What happened 25 years ago? We go back to news from our 1980 WISE Bulletin, comparing anti-nuclear news then and now.
In WISE Bulletin vol. 2 nr. 4 we wrote about uranium enrichment in Australia: "Urenco is emerging as the frontrunner in the race between foreign companies to build Australia's first enrichment plant"
Our fears did not materialize, at least not in the twentieth century. In 1983, the newly elected Bannon (South Australian) government, which had campaigned on an anti-nuclear platform before the elections, reached a compromise prohibiting the building of nuclear power plants and other facilities, but leaving the uranium mines open and allowing work to begin on the new Olympic Dam mine.
To date there are still plans to build an enrichment plant in Australia but this time based on new laser technology mainly developed in Australia, partly with government money. The main crux of the Australian government's argument in favor of enrichment seems to be that the enrichment of the mined uranium would earn the country almost as much as the mining itself. But at what cost?
Should the reportedly 'new and cheap' uranium enrichment technology prove viable for commercial use then the risk of proliferation would become even greater. More then 20 countries, including Iran and South Korea, have already experimented with laser enrichment of uranium. This could lead to the use of this uranium in nuclear weapons, especially since this technology could easily be hidden for the international community. It would be possible to produce enough enriched uranium for several bombs in a year, even in a small warehouse. The initial plans for an Australian enrichment plant in 1969 included the development of enriched uranium to be used in weapons. Former Prime Minister Gordon disclosed this in 1999.
Reproduction of this material is encouraged. Please give credit when reprinting.
Editorial team: Tinu Otoki (WISE Amsterdam), Michael Mariotte (NIRS). With contributions from Diet Simon, Dr. Angelika Claußen, Dr. Rosalie Bertell, Jhrakahndi Organization Against Radiation, NIRS.
The next issue (635-636) will be mailed out October 14, 2005.