Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Queensland children’s health at risk – need to re-introduce fluoridation of water

November 14, 2016
diagram-fluoride

New Queensland Health data shows 3223 children aged 10 and under required hospital treatment in 2013-14 for dental caries (the scientific term for tooth decay or cavities).

More than 51 per cent of Queensland five to 10-year- olds who attended public dental clinics in 2014-15 had decay in their baby teeth. On average, four teeth were affected.

Decay in Queensland children aged five to 10 was 20 per cent higher than national averages to 2012-14 and 33 per cent higher in the permanent teeth of nine to 14-year-olds.

Queensland’s Chief Dentist Dr Mark Brown said he was concerned by the “high level of tooth decay” in children, describing it as “a significant problem”.

In terms of population, about three-quarters of the state has water fluoridation – up from less than 5 per cent before the Bligh government made fluoridated water supplies mandatory for communities of more than 1000 people in 2008.

But since 2012, changes made under former premier Campbell Newman have allowed councils to pull out of fluoridating water supplies.

“My concern is for the quarter of the population in regional and rural Queensland who don’t have access to fluoridation,” Dr Brown said. “That community is being left behind when most Australians now have access to water fluoridation.”.

Australian Dental Association state fluoride spokesman Dr Michael Foley said there was no doubt water fluoridation reduced the risk of decay.

  “We’re spending a fortune on general anaesthetics for kids with dental decay,” he said. “It’s stupid. Water fluoridation saves truckloads of money in saved dental costs.”

Dr Foley said he would like to see the State Government take control of fluoridating drinking water, rather than local councils. (more…)

Deceiving a jury about nuclear radiation – Greg Ward, Chad Jacobi, Nigel McBride, Jason Kuchel, Michael Penniment

July 17, 2016

 

banana-spinBananas, brazil nuts and some other foods contain radioactive potassium-40 — but in extremely low doses. Potassium-40 in bananas has a specific activity of 71 ten millionths of a curie per gram. Compare that to the 88 curies per gram for Cesium-137. This is like comparing a stick of dynamite to an atomic bomb. Our bodies manage the ingested Potassium 40, so that after eating bananas, the excess is quickly excreted and the body’s Potassium-40 level remains unchanged.

The radioactive isotopes that come from nuclear fission (such as strontium -90, cesium -137 and iodine 131) were unknown in nature before atomic fission: our bodies are not adapted to them. And as well as being far more radioactive that Potassium -40, they can accumulate in the body.

I had hoped for something sensible to come out of these Citizens’ Juries. That doesn’t look like happening if the juries continue to be fed this kind of nonsense. 

On the matter of ionising radiation and health, Noel Wauchope rebuts five misleading speakers at the Nuclear Citizens’ Jury hearings on Australia’s nuclear waste importation plan.

IN TWO DAYS of 25 Citizens’ Jury sessions in Adelaide (on 25-26 June), about nuclear waste importing, there was minimal coverage of the question of ionising radiation and health.

What little there was, was skimpy, superficial and downright deceptive, in 209 pages of transcripts.

There was not one mention of the world’s authoritative bodies on the subject — The World Health Organisation, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or any of the reports on biological effects of ionising radiation.

There was no explanation of the “linear no threshold” (LNT) theory on ionising radiation and health, despite the fact that this theory is the one accepted by all the national and international health bodies, including the Ionising Radiation Safety Institute of Australia who, on this topic, quote the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

Instead of explaining this basic concept in radiation protection, the slight coverage on radiation and health given to the Jury, was done in a trivial manner as the following examples (listed in the transcript report) illustrate.

First Speaker

Greg Ward, Chief of Staff, Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, was asked the following question by a juror (p 28):

“Why didn’t the commission report to us the effect of radioactivity in these two [Hiroshima and Nagasaki] populations?”

Greg Ward

That’s just one example … There are lots of studies being undertaken … to look at it from other angles as well … I would have to say that there’s a cloudy area, and that’s largely around the impact of low doses of radiation on humans … You’ve got others who would argue that actually small amounts of radiation actually has a beneficial effect on your immune systems, but there’s certainly no — I would have to say there’s no universal agreement at this point.

Rebuttal

But there IS universal agreement on the Linear No Threshold theory, as explained by the health bodies named above.

Second Speaker

Chad Jacobi, Counsel Assisting, Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (p. 31):

Chad Jacobi

the effects that we’re looking at, they are what are known as stochastic effects, they deal with lower doses where you need to do epidemiological studies in order to determine the relationship between radiation and a particular consequence … outstanding evidence, from Geraldine Thomas … She gave excellent evidence on this topic and her evidence is very interesting.  

Rebuttal

Mr Jacobi did not go on to explain any of this evidence, so the jurors were left in the dark here.

However, Professor Geraldine Thomas of the Imperial College London, cited by Jacobi, is well known as a speaker promoting the message that ionising radiation is nothing to worry about. She pops up wherever the nuclear lobby is doing a soft sell and in particular, downplays the health effects of radiation on all species as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. She also claimed (at an international conference on radiation research in Warsaw in 2011):

Following Fukushima I doubt that there’ll be any rise in thyroid cancers in Japan.

Thomas’ views are greatly contested. Screening has shown an abnormal rise in thyroid cancers in Fukushima. Professor Timothy Mousseau has studied the Chernobyl and Fukushima situations extensively, finding ill effects of radiation — including genetic damage and increased mutation rates in many species.

Third Speaker

Nigel McBride, Chief Executive Business SA — the state’s peak business and employer group. Mr McBride had a lot to say — some snatches (p 88):

Nigel McBride

Maralinga atomic experiments … British atomic tests are not linked to this discussion; they’ve got nothing to do with it very subtle way of linking two completely unrelated issues to bring fear and emotion … 60,000 people work directly in the UK nuclear industry and in 60 years there has not been one fatality. Neither has there been a fatality in Canada, France, Germany, India and even the U.S. … Five and a half thousand people we understand die from some level of obesity yet we don’t ban sugar and sugary drinks … education over hysteria.

Rebuttal

On Maralinga, from Keith Thomas, Chief Executive of the South Australian Native Title Services (p 97):

Keith Thomas

For Aboriginal people the past really does shape the present and the future. Significant events like happened at Maralinga very much become a part of that … that’s affected people all the way to the present as there’s people dying young, which shouldn’t be happening … Aboriginal people — “We don’t want that stuff here because we’ve seen what it does to people.”

On nuclear workers’ fatalities:

An investigation in the U.S. last year, revealed at least 33,480 American nuclear workers died as a result of their radiation exposure. International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organisation also reported on nuclear workers’ leukaemia.

Fourth Speaker

Jason Kuchel, Chief Executive South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy. At last, the fun part about bananas and chocolate. He provided these to jurors, as some sort of evidence of the benignness of ionising radiation (p 117):

Jason Kuchel

I took the opportunity during the break to put some bananas and some chocolates on the tables … you will get to see the point of that as we go through. … [the risks of] getting an x-ray, flying in a plane or even eating a bananaAt the Onkalo waste repository in Finland, the worst case radiation dose if someone were to stand on top of the facility for a whole year and there was a defective package, the equivalent radiation would be equal to eating one bite of a banana.  

As the facility is not yet accepting radioactive waste, all that hardly matters. And that was all from Mr Kuchel.

Fifth Speaker

Associate Professor Michael Penniment, Director Royal Adelaide Hospital, went on at length about the present storage of radioactive materials in hospitals and so on in Adelaide. He took a long time to go near the question of health effects of low level radiation but he finally got to talking about radioactive sources (p 124):

Michael Penniment

It may be that you may not want to avoid them anyway … I got the banana association straight up. I didn’t get the Lindt one [the reference is to the Lindt chocolate factory, which is quite near a nuclear power plant]; I didn’t see that coming. But certainly there’s some radioactive potassium.

You can decrease your risk by doing a few things: you can live in a wooden house, that will take per cent house; if you live in a tent, that will take 20 per cent off; if you live in the open, that will take 50 per cent off.  (He goes on to elaborate the benefits of radiation in treating cancer).  And that’s it — end of his presentation.

However, later in the Q and A section, Penniment did return to that subject ( p.132):

I saw an article by … David Webb … in the follow-up to Chernobyl … there were 28 deaths, and those were the radiation workers that were sent in to clean up the initial spill … And then there was something of the order of 1500 people that died from suicide because of their concerns about radiation, which he described as really the fallacy of radiation, that those people were so worried, and beyond that nobody has died form that incident.

There’s even data that suggests, and it’s reassuring to me, there was data from the British Radiology Association a number of years ago that low level exposure that’s above what we’ve set as the community limit actually may have an improvement in health in terms of what’s called radiation hormesis. The study of radiation workers in the 50s and 60s where controls aren’t as tight as 30 they are now suggests that it may actually have a very low level exposure to radiation but above what we would deem safe might actually have an improvement in health.

Rebuttal

On Chernobyl deaths:

Professor Penniment has taken his information from the World Nuclear News. As well as the sources noted above, eminent Russian scientists have put the death toll at 985,000. The most recent study TORCH-2016, an independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, explains the difficulty in getting an accurate estimate but suggests a conservative estimate of 30,000.

On nuclear workers’ health: 

As explained above, in rebutting Nigel McBride.

On radioactivity of bananas:  

Bananas, brazil nuts and some other foods contain radioactive potassium-40 — but in extremely low doses. Potassium-40 in bananas has a specific activity of 71 ten millionths of a curie per gram. Compare that to the 88 curies per gram for Cesium-137. This is like comparing a stick of dynamite to an atomic bomb. Our bodies manage the ingested Potassium 40, so that after eating bananas, the excess is quickly excreted and the body’s Potassium-40 level remains unchanged.

The radioactive isotopes that come from nuclear fission (such as strontium -90, cesium -137 and iodine 131) were unknown in nature before atomic fission: our bodies are not adapted to them. And as well as being far more radioactive that Potassium -40, they can accumulate in the body.

I had hoped for something sensible to come out of these Citizens’ Juries. That doesn’t look like happening if the juries continue to be fed this kind of nonsense.

Debunking the myths around medicine and a nuclear waste dump

March 7, 2016

A very comprehensive 2010 OECD Nuclear Energy Agency report found reactor based isotope production requires significant taxpayer subsidies, as the cost of sale does not cover the cost of production.

The report concludes: “In many cases the full impact of Mo-99/Tc-99m provision was not transparent to or appreciated by governments… The full costs of waste management, reactor operations, fuel consumption, etc were not included in the price structure. This is a subsidisation by one country’s taxpayers of another country’s health care system. Many governments have indicated that they are no longer willing to provide such subsidisation.”

What is needed urgently is a debate about how much waste we make. We have a choice: whether we follow ANSTO’s expensive business model to ramp up reactor manufacture (and the long-lived radioactive waste that goes with it), or collaborate with Canada to develop cyclotron manufacture of isotopes that does not produce long-lived nuclear waste.

Debunking the myths around medicine and a nuclear waste dump

Nuclear Waste In Australia: A Few Home Truths https://newmatilda.com/2016/03/07/50511/   By  on March 7, 2016 Australia’s hunt for a central nuclear waste dump continues, but we already have more waste than we know what to do with, writes Margaret Beavis.

The Federal government is seeking a location for a nuclear waste facility. But the provision of information to communities has been problematic, with some major flaws.

Claims have been made that provision of nuclear medicine services is a key reason to build it, but existing medical waste makes up a very small proportion of the total waste requiring disposal.

In addition, little has been said about ANSTO’s business plan to greatly ramp up Australia’s reactor based production of isotopes from 1 per cent to over 25 per cent of the world’s market, which will massively increase the amount of long-lived radioactive waste produced in the future.

A new process may reduce the volume of the waste, but the actual quantity of radioactive material to store will be significantly greater, and will become most of the radioactive waste Australia produces.

In Australia nuclear medicine isotopes are indeed useful, but according to Medicare figures represent less than 3 per cent of medical imaging. They are most commonly used for bone scans and some specialised heart scans. They are not needed (as claimed by government) for normal X-rays, most heart scans and the vast majority of cancer treatments (surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy). (more…)

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) dishonest about medical isotopes

February 5, 2016
Medical isotope production
Medical Association for the Prevention of War, 5 Feb 16 Media reports today linking continued access to nuclear medicine to the development of a new national nuclear waste facility do not correctly reflect the situation or advance considered discussion of these issues, according to leading national public health group the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW).
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), which runs the Lucas Heights reactor, has increased pressure on the waste dump selection process by saying it will run out of storage capacity by early 2017, and will have to stop making medical isotopes for nuclear medicine use. This statement omits many facts.
ANSTO has quietly decided to develop a reactor based export industry for medical isotopes, to supply 30% of the world market. This plan, made with no public debate or inquiry, would very significantly increase waste from reactor use.
In contrast, Canada had an extensive public review of its reactor production in 2009, and decided it did not wish to continue using a reactor to produce isotopes. Reasons included lack of reliable supply (reactors only operate 80% of the year, and do break down from time to time), expense to the taxpayer of the production, and the burden of nuclear waste left in Canada due to international use.
The Canadians have developed proven methods of isotope production using cyclotrons (which does not generate reactor waste), with a successful pilot in January 2015. They are now in the process of scaling up and getting regulatory approvals for this, and look to be able to supply Canada in the next 3-5 years.
It should be noted that using medical isotope produces extremely little waste. It is reactor production of isotopes that needs public debate and scrutiny.
We can continue with ANSTO’s business plan, and export to supply the world market. This will leave Australia with vastly increased burden of nuclear waste from international nuclear medicine use, and is the more expensive option.
We can return to business as usual supplying Australia, which means we produce isotopes less than one day a week (not five days a week), with a subsequent major decrease in radioactive waste. This would enable all parties to plan world’s best practice storage in a rational and calm manner. We could further partner with Canada and work to develop cyclotron production of isotopes at commercial scale in Australia.
This is cheaper and more reliable than reactor production, and does not leave communities, taxpayers and future generations with a nuclear waste burden that will last for millennia. And unlike a nuclear reactor, it poses almost no accident, proliferation or terrorist risks. We do not need to choose between access to nuclear medicine and the time and processes needed to advance responsible radioactive waste management.

Lucas Heights Nuclear reactor mainly for “medical uses” That’s a lie!

January 18, 2016
nuclear-medicine
it would be highly misleading to attribute this predominantly to medical isotope production given the broad range of uses of the HIFAR and MOATA reactors over the last 60 years.
Radioactive waste in Australia, Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) 18 Jan 16   “……..How much medical
waste will be deposited in the repository?
Less than 1% is medical waste (leftover radium and some disused sources). Most states and territories each only have a few cubic metres of low level medical waste.
 There are broadly two areas in which radioactive material is used for medical purposes:
Nuclear scans for investigating disease. These produce the vast bulk of medical nuclear waste. This is short-lived and decays on the medical facilities’ premises until its activity is negligible. It then is disposed of safely and appropriately in the usual manner of most waste (sewers, incineration, landfill tips etc.) according to set standards.
Cancer treatment radiotherapy. Most radiotherapy uses X-rays or electromagnetic radiation which do not produce any waste at all. A very small proportion of cancer treatment actually relies on radioactive materials, which almost all decay rapidly. Longer lived sources must be returned to their (overseas) sources when used up and so do not need local disposal. The provision of nuclear medicine services does not depend on a permanent waste repository.
What about the radioactive waste derived from the production of medical isotopes at Lucas Heights?
 • Firstly, most countries import their medical isotopes and clearly do not store the waste involved in its production. Medical isotope supply is a globalised industry with five reactors supplying over 95% of the world’s supply. Australia’s domestic production of medical isotopes is a policy choice not a medical necessity.
 • Secondly, Canada (the world’s biggest supplier) is switching to non-reactor isotope production, which does not create radioactive waste. This will significantly reduce Canada’s accumulation of waste. In contrast, ANSTO is proposing to dramatically increase reactor isotope production to sell to 30% of the world market. As a result Australia will accumulate much more waste from international isotope sales. Developing cyclotrons instead (like Canada) would eliminate radioactive waste from isotope production. • Thirdly, as outlined above, the majority of waste requiring long term disposal is not medically related at all. ANSTO emphasizes “only 40% of low level radioactive waste” arises from its activities. But ANSTO does not just make medical isotopes; it also produces isotopes for industrial research activities , manufacture of semiconductors and analysis of minerals and samples2 . The contribution to waste production of medical radiopharmaceuticals has been overstated.
Although 61% of Intermediate level waste is ANSTO related, this is only 5.8% of the total waste for the repository. Furthermore, this does not include the returning reprocessed spent fuel, since ANSTO does not classify spent fuel waste. And again it would be highly misleading to attribute this predominantly to medical isotope production given the broad range of uses of the HIFAR and MOATA reactors over the last 60 years……… https://www.mapw.org.au/files/downloads/Radioactive%20waste%20in%20Australia%20colour%20FINAL.pdf https://www.mapw.org.au/download/radioactive-waste-australia-fact-sheet-2016

Health impacts of nuclear power not a consideration for South Australia’s Royal Commission

March 11, 2015

11 Mar 15 The Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) and the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) are deeply concerned that the Royal Commission’s draft terms of reference are too narrow and do not protect the health of South Australians.

“The draft terms of reference do not address health impacts at all, for either industry workers or the general public,” said Dr Margaret Beavis, President of MAPW. “Nuclear reactors are associated with increased rates of childhood leukemia in surrounding areas, and there are already legacy health issues in South Australia resulting from previous nuclear activities and uranium mining,” she added.

“In addition, the large government subsidies reactors require may reduce funds available for public institutions like hospitals and health services in South Australia,” Dr Beavis added.

The MAPW and PHAA are calling for a comprehensive examination of the entire nuclear industry, including uranium mining and security risks.

“There are health threats associated with every step of the nuclear fuel cycle and ample scientific evidence regarding the hazards of low dose radiation exposure,” said PHAA spokesperson Dr Michael Fonda. “There needs to be a genuine and scientific assessment of the health impacts of the nuclear industry both from the past and for the future,” he added.

This Royal Commission provides an opportunity to explore energy solutions for South Australia. “Uranium is a non-renewable resource and Australia needs a 21st century Energy Policy that hastens the transition of our economy toward one powered by renewables, not one that ties us down in outmoded and potentially dangerous technologies,” Dr Beavis said.

Both organisations have offered to assist the Royal Commission in its inquiry.

 

For further information/comment: 

Dr Margaret Beavis

 

President, Medical Association for Prevention of War

0401 995 699

Dr Michael Fonda

 

Ecology and Environment Special Interest Group, Public Health Association of Australia

0429 435 595

Issues not addressed by the Draft Terms of Reference include:

The major subsidies needed for nuclear reactors. Effective regulation, insurance, long term waste management and decommissioning are costly.

Financial conflicts of interest. The uranium/nuclear industry has strong financial links with a number of individuals, universities, researchers and academics, particularly in South Australia. It is essential in any inquiry that potential financial conflicts of interest are explicitly declared by all witnesses and commission staff.

Water resources. Where will the water needed for reactors come from? What impact will this have on the local, regional, state water supplies, and will it impact on below ground water sources? What will be done to protect the SA waterways from radioactive contamination?

Risk management. What are the security implications for reprocessing / power generation? What are the hazard implications in the event of natural disaster, accident or deliberate damage? How will the hazards of transporting radioactive materials be addressed?

Specifically, what is the state’s preparedness and ability to cope with a nuclear accident along the lines of Fukushima (including economic impacts)? The Japanese Diet inquiry into the Fukushima disaster described it as a “man-made disaster”, where a cosy relationship between the industry and levels of government, poor regulation and cost cutting resulted in failure of the “fail safe” mechanisms.

Mining. Given export of uranium produces either nuclear weapons or waste that has no safe long term storage, and the production of uranium creates serious long term environmental problems (radioactive tailings, accidents in nuclear power stations like Fukushima, managing radioactive waste), examination of the advisability of continuing to mine uranium should also be included in the terms of reference.

Justification for waste storage. The use of medical isotopes is often used to justify a waste facility. A waste dump is not required for Australia to continue to provide world-class nuclear medicine procedures. The “medical necessity” claim is deliberately misleading. The majority of waste produced from medical radioisotopes decays almost entirely in a few days and is then classified as exempt waste (EW) which can be disposed of in the existing general environmental waste systems. An extremely small amount of medical waste is designated ‘intermediate level waste’ (ILW) and is presently safely stored at hospitals and research facilities.

Justification for reactor. Similarly, the creation of medical isotopes has been used to justify the need for a reactor. Overseas practice shows that it is feasible for radioactive isotopes to be supplied through non-reactor sources. The Canadian Government has developed non-reactor based isotope production (using particle accelerators) after deciding that the development of a new reactor could not be justified on the grounds of isotope production.

Legacy Issues. There are a number of contaminated sites in SA that have never been (and probably never will be) decontaminated. This is a very significant health and social issue for those people affected.

 

Australian Aborigines made ill by nuclear bomb tests, never recognised, never compensated

November 6, 2014

Backgrounder: Why was Maralinga used for secret nuclear tests?SBS News 5 Nov 14  “…….

What happened to the people who lived there?

The nuclear testings lead to widespread dispersion of radioactive material in the local environment. The Anangu Aboriginal people who lived the area called it “puyu” or “black mist”.

UK servicemen, Australian soldiers and civilians, including Indigenous people, were all exposed to radiation. Illnesses reportedly included cancer, blood diseases, eye problems, skin rashes, blindness, vomitting, which are all symptoms of radioactive poisoning.

Between 1953 and 1957, two nuclear devices were detonated at Emu and seven at Maralinga, the Department of Industry reported. According to the Australian Radiationn Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) these “major trials” have largely decayed and are “no longer a significant health risk” as these nuclear devices were conducted at higher altitudes (from balloons).

However, the biggest cause of contamination was from “minor trials”, which were weapons development trials that investigated the performance of various components of a nuclear device. Although minor trials didn’t involve nuclear explosions, they did contain radioactive material.

Since contamination remains on or close to the ground surface, there is a significant health risk for locals. Three sites, Taranaki, TM100/101 (TMs), and Wewak remained highly contaminated with plutonium 40 years later……..

Were victims compensated by the British government?

Aboriginal people exposed to British nuclear tests in South Australia during the 1950s are being told they have no hope of compensation. British firm Hickman and Rose had hoped to represent more than 150 civilians, if a huge class action by 1,000 British veterans had succeeded.

But the class action was blocked – the UK Supreme Court ruling that 60 years after the event their claims were too late, the causes of their illnesses apparently unprovable. (Read the full judgment here)

The Australian Greens’ nuclear spokesman Scott Ludlam said the dangers of radiation are well known and it’s unfair to ask Aboriginal people with scant medical records to prove a direct link between exposure to fallout and subsequent sickness.

“The British courts have blocked the application from Defence personnel and Aboriginal people in central Australia by saying you can’t prove those radiations exposures are what caused your illness,” he said. “Now, we know that ionising radiation is harmful for health – we know that for a fact. The right thing for the British Government to do is make an Act of Grace payment to the people who they injured in their nuclear weapons tests.”

In response, UK Defence Personnel Welfare and Veterans Minister of State Mark Francois said: “[The] Ministry of Defence’s position with respect to paying compensation is unchanged. I am sorry to have to send a disappointing reply, but I hope I have explained the reasons for doing so.”……http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/11/05/backgrounder-why-was-maralinga-used-secret-nuclear-tests

Gathering information on health effects of Maralinga atomic bomb tests

November 6, 2014

  http://www.pozible.com/project/187985   The story of the project   At the ANFA (Australia
Nuclear Free Alliance) meeting in Oct 2014 Indigenous Elders called for documentation of the health effects from the Maralinga and other atomic bomb tests in the 1950’s and 1960’s.   See https://ausnukefreealliance.wordpress.com for the meeting statement.

First Nations people along with the rest of the population from the southern regions of Australia were subject to horrific fallout from atomic testing carried out in these remote areas.
Permission was never sort from the Aboriginal nations.
“Just remember that the fallout at Maralinga affected the whole lot of us. Black, white, brindle; we all breathe the same air, and we’re all being affected in various ways, even though that happened a long time ago. It’s still around.” Sue Coleman-Haseldine (Kokatha Mula – Ceduna)
From 1952 to 1963 atomic testing covered vast areas of South Australia including Maralinga and Emu Fields test sites.
In November 2014 there will be a 3 week road trip to archive the stories of the people from Arabuna, Walitina, Ceduna, and Yalata country to produce film, audio and digital documentaries. We will begin a data base of the families affected, the geographical distributions of fall out and detrimental health repercussions of these unconsented tests.

The project will meet with people and family members who remained in the vicinity of the testing who were exposed to the immediate effects of radiological poison; people who were transmigrated from their homelands under duress to missions including Yalata in the south west of the state and people who suffer intergenerational impacts first hand at the expense of the atomic tests.

Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. Both in the scale of the devastation they cause, and in their uniquely persistent, spreading, genetically damaging radioactive fallout, they are unlike any other weapons.

For more information on nuclear weapons, including an article on Yami Lester, one of the survivors of the nuclear tests in South Australia, see http://www.icanw.org/au/

Many Aboriginal people in South Australia still rely on bush foods – plants and animals sourced from land that still is contaminated. The possibility of bioaccumulation is very real. Certainly the stories of early death from cancer, thyroid disease and congenital deformities are continuing.

“I’ve lost a lot of my family members through early death – and a lot of it was through cancer, and I do blame the Maralinga fallout.”
Aunty Martha – Arabana (Lake Eyre) Contact us at:  uraniumthesilentkiller@gmail.com

Shareholder concerns at Rio Tinto’s AGM – uranium miners’ cancers, pollution in Kakadu National Park

May 9, 2014

Uranium mine leaks dominate Rio AGM RIO Tinto’s uranium operations are contributing nothing to its profits – but they dominated its annual general meeting. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/uranium-mine-leaks-dominate-rio-agm/story-fn3dxity-1226910566303 8 May 14,  Anti-nuclear activists had plenty of ammunition after two toxic, radioactive spills in a week at its two uranium mines shortly before Christmas.

Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Dave Sweeney accused the board of shirking its responsibilities by refusing to guarantee that it would fund the rehabilitation of the Ranger uranium mine site.

The site is surrounded by the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, was shut down after December’s spill and is operated by Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), which Rio owns 68 per cent of.

“I would urge you to commit to Rio Tinto addressing its full financial and other responsibilities for its subsidiary,” Mr Sweeney said at the AGM in Melbourne.”You share common uranium marketing with ERA, you direct ERA and ERA reports to Rio Tinto’s energy division.”

Rio’s chief executive Sam Walsh told the AGM ERA was a public company controlled by an independent board that would decide how to rehabilitate the area.

As the major shareholder, Rio would play its part and he insisted there had been no overflows of leaked material into rivers.

The company was also presented with a letter from a community group representing people connected to Rio’s Rossing uranium mine in Namibia. It stated that higher than normal rates of cancers had been detected in past and present workers there going back to the 1970s and called for an epidemiological study.

Mr Walsh said he took the claims seriously and would order an independent review, but that there was no medical evidence of any issues.

Unions and workers from Rio’s Hunter Valley coal mines in NSW also accused the company of shoddy industrial practices and safety standards. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union vice president Wayne McAndrew said Rio was the worst industry offender for relying on casuals and contractors, which led to slipping safety standards. Mr Walsh said he cared deeply that three people were killed at Rio’s operations last year.

ERA’s sloppy management of worker health at Ranger uranium mine

May 5, 2014

Running amok at Ranger Mining Australia, 5 May, 2014 Ben Hagemann“…….The job was to clean out one of the CCD (Counter-Current Decantation) tanks, ready for inspecting and repairing the rubber lining, and to change pump impellers underneath the tank.

A CCD tank is like an enormous, open-topped butter churn, but rather than mastitus-ridden, bovine squeezings, the tank is filled with a mixture of milled ore, water, some kind of flocculant (guar gum, maybe) and  of course, sulphuric acid.

If I remember correctly, the acid comes from the leach tanks where the ore sits for a while so that the uranium can dissolve into solution, then that solution is decanted in the CCD tank where the flocculant is frothed up so that it can bond with the uranium and float to the surface, turning the whole lot into one big, bubbly, radioactive milkshake.

Of all the tanks only one of them was shut down so that we could do maintenance, and judging by the look of them, we were the first guys to take on this job in a very long time.

Once drained, the tank was one or two feet deep in the extremely heavy ore slurry and the arms were piled with sulphur sediment, hard as sandstone. We needed to disconnect the pumps below and hose all the sludge down the drainhole in the middle, a task that we were instructed to do with process water.

Now, process water… little did I know that’s the water that was used to “process” the ore… duh.

This means the water contained traces of the uranium in solution, fully dissolved and ready to soak into porous, human skin. Although we wore gumboots, long gloves and faceshields, naturally we wound up completely soaked after a few minutes of waving a two inch fire hose on high pressure, trying in vain to get the dense rock sediment to lift up and go down the drain.

It took four weeks to clean one tank, and that included digging out the gutter around the top of the tank from a scissor lift, as well as smashing all the piled up sulphur residue off the enormous arms of the churn (crawling around the lattice structure with a gympie hammer, bashing our way through and getting covered in the yellow muck).

If this sounds like a horrifying degree of physical contact with some very noxious material, you’d be right.

Ranger-CCD-tank-2-uranium

It was about two weeks into the job that management finally got around to giving us our radiation inductions.

There I learned that the water with which I’d been soaking myself was actually radioactive, and you shouldn’t let it get on your skin!

We couldn’t know the degree of radiation we faced, as we weren’t issued with personal radiation monitors (not necessary for shutdown crews, we were told) but workers would reassure us that it wasn’t much.

The next week I took myself to the radiation lab during lunch, where the radiation officers expressed bemusement, then horror when I told them that the grey material all over my shirt was ore.

A quick sweep with the scintillometer revealed slow ticking over my body, which was reassuring, but my leather boots crackled like static on a black and white TV.

They were, as they say in the uranium game, “hot”, and were promptly discarded and replaced with a fresh pair from the stores, along with a full complement of new socks……..

Leaving alone the forgetfulness of management when it came to educating a shutdown crew about the full extent of radioactive hazards, Ranger’s production plant was in pretty bad shape, even to my uneducated eye – It was like the mine that time forgot. There was gridmesh rusted out, full of holes in some spots, so you really had to watch your step on the stairs and catwalks, not to mention the rotted-out, RSJ beams, steel nearly two inches thick you could push a screwdriver through.

I guess that’s what happens when you have sulphuric acid fumes mixing with the sultry, jungle atmosphere- It rots the steel away from under you.

I don’t know whether the site was under-maintained or not, but the fact that a leach tank actually busted open and spilled a full load of radioactive acid slurry last year is a pretty bad sign.

It’s good that ERA is replacing the baffle supports in all the leach tanks, but that kind of corrosion incident points to the prospect that the Ranger plant will be up for a lot more maintenance than that.

It makes me wonder what could happen if ERA were allowed to start a new mine expansion?

Would they look after it? Or would it simply rot away over the years, mismanaged and scraping by on the barest minimum of maintenance?

What do I know? I’m just a simple rigger.