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EPA recommendation on uranium mine a dangerous new low

Media Release
Scott Ludlam 21 May 2012

The Environmental Protection Agency should change its name after today's appalling recommendation to approve Western Australia's first uranium mine at Wiluna, WA Greens said today.

Greens national spokesperson on nuclear policy Senator Scott Ludlam said "The proposal by Toro Energy is full of gaping holes. If the EPA is prepared to back this half-baked, messy scheme - it sets a dangerous low standard for uranium mining in Western Australia".

"The EPA recommends that the Minister ‘notes the EPA has concluded that it is likely that the EPA's objectives would be achieved'. Well if this shoddy plan is all it takes to achieve the EPA's objectives, then its objectives need to be reformed urgently in the interest of public health and safety."

In his submission to the EPA, Senator Ludlam had identified a several alarming flaws in company's impact assessment of the proposed mine.

"Toro has not revealed estimates of future mine closure liability and has not submitted a final rehabilitation plan. This is remarkable given the company intends for post-closure liability to pass to Australian taxpayers only 10 years after mining ceases, though the consequences of the mine will endure for many centuries. This project should not proceed until there is a full public inquiry as provided for under the Act into the wider environmental and public health consequences of uranium mining in WA."

Greens WA Member for Mining and Pastoral, Robin Chapple, said "The original Environmental Impact Statement in March 1981 of the failed Lake Way project identified the need to build a new bore field for the Town of Wiluna as the water drawdown would have posed a risk to the community. There is no such commitment or acknowledgment in the current referral relating to water drawdown or contamination".

Senator Ludlam said he was disturbed by Toro's plan to transport radioactive material by truck over vast distances.

"Transporting radioactive materials is never completely safe, but transporting by road rather than rail is particularly foolhardy."

The Medical Association for Prevention of War recently called on Toro Energy to stop promoting the view that low-level radiation is beneficial to human health.

"Toro sponsored a number of speaking tours by Dr Doug Boreham, who promoted radiation as ‘anti-carcinogenic' at the Paydirt uranium conference in Adelaide. It is little wonder that 45 Australian medical doctors wrote to Toro calling on them to stop promoting this character and his dubious views," said Senator Ludlam.

Dr Peter Karamoskos, a nuclear radiologist and public representative on the radiation health committee of ARPANSA - the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency - said "to promote such marginal views without any counter-balance is self-serving and irresponsible... Recent research has heightened rather than reduced concern about the adverse health impacts of low-level radiation".

Senator Ludlam said Toro's promotion of Dr Boreham's views added to the serious questions hanging over their ambitions.

"Toro has no proven experience and is sitting on a low grade uranium deposit encased in calcrete which is notoriously difficult to process. There are no calcrete uranium mines in Australia and Toro seems hell-bent on proving they are not fit to operate the first."

 

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