YELLOWCAKE LAMENT (or how to prevent a nuclear holocaust)

Once upon a time, in a city far away, your correspondent was seconded to the Australian Uranium Export Office. These were the early days of development of Australian nuclear policy. They were defining in many ways, yet confusion, ignorance, political grandstanding and other common elements of the, dare I say it, sometimes mendacious arguments were then, as now, part of what is supposed to be the nuclear policy debate. The wise are suggesting, in the face of Japanese developments, that the time is not yet right to reawaken the discussion of policy issues and analyse the implications of Fukishima. Be that as it may, in the spirit of history and as a reminder that much has gone before, your correspondent offers the following piece, written in 1979. Since some of those who may participate in future debate will have been in knee pants during the seventies, a short glossary is appended. Enjoy.

The bloody stuff is all around
Mined open pit and underground.
There’s plenty more yet to be found
It’s worth a bloody fortune.

The bloody pollies had their say,
The anti-nukes, protesters gay
To Justice Fox who judged the fray
That cost a bloody fortune.

Fox made us all accept our fate
To help out any sovereign state
That needs to buy U3O8
And pays a bloody fortune.

He said: “yes, mine. It’s worth the cost”
So now we’re planning fit to bust
To dig up tons of ore and dust
That’s worth a bloody fortune.

If tribal land rights are at stake,
Too bloody bad. Make no mistake
We’ve got to export yellowcake
And make our bloody fortune.

But just a bloody minute, mate!
Before we flog this country’s great
Resource, we must procrastinate
And lose a bloody fortune.

You must take count of NPT
As well as bloody I.N.F.C.E.
Disasters at Mile Island Three
Just add to our misfortune.

Enrichment? We’ll just hedge that bet.
Reprocess? No decision yet.
The buyers can just bloody fret.
Who wants a bloody fortune?

Do not forget F.I.R.B.
(Although they reason flexibly)
We also need a nice treaty
To safeguard all our fortune.

And then there’s bloody anti-trust
By Westinghouse, with contracts bust.
The lawyers too have shown their lust
To make a bloody fortune.

But while we bloody muck about,
Negotiate and rage and shout
The other lands with market clout
Have contracts worth a fortune.

We haven’t sold a bloody ton
While abo, polly, shinybum
And miner talk till kingdom come.
Forget that bloody fortune.

The bloody thing’s got past a joke.
Just call that smart stockbroker bloke.
Sell nuclear! Buy coal and coke.
They’ve made their bloody fortune.


The Fox Enquiry: An enquiry set up by the Australian Government and chaired by Justice R W Fox into whether uranium mining should proceed in Australia.

INFCE: International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation (Coll. Pron. In fuh see)

NPT: Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

FIRB: Foreign Investment Review Board:

Westinghouse: A major manufacturer of nuclear plant and equipment. In 1976 Westinghouse instituted proceedings against 29 US and international uranium suppliers claiming price fixing and other anti trust violations. Australia claimed the US courts had no jurisdiction in Australia. While the case continued the Australian Government set up the Australian Uranium Export Office to handle sales of uranium under presumed sovereign immunities.

Yellowcake: Processed uranium-bearing ore containing mostly U3O8, a stable oxide of uranium. Miners ship uranium in the yellowcake form. Interestingly, most yellowcake is not, now, yellow in colour.

Shinybum: bureaucrat, public servant


About johnofoz

An occasional correspondent, with particular interest in music.
This entry was posted in Memories of the Past and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to YELLOWCAKE LAMENT (or how to prevent a nuclear holocaust)

  1. Jennifer says:

    I was looking for the AUEO after seeing the Drum on the ABC tonight (5th September 2014). It had to vet exports and I was rotated to it for a few months. Is there such a government office now? If not, what safeguards are there for uranium mined in Australia and to be exported? JAGJ

    • johnofoz says:

      I’m a bit out of touch now, but I believe the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, an arm of DFAT, plays the regulatory role, while DFAT itself is responsible for export policy. As you would recall,the AUEO was set up, not so much as a control body but to respond to the constraints on exports to the USA resulting from the Westinghouse litigation which effectively meant exporters needed sovereign immunity to avoid being drawn into the court cases.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Do you remember this?

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