Australia’s nuclear-free collective efforts and achievements in 2021.

Dave Sweeney, 31 Dec 21,

  • Nuclear weapons made illegal: Climate change and nuclear weapons are the two existential threats facing our planet – one reduces our chances every day while the other could end our chances in a day. ICAN – the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons – was recognised with the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force and became part on international humanitarian law in January 2021. Our planets worst weapons are now illegal.
  • International support is growing for the Treaty and the first meeting of state parties is planned to be held in Vienna in March – https://icanw.org.au/
  • Superannuation and pension funds are among those divesting from companies involved in nuclear weapons – https://quitnukes.org/
  • Pushing for the Treaty is an important counterpoint to the AUKUS driven lurch to ever greater militarisation
  • Resistance, rehab and repair: our efforts to stop further, and clean up former, uranium mines saw important results. 
  • All mining and mineral processing at the Ranger mine in Kakadu ceased in January 2021. Nuclear free advocates are now working closely with the Mirarr Traditional Owners to ensure that primary mine owner Rio Tinto does a credible and comprehensive rehabilitation and in supporting an Aboriginal centred post mining regional economy in Kakadu.
  • A federal commitment to ‘full’ funding of a new clean up of the former Rum Jungle site in the NT was confirmed in the 2021 budget
  • Despite extensive efforts there was a disappointing outcome in WA with the recent further approval of the Mulga Rock project east of Kalgoorlie. It is a long journey from a signed paper to a commercial mine and the project faces strong contest – https://www.ccwa.org.au/nuclearfreewa
  • International collaboration continued with efforts to track the impacts of Australian uranium miners in Africa, Spain and Greenland. Opposition to the planned Kvanefjeld uranium project, driven by Perth based Greenland Minerals, was a dominant issue in the 2021 Greenland election which was won by nuclear-free politicians who have since introduced a national ban on uranium mining.

  • Responsible radioactive waste management: 
    the federal government push for a national radioactive waste facility in regional South Australia is not responsible or necessary.

2021 saw deeper co-operation with Barngarla Traditional Owners and Kimba region farmers along with media and political advocacy to highlight and delay the heavy handed federal legislation. Movement advocates welcomed the federal budget allocating $60 million to advance extended interim waste storage at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s Lucas Heights nuclear site. This means Australia’s worst waste can effectively stay in place until a longer term approach is developed and that Kimba is a political choice, not a nuclear necessity.

Unsurprisingly, the federal government has to date ignored the potential this move offers for a constructive circuit breaker in this debate.

2022 will see elevated attention to radioactive waste issues with a Barngarla legal challenge – kick in if you can at – https://www.gofundme.com/f/nbp8f8-barngarla-help-us-have-a-say-on-radioactive-waste – the SA state election in March and growing community awareness and engagement – https://nodumpalliance.org.au/

  • Renewable, not radioactive: in the year that saw the 10th anniversary of Fukushima lots of work went into keeping the door closed to domestic nuclear power and contesting nuclear industry promotion of SMR’s – so called small modular reactors – and other distractions to effective climate action. Efforts have focussed attention on the urgent need for proven and renewable energy solutions – renewable, not radioactive. Australian advocates played a key role in a new dedicated website and co-ordinated the development of a global civil society non-nuclear statement released at CoP 26 in Glasgow that was endorsed by 480 organisations across multiple nations – https://dont-nuke-the-climate.org/   There was increased collaboration with regional partners in Japan, the Pacific, the Philippines and Taiwan – including around next steps in the Fukushima waste water story and the recent positive referendum that has ended plans for a new reactor in Taiwan. 2022 is sure to see more chatter and challenge on the domestic nuclear front ahead of the federal election.

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