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The global uranium industry is really on the skids

Uranium bulls ‘as rare as white unicorns’ Jim Green, Online Opinion, 26 November 2019, https://onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=20623&page=0

Uranium bulls are “as rare as white unicorns” according to a commentary in FNArena in September 2019, and the market is “sick and dying” with uranium “quickly becoming a dinosaur of a commodity”.

Canadian company Cameco recently said it cannot see any case for construction of new uranium mines for some years to come. Chief financial officer Grant Isaac said that new mines will not win financial backing without a far stronger recovery in demand for uranium than is currently on the horizon.

“It’s pretty hard to say you’re going to take the risk on an asset … that isn’t licensed, isn’t permitted, probably doesn’t have a proven mining method, when you have idle tier one capacity that’s licensed, permitted, sitting there,” Isaac said.

Moreover, Cameco has no plans to restart mines put into care-and-maintenance in 2016 and 2017: McArthur River (and the Key Lake mill) and Rabbit Lake in Canada, and the Crow Butte and Smith Ranch-Highland in-situ leach mines in the US. Plans to expand Crow Butte were abandoned in March 2019.

Instead, Cameco will continue to meet its contracts by purchasing uranium on the spot market. Delivering the company’s third-quarter results (a small loss), chief exec­utive Tim Gitzel said that only 9 million pounds of uranium oxide will be produced from its mines next year, with the remainder of its requirement of 30‒32 million pounds supplied from spot market purchases.

Cameco’s workforce in Canada has halved. Before the Fukushima disaster, the company employed more than 2,100 people in Saskatchewan. Since then, 810 mine and mill workers have been sacked, along with 219 head office employees in Saskatoon. Continue reading

November 26, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, Reference, Uranium | Leave a comment

New type of uranium nuclear fuel has safety risks

November 16, 2019 Posted by | safety, technology, UK, Uranium | Leave a comment

Toxic effects of uranium mining on indigenous communities

Coconino Voices: Solving Our Toxic Nuclear Legacy, https://azdailysun.com/opinion/columnists/coconino-voices-solving-our-toxic-nuclear-legacy/article_b8e2ef35-31fe-5cb0-a844-6c0fba973c19.html, BRYAN BATES, 30 Oct 19, 

    • When creating any system, whether a building, a community or an energy system, waste products need to be safely managed. This should be true if we’re building an energy system where the waste products can cause cancer and genetic mutations in humans or any organism within range of long-lived radioactive particles. However, it  hasn’t been.

First discovered in 1895, radiation was shown to kill bacteria in 1898; however, with a high energy potential and money-making promise, radioactivity was not linked to cancer and genetic change until much later and even then its true health effects were hidden from miners and the public.

Because the geologic Chinle Formation on the Navajo Nation is rich in Uranium, Navajo men were put to work without protection from known hazards. Several hundred Navajos became sick from radiation exposure, many at the same time that other Navajos enlisted in the Marines to become Navajo Code Talkers.

Health effects from mining Uranium persist on the Navajo Nation with numerous pit mines still open and potentially affecting water, plants, livestock and Navajo. The amount of pain, illness, death and cost are still unknown. (See Judy Pasternak, 2011, Yellow Dirt.)

With the geologic uplift of the Grand Canyon upwarp, it’s hypothesized that numerous vertical shafts eroded allowing broken rock carrying Uranium from the Chinle Formation to fall into these “breccia pipes”. Left alone, the Uranium and other metals remain isolated from the biotic world; drilled into, these metals can migrate into interconnected aquifers that discharge into the Colorado River, water often used to grow food. The Grand Canyon upwarp has the greatest concentration of Uranium containing breccia pipes in the world.

This region is sacred to the Hopi, Navajo, Pai and other native people. The Canyon Mine has promised to create jobs; however, tourism and outdoor activities “support over 9,000 jobs, contribute over $938 million annually to (local) economies, and generate over $160 million in annual state and local tax revenues. Uranium mining threatens these economic drivers while possessing little capacity to support the regional economy.” (www.grandcanyontrust.org).

Under President Obama, a twenty-year moratorium on Uranium mining was instituted to allow for compilation and review of scientific information and energy policy. President Trump has requested and will receive a proposal from the nuclear industry to assess opening up mining on the Grand Canyon upwarp.

Mined Uranium would be used to generate nuclear electricity in reactors that are at or nearing their engineered lifespan. Building new nuclear reactors is massively expensive and concrete, the primary component of reactors, is the second largest emitter of climate changing CO2. (United Nations, IPCC report). Claims that nuclear energy is climate neutral only look at the internal nuclear reaction and ignore the entire fuel cycle necessary to keep the nuclear system functioning. Currently, nuclear waste is stored on-site at numerous reactors, several of which have moderate security and leaky infrastructure. The one national nuclear repository, Yucca Mountain, has been mothballed after expending $15Billion of taxpayer money.  

To be sure, mining engineers are very intelligent people, and if they can pull Uranium out of breccia pipes, they can pull Uranium out of 1940’s open mining pits and then close off any radiation leakage. These same engineers could pull nuclear fuels from corroding storage bins on-site at nuclear reactors across the country. If a future President decides we need fewer nuclear weapons, future engineers could pull those radioactive elements, though it is questionable whether nuclear power will even be necessary given energy conservation and emerging sustainable energy sources.

In short, our country is not at lack of energy, but our current leadership is at lack of offering practical energy options. The best option is to leave the Uranium in the ground and clean up our country’s toxic nuclear legacy.

October 31, 2019 Posted by | environment, health, indigenous issues, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

High levels of uranium in some Navajo women and infants near old uranium mining sites

US official: Research finds uranium in Navajo  women, babieshttps://apnews.com/334124280ace4b36beb6b8d58c328ae3?fbclid=IwAR2UqarRiUTIPwnRCA_DGkjKuahfFO4T_l9iFrXxb1P8qL5AnmrTc1m61W8By MARY HUDETZ, October 8, 2019, ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — About a quarter of Navajo women and some infants who were part of a federally funded study on uranium exposure had high levels of the radioactive metal in their systems, decades after mining for Cold War weaponry ended on their reservation, a U.S. health official Monday.

The early findings from the University of New Mexico study were shared during a congressional field hearing in Albuquerque. Dr. Loretta Christensen — the chief medical officer on the Navajo Nation for Indian Health Service, a partner in the research — said 781 women were screened during an initial phase of the study that ended last year.

Among them, 26% had concentrations of uranium that exceeded levels found in the highest 5% of the U.S. population, and newborns with equally high concentrations continued to be exposed to uranium during their first year, she said.

The research is continuing as authorities work to clear uranium mining sites across the Navajo Nation.

“It forces us to own up to the known detriments associated with a nuclear-forward society,” said U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who is an enrolled member of Laguna Pueblo, a tribe whose jurisdiction lies west of Albuquerque.

The hearing held in Albuquerque by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, Haaland and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, all Democrats from New Mexico, sought to underscore the atomic age’s impact on Native American communities.

The three are pushing for legislation that would expand radiation compensation to residents in their state, including post-1971 uranium workers and residents who lived downwind from the Trinity Test site in southern New Mexico.

The state’s history has long been intertwined with the development of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, from uranium mining and the first atomic blast to the Manhattan project conducted through work in the once-secret city of Los Alamos. The federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, however, only covers parts of Nevada, Arizona and Utah that are downwind from a different nuclear test site.

During the hearing, Haaland said one of her own family members had lost his hearing because of radiation exposure. At Laguna Pueblo, home to her tribe, the Jackpile-Paguate Mine was once among the world’s largest open-pit uranium mines. It closed several decades ago, but cleanup has yet to be completed.

“They need funds,” Haaland said. “They job was not completed.”

David Gray, a deputy regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the mine illustrates uranium mining and milling’s lingering effects on Indian Country.

On the Navajo Nation, he said, the EPA has identified more than 200 abandoned uranium mines where it wants to complete investigation and clean up under an upcoming five-year plan, using settlements and other agreements to pay for the work that has taken decades.

Udall, who chaired the hearing, acknowledged federal officials had shown progress but that the pace of cleanup has proven frustrating for some community members.

“They feel an urgency,” Udall said. “They feel that things need to happen today.”

In her testimony, Christensen described how Navajo residents in the past had used milling waste in home construction, resulting in contaminated walls and floors.

From the end of World War II to the mid-1980s, millions of tons of uranium ore were extracted from the Navajo Nation, leaving gray streaks across the desert landscape, as well as a legacy of disease and death.

While no large-scale studies have connected cancer to radiation exposure from uranium waste, many have been blamed it for cancer and other illnesses.

By the late 1970s, when the mines began closing around the reservation, miners were dying of lung cancer, emphysema or other radiation-related ailments.

“The government is so unjust with us,” said Leslie Begay, a former uranium miner who lives in Window Rock, an Arizona town that sits near the New Mexico border and serves as the Navajo Nation capital. “The government doesn’t recognize that we built their freedom.”

Begay, who said he has lung problems, attended the hearing with an oxygen tank in tow. The hearing held in the Southwest was especially meaningful for him after traveling in the past to Washington to advocate for himself and others, he said.

Associated Press reporter Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Arizona, contributed to this report.

October 21, 2019 Posted by | children, Uranium, USA, women | 1 Comment

Trump grants extension for nuclear fuel recommendations

Trump grants extension for nuclear fuel recommendations SFChronicle 

Oct. 17, 2019 FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A U.S. task force has been given more time to recommend ways to revive domestic uranium mining as it lags amid low prices and global competition.

The Nuclear Fuel Working Group had been expected to deliver recommendations to President Donald Trump last week. But the Commerce Department says Trump granted a 30-day extension.

Uranium mining interests say the global market for uranium ore is vulnerable to political turmoil.

They want Trump to boost U.S. demand to help domestic suppliers. But the president rejected a requested quota during the summer and gave the task force 90 days to come up with other ideas….. https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/us/article/Trump-grants-extension-for-nuclear-fuel-14541894.php

October 19, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, Uranium | Leave a comment

Uranium industry in permanent collapse? And thorium industry probably no better

Uranium Sector Won’t Catch A Break, Share Cafe, By Rick Mills September 23, 2019  One week ago Cameco announced it will maintain low output levels until uranium prices recover. The Canadian uranium miner also said it might cut production further, having already closed four mines in Canada and laid off 2,000 of its workers in the uranium mining hub of Saskatchewan.
News like this has stalked the uranium market for years, and while 2018 was a great year for the nuclear fuel, hope for a price pick-up is dim; once an important commodity at resource investing shows, uranium is now mostly ignored. Uranium bulls are as rare as white unicorns, having switched allegiance to metals that support Ahead of the Herd’s electrification of the transportation system thesis, like lithium, nickel and cobalt.  ….
No end to supply glut“We are not restarting mines until we see a better market and we may close more capacity, although no decision has been taken yet,” Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel told Reuters recently at the World Nuclear Association’s annual conference.

Just over a year ago Cameco made the difficult decision to close its MacArthur River and Key Lake mines, in response to low uranium prices, leaving the company’s flagship Cigar Lake facility as its only operating mine left in northern Saskatchewan, home to the world’s highest grade uranium deposit.

The mine closures by Cameco were preceded by 20% production cuts in Kazakhstan, the number one uranium-producing country. The former Soviet bloc country has said 2020-21 output will not rise above 2019 levels. In Canada, the second largest U producer, 2018 production was cut in half to 7,000 tonnes.

An estimated 35% of uranium supply has been stripped from the market since Kazakhstan’s supply reductions in December 2017…..

Eight years later, only nine of 33 remaining reactors have been re-started, and Japan’s nuclear operators are reportedly starting to sell their uranium fuel, as the chances fade of more reactors coming online, and adding to the six currently operating. Long-term contracts are also being canceled.

In another blow to the industry, Japan’s new environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, has said he wants all reactors shuttered to avoid a repeat of the Fukushima catastrophe that leaked radiation and forced 160,000 people to flee the area, many of whom have not returned.

As reactors close in the United States, Germany, Belgium and other countries, “traders and specialists say the market is likely to remain depressed for years,” Reuters reported in August.

Germany has pledged to shut down all its reactors by 2022 and the Belgian government has agreed to a new energy pact that will see nuclear power phased out over the next seven years…….

(makes case for thorium)….As far as disadvantages, thorium takes extremely high temperatures to produce nuclear fuel (550 degrees higher than uranium dioxide), meaning thorium dioxide is expensive to make. Second, irradiated thorium is dangerously radioactive in the short-term.

Detractors also say the thorium fuel cycle is less advanced than uranium-plutonium and could take decades to perfect; by that time, renewable energies could make the cost of thorium reactors cost-prohibitive. The International Nuclear Agency predicts that the thorium cycle won’t be commercially viable while uranium is still readily available………… https://www.sharecafe.com.au/2019/09/23/uranium-sector-wont-catch-a-break/

September 30, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, thorium, Uranium | Leave a comment

Environmental, health, threats of USA’s zombie uranium mines

When toxic waste piles — either solid rock or liquid confined behind earthen dams — are left unaddressed, the potential increases for “catastrophic failure

WHILE ‘ZOMBIE’ MINES IDLE, CLEANUP AND WORKERS SUFFER IN LIMBO As the governor of West Virginia and other mine owners warehouse their operations and avoid cleanup, the Trump administration stifles attempts to write rules that could restrict the practice. Center for Public Integrity, 8 Sept 19

…….RADIOACTIVE LEGACY

Remnants of America’s nuclear past litter the Grants Mining District in northwest New Mexico: signs warning of radioactivity, a spiked drill bit outside the New Mexico Mining Museum in Grants, businesses offering to help retired miners get U.S. Department of Labor health benefits.

Mount Taylor — “Tsoodzil” to the Navajo Nation — towers over the landscape. At the base of the 11,305-foot-tall inactive volcano sits the Mount Taylor Mine, idled in 1990 and allowed to flood.

The heyday of Southwestern uranium mining lasted just 30 years. Much of the industry, including this mine, has since remained in standby.

The country’s last operational underground uranium mine shut in 2015, and  open-pit mines haven’t produced in decades. Only one mill in Utah and four in-situ-leach operations, in which ore is dissolved belowground and pumped up, are still active. Two other mills and 15 in-situ-leach sites are either officially in standby or not producing. The American uranium industry employed only 372 people last year, down from 1,120 two decades earlier. Production from U.S. uranium mines fell 85 percent during that period, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

At current prices, mining uranium in the Four Corners remains untenable.

But now the Mount Taylor Mine is reopening, at least on paper. 

…  the Jackpile-Paguate Uranium Mine, once the world’s largest open-pit uranium mine, is now a Superfund site. In the broader Four Corners region, the U.S. Department of Energy is supposed to clean up more than 20 such Cold War relics, from former mills to waste piles. Some leak arsenic, lead, uranium and other toxic substances into groundwater. Recently, hoofprints were found leading from an unfenced pollution control pond near Slick Rock, Colorado, indicating that cattle likely drink from it.

Just inside the southeastern corner of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, an unsettling sign hangs from barbed wire: “DANGER. ABANDONED URANIUM MINE,” a pile of mine waste looming behind it. Residents here in the Red Water Pond Road Community are surrounded by two abandoned uranium mines and a mill…….

Living around or working in uranium mines can worsen, or even trigger, autoimmune disorders, kidney disease, respiratory issues, hypertension and cancer. A study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the University of New Mexico and Navajo agencies found that Navajo Nation citizens, including infants, had elevated levels of uranium in their bodies.

Paul Robinson, Southwest Research and Information Center’s research director, has tracked the industry for more than 40 years. While the New Mexico Mining Act mandates that waste rock and other infrastructure be stabilized before entering standby status, it allows operators to delay reclamation while mining is paused, he said.

Leaving the wastes that are generated at a mine uncovered is one of the ways to ensure airborne or waterborne release,” Robinson said.

Thompson Bell, a member of the Navajo Nation who spent five years as a mechanic in a uranium mine, grew up here and returned for the study. He said many of his mining coworkers died from lung cancer. The sheep and cattle that used to graze here have all but disappeared, the flocks given up for fear of contamination.

The thing about uranium, we found out: It destroys humans and land,” Bell said.

Opinion remains split locally about whether the return of relatively high-paying mining jobs — if that ever happened — would be worth the human and environmental consequences. Christine Lowery, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and a commissioner for the county where the Mount Taylor Mine is located, said she welcomes a cleaner economy.

Those mines were open for one generation,” she said. “The legacy lasts forever…….

The federal government leaves it to the states to impose limits on uranium-mine idling. The resulting patchwork of state rules are largely anchored on a 147-year-old federal law aimed more at promoting mining than managing it.

Over time, uranium production has dropped, stockpiles remained large, nuclear power’s share of the country’s electricity production fell, and power plants bought more uranium from overseas. Still, mine owners hope for a revival…….

 Modern surface mining in Central Appalachia has been linked to health problems ranging from cancer to birth defects. And in a 2012 study, Bernhardt estimated that surface mining impaired about one in three miles of southern West Virginia’s rivers.

But idling poses other risks, Bernhardt said. When toxic waste piles — either solid rock or liquid confined behind earthen dams — are left unaddressed, the potential increases for “catastrophic failure,” she said, even as opportunities to use the land for new purposes are delayed…..

Regulators in Virginia have few options. Justice mine cleanup liabilities in Virginia total as much as $200 million, and taxpayers could get stuck with a large share of that if the state takes over. That’s because those companies have put up only about $51 million for cleanup if the operations are abandoned. Half of that amount would likely be worthless in that scenario because, state records show, it is backed against the value of the companies. A pool of money Virginia set up to close gaps like this at 150 permits across the state, including some of Justice’s, has less than $10 million in it. ……..https://publicintegrity.org/environment/while-zombie-mines-idle-cleanup-and-workers-suffer-in-limbo/?fbclid=IwAR1PsslGwAV0UPxPBIn4qv1JTypoGVk1

September 10, 2019 Posted by | environment, health, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Trump administration still trying to prop up the nuclear industry

Try, Try Again: Trump Mulling Taxpayer Bailout of Nuclear Industry  https://www.ewg.org/energy/release/22837/try-try-again-trump-mulling-taxpayer-bailout-nuclear-industry10 Sept 19 WASHINGTON – Although previous schemes to bail out the dying nuclear industry fizzled, the Trump administration is at it again. Bloomberg reports that the administration is considering using an obscure Cold War-era law to directly purchase U.S.-mined uranium to restock nuclear power plants.In an Aug. 18 letter from the Nuclear Energy Institute to White House national security advisor John Bolton and economic advisor Larry Kudlow, the industry trade group called on the administration to use “direct payments to either a U.S. utility or domestic uranium producer for sale of U.S.-origin uranium to a utility.”

The purchases would be authorized under the Defense Production Act, enacted during the Korean War to ensure that U.S. industries have the resources necessary for national defense. The act allows the president to allocate uranium and other materials needed to power and arm submarines, aircraft carriers and warheads.

But experts say there is no military justification for the scheme.

“Frankly, we have already taken care of our naval fuel needs for the next 60 years. We are awash in enriched uranium for weapons,” Sharon Squassoni, a professor on nuclear policy at George Washington University, told Reuters.

In July, the president dismissed a Commerce Department proposal, strongly backed by the uranium and nuclear industries, to slap tariffs on uranium imported to the U.S. Instead, President Trump created a working group including Bolton, Kudlow and six cabinet secretaries to come up with other options for propping up the nuclear power industry.

The industry is struggling because of aging plants and high operating costs, which make it hard to compete against much cheaper renewable energy sources and natural gas.

This is not the first time the Trump administration has toyed with ideas to use taxpayer money to prop up the nuclear power industry artificially. Energy Secretary Rick Perry twice pursued plans to bail out both the nuclear and coal industries by requiring regional electricity suppliers to buy above-market-rate power from coal and nuclear plants, even when cheaper sources are available.

Perry’s proposals were shot down by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and top White House national security officials. In June, Perry admitted there is no federal authority for his scheme, so operators of struggling nuclear plants have turned to getting bailouts from state governments.

“The Trump administration is once again looking to prop up the dying and dangerous nuclear energy industry and squandering taxpayer dollars to do it,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Nuclear power is a relic of the last century, too risky, too expensive and completely rejected by Wall Street investors. Instead of backing another energy loser, the administration should push to make America’s wind and solar power great again, by helping U.S. makers of turbines and solar panels recover from years of standing by while foreign competitors dominate.”

Data from the Energy Information Administration shows that since 2009, solar power capacity has grown by more than a factor of 89, and wind power capacity has increased sixfold. But production of solar panels and wind turbines is dominated by companies from China and Europe.

Reuters reported that the White House working group is expected to make its recommendations for bailing out domestic uranium mining and the nuclear power industry by Oct. 10.

Much of the U.S.’ uranium deposits are in the desert Southwest, including along the rim of the Grand Canyon. In 2012, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar placed a 20-year moratorium on uranium mining on more than 1 million acres of land along the canyon rim.

But in November 2017, the Trump administration announced plans to reconsider the mining ban near the Grand Canyon. And in March 2018, the uranium mining lobby petitioned the Supreme Court to lift the Obama-era ban.

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September 10, 2019 Posted by | politics, Uranium | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia Plans To Enrich Uranium

Saudi Arabia Plans To Enrich Uranium For Its Nuclear Power Reactors, Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, 8 Sept 19

Saudi Arabia new energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has announced the kingdom plans to enrich uranium for its future civilian nuclear power program. The move could mark the start of a race for nuclear weapons in the Gulf as attempts by the United States and European Union to strike a new deal with Iran on its nuclear plan falter. ……

Saudi’s former energy minister said in April that Riyadh’s use of the reactors would be peaceful and in compliance with “international framework governing … nuclear energy and its peaceful use.” However, the kingdom previously said it would not sign any deal that would restrict its nuclear program. The same technology used to enrich uranium for civilian reactors can also be used to produce fuel for nuclear weapons   …… https://www.forbes.com/sites/isabeltogoh/2019/09/09/saudi-arabia-plans-to-enrich-uranium-for-its-nuclear-power-reactors/#5450c3415e2f

September 10, 2019 Posted by | Saudi Arabia, Uranium | Leave a comment

How Australian Aboriginals stopped a huge uranium mining project

Leave it in the ground: stopping the Jabiluka mine, Red Flag Fleur Taylor, 15 July 2019  “…… The election of John Howard in March 1996 marked the end of 13 years of ALP government…..

Australia’s giant mining companies – major backers of the Coalition – got their wish list. Howard immediately abolished Labor’s three mines policy, and the business pages crowed that “25 new uranium mines” were likely and possible. And in October 1997, then environment minister Robert Hill blew the dust off an environmental impact statement from 1979 that said mining at Jabiluka was safe. Approval of the mine quickly followed.

The Jabiluka uranium deposit, just 20 kilometres from the Ranger uranium mine, is one of the richest in the world. The proposal was to build a massively bigger mine than that at Ranger, which would be underground and therefore more dangerous for the workers. It was projected to produce 19 million tonnes of ore over its lifetime, which would be trucked 22 kilometres through World Heritage listed wetlands.

The Liberals hoped to make a point. After all, if you could put a uranium mine in the middle of a national park in the face of Aboriginal opposition, what couldn’t you do?

The fight immediately began. The traditional owners of the area, the Mirarr, were led by senior traditional owner Yvonne Margarula and the CEO of the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, Jacqui Katona. They were supported by anti-nuclear campaigners around the country, most notably Dave Sweeney of the Australian Conservation Foundation, as well as a network of activist groups.

The most important objective was to delay construction of the mine, scheduled to begin in 1998. To do this, the Mirarr called on activists to travel to Jabiluka in order to take part in a blockade of the proposed mine site until the onset of the wet season would make construction impossible.

The blockade was immensely successful. Beginning on 23 March 1998, it continued for eight months, attracted 5,000 protesters and led to 600 arrests at various associated direct actions. Yvonne Margarula was one: she was arrested in May for trespass on her own land after she and two other Aboriginal women entered the Ranger mine site.

The blockade also attracted high-profile environmental and anti-nuclear activists such as Peter Garrett and Bob Brown. This helped signal to activists that this was a serious fight. The sheer length of time the blockade lasted created a fantastic opportunity for the campaign in the cities. Activists were constantly returning from Jabiluka with a renewed determination to fight.

The Jabiluka Action Group was key to building an ongoing city-based campaign in Melbourne, and the campaign was strongest there of any city. It held large – often more than 100-strong – weekly meetings, organised endless relays of buses to the blockade and  took the fight to the bosses and corporations that stood to profit from the mine.

We were determined to map the networks of corporate ownership and power behind the mine. But in the late 1990s, when the internet barely existed, this wasn’t as simple as just looking up a company’s corporate structure on its glossy website. It took serious, time consuming research.

A careful tracing of the linkages of the North Ltd board members showed that they were very well connected – and not one but two of them were members and past chairmen of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) – one of Australia’s leading bosses’ organisations. So our June 1998 protest naturally headed to the Business Council of Australia. We occupied their office, and the two groups of anti-uranium protesters, 3,800 kilometres apart, exchanged messages of solidarity, courtesy of the office phones of the BCA.

We were also staggered to learn that the chairman of a company that owned two uranium mines and was Australia’s biggest exporter of hardwood woodchips was also a member of the Parks Victoria board, the national president of Greening Australia and the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) board president!

The EPA, and corporate greenwashing in general, thereby became a target for the campaign. Another target was the Royal Society of Victoria, which made the mistake of inviting Sir Gus Nossal, a famous scientist and longstanding booster for the nuclear industry, to give a dinner address. We surrounded its building, and the organisers, somewhat mystified, cancelled the dinner. This action once again made headline news, helping to keep the issue of the Jabiluka mine in people’s minds.

We held regular protests at the headquarters of North Ltd on Melbourne’s St Kilda Road. On the day that Yvonne Margarula was facing court on her trespass charge, a vigil was held overnight. When we heard she had been found guilty, the protest erupted in fury. Cans of red paint – not water-based – materialised, and the corporate facade of North Ltd received an unscheduled refurbishment. The Herald-Sun went berserk.

The leadership of the Mirarr people gave this campaign a different focus from other environmental campaigns of the time. It was fundamentally about land rights, sovereignty and the right of Aboriginal communities to veto destructive developments on their land. In Melbourne, the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation appointed long-time Aboriginal militant and historian Gary Foley as their representative. Gary worked tirelessly to provoke and educate the many activists who turned up wanting to “support” or “do something” for Aboriginal people.

At a time when “reconciliation” was strongly supported by liberals and much of the left, Foley told us that reconciliation was bullshit. He argued native title (supposedly a key achievement of Keating) was “the most inferior form of land title under British law”, and that the ALP was every bit as racist as One Nation – if not worse. He insisted activists must educate themselves about sovereignty and the struggles happening right here, not just those happening 3,800 kilometres away. The way the Jabiluka Action Group activists approached this challenge was an example of how people’s ideas change. Many came into the campaign primarily as environmental activists, but almost all left as committed fighters for Aboriginal rights.

**********

When the blockade wound down at the onset of the wet season, it was an opportunity to fight on some other fronts. Representatives of the UN World Heritage Committee visited Kakadu in late 1998 and issued a declaration that the World Heritage values of the area were in danger. They called on the government to stop the mine. Yvonne Margarula and Jacqui Katona travelled to Paris to speak to the European Commission about the mine.

John Howard, at the time mired in ministerial scandals and resignations, had called an election for September 1998, and there was hope in some quarters that Labor might win and stop the mine. But Howard scraped back in on only 48.3 percent of the vote, and it was clear that the fight on the ground would have to continue.

In the meantime, an important legal loophole had been identified. North Ltd had failed to secure agreement for the Jabiluka ore to be trucked to the Ranger mine for processing. It turned out the Mirarr did have the right to refuse this, and by exercising this right they would increase the cost of the project by $200 million (the cost of building a new processing plant at Jabiluka). This, combined with the ongoing protests, became a huge problem for the company.

Something we enjoyed doing at the time was monitoring North Ltd’s share price. It started out high when the Liberals took power. But after a year of protest and controversy, it had started to sink. The slump world uranium prices were going through didn’t help. But what the share price correlated to most closely was the major protests – it showed a drop after every single one.

Fund managers everywhere had absorbed the simple message that Jabiluka meant trouble, and early in 1999 this formerly prestigious blue-chip mining stock was described as one of the year’s “dog stocks”. Encouraged by this, the campaign launched its most ambitious action to date – the four-day blockade of North Ltd, from Palm Sunday until Easter Thursday 1999. This was the beginning of the end for the mine. In mid-2000, Rio Tinto bought out the struggling North Ltd. With no appetite for a brawl, the new owners quietly mothballed the Jabiluka project, signing a guarantee with the Mirarr to that effect. The campaign had won.

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The Jabiluka campaign was one of those rare things – an outright victory. It was a win not just for the Mirarr people, but for every community threatened by a devastating radioactive mine. And it was a win for humanity as a whole, protected from more of this deadly substance. Our chant – “Hey, North, you’re running out of time! You’re never going to get your Jabiluka mine!” – for once came true.

The victory inspired a neighbouring traditional owner, Jeffrey Lee, single-handedly to challenge the development of the Koongarra uranium deposit, resulting in the cancellation of that entire mining lease. In Melbourne and other cities, the Mirarr resistance inspired sustained and creative campaigning from a wide variety of participants – from vegan Wiccans and revolutionary socialists to doof-doof rave organisers and corporate-philanthropist Women for Mirarr Women. The campaign was chaotic and argumentative, but united by a commitment to challenging corporate power and standing up for Aboriginal sovereignty.

It still serves as an inspiration for anti-nuclear and anti-mining campaigns, such as the brave and determined opposition of the Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners to the Adani mine. It stands as a great example of how blockades on country can nourish and inspire actions in the cities.  https://redflag.org.au/node/6839

July 18, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, indigenous issues, opposition to nuclear, Uranium | Leave a comment

U.S. nuclear utilities upset about Trump’s plan for tariffs on uranium

NUCLEAR UTILITIES SCRAMBLE TO STAVE OFF TRUMP URANIUM QUOTAS, by John Siciliano & Josh Siegel June 20, 2019  Washington Examiner, : Major U.S. nuclear utilities are warning President Trump it would be a big mistake to impose strict limits on the amount of uranium the nation imports from Canada and other allies, risking thousands of layoffs and other calamitous effects at nuclear power plants.

Trump is expected to meet with his Cabinet in the next few days to discuss recommendations the Commerce Department provided to him in April on placing firm quotas on uranium imports as a matter of national security.

Utility lobbyists representing Exelon, Duke Energy, and other owners of nuclear power plants, say the idea of placing limits on the amount of fissile fuel the nation imports is misguided, and Trump should reject any proposal that recommends such action.

Uranium mining firms had petitioned for the quotas to protect U.S. jobs in the mining sectors under trade provisions aimed at protecting national security……..

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, however, is expected to push back against the idea of imposing quotas at Thursday’s bilateral meetings at the White House. …… https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/energy/daily-on-energy-nuclear-utilities-scramble-to-stave-off-trump-uranium-quotas

June 22, 2019 Posted by | politics, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Top Uranium Producer Gloomy About the Prospects for Nuclear Power

Top Uranium Producer Is Gloomy About Nuclear Power, for Now, Bloomberg, By   June 7, 2019Don’t expect an upswing in the global uranium market anytime soon.

“In our models, we don’t get excited on the demand side,” said Galymzhan Pirmatov, chief executive officer of Kazatomprom, Kazakhstan’s state-owned mining company that’s the world’s biggest supplier.

With construction of nuclear power plants at a 10-year low, uranium demand remains weak. That’s holding prices so low that mining companies have been wary of increasing production. Kazatomprom’s output will increase about 5% this year, to as much as 22,800 tons, and then will be flat in 2020, Pirmatov said Wednesday in an interview in New York. While he hasn’t yet made a decision on 2021, he doesn’t see much to get excited about, at least in the short term.

“I do believe prices are too low,” he said. Uranium has slumped 15% this year to $24.35 a pound as of Wednesday. Kazakhstan controls about 40% of the world’s supply of the metal, and Kazatomprom accounts for half of that, making it the biggest producer………

U.S. Closings

In the U.S., flush with abundant and cheap natural gas, utilities are closing nuclear plants. The U.S. is also considering whether to impose tariffs on uranium, after two small domestic mining companies filed a trade case last year, arguing that imports are a threat to national security. The Commerce Department concluded its investigation in April, but the results haven’t been made public……..https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-05/top-uranium-producer-is-gloomy-about-nuclear-power-for-now

June 8, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Uranium | Leave a comment

Continuing glum lookout for the uranium market

Uranium Week: Buyers’ Market.   https://www.fnarena.com/index.php/2019/05/28/uranium-week-buyers-market, By Greg Peel, May 28 2019

Sellers continue to chase down ever more empowered buyers in an ongoing weak uranium market.

-Uranium spot price continues to fall
-Rio Tinto may shut down Rossing
-US production falls dramatically

It was Groundhog Week last week in the uranium market. With utilities largely out of the market pending a section 232 decision, sellers continue to lower prices in order to flush out buying interest.

And the buyers are not making it easy. Having the upper hand, they are not simply insisting on lower prices, industry consultant TradeTech reports, but on specific origins, delivery locations and other restrictive terms and conditions.

Four transactions totalling 500,000lbs U3O8 equivalent were recorded in the spot market last week. TradeTech’s weekly spot price indicator has fallen -US20c to US$24.30/lb.

The spot price has now fallen -16% in 2019, whittling a 12-month gain down to 6%.

There were no transactions reported in uranium term markets. TradeTech’s term price indicators remain at US$28.50/lb (mid) and US$32.00/lb (long).

Supply Response

Australian-listed diversified miner Rio Tinto ((RIO)) has announced it will advance the closure of its 69% owned Rossing uranium mine in Namibia to June 2020 if the Namibian competition regulator blocks the US$104m sale of the mine to China National Uranium Corp.

Rio cannot continue to operate the loss-making business and would rather cease operations ahead of a forecast 2025 mine life if the sale is rejected.

The Namibian government owns a 3% stake in Rossing but 51% of the voting rights. The Iranian Foreign Investment Co holds 15% and the Industrial Development Corp of South Africa owns 10%.

Persistently low uranium prices continue to impact on global supply. Last week the US Energy Information Agency reported US uranium mines produced 700,000lbs U3O8 in 2018, down -37% from 2017.

Total shipment of uranium concentrate from US mills fell -35%. US producers sold 1.5mlbs of concentrate at an average price of US$32.51/lb.

May 30, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Uranium | Leave a comment

The difficulty in knowing if Iran did start making a nuclear bomb

It may become impossible to tell if Iran starts making a nuclear bomb,   https://www.newscientist.com/article/2202247-it-may-become-impossible-to-tell-if-iran-starts-making-a-nuclear-bomb/   By Debora MacKenzie, 10 May 19, 

The most ambitious effort ever to peacefully stop a country getting a nuclear bomb hangs by a thread this week. On 8 May Iranian president Hassan Rouhani announced that his country would start stockpiling low-enriched uranium and heavy water – a potential step towards building nuclear weapons.

The move was in response to US sanctions, despite Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which aims to limit the country’s potential bomb-making nuclear activities.

JCPOA imposed an unprecedented inspections regime on Iranian nuclear plants, which has been testing novel monitoring technology that could severely limit the spread of the bomb.

The deal does not stop Iran making enriched uranium to fuel its nuclear power plant, or heavy water for a reactor it was building at Arak. But it prevents it stockpiling either or enriching uranium further towards weapons-grade, and says Arak must be re-designed to produce less of another bomb fuel, plutonium.

The incentive for Iran was a lifting of trade sanctions, imposed after it was found to have covertly enriched uranium in the early 2000s. Since then the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has judged Iran to be in compliance with the deal.

But one year ago, US president Donald Trump pulled out of the JCPOA, saying he was unhappy with the deal. The US re-imposed trade sanctions and threatened countries that did business with Iran with severe trade penalties. Since then Iran’s oil exports have since fallen from 2.5 to 1 million barrels a day.

Now, Rouhani’s pledge means Iran will stop exporting low-enriched uranium and heavy water, which was mandated by the JCPOA, so Iran could continue production without exceeding caps on stockpiles.

The build-up of the materials will not immediately violate the JCPOA. But Rouhani added that if European countries do not, in 60 days, find some way for banks and importers to do business with Iran without suffering US sanctions, Iran will start enriching uranium further – and build Arak to existing specifications. That will be the end of the JCPOA, as Iran resumes its path to a bomb.

We may not even know if it does. The JCPOA provides three levels of safeguards in Iran. It gets the standard inspections the IAEA does in all countries with nuclear plants; additional inspections agreed in 1997 and voluntary for IAEA member states; and extra, unprecedented inspections, including continuous monitoring using novel technology.

James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, says that without the JCPOA, Iran gets only the basic inspections – which it successfully evaded in the past. Without extra inspections the IAEA cannot draw credible conclusions about the absence of undeclared activities in Iran, says Acton.

In theory inspectors outside Iran could watch for krypton-85, a tell-tale gas emitted when plutonium is extracted from heavy water reactors. But Acton is not even sure Iran would attempt to keep that secret. The idea of having nuclear weapons is to deter attack – and as Dr. Strangelove observed, it isn’t much of a deterrent if no one knows you have it.

May 11, 2019 Posted by | Iran, politics international, Uranium, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Uranium waste in New Mexico puts lie to ‘carbon free’

Uranium waste in NM puts lie to ‘carbon free’, Albuquerque Journal, BY DUANE CHILI YAZZIE / SHIPROCK CHAPTER PRESIDENT, NAVAJO NATION, April 26th, 2019 “……..We must understand that abuse of seemingly inanimate matter has consequence. The extraction of uranium and the exploitation of it causes compounded waste and resultant compounded consequence. We have created mountains of radioactive waste; because we have limited knowledge and capacity to conclusively, effectually and permanently deal with this waste, we bury it. Out of sight, out of mind does not ease our minds because we know it is there. My community of Shiprock has one of the largest uranium waste disposal cells in the country sitting in the middle of our community. People who naively exalt science and technology may simultaneously inebriate themselves from the consequence of the devastating reality.The natural law of cause and effect predicates all. With my Navajo people, we have suffered the deaths of hundreds of our uranium miners, millers, transporters and affected family members due to health complications caused by exposure to uranium. In 1979 a United Nuclear Corp. holding pond burst, releasing 94 million gallons of radioactive waste that cascaded through Gallup and on downstream. Women and children who waded in the contaminated Rio Puerco, burning their feet, were told that the radioactive water was a figment of their imagination. … Our lives continue to be at stake. The radioactive levels remain, and we, the contaminated people, continue to develop uranium-related health issues. We die a slow death. The world of science and technology has damaged us and the natural world.

The Public Service Company of New Mexico, which has made an incredible indelible scar of industrial consequence on New Mexico and the Earth, now wants to add more nuclear to its portfolio. By doing so, PNM will only amplify this consequence. Some say that nuclear-generated electricity should be allowed because it is “carbon-free.” From a life-cycle perspective, it is not carbon-free. The semantics are irrelevant; what matters is the eventual and permanent negative impact and consequence to the land, the people and our planet Earth.

(In honor of) this Earth Day, it is imperative we acknowledge the damage done to the integrity of the life of Earth. The seemingly insurmountable effect from the cause of the extractive industry demands our attention. We have a climate crisis that is ebbing the life of our planet. The delicate balance of the equilibrium of the Earth and its life systems have been dangerously upset. We cannot further aggravate this great dilemma with more uranium exploitation and continue to destroy the sanctity of our Earth Mother and all life upon and within her.https://www.abqjournal.com/1307342/uranium-waste-in-nm-puts-lie-to-carbon-free.html

April 30, 2019 Posted by | climate change, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment