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Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #869 - 28 November 2018

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#869
28/11/2018
Jim Green
Shorts

Don't dump on South Australia rally

On Saturday November 3, about 1,000 people gathered at Parliament House in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia (SA), for the 'Don't Dump on SA – We Still Say No to Nuclear Waste' rally.

Plans to turn SA into the world's nuclear waste dump were defeated in 2016 but the state is being targeted for a national nuclear waste dump by the conservative federal Coalition government.

Millions have been spent bribing local communities and tens of millions more are promised to the selected site ‒ either in the Flinders Ranges or farming land near Kimba in the Eyre Peninsula.

The rally was held to send a clear message to the Federal Government to abandon the current abysmal site selection process and to the SA government to uphold state legislation that makes radioactive waste facilities illegal.

People travelled from the affected communities of Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula and the Flinders Ranges to join other South Australians concerned about the issue for a vibrant and colourful event of speakers and performers.

Eyre Peninsula resident Anna Taylor asked the crowd: "Why would you put radioactive waste in the middle of our food bowl when only 4% of our country is productive land?"

Adnyamathanha man Dwayne Coulthard said: "This process by the Federal Government is cultural genocide. We have had enough of being ignored. No radioactive waste dump on Adnyamathanha country in the Flinders Ranges. No waste dump in Kimba."

Dr Margie Beavis from the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) dispelled government scare-mongering linking the practice of nuclear medicine to its dump plans. Nuclear medicine has not been hindered by the absence of a national dump nor will it be helped by the establishment of a dump.

President of SA Unions Jamie Newlyn said: "Minister Canavan came out recently and identified Whyalla, Port Pirie and Port Lincoln as areas where they could bring in nuclear waste. Those port communities in that logistics chain were all stunned by that announcement. The mayors of all of those communities are surprised that the announcement was made without any consultation."

"We're talking about this toxic, horrible nuclear waste coming through ports and across supply chains, across our boat links, across our highways and through our ports, that then it has to travel hours and hours by road or rail to a final destination, and those communities don't get a say either? That is a disgrace," Newlyn said.

A Friends of the Earth speaker noted that the plan to turn SA into the world's nuclear waste dump is still being promoted even though it lost support from major political parties in 2016. Two recent reports have promoted the plan to turn SA into the world's nuclear waste dump: one from a far-right politician and the other from 'ecomodernist' Ben Heard. Nuclear dumpsters aim to turn the SA into Australia's nuclear waste dump as a stepping stone to turning the state into the world's dump.

Other speakers included state Labor Party MP Eddie Hughes and federal Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

‒ Mara Bonacci, SA Conservation Council


"Asterix und das Atomkraftwerk" – the destiny and outreach of an Austrian pirate comic

Heinz Stockinger writes:

It is one of the most original, most cunning creations by the antinuclear movement: Asterix und das Atomkraftwerk, a pirate compilation of pictures taken from a dozen odd of existing editions of the French comic, with a new story told in the speech bubbles. While the Vienna street paper Augustin managed to publish an interview with the pirate author in 2006, he has remained anonymous even 40 years after the November 1978 referendum on Austria's nuclear power plant at Zwentendorf, 35 kilometres west of Vienna.

In the run-up to the 40th anniversary of this historic event this year, the Salzburg Platform Against Nuclear Hazards (PLAGE) has produced an exhibition titled Asterix and the Nuclear Power Plant – the destiny and outreach of an Austrian pirate comic.

The merits of this peculiar Asterix version are three-fold: Not only did it provide basic information (on radioactivity, safety, waste, lack of democratic decision-making etc.), but it showed people actually involved in action, thus encouraging readers to act. Thirdly, the amusing form of presentation afforded comic relief in a tense and conflict-prone public debate. Mr Uderzo and the German publishers were not amused, though. (Co-author Goscinny had died in 1977.) Complaints on copyright grounds were filed in Austria, as well as in Germany where the pirate comic had almost immediately taken on. (I remember donating 1,000 shillings – Austria's currency at the time – when two activists were fined 150,000 shillings for having sold copies at a street information stand in Vienna, some time after the 1978 referendum.)

It is this story of success and of prosecution that is told in parts 1 and 2 of PLAGE's Asterix exhibition. Its core is composed of selected scenes in which decisive moments of the struggle are called forth, or popular slogans put in the mouth of Asterix and Obelix and other figures, or on the banners they are carrying, often with a self-ironical note. Besides comments on those events and slogans, information is added on the political context, on some nuclear technical terms etc. Part 4 recalls how the comic was produced with the tools of pre-cut-and-paste times. In part 5, a quiz rounds off this pirate comic's journey from Austria to Spain and even Euskadi, via the Netherlands and other countries.

PLAGE has 'unofficially' presented the Asterix exhibition at this year's Nuclear-Free Future Award ceremony in the Great Hall of Salzburg University. It will be officially launched to the Salzburg media on December 15th.

P.S,: Inspiration for this exhibition came from ... the Nuclear Monitor! In autumn 2017, it announced that the Laka Foundation, Amsterdam, was preparing an exhibition of original material and documentation on a comic named Asterix und das Atomkraftwerk and on how it had spread to other countries, an adventure completely unknown in Austria. That announcement immediately triggered the idea of an exhibition for the Austrian public, to be first presented on the 40th anniversary of the Zwentendorf referendum. An exhibition coming on 20 roll-up posters, well transportable, ready for use in a broad variety of educational and cultural facilities, and even on squares in town and the like. Without the Laka Foundation's original material, the PLAGE exhibition would not have been possible.

More information:

Dirk H. R. Spennemann, Oct 2015, 'Asterix und das Atomkraftwerk. Bibliographic Forensics of a German Underground Comic', Stichting Laka: Amsterdam, www.researchgate.net/publication/282696102_Asterix_und_das_Atomkraftwerk...

Western Australian uranium industry on the brink

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#869
4762
28/11/2018
Mia Pepper ‒ member of the Ban Uranium Mining Permanently (BUMP) collective of Friends of the Earth Perth; board member of the Mineral Policy Institute. 
Article

Ten years ago the conservative Barnett government lifted the long-standing ban on uranium mining in Western Australia (WA). The government had promised "$5 billion to WA's gross State product" and "$450 million a year." Industry proponents promised jobs and bragged that uranium will be like "iron ore on steroids."

The reality has been far more like morose miners on methadone. After a decade that has seen sustained Aboriginal and wider community resistance to mining plans, the uranium price plummet in the wake of Fukushima and a surge in renewable energy production, there is not a single operating uranium mine in WA.

Uranium exploration companies were a dime a dozen but just four projects surfaced as having potential in WA. Three of them raced through the environmental assessment process under the Barnett government and emerged with environmental, but not final, approvals just weeks before the state election in a clear move to wedge the incoming Labor government.

The McGowan Labor government felt the wedge and let the four mines with partial approvals continue ‒ a clear breach of Labor's pre-election promise not to allow mines to proceed unless they had full approvals. But the sustained low uranium price and community opposition has thwarted plans to develop any of the four mines.

Cameco has written off the entire value of the Kintyre project, Toro Energy has shelved its uranium plans and is now trying to strike lucky with gold, Cameco's Yeelirrie project is the subject of a legal challenge by the Conservation Council of WA and three traditional owners, and then there is Vimy's Mulga Rock project.

Vimy released its Definitive Feasibility Study for Mulga Rock earlier this year and the company is reported to be "confident of securing contract prices of about $US60/lb this year or next for delivery in 2021 when it hopes to be in production with Mulga Rock." There was supposed to be an investment decision by July but instead Vimy was handing out pay cuts and scaling back or bunkering down for the sustained lull in the uranium price (currently around $US30/lb).

And while Toro is looking for gold ‒ and other uranium companies have diversified into medicinal marijuana production or property development ‒ Vimy is hedging its bets by setting up a subsidiary to explore for base metals.

Globally, 115 nuclear reactors are undergoing decommissioning ‒ double the number under construction. The International Energy Agency is warning about the lack of preparation and funding for a "wave of retirements of ageing nuclear reactors" and an "unprecedented rate of decommissioning". A growing number of countries are phasing out nuclear power, including Germany, South Korea, Switzerland, Belgium and Taiwan.

The world's most experienced reactor builder, Westinghouse, went bankrupt last year and the debts it incurred on reactor projects almost bankrupted its parent company, Toshiba. After the expenditure of at least $A12.4 billion, construction of two partially-built reactors in the US was abandoned last year, and the only other reactor construction project in the US was almost abandoned this year after cost overruns of $A14 billion.

No wonder that nuclear lobbyists are themselves acknowledging a "crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West" and are already writing eulogies about the "ashes of today's dying industry".

Nuclear power's crisis has direct and obvious implications for the uranium industry. Only two mines uranium are operating in Australia ‒ Olympic Dam and Beverley Four Mile ‒ while mining has ended at the Ranger mine in the NT and ore stockpiles are being processed while work begins on a A$1 billion rehabilitation.

The low uranium price is a symptom of a growing trend away from nuclear, a trend matched by increasing investment in renewable energy. Renewables generate 2.5 times more electricity than nuclear reactors worldwide, and the gap is growing rapidly. Even Dr Ziggy Switkowski ‒ who used to be nuclear power's head cheerleader in Australia ‒ recently said that the window for large nuclear reactors has closed and that the cost comparison is rapidly diverging in favour of renewables.

It is with great optimism we look to great technological advancements made in renewable energy and hope to see the end of old and dirty energy like coal and nuclear. So we sigh with relief that there are no operating mines at Kintyre, Yeelirrie, Wiluna and Mulga Rock, that uranium from WA is not on its way to processing plants or reactors destined to become waste, a toxic legacy.

And we can celebrate those special places and unique ecosystems and continue, with watchfulness, to monitor the activities of those companies who have not yet seen the writing on the wall that uranium is uneconomic, unwanted and unsafe.

Radioactive racism and Australia's 'ecomodernists'

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#863
4733
22/06/2018
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

The plan to turn South Australia (SA) into the world's nuclear waste dump has lost momentum since 2016 though it continues to be promoted by some politicians, the Business SA lobby group, and an assortment of individuals and lobbyists including self-styled pro-nuclear environmentalists or 'ecomodernists'.

In its 2016 report, the SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission established by the state government strongly promoted a plan to import 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste (about one-third of the world's total) and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate-level waste.1 The state Labor government then spent millions on a state-wide promotional campaign under the guide of consultation. The government also initiated a Citizens' Jury process. However two-thirds of the 350-member Citizens' Jury rejected the waste import proposal "under any circumstances" in their November 2016 report.2

The Jury's verdict was non-binding but it took the wind out of the dumpsters' sails. Shortly after the Jury reported, the SA Liberal Party ‒ then in opposition and now in government ‒ announced that it would campaign against the waste import plan. Despite the relentless, dishonest promotion of the plan by the state government and the Murdoch press, public opinion in SA was clearly against it.3

A key factor in the Jury's rejection of the waste import plan was that Aboriginal people had spoken clearly in opposition.4 The Jury's report said: "There is a lack of aboriginal consent. We believe that the government should accept that the Elders have said NO and stop ignoring their opinions. The aboriginal people of South Australia (and Australia) continue to be neglected and ignored by all levels of government instead of respected and treated as equals."2

The respect shown by the Citizens' Jury to Aboriginal Traditional Owners had been conspicuously in the debate until then. SA Premier Jay Weatherill (ousted in the March 2018 state election) said in 2015: "We have a specific mandate to consult with Aboriginal communities and there are great sensitivities here. I mean we've had the use and abuse of the lands of the Maralinga Tjarutja people by the British when they tested their atomic weapons."5

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

The Royal Commission

Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce ‒ a retired Navy officer ‒ didn't appoint a single Aboriginal person to the staff of the Royal Commission or to the Expert Advisory Committee.

Aboriginal people repeatedly expressed frustration with the Royal Commission process. One example was the submission of the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob (Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners):6

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

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

"The issues of engagement are many. To date we have found the process of engagement used by the Royal Commission to be very off putting as it's been run in a real Udnyu (whitefella) way. Timelines are short, information is hard to access, there is no interpreter service available, and the meetings have been very poorly advertised. ... A closed and secretive approach makes engagement difficult for the average person on the street, and near impossible for Aboriginal people to participate."

In mid-2016 Tauto Sansbury, Chairperson of the SA Aboriginal Congress, said: "In our second meeting with Commissioner Scarce we had 27 Native Title groups from all around South Australia. We had a vote on it. And it was unanimous that the vote said 'no we don't want it'. It was absolutely unanimous. Commissioner Scarce said 'well maybe I'm talking to the wrong people' and we said 'well what other people are you going to talk to? We're Native Title claimants, we're Native Title Traditional Owners from all over this country ... so who else are you going to pluck out of the air to talk to ... we've stuck to our guns and we still totally oppose it. That's every Native Title group in South Australia'."7

The Royal Commission acknowledged Aboriginal opposition to its nuclear waste import plan – but it treated that opposition not as a red light but as an obstacle to be circumvented. The Commission opted out of the debate regarding land rights and heritage protections for Aboriginal people, stating in its report: "Although a systematic analysis was beyond the scope of the Commission, it has heard criticisms of the heritage protection framework, particularly the consultative provisions."1

Such an analysis wasn't "beyond the scope of the Commission" ‒ it ought to have been core business. The terms of reference specifically directed the Commission to consider potential impacts on "regional, remote and Aboriginal communities" and to consider "lessons learned from past … practices".

Despite its acknowledgement that it had not systematically analysed the matter, the Royal Commission nevertheless arrived at unequivocal, favourable conclusions, asserting that there "are frameworks for securing long-term agreements with rights holders in South Australia, including Aboriginal communities" and these "provide a sophisticated foundation for securing agreements with rights holders and host communities regarding the siting and establishment of facilities for the management of used fuel."1

Such statements were conspicuously absent in submissions from Aboriginal people and organisations. There is in fact an abundance of evidence that land rights and heritage protection frameworks are anything but "sophisticated."8 For example, the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 provides feeble rights and protections at the best of times, but it does not apply to the Olympic Dam copper/uranium mine.8 The mine must partially comply with an old (1979) version of the Act. Or at least, the mine might have to comply with the 1979 version of the Act but that it is doubt since the 1979 Act was never proclaimed and has dubious legal standing. The legislation governing the Olympic Dam mine ‒ the Roxby Downs Indenture Act ‒ was amended in 2011. A perfect opportunity to do away with the mine's exemptions from the Aboriginal Heritage Act. But the state Labor government failed to consult Traditional Owners and enshrined the exemptions in the amended legislation. Asked to justify that decision, a government MP said in state Parliament: "BHP were satisfied with the current arrangements and insisted on the continuation of these arrangements, and the Government did not consult further than that."9

Enter the ecomodernists

No-one was surprised by the racism of the Royal Commission, given its origins and constitution. Australians are not surprised by the racism of the major political parties ‒ the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal/National Coalition.8

And perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by the behaviour and attitudes of Australia's self-styled pro-nuclear 'ecomodernists'.

Ben Heard ‒ whose so-called environment group 'Bright New World' accepts secret corporate donations ‒ said the Royal Commission's findings were "robust".10 Seriously? Failing to conduct a systematic analysis, or any analysis whatsoever, but nevertheless concluding that a "sophisticated foundation" exists for securing agreements with Aboriginal rights-holders ... that's robust? Likewise, academic Barry Brook ‒ best-known for promoting a bogus Outstanding Scientist award and insisting that there was no credible risk of a serious accident at Fukushima even as nuclear meltdowns were in full swing11 ‒ said he was "impressed with the systematic and ruthlessly evidence-based approach the [Royal Commission] team took to evaluating all issues."12

In a November 2016 article about the nuclear waste import plan, Ben Heard and Oscar Archer wrote: "We also note and respect the clear message from nearly all traditional owner groups in South Australia that there is no consent to proceed on their lands. We have been active from the beginning to shine a light on pathways that make no such imposition on remote lands."13

In Heard's imagination, the imported spent nuclear fuel (calling it waste is an "appalling misnomer"14) would not be dumped on the land of unwilling Aboriginal communities, it would be processed for use as fuel in non-existent Generation IV 'integral fast reactors'.

Heard claims his imaginary Generation IV reactor scenario "circumvents the substantial challenge of social consent for deep geological repositories, facilities that are likely to be best located, on a technical basis, on lands of importance to Aboriginal Australians".14

But even in Heard's scenario, only a tiny fraction of the imported spent fuel would be converted to fuel for imaginary reactors (in one of his configurations, 60,000 tonnes would be imported but only 4,000 tonnes converted to fuel). Most of it would be stored indefinitely, or dumped on the land of unwilling Aboriginal communities. Some might be converted to fuel for export to countries that, like Australia, don't have any of these imaginary 'integral fast reactors'!

Heard acknowledges that even with his imaginary reactors, "some form of disposal is necessary" for relatively short-lived radionuclides.10 He fails to note that his proposal would also generate long-lived intermediate-level waste destined for deep underground disposal. UC Berkeley nuclear engineer Prof. Per Peterson notes: "Even integral fast reactors (IFRs), which recycle most of their waste, leave behind materials that have been contaminated by transuranic elements and so cannot avoid the need to develop deep geologic disposal."15

Heard says he "respects" the opposition of Traditional Owners to the waste import plan, but that respect appears to be superficial at best. Indeed one of his responses to the overwhelming opposition of Traditional Owners was to organise an 'open letter' promoting the waste import plan which was endorsed by 'prominent' South Australians, i.e. rich, non-Aboriginal people.16

One of the reasons to pursue the waste import plan cited in Heard's open letter is that it would provide an "opportunity to engage meaningfully and partner with Aboriginal communities in project planning and delivery". Evidently Heard believes that Aboriginal people's opposition to the waste import plan ought to be overridden but they might be given a say in project planning and delivery.

A second version of the open letter cited the "successful community consultation program" with Aboriginal communities.17 But the report arising from the SA government's community consultation program (successful or otherwise) stated: "Many [Aboriginal] participants expressed concern about the potential negative impacts on their culture and the long-term, generational consequences of increasing the state's participation in the nuclear fuel cycle. There was a significant lack of support for the government to continue pursuing any form of nuclear storage and disposal facilities. Some Aboriginal people indicated that they are interested in learning more and continuing the conversation, but these were few in number."3

Geoff Russell18, another self-styled pro-nuclear environmentalist, wrote in a November 2016 article:19

"Have Aboriginals given any reasons for opposing a waste repository that are other than religious? If so, then they belong with other objections. If not, then they deserve the same treatment as any other religious objections. Listen politely and move on.

"Calling them spiritual rather than religious makes no difference. To give such objections standing in the debate over a repository is a fundamental violation of the separation of church and state, or as I prefer to put it, the separation of mumbo-jumbo and evidence based reasoning.

"Aboriginals have native title over various parts of Australia and their right to determine what happens on that land is and should be quite different from rights with regard to other land. This isn't about their rights on that land.

"Suppose somebody wants to build a large intensive piggery. Should we consult Aboriginals in some other part of the country? Should those in the Kimberley perhaps be consulted? No.

"They may object to it in the same way I would, but they have no special rights in the matter. They have no right to spiritual veto."

Where to begin? Why should Russell's beliefs be privileged over the beliefs of Aboriginal people? His description of Aboriginal spiritual beliefs as "mumbo-jumbo" is beyond offensive. Federal native title legislation provides limited rights and protections for some Traditional Owners ‒ and no rights and protections for many others (when the federal Coalition government was trying to impose a national nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land in SA in 2003, it abolished all native title rights and interests over the site). Russell's claim that Traditional Owners are speaking for other people's country is a fabrication.

National nuclear waste dump

The attitudes of the ecomodernists also extend to the debate over the siting of a proposed national nuclear waste dump. Silence from the ecomodernists when the federal government was passing laws allowing the imposition of a national nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory without consent from Traditional Owners. Worse still, echoing comments from the right-wing Liberal Party20, Brook and Heard said the site in the Northern Territory was in the "middle of nowhere".21 From their perspective, perhaps, but for Traditional Owners the site is in the middle of their homelands.

Heard claims that one of the current proposed dump sites, in SA's Flinders Ranges, is "excellent" in many respects and it "was volunteered by the landowner".22 In fact, it was volunteered by absentee landlord and former Liberal Party politician Grant Chapman, who didn't bother to consult Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners living on the neighbouring Indigenous Protected Area.23 The site is opposed by most Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners and by their representative body, the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA). The April 2018 ATLA Annual General Meeting passed this resolution: "The Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association remains totally opposed to the nuclear waste dump at Wallerberdina. This is our land, our culture and we must have veto over this toxic waste being dumped in our country. Udnyus come and go but we will be here forever. We say NO to the waste dump, for our grandchildren and their grandchildren and many generations to come."24

Heard claims there are "no known cultural heritage issues" affecting the Flinders Ranges site.22 Try telling that to the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners who live on Yappala Station, in the Indigenous Protected Area25 adjacent to the proposed dump site. The area has many archaeological and culturally-significant sites that Traditional Owners have registered with the SA government over the past decade.26 Two Adnyamathanha associations ‒ Viliwarinha Aboriginal Corporation and the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob ‒ wrote in a November 2015 statement: "The whole area is Adnyamathanha land. It is Arngurla Yarta (spiritual land). The proposed dump site has springs. It also has ancient mound springs. It has countless thousands of Aboriginal artefects. Our ancestors are buried there. Hookina Creek that runs along the nominated site is a significant women's site. It is a registered heritage site and must be preserved and protected."27

So where did Heard get this idea that there are "no known cultural heritage issues on the site"? Not from visiting the site, or speaking to Traditional Owners. He's just parroting the federal government's racist lies.

Silence from the ecomodernists about the crudely racist National Radioactive Waste Management Act (NRWMA) which dispossesses and disempowers Traditional Owners in every way imaginable.28 The nomination of a site for a radioactive waste dump is valid even if Aboriginal owners were not consulted and did not give consent. The NRWMA has sections which nullify State or Territory laws that protect archaeological or heritage values, including those which relate to Indigenous traditions. The NRWMA curtails the application of Commonwealth laws including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Native Title Act 1993 in the important site-selection stage. The Native Title Act 1993 is expressly overridden in relation to land acquisition for a radioactive waste dump.

Uranium mining

Silence from the ecomodernists about the Olympic Dam mine's exemptions from provisions of the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act.8

Silence from the ecomodernists about sub-section 40(6) of the Commonwealth's Aboriginal Land Rights Act, which exempts the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory from the Act and thus removed the right of veto that Mirarr Traditional Owners would otherwise have enjoyed.29

Silence from the ecomodernists about the divide-and-rule tactics used by General Atomics' subsidiary Heathgate Resources against Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners in relation to the Beverley and Four Mile uranium mines in SA.8,30

Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Dr Jillian Marsh, who in 2010 completed a PhD thesis30 on the strongly contested approval of the Beverley mine, puts the nuclear debates in a broader context: "The First Nations people of Australia have been bullied and pushed around, forcibly removed from their families and their country, denied access and the right to care for their own land for over 200 years. Our health and wellbeing compares with third world countries, our people crowd the jails. Nobody wants toxic waste in their back yard, this is true the world over. We stand in solidarity with people across this country and across the globe who want sustainable futures for communities, we will not be moved."31

Now, Traditional Owners have to fight industry, government, and the ecomodernists as well.

References:

1. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Report, May 2016, http://yoursay.sa.gov.au/system/NFCRC_Final_Report_Web.pdf

2. South Australia's Citizens' Jury on Nuclear Waste Final Report, Nov 2016, http://assets.yoursay.sa.gov.au/production/2016/11/06/07/20/56/26b5d85c-...

3. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Consultation and Response Agency, Nov 2016, 'Community Views Report', p.9, http://assets.yoursay.sa.gov.au/production/2016/11/11/09/37/34/0c1d5954-...

4. See the many statements of opposition posted at www.anfa.org.au/traditional-owners-statements

5. ABC, "Australia Must Have a Rational Discussion about Nuclear Industry, Says SA Premier Jay Weatherill," The World Today 19 Mar. 2015, www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2015/s4200643.htm

6. Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob, "Submission to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission," 4 Sept. 2015, http://nuclearrc.sa.gov.au/app/uploads/2016/03/Anggumathanha-02-09-2015.pdf

7. Adelaide Congress Ministry, 18 Aug 2016, www.facebook.com/adelaide.congress/posts/604440683059431

8. Jim Green, Sept 2017, 'Radioactive Waste and Australia's Aboriginal People', Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp.33-50, https://nuclear.foe.org.au/radioactive-waste-and-australias-aboriginal-p...

9. Parliament of South Australia, 24 Nov 2011, Hansard: "Roxby Downs (Indenture Ratification) (Amendment of Indenture) Amendment Bill, https://hansardpublic.parliament.sa.gov.au/Pages/HansardResult.aspx#/doc...

10. Ben Heard, 2 Nov 2016, "We must be a full-service provider to the nuclear back-end", https://decarbonisesa.com/2016/11/02/we-must-be-a-full-service-provider-...

11. https://nuclear.foe.org.au/barry-brook-brave-new-climate/

12. Barry Brook, 7 June 2016, 'On the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission', https://bravenewclimate.com/2016/06/07/on-the-nuclear-fuel-cycle-royal-c...

13. Ben Heard and Oscar Archer, 4 Nov 2016, 'False revelations, manufactured outrage: the timing tells the story', https://decarbonisesa.com/2016/11/04/false-revelations-manufactured-outr...

14. Ben Heard, 1 Feb 2017, 'Close the cycle: an alternative approach for used nuclear fuel', www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18822&page=0

15. Breakthrough Institute, 5 May 2014, 'Cheap Nuclear', http://theenergycollective.com/breakthroughinstitut/376966/cheap-nuclear

16. Paul Starick, 13 Dec 2016, 'Prominent South Australians demand that the state push ahead with study on nuclear waste repository', www.news.com.au/national/south-australia/prominent-south-australians-dem...

17. Ben Heard, 2 March 2017, 'An open letter to South Australia's elected members and political parties 2 March 2017: Opportunity for Government to transform the State', www.brightnewworld.org/media/2017/3/3/an-open-letter-to-south-australias...

18. https://nuclear.foe.org.au/geoff-russell/

19. Geoff Russell, 10 Nov 2016, 'The Nuclear Waste Dump: South Australia Does A Brexit', https://newmatilda.com/2016/11/10/the-nuclear-waste-dump-south-australia...

20. Erin Stewart, 31 May 2012, 'A community maintains its spirit in confronting ignorance', www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/a-community-maintains-its-spirit-in-c...

21. Ben Heard and Barry Brook, 25 June 2014, 'Nuclear waste is safe to store in our suburbs, not just the bush ', https://theconversation.com/nuclear-waste-is-safe-to-store-in-our-suburb...

22. Ben Heard, 12 May 2016, 'Location, location, location: why South Australia could take the world's nuclear waste', https://theconversation.com/location-location-location-why-south-austral...

23. https://nuclear.foe.org.au/waste/#flinders

24. www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=169465413771115&id=15036241234...

25. Australian Government, 22 Jan 2014, 'New Indigenous Protected Area Creates Opportunities for Yappala Community', www.indigenous.gov.au/new-indigenous-protected-area-creates-opportunitie...

26. Scribe Archeology, Aug 2015, 'VYAC Yura Malka. Cultural Landscape Mapping of the VYAC Yappala Group of Properties, Draft Report', www.archive.foe.org.au/sites/default/files/VYAC%20Yura%20Malka_V0b.pdf

27. Viliwarinha Aboriginal Corporation and the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob, 27 Nov 2015, 'Help us stop the nuclear waste dump in the Flinders Ranges!', https://nuclear.foe.org.au/2015-statement-from-adnyamathanha-traditional...

28. Amanda Ngo, 2017, 'National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012', https://nuclear.foe.org.au/nrwma/

29. Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, 'A History of Duress – A GAC Research Project', http://web.archive.org/web/20130425181741/http://mirarr.net/duress1.htm

30. Jillian K. Marsh, 2010, 'A Critical Analysis of the Decision-Making Protocols used in Approving a Commercial Mining License for Beverley Uranium Mine in Adnyamathanha Country: Toward Effective Indigenous Participation in Caring for Cultural Resources', Ph.D. thesis, Department of Geographical and Environmental Studies, University of Adelaide, https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/2440/67247/8/02...

31. Media Release, 29 April 2016, 'Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners will fight nuclear waste dump plan', https://nuclear.foe.org.au/no-nuclear-dump-in-the-flinders-ranges/

Closure plan for Ranger U mine in Australia's tropical Top End

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#862
4728
08/06/2018
Dave Sweeney ‒ nuclear-free campaigner, Australian Conservation Foundation
Article

Traditional Aboriginal owners and civil society groups have welcomed the public release of a detailed Mine Closure Plan for the controversial Ranger uranium mine in the Kakadu World Heritage region of Australia's Northern Territory.

The Mine Closure Plan was released on June 5, World Environment Day ‒ exactly 21 years since Traditional Owners positioned a massive banner on the Kakadu escarpment opposing the planned uranium mine at Jabiluka.

The plan to mine Jabiluka was defeated, and now the nearby Ranger mine is winding down. The Ranger mine, operated by Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) – a Rio Tinto subsidiary – has ceased mining uranium and is now processing stockpiled ore prior to a mandated end of operations in 2021.

The rehabilitation of the site has been a focus for Aboriginal landowners and environment groups in recent years with sustained advocacy highlighting Rio Tinto's responsibility and calling for increased transparency and effective action. The release of the Mine Closure Plan follows recent calls by civil society groups at Rio Tinto meetings in Darwin, London and Melbourne and marks a significant step towards to end of the uranium mining story in Kakadu.

Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Mirarr Traditional Owners of the Ranger site, described the plan as 'decades overdue' and called on Rio Tinto to demonstrate they have sufficient resources to provide confidence that they can meet their rehabilitation obligations. A joint statement by the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation and the Northern Land Council said: "ERA and its parent company Rio Tinto must clearly demonstrate that they have sufficient resources devoted to mine closure to provide stakeholders with confidence that the objectives outlined in the closure plan can be met. The future of Aboriginal communities downstream of the mine and the World Heritage listed values of Australia's largest national park are at stake. ERA and Rio Tinto's rehabilitation obligations include remediation of the site such that it can be incorporated in the surrounding Kakadu National Park."

Concerns have been raised about the lack of formal feedback opportunities on the plan. Environment and other civil society groups joined Traditional Owners in calling for the need for the broader community to comment on the plan and the proposed clean-up works.

Environment groups are independently reviewing the plan to ensure it is fit for purpose and delivers the best possible rehabilitation outcomes. The Environmental Defenders Office has been engaged by the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Environment Centre Northern Territory to provide legal expertise and advice. Principal Lawyer of the Environmental Defenders Office Northern Territory, Gillian Duggin, said: "It's a unique site surrounded on all sides by the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park. It's also of incredible cultural significance. So getting the rehabilitation right is critically important and will be a complex and time-consuming exercise."

Cleaning up the heavily impacted mine site after three decades of operation is set to be a complicated and costly process with estimates ranging around one billion Australian dollars (€650 million). The complexity is compounded by the properties of the product and the politics of the place. Large volumes of long lived radioactive mine tailings need to be contained for a period of 'not less than 10,000 years' while the Ranger site is located inside Kakadu, Australia's largest national park and World Heritage listed for both its natural and cultural value. The Ranger rehabilitation must be performed to a standard where the affected area can be accepted into the World Heritage region.

This is a very high bar and, as the Traditional Owners recently told Rio Tinto, 'the world is watching'.

The Mine Closure Plan is posted at www.energyres.com.au/sustainability/ClosurePlan

Paladin Energy puts second African uranium mine into care-and-maintenance

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#862
4726
08/06/2018
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

Western Australia-based uranium mining company Paladin Energy announced on May 25 that it is winding down operations at the Langer Heinrich mine (LHM) in Namibia and placing it into care-and-maintenance.1

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the decision to mothball LHM is that Paladin claims it is the lowest cost open-pit uranium mine in the world.2 Moreover, the company wasn't even paying to mine ore ‒ mining ceased in November 2016 and since then medium-grade ore stockpiles have been processed.3 Alex Molyneux describes LHM as "world-class"2 … so evidently a low-cost, "world-class" mine can't even turn a profit processing mined stockpiles.

The cost of production was US$23.11/lb U3O8 in December 2017, and the average realized sale price in the second half of 2017 was $21.82.4

Paladin was faced with a choice between continuing to process medium-grade ore stockpiles (which would be exhausted in mid-2019) then shifting to low-grade stockpiles, resuming mining, or putting the mine into care-and-maintenance.

Anticipating the decision to mothball LHM, Paladin Energy CEO Alex Molyneux said in late-April: "The uranium market has failed to recover since the Fukushima incident in 2011, with the average spot price so far in 2018 the lowest in 15 years. It's deeply distressing to have to consider suspending operations at LHM because of the consequences for our employees, and the broader community. However, as there has yet to be a sustainable recovery in the uranium market, and with the aim of preserving maximum long-term value for all stakeholders, it is clearly prudent to consider these difficult actions."5

Paladin hopes to resume mining at LHM following "normalization" of the uranium market, which it anticipates in the next few years.2 But with no operating mines, Paladin may not survive for long enough to witness a market upswing. The only other mine operated by Paladin ‒ the Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi ‒ was put into care-and-maintenance in July 2014.6 Paladin also owns a number of projects it describes as 'nonproducing assets', such as uranium projects in Australian states that ban uranium mining.

Paladin was placed into the hands of administrators in July 2017 as it was unable to pay EDF a US$277 million debt.6 In January 2018, Paladin's administrator KPMG noted that an Independent Expert's Report found that the company's net debt materially exceeds the value of its assets, its shares have nil value, and if Paladin was placed into liquidation there would be no return to shareholders.7 The company was restructured, with Deutsche Bank now the largest shareholder, and relisted on the Australian Securities Exchange in February 2018.2

Perhaps LHM will be sold for a song, either before or after Paladin goes bankrupt. A subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has held a 25% stake in LHM since January 2014. Last year, the CNNC subsidiary considered exercising its contractual right to buy Paladin's 75% stake in LHM, but chose not to exercise that right following an independent valuation of US$162 million for Paladin's stake.8

Uranium production at Paladin Energy's uranium mines in Africa (tonnes uranium):

 

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Total

Langer Heinrich

919

1108

1419

1437

1960

2098

1947

1937

1893

1308

16,026

Kayelekera

104

670

846

1101

1132

369

4,222

Combined % world production

2.1%

2.4%

3.9%

4.3%

5.2%

5.4%

4.1%

3.2%

3.1%

2.2%*

 

Source: Data compiled by World Nuclear Association data, www.world-nuclear.org

* Based on estimated world production of 60,000 tU.

Mine-site rehabilitation

Paladin hopes to restart both LHM and Kayelekera. But in 2016, Paladin's CEO Alexander Molyneux said that "it has never been a worse time for uranium miners"9 and the situation has not improved since then ‒ uranium prices have fallen further still, and the long-term contract price recently fell below US$30/lb for the first time since May 2005.10

Sooner or later, both the LHM and Kayelekera mine-sites will need to be rehabilitated. Yet it is extremely doubtful whether Paladin has set aside adequate funds for rehabilitation. Paladin's 2017 Annual Report lists a 'rehabilitation provision' of US$86.93 million to cover both LHM and Kayelekera.11

One problem is that the funds might not be available for rehabilitation if Paladin goes bankrupt. A second problem is that even if the funds are available, they are unlikely to be sufficient. For comparison, Energy Resources of Australia's provision for rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine in Australia ‒ also an open-pit uranium mine ‒ is US$403 million (A$526 million).12 That figure is understood to be additional to US$346 million (A$452 million) already spent on water and rehabilitation activities since 201213 ‒ thus total rehabilitation costs could amount to US$749 million (A$978 million) … and the current cost estimates could easily increase as they have in the past.

Rehabilitation of LHM and Kayelekera could be cheaper than rehabilitation of Ranger for several reasons, such as the relative size of the mine-sites. However it stretches credulity to believe that the cost of rehabilitating both LHM and Kayelekera would be an order of magnitude lower than the cost of rehabilitating one mine in Australia.

Paladin was required to lodge a US$10 million Environmental Performance Bond with Malawian banks and presumably that money can be tapped to rehabilitate Kayelekera.14 But US$10 million won't scratch the surface. According to a Malawian NGO, the Kayelekera rehabilitation cost is estimated at US$100 million.15

Paladin has ignored repeated requests to provide information on the estimated cost of rehabilitating Kayelekera, but the figure will be multiples of the US$10 million bond and it is extremely unlikely that Paladin's provision of US$86.93 million for the rehabilitation of both LHM and Kayelekera is adequate.

If Paladin goes bankrupt, it seems likely that most of the costs associated with the rehabilitation of LHM and Kayelekera will be borne by the Namibian and Malawian governments (with a small fraction of the cost for Kayelekera coming from the bond) ‒ or the mine-sites will not be rehabilitated at all. Even if Paladin is able to honor its US$86.93 million provision, additional costs necessary for rehabilitation will likely come from the Malawian and Namibian governments, or rehabilitation will be sub-standard.

Australia's responsibility

The problem of inadequate provisioning for rehabilitation is most acute for Kayelekera ‒ it is a smaller deposit than LHM and more expensive to mine (Paladin has said that a uranium price of about US$75 per pound would be required for Kayelekera to become economically viable16). Thus the prospects for a restart of Kayelekera (and the accumulation of funds for rehabilitation) are especially grim.

Is it reasonable for Australia, a relatively wealthy country, to leave it to the overstretched, under-resourced government of an impoverished nation to clean up the mess left behind by an Australian mining company? Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world.17 According to a 2013 U.N. report, more than half of the population live below the poverty line.17

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop should intervene to sort out the situation at Kayelekera and to prevent a repetition of this looming fiasco. The conservative Minister's eyes might glaze over in response to a moral argument about the importance of Australia being a good global citizen. But there is also a hard-headed commercial argument for intervention to ensure that the Kayelekera mine-site is rehabilitated.

It does Australian companies investing in mining ventures abroad no good whatsoever to leave Kayelekera unrehabilitated, a permanent reminder of the untrustworthiness and unfulfilled promises of an Australian miner and the indifference of the Australian government. Australia is set to become the biggest international miner on the African continent according to the Australia-Africa Minerals & Energy Group.18 But Australian companies can't expect to be welcomed if problems such as Kayelekera remain resolved.

Broader problems

Paladin exploited Malawi's poverty to secure numerous reductions and exemptions from payments normally required by foreign investors. United Nations' Special Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter noted in a 2013 report that "revenue losses from special incentives given to Australian mining company Paladin Energy, which manages the Kayelekera uranium mine, are estimated to amount to at least US$205 million (MWK 67 billion) and could be up to US$281 million (MWK 92 billion) over the 13-year lifespan of the mine."17

Paladin's environmental and social record has also been the source of ongoing controversy and the subject of numerous critical reports.19 The WISE-Uranium website has a 'Hall of Infamy' page dedicated to the company.20

Standards at Kayelekera fall a long way short of Australian standards ‒ and efforts to force Australian mining companies to meet Australian standards when operating abroad have been strongly resisted. Paladin's Kayelekera project would not be approved in Australia due to major flaws in the assessment and design proposals, independent consultants concluded.21 The consultants' report covered baseline environmental studies, tailings management, water management, rehabilitation, failure to commit to respecting domestic laws, use of intimidation and threatening tactics against local civil society, improper community consultation and payments to local leaders, and destruction of cultural heritage.

Sadly, these are familiar problems. Julie Bishop told the Africa Down Under mining conference in Western Australia in September 2017 that many Australian mining projects in Africa are outposts of good governance.18 The Australian government "encourages the people of Africa to see us as an open-cut mine for lessons-learned, for skills, for innovation and, I would like to think, inspiration," Bishop said.18

Such claims sit uneasily with the highly critical findings arising from a detailed investigation by the International Consortium of Independent Journalists (ICIJ).22 The ICIJ noted in its 2015 report that since 2004, more than 380 people have died in mining accidents or in off-site skirmishes connected to Australian mining companies in Africa.23 There have been six deaths at Kayelekera19 and at least one death at LHM.24

The ICIJ report further stated: "Multiple Australian mining companies are accused of negligence, unfair dismissal, violence and environmental law-breaking across Africa, according to legal filings and community petitions gathered from South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana."23

References:

1. Paladin Energy, 25 May 2018, 'LHM Confirmation of Care & Maintenance', https://www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20180525/pdf/43v8z12d7zf1r0.pdf

2. Charlotte McLeod, 25 May 2018, 'Paladin Energy Pulls Plug on Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine', https://investingnews.com/daily/resource-investing/energy-investing/uran...

3. World Nuclear Association, 26 April 2018, 'Namibian mine prepares for care and maintenance decision', www.world-nuclear-news.org/UF-Namibian-mine-prepares-for-care-and-mainte...

4. Mariaan Webb, 28 Feb 2018, 'Paladin posts loss as Langer Heinrich sales volumes fall, costs increase', www.miningweekly.com/article/paladin-posts-loss-as-langer-heinrich-sales...

5. Mining Technology, 30 April 2018, 'Paladin begins consultations to place LHM mine on care and maintenance', www.mining-technology.com/news/paladin-begins-consultations-place-lhm-mi...

6. Nuclear Monitor #847, 21 July 2017, 'Paladin Energy goes bust', www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/847/paladin-energy-goes-bust

7. Matthew Woods for and on behalf of Paladin Energy, 2 Jan 2018, 'Directions Hearing and DOCA Update', www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20180102/pdf/43ql352cxkfyhg.pdf

8. World Nuclear Association, 21 Aug 2017, 'CNNC decides against Langer Heinrich buyout', www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-CNNC-decides-against-Langer-Heinrich-buyout...

9. Geert De Clercq, 3 Oct 2016, 'Desperate uranium miners switch to survival mode despite nuclear rebound', www.reuters.com/article/us-uranium-nuclearpower-idUSKCN1230EF

10. www.cameco.com/invest/markets/uranium-price

11. Paladin Energy, Annual Report 2017, p.132, www.paladinenergy.com.au/sites/default/files/financial_report_file/palad...

12. ERA, 'Annual Report 2017', www.energyres.com.au/uploads/docs/2017_ERA_AnnualReport_ebook.pdf

13. ERA, 5 June 2018, 'ERA releases Closure Plan for Ranger mine', www.energyres.com.au/media/era-releases-closure-plan-for-ranger-mine/

14. Paladin, 14 Feb 2018, 'Reviewed Pro Forma Balance Sheet', www.asx.com.au/asxpdf/20180214/pdf/43rkwl3tsn1vgc.pdf

15. William Nyirenda / Citizens for Justice, 2 April 2014, 'Paladin lies to Malawi Government on its Kayelekera uranium mine', www.ejolt.org/2014/04/paladin-lies-to-malawi-government-on-its-kayeleker...

16. Sarah-Jane Tasker, 8 Jan 2015, 'Paladin Energy alerts ASX to spill at Malawi uranium mine', www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/paladin-energy-alerts-as...

17. United Nations, 22 July 2013, 'End of mission statement by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Malawi 12 to 22 July 2013', http://web.archive.org/web/20130829181627/www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pa...

18. Eric Bagshaw, 10 September 2017, 'The Australian companies mining $40 billion out of Africa', Sydney Morning Herald, www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/the-australian-companies-...

19. Nuclear Monitor #847, 21 July 2017, 'Paladin Energy's social and environmental record in Africa', www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/847/paladin-energys-social-and...

20. WISE-Uranium, 'Paladin Energy Ltd Hall of Infamy', www.wise-uranium.org/ucpalhi.html

21. Dr Gavin M. Mudd and Howard D. Smith, November 2006, 'Comments on the Proposed Kayelekera Uranium Project Environmental Impact Assessment Report', http://users.monash.edu.au/~gmudd/files/Comments-Kayelekera-EIS-Draft-v3...

22. www.icij.org/project/fatal-extraction

23. www.icij.org/investigations/fatal-extraction/key-findings-11/

24. Adam Hartman, 31 Oct 2018, 'Langer Heinrich worker dies', www.namibian.com.na/index.php?id=115939&page=archive-read

A journey to the heart of the anti-nuclear resistance in Australia: Rad Tour 2018

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#860
4719
10/05/2018
Ray Acheson ‒ Director, Reaching Critical Will, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
Article

Looking at a map of South Australia's nuclear landscape, the land is scarred. Uranium mines and weapon test sites, coupled with indications of where the government is currently proposing to site nuclear waste dumps, leave their marks across the desert. But amidst the devastation these poisonous activities have left on the land and its people, there is fierce resistance and boundless hope.

Friends of the Earth Australia has been running Radioactive Exposure Tours for the past thirty years. Designed to bring people from around Australia to meet local activists at various nuclear sites, the Rad Tour provides a unique opportunity to learn about the land, the people, and the nuclear industry in the most up-front and personal way.

This year's tour featured visits to uranium mines, bomb test legacy sites, and proposed radioactive waste dumps on Arabunna, Adnyamathanha, and Kokatha land in South Australia, and introduced urban-based activists to those directly confronting the nuclear industry out in country. It brought together about 30 people including campaigners from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and Reaching Critical Will, environmental activists with Friends of the Earth Australia and other organisations, and interested students and others looking to learn about the land, the people, and the industries operating out in the desert.

The journey of ten days takes us to many places and introduces us to many people, but can be loosely grouped into three tragic themes: bombing, mining, and dumping. Each of these aspects of the nuclear chain is stained with racism, militarism, and capitalism. Each represents a piece of a dirty, dangerous, but ultimately dying nuclear industry. And each has been and continues to be met with fierce resistance from local communities, including Traditional Owners of the land.

Testing the bomb

The first two days of the trip are spent driving from Melbourne to Adelaide to Port Augusta. We pick up activists along the way, before finally heading out to the desert. Our first big stop on the Tour is a confrontation with the atomic bomb.

The UK government conducted twelve nuclear weapon tests in Australia.1 Nine took place in South Australia, at Emu Field and Maralinga. All of the tests used plutonium ‒ some of which may have been produced from uranium mined at Radium Hill in South Australia. The UK and Australia also conducted hundreds of so-called 'minor trials' to test the effects of fire and non-nuclear explosions on atomic bombs, which spread plutonium far and wide.

One of the tests at Emu Field in 1953 resulted in a radioactive cloud spreading over 250 kilometres northwest of the test site. This "Black Mist" is held responsible for a sudden outbreak of sickness and death amongst Aboriginal communities.2 A Royal Commission in 1983–1984 found that the test had been conducted under wind conditions known to produce "unacceptable levels" of fallout and did not take into account the existence of people down wind of the test site. The Commission reported that regard for Aboriginal safety was characterised by "ignorance, incompetence and cynicism".3

The government has so far conducted four "clean ups" of Maralinga over the years.4 Each one finds that the previous effort was insufficient. The latest "clean up" in the mid-1990s found plutonium buried in shallow, unlined pits ‒ and much of that plutonium remains in that condition today. Nuclear engineer and whistleblower Alan Parkinson told the ABC: "What was done at Maralinga was a cheap and nasty solution that wouldn't be adopted on white-fellas land."5

While our Tour didn't take us to the Emu Field or Maralinga sites this time, we did visit people and lands affected by the testing in Woomera, a small town about 450 km north of Adelaide. Established as a base for a missile and rocket testing program, it is full of the ghosts of both people and weapons.

On our first night at Woomera we were joined by Avon Hudson, a nuclear weapon test whistleblower who as a Royal Australian Air Force serviceperson was assigned to work at Maralinga during the time of the 'minor trials'.

Avon gave testimony to the Royal Commission investigating UK nuclear weapon testing in the 1980s after disclosing classified information to the media starting in the 1970s. His stories, told to us around the campfire and while visiting various sites in Woomera, were full of pain. He described how those serving in the Australian military were not given information or protection against the nuclear tests, how the radioactive fallout affected Aboriginal and other local communities, and how the radioactive racism by the government continues to leave a lasting mark on current and future generations.

We visited the Woomera Cemetery, where a disturbing number of babies and children are buried. Journalist Bryan Littlely notes that the cemetery "contains 23 graves for stillborn babies born in the hospital between December 1953 and September 1968, and a further 46 graves for other children who died around that period."6 While there has not yet been enough research to definitely prove a causal link between the weapons testing and the high numbers of stillbirths and early childhood deaths in the region, more than 100 South Australians joined a class action lawsuit against the British Ministry of Defense in 2010, demanding answers to the cause of death of their babies.7 However, "the case was not allowed to proceed8 because it was deemed impossible to prove radiation caused their illness."9

While it has so far escaped having to answer for the deaths in Woomera, the UK government did pay A$13.5 million in compensation to the Maralinga Tjarutja Traditional Owners in 1995. But other known victims of British testing, including members of the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, have not been compensated.

Responding to the UK court's decision against the survivors, then Greens Senator Scott Ludlam wrote in a letter to the UK parliament in 2013: "Of the British and Australian veterans who were involved in the testing, and the Aboriginal people in the area at the time of the blasts, only 29 Aboriginal people have ever received compensation from the Australian Government and veterans continue to struggle to obtain the medical support they need despite experiencing unusually high rates of cancer and other ill effects associated with exposure to radiation."9

One of those who never received compensation or an apology was Yami Lester, Yunkunytjatjara elder and activist, who was blinded by the Emu Field nuclear weapon test in 1953 when he was ten years old. He was a key player in the Royal Commission, and went on to be a powerful advocate for land rights and against nuclear waste dumps. We didn't get to meet Yami on this Tour, because he passed away in July 2017, just two weeks after the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.10

Yami's daughters Karina and Rose Lester played an important role in raising support for the Treaty in Australia and participating in its negotiation in New York. Working with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Karina delivered a statement on behalf of more than 30 indigenous groups from around the world at the negotiations, successfully advocating for provisions on victim assistance and environmental remediation, as well as a recognition of the disproportionate impact of nuclear weapons on indigenous populations.

Several of us from ICAN, the civil society coalition that advocated for years for the nuclear ban treaty, were on this year's Rad Tour. We joined to connect with and learn from those resisting other pieces of the chain of nuclear violence, and to sit on country that has been so harmed time and again.

Digging up the poison

After two days of learning about the effects of British atomic testing and visiting disturbing sites in Woomera, we headed further into the radioactive nightmare to visit a quintessential site related to the starting point of the nuclear violence chain: the Olympic Dam uranium mine near Roxby Downs.11

As of April 2018, two uranium mines are operating in South Australia: Olympic Dam and Beverley Four Mile. These mines produced and exported 5,493 tonnes of uranium oxide in 2016 ‒ 63% of Australia's total production that year.12 The only other operating uranium mine in Australia is Ranger in the Northern Territory, where mining has ceased but stockpiled ore is being processed until the mine's final closure a few years from now.

After days spent camping on the red earth of this region, it was devastating to see the massive Olympic Dam mine displacing the ground, burrowing into it with machines and metal, bringing poison up from the depths. We went on a tour conducted by BHP, the mine's operator. We were not allowed to take photos, or leave the vehicle we were on.

In addition to the uranium ore, Olympic Dam has generated over 150 million tonnes of uranium tailings ‒ radioactive sludge that is left over after extracting the uranium-bearing minerals from the ore. Friends of the Earth describes it as a "toxic, acidic soup of radionuclides and heavy metals."13 The tailings, and the processes used in extraction, risk the safety of workers and local communities. In the mid-1990s it was revealed that about three billion litres had seeped from the tailings dams over two years.14 Between 2003 and 2012, BHP reported 31 radiation leaks at the mine. On our tour, we were not permitted to see the tailings dams.

The mine is also a drain on natural resources. It uses around 37 million litres of water from the Great Artesian Basin every single day. This is the largest and deepest artesian basin ‒ a confined aquifer containing groundwater ‒ in the world. It provides the only source of fresh water through much of inland Australia. The government and various industries use it, but Olympic Dam has been increasing its use since its founding. While the BHP tour guides showing us around the mine assure us that they are responsibly using the water and that it can continue to rely on the basin for at least the next 85 years of the mine's anticipated lifespan, environmental activists have serious and legitimate questions about the sustainability of this level of water usage.15

After our trip to the mine, we visited the Mound Springs near Lake Eyre, in Arabunna country. These are natural springs sustained by the underlying Great Artesian Basin. We were accompanied by Kokatha Traditional Owner Glen Wingfield, who, while not Arabunna, has spent his life visiting the springs. He lamented the depletion of the springs, explaining that it gets sadder to visit each time because the water levels are down more and more each and every time. Studies have shown that the pressure in the Great Artesian Basin has declined due to increased extraction.16 As the water table drops, springs have started drying up across South Australia as well as Queensland.

Uranium mining companies, and federal and state governments, typically ignore the concerns of Traditional Owners, use divide-and-rule tactics to split local communities, provide false or misleading information, and even use legal threats ‒ all to ensure that the uranium industry gets its way. When it comes to Olympic Dam, this racism is enshrined in legislation. WMC Resources Limited, which started the uranium mine, was granted legal privileges under the South Australian Roxby Downs Indenture Act. This legislation overrides the Aboriginal Heritage Act, the Environment Protect Act, the Water Resources Act, and the Freedom of Information Act.17 The current mine owner, BHP, has refused to relinquish these legal privileges.

The problems of uranium mining, however, are not just local. Australia's uranium is exported around the world. It was in the Fukushima reactors that suffered a meltdown in 2011. It is converted into high-level nuclear waste in power reactors across the globe. Australia's uranium exports have produced over 176 tonnes of plutonium ‒ enough to build over 17,600 nuclear weapons.

On the tour of Olympic Dam, it wasn't clear the BHP guides knew where their uranium was going. "Europe," said one. "I think maybe China," said another. It's a sad fact that BHP's customers include nuclear weapons states as well as countries refusing to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Aboriginal communities and environmental activists have long resisted the mine, from before it was even constructed. The night after we visited Olympic Dam, Glen Wingfield told us about his family's consistent activism against the mine ‒ as well as his brief time spent working there. Conditions at the mine were awful for workers, he argues, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. The Traditional Owners were not consulted before the mine's construction, and have fiercely opposed it. They have been joined by others concerned about the mine's environmental impacts. In 2016, the Desert Liberation Front organised a "party at the gates of hell," following a protest in 2012 that saw hundreds travel from around the country to shut down the main road into the mine for four hours.18 Protests have also been held outside BHP's Melbourne headquarters, and resource and environment ministers' offices.19

While BHP anticipates the mine will operate for another 85 years, opposition to its operation will continue. And while that opposition has not yet seen the closure of the mine, it likely did play a role in BHP's decision not to go ahead with its planned mega-expansion of the mine in 2012. For now, at least, the gates of hell have not been enlarged.

Dumping radioactive waste

From the gates of hell we travelled to what might be described as the gates of paradise. For now.

The federal government of Australia wants to build a facility to store and dispose of radioactive waste in South Australia, either at Wallerberdina Station near Hawker or on farming land in Kimba.20 Wallerberdina Station is located in the Flinders Ranges, the largest mountain range in South Australia, 540 million years old. Approaching from the north on our drive down from Lake Eyre can only be described as breathtaking. The red dirt, the brown and green bush, and the ever-changing purples, blues, and reds of the mountains themselves are some of the most complex and stunning scenes one can likely see in the world.

Most people might find it shocking that the federal government would want to put a nuclear waste dump smack in the middle of this landscape. But after visiting other sites on the Rad Tour, it was only yet another disappointment ‒ and another point of resistance.

What is known is that the Wallerberdina site is of great cultural, historical, and spiritual significance to the Adnyamathanha people.21 It borders the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area, which is a crucial location for biodiversity in the Flinders Ranges. Its unique ecosystem provides a refuge for many native species of flora and fauna, contains many archaeological sites as well as the first registered Aboriginal Songline of its type in Australia, and is home to Pungka Pudanha, a natural spring and sacred woman's site.

In case that isn't enough, the area is a known floodplain. Our travels around the proposed site contained ample evidence of previous floods that sent massive trees rushing down the plain, smashing into each other and into various bridges and other built objects. The last big flood occurred in 2006.

The Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners were not consulted before their land was nominated for consideration by the government for the waste dump. "Through this area are registered cultural heritage sites and places of huge importance to our family, our history and our future," wrote Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners in a 2015 statement.22 "We don't want a nuclear waste dump here on our country and worry that if the waste comes here it will harm our environment and muda (our lore, our creation, our everything)."

We met Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners Vivianne and Regina McKenzie, and Tony Clark, at the proposed site. They invited us into the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area to view the floodplains and swim in the beautiful Pungka Pudanha. We'd just been camping at Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges National Park only a few kilometres away. It is impossible to understand the government's rationale for wanting to build a toxic waste dump on this land so cherished by its Traditional Owners, local communities, and tourists alike.

The McKenzies have been working tirelessly to prevent the proposed dump from being established, as have other local activists. Fortunately, they have some serious recent successes to inspire them.

In 2015, the federal government announced a plan to import 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste from around the world to South Australia as a commercial enterprise. But Traditional Owners began protesting immediately, arguing that the so-called consultations were not accessible and that misinformation was rife.23 In 2016, a Citizen's Jury, established by then Premier Jay Weatherill and made up of 350 people, deliberated over evidence and information. In November that year, two-thirds of the Jury rejected "under any circumstances" the plan to import or store high-level waste.24 They cited lack of Aboriginal consent, unsubstantiated economic assumptions and projections, and lack of confidence in the governmental proposal's validity.

Other battles against proposed nuclear waste dumps have been fought and won in South Australia. From 1998 to 2004, the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a council of senior Aboriginal women from northern South Australia, successfully campaigned against a proposed national nuclear waste dump near Woomera.25 In an open letter in 2004, the Kungkas wrote: "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."26

Connected communities

The attempts by the Australian government and the nuclear industry to impose a waste dump in the Flinders Ranges, just like their attempts to impose waste dumps and uranium mines elsewhere in the country, or their refusal to compensate victims and survivors of nuclear testing, are all mired with racism. They are rooted in a fundamental dismissal and devaluation of the lives and experiences of indigenous Australians, and of communities they consider "remote" ‒ both in their proximity to cities but more importantly, to power.

The industry and government's motivations for imposing nuclear violence on these people and this land are militarism and capitalism. Profit over people. Weapons over wellbeing. Their capacity for compassion and duty of care has been constrained by chronic short-termism ‒ a total failure to protect future generations. The poison they pull out of the earth, process, sell, allow others to make bombs with, and bury back in the earth, wounds us all now and into the future.

But nuclear weapons are now prohibited under international law. New actors are challenging the possession of nuclear weapons in new ways, and nuclear-armed states are facing a challenge like never before. The nuclear energy industry ‒ and thus the demand for uranium ‒ is declining. Power plants are being shuttered; corporations are facing financial troubles. Dirty and dangerous, the nuclear industry is dying.

This is in no small part due to the relentless resistance against it.

This resistance was fierce throughout all of the country we visited, from Woomera up to Lake Eyre, from Roxby Downs to the Flinders Ranges. We listened to stories of those living on this land, we heard their histories, witnessed their actions, and supported their plans.

And, we were able to share something special with many of them: ICAN's Nobel Peace Prize.

Awarded in 2017, the Prize recognizes ICAN's efforts to highlight the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons and to work with governments to negotiate and adopt the nuclear weapon ban treaty. But the Prize is not just for those advocates directly involved in that aspect of the campaign's work. It's a recognition of all the efforts of anti-nuclear activists through the long history of the atomic age, activists who have put their bodies on the line in defence of the earth and human health, in protection of our planet, in opposition to governments that pull poison out of the ground and drop it on human beings and animals around the world.

Sharing the Nobel Prize with the resisters in South Australia was a deep joy. It seemed to bring inspiration and invigoration to many who have fought for so long against impossible odds in difficult places against powerful corporations and governments. It was a humbling reminder of the collective effort of all our advocacy and activism across time and space. We're all connected, and we cannot do this alone. Movements are made of people, reaching out across borders, across struggles, to cultivate solidarity and strength in one another. Resistance is fertile.

Information on previous Rad Tours is posted at www.nuclear.foe.org.au/radtour

References:

1. www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/oz/britbombs

2. http://blackmistburntcountry.com.au

3. www.nuclear.foe.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Royal-Commission-conclusionsre...

4. www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/oz/racism

5. www.abc.net.au/news/2012-03-29/green-dumping-on-traditional-owners-the-u...

6. www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/south-australians-join-class...

7. www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/south-australians-join-class...

8. www.news.com.au/national/south-australia/new-generations-of-australian-f...

9. www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/no-compensation-for-maraling...

10. www.reachingcriticalwill.org/resources/publications-and-research/researc...

11. www.nuclear.foe.org.au/olympic-dam-uranium-copper-mine/

12. www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f...

13. www.melbournefoe.org.au/may_day_stop_the_olympic_dam_uranium_mine_expansion

14. www.nuclear.foe.org.au/sa-parliamentary-inquiry-into-the-tailings-system...

15. www.gabpg.org.au/impact-of-olympic-damroxby-downs

16. www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-18/eamus-declining-groundwater-is-a-big-prob...

17. www.nuclear.foe.org.au/roxby-downs-indenture-act/

18. www.nuclear.foe.org.au/olympic-dam-uranium-mine-and-the-lizards-revenge/

19. www.smh.com.au/business/antinuclear-protesters-take-on-bhp-20090708-ddee...

20. www.nuclear.foe.org.au/waste/

21. https://nexusnewsfeed.com/article/human-rights/the-flinders-ranges-no-pl...

22. www.archive.foe.org.au/sites/default/files/Adnyamathanha%20statement%202...

23. www.anfa.org.au/traditional-owners-statements/

24. www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-06/sa-citizens-jury-vote-against-storing-nuc...

25. www.nuclear.foe.org.au/waste/#sa1

26. http://web.archive.org/web/20080718193108/http:/www.iratiwanti.org

Nuclear battles in Australia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#857
4710
14/02/2018
Jim Green
Article

The fight isn't over to stop the Cameco's Yeelirrie uranium project in WA

Conservation groups and Tjiwarl Traditional Owners in Western Australia have vowed to continue the fight against uranium mining at Yeelirrie in the Northern Goldfields, despite the news on February 8 that their Supreme Court action to halt the mine had been unsuccessful.

If and when market conditions improve, Canadian mining company Cameco plans to construct a 9 km open mine pit, requiring clearing of 2,421 hectares of native vegetation and generating 36 million tonnes of mine waste that would remain radioactive for thousands of years. The mine would also threaten the extinction of multiple species of unique underground fauna.

The Conservation Council of WA and members of the Tjiwarl Native Titles group sought judicial review of the WA Government's approval of the project, which went against the advice of the state Environmental Protection Agency to reject the proposal because of unacceptable risks of microfauna species extinction. The Minister for the Environment initially upheld the position of the EPA on appeal, yet turned around and took a position to the contrary in letting the mine proceed. The court case has put a hold on the Commonwealth approval for the project which has not been granted.

Vicky Abdullah, Tjiwarl Native Title holder, said: "This is a very disappointing and sad day for our people, our land, and our future. We have fought long and hard to protect Yeelirrie and stop the uranium project. But the fight is not over ‒ this is only one part of our campaign, and we will not allow this decision to stop us now. It's a bad decision, but it's not the end decision."

Conservation Council director Piers Verstegen said: "The verdict demonstrates a fundamental deficiency in the state's environmental laws, which currently allow a Minister to sign off on the extinction of multiple species with the stroke of a pen. The way the law has been interpreted by the court shows the Minister can ignore the EPA's public assessment process, and instead consider secret information in making a decision with has irreversible impacts on the environment.

"Today we stand knowing that community efforts have been successful in preventing any uranium mines operating in WA, despite two terms of a pro-uranium Government. We will continue to work with Traditional Owners to keep WA nuclear free and I am confident that despite today's decision we will continue to be successful in that goal."

Yeelirrie was approved by the former conservative Liberal Party state government. After the March 2017 state election, the incoming Labor Party government said that previously-approved mines, including Yeelirrie, could proceed but no others would be permitted.

Radioactive Exposure Tour I ‒ South Australia

The South Australian Radioactive Exposure Tour is a journey through Australia's nuclear landscape. The radtours have exposed thousands of people to the realities of 'radioactive racism' and the environmental and social impacts of uranium mining, radioactive waste and nuclear bomb testing.

Run by Friends of the Earth, this year's radtour will take place from Friday 30th March to Sunday 8th April.

This year we will visit communities in Kimba and the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, who are fighting to stop radioactive waste dumps on their land.

We'll head for Arabunna country, watch the sunset over Lake Eyre and see the Mound Springs − oases which are fed by the underlying Great Artesian Basin and host unique flora and fauna. Sadly, some of the Mound Springs have been adversely affected or destroyed altogether by the massive water intake of the Olympic Dam mine. The Tour will visit BHP's Olympic Dam uranium mine at Roxby Downs, the largest uranium deposit in the world.

In Woomera, we'll hear first-hand accounts of the British nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga and Emu Field. We'll also stop by Nurrungar, the desert surveillance base that closed in 1999.

Participants get to experience consensus decision making, desert camping and vegetarian cooking in affinity groups while travelling to some of the most beautiful and ecologically significant environments in Australia. If you're interested in learning about the industry or anti-nuclear campaigning, the radtour is an essential start or refresher.

International guests are welcome (many have participated over the years). One of the features of this year's radtour will be the participation of a number of Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaigners from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

The costs are (leaving from Melbourne or Adelaide): concession A$600 − waged A$800 − solidarity A$1000.

If you would like to register your interest in taking part in the 2018 Radioactive Exposure Tour, please complete the form posted at www.melbournefoe.org.au/radtour2018

Information on past radtours is posted at www.nuclear.foe.org.au/radtour

Contact: radexposuretour@gmail.com / 0417 318 368

Radioactive Exposure Tour II ‒ Western Australia

The upcoming Western Australian Radioactive Exposure Tour will be a 12-day journey to visit four proposed uranium mines in WA – Mulga Rock, Yeelirrie, Wiluna and Kintyre.

Run by the Ban Uranium Mining Permanently (BUMP) collective, the WA radtour will take place from Friday 9th March to Wednesday 21st March, 2018.

We will visit communities in Kalgoorlie, Laverton, Leonora, Wiluna, Newman and Parnngurr who are all fighting against uranium mine proposals on their land.

We'll head for Wangkatha country, listen to the Sounds on the Saltlake by Tjuma Pulka Media Aboriginal Corporation, before heading towards Mulga Rock proposed uranium mine. At Yeelirrie, we'll hear from Tjiwarl Traditional Owners stories of their 40-year fight to stop the proposed uranium mine and their Supreme Court action.

We will stop at the gates of Toro Energy, proposed Lake Way uranium mine and hear from experienced campaigners. From Wiluna, we will join and hear from Martu Traditional Owners campaigning to stop uranium mining on their country. We will head through Karlamilyi to Kintyre.

Desert camping, camp fires and cooking in affinity groups are all a part of the tour, while travelling to some of the most beautiful and ecologically significant environments in Western Australia.

For information and to register your interest: www.walkingforcountry/radtour, 0401 909 332, marcus@footprintsforpeace.org

Standing Strong I ‒ South Australians defeat dump

Standing Strong is a new book (and e-book) celebrating the victory of South Australians in their 2015‒17 campaign to stop an international high-level nuclear waste dump being built in the state. The book is online at www.tinyurl.com/no-sa-dump and www.nodumpalliance.org.au/

Published by the No Dump Alliance (NDA), Standing Strong covers the key issues championed by Aboriginal and civil society groups opposed to the plan including the lack of Traditional Owner consent, dubious economics, the risks to people and the environment and the impact on future generations.

"This book documents how our community said no to the threat of radioactive waste," said Yankunytjatjara woman and NDA spokesperson Karina Lester. "We know nuclear is not the answer for our lands and people, we have always said no. It is important that all politicians get the clear message that nuclear waste and nuclear risk is not wanted in SA."

South Australians are still battling a plan by the federal government to establish a national nuclear waste dump in the state (www.nuclear.foe.org.au/waste)

Standing Strong II ‒ Northern Territorians defeat Jabiluka uranium mine

Mirarr Traditional Owners in the Northern Territory and their many supporters are this year celebrating and commemorating the 20th anniversary of the mass movement that eventually defeated Energy Resources of Australia's plan to mine the Jabiluka uranium deposit. Hundreds of thousands of Australians took to the streets, thousands made the long trek to the Jabiluka blockade (which lasted for eight months), and hundreds were arrested at the mine-site including Mirarr Senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula.

The first of a number of initiatives to mark the 20th anniversary is a 'Standing Strong' calendar featuring powerful and beautiful images to commemorate the historic victory. It includes pictures from Mirarr country as well as from Jabiluka actions and support rallies across Australia and around the world.

The Standing Strong calendar is online at http://bit.ly/2HcZtpo

To order hard copies:

https://marrawuddi-gallery.squarespace.com/shop/2018-calendar-jabiluka-2...

Contact: Kirsten@mirarr.net

Australian Nuclear Free Alliance

Last year, the Aboriginal-led Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) celebrated its 20th birthday. ANFA has fought countless nuclear battle over the past two decades, many of them successfully.

Photos of ANFA's 20th anniversary meeting are online (www.anfa.org.au/anfa-2017-national-meeting/) and a book about ANFA's history can be ordered from jim.green@foe.org.au

Australian Map

australianmap.net is an online resource ‒ along with an A2 poster ‒ documenting Australia's nuclear history and current struggles. Click on a site to read about it and to view pictures and videos. The website covers uranium mines, waste dumps, atomic bomb test sites, US military and spy bases, etc.

www.australianmap.net

My people are still suffering from Australia's secret nuclear testing

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#855
4695
13/12/2017
Sue Coleman-Haseldine
Article

This is an extract of Sue Coleman-Haseldine's speech in Oslo marking the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Sue is an indigenous Kokatha woman who lives in Ceduna, South Australia, and a member of the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (www.anfa.org.au).

My name is Sue Coleman-Haseldine. I was born into poverty on the margins of Australian society on the Aboriginal mission of Koonibba in 1951. At this time my people were not allowed to vote and we had very few means to be understood, let alone be heard.

I was born into one of the oldest living cultures known on Earth and into a place that I love – a dusty, arid paradise on the edge of a rugged coastline. Our land and waters are central to our outlook and religion and provide the basis for my people's health and happiness.

And I was born just before the desert lands to our north were bombed by the deadliest weapons on Earth in an extensive, secretive and devastating manner by the Australian and British governments.

In the 1950s, areas known as Emu Fields and Maralinga were used to test nine full-scale atomic bombs and for 600 other nuclear tests, leaving the land highly radioactive. We weren't on ground zero, but the dust didn't stay in one place. The winds brought the poison to us and many others.

Aboriginal people, indeed many people at that time, knew nothing about the effects of radiation. We didn't know the invisible killer was falling amongst us. Six decades on, my small town of Ceduna is being called the Cancer Capital of Australia. There are so many deaths in our region of various cancers. My grand-daughter and I have had our thyroids removed, and there are many others in our area with thyroid problems. Fertility issues appear common.

But there has been no long-term assessment of the health impacts in the region and even those involved in the botched clean-ups of the test sites have no recourse because they cannot prove their illness is linked with exposure to nuclear weapons testing.

The impact of the Maralinga and Emu Fields testing has had far-reaching consequences that are still being felt today. Ask a young person from my area, "What do you think you will die from?" The answer is, "Cancer, everyone else is".

I have lived my life learning about the bomb tests and also learning that the voice of my people and others won't always be understood or heard. But I learnt from old people now gone that speaking up is important and by joining with others from many different places and backgrounds that our voices can be amplified.

Through these steps I found the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), or perhaps ICAN found me. ICAN – as an organisation, as a collective of passionate, educated people working for a clear goal – has been so important to me. To know that my story and my voice helps bring recognition to the past and can shape the future of nuclear prohibition has strengthened my resolve.

Being involved in ICAN has been a double-edged sword. On one hand and for the first time in my life, I no longer feel alone or isolated. I have met others from many parts of the globe who have similar stories and experiences and who are passionate advocates for a nuclear-free future.

But the flip side of this is my understanding of just how widespread and just how devastating the nuclear weapons legacy is across the globe. To learn that so many weapons still exist sends fear to my heart. ICAN is a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize – in a short time we have gathered support for a treaty to finally outlaw nuclear weapons and help eliminate the nuclear threat.

The vision was reached in part with so many nations adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017. And we should celebrate this win and the opportunity to work together to stop the suffering and assist countries to make amends to nuclear weapons victims by acknowledging the permanent damage done to land, health and culture.

Unfortunately, the Australian government, along with other first world nations, didn't even participate in the treaty negotiations, and they haven't signed the treaty yet, but over time we feel confident they will.

A lot has changed since I was born. Aboriginal people now have the right to vote in Australia, but still we battle for understanding about our culture and the Australian nuclear weapons legacy. My home is still remote and most of my people still poor. But we are also no longer alone. We have the means and the will to participate – to share and to learn and to bring about lasting change.

ICAN's work is not done, our work is not done. We will continue to work together. A world without nuclear weapons is a world we need and are creating. I stand here in hope and gratitude for the opportunity to participate. I stand here with pride and I stand here for our future and the generations to come.

ICAN's Nobel Peace Prize born in Australia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#852
4683
11/10/2017
Dr Margaret Beavis ‒ president of the Medical Association for Prevention of War and a board member of ICAN Australia.
Article

Australians can be very proud. The winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), started in Melbourne. It began when the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) recognised that nuclear weapons, the very worst of the weapons of mass destruction, were still "legitimate". This contrasted with chemical weapons, biological weapons, cluster munitions, land mines – even dumdum bullets, which all have been made illegal by UN treaty, with impressive results.

The late Dr Bill Williams, a key member of the founding group, wrote: "After the energetically anti-nuke eighties and the end of the Cold War, nuclear holocaust – always unthinkable – became almost unmentionable. A mass self-censorship, a mental no-fly zone, a cone of silence descended. Little wonder: no sane person wants to contaminate their dreams with this ultimate horror. But to finish this journey of survival – to abolition – we need to penetrate the fog of fear and denial, informing ourselves and our neighbours without inducing psychological paralysis."

In 2006 he was part of the founding group of MAPW members, along with Tilman Ruff, Dimity Hawkins, Sue Wareham and others. The highly successful landmines campaign was taken as a model. For MAPW this was a bit like giving birth to a gorilla; ICAN very successfully brought together existing humanitarian organisations, clearly identifying nuclear weapons as a humanitarian issue, not a political one.

ICAN now has 468 partner organisations in 101 countries. It was pivotal to the UN adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on July 7 this year. In 2007, IPPNW (the 1985 Nobel Prize-winning group the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War) adopted ICAN as a core campaign. Locally the Poola Foundation helped ICAN get established, and later a major contribution came from the Norwegian government.

ICAN and its many partners worked tirelessly, educating governments about the urgent need for action. In 2013 and 2014, Norway, Mexico and Vienna hosted intergovernmental conferences, attended by more than 150 countries.

Throughout the campaign graphic stories from the "Hibakusha", the survivors of the bombs in World War 2 and survivors of nuclear weapons testing, brought home the appalling personal costs of these weapons. The Red Cross emphasised the only possible option is prevention, given all doctors, ambulances and hospitals are destroyed in a nuclear blast. Any meaningful response is impossible.

The longer term impacts of a limited nuclear exchange are also devastating. So much atmospheric dust would be created that a "nuclear winter" would follow, reducing crop yields for more than a decade and causing a famine putting two billion lives at risk.

It is horrifying that North Korea now has nuclear weapons. But also horrifying are the existing 15,000 weapons, with 1800 ready to launch. There have been numerous very close calls, where human and technical errors have brought us perilously close to nuclear war.

After nearly 50 years the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has stalled, with the entrenched need for consensus blocking effective action. South Africa likened the situation to apartheid; with the nine nuclear weapons states having a different set of rules for themselves compared to the rest of the world – effectively holding the rest of the world to ransom.

ICAN offered a new way forward, aiming for a UN General Assembly based process. Thus the nuclear possessing states could no longer block the wishes of the majority of nations. This treaty deliberately harmonises with the NPT, both working towards a common goal.

Shamefully, Australia's government has worked to undermine this process. The Australian delegation at the UN working group last year was described in the press as "Weasels", much to their chagrin. A key strategy of the ICAN campaign has been "humour, horror and hope", so typically ICAN provided photogenic sign-carrying "weasels", helpfully greeting Australian politicians as they continued their anti-ban treaty arguments.

On July 7 the TPNW was resoundingly adopted: 122 countries in favour, one against (the Netherlands), and one abstention (Singapore). Finally nuclear weapons will be clearly on the same footing as biological and chemical weapons.

This will not be a fast process. It will take a couple of decades to steadily and verifiably reduce stockpiles. But the TPNW has been recognised by the Nobel Prize Committee as critical in making the world a much safer place.

Australia's government is refusing to sign the treaty, but both the Australian Labor Party and the Greens support a nuclear weapons ban. Australians strongly support it too. Both Labor and Liberal voters are more than 70 per cent in favour in a poll taken last month. Given the appalling and indiscriminate impacts of these weapons, denial is not acceptable. Australia needs to show leadership and sign this treaty.

How South Australians dumped a nuclear dump

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#846
4659
29/06/2017
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

Last November, two-thirds of the 350 members of a South Australian-government initiated Citizens' Jury rejected "under any circumstances" the plan to import vast amounts of high-level nuclear waste from around the world as a money-making venture.1

The following week, South Australian (SA) Liberal Party Opposition leader Steven Marshall said that "[Labor Party Premier] Jay Weatherill's dream of turning South Australia into a nuclear waste dump is now dead."2 Business SA chief Nigel McBride said: "Between the Liberals and the citizens' jury, the thing is dead."2

And after months of uncertainty, Premier Weatherill has said in recent weeks that the plan is "dead", there is "no foreseeable opportunity for this", and it is "not something that will be progressed by the Labor Party in Government".3

So is the dump dead? The Premier left himself some wriggle room4, but the plan is as dead as it possibly can be. If there was some life in the plan, it would be loudly proclaimed by SA's Murdoch tabloid, The Advertiser. But The Advertiser responded to the Premier's recent comments ‒ to the death of the dump ‒ with a deafening, deathly silence.

Royal Commission

It has been quite a ride to get to this point. The debate began in February 2015, when the Premier announced that a Royal Commission would be established to investigate commercial options across the nuclear fuel cycle. He appointed a gullible nuclear advocate, former Navy man Kevin Scarce, as Royal Commissioner. Scarce said he would run a "balanced" Royal Commission and appointed four nuclear advocates to his advisory panel, balanced by one critic.5 Scarce appointed a small army of nuclear advocates to his staff, balanced by zero critics.

The final report6 of the Royal Commission, released in May 2016, was surprisingly downbeat given the multiple levels of pro-nuclear bias.7 It rejected ‒ on economic grounds ‒ almost all of the proposals it considered: uranium conversion and enrichment, nuclear fuel fabrication, conventional and Generation IV nuclear power reactors8, and spent fuel reprocessing.

The only thing left standing (apart from the small and shrinking uranium mining industry9) was the plan to import nuclear waste as a commercial venture. Based on commissioned research, the Royal Commission proposed importing 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste (spent nuclear fuel from power reactors) and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate-level waste.

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

The first sign that things weren't going to plan for the government was on 15 October 2016, when 3,000 people participated in a protest against the nuclear dump at Parliament House in South Australia's capital, Adelaide.10

A few weeks later, on November 6, the Citizens' Jury rejected the nuclear dump plan.1 Journalist Daniel Wills wrote: "Brutally, jurors cited a lack of trust even in what they had been asked to do and their concerns that consent was being manufactured. Others skewered the Government's basic competency to get things done, doubting that it could pursue the industry safely and deliver the dump on-budget."11

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

Premier Weatherill previously said that he established the Citizens' Jury because he could sense that there is a "massive issue of trust in government".12 It was expected that when he called a press conference on November 14, the Premier would accept the Jury's verdict and dump the dump. But he announced that he wanted to hold a referendum on the issue, as well as giving affected Aboriginal communities a right of veto. Nuclear dumpsters went on an aggressive campaign to demonise the Citizens' Jury though they surely knew that the bias in the Jury process was all in the pro-nuclear direction.13,14

For the state government to initiate a referendum, enabling legislation would be required and non-government parties said they would block such legislation. The government didn't push the matter ‒ perhaps because of the near-certainty that a referendum would be defeated. The statewide consultation process led by the government randomly surveyed over 6,000 South Australians and found 53% opposition to the proposal compared to 31% support.15 Likewise, a November 2016 poll commissioned by the Sunday Mail found 35% support for the nuclear dump plan among 1,298 respondents.16

Then the Labor government announced on 15 November 2016 that it would not seek to repeal or amend the SA Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000, legislation which imposes major constraints on the ability of the government to move forward with the nuclear waste import proposal.17

Economic claims exposed

Implausible claims about the potential economic benefits of importing nuclear waste had been discredited by this stage.18 The claims presented in the Royal Commission's report were scrutinised by experts from the US-based Nuclear Economics Consulting Group (NECG), commissioned by a Joint Select Committee19 of the SA Parliament.

The NECG report said the waste import project could be profitable under certain assumptions ‒ but the report then raised serious questions about most of those assumptions.20 The report noted that the Royal Commission's economic analysis failed to consider important issues which "have significant serious potential to adversely impact the project and its commercial outcomes"; that assumptions about price were "overly optimistic" in which case "project profitability is seriously at risk"; that the 25% cost contingency for delays and blowouts was likely to be a significant underestimate; and that the assumption the project would capture 50% of the available market had "little support or justification".

The farcical and dishonest engineering of a positive economic case to proceed with the nuclear waste plan was ridiculed by ABC journalist Stephen Long on 8 November 2016: "Would you believe me if I told you the report that the commission has solely relied on was co-authored by the president and vice president of an advocacy group for the development of international nuclear waste facilities?"21

The economics report was an inside job, with no second opinion and no peer review ‒ no wonder the Citizens' Jury was unconvinced and unimpressed.

Prof. Barbara Pocock, an economist at the University of South Australia, said: "All the economists who have replied to the analysis in that report have been critical of the fact that it is a 'one quote' situation. We haven't got a critical analysis, we haven't got a peer review of the analysis".22

Another South Australian economist, Prof. Richard Blandy23 from Adelaide University, said: "The forecast profitability of the proposed nuclear dump rests on highly optimistic assumptions. Such a dump could easily lose money instead of being a bonanza."24

The dump is finally dumped

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

But late last year, nuclear and energy utilities in Taiwan ‒ seen as one of the most promising potential customer countries ‒ made it clear that they would not pay one cent towards the establishment of storage and disposal infrastructure in SA and they would not consider sending nuclear waste overseas unless and until a repository was built and operational.25

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

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

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

Reflections

The idea of Citizens' Juries would seem, superficially, attractive. But bias is inevitable if the government establishing and funding the Jury process is strongly promoting (or opposing) the issue under question. In the case of the Jury investigating the nuclear waste plan, it backfired quite spectacularly on the government ‒ jurors knew they were being pushed to vote 'yes' and they responded by voting 'no ... not under any circumstances'.26 Citizen Juries will be few and far between for the foreseeable future in Australia. A key lesson for political and corporate elites is that they shouldn't let any semblance of democracy intrude on their plans.

The role of the Murdoch press needs comment, particularly in regions where the only mass-circulation newspaper is a Murdoch tabloid. No-one would dispute that the NT News has a dumbing-down effect on political and intellectual life in the Northern Territory. Few would doubt that the Courier Mail does the same in Queensland. South Australians need to grapple with the sad truth that the state's Murdoch tabloids ‒ The Advertiser and the Sunday Mail ‒ are a blight on the state. Their grossly imbalanced and wildly inaccurate coverage of the nuclear dump debate was ‒ with some honourable exceptions27 ‒ disgraceful. And that disgraceful history goes back decades; for example, a significant plume of radiation dusted Adelaide after one of the British bombs tests at Maralinga in the 1950s but The Advertiser chose not to report it.

The main lesson from the dump debate is a positive one: people power can upset the dopey, dangerous ideas driven by political and corporate elites and the Murdoch press. Sometimes. It was particularly heartening that the voices of Aboriginal Traditional Owners were loud and clear28 and were given great respect by the Citizens' Jury and by many other South Australians. The Jury's report said: "There is a lack of Aboriginal consent. We believe that the government should accept that the Elders have said NO and stop ignoring their opinions."1

Conversely, the most sickening aspect of the debate was the willingness of the Murdoch press29 and pro-nuclear lobbyists30 to ignore or trash Aboriginal people opposed to the dump.

Another dump debate

Traditional Owners, environmentalists, church groups, trade unionists and everyone else who contributed to dumping the dump can rest up and celebrate for a moment. But only for a moment. Another dump proposal is very much alive: the federal government's plan to establish a national nuclear waste dump in SA, either in the Flinders Ranges or on farming land near Kimba, west of Port Augusta.32

In May 2016, Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie, who lives near the Flinders Ranges site, wrote:33

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

"Now the Flinders Ranges has been chosen as the preferred site and Mr Weatherill must speak up. The Premier can either support us ‒ just as the SA government supported the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta34 when their land was targeted for a national nuclear waste dump from 1998-2004 ‒ or he can support the federal government's attack on us by maintaining his silence."

Perhaps Premier Jay Weatherill will find his voice on the federal government's contentious proposal for a national nuclear waste dump in SA, now that his position on that debate is no longer complicated by the parallel debate about establishing a dump for foreign high-level nuclear waste. He might argue, for example, that affected Traditional Owners should have a right of veto over the establishment of a national nuclear waste dump ‒ precisely the position he adopted in relation to the international high-level dump.

References:

1. South Australia's Citizens' Jury on Nuclear Waste, November 2016, 'Final Report', http://assets.yoursay.sa.gov.au/production/2016/11/06/07/20/56/26b5d85c-...

2. Tom Richardson, 11 Nov 2016, 'DUMPED: Nuclear repository "dead" as Marshall draws election battleline', http://indaily.com.au/news/local/2016/11/11/dumped-nuclear-repository-de...

3. Tom Richardson, 7 June 2017, '"There's no foreseeable opportunity for this": Jay declares nuke dump "dead"', http://indaily.com.au/news/politics/2017/06/07/theres-no-foreseeable-opp...

4. Friends of the Earth Australia, 7 June 2017, 'Premier Weatherill unclear on nuclear dump', media release, https://www.facebook.com/jim.green.77920526/posts/10154485903460896

5. Conservation Council of SA, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Friends of the Earth, Dec 2015, 'A Critique of the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission', www.archive.foe.org.au/rc-critique

6. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Report. May 2016, http://yoursay.sa.gov.au/system/NFCRC_Final_Report_Web.pdf

7. 4 Nov 2016, 'Bias of SA Nuclear Royal Commission finally exposed', http://reneweconomy.com.au/bias-sa-nuclear-royal-commission-finally-expo...

8. 2 Nov 2016, 'The slow death of fast reactors', http://energypost.eu/slow-death-fast-reactors/

9. Nuclear Monitor #837, 31 Jan 2017, '2016 in Review: "It has never been a worse time for uranium miners"', www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/837/2016-review-it-has-never-b...

10. https://vimeo.com/187622136

Lauren Waldhuter / ABC, 15 Oct 2016, 'Nuclear waste dump protesters bring the fight from outback South Australia to the city', www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-15/nuclear-waste-dump-protesters-bring-the-f...

11. Daniel Wills, 6 Nov 2016, 'Nuclear waste verdict from citizens' jury leaves Government's grand plan in tatters', http://pixel.tcog.cp1.news.com.au/track/component/article/8d7e1a4b553ab43aa1531da50ab33c67?esi=true&t_template=s3/chronicle-tg_tlc_storyheader/index&t_product=AdelaideNow&td_device=desktopwww.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/daniel-wills-nuclear-waste-verdict-f...

12. Daniel Wills, 7 Nov 2016, 'Citizens' jury overwhelmingly rejects nuclear waste storage facility for South Australia', www.news.com.au/national/south-australia/citizens-jury-overwhelmingly-re...

13. Benito Cao, 3 Nov 2016, 'Manufacturing consent for SA's nuclear program', www.crikey.com.au/2016/11/03/manufacturing-consent-for-sa-nuclear-program/

14. Tony Webb, 18 Nov 2016, 'One small voice from inside the recent SA Nuclear Citizen's Jury', http://onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18669&page=0

15. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Consultation and Response Agency, Nov 2016, 'Community Views Report', p.19, http://assets.yoursay.sa.gov.au/production/2016/11/11/09/37/34/0c1d5954-...

16. https://www.surveymonkey.net/results/SM-FV2558KN/

17. SA Government, 15 Nov 2016, 'Government delivers response to Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Report', http://nuclear.yoursay.sa.gov.au/news/get-to-know-nuclear-discover-discu...

18. Richard Blandy, 7 June 2016, 'How a high-level nuclear waste dump could lose money', http://indaily.com.au/business/analysis/2016/06/07/how-a-high

19. SA Parliament ‒ Joint Committee on Findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, www.parliament.sa.gov.au/Committees/Pages/Committees.aspx?CTId=2&CId=333

20. Nuclear Economics Consulting Group, 11 Nov 2016, 'Review of Jacobs MCM Report Commercial Model', http://nuclear-economics.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/2016-11-11-NECG-...

21. Stephen Long, 8 Nov 2016, 'SA nuclear waste dump plans based on questionable assumptions and lacks public support', www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-08/should-south-australia-be-storing-nuclear...

22. Stephen Long, 3 Nov 2016, 'Critics argue Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission skewed by advocacy group's evidence', www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-03/radioactive-waste-dump-would-boost-sa-eco...

23. Prof. Richard Blandy, Submission to SA Nuclear Fuel cycle Royal Commission, http://nuclearrc.sa.gov.au/app/uploads/2016/04/Blandy-Richard.pdf

24. Stephen Long, 3 Nov 2016, 'Critics argue Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission skewed by advocacy group's evidence', www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-03/radioactive-waste-dump-would-boost-sa-eco...

25. Daniel Wills, 14 Dec 2016, 'Taiwanese energy firm rejects Martin Hamilton-Smith's claim it would help set up SA nuclear waste dump', www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/taiwanese-energy-firm-reject...

26. Daniel Wills, 11 Nov 2016, 'The people have skewered a political class they feels governs for itself instead of them', www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/daniel-wills-the-people-have-skewere...

27. www.adelaidenow.com.au/search-results?q=daniel+wills+nuclear

28. 'Statements from Aboriginal Traditional Owners regarding the plan to import high-level nuclear waste to South Australia', Oct 2016, www.anfa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Traditional-Owner-statements-...

29. Tory Shepherd, 15 Nov 2016, 'Tory Shepherd: Deriding experts as 'elites' is a pinheaded attempt at equality, pretending that everyone's views hold the same worth', www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/tory-shepherd-deriding-experts-as-el...

30. 1 July 2016, 'Radioactive waste and the nuclear war on Australia's Aboriginal people', www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987853/radioactive_waste_and_th...

31. https://www.facebook.com/groups/344452605899556/

32. https://www.facebook.com/No-Radioactive-Waste-Facility-for-Kimba-Distric...

33. Regina McKenzie, 6 May 2016, 'Premier silent while Flinders Ranges threatened', http://indaily.com.au/opinion/2016/05/06/premier-silent-while-flinders-r...

34. Irati Wanti, http://web.archive.org/web/20080718193150/http:/www.iratiwanti.org/home....

Paladin Energy's social and environmental record in Africa

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#847
4661
21/07/2017
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

This is a longer version of an article published in Nulclear Monitor #847.

Paladin Energy's operations in Africa have been marked by regular accidents and controversies. The WISE-Uranium website has a 'Hall of Infamy' page dedicated to the company.

WISE-Uranium, 'Paladin Energy Ltd Hall of Infamy', www.wise-uranium.org/ucpalhi.html

15 September 2005: Members of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) protested at the groundbreaking ceremony of Paladin's Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia. The Namibian Branch of Earthlife Africa criticized the environmental and health hazards of the project. According to a report prepared by German Öko-Institut for the Namibian branch of Earthlife Africa, Paladin's Environmental Assessment underestimated the radiation doses fourfold. Moreover, the proposed tailings management concept would have serious flaws.

Allgemeine Zeitung Sep. 16, 2005; www.wise-uranium.org/upna.html#LANGERH

April 2006: Paladin CEO John Borshoff told ABC television: "Australia and Canada have become overly sophisticated. They measure progress in other aspects than economic development, and rightly so, but I think there has been a sort of overcompensation in terms of thinking about environmental issues, social issues, way beyond what is necessary to achieve good practice."

http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%...

November 2006: NGOs groundWork and the Centre for Civil Society gave out the 'Southern African Corpse Awards' ‒ an annual mock ceremony for big business ‒ in Durban. Paladin was awarded the 'Pick the Public Pocketprize' thanks to a nomination from Malawian NGOs.

Patrick Bond, 24 Dec 2006, ZNet.

http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=554

2007: Criticisms of operations at Kayelekera outlined by the Catholic Church and other Malawian community and environmental organisations included the following issues of concern: inadequacy of the Environmental Impact Assessment; flaws in community consultation; government deferring its role in safeguarding community interests to the company; destruction of cultural and historic sites; increased social disorder; unfair compensation for those forcibly relocated; and undue interference with makeup of community based organisations.

Background on Recent Developments at the Kayelekera Uranium Mine, 2007, www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=1429

4 January 2007: Two Malawian NGO members allege that they were ordered to go to the Karonga Police Station by the Chief of Police and threatened with arrest for taking an Australian photojournalist sponsored by the two Australian unions (MUA and CFMEU) to photograph and interview community members at the Kayelekera mine. According to Reinford Mwangonde from Citizens For Justice, a police van carrying around 10 police officers went to Foundation for Community Support Services (FOCUS) and ordered that he and Kossam Jomo Munthali attend the Karonga Police Station. Mwangonde alleges that at the police station Sale, the Chief of Police told them that Paladin had called them 'from a long way away' and complained that the NGO members had taken an Australian photojournalist to the mine site. According to Mwangonde "it's unfortunate that Paladin is harassing us by using the Malawian police to promote its own agenda and protect its own interests at the expense of Malawians". Mwangonde said they were told that in the future any meeting that the NGOs hold in regard to uranium should be reported to the police.

MUA News, 15 Jan 2007, 'Australian Company Uses Malawian Police Against Critics', http://mua.org.au/news/general/malawi.html

March 2007: Paladin's Kayelekera project would not be approved in Australia due to the major flaws in the assessment and design proposals, independent reviewers concluded. Their report covered baseline environmental studies, tailings management, water management, rehabilitation, failure to commit to respecting domestic laws, use of intimidation and threatening tactics against local civil society, improper community consultation and payments to local leaders, and destruction of cultural heritage.

Mineral Policy Institute, March 2007, 'Paladin Resources Kayelekera Uranium Project in Malawi, Africa would not be approved in Australia, concludes independent reviewers', http://web.archive.org/web/20080719214944/http://www.mpi.org.au/campaign...

May 2007: Paladin and the Government of Malawi were named as defendants in two legal actions commenced by a group of NGOs in Malawi including the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation. The two actions sought to delay the Kayelekera project until the government and Paladin, amongst other things: rectified alleged deficiencies in the process associated with the grant of approval under the Malawi Environment Management Act; and put in place additional protective measures affecting both the local community and the country.

Paladin, 28 May 2007, 'Paladin Resources Ltd.: Kayelekera Project, Malawi', www.marketwired.com/press-release/paladin-resources-ltd-kayelekera-proje...

On 15 November 2007, Paladin announced "that all six Malawian Civil Society Organisations that commenced legal proceedings against Paladin Africa Ltd and the Government of Malawi have now settled their action on a positive and amicable basis". However, Malawian NGOs questioned the legitimacy of the settlement of the court case. NGOs coalition members unhappy with the settlement agreement indicated they will "continue with legal action to protect the Malawian people's constitutional rights, unless and until the company is willing to enter negotiations to change its proposal in a way that addresses the flaws, gaps and problems in the project that pose serious public health and environmental risks".

www.uranium-network.org/Mali%20Konferenz/start_htm_files/start_htm_files...

3 July 2007: Civil society groups in Malawi ‒ Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Citizen for Justice, Foundation for Community Services, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, and the Livingstonia Synod Uraha Foundation ‒ issued a statement regarding Paladin's Kayelekera mine. It states in part: "In this regard we note that the issues covered by the Developmental Plan (Agreement) and the agreements on Fiscal are secret and have not been disclosed by the signatories to Malawians. This is totally incompatible with the transparency and accountability which should prevail in the democratic era when the government in office proclaims its commitment to zero tolerance on corruption and causes one to see shadows of corruption in the handing of the secret agreements and the activities of Paladin. We therefore wish to state and for Paladin to know quite categorically that in addition to pursuing the matter in Court, the Civic Society Organisations now intend to address our concerns to the financial institutions who are funding Paladin's project at Kayelekera and also to the institutional shareholders holding equity in Paladin Resources Australia."

Joint Press Statement, 3 July 2007, 'Civil Society Organisations Concerns on the Statement by Mr. John Borshoff', www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=1429

July 2007: The claim by Paladin and the government of Malawi that the IAEA had approved the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Kayelekera mine "was a fallacy and misleading" according to a media statement issued by a group of NGOs.
www.uranium-network.org/Mali%20Konferenz/start_htm_files/start_htm_files...

Nyasa Times, 25 July 2007.

27 March 2008: The open pit at Paladin's Langer Heinrich mine was flooded with run-off water from a rainstorm and was out of use for about one month.

Allgemeine Zeitung, 31 March 2008; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#LANGERH

April 2008: A spill of a large quantity of sulphuric acid at the Langer Heinrich mine raised questions about safety procedures at the mine. The Namibian newspaper was informed that a mine employee lost grip on the hose transferring the acid from a truck to a storage facility. The employee apparently fled to call for help, after which a forklift dumped a large quantity of caustic soda on the spill to neutralise the acid. The result was explosive ‒ a series of loud bangs could be heard from a distance, but nobody was injured.

Namibian, 25 April 2008; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#LANGERH

16 March 2009: A fire / explosion killed two workers and badly injured another at the Kayelekera mine. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) reported: "In 2009, Caldwell Sichinga, then in his early thirties, was cleaning the bottom of a seven-meter steel tank at Kayelekera, a remote open-pit uranium mine in Northern Malawi. It had rained during the night and Sichinga was reapplying a coat of MEK, a combustible chemical that smells slightly of mint. Sichinga was with two colleagues inside when the tank suddenly blew. In order to ignite, an expert told ICIJ, the concentration of MEK must have been at least 70 times the level considered safe within the U.S. "It was like a bomb," remembers Sichinga. Through the fireball, Sichinga climbed his way up the rungs inside the tank, searing the soles of his feet with every step, before falling to the ground outside. The explosion fused the fingers of Sichinga's right hand into one immobile mitt and appears to have melted the pattern of his socks into his ankle. Four meters from the tank, others had been "busy grinding and welding," according to the preliminary incident report issued by the principal contractors and obtained by ICIJ. As the MEK evaporated, its heavy fumes coursed through the tank's drainpipe to the welding outside. The fumes ignited when they reached the heat source, according to the report, sending flames back through the drainpipe towards the three contractors. ... Over the next two days, the "fire accident" prompted 200 contract workers to strike over pay and working conditions, reported the same official in another document seen by ICIJ."

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists noted in its 2015 report that three more workers, including a contractor, died in other incidents at Kayelekera in the years after the fireball.

Will Fitzgibbon, Martha M. Hamilton and Cécile Schilis-Gallego / International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, 10 July 2015, 'Australian Mining Companies Digging A Deadly Footprint in Africa', www.icij.org/project/fatal-extraction/australian-mining-companies-diggin...

18 March 2009: Malawian police fired tear-gas at workers at the Kayelekera mine construction site. The workers, mostly casual laborers, were on a sit-in since the previous day to pressure management for better working conditions. The strike forced Paladin management to temporarily shut down the mine and evacuate its senior managers to Lilongwe.

Nyasa Times, 18 March 2009; The Nation, 19 March 2009.

April 2009. Malawi's Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace accused Paladin of back-tracking on pledges to the people of the Karonga region where it operates the Kayelekera mine. The commission, a human rights arm of the Catholic Church, called for a meeting with the miners and traditional chiefs after accusing the energy company of not doing enough to protect water sources from uranium deposits. The group fears the deposits could pollute Lake Malawi, one of Africa's fresh water areas and the third largest lake on the continent. The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation called for a review of all mining agreements including the tax arrangements.

Nyasa Times, 22 April 2009.

http://www.uranium-network.org/Mali%20Konferenz/start_htm_files/start_ht...

August 2009: Neville Huxham from Paladin Energy Africa said: "We're taking the uranium out of the ground, we're exporting it to be used for productive purposes, so we should be getting a medal for cleaning up the environment."

IPS, 24 August 2009.

September 2009: Australia's Fairfax press reported on the Kayelekera mine: "The company's approach has caused friction with local non-government groups, which took legal action to impose tougher controls on the project in 2007. The case was settled out of court. Since then it has been accused of lax safety standards (three workers have died in accidents this year) and failing to bring promised benefits to local communities ..." Australian-based scientific consultant Howard Smith said regulations were ''essentially a self-regulation system, which will ultimately result in releases [of contaminated water] that are under-reported, uncontrolled and hidden from the affected public.''

Tom Hyland, 20 Sept 2009, 'Miner accused on slack safety', www.smh.com.au/world/miner-accused-on-slack-safety-20090919-fw3q.html

October 2009: Fourth death in 2009 at Kayelekera: The company said that an employee had died at the mine as a result of a mini-bus rollover on October 7. Paladin said 19 people including the driver were injured, with 15 admitted to hospital. Paladin advised on August 25 that a construction contractor had died at the mine, also as a result of a motor vehicle incident. The company reported on April 5 that two sub-contractors had died in a flash fire at the mine construction site on March 16.

Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Oct 2009; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#MW; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#KAYELEKERA

September 2010: Paladin orders miners to work at Kayelekera in spite of a shortage of dust masks. A Nyasa Times undercover journalist who visited the mine on 23 September 2010 found that most miners did not wear masks, and their hands and face were caked with uranium ore. The workers protested to management about the development. The geology superintendent of the mine, Johan De Bruin, confirmed the lack of dust masks. In a September 23 email sent to mine workers, he ordered staff to continue working despite the shortage of dust masks. "Mining is a 24 hour operation and cannot be stopped as a result of a shortage of available dust masks," said De Bruin in his September 23 email.

Nyasa Times, 25 Sep 2010; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#MW

November 2010: Paladin Energy refuses disclosure of carbon footprint. Paladin rejected listing the Climate Advocacy Fund's proposed resolution that the miner disclose its carbon footprint at its AGM. The fund owns a small stake in Paladin and had the support of the required 100 shareholders under the Corporations Act to put forward a resolution. "We say Paladin has acted against the provisions of the Act and we could take legal action over it," fund executive director James Their said. Thier said carbon footprint database Trucost estimated Paladin was the third-most carbon intensive ASX 200 company, with emissions estimated at more than 2,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide per A$1 million of revenue.

Herald Sun, 3 Nov 2010; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#LANGERH

June 2011: Dedza North West MP Alekeni Menyani advised the Malawi Government to find an alternative source of energy for the Kayelekera mine. The MP said the use of diesel fuel to power the mine site was exerting pressure on the country's already low supplies of fuel. Menyani said the government should seriously consider building a dedicated coal-fired plant to power the mine.

In February 2011, production at Kayelekera was suspended for one week due to a diesel fuel shortage which Paladin attributed to "foreign exchange constraints".

The Nation, 22 June 2011

www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#MW

June 2011: A truck driver died in an accident at the Kayelekera mine ‒ the Tanzanian national died after the truck he was driving struck a water tank.

Nyasa Times, 19 June 2011; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#MW

15 August 2011: Progress on Expansion Phase Three of the Langer Heinrich mine came to a standstill after employees of the main contractor, Grinaker LTA, downed tools due to grievances related to impending layoffs. According to a workers committee representative, more than 600 employees stopped work at noon on August 15 and continued to strike the following day.

The Namibian, 17 Aug 2011; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#LANGERH

2012: CRIIRAD, a French NGO specialising in independent radiation monitoring, conducted radiation monitoring activities around the Kayelekera mine. Its report stated: "CRIIRAD discovered hot spots in the environment of the mine and a high uranium concentration in the water flowing from a stream located below the open pit and entering the Sere river. Results that relate to the radiological monitoring of the environment performed by the company are kept secret. The company should publish on its web site all environmental reports. No property right can be invoked to prevent public access to Paladin environmental reports (especially as Malawi State holds 15 % of the shares of the uranium mine). It is shocking to discover that million tonnes of radioactive and chemically polluting wastes (especially tailings) are disposed of on a plateau with very negative geological and hydrogeological characteristics."

Bruno Chareyron, 2015, 'Impact of the Kayelekera uranium mine, Malawi'. EJOLT Report No. 21, www.ejolt.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/150222_Report-21.pdf

11 May 2012: Workers at Kayelekera went on strike over labor conditions: The local workers told Nyasa Times that they were demanding a pay increase from Paladin. Workers downed tools on May 11, halting production at the site. On May 16, Paladin announced than an agreement in principle was achieved for a return to work by the striking employees.

Nyasa Times, 11 May 2012; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#MW; www.miningweekly.com/article/kayelekera-production-back-on-track-2012-05-16

December 2012: Paladin threatened 75-year old Australian pensioner Noel Wauchope with legal action for posting on her antinuclear.net website an article critical about Paladin's operations in Malawi. The threat backfired when it was publicised in the widely-read Fairfax press in Australia. Fairfax business columnist Michael West wrote: "The price of Noel Wauchope's concern for the people Karonga was a long and intimidating letter of demand from Ashurst on behalf of the uranium company Paladin ... "

http://antinuclear.net/2013/09/02/ashurst-paladin-attack-this-website-wi...

2013: A detailed report by the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development states:

"Consistent with what many analysts and commentators have said, this research study unequivocally established that the benefits that Malawi, as a country, is gaining from the deal made with Kayelekera are tangential and dismal. Among the reasons why benefits are skewed more favourably towards the mining company are that the negotiations were done hastily under an atmosphere that was not transparent. Furthermore, the government officials involved were not experienced and were no match for the skilled negotiators for Paladin.

"Above and beyond this, the major problem that contributed to the disproportionate sharing of benefits are the country's archaic laws that fail to hold the Multinational Corporation (MNCs) more accountable to pay taxes and remit profits to Malawi. The laws that govern FDI in the extractive industry are weak and in disharmony. Taxation laws fail to adequately address issues of capital flight, tax avoidance or evasion, which the study findings have revealed are being perpetrated by MNCs. To this extent the MNCs in the extractive industry have evolved to use more rigorous and complicated accounting systems that evade the detection radar of the local tax and revenue authorities.

"The investment incentives offered to Paladin have revenue implications to the Malawi government. These include; (1) 15% carried equity in project company to be transferred to the Republic of Malawi, (2) Corporate tax rate reduced from 30% to an effective 27.5%, (3) 10% resource rent reduced to zero, (4) Reduced Royalty rate from 5% to 1.5% (years 1 to 3) and 3% (thereafter), (5) removal of 17 % import VAT or import duty during the stability period, (6) immediate 100% capital write off for tax purposes, The capitalisation (debt: equity) ratio of 4:1 for the project, and (7) stability period of 10 years where there will be no increase to tax and royalty regime and commitment to provide the benefit of any tax and royalty decrease during the period. This clause in the agreement statement implies amortization of profits. This means that there shall be a reduction or cancellation of taxes to be paid during future years of subsequent profits as a means to compensate the debt accrued by the company during years of registering losses.

"As a result of this concessionary agreement, the government of Malawi lost billions of Malawi Kwacha from royalties, resource rent and value added tax against a meager MK5.35 billion which it has received in taxes and royalties within the three years that Kayelekera has been operating commercially."

African Forum and Network on Debt and Development, 2013, 'The Revenue Costs and Benefits of Foreign Direct Investment in the Extractive Industry in Malawi: The Case of Kayelekera Uranium Mine', www.afrodad.org/index.php/en/resource-centre/publications/category/22-ec...

27 June 2013: About 300 workers, including mine staff and contractor employees, picketed at the Langer Heinrich mine, protesting the way they were being treated and paid. The protesting workers and media were barred from the mine site where the demonstration was supposed to take place.

The Namibian, 2 July 2013; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#LANGERH

July 2013: UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, rubbished the Kayelekera uranium mine deal between Malawi and Paladin, saying Malawi had a raw deal that is robbing the poor. He said that over the lifespan of the mine, Malawi is expected to lose almost US$281 million. "Mining companies are exempt from customs duty, excise duty, value added taxes on mining machinery, plant and equipment. They can also sign special deals on the rate of royalty owed to the government," he said.

22 July 2013, 'End of mission statement by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food', www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13567&LangID=E

30 July 2013: An employee died in an accident in the Kayelekera mine's engineering workshop, after being struck in the chest by a light vehicle wheel he was inflating.

Paladin Energy Ltd July 31, 2013; Esmarie Swanepoel, 31 July 2013, 'Fatality at Paladin mine', www.miningweekly.com/article/fatality-at-paladin-mine-2013-07-31

September 2013: Colin Arthur, a Geology Superintendent at the Kayelekera mine, gives a detailed 'Geological Summary' of the high wall pit failure, identified on 21 September 2013.

September 2013: Malawi government unable to verify allegations of radiation-induced diseases among Kayelekera uranium mine workers. Members of Malawi's Parliamentary Committee on Health on September 24 took senior government officials to task over reports of radiation-related health concerns at Kayelekera. The committee summoned officials from the Ministry of Mining and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Management for an explanation on the reports. The officials insisted that there has been no proof of the claims, that the government does not have equipment or the experts to investigate the kind of allegations reported in the local media, and that they are relying on the assessments of Paladin. "Due to uncertainties on radiation exposure and time of exposure was absorbed and the background of the persons' medical records, it is hard to establish whether the man for example who lost sight, did so due to radiation. We don't have the specialized equipment," said an official.

BNL Times Sep. 26, 2013; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#MW

October 2013: The Opposition People's Transformation Party (PETRA) appealed to government authorities to renegotiate what it called the "stinking development agreement" between Malawi and Paladin regarding the Kayelekera mine.

Nyasa Times, 5 March 2013.

3 October 2013: Three miners were injured at Langer Heinrich following a "serious electrical incident". Paladin said two of the workers received significant burns while a third worker suffered smoke inhalation. One of the workers was flown to South Africa for treatment. On October 30, Paladin announced that the injured worker flown to South Africa had died in hospital.

Esmarie Swanepoel, 3 Oct 2013, 'Electrical accident injures three at Langer Heinrich', www.miningweekly.com/article/accident-injures-3-at-langer-heinrich-2013-...

www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#LANGERH

February 2014: Paladin reported that a truck carrying a container of uranium from Kayelekera overturned. The container fell loose and was punctured by a tree stump, and a "small quantity" of uranium oxide concentrate spilled out. Paladin said the uranium and the soil it came in touch with were removed and taken back to the tailings dam at the mine.

17 Feb 2014, 'Product Shipment Incident near Kayelekera Mine, Malawi', https://finance.yahoo.com/news/paladin-energy-ltd-product-shipment-12000...

2 October 2014: About 50 employees staged a protest at Langer Heinrich Uranium (LHU) mine's head office in Swakopmund before handing over a petition listing their complaints. Workers employed by companies sub-contracted to LHU claim they had been mistreated at work. The workers from Sure Cast, Gecko Drilling, LBS, Quick Investment, RVH and NEC Stahl claimed they were made to work without benefits, such as medical aid, transport allowances and pension.

Namib Times, 7 Oct 2014; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#LANGERH

November 2014: Paladin came under fire from a coalition of 33 Malawian civil society groups and chiefs over its proposal to discharge mining sludge into the Sere and North Rukuru rivers. The toxic substances that would flow from the tailings pond at the Kayelekera mine into Lake Malawi 50 kms downstream include waste uranium rock, acids, arsenic and other chemicals used in processing the uranium ore, the coalition said. The lake provides water for drinking and domestic use to millions of Malawians. Part of the lake is protected as a national park.

Environmental News Service, 25 Nov 2014, 'Uranium Mine Sludge Discharge Permit Threatens Lake Malawi', http://ens-newswire.com/2014/11/25/uranium-mine-sludge-discharge-permit-...

29 November 2014: Paramount Chief Kyungu in Malawi's northern district of Karonga vowed to lead the people in lobbying for developmental projects from mining investors, claiming that since the coming of the mining companies in the district people had not benefited. Kyungu said mining investors in Malawi steal the country's natural resources as well as spoiling the environment yet they leave the people poor.

Nyasa Times, 1 Dec 2014; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#MW

2015: A report by the office of Namibia's Prime Minister said there is a lack of safety at the Langer Heinrich mine and that workers are not aware of policies, rules and procedures as outlined in the radiation management plan.

The Namibian, 10 July 2015; www.opm.gov.na; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#LANGERH

January 2015: At the Kayelekera mine, heavy rain caused a liner in the plant run-off tank to rupture, releasing some 500 cubic metres (500,000 litres) of material to the bunded areas of the site. Up to 50 litres may have overtopped one of the containment bunds.

Esmarie Swanepoel, 10 Feb 2015, 'Kayelekera no threat to environment – Paladin', www.miningweekly.com/article/kayelekera-no-threat-to-environment---palad...

Esmarie Swanepoel, 7 Jan 2015, 'Paladin reports spill at Malawi mine after minor storm', www.miningweekly.com/article/paladin-reports-spill-at-malawi-mine-after-...

Sarah-Jane Tasker, 8 Jan 2015, 'Paladin Energy alerts ASX to spill at Malawi uranium mine', www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/paladin-energy-alerts-as...

February 2015: About 60 permanent employees of the Langer Heinrich mine participated in a demonstration to hand over a petition to mine management. Employees sought the removal of the manager for human resources on allegations of victimising employees as well as disregarding employees' safety. They also accused him of implementing a new salary structure without union agreement. The workers, through the Mineworkers' Union of Namibia (MUN), also demanded the removal of the mine's managing director, saying he had total disregard for the union. Workers also said the mine never implemented recommendations made after a 2013 accident that claimed the life of a miner. The workers' petition said: "Our members are exposed to safety hazards. The company does not properly investigate incidents at the mine." The workers also alleged that the removal of contract workers from the mine resulted in a lack of rest and increase in fatigue.

New Era, 20 Feb 2015; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#LANGERH

April 2015: Despite opposition from a group of 33 civil society organizations, Paladin began discharging treated waste water from the Kayelekera mine into the Sere River. The discharge of contaminated water was expected to take place for three months. Paladin decided to discharge the waste because the dam at the Kayelekera mine was full, raising the possibility of unplanned and uncontrolled discharges after heavy rains.

www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#MW

Sarah-Jane Tasker, 8 Jan 2015, 'Paladin Energy alerts ASX to spill at Malawi uranium mine', www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/paladin-energy-alerts-as...

June 2015: A report by ActionAid stated that Malawi ‒ the world's poorest country ‒ lost out on US$43 million revenue from the Kayelekera mine over the previous six years due to "harmful exemptions from royalty payments from the Malawi government, and tax planning using treaty shopping by Paladin."

ActionAid, 17 June 2015, 'An Extractive Affair: How one Australian mining company's tax dealings are costing the world's poorest country millions', www.actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/malawi_tax_report_updated_table_...

Australia's Fairfax press reported: "Between 2009 and 2014, Paladin Energy moved $US183 million out of Malawi to a holding company in the Netherlands and then on to Australia. A 15-page report by London-based ActionAid has found the Dutch transfers and a special royalties deal – in which Malawi's mining minister agreed to drop the initial tax rate applied to the uranium mine from 5 per cent to 1.5 per cent – have cost the Malawi public $US43 million. In Africa's poorest nation, where per capita GDP is just $US226 a year and life expectancy 55, that money could provide the equivalent of 39,000 new teachers or 17,000 nurses, according to the aid group."

Heath Aston, 11 July 2015, 'Australian miner accused of dodging tax in world's poorest country', www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australian-miner-accus...

December 2015: Matildah Mkandawire from Citizens for Justice wrote: "In August this year, Citizens for Justice and Action Aid Malawi, with support from the Tilitonse Fund, organized an interface meeting with the local communities, government representatives at district level and Paladin representatives. The aim of this meeting was to discuss the concerns of the community regarding the failure of Paladin to stick to the agreements in the MOU. Paladin cancelled with us at the 11th hour claiming they needed a formal letter of invitation and not the one they got from the community. The meeting had to go ahead without them although this left the community furious as the issues they wanted to raise were key to their health and sanitation, environmental health and social well-being. The lack of clean water, and the delay in providing educational and health facilities as agreed, spoke volumes of the company's lack of responsibility for the community it operates in."

Matildah M. Mkandawire, 17 Dec 2015, 'Uranium mining in Malawi: the case of Kayelekera', Nuclear Monitor #816, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/816/uranium-mining-malawi-case...

2016: A human rights body in Malawi sued Paladin Africa Ltd for alleged damage the Kayelekera mine has caused to some miners and the surrounding communities in Karonga district. The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation accused Paladin of not prioritising the welfare of its employees and the community.

Norbert Mzembe, 22 June 2016, 'Malawi: Paladin Africa Sued for 'Gross Damage'', www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=13429

Capital Radio Malawi, 22 June 2016, www.capitalradiomalawi.com/news/item/6349-paladin-africa-sued-for-gross-...
www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#MW

16 June 2016: Security guards at the mothballed Kayelekera mine downed tools over poor working conditions.

Nyasa Times, 17 June 2016; www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#MW

September 2016: Human Rights Watch released a detailed report on mines in the Karonga region of Malawi, including the Kayelekera uranium mine: "Using Karonga district in northern Malawi as a case study, the report documents how Malawi currently lacks adequate legal standards and safeguards to ensure the necessary balance between developing the mining industry and protecting the rights of local communities. It examines how weak government oversight and lack of information leave local communities unprotected and uninformed about the risks and opportunities associated with mining."

Human Rights Watch, 27 Sept 2016, '"They Destroyed Everything": Mining and Human Rights in Malawi', www.hrw.org/report/2016/09/27/they-destroyed-everything/mining-and-human... or www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/accessible_document/malawi0916_etr_web_1...

October 2016: The Malawi Immigration department at Songwe border in Karonga barred 26 Tanzanian students of Moravian University of Theology based in Tukuyu from visiting the Kayelekera mine. The students' planned to investigate the social and economic impacts of the mine. Secretary General of the Moravian Church, Rev Leman Jere, who led the group, said: "We already agreed with the Kayelekera officials before the day but we were flabbergasted to see that the Malawi Immigration department blocked the students saying it was because of security issues."

Maravi Post, 12 Oct 2016.

20 December 2016: Eight Tanzanians were arrested while travelling to participate in a fact-finding mission of the Kayelekera mine. They are from the area where the Mkuju River uranium mine is planned in Tanzania. They were accused of trespassing, spying and working as foreign agents. They were denied bail and held in sub-standard conditions; their legal access was impeded and their legal team harassed with death threats and the mysterious disappearance of their laptops; their legal defence team was prevented from fully cross-questioning witnesses; and the trial was postponed on six occasions, each time disrupting the defence team that travelled from Lilongwe and Dar-es-Salaam. In April 2017, after almost five months in detention, the eight people were convicted of Criminal Trespassing and carrying out a reconnaissance operation without a permit, and given suspended four-month sentences.

David Fig, 2 April 2017, 'Why Malawi's case against the Tanzanian eight is a travesty of justice', https://theconversation.com/why-malawis-case-against-the-tanzanian-eight...

Menschenrechte 3000 e.V., 28 Feb 2017, 'Report on 8 Tanzanian Environmental and Human Rights Defenders arbitrarily detained in Malawi since 22. Dec. 2017', www.uranium-network.org/images/pics/REPORT-MR3000-TUAM-update-1.pdf

Front Line Defenders, www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/8-tanzanian-environmental-defenders-c...

www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#KAYELEKERAVT

Malawi Times, 12 April 2017.

Bright Phiri & Nicely Msowoya, 'REPORT on the continuation of court case against 8 Tanzanians detained in Malawi, on 13. and 14. February 2017', www.wise-uranium.org/pdf/PhiriMsowoya17214.pdf

January 2017: Paladin and the Malawi government rejected requests to disclose the results of water monitoring performed in the surroundings of the Kayelekera mine.

BBC, 25 Jan 2017, 'Fears of river poisoning in Malawi', www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38751257

www.wise-uranium.org/umopafr.html#MW

Australia's dangerous uranium deal with India

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#835
4605
06/12/2016
Dave Sweeney ‒ nuclear free campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation.
Article

Late on the last night of the last sitting of Federal Parliament for 2017, Australia's two major parties passed a new law that is civil by name, but it is desperately uncivil in nature.

The Indian Civil Nuclear Transfers Act1 exists to provide certainty to Australian uranium producers who want to sell to India. In 2015, a detailed investigation by the Federal Parliament's treaties committee found there were serious and unresolved nuclear safety, security and governance issues with the proposed sales plan.2

The treaties committee also found a high level of legal uncertainty. Australian National University professor of international law, Don Rothwell, said the plan was in conflict with international treaty provisions, most notably the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty.3 Former Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office Director-General, John Carlson, said the plan was in conflict with Australian domestic safeguards legislation requiring the tracking of Australian uranium (and its by-products) overseas.

Given the severity of the inconsistencies and the significance of the issues involved, the government-controlled treaties committee took the unusual step of voting against the clear direction of the prime minister and foreign affairs minister and recommended that the Indian sales deal not be advanced unless several outstanding issues were addressed.5

This decision was welcomed by many. But not by Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop. A terse response to a measured and bipartisan report said the government was "satisfied" that steps had been taken to address each condition, and did not agree that exports to India should be deferred.6

The commercial interests of an underperforming industrial sector were given priority above parliamentary process and evidence-based, prudent public policy. But this favoritism was not enough to paper the deep cracks in this dangerous plan and now the government has rushed through the new laws to close the door on legal challenge and scrutiny.

The new law protects uranium mining companies in Australia from domestic legal action that challenges the consistency of the safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency in India and Australia's international non-proliferation obligations. It also protects any future bilateral trade in other nuclear-related material or items for civil use.

A recent truncated review of the new law said the bill "provides the certainty required to give effect to the Australia-India Agreement".7 So Australian uranium miners, who supplied the product that directly fuelled Fukushima8, are now legally covered from any challenge over a highly contested plan to sell to India.

This move highlights the extent and the risks of the Australian government's preoccupation with ending civil society access to legal recourse. Further, fast-tracking legal favors to provide certainty to the uranium industry simply highlights how profoundly uncertain this industry is. Following Fukushima, the global uranium market has crashed, as has the value of uranium stocks. Prices, profits and employment numbers have gone south. IBIS World's March 2015 market report said only 987 people are employed in Australia's uranium industry.9 Few jobs and dollars, considerable damage at home and escalating risk abroad.

The fragile economics of the uranium sector make it understandable that the industry is pushing for every potential market but fail to explain why our federal government is so intent on trying to pick winners with a sector that is clearly losing. Sadly, and unreasonably, the India uranium deal has become seen as a litmus test for bilateral relations.

Talk of a massive surge in exports is fanciful, and promoting Australian uranium as the answer to Indian energy poverty is more convenient than credible. Political proponents of the trade are driven less by substance than style ‒ the symbolism of Australia and India on the same page and open for business.

In a telling reference, a recent review of the new law highlighted the importance of the "foreign policy backdrop to Australia's nuclear trade with India".10 Sending political signals through trade is not unusual but to do so by ignoring substantive warning signals is unwise. When those warnings and that trade relate to nuclear materials, it is deeply irresponsible.

Buttressing flawed trade deals with bolt-on legislative exemptions is poor policy and practice and while all trades have trade-offs, this one risks far too much.

References:

1. www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2016B00178

2. www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Treaties/28_Octob...

3. www.mapw.org.au/files/downloads/ICAN-UraniumIndia.pdf

4. www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/abbott-government-abandoning-austr...

www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=79a1a29e-5691-4299-8923-06e633780d4...

5. www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Treaties/28_Octob...

6. www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=5a5cf342-5a1a-40f5-98bb-ce1d0d66d139

7. www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Foreign_Affairs_...

8. www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2012/09/07/3583649.htm

9. www.theaustralian.com.au/business/business-spectator/uranium-deal-with-i...

10. www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Foreign_Affairs_...

Australian nuclear waste import plan dead, revived, dead again ... hopefully.

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#834
4602
24/11/2016
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

We reported in the last issue of Nuclear Monitor that plans to use South Australia (SA) as a dumping ground for around one-third of the world's spent nuclear fuel was all but dead and buried.1 Since then, the project has been revived by the SA government then buried again (hopefully) by opposition parties.

The first indication of major opposition to the dump plan was on October 15, when 3,000 people participated in a protest at Parliament House in Adelaide, the capital of SA. Then, on November 6, two-thirds of the 350 members of a South Australian government-initiated Citizens' Jury rejected "under any circumstances" the government's plan to import 138,000 tonnes of spent fuel and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate-level nuclear waste as a money-making venture.

SA Premier Jay Weatherill previously said that he established the Citizens' Jury because he could sense that there is a "massive issue of trust in government". It was expected that when Weatherill called a press conference on November 14, he would announce that no further work would be carried out on the dump plan. But Weatherill instead announced that he wanted to hold a state-wide referendum on the issue, as well as giving affected Aboriginal communities a right of veto over nuclear developments on their land.

However, to hold a referendum enabling legislation would be required and cannot be passed without the support of political parties opposed both to a referendum and also to the nuclear waste import project. Those parties are the main opposition Liberal Party (favored to win the next state election in early 2018), the Nick Xenophon Team and the SA Greens. The conservative Liberal Party and the Nick Xenophon Team had not opposed the nuclear waste import proposal before the Citizens' Jury, and their opposition fundamentally alters the political dynamics of the debate.

Then the Labor Party government announced that it would not seek to repeal or amend the SA Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000, which imposes major constraints on the ability of the government to move forward with the nuclear waste import proposal.2 (Nor will the state government encourage the federal government to repeal laws banning nuclear power, "recognising that in the short-to-medium term, nuclear power is not a cost-effective source of low-carbon electricity for South Australia").

So we're back where we started ‒ the waste import proposal seems to be dead in the water. Nevertheless the state government and SA's Murdoch tabloid, The Advertiser, along with some other supporters are fighting a furious rear-guard battle to try to revive the corpse. They are relentlessly attacking and undermining the credibility of the Citizens' Jury. Those voices of those defending the integrity of the Jury3 ‒ or pointing to its pro-nuclear biases4 ‒ are being drowned out by the chorus of criticism in The Advertiser.

Supporters of the proposal are being extraordinarily dishonest. A public opinion poll5 commissioned by the Sunday Mail (the sister paper of The Advertiser), found that 35% of South Australians support the waste import proposal. Instead of reporting that result honestly ‒ by noting that non-supporters outnumber supporters by almost two to one ‒ the Sunday Mail conflated responses to two different questions and claimed: "Majority support for creating a nuclear industry in South Australia is revealed in an extensive Sunday Mail survey of public opinion, in a rebuff to moves to shut down further study of a high-level waste dump."6

Another example of blatant dishonesty concerned a Community Views Report reflecting a state-wide consultation process.7 The Premier cherry-picked and misrepresented that report, claiming that it found a 43:37 margin in favor of further consideration of the waste import proposal. In fact, the consultation process found that 4365 people were opposed to further consideration of the proposal while only 3032 supported further consideration.8

The Premier completely ignored the other findings of the Community Views Report:

  • 53% of respondents opposed the plan to import high-level nuclear waste while just 31% supported the plan;
  • over three-quarters of Aboriginal respondents opposed the plan;
  • only 20% of respondents were confident that nuclear waste could be transported and stored safely, while 70% were not confident;
  • the number of people confident in the government's ability to regulate any new nuclear industry activities in SA (2125 people) was barely half the number who were not confident (4190 people);
  • only 20% of respondents were confident that the government would consider community views while 70% were not confident; and
  • 66% per cent of respondents were not confident that a nuclear waste import project would bring significant economic benefits to SA.

The state government and the Murdoch press have also been lying about an economic report9 commissioned by a Parliamentary committee. The report, written by Nuclear Economics Consulting Group (NECG), was asked to evaluate an earlier study commissioned by a state government-initiated Royal Commission. According to the Sunday Mail, the NECG report "backed Royal Commission findings that a nuclear dump could create A$257 billion [US$190 bn; €180 bn] in revenue for South Australia."10

But the kindest thing the NECG report had to say was that the waste import project could be profitable under certain assumptions, and the NECG report then raises serious questions about most of those assumptions. The NECG report notes that the Royal Commission's economic analysis didn't even consider some important issues which "have significant serious potential to adversely impact the project and its commercial outcomes"; that assumptions about price are "overly optimistic" and if that is the case "project profitability is seriously at risk"; that the 25% cost contingency for delays and blowouts is likely to be a significant underestimate; and that the assumption the project would capture 50% of the available market had "little support or justification".

SA Liberal Party economic spokesperson Rob Lucas said: "This [NECG] report is a severe embarrassment for Mr Weatherill as it makes it clear the Weatherill Government leaks to the media on the weekend were selective, deceptive and an attempt to grossly mislead the public."11

How will this debate unfold? In all probability, nuclear waste proponents will, sooner or later, tire of banging their heads against a brick wall ‒ particularly if, as expected, the Liberal Party wins the state election in early 2018. It seems that there is little or no internal dissent to the Liberal Party's opposition to the dump ‒ most or all Liberal parliamentarians think the project is too much of an economic gamble and/or they see the political advantage in taking a no-dump position to the next state election. That said, the Liberal Party is pro-nuclear and it cannot be assumed that the party will retain its current no-dump policy.

Unnamed 'sources' told the Murdoch press that they plan to approach potential customer countries in an attempt to shore up the economic case (some reports suggest interest from Taiwan).10 The state government cannot engage in negotiations with potential customers because of the constraints imposed by the SA Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000, but private parties can do as they please.

However, potential customer countries will be reluctant to engage in serious discussions given that there is strong public and political opposition in South Australia. As an Advertiser journalist noted in May 2016: "The business model only works if there is long-term stability for countries like Japan and Korea, who would become likely sellers. The chance of political upheaval or legal changes in SA over a dump would spook any responsible country, and lead them to make other arrangements."12

In the event that the Liberal Party backflips on its current no-dump policy, the SA Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000 is amended or repealed, and a credible business case is developed including agreements with potential customer countries, then there is still the issue of the promised right of veto for affected Aboriginal Traditional Owners. Yet the Premier has acknowledged the "overwhelming opposition of Aboriginal people" and he should therefore abandon any further attempts to pressure Aboriginal people into accepting a high-level nuclear waste dump.

Aboriginal people in South Australia are seeking international organizational endorsements for their statement of opposition: www.anfa.org.au/sign-the-declaration/

References:

1. 8 Nov 2016, 'South Australian Citizens' Jury rejects nuclear waste dump plan', Nuclear Monitor #833, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor

2. 15 Nov 2016, 'Government delivers response to Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Report', http://nuclear.yoursay.sa.gov.au/news/get-to-know-nuclear-discover-discu...

3. Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, 18 Nov 2016, 'The greatest underused asset in politics is people; ignore them at your peril', www.smh.com.au/comment/the-greatest-underused-asset-in-politics-is-peopl...

4. Tony Webb, 18 Nov 2016, 'One small voice from inside the recent SA Nuclear Citizen's Jury', http://onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18669&page=0

5. www.surveymonkey.net/results/SM-FV2558KN/

6. Paul Starick, 19 Nov 2016, 'Exclusive Sunday Mail Your Say, SA survey reveals majority support for a nuclear industry', www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/exclusive-sunday-mail-your-s...

7. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Consultation and Response Agency, November 2016, 'Community Views Report', http://assets.yoursay.sa.gov.au/production/2016/11/11/09/37/34/0c1d5954-...

8. Jim Green, 15 Nov 2016, 'Jay Weatherill willing to commit political suicide with push to turn South Australia into world's nuclear waste dump', www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/jim-green-jay-weatherill-willing-to-...

9. Nuclear Economics Consulting Group, 11 Nov 2016, 'Review of Jacobs MCM Report Commercial Model', www.parliament.sa.gov.au/Committees/Pages/Committees.aspx?CTId=2&CId=333

10. Miles Kemp, 13 Nov 2016, 'Study firms up $257bn nuclear dump findings', Sunday Mail, http://enews.smedia.com.au/theadvertiser/shared/ShowArticle.aspx?doc=NCA...

11. Rob Lucas, 16 Nov 2016, 'New expert report on dump causes major problems for Weatherill', www.roblucas.com.au/Media-Releases/ID/933/New-expert-report-on-dump-caus...

12. Daniel Wills, 13 May 2016, 'Voters' nuclear reaction can avoid meltdowns in future', www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/daniel-wills-voters-nuclear-reaction...

13. Jay Weatherill, ABC SA 891 Radio, 15 November 2016.

South Australian Citizens' Jury rejects nuclear waste dump plan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#833
4596
08/11/2016
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

On November 6, two-thirds of the 350 members of a South Australian government-initiated Citizens' Jury rejected "under any circumstances" the government's plan to import 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate-level nuclear waste as a money-making venture.1

The Jury was a key plank of the government's attempt to manufacture support for the dump plan, and followed the SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission which released its final report in May 2016.2

The Royal Commission had a strong pro-nuclear bias3 in its composition but still rejected ‒ on economic grounds ‒ almost all of the proposals it considered: uranium conversion and enrichment, nuclear fuel fabrication, conventional and 'Generation IV' nuclear power reactors, and spent fuel reprocessing.

Australia's handful of self-styled 'ecomodernists' or 'pro-nuclear environmentalists' united behind a push to import spent fuel and to use some of it to fuel 'integral fast reactors'. They would have expected to persuade the stridently pro-nuclear Royal Commission to endorse their ideas. But the Royal Commission completely rejected the proposal, noting in its report that advanced fast reactors are unlikely to be feasible or viable in the foreseeable future; that the development of such a first-of-a-kind project would have high commercial and technical risk; that there is no licensed, commercially proven design and development to that point would require substantial capital investment; and that electricity generated from such reactors has not been demonstrated to be cost competitive with current light water reactor designs.2

The ecomodernists weren't deterred. They hoped that the nuclear waste import plan would proceed and that it would lay the foundations for the later development of fast reactors in South Australia (SA). Now it seems that the waste import plan will be abandoned and the ecomodernists are inconsolable.

The SA government will come under strong pressure to abandon the waste import plan in the wake of the Citizens' Jury's vote. Roman Orszanski, climate and energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth Adelaide, said: "Three thousand people protested against the proposed nuclear waste dump outside Parliament House on October 15 and there will be more protests and bigger protests if the SA government attempts to push ahead."

SA Unions secretary Joe Szakacs said Premier Jay Weatherill must now "stand up for SA, and not be hoodwinked into becoming the fall-guy for the multinational nuclear industry. Everyday South Australians have concluded that the argument in favour of storing the world's nuclear waste is flawed, and a bad deal for our state. The magnitude of opposition from the jury shows just how politically damaging this could be for the Premier. People know a dud deal when then see it, and that's exactly what this is."4

Premier Weatherill said: "There's no doubt that there's a massive issue of trust in government, I could sense that, that's why we started the whole citizen's jury process because there is no way forward unless we overcome those issues."4 The "massive issue of trust in government" will of course become all the more massive if Weatherill rejects the clear verdict of the Citizens' Jury.

Friends of the Earth Australia said: "Despite the pro-nuclear bias of the Royal Commission and SA government's so-called consultation process5, the Citizens' Jury has had the good sense to send a clear 'no' message to Jay Weatherill. South Australians do not want the state turned into the world's nuclear waste dump. The Premier has repeatedly said that he will respect the Jury's decision and now he must rule out any further work on his ill-considered nuclear frolic. More than $10 million has already been wasted promoting the dump plan and any further expenditure of taxpayers' money should be ruled out."

South Australia's only mass circulation newspaper, The Advertiser, a Murdoch tabloid, has been heavily promoting the nuclear dump plan but there was no attempt to spin the Citizens' Jury's rejection of the plan. Advertiser journalist Daniel Wills wrote:6

"This "bold" idea looks to have just gone up in a giant mushroom cloud. When Premier Jay Weatherill formed the citizens' jury to review the findings of a Royal Commission that recommended that SA set up a lucrative nuclear storage industry, he professed confidence that a well-informed cross-section of the state would make a wise judgment.

"Late Sunday, it handed down a stunning and overwhelming rejection of the proposal. Brutally, jurors cited a lack of trust even in what they had been asked to do and their concerns that consent was being manufactured. Others skewered the Government's basic competency to get things done, doubting that it could pursue the industry safely and deliver the dump on-budget.

"It seems almost impossible now to see a way through for those in Cabinet and the broader Labor Party who have quietly crossed their fingers and backed the idea of taking the world's nuclear waste.

"With the party planning a special convention which must endorse changes to policy so the industry can be more deeply considered, internal critics now have an extremely potent weapon.

"Those outside the state party ‒ including the SA Liberals, independent Senator Nick Xenophon and even senior federal Labor figures — now have clear public permission to start peeling away.

"Perhaps worse than that, if Mr Weatherill now elects to continue down the nuclear path, it would be by actively ignoring the public will uncovered by a process he personally put in place to test."

Aboriginal Traditional Owners

Friends of the Earth Australia said: "The Premier said he will respect the views of Aboriginal Traditional Owners and it is clear that an overwhelming majority of Traditional Owners are opposed to the high-level nuclear waste dump plan.7 The Citizens' Jury should be congratulated for showing respect to Traditional Owners and the Premier must now do the same by abandoning the plan."

"Jay's jury has said no", said Tauto Sansbury, chairperson of the Aboriginal Congress of South Australia. "The Premier should now listen to the people and respect this clear decision."8

Karina Lester, chairperson of Yankunytjatjara Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, said: "This is a strong decision from randomly selected and very diverse group of South Australians who have had the benefit of studying the Royal Commission Report and hearing information from experts in various aspects of the proposal. It was positive to hear the jurors acknowledging the need for Traditional Owner's voices to be heard. I thank the clear majority of Jurors for this decision."8

The Citizens' Jury report said:1

"There is a lack of Aboriginal consent. We believe that the government should accept that the Elders have said NO and stop ignoring their opinions. The Aboriginal people of South Australia (and Australia) continue to be neglected and ignored by all levels of government instead of respected and treated as equals."

"The South Australian Government has a legacy of:
a. consulting indigenous people in flawed processes that does not allow Aboriginal people to exercise free, informed, and meaningful consent.
b. not receiving free, informed and meaningful consent from indigenous people in the past in all matters, including nuclear.
c. engaging in practices that lead to the disruption of trust in indigenous people; for example, Maralinga.
d. engaging in practices that disrupt indigenous people's connection to country, for example the stolen generation and construction of sites like Olympic Dam. A nuclear waste facility is inherently an imposition on connection to country.

"The consultation process that indigenous people have been involved with has been
problematic. The consultation process has not been transparent, culturally inappropriate, held in inappropriate places with poor access, encountered language and literacy barriers, internet barriers, was directed by non-indigenous people, and did not recognise past wrongs and emotions.

"Many Aboriginal communities have made it clear they strongly oppose the issue and it is morally wrong to ignore their wishes. ... Jay Weatherill said that without the consent of traditional owners of the land "it wouldn't happen". It is unethical to backtrack on this statement without losing authenticity in the engagement process."

Bias exposed

The Citizens' Jury produced a raft of evidence to justify its distrust of government. The government's handling of the current nuclear waste debate is a case in point. The SA government repeatedly said it wanted a balanced, mature debate on the issue. But the government chose a nuclear advocate to head the Royal Commission, and the Royal Commissioner stacked his Expert Advisory Committee with three nuclear advocates and just one critic.

The Royal Commission relied on just one economic report, written by Jacobs MCM, a consultancy with deep links to the nuclear industry. The lead authors of the report were Charles McCombie and Neil Chapman from ARIUS, the Association for Regional and International Underground Storage.

ARIUS is a lobby group promoting nuclear waste dumps (which it calls "multinational facilities") and nuclear power. As the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) noted, ARIUS's motto is: "The world needs nuclear power ‒ nuclear power needs multinational facilities".9

ARIUS is the successor to the infamous Pangea Resources, an international consortium that secretly developed plans to build an international high-level nuclear waste dump in Australia.10 Pangea's existence wasn't known until a corporate video was leaked to Friends of the Earth in 1998.11 Pangea set up an office in Australia but gave up in 2002 ‒ A$600 million poorer ‒ in the face of overwhelming public and political opposition.

Charles McCombie, co-author of the Jacobs MCM report, was heavily involved in Pangea Resources. Likewise, former Pangea chief Jim Voss is heavily involved in the current push for SA to accept foreign nuclear waste, as an 'Honorary Reader' at UCL Australia and a member of UCL Australia's Nuclear Working Group. In the late 1990s, Voss denied meeting with federal government ministers when he had in fact met at least one minister ‒ Wilson 'Ironbar' Tuckey ('ironbar' because he once assaulted an Aboriginal man with a steel cable12). A Pangea spokesperson said at the time: "We would not like to be lying ... we very much regret getting off on the wrong foot."

Needless to say, the conflicted economic report produced by Jacobs MCM predicted that South Australia would become filthy rich if the state agrees to import vast amounts of nuclear waste.

The farcical and dishonest engineering of a positive economic case to proceed with the nuclear waste plan was neatly exposed by ABC journalist Stephen Long on November 8:13

"Would you believe me if I told you the report that the commission has solely relied on was co-authored by the president and vice president of an advocacy group for the development of international nuclear waste facilities? Charles McCombie and Neil Chapman of the consultants MCM head the advocacy group ARIUS ‒ the Association for Regional and International Underground Storage.

"They prepared the report in conjunction with Jacobs, a global engineering and consulting firm which has a lucrative nuclear arm and boasts of its "more than 50 years of experience across the complete nuclear asset cycle".

"When I interviewed the royal commissioner last week, he initially denied that the consultants who prepared the modelling ‒ that is the sole basis of the commission's recommendation in favour of a nuclear waste dump ‒ faced any conflict of interest.

"He then said there would have been a conflict of interest had it been the only material the commission had relied upon, but said it was "reviewed by our team of experts and found to be an appropriate estimation of what the costs, risks and benefits might be if we were involved in the storage of waste".

"That is the same "team of experts" who, apparently, recommended the consultants in the first place."

The Citizens' Jury was deeply unimpressed by the economic propaganda produced by Jacobs MCM and promoted by the Royal Commission and the SA government. The Jury's report said:1

"It is impossible to provide an informed response to the issue of economics because the findings in the RCR [Royal Commission report] are based on unsubstantiated assumptions. This has caused the forecast estimates to provide inaccurate, optimistic, unrealistic economic projections. We remain unconvinced that estimates relating to the cost of infrastructure."

"The advice of two contributing authors to the Jacobs MCM economic and safety assessment, who are lobbyists for the organisation "Arius", has called into question the objectivity of elements of the RC report. Given the authoritative nature and optimistic outcome of the economic analysis in particular, concern has been expressed that RC decisions and recommendations may not be free from bias and manipulation. The issue with the inherent bias could have been abrogated by seeking additional independent economic and safety analysis. The jury is not calling into question the impartiality of the Commission but is concerned that advocates for international nuclear waste storage may have influenced RC outcomes and damaged the integrity of the RC process and may not permit an informed decision.

"The economic modelling has a number of flaws, including not accounting for negative externalities or opportunity costs, compared to other potential investments and relies on a very optimistic interest rate."

South Australian economist Prof. Richard Blandy said: "I congratulate the Second Citizens' Jury on their overwhelming decision against the proposed nuclear dump. They have shown courage and common sense. A large majority could see that the bonanza that the dump was supposed to bring to the State was based on very flimsy evidence. They saw that the real path to a better economic future for our State is based on our skills, innovative capabilities and capacity for hard work, not a bizarre gamble based on guesses. I am proud of my fellow South Australians on the Jury – including those who were in the minority. I would like to thank them all for their efforts on behalf of their fellow South Australians."8

References:

1. South Australia's Citizens' Jury on Nuclear Waste: Final Report, November 2016, http://tinyurl.com/jury-report

2. Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Report, May 2016, http://yoursay.sa.gov.au/system/NFCRC_Final_Report_Web.pdf

3. Jim Green, 4 Nov 2016, 'Bias of SA Nuclear Royal Commission finally exposed', http://reneweconomy.com.au/bias-sa-nuclear-royal-commission-finally-expo...

4. Daniel Wills, 6 Nov 2016, 'Citizens' jury overwhelmingly rejects nuclear waste storage facility for South Australia', www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/citizens-jury-overwhelmingly...

5. Benito Cao, 3 Nov 2016, 'Manufacturing consent for SA's nuclear program', www.crikey.com.au/2016/11/03/manufacturing-consent-for-sa-nuclear-program/

6. Daniel Wills, 6 Nov 2016, 'Nuclear waste verdict from citizens' jury leaves Government's grand plan in tatters', http://pixel.tcog.cp1.news.com.au/track/component/article/8d7e1a4b553ab43aa1531da50ab33c67?esi=true&t_template=s3/chronicle-tg_tlc_storyheader/index&t_product=AdelaideNow&td_device=desktopwww.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/daniel-wills-nuclear-waste-verdict-f...

7. www.anfa.org.au/traditional-owners-statements/

8. No Dump Alliance, 7 Nov 2016, 'The verdict is in and the radioactive waste dump plan is out', https://antinuclear.net/2016/11/06/the-verdict-is-in-and-the-radioactive...

9. Stephen Long, 3 Nov 2016, 'Critics argue Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission skewed by advocacy group's evidence', www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-03/radioactive-waste-dump-would-boost-sa-eco...

10. www.foe.org.au/import-waste

11. www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=UjBSAlu0hjM

12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson_Tuckey

13. Stephen Long, 8 Nov 2016, 'SA nuclear waste dump plans based on questionable assumptions and lacks public support", www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-08/should-south-australia-be-storing-nuclear...

Australia Nuclear Free Alliance annual meeting

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#830
4586
20/09/2016
Bilbo Taylor
Article

The 19th annual meeting of the Aboriginal-led Australia Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) was recently held on Wongutha traditional lands in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia (WA) ‒ the first time the annual event has been held in the west. ANFA was formed in 1997 at the height of the successful campaign to stop the Jabiluka uranium mine in the Northern Territory.

This year's ANFA meeting came on the back of three uranium mine assessments in WA and two nuclear waste dump proposals in South Australia. The meeting was eagerly awaited by local Traditional Owners as an opportunity to meet others fighting the uranium industry, to share experiences and collaborate on how we can best fight these proposals.

Over 60 delegates from across Australia attended the meeting, with representatives from 29 different First Nations, including Amanda Lickers, a young First Nation woman from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in Canada, who presented a workshop on the fight to stop tar sands mining and gas fracking in her traditional lands. Amanda's traditional lands also contain all five stages of the nuclear industry including areas occupied by Cameco, the Canadian Nuclear Corporation which is trying to open two uranium mines in WA – Kintyre and Yeelirrie. Amanda's spoken word and video presentations about First Nations people taking direct action against these industries inspired the meeting. You can find out more information about these campaigns on Facebook ‒ search for 'Reclaim Turtle Island'.

There was some good news on the uranium mining front this year, with the impending closure of the Ranger uranium mine on Mirarr traditional lands in the Northern Territory and the WA EPA denying approval of Cameco's Yeelirrie uranium mine ‒ a project that threatened to make several subterranean species extinct.

Four young Mirarr traditional owners spoke at the meeting about the Ranger mine closure plans, mine rehabilitation and concerns that the mining company ERA is still looking to expand the mine. The Mirarr delegates were adamant that the Mirarr's position of no uranium mining meant there is no possibility for any further mining in their traditional lands.

Traditional Owners from Yeelirrie spoke about the 40-year fight to stop the mine, seeing off three mining companies. They are waiting to see the decision of the state Environment Minister, who could still approve the mine despite the EPA's rejection of the application.

Two other uranium proposals, Wiluna and Mulga Rock, both in the Goldfields of WA, have just been given the green light by the WA EPA but both are now subject to appeals against the EPA findings. Vimy Resource's Mulga Rock proposal is contentious as the mining company is claiming that there are no Traditional Owners. The proposed mine is situated upstream from a Class A nature reserve at Queen Victoria springs and is inside the Yellow Sandplain Priority Ecological Community.

Janice Scott and Bruce Hogan, local Traditional Owners with ties to Mulga Rock, joined ANFA for the first time this year. Janice recounted stories of how her people, refugees from the Maralinga atomic bomb tests in South Australia, were moved to the Cundalee community close to Mulga Rock in WA. She spoke about how their families learned about that country and have been caring for it ever since and are now facing a second forced eviction. They spoke passionately about how beautiful and unique the plants and animals of the area are, about the burial grounds near the proposed uranium mine, and the appalling decision from Vimy Resources to totally ignore the local Aboriginal people and not consult with them.

Waste dump proposals

With the federal government targeting the homelands of Adnyamathanha traditional owners in South Australia (SA) for a national radioactive waste dump, and the state government promoting a plan for an international high-level nuclear waste dump, there was a large contingent of South Australian traditional owners at this year's meeting. SA has a long history of nuclear issues, from atomic bomb tests to uranium mining and radioactive waste dump proposals.

An earlier plan for a national radioactive waste dump was defeated by the Irati Wanti campaign, led by a group of senior Aboriginal women, the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta. Now Adnyamathanha traditional owners in SA are in the firing line and they spoke at the ANFA meeting about their determination to stop the dump and how they felt that the government and the nuclear industry have unfairly targeted Aboriginal communities. They also spoke about how special the site is, a site that is prone to flooding and is next door to an Indigenous Protected Area.

One of the highlights of this year's ANFA meeting was the presentation from Dr. Christine Stokes about the findings from the Western Desert Kidney Health Project. The project incorporated arts, storytelling, medical research and community engagement to study the possible causes of the large kidney health problems in the area. One of the findings from the study was that the water in the region that has nitrates can cause a range of health problems. Where there are nitrates and uranium in water, the effects on kidneys are severe. Although there needs to be more study, the meeting was concerned that uranium mining could increase water contamination, further adding to what is already an epidemic of kidney health problems.

Australia has a long history of nuclear projects, and a long and often successful history of Aboriginal resistance to this dangerous and unwanted industry. This year's ANFA meeting reaffirmed this with strong talking, resilience and steadfast resistance to the industry. We all have a vested interest in ensuring that this uneconomic, unwanted and unnecessary industry is stopped and that Australia becomes nuclear free.

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