Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


GLW: Bush And Howard Plan Australian Nuclear Dump

Howard Pushes For Uranium Enrichment

Doug Lorimer
Green Left Weekly

On June 6, PM John Howard announced the appointment of former Telstra CEO Ziggy Switkowski, who is also a board member of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), to head a six-member task force to “review” Australia’s uranium mining industry and the possibility of building nuclear power plants in Australia.

Australia’s current involvement in the nuclear industry is limited to the mining and export of “yellowcake” (powderised uranium ore) and the operation of a small research reactor at Lucas Heights in southern Sydney. However, Australia has 40% of the world’s known low-cost recoverable uranium reserves.

While promising that the task force would carry out an “objective, scientific and comprehensive” review, Howard argued that the establishment of nuclear power plants would be good for Australia’s economy. “Energy prices and energy security are key considerations for future economic growth in a lower [carbon dioxide] emissions future”, he said.

The review will begin this month, with a draft report planned for public consultation by November and the final report due by the end of the year.

The corporate media has focused on Howard’s remarks since returning from Washington on May 19 about nuclear power being the solution to climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power stations. The government is most keen on massively expanding exports of Australian uranium, and adding value by turning the yellowcake into nuclear fuel rods. To do this, however, would require building a uranium enrichment plant.

“It doesn’t seem to me to make a lot of sense to favour the export of uranium without looking at enrichment”, Howard told ABC TV’s June 3 Insiders program. “There is significant potential for Australia to increase and add value to our uranium extraction and exports”, he repeated on June 6. He also noted that recent developments in global energy markets have renewed international interest in nuclear power as a technology that “can help meet growing demand for electricity without the fuel and environmental costs associated with oil and gas”.

Australian Greens energy and climate change spokesperson Senator Christine Milne said that everything about Howard’s announcement “points to enrichment of uranium as the prime minister’s real agenda ... During his recent visit to the United States, Prime Minister Howard had talks in Washington with President [George] Bush about the president’s desire to set up new nuclear fuel supply centres around the world with a view to having these supply centres enrich uranium and lease it with an agreement to take back the spent fuel rods.”

The Bush administration is pushing a massive expansion of the nuclear power industry as the “best” solution to global warming. Last year, Bush won from the US Congress a host of “incentives” for the nuclear power industry, including tax breaks and insurance against regulatory and legal delays in constructing new plants. On May 22, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that 16 US corporations had expressed interest in building 25 nuclear reactors in the US.

Bush has also proposed that Australia and Canada — the world’s major uranium exporting countries — join with the US to form a marketing cartel, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). They would enrich the uranium, then “rent” their nuclear fuel rods out to user countries and take back the waste.

According to the June 6 Australian Financial Review, before and during his visit to Washington, Howard was briefed by US officials about the role they expect Australia to play in the GNEP. This would involve “mining and enriching uranium at Olympic Dam in South Australia, exporting it to India and China via the Adelaide-Darwin rail line and re-importing the waste the same way for storage at the former nuclear test site at Maralinga ... The GNEP could create immediate profits for any private firm building an enrichment plant at or near the Olympic Dam uranium mine.”

The Olympic Dam mine, owned and operated by BHP Billiton, holds the world’s largest known uranium ore deposit, with about 66% of Australia’s proven reserves. Under the Bush plan, Maralinga would become the world’s principal site for dumping used nuclear fuel rods.

From Green Left Weekly, June 14, 2006.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page -

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Binoy Kampmark: Vague Alternatives And G7 Summitry: The Build Back Better World Initiative

Summits often feature grand statements and needless fripperies. In Cornwall, the leaders of the G7 countries were trying to position and promote their relevance as the vanguard of democratic good sense and values... More>>

Suicidal Games: Tokyo’s Coronavirus Olympics

A pandemic crisis. A state of emergency. Overwhelming public opinion bristling with alarm. Notwithstanding these factors, Tokyo is still on track to host the Olympics that was cancelled last year in response to the global pandemic. The first sports team – Australia’s softball crew – has touched down. Is all this folly, bravery or self-interest?.. More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Burned By The Diana Cult: The Fall Of Martin Bashir

The interview was infamous, made his name and was bound to enrage. It also received a viewing audience of 23 million people who heard a saucy tale of adultery, plots in the palace, and stories of physical and mental illness. But the tarring and feathering of Martin Bashir for his 1995 Panorama programme featuring Princess Diana was always more than the scruples of a journalist and his interviewing methods... More>>

How It All Went Wrong: The Global Response To COVID-19

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response was never likely to hand down a rosy report with gobbets of praise. Organised by the World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last May, the panel’s gloomy assessment was grim: the COVID-19 pandemic could have been avoided... More>>

The Conversation: Is Natural Gas Really Cheaper Than Renewable Electricity?

Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change... More>>

Keith Rankin: The New Zealand Government’s 'Public Finance Rabbithole'

Last week, out of left field, the government placed a three-year embargo on normal public sector wage bargaining, essentially a salary freeze. While there has been a certain amount of backtracking since, it is clear that the government has been ... More>>