Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

The nuclear house of cards

By Mia Pepper - posted Thursday, 20 November 2014


Uranium miners Paladin Energy, Toro Energy and BHP Billiton all go into their Annual General Meetings over the next two weeks. There is likely to be a lot of posturing over a recent upturn in the uranium price. While the nuclear ideologues are charging ahead, many investors are treading carefully.

Mining journalist Dryblower this week made an interesting distinction between uranium and other minerals: "Because uranium is really not part of the pure mining industry but an arm of the nuclear industry it's easy to understand why most investors prefer simpler metals where there is a chance that a discovery can be brought into production without incurring multiple layers of complexity."

Indeed there are some complex reasons why uranium miners have been rejoicing this week.

Advertisement

Bloomberg considered the uranium price upturn as the US and EU enforced sanctions on trade with Russia. The Russian military connection and the rise in the uranium price doesn't stop there. This year an important deal ended between the US and Russia to disarm nuclear weapons and divert nuclear materials for nuclear energy. The end of this deal means more nuclear weapons and less surplus uranium – cause for celebration? Perhaps not.

It is a complex and unique aspect of the industry that sees the uranium price improve and companies like BHP, Rio Tinto, Paladin, Cameco and Toro Energy celebrate alongside the increased risk of nuclear war.

This unique aspect of the industry has also been seen with the recent decision by the Australian Government to open up uranium sales to India, a nuclear weapons state that is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, refuses to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, has repeatedly been in armed conflict with Pakistan and is actively expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal and its missile capabilities.

Nuclear tensions have further increased in recent weeks with Pakistan successfully testing two balistic missiles following a spate of violence and conflict between the two countries. A conflict and nuclear threat many underestimate.

Uranium miners are also rejoicing as Japan re-opens it's first reactor since the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and ongoing nuclear disaster amongst mass protests across the Nation. The approval to restart the Sendai nuclear reactor has been described by the Japanese Times as a "bad precedent for nuclear restarts". The Sendai reactor is situated in a an area with volcanic activity, has important safety features that are yet to be designed and other safety features that won't be installed for another two years.

Among the threat of nuclear war and nuclear disaster, the other reason for celebration among uranium miners is an industrial dispute between workers at the worlds largest uranium mine operated by Canadian nuclear giant Cameco. The strike contributed to an increase in the uranium price in July this year as it was expected the strike would cause some of the global surplus of uranium to be bought up. Cameco workers went on strike in July 2014 after being without a formal contract since December 2013.

Advertisement

The marginal and short-term increase in uranium is hardly cause for celebration. Even from the miners' point of view, there is little to celebrate since the current price is barely half that needed to make new mines viable or profitable.

All this excitement is really based on the hope from the industry that there will be a long-term increase in the demand for uranium. Often pointing to new build reactors in India and China, the industry is optimistic.

However according the World Nuclear Industry Status Report of 2014 there are currently 39 operating reactors that are operating over their 40 year life expectancy and due for closure. The report projects a long term decline in the number of reactors after 2020.

Likewise, in a report released last week the International Energy Agency warns of a looming "wave of retirements" of ageing reactors with almost 200 of the 434 reactors expected to be shut down by 2040. IEA chief economist Faith Bristol said: "I am afraid we are not well-prepared in terms of policies and funds which are devoted to decommissioning. A major concern for all of us is how we are going to deal with this massive surge in retirements in nuclear power plants."

In the face of nuclear war, nuclear disaster, public opposition, financial struggle, and the growth and competitiveness of renewable technologies, the house of cards that is the nuclear industry is bound to collapse again.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

25 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Mia Pepper is the Nuclear Free Campaigner with the Conservation Council of WA.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Mia Pepper

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 25 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy