Australian government’s plan for federal nuclear waste dump ignores relevant standards and codes

Jim Green 21 Feb 16 Some comments on the 18 Feb 2016 government ‘information session’ in Kimba regarding plans for a radioactive waste repository and above-ground ‘interim’ store for long-lived intermediate-level waste.

1. The government ignores and breaches relevant standards and codes when it suits.

As a Kimba resident noted at the meeting, the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NH&MRC) ‘Code of Practice for Near-Surface Disposal of Radioactive Waste in Australia (1992)’ states that “the site for the facility should be located in a region which has no known significant natural resources, including potentially valuable mineral deposits, and which has little or no potential for agriculture or outdoor recreational use”.

So the government has breached the NH&MRC Code of Practice by short-listing the Kimba sites.

Following the so-called clean-up of the Maralinga nuclear test site in the late 1990s, nuclear engineer Alan Parkinson wrote: “The Department has claimed that burial is a safe disposal method consistent with “the [NH&MRC] Code.” This was the first time that the Code had been mentioned in relation to the Maralinga project. When three of the five authors said that it was not applicable (the other two were Commonwealth public servants and would not comment), the Department claimed that it did not have to follow the Code but had chosen to do so. It made this statement despite the fact that not a single requirement of that Code was satisfied.”
(Alan Parkinson, “The Maralinga Rehabilitation Project: Final Report”,
http://www.ippnw.org/pdf/mgs/7-2-parkinson.pdf)

So the government ignores relevant standards and codes when it suits, and the government breaches relevant standards and codes when it suits. Why would anyone trust the government to safely operate a radioactive waste facility in the Kimba region in those circumstances?

Alan Parkinson summarises the problem (keep in mind that he is pro-nuclear and a nuclear engineer): “The disposal of radioactive waste in Australia is ill-considered and irresponsible. Whether it is short-lived waste from Commonwealth facilities, long-lived plutonium waste from an atomic bomb test site on Aboriginal land, or reactor waste from Lucas Heights. The government applies double standards to suit its own agenda; there is no consistency, and little evidence of logic.”
(Alan Parkinson, 2002, ‘Double standards with radioactive waste’, Australasian Science, www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/oz/britbombs/clean-up)

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