional Owner from Mt Everard, Steven McCormack emphasizes; “This land is not empty - people live right nearby. We hunt and collect bush tucker here and I am the custodian of a sacred site within the boundaries of the defense land. We don't want this poison here”.

Steven and his family live only three kilometers from the Mt Everard site and run a number of small business projects from their homeland, including hosting ‘culture camps’ for school children from interstate.

The Harts Range site is near Alcoota Station, a thriving Aboriginal owned and run cattle enterprise. William Tilmouth, chairman of Alcoota Aboriginal Corporation says that; “Other pastoralists have also expressed concern over the perception by the public that the beef will be contaminated. The cattle industry out here prides itself on being clean and green”.

In relation to the dump, the government has promised only 30 jobs for construction and 6 ongoing security positions (operating on rotation). Local industries near all of the proposed sites provide community based and long term employment for many more people.

A number of senior Australian Labor Party Ministers and Senators released media statements prior to the 2007 federal election pledging repeal of the CRWMA if elected. ALP politicians had referred to the legislation as ‘draconian’, ‘sordid’, ‘arrogant’ and ‘profoundly shameful’ when it was rammed through by the previous regime.

The Labor party’s national conference in April 2007 also voted to repeal the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act (CRWMA) if elected, with Labor promised a method of addressing radioactive waste management issues which is "scientific, transparent, accountable, fair and allows access to appeal mechanisms" and to "ensure full community consultation in radioactive waste decision-making processes". [1]

After a decade of a haphazard and bullying approach to radioactive waste management, there had been a cautious sigh of relief when Labor committed to a different approach. However, the Rudd Government, with Minister Martin Ferguson in charge of the radioactive waste portfolio, has continued to be every bit as secretive.

On March 18, 2009, the ALP voted against a motion put up by the Greens to repeal the controversial waste dump laws, leaving targeted communities extremely concerned that an announcement of a dumpsite will be made soon.

The UK Committee on Radioactive Waste report released in June 2006 highlights how internationally; “There is a growing recognition that it is not ethically acceptable for a society to impose a radioactive waste facility on an unwilling community” [2].

In the case of the Northern Territory waste dump proposal, Muckaty Traditional Owner Marlene Bennett summarizes the approach;

“Most of our mob, we found out when we read it in the paper. What sort of consultative approach by the government is that?”

Australia remains a signatory to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) statement of principles, which encourages uranium-exporting countries to take back high-level waste produced overseas in nuclear reactors. While the Rudd Labor government has ruled this out in the short term, it is important that international campaign groups support the remote Aboriginal communities in Australia resisting the imposition of a domestic dump, to resist the possibility of a high level international dump also being imposed in the future.

Dianne Stokes, a Muckaty Traditional Owner from the Yapa Yapa group who has spent years fighting the dump proposal expounds; “Top to bottom we got bush tucker right through the country. Whoever is taking this waste dump into our country needs to come back and talk to the Traditional Owners. We’re not happy to have all of this stuff. We don’t want it, it’s not our spirit. Our spirit is our country, our country where our ancestors been born. Before towns, before hospitals, before cities. We want our country to be safe”.



Source and contact: Natalie Wasley at Beyond Nuclear Initiative, Uranium Project.

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Crisis? What crisis!

A uranium supply crunch could be around the corner due to industry-wide cuts to development projects, rising demand, and uncertainty about Russia's plans for its decommissioned nuclear arsenal, Jerry Grandey, CEO of uranium company Cameco Corp, said on March 11. Grandey expects a situation where uranium will be in high demand because of cuts among miners left under funded due to tight credit conditions. "I think the financial crisis is clearly impacting the ability of every supplier to raise capital," he said. "When you see project cancellations, you see expansion derail, you see some projects that will just go slower. That is just simply taking away future supply and sowing the seeds of the next spike in the uranium price."

He said global mined output is 115 million pounds a year, compared with consumption of about 180 million pounds that he expects to grow at between 2 and 3 percent per year. (1 pound –lbs- is 0.45 kg) The shortfall has been made up by stockpiles, as well as annual sales of about 24 million pounds of uranium from decommissioned Russian nuclear weapons, which Cameco manages along with two partners under a 1999 commercial agreement. That deal expires in 2013, and Grandey said questions linger about how much uranium Russia may sell past that date, and how much may have degraded past the point where it can be sold. He said many expect Russian sales could fall by half.

Reuters, 11 March 2009

EDF: Slash renewables target to protect nuclear.

EDF and E.ON have warned the U.K. government they may be forced to drop plans to build a new generation of nuclear power plants unless the government scales back its targets for wind power. The demand – contained in submissions to the government's renewable energy consultation – reinforces the worries of wind developers that the two sectors cannot thrive simultaneously. Électricité de France (EDF) is calling on the government to lower its proposed renewable electricity target from 35% of supply in 2020 to just 20%. The company says building the wind capacity needed to hit a 35% target is “not realistic or indeed desirable” due to the problem of intermittency. EDF’s views were revealed early March when the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published a summary of responses to its consultation on its renewables strategy. EDF’s response says that at times of high wind, output from wind and nuclear could exceed demand. “As a result… plant will need to be curtailed i.e. instructed not to generate.” In reality, only nuclear will be curtailed, it says, as wind generation is subsidised so operators will pay to continue generating. The UK will also need wind farms to operate to meet its EU renewable energy target. If nuclear plants have to be regularly turned off, this “damages the economics of these projects, meaning that less will be built.”

ENDS report, 12 March 2009 / Guardian, 16 March 2009

UK: Sellafield clean-up bill.

Why did the U.K. government use an emergency procedure over the Sellafield clean-up bill? The dispute over whether the government followed the rules in telling parliament that it would land the taxpayer with an unlimited bill in the event of a nuclear accident at Sellafield has taken a further twist. Paul Flynn, the Labour MP for Newport West, has tabled an early day motion asking whether the indemnity covering the private owners of Sellafield is valid.

Flynn has pursued two successive energy ministers, Malcolm Wicks and then Mike O'Brien, since the government used emergency procedures last summer to inform parliament that the taxpayer would foot an unlimited bill following a nuclear leak or explosion at the plant.

Wicks and O'Brien said the government had to do this because the matter was urgent. Both admit errors in not placing the details of the change in the House of Commons library so that any MP who wanted to object could raise this in parliament. They said that if they had not done this the contracts allowing a big US-led consortium to run Sellafield could not go ahead.

But when a parliamentary researcher, David Lowry, tabled a freedom of information request it was revealed that civil servants knew months before they applied for an indemnity that they would have to do so – suggesting the emergency procedure was not necessary in the first place. (See also NM 682, 'In brief' and 675; 'Consortium selected for Sellafield').

Guardian (UK) blog by David Hencke, 10 March 2009

IAEA: vote for new Director General in March.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors will vote on March 26 for a new director in a closed session. There are two nominations to succeed Mohamed ElBaradei: Japan's ambassador to the agency, Yukiya Amano, backed mainly by industrialized countries, and South Africa's Abdul Samad Minty, with core support among developing nations. In order to be appointed, a candidate must secure a two-thirds vote of the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors by secret balloting.

IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei, who shared the Nobel peace prize with his agency in 2005, leaves office in November after 12 years. Industrialized nations want an IAEA chief less politically outspoken than ElBaradei, sticking more to executing the IAEA's technical mandate, whose priority they see as preventing diversions of nuclear energy to bomb making.

They believe the low-key Amano would depoliticise the agency better than Minty, a former anti-apartheid activist identified with developing nation positions on disarmament. But developing nations see Amano as too close to Western powers.

Reuters, 5 March 2009 / IAEA Staff Report, 12 March 2009

Construction means delays and cost overruns, always and everywhere.

Taiwan: on March 9, Taipower chairman Chen Kuei-ming told the legislature an additional NT$40 billion (US$1.15 billion) to NT$50 billion would be needed if the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is to reach a stage where its two generator units can begin operations in 2011 and 2012. The additional funding would bring the construction costs at the Gongliao, Taipei County, plant to between NT$270 billion and NT$280 billion, Chen said. On the same day, Minister of Economic Affairs Yiin Chii-ming said it was unlikely that the plant would be completed tin 2009 as scheduled. “It will probably take two more years,” he said.

Taipei Times, 10 March 2009

Australia: The battle for Indigenous hearts and mines.

The Australian Uranium Association has launched a new strategy in an attempt to outflank continuing concern from many Indigenous Australians over the environmental and social impacts of uranium mining. The AUA is the industry’s main lobby group and is comprised of many of Australia’s uranium producers and explorers including resource giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. It is attempting to reposition the uranium industry as a solution to widespread Indigenous poverty in remote and regional Australia and in February launched its Indigenous Dialogue Group – a twice-yearly forum of executives from five uranium companies and five Aboriginal representatives. The move has attracted sharp criticism from many Indigenous people who rearranged the acronym to spell DIG – the industry’s real agenda. The Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, a network of Indigenous, environment and public health individuals and organisations formed in 1997, has condemned the move as an industry PR exercise. ANFA committee member and 2008 Nuclear Free Future Award winner Jillian Marsh stated, “It is cynical for the uranium industry to act as if it can deliver for Aboriginal people. The main lasting effect of uranium mining for Aboriginal people is radioactive waste on their country and no resources to clean up the mess left by miners.”

....and more Australia

French nuclear giant Areva has a setback to its plans to develop the Koongarra uranium deposit inside Kakadu national park in the Northern Territory with traditional Aboriginal owners strongly rejecting a company application for development consent. Koongarra is fully surrounded by but not technically part of the World heritage listed Kakadu, Australia’s largest national park. At a meeting in February traditional owners heard from the company and discussed the potential impacts of a large scale uranium operation near the highly visited and culturally significant Nourlangie Rock before rejecting the Areva plan and calling for the long term protection of the Koongarra region. Under the provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act the decision means that there will be a five-year moratorium before Areva can again seek development consent.

Dave Sweeney, e-mail 17 March 2009

U.S. Department of Energy cannot account for nuclear materials at 15 locations.

A number of U.S. institutions with licenses to hold nuclear material reported to the Department of Energy (DOE) in 2004 that the amount of material they held were less than agency records indicated. But rather than investigating the discrepancies, Energy officials wrote off significant quantities of nuclear material from the department's inventory records. That's just one of the findings of a report released February 23 by Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman that concluded "the department cannot properly account for and effectively manage its nuclear materials maintained by domestic licensees and may be unable to detect lost or stolen material."

Auditors found that Energy could not accurately account for the quantities and locations of nuclear material at 15 out of 40, or 37 percent, of facilities reviewed. The materials written off included 20,580 grams of enriched uranium, 45 grams of plutonium, 5,001 kilograms of normal uranium and 189,139 kilograms of depleted uranium.

"Considering the potential health risks associated with these materials and the potential for misuse should they fall into the wrong hands, the quantities written off were significant," the report says. "Even in small quantities normally held by individual domestic licensees, special nuclear materials such as enriched uranium and plutonium, if not properly handled, potentially pose serious health hazards."

Auditors also found that waste-processing facilities could not locate or explain the whereabouts of significant quantities of uranium and other nuclear material that Energy Department records showed they held. In another case, Energy officials had no record of the fact that one academic institution had loaned a 32-gram plutonium- beryllium source to another institution.

Global Security Newswire, 24 February 2009

Chinese expert warns of nuclear talents vacuum.

Even China, supposedly the country with the largest nuclear power expansion program acknowledges its limitations. The country is in great need of nuclear science talents from the young generation, a nuclear physicist said in Beijing early March. Zhu Zhiyuan, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Shanghai Branch, said China must step up efforts to attract and cultivate more young nuclear talents, in order to meet the demand of the country's future development.

China has already strengthened nuclear science education in recent years. However, according to Zhu Zhiyuan, these efforts could not at once make up for the lack of nuclear specialist education in the country caused by previous insufficient attention towards the field for more than a decade. "Many young people at the time were simply afraid of nuclear technologies, while others assumed the prospect of nuclear power as unpromising," Zhu said. Even now, few of the students enrolled in nuclear physics departments of Chinese universities or research institutes chose the field as their top choice.

Xinhua, 3 March 2009

Philippines: Protest against re-commissioning Bataan increases.

It seems as the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) intensifies its protest over House Bill 4631 authored by Rep. Mark Cojuangco mandating the rehabilitation, re-commissioning and commercial use of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). In a March 5 protest action in front of the House of Representatives and coinciding with a Committee on Appropriations hearing on the BNPP, FDC advocates wore eyeball replicas with the retina part covered with a radiation symbol to symbolize the people’s vigilant watch over attempts to revive the contentious nuclear facility in Morong, Bataan through a legislative measure. “From now on, the public and the broad social movement against the revival of BNPP will keep tabs on each legislator’s position, action and/or inaction on the said issue. However, special attention will be given to the 184 legislators who have rendered their support to the said bill,” FDC said in a statement.

FDC said legislators should be wary of their constituents’ perception concerning their support for the opening of BNPP.  Through a sustained information and education campaign, their constituents are being made aware of the dangers of the BNPP and its enormous weight on the economic life of the people should the bill be passed into law. The group also warned legislators vying for re-election in 2010 that support for the BNPP revival bill, without first understanding the dangers of the nuclear power plant from reliable scientific study could be a “kiss of death” come election day.

For more on the anti-Bataan campaign:

Press release Free from Debt Coalition, 5 March 2009

EDF in antitrust spotlight.

On March 11, investigators from the European Commission raided the offices of Électricité de France (EDF) seeking evidence of price-fixing in the French electricity market.

Commission officials were joined by inspectors from the French Competition Authority in a raid on the utility's headquarters in Paris. The Commission said that it suspected that EDF was engaged in activity that abused its dominant position in the market. "The suspected illegal conduct may include actions to raise prices on the French wholesale electricity market," it said.

The state-controlled company generates and supplies most of the electricity used in France, while also controlling the transmission grid operator RTE. The primary sources for EDF’ s electricity is a fleet of 58 nuclear reactors, while other sources include hydro and gas. A "true internal energy market" is a main goal of European energy policy, as is a minimum of 10% interconnection between national grids and further separation of power generation and transmission.

The Times, 12 March 2009 / WNN, 12 March 2009

Germany wide protest against RWE and Belene.

From 1 to 8 March, protests took place in 54 German towns against the construction of the nuclear power station Belene in North Bulgaria. The protests focus on RWE, because Germany's second largest energy company wants to invest over 1,5 Billion Euros into the nuclear power plant on the shores of the Danube. With the week of protest, environmental groups want to commemorate the large 1977 earthquake in the Belene region. During that quake, only several kilometres from the planned nuclear site blocks of flats collapsed and over 120 people were killed. "Nuclear power stations have no place in an earthquake zone," comments Schuecking and points out that the European Seismological Commission predicts medium to heavy earthquakes for the Belene region. According to estimates of the environmental organisation, Belene is one of the most dangerous nuclear power stations currently planned in Europe.

Protest actions took place against RWE and some of their important shareholders. In the Ruhr region and  Westphalia protesters picketed in front of RWE client centres. In

municipalities that are shareholders of RWE and whose mayors have a seat in the RWE board, protests were held in front of town halls. In Southern and Northern German, protests concentrated on the Allianz insurance company, which is with almost 5% the single largest German shareholder in RWE.

Urgewald, press release, 3 March 2009 /

Uranium mining and human rights - indigenous voices speak out

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Natalie Wasley, project coordinator

The Beyond Nuclear project based in Washington DC, U.S.A., recently convened a series of speaking events for Indigenous people affected by nuclear industry projects. Featured speakers included Mitch, an Arrernte/Luritja woman from Central Australia, Sidi-Amar Taoua, a Tuareg nomad from Niger and Manuel Pinto, an Acoma Pueblo person from New Mexico who won the 2008 nuclear free futures award. Dr Bruno Chareyron, director of the French organization CRIIRAD (Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radioactivity) also participated in the tour to present his research of uranium contamination in Niger.

The ‘Indigenous Voices Speak out‘ tour was timed to coincide with the Power Shift Youth Climate Action Conference in Washington, which was attended by around 12 000 people from across the USA. There was a strong focus on ‘carbon free, nuclear free’ campaigning, with the panel discussions on nuclear issues attracting over 500 people.

Over the three days of speaking tour events, which included a press conference, film screening of Poison Wind (directed by Jenny Pond), and lobbying on Capitol Hill, the Indigenous speakers shared many personal experiences and insights about the devastating effects of the nuclear industry on land, culture and communities.

Mitch, who has spent years fighting a radioactive dump proposed on her traditional land said; “we have companies coming into Australia and we are told that uranium is clean and green and it is renewable energy. We know that this is lies and this is a disgusting form of control over a population that is made to rely on the government for all their resources, their energy, their consumption.”

“It is policies of genocide so that other people can have power.”

“We are told that the next generation will have the education and the smarts to fix up our problems… but I don’t think we have the moral rights as your elders to leave the mess for you to fix up.”

“We do not want the next generation to try and get water out of rock, to get air out of sludge, to get food out of the bottom of the sea that is full of algae.”

Sidi-Amar Taoua explained the impact of the uranium mining industry on Tuareg people and their traditions;

 “The Tuareg remain one of the last people who live in the Saharan desert. Their way of life revolves around finding grazing for flocks of livestock in one of the planet’s hardest landscapes.”

“Uranium continues to be a critical French national interest since the country produces more than 80 per cent of energy from power plants that are fuelled by Niger uranium. One French light bulb in three is lit by uranium from Tuareg land.”

“People have many kind of diseases. Many are worried about the spread of radioactive dust from the mining companies bulldozers and machines. People are forced to pick through the company garbage for scrap metal to build and furnish their houses. Meanwhile French mining executives and other expatriates live nearby in luxurious villas with land and swimming pools.”

“Tuareg believe uranium mining and its attendant operations pose a critical threat for the environment and especially for the Tuareg existence. The Tuareg have inhabited this part of northern Niger since the 19th century. They understand that the world is changing but they are asking that their rights as indigenous people, their land and their way of life to be respected.”

With the nuclear industry still insisting a ‘nuclear renaissance’ is around the corner, Manuel Pino from the Acoma Pueblo tribe succinctly pointed out;

…how can we put the cart before the horse and say that nuclear power is the answer when we cant even dispose of the waste or clean up the existing legacy mines or mills that exist, in a majority of times, on indigenous peoples lands.


Source and contact:
Natalie Wasley, Beyond Nuclear Initiative -uranium project coordinator, Australia.
Tel: +61 8 8952 2011

Beyond Nuclear

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

German Nuclear Waste Site in Danger of collapsing.
The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) had learned late last year that pieces of the ceiling of the 750-meter deep chamber were unstable and could collapse on top of the 6,000 radioactive waste drums below. The information about the Asse nuclear waste site  (an old salt mine) was posted discreetly on the radiation office's Web site late Wednesday, January 14. The BfS said it could not rule out damage to the waste containers should the Asse site ceiling collapse, but gave its reassurances that it would reinforce the seals of the chamber with concrete to stop any radioactive dust or air escaping. The office said the measures were only a precaution and that there was no immediate danger posed by the site. It said the waste inside the chamber contained only low-levels of radioactivity. The site has not been used for fresh radioactive storage since 1978, with environmental groups regularly calling for waste there to be removed and stored in a safer location.

Deutsche Welle, 16 January 2009

Brazil to start enriching uranium at Resende. Industriás Nucleares do Brasil (INB) has been issued a temporary licence by the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN) to start enriching uranium on an industrial scale at its Resende plant.

INB has held an environmental licence to enrich uranium since November 2006, but the plant's operating permit, which is valid for one year, has been now been amended by the CNEN. Production of enriched uranium is expected to begin in February, with some 12 tons of enriched uranium expected to be produced by the end of 2009. The ultra-centrifugation enrichment technology used at the plant was developed by the Naval Technology Centre in Sao Paulo (CTMSP) and the Institute of Energy and Nuclear Research (IPEN). However, the technology is similar to Urenco's technology.

The Resende plant currently has two cascades of centrifuges. The first cascade commenced operation in 2006 and the second was expected to do so in 2008. Stage 1 - eventually to be four modules totalling 115,000 SWU per year and costing US$170 million - was officially opened in 2006. Each module consists of four or five cascades of 5000-6000 SWU per year. It is planned that a further eight cascades are installed by 2012, which will take the capacity to 200,000 SWU. By that time, INB is expected to be able to produce all the enriched uranium used in the Angra 1 reactor and 20% of that used in Angra 2. Those are the country's only operating power units at the moment, although plans to complete Angra 3 are advancing and many more reactors are expected in time.

Up until now, uranium used to fuel Brazil's nuclear power reactors has been sent as uranium concentrate to Cameco in Canada to be converted into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas, which has then been sent to Urenco's enrichment plants in Europe. After enrichment, the gas has been returned to Brazil for INB to reconvert the UF6 gas to powder, which is then used to produce nuclear fuel pellets.

World Nuclear News, 14 January 2009

Australia/UK: Plutonium secretly dumped at sea?
Declassified UK Government files show that 500g of plutonium and about 20 kg of radioactive wastes were secretly removed from the 1950s bomb test site at Maralinga in Australia. The UK Government removed the wastes in 1978 and although there is no official record of what happened to it the suggestion in the files is that it was secretly dumped at sea.

N-base Briefing 596, 7 January 2009

Sellafield privatisation: Rushed liabilities deal
Commercial insurance companies refused to consider any policy regarding liabilities for an accident at Sellafield which might be bought in courts outside the UK which were not party to existing liability conventions. Energy minister Mike O'Brien told the House of Commons the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority approached the nuclear insurance market in 2007 when it was preparing the contract for a private company to run Sellafield. The Government and NDA eventually indemnified the private companies chosen to run Sellafield and the Drigg waste facility against any costs arising from an accident - even if it was shown to be the fault of the commercial company.

Meanwhile, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the lengths ministers and civil servants took to prevent MPs from having the opportunity to discuss the decision to make the contract for running Sellafield more financially attractive to private companies. The Government agreed to take over responsibility for the costs of any accidents at Sellafield after the preferred bidders, Nuclear Management Partners, said it would not sign the contract unless it was indemnified against all costs. Ministers abandoned normal procedures to ensure that by the time MPs learned of the arrangements it would be too late to make any changes.

N-base Briefing 596 & 597, 7 & 14 January 2009

Turkey: AtomStroyExport revises bid.
A consortium led by Russia's AtomStroyExport submitted a revised bid for the tender to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant minutes after the contents of its initial bid were announced. At 21.16 cents per kWh, the initial bid submitted by the consortium is nearly triple the current Turkish average wholesale electricity price of 7.9 cents per kWh. Turkish energy minister Hilmi Guller told a press conference that AtomStroyExport had submitted a revised price "linked to world economic developments". Although it would be unorthodox for a bid to be revised once submitted in the tender process, AtomStroyExport's is the only bid on the table and Guller suggested that there would be room for bargaining. The revised bid would be opened and assessed by Turkish state electricity company TETAS who would assess it before passing it on to the country's cabinet for approval. No details of the revised bid have been released.

Turkish plans call for the country's first nuclear power plant to be operational by 2014, with proposals for 10-12 reactors by 2020 but would-be reactor builders appear to be treading carefully. Although six parties participated in the tendering process for the country's first nuclear reactor, AtomStroyExport's consortium was the only one actually to submit a bid.

World Nuclear news, 20 January 2009

Australia : no nukes to cut carbon emissions.
The Australian government  will not choose for nuclear power to help tackle climate change. The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering - representing engineers and scientists – urged to do so in a report, calling the government to spend A$6 billion on researching ways to slash the carbon emissions from electricity generation. The academy's report says no single technology will solve climate change, and takes a look at everything from nuclear power to clean coal and renewable energy.
Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson responded by saying the government was committed to meeting its greenhouse gas reduction targets without turning to nuclear power. "It is the government's view that nuclear power is not needed as part of Australia's energy mix given our country's abundance and diversity of low-cost renewable energy sources," he said. "The government has a clear policy of prohibiting the development of an Australian nuclear power industry." The report's author Dr John Burgess said he was not disappointed by the minister's comments on nuclear power. "I guess what we're slightly concerned about is that without nuclear energy the other technologies have to work," Dr Burgess said.

The statement is important as the world is starting to prepare for the crucial Climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, December this year. If nuclear power will not get the support of major players (ie. financial state aid, subsidies via post-Kyoto flexible mechanisms as CDM and the Carbon Trade schemes) it will be considered and received as a major knock-out to the nuclear industry.

Business Spectator, 16 January 2009

Russian economic crisis decreases nuclear safety.
The nuclear industry in Russia is being negatively affected by the countries economic crisis; and the situation is expected to worsen in 2009. This is according to a recently released annual report by the states nuclear regulatory body. Ongoing job cuts at nuclear facilities include the personnel directly responsible for safety control. Activists call on the Russian government to quickly adopt a plan to insure public safety and nuclear security. The deteriorating social and economic situation in Russia is likely to result in significant drop of nuclear safety' level at many nuclear facilities. Some nuclear facilities have already seen jobs cut because of reduced national income due to declining oil prices and the global recession.  It is possible that further cut jobs in Russians and may bring back the nuclear proliferation problems related to illegal trade of radioactive materials. These radioactive materials can be used for building a "dirty bomb". According to governmental report, obtained by Ecodefense, staff cuts have been underway since 2007.

According to the recently released annual report written by the Russian nuclear regulator, Rostekhnadzor,  there have been "job cuts at facilities responsible for nuclear-fuel cycle of personnel responsible for safety control and maintenance". The report also criticises nuclear facilities management for "not paying enough attention to ensuring nuclear safety". In a disturbing criticism of iteself, Rostekhnadzor reports that it doesn't have enough safety inspectors to do it's own job properly.

Press release Ecodefense, 23 December 2008


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Diet Simon

(May 18, 2007) Australian uranium exports are set to leap up regardless of what government takes power in elections late this year. As mentioned very briefly in the latest issue of the Nuclear Monitor, Australia's opposition Labor Party (ALP) has just narrowly scrapped its 25-year-old opposition to development of new uranium mines.

(656.5804) Diet Simon - A motion from Kevin Rudd, the new ALP leader, supported by South Australian Premier Mike Rann, to lift the ban and allow more uranium mining passed 205 votes to 190. But Rudd told a national conference of his party that he's leaving it up to the states and the Northern Territory, all of which have Labour governments, to decide whether to license new mines. Most state governments are still opposed.

There are now three producing mines in Australia: BHP Billiton's enormous Olympic Dam in South Australia (the biggest uranium mine in the world); the Beverley mine, also in South Australia; and the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory.

The premiers of Queensland, Western Australia and NSW said their states would remain free of uranium mines, despite the policy change. Western Australia and Queensland have some of the most promising uranium prospects in the country and it's expected that ultimately there will be enough pressure on their governments to eventually force uranium mining in those states. But WA premier Alan Carpenter said uranium mining would not happen under his watch. His government could face pressure, though, from mining giant Rio Tinto which wants to develop its Kintyre deposit in the state's north.
Carpenter said while he had concerns about the environmental impact of uranium mining, he also did not want to see WA become the world's dump site for atomic waste. "We are not going to take the world's nuclear waste even though there is strong lobbying and big financial incentives (that) are talked about for our state to do that," he said.
Premier Peter Beattie of Queensland may find himself under pressure from his own party and although saying he personally doesn't want uranium mining in his state, he'll be mindful of countries like China and Japan, which buy Queensland's high quality coals and have a thirst for nuclear energy. Coal is still Australia's biggest export earner.

"Open for business"
So far the premier of South Australia, Mike Rann, is the odd man out, welcoming more uranium mining. Rann lobbied hard for the change and expects the expansion of uranium mining to create billions of dollars in revenue and tens of thousands of jobs in his state over the next few decades.
SA already has two uranium mines, BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam and the Beverley mine, owned by Heathgate Resources, and the new Honeymoon mine will begin production next year. The Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine holds about one third of the world's uranium reserves. A mining license has also been granted to SXR Uranium One for an ISL (In Situ Leach) mine at Honeymoon. Rann called the policy change a great victory for his state. He said South Australia was now "totally and completely open for business" in the area of uranium mining and export. But he also opposes having a nuclear waste dump in his state.

Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Clare Martin, is known for her anti-uranium stance, but Prime Minister John Howard's conservative national coalition government has pointedly reminded her that it's paying most of the NT's bills and she should allow more mines to open. Australia's third, and longest serving uranium mine, Energy Resources of Australia's Ranger, is in the NT, as are many advanced projects. The federal government has the power to approve new mines in the territory, leaving that option available for any future Rudd government, though the Howard government has not taken it up.

The uranium issue does not arise in Tasmania or Victoria while New South Wales has for decades banned exploration for uranium, and any change of heart would still see NSW out of contention in the race to develop new mines. NSW Premier Morris Iemma said his state would not change the ban, in place since 1980.

"More uranium into a dangerous world"
Both Iemma and Carpenter condemned Prime Minister Howard's announcement of a plan to develop a nuclear power industry in Australia. "The Prime Minister is determined to rush headlong into giving us a nuclear industry and the NSW government will oppose him all the way," Iemma said. However, a recent opinion poll found popular opposition to nuclear power in Australia had edged down from 51 to 50 percent.

The numerically insignificant Australian Greens have lambasted both the Howard government and the Labor opposition over their respective plans for nuclear power and expanding uranium mining. Greens Senator Christine Milne accused Howard and Rudd of "cozying up" to big business. "We are witnessing a new low in moral cowardice in Australia," Senator Milne said. "What Mr Rudd and the Prime Minister are doing is putting more uranium into a world market, driving the nuclear fuel cycle. History will judge them both for sending more uranium into a very dangerous world at a time when we don't need to be doing it."
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) says Australians should be very worried by both government and opposition nuclear announcements. The ACF's Executive Director Don Henry says he is concerned that both parties are heading down the nuclear path. The Democrats, another small opposition party, also oppose expansion of the nuclear industry.

The Mining Council of Australia has welcomed the new ALP policy, but added that it must be complemented by key enabling reforms from the state governments. MCA Chief Executive, Mitchell H Hooke, said: "This is a logical first step in establishing a nationally consistent, modern policy governing the production and export of uranium for peaceful purposes. We strongly endorse Australia's strict regulatory regime governing the production and export of uranium and Australia's stringent export safeguard arrangements to ensure that Australia's uranium is only used for peaceful purposes.

"Increasing world energy demand as well as concerns over climate change and energy security have stimulated global demand for mined uranium as reflected in a significant increase in its price. With 38% of the world's economic demonstrated resources and over 60 companies currently exploring for uranium, Australia is well positioned to meet this demand from both the developed and developing world," the mining body said.

The ALP is still digesting its uranium decision, with some in the party angry at the nature of the two-hour debate and others determined to move on to attacking the government's nuclear industry plans.
Labor's environment spokesman, Peter Garrett (known to many as lead singer of rock band Midnight Oil), says despite voting against the decision, he accepts it. He says Labor should now challenge Howard over his plan for nuclear power plants. "He's taking us down a road and a path which I think is very dangerous," he said.

Howard for his part has slammed the new Labor uranium policy as "hypocritical opportunism" - and offered to arrange a tour of a Chinese nuclear power station for both the federal and South Australian Labor leaders to "see where Australian uranium actually goes". Howard's government is poised to sign a new uranium export deal with China, which could be worth billions of dollars. "You have this ridiculous situation where they have hailed themselves as apostles of the 21st century by ending their three mines policy on uranium, yet in the same breath they're saying 'but of course, we can't convert the uranium for nuclear power in Australia although we can sell it to countries overseas and they can use it for civilian nuclear purposes.'"

If Howard's Liberals stay in power after the next election, they plan to allow an increase in the quantity of uranium exports to an ever wider range of customers, and they visualize the development of a domestic enrichment and fuel fabrication industry, plus a raft of new nuclear power reactors.
Most of these are of the allegedly safe and terrorism-proof "generation 4" type, and have yet to leave the drawing board, let alone receive operational approval. Canberra would remove "unnecessary constraints on expansion of uranium mining, such as overlapping and cumbersome regulations relating to the mining and transport of uranium ore".

Predictably, support for nuclear energy comes from the Australian Nuclear Association whose Clarence Hardy says the reactors currently being developed will produce less waste and are extremely safe. "There are one or two of those designs which are literally impossible to melt down," he said.

Labor argues that nuclear energy would be far more costly for Australia than clean coal or exploiting renewable energies. "Developing nuclear reactors, constructing them, is a generation-long endeavor, these are not quickly developed facilities let alone solving the issue of where are they going to go.
"We have the ability to develop all of the technologies to make that energy useable, we can better invest in clean coal, we can better invest in renewables. Let's get on with that rather than having, what in some ways is, an unproductive debate about nuclear energy," ALP deputy leader, Julia Gillard said. Australia has abundant alternative energy resources - solar, wind, geothermal and coal.

Preparing for a boom
Australia's uranium industry is preparing for boom times ahead. Uranium mining companies are pushing ahead with applications for licenses that once lay dormant. In South Australia alone the government is fast-tracking 100 exploration licenses in the wake of the Labor policy change.

Premier Rann said 60 companies in South Australia hold 160 exploration licenses for uranium, with another 100 in the queue. "What we'll be seeing is a rush for exploration licenses," he said. Jason Kuchel from the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy says companies that have found substantial deposits had previously been reluctant to move ahead. "Prior to the Labor conference those companies were unsure of whether or not they would be able to proceed," he said. He expects companies to apply to open new uranium mines within 12 months.

A mining industry conference in Adelaide heard that now that both sides of the political divide are aligned on uranium mining policy, judging each project on its merits, all the uncertainty in the industry is gone.

A mining executive argued that there's general acceptance that uranium mining and exploration is good, provided it translates into jobs and regional development and things for ordinary Australians.

Toro Energy, a uranium explorer based in Adelaide with projects in South Australia and the Northern Territory, says the new Labor policy will be viewed positively not only by the local uranium mining industry but also by overseas companies looking to source uranium.

There's an enormous uranium boom in Australia where more than 140 listed explorers are operating, many in WA despite the highly publicized opposing stance by Premier Carpenter. Even before the Labor conference took its decision, uranium stocks generally rose, some explorers reaching new peaks. More than 100 companies are keen to mine uranium all around the country, particularly in Western Australia and Queensland, now that they don't face blanket rejection.

Australia holds around 25% of the world's known uranium reserves, and the price of the mineral has climbed consistently since the start of 2004. Exploration expenditure in Australia has increased tenfold in three years, and the Labor switch is expected to boost investment further.
The spot price of uranium climbed from .50 a pound to in the past year and now it looks as if Australia's exports of the controversial product will be increasing whichever party wins the next national election. The value of listed uranium explorers in Australia surged 23 per cent in the first three months of the year.

Though Canada is now the dominant supplier, Australia is the second biggest exporter, with the largest and lowest-cost recoverable resources. It mines 19.1% of global uranium production compared with Canada's production of around 24.9%.
The hefty rise in uranium stocks this year is largely due to expectations of prolonged high demand.

More than enough uranium can be extracted from existing mines to satisfy all Australia's overseas customers for some time to come. New mines will simply increase the competition for existing markets.

Forty-eight new nuclear reactors are expected to be commissioned globally by 2013, including 13 in China and eight in India, these optimistic numbers seem to create strong demand for Australian uranium. A condition for allowing new mines under ALP policy will be that the buyer must be from a country that has signed the nuclear non-proliferation accord.
Although the federal government continues to claim that Australia strongly supports the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and will not sell uranium to non-adherents to it, it appears Australia now indirectly sells it to Taiwan through the United States, and is considering selling it to India.

Former diplomat, Professor Richard Broinowski at the University of Sydney, author of "Fact or Fission - the Truth about Australia's Nuclear Ambitions", commented in the "Canberra Times" newspaper: "Howard seems to be doing his utmost to weaken what remains of the treaty's credibility. If Australia sells uranium to India, it will tempt other states to walk away from their treaty obligations. If Howard joins the proposed nuclear fuel-making consortium led by the US, he will reduce the effectiveness of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and cut across its own plans to develop and control a nuclear enrichment and supply group."

There's some suggestion that Labor has made the change to avoid being attacked by the prime minister for adhering to its three-mine compromise formulated during the passionate nuclear debate at the 1982 ALP national conference.

Source: Diet Simon
Contact: Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Floor 1, 60 Leicester St, Carlton, Vic 3053, Melbourne. Australia.


New law bans nuclear power in Queensland.


Nuclear power stations, nuclear facilities and radioactive waste dumps are now banned in Queensland. Queensland Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson said the Nuclear Facilities Prohibition Act 2006 came into effect on May 1 "There is no need for Queensland to go down the path of nuclear power plants or toxic waste dumps when we don't need to." Mr Wilson said that under Queensland's new law, a plebiscite would have to be held if the federal government tried to override it to build a nuclear facility in Queensland. Banned nuclear facilities include reactors, uranium conversion and enrichment plants, fuel fabrication plants, spent fuel processing plants and facilities used to store or dispose of material associated with the nuclear fuel cycle such as radioactive waste material. Facilities for research and medical purposes and the operation of a nuclear-powered vehicle are exempt.
The Age, 2 May 2007

Olympic DamBeverleyRanger Mine

#609 - May 7, 2004

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Full issue

25 Years ago

(May 7, 2004) What happened 25 years ago? We go back to news from our 1979 WISE Bulletin, comparing anti-nuclear news "then" and "now".

In WISE Bulletin 5 we reported on a demonstration against uranium mining in Australia: "On April 6th and 7th, major rallies took place in all major Australian cities. […] Organisers say this is the largest ever anti-nuclear demonstration in Sydney." (WISE Bulletin 5, May/June 1979)

Uranium ore was discovered in Australia in the 1890s and was initially mined as a source of radium. Primarily intended for the U.S. and U.K. weapons programs, mining for the element uranium began in the 1950s and was followed in the 1960s with mining for civil nuclear energy. Australia's uranium is exported to the U.S., Canada, Japan, South Korea and the European Union countries. (Uranium Information Center Issues Briefing, February 2004)

Uranium mining is polluting, costly and negatively affects aboriginal landowners whose local environment is threatened by high levels of radioactivity contained in uranium tailings. Leaks have resulted in the contamination of the areas surrounding the mines. Mining is capital-intensive, which means low employability per invested dollar, and in the 1990s uranium prices dramatically fell below actual production costs. Sacred sites of cultural and spiritual significance to aboriginal landowners are regularly destroyed. (Uranium Mining in Australia, Movement against Uranium Mining, July 1991)

Studies have shown that the living conditions of aborigines have not been improved by mining activities as was claimed by the industry. Employment levels for aboriginals are extremely low as are their social circumstances. According to the 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights act, the traditional owners have the right to veto commercial activities on their territories. But in 1978 the federal government made an exception for uranium mining. (Vergeten Volken [NL], June 1999)

In 1983 the Labour Party won government elections and introduced the "Three Named Uranium Mines" policy. This policy limited mining to the Ranger, Nabarlek (now closed) and Olympic Dam (Roxby Downs) mines with the intention of eventually phasing out uranium mining in the long term. In 1996, however, a Liberal-National coalition came to power and abandoned the three mines policy.

The liberal government also allowed the operation of three new mines: Beverly, Honeymoon and Jabiluka. Suggestions for more new mines have been made at six other locations. (Sustainable Energy and Anti-Uranium Service Inc., 4 January 2004)

Beverly began operation in late 2000 but following a trial operation, the Honeymoon mine lies idle as financing remains unclear. (Sustainable Energy and Anti-Uranium Service Inc., 4 January 2004; WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 600, 19 December 2003)

In 1998, the federal government approved mining at Jabiluka, known for being one of the world's biggest uranium reserves. The mine is located near a unique nature park (Kakadu National Park) and the proposal raised strong protest from the traditional landowners. Following much protest, the traditional owners finally won. Although exploitation had begun on a small scale, the uranium ore was returned to the mine and the mine was cleaned up in 2003. In April 2004 the Northern Land Council, acting on behalf of traditional owners, adopted an agreement with owner ERA that gave them the right to veto future development of the mine. (Vergeten Volken [NL], June 1999; The Age, 22 April 2004)




ISSN: 1570-4629


Protest camp against Beverley Uranium Mine in Australia; leak at Ranger mine

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(May 26, 2000) Hundreds of activists are protesting against the coming opening of the Beverley mine in Australia. At the Ranger mine, a leak occurred in a tailings dam. The authorities were not notified until 23 days later.

(530.5176) WISE Amsterdam - About 200 people from around the world have set up an action camp at the gates of the Beverley uranium mine to protest against the start of its commercial operation as is scheduled in July. Thirty-one activists were arrested on May 9 during protests. They were arrested when they entered the Heathgate Resources grounds and refused to leave. Nine people were arrested two days earlier in a roadblock action. The prisoners were said to have been used as hostages as the police told the demonstrators that they would be released only if the roadblock was removed. The blockade lasted for 24 hours.

Environmental groups dealing with the mine, such as the Flinders Ranges Environment Action, object to the environmental consequences of the in-situ leach mining practices. The Beverley aquifer lies only 50 to 100 meters above the country's most important underground water supply, the Great Artesian Basin. The area has experienced consistent seismic activity.

The Beverley mine is owned by Heathgate Resources, a subsidiary of the U.S. General Atomics. The Beverley deposit was purchased by General Atomics with the foundation of Heathgate in 1990. Protests at the site have been held since 1997.

At another mine, the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu National Park, a leakage took place on April 5 that went unreported for 23 days. The owner, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), has to explain to the government why it took so long before authorities were notified about the tailings dam leak.

The Gundjehmi Aboriginal Corporation, representing the Mirrar population of Kakadu, condemned the failure of governmental supervision over ERA's operations. Because of the leak at the Ranger mine, a group of parliamentarians has called for the government to rescind approval for the ERA's Jabiluka mine, also in Kakadu National Park.


  • Environment News Service, 9 May 2000
  • Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), 5 May 2000

Contact: Flinders Ranges Environment Action, c/o Post Office Copley, South Australia 5732
Tel: +61-8-8675 2242 or +61-428 660636

BeverleyRanger Mine

Australia: Go-ahead for Beverley; protests at Jabiluka owner

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
(April 9, 1999) On March 18, the Australian government gave permission for the exploitation of the Beverley In-situ leaching uranium mine in northern South Australia. Large blockades in Melbourne at the office of Jabiluka owner North Limited resulted in clash with police.

(508.4998) WISE Amsterdam - Police and anti-uranium activists have clashed outside the Melbourne office of North Ltd. on the second day of protests against the Jabiluka mining project. A few days before the blockade North placed newspaper advertisements that described anti-uranium protesters as terrorists.
The protest sealed the head office of mining giant North Ltd, majority owner of the company that operates Jabiluka uranium mine in the Northern Territory. Demonstrators blocked three entrances to keep North staff out. But 60 were smuggled in by bus through a back alley under police guard.
On the second day of the blockade and in contrast to the day before, police cleared a path for motorists in the streets behind the company's offices. Police horses were being used to clear the road. North managing director Malcolm Broomhead accused the activists of intimidation and bullying.

The environmentalists were even more angry because permission was given for the Beverley ISL-uranium mine. In-situ leaching involves pumping sulphuric acid and oxygen underground to dissolve uranium into the groundwater, which is then pumped to the surface and the uranium removed. There are numerous ways in which ISL can lead to significant contamination of surrounding groundwater systems or the wider environment:

Escape of leaching solutions

-water moves from high pressure to low pressure, and thus any hole or opening away from the ore zone could act as a flow path for solutions. These may include features such as leaking boreholes, fault planes running across the aquifer system, old underground workings, or any other similar opportunity for water to flow freely.

Difficulties in geochemistry

-when the solutions are injected into an orebody aquifer to mobilize uranium, many other minerals are dissolved into solutions and many other radionuclides and heavy metals are mobilized also. These can include radium, arsenic, vanadium, molybdenum, cadmium, nickel, lead and others. The subsequent increase in concentrations can be up to a thousand times higher or more.

Precipitation of solids

-due to the nature of the groundwater and orebody chemistry, it is possible to form solid minerals that precipitate from solution and thereby act to reduce or at worst block the flow of solutions through the intended areas. These can include the formation of calcite (calcium cabornate), gypsum (calcium sulphate), jarosite (potassium iron sulphate) and other minerals.

Waste water disposal

-the inherent nature of ISL is that it produces extremely large quantities of waste water and solutions which need to be disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner. These are from the bleed water (excess pumping water) and waste solutions from the uranium extraction plant. Typically these solutions are mixed and re-injected into the same groundwater as that being mined, or injection into a deep aquifer remote from other groundwater users of the area or potential environmentally sensitive areas. Extremely high concentrations of radionuclides and heavy metals can be found in these waste waters, and the disposal area chosen also undergoes rehabilitation after the cessation of ISL mining.

High radon exposures

-due to the mobilization of uranium in the groundwater and circulating solutions, high concentrations of radium and radon are often found, leading to possibly high radiation exposures.

Environmentalists vowed to fight the Beverley project by any means possible, saying the in situ leaching process to be used retains waste products underground and threatens important water supply. Environment Minister Robert Hill said the government had been advised that the Beverley acquifer was unsuitable for drinking water or for stock and irrigation purposes and was isolated from other groundwater including the Great Artesian Basin.

Final export and development approvals are still required for Beverley, which has an estimated resource of 21,000 tons of uranium oxide (U3O8), but the government and its owners (US General Atomics) think commercial production would start in early 2000.


  • Reuters, 19 March
  • The Australian, 30 March
  • Out of sight, out of mind, the hidden problems of ISL on:

Contact: Friends of the Earth
PO Box A474
Sydney South
NSW 2000
Tel: +61-2-9283 2004
Fax: +61-2-9283 2005



ROXSTOP says no to uranium at Roxby downs

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 21, 1997) Leave it in the ground. Simple concept - leave uranium in the ground. This was the whole message behind ROXSTOP, a desert action and music festival recently held in northern South Australia at the Roxby Downs/Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine. It ran from Sep. 22 to Oct. 2 and saw over 250 anti-uranium activists from all over Australia come together to oppose Western Mining Corporation's questionably operated Roxby Downs mine.

(481.4773) Roxby Action Collective -The logic behind calling for the closure of Australia's largest and richest mine is easy to understand: uranium is dangerous to life. Experts the world over aren't arguing about whether radiation from uranium and its associated products are dangerous - they all agree that ionising radiation is dangerous. The debate is merely about how much radiation is publicly acceptable, and that level is consistently getting lowered every 15 years or so. Put this in a context of irradiated workers, manipulation of Aboriginal groups in the region, namely the Kokatha and Arabanna peoples, serious environmental mismanagement of the tailings dam (it leaked 3 billion litres within the first 6 years of operation, and, with the acknowledgement of the South Australian Government, continues to leak at the moment), and devastating impacts on the beautiful mound springs of the Lake Eyre region (some have dried up and more will shortly), and one can understand the constant storm of controversy that surrounds WMC and the Roxby Downs uranium mine. And make no bones about it, it is the uranium which makes the mine profitable, not copper.

Roxby Downs is a difficult mine to close - it has always shared bi-partisan political support from Labour and Liberal, and is a massive orebody of copper, uranium, gold and silver. WMC is currently undertaking a A$1.5 billion (US$ 1.1 billion) expansion of Roxby to increase production levels. There will potentially be more uranium produced at Roxby alone than at Ranger, Jabiluka, Beverley, Kintyre and Honeymoon put together. Hence the urgency with which activists came together for ROXSTOP - this is one fight we must - and will - win.

ROXSTOP incorporated many activities - protests at the mine itself, tour of the overall facility (where the lack of radiation protection signs was of deep concern), listening to the history and stories of the Kokatha people from women elders, and the stories of the Arabanna male elders, an all-day music concert with artists and bands from all over Australia, a public meeting on worker's health issues in the township of Roxby Downs with a special radiation expert from the USA (Dr David Richardson), solidarity with unionists and workers from the mine, visiting many of the springs in the Lake Eyre region to witness Roxby's long term damage. Perhaps the most poignant event, though, was the spontaneous blockading of a road-wide semi-trailor for half a day.

The massive truck contained a pre-fabricated steel structure for part of the new pipeline which will take even more water from the Great Artesian Basin. This basin feeds the mound springs their water in what is otherwise one of the driest regions on the planet. The power of a small band of people lying down on a desert highway can never be underestimated - within the hour police tried forcefully to remove protesters, however, using our much greater numbers we easily prevailed and we continued blocking the road for half a day. We had achieved our main aim - interfering with the expansion program, increasing costs, achieving wide media coverage across Australia and raising awareness among the local community and workers.

The anti-uranium movement in Australia is at a cross-roads: existing mines are expanding (Ranger, Kakadu Nat. Park, Roxby Downs); there are four proposals for new mines across the country with more expected and a new nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in the southern suburbs of Sydney. The Howard government has continually halted approvals because of widespread community opposition and active campaigning by the environment movement. The people of Australia have been consistently saying for decades we don't want uranium from our country to be dug up and exported to another country to become somebody else's problem - remember Chernobyl? remember the spontaneous anger shown on streets Australia-wide at French tests in our nearby Pacific neighbours? Howard and his boys do not have the mandate to destroy our country and world heritage areas for short term profit and at the expense of Aboriginal land rights and rural communities - whether it's Roxby, Ranger, or anywhere.

ROXSTOP highlighted to WMC and the Federal and South Australian governments that they are not off the hook. Roxby is a national shame and should be closed immediately. People are seeing through economic rationalism and mobilising. This campaign will only get more vibrant. It has to. Leave it in the ground INDEED.

Source & Contact: Roxby Action Collective: PO Box 222 Fitzroy, Victoria 3065, Australia. Tel: +61-3-9419 8700; Fax: +61-3-9416 2081
For more info and photos, see

Take a break (at Kakadu national park). At a recent meeting in Alice springs of Aboriginal and Green groups, Jabiluka traditional owners expressed a strong wish to proceed with preparing a major blockade/civil disobedience action in the Kakadu national park. The action will most likely take place in March/April/May next year. Anyone who has non-violent direct action experience, either at nuke weapons establishments or at Gorleben or Temelin, or Japanese nuclear sites, or wherever, are urged to consider taking a holiday in the Kakadu national park around that time. International support in terms of people willing to put their bodies on the line, financial support, logistic support, etc. is needed very much. High on the 'wish list' of things needed is communication equipment - eg. a satellite telephone. It's quite remote up there.
Contact: John Hallam, Nuclear Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Sydney. Suite 15, Ist Floor, 104 Bathurst street, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia
Tel: +61-2-9283 2004; Fax: 6+1-2-9283 2005.

Olympic Dam