Uranium – come and get it!

Need some uranium for a power station? School science project? A bomb? Hair removal or pest eradication? Maybe just in case you need it? After all, it’s handy stuff to have in the cupboard and a great talking point at dinner parties. Ask Australia, we’ve got the cure for what ails ya!

OK, not quite, but darn, it’s starting to feel like it. It seems that every week a deal is being inked to export Australian uranium to a new country. Australia has 38% of the world’s uranium ore resources, which is the most of any country; and it appears we’re pretty eager to start handing it out.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an agreement to buy Australian uranium. Whenever I hear the terms Russia and uranium in one sentence; Chernobyl springs to mind.

Chernobyl is *still* a major environmental threat over 20 years after the disaster. The protective sarcophagus that was hastily erected around the reactor is deteriorating. A minor earthquake or stiff breeze could cause the roof to collapse; releasing a stack of radioactive dust into the atmosphere. You really shouldn’t be able to have dessert if you don’t eat your broccoli.

Also, haven’t the Russians lost track of enough radioactive materials already? Maybe they should find all those first. Exporting uranium to Russia is a little like giving a drunk the keys to a Hummer.

Indonesia recently said it expects to be able to buy Australia’s uranium if it goes ahead with plans to build nuclear power plants on the earthquake-prone island of Java. Java is situated on the “ring of fire”, an incredibly tectonically active region. Good idea. But Karma might pay us a visit on that one as Java is pretty close to Australia.

Last month, Australia ended its ban on uranium sales to India – this marked an end to Australian policy of selling nuclear fuel only to signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Australia ratified the NPT back in 1973. Now, even if we’re selling uranium to India for “peaceful purposes”; aren’t we just freeing up other stocks for them to use in creating nuclear weapons? In effect, we become party to proliferation. Oops, I forgot, we did that a long time ago – we export to the USA too.

Sinosteel – one of China’s biggest steel makers,  recently opened an office in Adelaide, South Australia, with the intention of developing a fifth uranium mine in South Australia. Last year, Australia agreed to sell uranium to China for power generation. With all due respect to the Chinese; their environmental record isn’t that great. Would you buy a reactor stamped “made in China”?

All this in 12 months – amazing. Prior to the latest additions to our uranium junkies list, we were already exporting to countries including the USA, Japan, Korea, Sweden, France, Germany, Belgium, Canada and Finland.

Just a rumor – I believe Australian residents will also soon be able to buy uranium in a handy six-pack. Of course, being a responsible society, you will need to be over 18 and present identification to verify your age if asked.

In my opinion, uranium is one of those things best left in the ground for the most part. Nuclear weapons and general environmental threats from nuclear power generation and radioactive waste aside, we seem hell bent on turning this country into a giant open-cut mine.

Humanity already has a very reliable reactor up in the sky that can generate electricity for everyone – the sun. The sun also generates wind, another excellent source of energy. I really wish that more effort and bucks was focused in this direction and on reducing our energy consumption.

Check out Australia’s recent track record on uranium mining and exports