A dozen protesters gathered outside the April 13 annual general meeting of Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) to call for the Ranger uranium mine to be closed because a dam containing radioactive mine tailings is close to overflowing. Protesters dressed as clowns and set up a wading pool full of “nuclear waste” to highlight the risks of radioactive contamination that the “clowns” at ERA are ignoring. They said it was apt that the meeting was held at Darwin’s Sky City Casino because ERA was gambling with nuclear safety.
With the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl falling on April 26, a debate is brewing over the estimated death toll from the nuclear disaster. The debate has erupted with a heated exchange between prominent British columnist George Monbiot and anti-nuclear campaigner Dr Helen Caldicott. Monbiot claims the “official death toll” from Chernobyl is 43. Caldicott puts the death toll at 985,000. Someone's wrong. Perhaps they both are.
About 15,000 people attended the “No Nukes” protest in the central Tokyo district of Koenji on April 10. The rally called for assistance to those affected by the March earthquake and tsunami disaster, and for an end to nuclear power. Organisers said more than 1.23 million yen (A$14,000) had been raised for those affected by the disaster. About 2500 people joined a separate rally in another part of the city calling for the Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka to be switched off. The Hamaoka plant is on a fault line considered likely to be affected by future quakes.
One hundred and thirty people packed out a room in the Crowne Plaza hotel to hear traditional owners and nuclear experts call for the closure of the Ranger uranium mine in the world heritage-listed Kakadu national park. Yvonne Margarula condemned the mine for its presence on land that is sacred to her people — the Mirrar people. “The promises never last,” she said. “But the problems always do.”
A poll by Roy Morgan Research several days into the Fukushima nuclear crisis found that 61% of Australians oppose the development of nuclear power in Australia, nearly double the 34% who support it. The growth in support for nuclear power over the past five years has been totally erased — and then some. There was undoubtedly growing support for nuclear power until Fukushima, but the issue had been the subject of a great deal of hype and spin.
“There’s no reason why technologically we can’t employ nuclear energy in a safe and effective way,” United States President Barack Obama told a group gathered at a town meeting in New Orleans in October 2009. “Japan does it and France does it, and it doesn't have greenhouse gas emissions, so it would be stupid for us not to do that in a much more effective way” You might think after the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima that Obama would have a reason to back off his support of nuclear energy as a new “clean” energy alternative.
The largest anti-nuclear protests in German history were held on March 26. About 250,000 people marched in Germany’s four largest cities. Under the slogan “Fukushima Warns: Pull the Plug on all Nuclear Power Plants”, more than 120,000 took to the streets of Berlin, 50,000 in Hamburg, 40,000 in Koeln and upward of 40,000 marched in Muenchen. In state elections held the next day, the German Greens won a historic victory in Baden-Wuerttemberg. They will form Germany’s first-ever Green-led government. They also tripled their vote in elections in Rheinland-Pfalz.
Twenty people gathered on March 21 in Mitchell Park to commemorate the victims of the March 11 tsunami in Japan. The gathering made paper cranes and heard from Sachi Hirayama from Darwin Youth for the Japanese Disaster who promoted charity events for the cause. Cat Beaton read a statement from Environment Centre Northern Territory saying that people’s thoughts were with those who lost loved ones as a result of the natural disaster but also with the workers struggling to rebuild after the devastation.
What's the best mix of electricity supply sources for Australia in the context of growing scientific and public concern about climate change? Energy efficiency and conservation provide the first part of the answer — they can provide large, quick, cheap greenhouse emissions reductions. Many studies envisage energy efficiency and conservation doing much of the “heavy lifting” to reduce greenhouse emissions. See also: George Monbiot's nuclear mistakes