Uranium Mining & Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Repeal Bill 2019

Today Abigail stood to speak against the toxic One Nation Bill before Parliament that would see both the 30 year old ban on uranium mining and the ban on nuclear energy in NSW repealed.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (23:44:08): I stand here tonight as a proud member of a political movement that has its roots firmly in the ongoing campaign for nuclear disarmament. Peace and non-violence and environmental sustainability are founding principles of The Greens and are at the core of what it means to be a Greens MP and a Greens activist. Grassroots campaigners and organisations across the country have long stood against those who continue to push the fallacies and fables of the nuclear industry. First Nations communities continue to stand against uranium mining and the destruction of their land, water and country. Alongside these tireless campaigners and activists, The Greens will continue to fight against uranium mining and nuclear energy. We will not stop. Uranium mining is a dead end for New South Wales. Nuclear energy and uranium mining are dirty, dangerous and obsolete. The price of uranium is already in terminal decline and the prospect of mining uranium in New South Wales is "beyond remote given the economics", according to industry sources. It is not even appealing to Ministers in the Liberal Party, as we have seen reported in the media over the past week.

It is telling that instead of embracing the jobs-rich, clean energy, renewables revolution, proponents of nuclear are reaching back to the 1950s to cling desperately to old ideas that are long past their use-by date. Nuclear power is not part of the future energy mix of New South Wales. As much as the Minerals Council might hate to hear it, our future energy sources will not be reliant on the mining industry. Nuclear power is not a useful part of a modern energy mix. Nuclear power production peaked in 2006 and, because it is slow to react to changes in supply and demand, it works poorly with solar and wind—the real energy superstars of the world's future energy supply. That change is already underway. You cannot stop it even if you wanted to. You will just have to adapt to clean energy and get your head around the science of how the lights will still come on when the sun goes down.

Nuclear power is slow to build. It takes on average 9.6 years to build a nuclear power station. Those pushing for this ban to be overturned admit this themselves, catastrophising about having no time to lose and scaremongering about mythical power emergencies. Nuclear power is not emissions free. Mining, processing, plant building, storage, clean-up and waste disposal all produce large quantities of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions. It is slightly cleaner than coal and gas, but they are no longer the yardsticks. When compared to wind, solar and other emerging cutting-edge renewable energy technology such as geothermal and wave, nuclear does not stand a chance.

Renewables are where the smart money is now. Nuclear power uses vast quantities of water—impossible on the driest continent on earth that is already ravaged by drought and water mismanagement. And no-one wants nuclear power plants along our beautiful coast. Nuclear power is not safe. Chernobyl and Fukushima show that when things go wrong with nuclear power, they go wrong in a big way and leave a toxic legacy for generations. Australian uranium was in the Fukushima reactors when the tsunami struck. Australian uranium continues to pollute our oceans, cause cancers, deaths, stillbirths and birth defects and prevents 100,000 people from returning to their homes.

Uranium mining produces vast quantities of toxic waste. While proponents of nuclear power will tell you that spent fuel rods take up very little space, they ignore the waste left from the mining. At the time of extraction of uranium from the ore, about 85 per cent of the original radioactivity remains in the mill tailings, mainly as isotopes of thorium and radon. According to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, the global component from mill tailings is the most significant source of radiological exposure in the entire nuclear fuel chain. The Olympic Dam mine in South Australia has produced more than 180 million tonnes of radioactive tailings, covering an area of 9.6 square kilometres—one-third larger than the Melbourne CBD and around 30 metres or 10 storeys high. They stop radioactive dust by spraying it down with water. Radioactive radon gas is released into the atmosphere. Contamination leaches into groundwater. How long must those tailings be stored to ensure safety? Some 10,000 years according to Australian standards. Do members of this place want to leave that legacy for our regional and rural towns?

There are almost no jobs to be found in uranium mining. The real jobs creation blueprint can be found inThe Million Jobs Plan, released recently by Beyond Zero Emissions. It is a plan written by scientists, engineers and economic and technology experts. It proposes long-term, clean, secure jobs throughout Australia, including rural and regional communities, that reactivate the economy and reskill our workforce. Unsurprisingly, Beyond Zero Emissions does not propose that a single job is needed in uranium mining. Right now across Australia fewer than 1,900 people are employed in the uranium mining industry, including in its regulation. Many of them are fly‑in fly-out workers who do not add to the local economy of communities. Instead, those communities lose jobs in agriculture and tourism due to the impacts of mining. Uranium mining may well end up being "jobs negative" in affected areas. The Electrical Trades Union [ETU] is strongly opposed to overturning this ban. ETU national secretary Allen Hicks said on 21 August that uranium mining is not in the public interest. He stated that this exploitation of natural resources:

… creates major health and safety risks for local communities and workers which far outweigh any perceived economic benefits.

Experiences in other States show that uranium mining is environmentally devastating. Open-cut mines destroy ecosystems, devastate irreplaceable cultural lands of First Nations peoples and are impossible to remediate, despite decades of broken promises. We know from coalmining in New South Wales that mining companies and the governments who are tasked with overseeing them have repeatedly failed to contain toxic waste, clean up the damage, restore ecosystems, and protect our land and water. Why would we trust them to be responsible for an even more toxic resource?

Nuclear power is not legal or viable in New South Wales. Federal laws do not allow nuclear power in Australia. The price of uranium has fallen since Fukushima and the Federal Government inquiry into nuclear power concluded that it is an unlikely source of energy for Australia. Why then does this bill call for us to lift the ban on mining uranium, a product that cannot be used under Federal law? How long until that law is overturned, licences are issued and planning permission granted? Is it two years, five years, 10 years? Add to that another decade to build the power plant and the State will already be running on renewables. The nuclear lobby will have completely missed its run, not because the conservative dinosaurs amongst us have caught up but because the community and the market have left the idea of nuclear far behind.

Any uranium mined today will only end up being exported and enable further production of nuclear weapons, because despite the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons the export of uranium to countries with nuclear weapons allows them to utilise their own or other sources of uranium for use in weapons while using Australian uranium for power. If members approve uranium mining in New South Wales they will make hypocrites of the people of New South Wales by claiming to work to prevent deadly nuclear weapons while doing the very opposite in substance. This is a future no-one wants: mining a product the world no longer needs. It has no social licence, and it never will. There is no mandate for this bill. There is no community support for it, no jobs in it and no need for it. Guess what is clean, safe, affordable and highly prized by this community? It is renewables. The rest of the world is embracing the renewables revolution. It is time we did too.

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