Uranium mining, waste products & health risks

We recommend the following viewing for anyone engaged with or curious about the current debates over the extraction and processing of uranium for use in nuclear power generation. These videos, all of which are available to watch for free online sing a common refrain. In a variety of ways and from a variety of professional and community perspectives, the processes involved with supplying the nuclear fuel chain are illustrated. Also featured are lessons learned (or not learned) regarding radioactive waste management, the health risks to mine and processing plant workers via radon gas inhalation, radiation exposure and the immeasurable risks facing citizens of the world in the event of nuclear power plant failures (such as Chernobyl and more recently, Fukushima), acts of terrorism or the deployment of nuclear weapons. It’s heavy material, but of the utmost importance, as nuclear power lobbyists are pushing harder than ever to have nuclear power take the Captain’s chair in the battle to reduce carbon emissions. One minomer from the pro-nuke lobby’s argument is that ‘nuclear power produces negligible carbon emmissions. Carbon emissions are created during the extraction, processing and transportation of uranium to the facilities where their are processed into fuel rods. They are then transported to reactors where they are used as fuel. After the fuel is spent, further carbon emmissions follow, as waste is transported and buried or stored. To suggest there is a price advantage in the deployment of nuclear power also overlooks the cost of securing nuclear waste dumps for the thousands of years it takes for the materials to decay. It also fails to calculate the cost to the health of the biosphere and humanity though exposure to fallout from nuclear accidents. That’s enough from us for now… better instead you sit down and soak up these fascinating and informative documentaries for yourself. As always, your comments and further viewing suggestions are most welcome.

Uranium: Is it a country?

This Creative Commons released film traces the source of nuclear fuel back to its source, in this case the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia. Memorable and poignant moments include segments during which a French nuclear scientist exposes the radiation emmitted from containers and transport vehicles, as they transport uranium oxide and fuel rods around Europe.

‘Uranium’ d. Magnus Isacsson

This professionally produced documentary film from 1990 looks at the impacts of uranium mining on regional Canadian communities through the contamination of their environment. It illustrates the effects suffered, battles fought, lost and won.

 U for Uranium?

This casual film focusses on the knowledge and experiences of a group of residents from Australia’s Northern Territory, and includes accounts of Ranger, Jabiluka and Rum Jungle uranium mines. It also touches upon the military uses of uranium, dating back to Hiroshima, and the post-war nuclear arms tests off the Monte Bello islands in north-western Australia. This film also includes an amusing collection of ‘nuclear age’ educational film and industry promotional material, intercut with the informative interviews with scientists, miners, activists and medical professionals.

 

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Dan Monceaux is a South Australian documentary filmmaker and the director of Cuttlefish Country.

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