A Nuclear Free Snap Shot of 2014

The following article has been compiled by Dave Sweeney, Nuclear Free Campaigner at the Australian Conservation Foundation. It's a timely reminder to us all of what has been achieved over the last year. 

A nuclear free snapshot

January 2014 started with Top End storms washing out a section of the Ghan rail line and further highlighting transport risks with hazardous materials, concerns over the spectacular December 2013 uranium slurry spill at Ranger mine remained high and around 4000 people gathered in Redfern for the opening of John Pilger’s film Utopia

In February the Muckaty Federal Court case had detailed directions hearing in Melbourne, a delegation of MP’s from Greenland heard directly about the impacts of uranium mining on country and culture when they were briefed by ACFi, FoEi and Gundjeihmi while on a fact finding mission, mid-month saw activists from WA and beyond meet in Perth for an effective planning session aimed at keeping the West uranium free, the CCWA led a series of workshops to facilitate public engagement with the Kintyre mine approvals process and also drove a detailed response from national groups while Scott Ludlum took time off from electioneering to join a nuke free session at Melbourne’s Sustainable Living festival, Paladin put the Kayelekera mine in Malawi on care and maintenance, Uranium Free NSW activists lodged formal objections to the Dubbo Zirconia project and after making the Black Mist publication possible and reminding Peter Costello and the Future Fund that there is no future in nuclear weapons ICANi reps took the nuclear weapons abolition message further with a successful conference in Nayarit (Mexico)

March saw the annual national nuke free strategy and planning gathering with crew from around the country converging on Trades Hall in Melbourne for productive days of plotting, tens of thousands joined the March in March initiative and took to the streets around the nation, The Fukushima anniversary was marked with a range of actions and events nationally, ACF’s Yellowcake Fever report landed on the desks of politicians around the country, MAPW condemned Cameco’s approach to radiation as ‘junk science’, the Townsville City Council voted unanimously to oppose uranium mining, Deloitte Access Economics launched a new report with an old agenda – that Australia become the global radioactive waste dump, Dianne Stokes joined with John Pilger and Marianne McKay for a powerhouse public meeting in Sydney, increased uranium levels in NSW csg operations led to renewed calls for a uranium ban, military adventurism in Crimea led to calls to end uranium sales to Putin’s Russia, the Queensland government moved to limit community right to object to mining in order to circumvent ‘extreme green groups in Melbourne’ and others

April saw ERA and Rio Tinto announce a joint uranium marketing deal and concerns over ERA’s capacity to rehabilitate the Ranger site dominate the Alligator Rivers Region Advisory Committee forum and the ERA annual meeting in Darwin, much hard work and many hopes were rewarded with the clear re-election of Senator Scott Ludlam in the WA election re-run, a frenzy of WW1 commemorations (a taster for 2015 and Gallipoli) also saw the Independent and Peaceful Australia Networks national peace convergence in Canberra which included monster efforts from Jacob Greech and others to hold the most actions at the most venues on the one day, Four Mile uranium mine was opened in SA, FoEi continued its long and proud Rad Tour tradition and took people from Melbourne to Muckaty, Trade Minister Andrew Robb inks a uranium deal with the United Arab Emirates even though JSCOT urges caution, Foreign Minister Bishop gets pressured at aconference in Hiroshima over Australia’s poor nuclear record, the Chernobyl anniversary is used to highlight just how for how long this industry is, ACFi, MAPW and Keep Queensland Nuclear Free take the anti-uranium story on the road through north and n-w Queensland

In May Rio Tinto were the target of annual meeting attention, the Walkatjutta Walkabout set off, MAPW released a plain language guide to radiation and health, after arguing against uranium on his pastoral property Twiggy Forrest put $12 mill into Energy Metals Australia, David Bradbury and others showcased Australian issues at the 4th International uranium film festival in Rio (not Tinto) while nuclear issues featured at the Human Right art and film festival in Melbourne, a radioactive waste transport petition was launched, there were reports of crop circles at Muckaty and a ventilation shaft collapsed during construction at ERA’s R3D project, the federal budget saw more money for ANSTOi – radioactive waste and Rum Jungle, submissions were made over EPBC protections and ARPANSAi transport codes and people gathered in Tennant Creek for the inaugural meeting of the NT chapter of ANFA – the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance – and to join a bright and bouncy protest to mark the anniversary of the contested Muckaty site nomination

June saw ECNT inaugural Ochre Green conference with Yvonne Margarula and Jeffrey Lee recognised for successful nuclear resistance, the Muckaty federal court case started in Melbourne and World Environment Day saw a powerful radwaste public meeting while the Feds approved the restart of operations at Ranger that had been suspended since the December 2013 tank collapse, nuclear industry advocates and spruikers gather in Perth for an international uranium conference while activists outside offered counselling sessions to delegates over the sorry state of the industry and have better things to do with a series of events showcasing how our energy future is renewable not radioactive, ERA’s operations are questioned in NT Estimates, the Ukraine crisis raises Australian uranium concerns, Alliance Resources moves to sell its stake in the Four Mile project in SA, ICANi holds a roundtable in Melbourne, Nat Lowrey is arrested and detained for six days after a protest against the Lynas rare earths plant in Malaysia and Bill Williams and Gisela Gardener represent Australia at a series of anti-nuke gatherings in Germany. And the big news for June: after years of struggle the Muckaty dump plan is pulled on June 19 – No dump!! massive congrats to the Muckaty TO’s and to so many – especially Nat Wasley.

July: Japanese PM Abe visits Australia amidst calls for more attention and follow up to fuelling Fukushima, talk grows of radioactive waste storage in WA, Townsville marches against uranium mining, Mia and MPI put forward the case for a better approach to mine rehabilitation at an industry conference in Brisbane, the WA EPA recommends approval of Kintyre despite Fairfax medias high profile story on mining approval irregularities with the Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation, BHP seeks approval for heap leaching at Olympic Dam, various reports trickle in on what went wrong at Ranger and people gather for a Muckaty victory party in Tennant Creek.

In August Tony Abbott flags nuclear power, visiting activists from Taiwan’s Green Citizens Action Alliance make links, Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemoration events take place nationally, FoEi Melbourne has a Muckaty  celebration, ERA posts a record half year loss of over $130 mill, Bob Hawke spruiks international radioactive waste storage as the solution to Aboriginal disadvantage while NT Chief Minister Adam Giles ducks for cover, the Pacific Islands Forum calls for wider adherence to the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty, Minister Macfarlane visits Tennant and calls the abandoned Muckaty process a disaster as a push starts for a new dump site in the Tanami, Australian reps attend the IPPNWi Congress in Kazakhstan, ENGOs formally appeal the WA EPA’s Kintyre decision, Australian officials finalise a uranium deal with India as ENGO’s call for an inquiry into the uranium trade, the Facing the Fallout tour takes place with former Japanese PM Kan touring Australia with media/political and public appearances in the NT/WA/ACT/Qld and Vic – a powerful and positive initiative.

September and ICANs Don’t Bank on the Bomb report is launched, BHPs heap leach plan is approved without further assessment, there is a strong nuke free presence at climate rallies around the country, NSW announces that six companies will be invited to explore for uranium, Abbott inks the India deal with Modi, Mayors for Peace hold a major gathering in Fremantle with cabaret quizzes and a host of related activities, Minister Macfarlane flags a national radioactive waste site nomination and Leonora Shire blinks, Central Australian Aboriginal leaders issue a statement against the dump as Tanami regional meetings take place, the first international day for the total elimination of nuclear weapons sees the launch of ICANs nuclear umbrella clip and Australia suspends uranium sales to Russia.

October sees the crew assemble for the annual ANFA gathering in Alice Springs – days of good folk/talk and planning, ERA applies for approval of its R3D underground mine at Ranger against a backdrop of an international day of action against Rio Tinto, ENGO’s write to Macfarlane urging to move beyond Muckaty and hold an independent Inquiry into responsible radioactive waste management, Toro Energy move to expand the stalled Wiluna project, nuclear issues feature in Senate Estimates, ICANi responds to the Defence White Paper with a call for no bomb and no bomb fuel, another report into ERA finds its operations ‘did not meet expected standards’

November and ENGO’s comment on radioactive waste plans, AgM season heats up with actions and attendance at BHP/Paladin Energy and Toro Energy meetings with powerful related public events and messaging, the NT department of Mines seeks a further $200 million federal dollars to help clean up Rum Jungle, as PM Modi addresses federal parliament JSCOT opens public comment on the India deal and the former ASNO boss John Carlson is highly critical of the sales plan, the G20 Summit and related Peoples Forum takes place in Brisbane with Robin Taubenfeld coordinating a solid nuke free and peace theme, GAC and Jeffrey Lee make important presentations at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, ENGO’s contest Cameco’s move for mining at Yeelirrie, Julie Bishop calls for domestic nuclear power as the Central Land Council confirms there will be no waste dump in its region.

December sees action in the Top End with spirited protests over uranium and fracking concerns outside the MCA’s NT mining conference and 4000 formal public submissions opposing the R3D plan, ICANi holds a successful set of gatherings on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear war in Vienna – including a presentation from Sue Coleman Haseldine and an open letter from ENGO’s to Julie Bishop, Energy Metals Australia move to seek approval to mine Mulga Rocks – but Mia Pepper is in the way, the long waited for Olkala land handover in Cape York see’s further constraints put on Areva’s plans to dig, PM Abbott flags uranium sales to Ukraine – from the land that fuelled Fukushima to the country that is home to Chernobyl, Barry Brook leads a call for nuclear power to be accepted by ENGO’s, Minister Macfarlane accepts that the push through approach to dump siting has failed and announces modest public input into a new model.

Which brings us to a new year…..

Thanks to all behind the news, making the news and especially to those documenting and collating the news including Jim Green at WISE, the Radioactive and Understorey crews, Maelor and Josh at ACFi, Mia and Marcus and Judy at ANAWA, GAC, Christina Macpherson and more…..

by Dave Sweeney, ACFi