Greens expose decade-old failure to clean up uranium site

21 July 2010 - Australian Greens Senator for WA Rachel Siewert has used the exposure of two severely radioactive sites at Lake Way to highlight the dangers of uranium mining and some forms of exploration.

Senator Siewert, health spokesperson for The Greens, said recent readings taken near Lake Way, 11km outside Wiluna (less than 200km east of Meekatharra), show radiation levels 60 to 143 times the normal range of background radiation.

“As the Australian Uranium Summit kicks off this morning, it is crucial that West Australians get the full story,” she said. “Uranium mining and nuclear power is not clean, it is not safe and it is not cheap.”

At one of the Lake Way sites Greens State MLC Robin Chapple, who spent three years on the National Radiological Health Council, recorded a reading of 7.150 uSv/hr (microSieverts per Hour) Alpha radiation and a Geiger Mueller Tube count of 780 per minute on July 10. For comparison, Mr Chapple recorded background radiation in Broome two days later of 0.091 uSv/hr Gamma radiation and a Geiger Mueller Tube count of 10 per minute. Ambient radiation levels worldwide are about 0.05 uSv/hr - 0.12 uSv/hr.

Mr Chapple said radiation levels detected in 2000 at one of the two sites were dangerously high and brought to the attention of then Minister for Mines Norman Moore, who vowed in State Parliament to have the site cleaned up. Ten years later, Norman Moore is back in cabinet as Minister for Mines and Petroleum and the site at Lake Way is still highly radioactive, with the second location (just 300 metres away), even more toxic.

“Both sites had exposed ore left on the surface as a result of ground disturbing activities associated with exploration work dating back to the 1980s when CSR had the tenement leases,” said Mr Chapple.

Senator Siewert said the failure to properly address the contaminated location formed only part of a long history of uranium mining and exploration sites being grossly mismanaged.

“The devastating effects of uranium mining on the environment and public health have been made clear time and again,” said Senator Siewert. “The Greens are the only party to consistently advocate the development of renewable energy sources and a sustainable power system, and consistently reject the dangerous and cost-ineffective nuclear option.”


Exploration Lease E 53/1132 held by Nova Energy near Lake Way was granted in July 2005. Mining Lease M 53/1090 was applied for by Nova Energy on April 4 last year and approval is pending. It’s a smaller area that covers both known radioactive ore sites.

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