PANR AGM 10.12.03

Convenor’s Report December 2003
This is the sixth year of PANR’s campaign to prevent a new reactor
being built at Lucas Heights. Time has flown by as we have checked
our calendars to see what meetings have to be attended, what
telephone calls are to be made, what letters or submissions are to be
written and who to annoy. We sometimes ask each other what will we
do when the campaign has been won. Is there a life after a long
campaign? Is there a life during a long campaign?
The Reaction Coalition of the ACF, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace
and PANR is as strong as ever. The ideas, facilities and expertise of
these dedicated people from the major environmental groups (Dave,
David, Loretta, Jim, Bruce, Michelle, James, Steve and Carolin)
continue to be of immense help. The support by Sutherland Shire
Council, via the Reactor Task Force and Garry Smith at the head of the
Council’s environment division is invaluable.
Main events of the last twelve months:
September 2002. ARPANSA approves the building of the reactor on an
old earthquake fault.
October 2002. Lucas Heights put on highest security alert following a
warning from the US of an Al Qaeda terrorist attack. Bob Carr calls for
the Australian Defence Force to guard it.
November 2002. Bob Carr said that ANSTO had provided a ‘reassuring
briefing’ on security and trotted out the standard line of the ‘washing
machine sized reactor that only used 7 Kg of uranium”. (He didn’t ask
why the Commonwealth refuses to provide liability cover against an
The Australian Local Government Association supports Sutherland
Council’s call to end production of nuclear waste at Lucas Heights.
December 2002. Work begins on the foundations of the reactor
Pre NSW election, Blue Mountains residents put pressure on their local
MP Bob Debus, Minister for Emergency Services, to prevent transport of
nuclear waste through their World Heritage area.
February 2003. Early morning pickets, including PANR members,
prevented workers from accessing ANSTO and closing the New
Illawarra Road in both directions.
Mayors from 6 local councils call for more effective emergency
March 2003. Dispute between ARPANSA and ANSTO/INVAP on welding
standards being applied to the 15-metre deep reactor cooling-tank.
The Feasibility Report for a Health Study of local residents is said to be in
the Minister’s office. It still hasn’t been made public and the new
minister doesn’t reply to questions.
May 2003. ARPANSA’s advisory Radiation and Health Committee
suggested pre-distribution of stable iodine tablets was appropriate.
Following several meetings that included PANR members representing
the community, NSW Health Department staff admitted that timely
distribution after an accident was impractical and that pre-distribution
was being investigated. (In June the person carrying out the
investigation said his report was with the Minister and the findings
should be released “in about a fortnight”.
Swiss Cheese Reactor was the Leader’s headline following the report
that the local firm building the reactor cooling-tank had 22 crucial
holes out of 90 misaligned. The company had attempted to ‘fill them
in’ with new welded plates without success. ANSTO told INVAP – which
was in charge of the project - to advise sub-contractor to fix the
problem without cost to ANSTO.
June 2003. More problems with the critical cooling tank as ARPANSA
discovered that 9 holes had been cut to take the heavy water that is
used to operate and control the reactor core. These had not been
included in the construction licence as they were dependent on the
design of the yet to be approved heavy water penetrations. ARPANSA
declined to fine INVAP, as “it had not transgressed before”.
NSW Government announces an Inquiry into the Transport and Storage
of Nuclear Waste. This was a promise made during the State election
and follows the strong stands against Commonwealth policy taken by
the SA and WA State Governments and the policy announced by the
July 2003. Professor Helen Garnett ANSTO’s CEO resigned to take up a
position as vice–chancellor of Charles Darwin University. She will leave
in October.
July 2003. The reports on welding and repairs to the vital cooling tank
commissioned by ARPANSA from the CSIRO and Toshiba still not
received. This series of events show that ARPANSA can’t control and/or
oversee the project. The lines of communication and the number of
sub-contractors are too long complicating matter even further.
The problems with the tank were probably noticed only because it was
a very local company. There is no information coming from Argentina
where INVAP is building the actual reactor. It too has many subcontractors. Who knows what is going on? Certainly not ARPANSA.
August 2003. Bob Carr says Bankstown airport should be given the
same security status as Mascot. “ It is quite close to potential terrorist
targets in Sydney”, he said.
ARPANSA released its report on the ‘Swiss Cheese’ cooling tank. The
CEO. Dr Loy said that “the conventional approach in Australia differs
from that adopted in the drawings and he concluded that the rolling
was undertaken on the basis of convention, without sufficiently close
examination of the drawings”.
He added that the fabricator had a lack of resources as well as a lack
of an independent Quality Assurance decision maker. That these
deficiencies existed reflect on John Holland Evans Deakin Industries
(JHEDI) as the main contractor.
The error was noticed on 19 February 2003. Unauthorised repairs were
carried out in early March. JHEDI notified in 17 April. JHEDI notified
INVAP verbally on 6 May
Some of the delays were due to “certain personal reasons affecting
staff of the fabricator and JHEDI. The fabricator was also under pressure
when a great deal of pipe-work was urgently required to be
In spite of these damning findings, ARPANSA has approved a rewelded tank!
Health Feasibility Study Report, dated February 2003, was finally
released. It includes recommendations that would cost the NSW
Government some time and money. Copies of the executive summary
are available and the full report can be seen at the PANR office. It isn’t
possible to describe the mighty efforts made by PANR members
Heather Rice, Jan Thompson, Joanne Lentern and Shirley Colella in
getting this study underway. They attended endless meetings with
State bureaucrats, cajoling and bullying them over many months.
Further pressure is now needed to see that the government takes the
report seriously.
September 2003. NSW Nuclear Waste Storage and Transport Inquiry
began hearings. PANR made a submission, as did many individual
PANR members. The first of the public hearings was held at Sutherland
Council chambers and the gallery was filled with our members. Thanks
to all of them who gave me encouragement when it was my turn to
speak. The hearings brought many facets of Australia’s nuclear industry
into the open. It is hoped that the committee brings out a forthright
report and that the NSW Government will act on it by passing
legislation preventing the storage and transport of nuclear waste. The
committee’s report was due for completion by early December but this
has been put back to February next Year.
October 2003. ANSTO is given $28 million to upgrade its security (the
main entrance gate) and the radiopharmaceutical building.
A shipment of spent nuclear fuel rods was sent to France for
November 2003. A French national, Willie Brigitte, was unexplainably
deported to France after being identified by French intelligence as a
person with terrorist contacts. He was said to have been in Australia
planning an attack, with ANSTO one potential target. ANSTO’s acting
CEO played down the report saying that he was in close contact with
ASIO and other intelligence agencies – failing to notice that they had
let Brigitte into the country in the first place.
What to do in the event of a major accident at Lucas Heights? After 25
years of advice to shelter, The NSW Health Department has now given
the Local Emergency Management Committee (LEMC) and the local
community a different view that people living with a 3 Km radius should
be evacuated. For us locals whether to stay (shelter) or go (evacuate)
is a case of Sophie’s Choice. The department is refusing to answer
questions posed by the Leader. PANR and the Council are pushing for
answers on the distribution of stable iodine tablets – outside the
evacuation area - as these plans have also been altered.
In the coming year we need more active members. Tasks include
staffing the office for a few hours each week - checking the ‘phone
messages, picking up the mail and boning up on the subject. Don’t
forget, many hands make light work!
Plans are afoot to increase our membership and perhaps alter the way
we operate. Whatever happens we can be assured of another
‘interesting’ year.
Michael Priceman
[email protected]
Tel: 9520 3115
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