Australian union bans nuke work

An Australian union has banned its members from working in uranium mines, nuclear power stations or any other part of the nuclear fuel cycle.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) says other unions have expressed strong support for the campaign against uranium, which it has labelled the “new asbestos” of the workplace.

“We’re sick of hearing about nuclear power as the panacea of global warming, we’re sick of people sweeping safety issues under the carpet,” ETU secretary Peter Simpson said. “Our view is there’s enough ETU labour in the place… that we’ll be able to starve the industry out.”

He was speaking at the launch in Brisbane of an anti-uranium DVD, When the Dust Settles, alongside paediatrician and anti-nuclear campaign Dr Helen Caldicott. The DVD, to be sent to ETU members in Queensland and the Northern Territory, is a warning about the health risks the union says come with working with uranium. On the video, he says it is an issue about the future and about families, adding: “We are in the business of safety, and this is one way of showing it.”

Mr Simpson said Australian workers had already faced decades of exposure, and uranium was the new asbestos of the workplace. “Over the next 10 or 15 years we’re going to see the downside of (uranium),” he said.

Dr Caldicott said Australia’s uranium export industry meant the nation was “selling cancer and we’re selling nuclear weapons.”

She said Muckaty Station, near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, would likely become a nuclear waste dump and eventually the waste would leak into the environment and food chain.

Australia has about 20 per cent of the world’s known uranium deposits and the largest known deposits of high-grade uranium ore.

US-based campaign group Beyond Nuclear notes: “Studies have shown increases in cancer around nuclear facilities and uranium mines. Radiation mutates genes which can cause genetic damage across generations.”

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