AWU conference urged to embrace uranium mining, ignores worker risks

On the 125th anniversary of the Australian Workers Union, nuclear boosters are telling delegates at their National Conference this week on the Gold Coast that they should embrace uranium mining and nuclear power.  What they are neglecting to mention is the long history of health and safety risks attendant on the industry, and the worldwide movement away from nuclear technology as the value of uranium continues to nose-dive.

“Our union has always been a major advocate for the removal of Labor’s no-new-mines policy which has held back the development of uranium mining for a number of years,” said Bill Ludwig, AWU National President, as reported ont he AWU website.

“The AWU supports the removal of legislative bans on exploration for uranium in Victoria and NSW and the development of uranium mines in Queensland.

AWU National Secretary, Paul Howes, was also boosting nuclear, telling delegates that nuclear power is emission-free and sustainable.

“We also welcome the increasing realization of the important role which uranium mining and export has in providing sustainable energy security to countries  utilizing nuclear energy to generate electricity… Nuclear energy which is supplied by our uranium is emissions free.”

Both Howes and Ludwig continue to defy the global progress towards denuclearisation and the realisation since Fukushima that nuclear technology is never safe, even in the most technologically advanced nations.

Spokesperson for Friends of the Earth, Kim Stewart says, “insurance companies for many years have recognised that the risks of nuclear power are too great, so they won’t insure the technology or the homes of people who live near them.  As for uranium mining, it earns less export dollars than cheese.  Cheese doesn’t leave thousands of years of contaminating waste, displace indigenous peoples or make weapons with the potenital to kills millions.”

“Fukushima was the last nail in the nuclear power coffin, with both Italy and Germany now phasing it out and hundreds of thousands of people turning out in protest against it in Japan and worldwide.  Ludwig and Howes attitude towards uranium mining does not reflect reality.

“Miners should be aware of what the AWU isn’t telling them:  uranium miners get sick and die to profit the likes of billionaires in BHP Billiton and ERA.  Uranium miners are permitted to be exposed to 20 times the radiation of the general public as a concession to mining companies, not workers health.  In the US workers and indigenous people in the Navajo homelands suffer cancer rates twice that of the rest of the population due to corporate pollution.

“Workers cannot trust the companies they work for, or the AWU, on this.  In 2004 ERA covered up contaminated local water and workers showered in it.  In another incident workers took contaminated soil home to their children on the wheels of  vehicles.  The workers found they had been contaminated from the local news, not from their bosses like they should have.”

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