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Virginia Scissons, NDS l Prairie Messenger 14 November, 2012
SASKATOON — “The only way evil flourishes is for good people to do nothing,” Dr. Helen Caldicott quoted Edmund Burke when speaking to audiences at the Royal University Hospital and Third Avenue United Church, Saskatoon, on Nov. 1st.
Following an opening prayer by Elders Maria and Walter Linklater, Elder Pat Campbell from Patuanak, Sask., spoke about the devastating effects the uranium mining industry is having on the people, animals and environment in northern communities. The greatest changes have taken place in the past 25 years, he said. As a youth, said Campbell, he loved the spring time and particularly listening to the songs of the returning birds. Now there is silence. The deformities which the wildlife and fish are displaying are horrifying, he said, and we can no longer drink the water from the lake. Our young people and our old people are dying of cancer.
Geron Paul, a northern youth, said that he would not stop speaking out against the burying of radioactive fuel rods in the north until Saskatchewan put a ban on such burials as well as on the transportation of nuclear waste in the province, as has Manitoba. “They offer us money to bury nuclear waste,” he said, “but we can’t eat money.”
Caldicott began her talk where Paul left off. We are doing the same thing in Australia, she said. We also have vast deposits of uranium and are burying our nuclear waste in part of the country which is inhabited by the Aborigines. “It is tragic and extremely racist.” She warned that there is no known safe way to store these extremely radioactive materials, no matter what they tell you.
Caldicott then referred to her previous presentation at the Royal University Hospital. The posters announcing her talk in the SaskTel Theatre had been taken down, she said. She found it unbelievable that there is a Cameco Walk Way in a hospital which has a Cancer Clinic with many patients visible in the hallways.
The research is there, she said, and uranium mining and the whole of the nuclear industry is clearly responsible for the tremendous increase in the number of cancer patients and subsequent cancer-related deaths. Cancer has become epidemic, she said, and we must shut down the mines for the sake of our children, grandchildren and future generations. Isotopes for the treatment of cancer can be created by the cyclotron; uranium is not needed.
Caldicott went on to explain how uranium particles affect the human person. Referring to Uranium 238 and Uranium 235, she outlined the effects that x-rays, beta particles, alpha particles, radium and neutrons can have on us. Each dose of radiation we receive, whether it is from an x-ray for a dental procedure, going through a security check at an airport, or inhaling alpha particles while working in a mine, dose is cumulative, and with it comes the possibility of inducing cancer, the multiplication of unwanted cells. The incubation period of a single radiated cell which has been struck by a uranium particle is from five to 70 years — a long time, unlike a cold or the measles, she said.
Uranium particles are responsible for the mutations of genes; such mutations have resulted in the births of deformed human beings and wildlife. Caldicott cited as an example the terrible birth defects suffered by the babies of Iraq. The parents of these children were exposed to radiation during the bombing of Iraq in the early 2000s. If massive gene mutations occur, the course of evolution will be altered, said Caldicott.
Uranium has 200 “daughters” — that is, various forms of radiation which are emitted by uranium as it decays, said Caldicott. Some of these “daughters” are highly carcinogenic, even moreso than uranium, and have extremely long half-lives, as does uranium itself. In other words, upon their release into the atmosphere, explained Caldicott, once they are out there, they are there to stay for millions of years. The process is irreversible. Various “daughters” are known to attack specific organs in the human body, and there now exists a huge volume of research on this subject.
As the U.S. revisits uranium mining the industry and towns consider profit forgetting what that profit has cost them in the past:
"Over the decades, many area miners contracted lung disease from poor mine ventilation and from smoking. Despite that legacy, some residents insist that their fathers, brothers and grandfathers would have continued to mine and work the mills, even if they knew it would make them sick. The ethic of putting food on the table and a devotion to the industry trump worries over health, they said."
Jobs that kill are not stimulating the economy. They are devastating and preying on communities that are desperate. Elva Archer Ayers, a Redvale resident since 1930, whose family worked at Uravan and other mine and milling sites:
"I lost five brothers, my husband, two brothers — lost with cancer," Ayers said. "I don't have a feeling that we shouldn't go ahead (with the mill.) Our kids has got to live."
How will these children live if the lessons of the past are ignored and uranium mining is, once again, permitted? They will live and die like their fathers and uncles, with cancer. Is that worth it? Or should this country invest in renewable energy and the jobs it will bring, providing both energy and the real possibility that these children and our planet will have a more hopeful, more viable future.
Ex-Colorado mining towns hope for uranium comeback: Rema Rahman l Bloomberb Business Week September 07, 2012
Dr Helen Caldicott speaking in Byron Bay, Australia.
Luis Feliu l EchoNetDaily 1 Sept, 2012
Since the dawn of the nuclear age in 1945 political analysts have predicted that the immense dangers implicit in this technology would inevitably lead to the implementation of police-state tactics.
It never occurred to me however that my own free and easy country would be so endangered. I was wrong.
Two weeks ago I attended Lizard’s Revenge, a colorful, well-organized, lawful gathering of over 200 people who were demonstrating against BHP-Billiton’s Olympic Dam uranium mine in the desert outback of South Australia. Energized by deep concern over the ongoing tragedy of Fukushima and aware that Australia uranium helped fuel those six reactors, participants travelled great distances to give voice to that concern and to protest against the fact that Australia continues to export uranium to many countries throughout the world.
These demonstrators were also aware that Australia --and specifically Olympic Dam – is indirectly responsible for creating thousands of tons of toxic radioactive waste that the reactors it supplies produce, waste that even the US Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges must be isolated from the ecosphere for one million years .
Seeping and leaking into underground water supplies over millennia, these high-level radioactive elements will bio-concentrate up the food chain and eventually into human bodies thus inducing damage to the human gene pool and, epidemics of malignancy. Furthermore, uranium when fissioned in a reactor also generates plutonium which is, of course, nuclear weapons fuel.
I have attended numerous protests and marches in Australia over the past four decades but never have I seen such a massive intimidatory police presence as I witnessed at Lizard’s Revenge; over 400 officers arrayed around the town of Roxby Downs, blocking the main road to the demonstrators’ camp, with a huge presence adjacent to the Lizard’s Revenge site located three kilometres and thus well away from the Olympic Dam mine site itself. All this to “control” 200 Australian citizens engaged in lawful assembly.
The police were officious and intrusive, detaining for up to an hour at a time people who tried to drive out of the camp and, demanding all their personal details. Further, they rode horses into the crowd and marched in long lines into the camp site. Helicopters circled overhead filming protestors and beamed search lights down on the campers for hours during the night.
These actions were clearly designed to be intimidating. Indeed one photojournalist commented that the last time he saw such an offensive intrusive police presence was in 2011 at Tahrir Square. The police, when challenged that this was more like a police state than 'democratic' Australia, said they had special powers granted them by the Govt of SA under the Protective Security Act (2007). This extraordinary Act was repeatedly read out over a megaphone or played over the BHPB loud speaker system at the mine entrance as police stood behind steel fences. This law gives the police special powers to arbitrarily arrest and detain, strip search and demand personal details of 'suspects'.
How many millions of dollars were expended by the tax payers of South Australia on this exercise to “protect” by intimidation a largely foreign-owned corporation engaged in mining and exporting lethal material?
And what is happening to our precious democracy where freedom of speech and assembly has always been assumed by Australians to be part of our national heritage? Are we also evolving into a police state?
Joined by only 22 Democrats, Republicans successfully pushed through a bill allowing uranium mining on federal lands to be exempted from "formal environmental reviews. Also included in the exemption would be copper, silver, and gold. Rep. Ed Markey (Dem-MA) accused the Republicans of "actually appear[ing] to be trying to usher in a new stone age," saying the bill was "a pretext for gutting environmental protections relating to virtually all mining operations" and "a GOP giveaway game show here on the House floor."
Rep. Rush Holt, Democrat- NJ joined Ed Markey in saying: "It has almost nothing to do with national strategic critical minerals production... Make no mistake, this is a giveaway... It is free mining, no royalties, no protection of public interest, exemption from royalty payments, near exemption from environmental regulations, near exemption from legal enforcement of the protections."
LARRY MARGASAK (AP) l Seattle Times l 12 Juy 2012
Republicans pushed a bill through the House Thursday that allows the government to exempt gold, copper, silver and uranium mining on federal land from formal environmental reviews...
lizardsrevenge.net l 9 July, 2012
The Lizards Revenge music and arts festival and protest camp will take place at the gates of the Olympic Dam mine (or close by) from the 14th-18th July 2012. The festival will include a variety of musicians, bands and artists from around the country, a solar powered sound system, wind powered cinema, mobile artworks and the message that there is strong community opposition to uranium mining and to South Australia hosting the largest uranium mine in the world. We anticipate a vibrant protest camp which combines educational workshops, entertainment and non-violent direct action. We will converge on the site of the current mine and approved expansion as the South Australian and Australian governments have failed to put the environment and people’s health before short term economic concerns. The impacts of this project will remain long after BHP Billiton packs up, repatriates its profits, and moves on to the next project.
v BHP Billiton plans to supplement the existing underground copper and uranium mine near Roxby Downs with a massive open-cut mine. The open pit will be 4 kilometres long by 3.5 kilometres wide and 1 kilometre deep. This is around the size of Adelaide’s CBD.
v It will take five years of digging to reach the top of the ore body
v The ore body is the world’s largest known uranium deposit
v Export of uranium is expected to increase from an average of 4,000 tonnes per year to 19,000 tonnes per year, and the production of copper, gold and silver is also expected to increase.
v The mine will require nearly 250 million litres of water per day. 42 million litres will be extracted from the Great Artesian Basin, with the remainder to come from a desalination plant proposed for the Upper Spencer Gulf.
v The tailings dams will cover 44 square km which BHP propose to cap with rock in order to isolate them from the environment for the billions of years they will remain radioactive.
v Mashers fault line runs right through the Olympic Dam ore body
Key environmental impacts:
- The tailings dams are designed to leak into the underlying rock and aquifer. For the first decade of the mines life BHP estimate a maximum seepage rate of up to 8 million litres of tailings per day, levelling out at 3 million litres per day for the remainder of the mines life. BHP acknowledge in their Environmental Impact Statement that there will be elevated levels of uranium in the groundwater.
- BHP predict that the impact of digging the largest hole in the world will have such a massive impact on the groundwater system that this groundwater will be diverted to the open pit void. If they are mistaken, the contaminated groundwater will eventually discharge into Lake Torrens.
- Extraction of water from the Great Artesian Basin will increase from around 35 million litres per day to 42 million litres per day. There is already some indication that several of the springs are drying up. Anecdotal evidence from the Arabunna is corroborated by BHP’s Great Artesian Basin Wellfield Reports, which show reduced flow rates for several springs, particularly those monitored from the mid-1980’s, when the mine was established. Last year, the South Australian and Federal Governments committed $2 million for the third stage of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI), to preserve an additional 3.8 million litres a day. At the same time, the expansion will see a 7 million litre a day increase in water extraction from the GAB.
- The brine output from the proposed desalination plant will potentially threaten the marine environment and the breeding ground of the Giant Australian Cuttlefish.
- Diesel use will increase from 26 million litres a year to 372 million litres a year for the five year construction period, peaking at a total of 516 million litres a year at full production
Uranium mining is the beginning of the nuclear cycle – the world has recently witnessed the potential consequences of nuclear energy, the issue of nuclear weapons is ever present and connected to mining this material to begin with, and the problem of the long term storage of radioactive waste remains unresolved.
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Interview with Dr Caldicott on Australian radio. June 2012.
First half of program is about Fukushima accident. Second half deals with uranium mining in Australia.
In the history of Australian uranian mining there has been no successful remediation. The only way to to stop environmental and human health damage is to prevent the mine from being constructed. This is true of uranium mining around the world. It is time for Australia to learn this lesson.
Dr Gavin Mudd, Monash University: Preventing tailings contamination even after a uranium mine has closed has proved impossible in every uranium mine in Australia to date... Dr Mudd’s research shows that there is no former Australian uranium mine that has been rehabilitated successfully — all are still radioactive no-go zones because of radionuclide dispersal from waste stockpiles and water seepage.
Australia must take responsibility for the harm it has done to its land its people and put an end to uranium mining at home. As elsewhere, it is the Australian taxpayer who bears the burden of monitoring and clean-up of uranium mines, while regional communities and the environment suffer irreparable losses [Alison Xamon].
It is time to say NO to uranium mining and its legacy of damage.
TheWest.com.au l Alison Xamon 8 June, 2012
The Environmental Protection Authority’s approval of a uranium mine in Wiluna should concern all West Australians. This is no longer a theoretical discussion. Research shows a serious risk that uranium mining will cause long-term harm to WA communities.
Uranium mining has caused a string of accidents across Australia and has proved impossible to regulate appropriately. Yet the highly radioactive waste produced by uranium mines — known as uranium mine tailings — remain radioactive for thousands of years.
The State Government has given a commitment to seek to regulate uranium mining through “world’s best practice”, including isolating uranium tailings for at least 10,000 years. This is a worthy commitment but it is unclear how it will be achieved, especially when it is apparent that no uranium site in Australia has successfully accomplished this for even 10 years. The best regulations will not stop chronic radioactive waste seepage.