MAC: Mines and Communities

Aboriginal communities up in arms against nuclear dumping on their land

Published by MAC on 2015-11-23
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (2015-11-13)

Australia is the world's second largest exporter of uranium and - as noted on MAC - will allow export of the prime nuclear fuel to India, despite its not having signed the nuclear-non-proliferation treaty.

There's been a long-running argument over how Australia should deal with the wastes spewed from nuclear plants and mines, most of which have so far been deposited at its Lucas Heights facility, 25 km south of Sydney - also the location of the country's only nuclear reactor.

Now, the government is pressing for access to other sites where not only domestic radioactive wastes will be dumped but - as new prime minister Malcolm Turnbull anticipates -  also those from overseas reactors supplied with Australian uranium.

Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation argues that the site selection process will in itself become a "Trojan Horse" for the initiation of international uranium trade deals (see first article below).

Targeting Aboriginal communities

The government has said that any community opposed to hosting such dangerous materials won't be selected.

One Northern Territory Aboriginal community has already succeeded in having its outstation excluded from the list of provisional sites.

However, another Aboriginal community has stridently objected to being among three sites now selected for South Australia (see second article below).

The Adnyamathanha Camp Law Mob in South Australia declares:

"Our involvement in this industry is nothing new. We were concerned by the government agreeing to uranium mining activities that have now permanently contaminated our land and our groundwater.

"We want no further expansion of the nuclear industry and we will continue to fight for our rights as Traditional Owners in respect of the wisdom of our old people that came before us".

[Comment by Nostromo Research]

Nuclear waste: Review needed before permanent disposal site, say environmentalists

Jane Lee, Legal affairs, health and science reporter

Sydney Morning Herald

13 November 2015

The Turnbull government's search for a permanent nuclear waste dump should not proceed until a full review into safe storage has been completed, environmentalists say.

Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg released a shortlist of six voluntarily nominated sites around Australia on Thursday, and announced a four-month consultation with local communities. The government plans to announce its preferred 100-hectare site at the end of next year.

Environmentalists are concerned the new site will become a Trojan horse for more nuclear waste.
Environmentalists fear that a permanent site would pave the way for the nuclear waste of other countries to be stored in Australia, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last month remarking that Australia could expand its nuclear industry, including leasing local uranium overseas.

Dave Sweeney, the Australian Conservation Foundation's national nuclear campaigner, said on Friday: "There is no public health or radiological imperative to rush the movement of material."

He said there should be a wide-ranging public review into how, where, and why we produce nuclear material, with clear policies "best worked through when you're not searching for a postcode".

Mr Sweeney, a member of the government's independent advisory panel on nuclear waste, insisted this was "not a stalling tactic".

Environmental groups were prepared to approach a review in good faith, he said: "We genuinely believe that getting a lasting, scientifically responsible solution that enjoys a high level of community consent is through an open review process, with a full range of management options." 

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation's (ANSTO) existing facility in Lucas Heights in Sydney, was the "least worst" option for storing waste until a national independent review was completed, he said, with federal police and people with nuclear expertise already based there.

The site held most of Australia's more-radioactive waste, and now included a national facility for extended interim storage, he said. It would also hold nuclear waste which is due to return to Australia next month, after being sent to France between 1996 and 2009.

Mr Sweeney was concerned that a permanent site could become a "Trojan horse" for starting international uranium trade deals.

Beyond Nuclear co-ordinator Nat Wasley agreed the search should be halted ahead of a national review into nuclear production and management, including whether a single remote facility was the best place to hold nuclear waste. 

"Rather than pick remote sites, we want the process to be paused…[and a review held with a] range of experts on an extensively complicated subject."

Asked on Friday why Lucas Heights could not be expanded to store more waste, Mr Frydenberg said this would not reflect "best practice".

ANSTO chief executive, Dr Adrian Paterson, said that while the facility could hold waste temporarily, it could not become a long term storage site under current laws.

"We're a responsible manager of waste but we are not a long-term repository for waste," he said.

Mr Frydenberg has said that Australia could not take other countries' waste under current law, but would not rule out doing so in future, saying the federal government would await the findings of an ongoing South Australian royal commission into the nuclear fuel cycle. The government's priority was to find a dump site.

He acknowledged that governments had failed for years to find a site because they had "chosen unilaterally" rather than consulted with the community. 

The federal government last year dropped its attempt to store nuclear waste in the Northern Territory after traditional owners at Muckaty Station near Tennant Creek, argued in the Federal Court that their consent was not obtained before the sacred site was nominated in 2007.

But Mr Frydenberg said none of the nominated sites were subject to native title claims. All environmental and regulatory requirements for the final sites would be met, he said, with safety a primary concern.

Innovation and Science Minister Christopher Pyne said consultations would be taken seriously: "If those local communities don't want the nuclear waste repository in their area, it won't go ahead in their area."

Bathurst state MP Paul Toole said he was calling on the federal government to provide greater detail, as the community has a lot of questions, such as what the proposed transport routes would be and what protections would be in place.

With Jason Dowling


Indigenous Adnyamathanha Camp Law Mob shocked at selection of South Australian site for radioactive trash dump

Response from the Adnyamathanha Camp Law Mob regarding the Federal Resources Minister’s announcement of 3 sites nominated for a nuclear waste dump in South Australia.

13 November 2015

The Adnyamathanha Camp Law Mob are a group of Adnyamathna people who meet regularly to discuss issues relating to our land and culture.

The Camp Law mob share this message on behalf of all Adnyamathanha people and other South Australians who are opposed to any further expansion of the nuclear industry.  We have taken part in the SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, and our views along with many others are clearly stated in our submission that we do not support any expansion of a nuclear industry this includes the imposition of a radioactive waste dump on Adnyamathana country at Barndioota.

We are shocked to hear on Friday 13th November 2015 that one of the 3 nominated sites in South Australia for a national nuclear waste dump is 377 Wallerberdina Road, Barndioota.  We understand that ex-Liberal Senator Grant Chapman is the current owner of the nominated site that is a Perpetual Lease property and therefore no native title claim can be lodged over this area.  It must still be governed according to the requirements of the Aboriginal Heritage legislation.

We demand that the Federal Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg publicly declare who he has consulted regarding these nomination, and who has the authority to nominate these si­tes.

We want to know who are the experts with local knowledge that took part in the advisory panel prior to these sites being nominated as waste sites?  Who are the Traditional Owners that took part in this process?  What Traditional knowledge from thousands of years of occupation has been incorporated into the decision-making?

Our involvement is this industry is nothing new. We were concerned by the government agreeing to uranium mining activities that have now permanently contaminated our land and our groundwater. We want no further expansion of the nuclear industry and we will continue to fight for our rights as Traditional Owners in respect of the wisdom of our old people that came before us.

That’s what Traditional Owners do. We care for our country. We only wish governments and industries would do the same. Stop playing with our future and care for our country.


India finalizes uranium deal with Australia

Andrew Topf

Mining.com

15 November 2015

Despite not signing the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, India will be allowed to import uranium from Australia for civilian purposes.

On Sunday the two countries finalized a deal that has been in the works for three years, with Indian Prime Minister Modi and Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull making statements on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Turkey and on social media.

“PM @narendramodi thanked PM @TurnbullMalcolm and described the nuclear agreement as a milestone & source of trust & confidence,” tweeted Vikas Swarup, from the Indian foreign ministry. “With the completion of procedures, including administrative arrangements, the #IndiaAustralia Civil Nuclear Agreement will enter into force.”

The seeds of the agreement were sown by then-Australian PM Julia Gillard, who promised during a state visit in 2012 to supply uranium to India, which faces severe shortages of electricity and has limited nuclear capacity. Two years later Gillard's successor, Tony Abbott, signed a memorandum of understanding for “Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy” whereby Australia would become a long-term supplier of uranium to India.

The agreement means India is the first country to buy yellowcake from Australia, that has not signed the international treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

While India faced Western sanctions in 1998 after testing nuclear weapons, the sanctions were lifted after a deal with the United States in 2008 that included safeguards against using the nuclear fuel for weapons production.

According to the World Nuclear Association, India currently has 21 operating reactors with a capacity of 4,780 megawatts, or 2 percent of India's total power supply. The country plans to increase its nuclear capacity to 63,000 MW by 2032, by adding close to 30 reactors at a cost of $85 billion, Hindustan Times reported.

India is actively seeking agreements with foreign powers in order to reach that goal, on top of the nuclear agreements it currently has with 11 countries and deals to import uranium from Russia, France, Kazakhstan and Canada.

Concerned about running out of nuclear fuel, in July India created a strategic uranium reserve to ensure that its atomic reactors can keep producing electricity without interruption.

The finalized supply deal with Australia could be quite lucrative for Australian uranium producers and uranium mines, which include BHP Billiton's (NYSE:BHP) Olympic Dam, Ranger, Beverley, Four Mile and Honeymoon.

An Australian parliamentary committee that supported the deal said in September the arrangement could increase export revenues by $1.75 billion.

Mark Chalmers, chair of the Australian Uranium Council, told ABC News that Australia could double or triple its uranium production to meet India's needs, although for that to happen, the price of uranium would have to almost double, he added.

Australia currently has about 40 percent of the world's uranium reserves, and is the number three producer of the nuclear fuel, behind Kazakhstan and Canada.

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