Is Rena Carrying Yellowcake? | The Jackal

9 Oct 2011

Is Rena Carrying Yellowcake?

The transport of uranium ore concentrate (yellow cake) through New Zealand ports has been taking place for well over thirty years. Shipments have been stopping at Auckland, Tauranga, Napier and Nelson.

Yellow cake comes within the hazardous substances section of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996, and ERMA is meant to monitor all shipments through New Zealand.

The hazardous substance is shipped from Australia, which has 38% (714,000 tones) of the world's lowest-cost uranium (U3O8) resources. Yellow cake is mined at Olympic Dam in South Australia, Ranger Mine in Northern Territory Australia and Beverley Mine also in South Australia.

The yellow Cake is stowed within 20-foot ISO sea freight containers. The United Nations Number Shipping Name for these shipments is UN 2912, Radioactive Material, Low Specific Activity (LSA-1).

ERMA documentation shows three companies mining uranium in Australia got permission in 2010 to regularly route their products via NZ until the end of 2014. Among them is Energy Resources of Australia, which told ERMA its shipments could be as much as 750 tonnes.

Australia stopped reporting its uranium destinations by country in 2009. The latest ASNO Annual Report only shows data by continent. Apparently individual country information is not provided in order to protect commercial confidentiality. This graph shows the extent of Australia's uranium exports up to 2009, when a total of 9378 metric tonnes of uranium was exported.

Despite many requests by those concerned, National has not released the inventory showing exactly what Rena is carrying.

According to this article, Adelaide and Darwin are the only two ports in Australia that allow the export of uranium oxide. Although the ship has not recently visited Adelaide or Darwin, we cannot be sure that the MV Rena is not carrying radioactive yellow cake, being that Melbourne's port is close to the Olympic Dam and Beverly mines. The Rena is listed as carrying a cargo (70), which I believe means a category Hazard A (Major) cargo.
Possible Yellowcake Contamination of the Bay of Plenty

Below is a list of recent GPS locations the Rena visited.

Rena's positions: 

04/10/2011 1:21:00 PM (UTC) - Tauranga
02/10/2011 10:05:00 PM (UTC) - Napier
02/10/2011 2:30:00 AM (UTC) Wellington
29/09/2011 1:00:00 PM (UTC) - Dunedin
19/09/2011 12:59:00 AM (UTC) - Melbourne
11/09/2011 12:49:00 PM (UTC) - Perth
04/09/2011 12:56:00 PM (UTC) - Singapore
30/07/11  22:00:00 (UTC) - Melbourne
05/07/11  08:00:26 (UTC) - Chiwan
08/05/11 08:00:45 (UTC) - Cristobal
29/04/11 19:00:21 (UTC) - Norfolk
27/04/11 16:00:45 (UTC) - New York
21/04/11 20:00:51 (UTC) - Balboa
Olympic Dam mining centre South Australia