Radioactive Spill Exposes Regulatory Failure

January 14, 2002

Friends of the Earth is demanding stronger regulation of uranium mining in South Australia following another major accident involving radioactive material at the Beverley mine. The spill of 60,000 litres of contaminated liquid, including uranium, sulfuric acid and heavy metals, occurred at the site last Friday evening. The spill is one of a series of accidents that show a failure of both state and federal approval processes and regulation of nuclear sites.

Recent Radioactive Accidents

Beverley

  • Jan 2002 60,000L of radioactive mining solution spilt at plant
  • Mar 1998 500L of mining solution spilt on soils at trial well fields revealed Aug 1998

Honeymoon

  • Nov 2001 Major underground leak of radioactive mining solution to adjacent groundwater revealed from 1999 trial mine operations

Olympic Dam

  • Oct 2001 Major kerosene fire 20m from uranium plant
  • Dec 1999 Major kerosene fire as above
  • Mar 1999 Copper Smelter explodes

"There have been a series of accidents at mines in South Australia which should never have happened, " said Dr Gavin Mudd.

Friends of the Earth has developed a dossier of accidents at uranium mine sites across Australia. Cases have involved repeated incidents, failure to notify, inadequate radiation monitoring and a lack of independent assessment. South Australian uranium mining operations, including the controversial In-Situ Leach mines, have unclear and weak regulation.

"Without clear independent monitoring and assessment it¹s hard to establish the impacts and response taken by commercial operators," continued Dr Mudd. "leaving legitimate questions about basic operational practice and future prevention."

Recent federal nuclear legislation, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act (ARPANS) 1999 clearly omits regulation of commercial uranium mining operations. Within South Australia, uranium mining remains exempt from the state¹s Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

"Both state and federal Liberal governments have been quick to approve uranium mining yet have failed to set clear and accountable regulation."
"In the Year of the Outback we must develop greater protection for our natural environment - Responsibility must be taken to insure these accidents never happen again" said nuclear campaigner Bruce Thompson.

The leak sets an ominous tone for a year that will see the continued Federal push to dump radioactive waste in South Australia. Along with the recent approval of the Honeymoon ISL mine, South Australia is fast becoming the Radioactive State.

For further information contact:

Bruce Thompson
Nuclear Campaigner
Mob: 0417 318 368

Dr Gavin Mudd
Hydrogeologist
Mob: 0419 117 494