Uranium is a grey radioactive metal which is used as a fuel in nuclear reactors to generate electricity. Uranium was discovered in 1789 by Martin Klaproth, a German chemist, and it was named after the planet Uranus. Uranium is one of the rare elements found in the earth’s crust and makes only 0.00018% of Earth’s crust. Uranium is also found in seawater, and can be extracted from the oceans. Like other elements, uranium can vary in different forms which are known as “Isotopes”.
It is estimated that about 31% of the total uranium of the world is found in Australia. Uranium mining started in 1954 in Australia. Three different methods are adopted to mine uranium. Uranium is extracted at Beverley and Honeymoon mines using the In-situ Recovery (ISR) method, while Under-Ground and Open-Pit mining are adopted at Olympic dam and Ranger mine respectively.
Uranium sites have been discovered in WA, SA, NT and QLD. At present only four uranium mines are operating. Olympic Dam, Beverly & Honeymoon mines are located in South Australia and the Ranger mine in Northern Territory.
Unlike the other countries of the world, Australia does not use uranium to generate nuclear energy nor are they planning to do in near future. Australia uses uranium in research and to make special medicines for the treatment of cancer. Uranium is also used in the production of different electronics devices.
Australia earns approximately $1070m by exporting 6950 tons of Uranium Oxide annually. There are about 4200 workers working in uranium mines. In addition to this, the Commonwealth also generate revenue by collecting tax from uranium mining companies.
Anti-Uranium mining groups argue that Australia does not earn enough money from mining companies and the negative impact on the environment does not justify the revenue raised from the mining. The workers and local populations are exposed to several fatal diseases such as Leukaemia, lung and stomach cancer, kidney diseases and birth defects in infants. In the Northern Territory, local aboriginal communities have been affected with many of these diseases.
Uranium is not an adequate source to generate power. It provides only 2% of world’s primary energy. Power generation from nuclear reactors is an unnecessary risk taken by many countries of the world and Australia provides them the fuel to do so. In 2011, Fukushima Nuclear reactor disaster affected at least 160,000 people, forcing them to abandon their houses and with many losing their lives in this tragedy. Uranium is also used to make the Atom bomb that can kill thousands of innocent masses in a blink of an eye.
On the other hand, pro-uranium mining groups argue that uranium mining is not as dangerous as the environmentalists propagate. It is an efficient source of generating clean energy and helps reduce the greenhouse gases from atmosphere. Uranium is also used to manufacture medicines and other electronic devices. They also argue that uranium mining helps Australian economy. Australia exports $1070m uranium annually. The Commonwealth also generates money by collecting taxes from uranium companies. Furthermore, Uranium mining companies employ about 4200 workers in remote areas of Australia where jobs are very scarce. Moreover, Australia exports uranium only to those countries that are committed to the peaceful usages of uranium.
The Australian government and uranium mining companies always campaign for uranium mining. They spend lots of money in order to convince the people that uranium mining is safe and beneficial for Australia. On the other hand, environmentalists and some organizations, such as Friends of the Earth and others, have consistently campaigned against uranium mining for quite a long time. Means in which they have demonstrated their protest is through rallies and seminars where they try to convince the Australian public that uranium mining is neither safe nor beneficial for either Australia or the rest of the world.
I believe Australia should not mine and export uranium. First of all, the profits raised from uranium mining is does not justify the environmental and health hazards that this mining can cause. It can cause lots of fatal diseases such leukaemia, cancer and many other diseases. Uranium mining uses lots of water and then the contaminated water is dumped into rivers, lakes or underground. Uranium maybe used to make atom bomb that can kill thousands of people. In addition to this, any technical fault in nuclear reactor can result into a catastrophic incident.