Senator Sean Edwards’ plan for nuclear waste importing – full of flaws

The impossible dream Free electricity sounds too good to be true. It is. A plan to produce free electricity for South Australia by embracing nuclear waste sounds like a wonderful idea. But it won’t work.  THE AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE Dan Gilchrist February 2016
 “……..Edward’s plan seems like an excellent deal for South Australia. Who would say no to jobs and free electricity and billions in reduced taxes? But the most cursory scrutiny exposes some serious flaws.
The plan is to build a dry-cask storage facility, capable of securing spent fuel on the surface for 100 years. South Australia would be paid to take 60,000 tonnes over a 20 year period.
There would then be a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility, designed to reprocess 100 tonnes of this waste per year. The economic value of this proposition is highly speculative as 100 tonnes per year is far in excess of Australia’s likely needs. However, if our pioneering development of PRISM reactors proved the technology and made it affordable, then other countries might also build PRISMs, which could use the output of the processing plant. 14
 However, even assuming Australia finds a use or a buyer for the entire output of the reprocessing plant, over the 40 year life span of the facility South Australia would process just 4,000 tonnes of the imported waste.
What happens to the other 56,000 tonnes of nuclear waste?
 It would remain in temporary storage. There is no long term solution costed or even mentioned in Edwards’ plan. It is never discussed again.
It must be kept in mind this would be waste another country paid Australia to take, specifically because paying us was better than developing a permanent solution of their own. As perhaps may be expected, if one country pays another to take on a massive problem, and the second country solves less than 10 percent of that problem, it could make a large short term profit. But in 100 years when the dry cask system reached the end of its rated lifespan, future generations of South Australians would be left to deal with 56,000 tonnes of high-level waste, with no money left, and no plan.
If the plan was funded only by taking the 4,000 tonnes of spent fuel it actually used, then the result would be a spectacular financial loss.15
The Edwards plan makes the point that Australia would not be taking waste, but only ‘spent fuel’. It says: “This submission is not … proposing the simple establishment of waste management or disposal services or the importation of radioactive wastes in any sense.”
This statement is justified in the plan by the definition of radioactive waste as “…waste materials which contain radioactive substances for which no further use is envisaged.”
As long as we intend to use that spent fuel, it is not, strictly speaking, waste. However, the plan provides no use for over 90 percent of the material to be accepted. It would be, in the truest sense of the word, waste. And the proposal simply ignores that waste. If there is a future use envisaged for it, it is not mentioned in the plan, nor has it been costed.
The plan earns all of its money in the first few decades, spending it all on free electricity, tax reductions and other projects over 50 years.16 The remaining 56,000 tonnes is left to future generations to worry about, with no money left to deal with it.
This is a plan unlikely to be embraced by the Australian public in general, or South Australians in particular……….

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