I spent this morning at NITV studios recording an episode of current affairs panel show “Awaken”. The topic was Uranium: Friend or Foe?

I was one of what turned out the be a lot of special guests so the show was fast paced, busy and covered a lot of territory.

I had fair coverage and offered my perspectives. I also got the chance to do a lot of listening, which was excellent.

The legacy of hurt and pain around the nuclear testing at Maralinga expressed by many guests was palpable and from the heart. As someone who abhors nuclear weapons and injustice, and a South Australian who loves his State, that history and the seemingly insufficient remedies put in place disgusts me. But it was not done to me. That must be an altogether different shade of pain that I will hopefully never know for real. It is easy to see how this legacy is carried through to distrust and anger for many indigenous Australians in dealing with Australian authorities and companies. When those dealings then relate to disturbance of the land again (i.e. mining) for none other than uranium… well, I feel I appreciate a great deal more just where people are coming from. When we seem to think we need to make managing Australia’s radioactive waste an Aboriginal responsibility, which Barry Brook and I have argued is flat wrong, well, I really understand better why the answer from some traditional owners may always and forever be no. Those issues as expressed by the indigenous guests make perfect sense to me and have my full respect.

As an aside, my sadness extends to the Australian soldiers who were exposed to the blasts in the course of doing their duty. This diminishes not one bit my above statements. End aside.

Several other commenters seemed to leverage out of these matters into matters of international energy needs and security. Here, my respect for the positions, and the commentators, wanes considerably from the point of view of the factual quality of the rhetoric and the evidently narrow understanding on display. I would have liked more time and opportunity to take up these matters in more detail, however that was not to be today.

In the various intros and outros, I lost track of the number of mushroom clouds. This remains a real problem. Nuclear energy and nuclear weapons just isn’t the same thing. This too deserves a lot more exploration. We also saw a lot of ominous looking footage of Onkala waste repository in Finland, mainly clips from Into Eternity. No one mentioned, and I lacked the opportunity to point out, that the community in question embraced that facility after a long and good process, beating two other communities who were actively looking to host it. Surely that, if anything, must provide some clues as to how Australia might reconcile it’s nuclear past with the waste challenges of our present and our global clean energy responsibilities for our collective future?

There is a lot more to be done. Thank you NITV Awaken for having me as your guest. May this be the beginning of many more discussions.


  1. I hope to see the show. It may or may not confirm my suspicion that people who don’t actually live in the tribal lands have an undue influence over decisions. I gather relations are OK over the WA Kintyre uranium deposit so the bridges haven’t been burned altogether. With Maralinga SA I believe cancer deaths amongst both locals and veterans have not been shown to be statistically excess with some hot zone visitors still healthy aged over 80.

    I think Muckaty was mishandled because the proponents sincerely thought it was an opportunity for remote area cash flow and jobs. However city based agitators portray it as an attempt to keep ‘problems’ hidden. Both groups miscalculated.

  2. I’ve always wondered how Renewable advocates can on the one hand justify not deploying nuclear because of waste and impacts on traditional owners, and on the other hand support Solar fields that effectively blanket large areas of land.

    Mining is banned in Arkaroola in South Australia (FYI it’s a Uranium outcropping hot spot) based on community reaction to a proposed deposit and impacts on the environment, but other developments are not. The northern tip of the ranges up there is perfect for a large wind farm, but there is no outrage there nor a desire to protect aboriginal heritage and the environment.

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