Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Olympic Dam dust and radiation

The problem of dust from an expanded and open cut Olympic Dam mine at Roxby Downs carrying radioactive particles across the Australian continent was mentioned in a previous post. It is one of two major problems associated with the expansion, the other being BHP $Billion's criminal wastage of the limited waters of the Great Artesian Basin.

Anti-nuclear filmmaker David Bradbury writes:

I totally agree with your outrage about BHPB squandering the water free of charge from the GAB. That should be enough in itself to knock the expansion on the head.

However what worries me most is the 70million tonnes (initially it was going to be 40million tonnes 'only'...) of radioactive tailings dumped on the surface of the minesite, ground into dust size particles to extract the yellowcake. The tailings dust size particles will be picked up by the big winds that whip the Centre and spiral around Australia - mostly in an easterly direction towards our population centres of Sydney and Brisbane, regional east coast Australia.

The radioactive tailings (from commercially unviable radioactive heavy metals waste tailings ALWAYS found with uranium) are radioactive polonium, thorium, lead, bismuth and radium. These fine radioactive particles will be swept over this land during the l00 year life
of the Olympic Dam open cut. At the moment the ten million tonnes a year of radioactive taiings are dumped in the holding dams
(see below) and somewhat isolated by the water above them. They cannot and will not deal with the 70million tonnes like that - the volume is too large annually and water is 'suddenly' an issue in the driest continent on earth.

Those radioactive tailings give off alpha radiation - it is the most deadly form of radiation with 20 times the 'hitting' power of gamma radiation. Alpha radiation does not travel very far in 'space' as it is thrown off by the unstable atoms. Alpha radiation can be easily stopped by a piece of paper intersecting its trajectory but any of that alpha bearing dust that enters the food chain or the water table can be digested into the body where once inside the cells it does its deadly work. Inside the body the reach of its radiation effect in diameter is five cells in any direction from the lodged alpha particle and it will have an affect on those cells.

The alpha dust or the radon gas (also emits alpha radiation) can breathed directly into the lungs of any species which comes in contact with it. It will become a time bomb for triggering cancers and birth defects in the host species. Alpha radiation interacts with the DNA once inside the cell and can lead to a break in what they call the double strand of the DNA.

A double strand break of the DNA is universally accepted by medical scientists as the precursor for tumours to develop because the DNA cannot repair itself and the mutation is passed onto the daughter cells. And so on. It can also lead to birth defects in the next generation or skip a generation and come out in the grandchildren as they've discovered with the grandchildren of atomic bomb blast human guinea pigs.

I cannot stress enough what a health and environmental disaster this will be for all of us if Olympic Dam goes ahead. It is unmanageable and unfathomable what it will do to the wider environment of Australia and all generations of all species who inherit this land hereafter. My research and understanding of the huge ramifications of the radiation fallout from the minesite is backed up by peer reviewed papers and the latest findings by scientists in Europe and North America.

I can give you the links to those papers about the latest findings of alpha radiation and how little an amount of radiation is needed to cause the double strand of the DNA to break. Then it gets highly technical and most politicians and media don't have the inclination or background to stretch themselves to understand the significance of this latest science.

David and his colleagues have a website with information on Olympic Dam, and resources including his All that Glitters is Not Gold DVD and a Roxstop kit.

The website can be accessed here:

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