Looming Uranium Disaster Complements Fukushima Meltdown

Australian Uranium Mines

Looming Australian Uranium Disaster Complements Fukushima Meltdown

As we know, the Fukushima nuclear plant was partly run on Australian uranium. The good news is that the resumption of high-grade uranium mining at ERA/Rio Tinto’s Ranger mine about 230 km south east of Darwin may be delayed for many more months if not years because of near-record heavy rainfall. This would put a huge 10% of the world’s uranium supply on hold. The pit has been closed since January because of the heavy rains and flooding and ERA shares have plunged 45%, a value loss of $1 billion. From the point of the view of people and planet, all this is excellent news.

However, the bad news is, as in Fukushima, that a huge nuclear disaster is now looming at the Ranger mine because of Nature’s immense power overwhelming all this lethal hi-tech. If another 100 mm of rain fall on the area, ERA will have to pump radioactive and toxic water from its tailings dam into its main mining pit which already contains 3.6 billion litres of contaminated water. The tailings dam itself contains 10 billion litres of contaminated water. There is nowhere else to put this water. The height limit of the water in the tailings dam is 53 metres; last Friday it was at 52.9 metres. There are three weeks of wet season remaining and more rain is very likely. Once the water is transferred to the pit, it will be even more contaminated and ERA’s treatment plants simply do not have the capacity to ‘treat’ it (whatever magic voodoo that means).

Desperately trying to avoid the pumping and thus shutdown of its main pit, ERA has of course asked the state regulators to ‘relax environmental standards’ so they can deliberately and legally allow radioactive and toxic seepage into a local aquifer. This means they now want to do deliberately and legally what they have been doing inadvertently for 30 years. Apart from the 150 official leaks, spills and mishaps since it opened, for thirty years about 100,000 litres of contaminated water PER DAY have been leaking from the tailings dam into rock fissures and thus water tables. (As for state/corporate ‘science’: in an amazing feat of scientific ‘disappearing’, an official review last year failed to find out where the water had gone and ‘whether it would damage the environment in the future’.)

The Ranger uranium mine is right next to Kakadu National Park and its world-heritage listed wetlands in Mirrar country. All this will have been contaminated by the radioactive isotopes and heavy metals released by ERA’s uranium mining into the landscape and into water tables. The uranium miners themselves will have these in their bodies, their lifespans reduced, their children and grandchildren at very high risk of illness or developing leukaemia. Australia’s uranium mining areas and their inhabitants thus now join places like Belarus, north-east Japan, Sellafield and all the other regions forever contaminated by the nuclear cycle and nuclear weapons manufacture and testing. This is what state, corporate and environmentalist proponents of nuclear power are prepared to accept as the ‘reasonable’ price of their illusions.

Only the people can stop them. History teaches again and again that the most effective means is the direct action of non-violent blockades, sit-ins and non-cooperation.

[This article is based on information in: L. Murdoch, ‘Radioactive threat looms in Kakadu’, Sydney Morning Herald, 16-17 April 2011, p. 7.]

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~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on April 18, 2011.

3 Responses to “Looming Uranium Disaster Complements Fukushima Meltdown”

  1. […] Looming Australian Uranium Disaster Complements Fukushima Meltdown As we know, the Fukushima nuclear plant was partly run on Australian uranium. The good news is that the resumption of high-grade uranium mining at ERA/Rio Tinto’s Ranger mine about 230 km south east of Darwin may be delayed for many more months if not years because of near-r … Read More […]

  2. […] Looming Uranium Disaster Complements Fukushima Meltdown Australian Uranium Mines […]

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