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Japan's nuclear emergency a warning to Australia and the world

By David Noonan - posted Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The nuclear emergency that is compounding the human tragedy of Japan's earthquake sends a clear warning to Australia to steer clear of the risks of nuclear energy.

The terrible human cost of the earthquake in Japan is being made even worse by radiation escaping from damaged nuclear reactors and the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people who live around the nuclear reactor sites.

Amid the growing human tragedy in Japan the state of the nation's nuclear power reactors has been prominent in media interest and public concern. And with good reason, because no other industrial activity poses the risks of the nuclear trade.


Australia has a direct link to this tragedy because the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) that operates the Fukushima reactors, buys and burns Australian uranium.

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto sell Australian uranium to Japan from the Olympic Dam and Ranger uranium mines respectively.

The radiation now threatening Japanese communities and the environment could be directly derived from the use of our uranium in their nuclear reactors.

We must act to avoid the ultimate nuclear nightmare and stop fuelling trouble overseas through our uranium sales and dancing with danger closer to home through ill-considered plans for domestic nuclear energy reactors.

Nuclear is a high-cost, high-risk electricity option that has no place in a sustainable energy future.

When things go well we are left with the unresolved management of high-level, long-lived radioactive waste; when they go badly people are left with a disaster such as the current situation in Japan.


Australian companies should not be allowed to push this contested and contaminating industry in developing nations when this sort of situation can occur in a country as rich and technically advanced as Japan.

Only this week our Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd announced proposed Australian uranium sales to the Middle East.

No other energy activity poses the hazards and risks that the nuclear trade imposes: unresolved, long lived nuclear waste; links to nuclear weapons production and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and the potential for catastrophic accidents and uncontrolled radiation exposure that can threaten regions with contamination and health effects.

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About the Author

David Noonan is a freelance environment campaigner with experience on nuclear, uranium, environment and outback rivers conservation issues with the NGO sector.

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