Peter Garret on uranium exports | The Jackal

5 Dec 2011

Peter Garret on uranium exports

Last Saturday, ex frontman for Midnight Oil and now Australian Minister for School Education, Peter Garret, spoke out about Why it's too dangerous to sell uranium to India:

While the Labor Party continues to wrestle with the issue of the export of uranium, in government Labor has devoted considerable energy to disarmament. The Australia-Japan report on nuclear proliferation, co-written by the former foreign minister Gareth Evans, summarised the situation well, noting "so long as any state has nuclear weapons others will want them. So long as any such weapons remain it defies credibility that they will not one day be used, by accident, misuse or design. Any such use would be catastrophic." 
The importance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – committing nuclear states to reduce their nuclear arsenals and prohibiting other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons – is central. It stands as one of the foundation stones of the international disarmament framework, and Australia's support for the treaty has been rock solid.

However yesterday, idiotic delegates endorsed Prime Minister Julia Gillard's request that Australia should export uranium to India, with 206 people voting in favour and 185 opposing it. Unbelievable!

This is a terrible decision with Pakistan (also not signed to the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty) now requesting to have access to Australia's uranium as well.

Julia Gillard's argument was that it's unfair to sell uranium to China and not India. I wonder if this argument now applies to Pakistan or perhaps Iran?

Gillard is providing such a disingenuous argument being that Australia should not be selling uranium to China either, especially in light of the Fukushima disaster and the many thousands of calls for an end to the nuclear era.

The worst thing about all of this for New Zealand is that despite our Nuclear Free status, Australia has been shipping large quantities of uranium through our ports, completely ignoring the laws of this country. Australia cannot guarantee that the uranium they export is not being used to make weapons and is therefore committing a crime under current law.

A decision to export uranium to India is likely to increase the amount of unlawful cargo entering and exiting New Zealand's ports.

Some have argued that it's perfectly safe because the uranium is sealed in barrels. But it is likely that the recent grounding in Tauranga of the cargo ship Rena, spilled uranium (yellow cake) into the ocean. I don't know what else this stuff could be?

Perhaps the best argument for Australia to not continue its insane uranium mining program can be found in this Fact sheet (PDF) by Gavin M. Mudd:

The long-term management of uranium mill tailings present a major environmental challenge. Given the tailings contain most of the original radioactivity of the ore (i.e. the decay products), they must be isolated from the environment for periods of at least tens of thousands of years – a time scale which is beyond collective human experience and certainly challenges engineering approaches for waste containment.