Archive for the ‘– politics Australia’ Category

South Australia’s shonky Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission: stacked with nuclear lobbyists

October 30, 2017

What we saw with the royal commission is that they had a number of paid consultants—paid by you and I, the taxpayers—and they engaged these consultants who had clear, ongoing connections with the nuclear industry, often as lobbyists for the industry.

It became apparent very early on that the state was off on a frolic of its own. It was embarking on this major investigation about having a nuclear waste dump in South Australia when everyone knew that the bulk of the laws that regulate these things are at the commonwealth level.

Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission – Parliamentary Committee Report, Legislative Council, October 18th, 2017 http://www.markparnell.org.au/speech_prn.php?speech=1532

The final report of the Joint Committee on Findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission was tabled in the South Australian Parliament on October 17 2017.  A copy of the report can be found here.

As a Member of the Parliamentary Committee, Mark spoke to the Report on October 18, and outlined his findings and recommendations in the Greens’ Minority Report.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The notion that South Australia could become fabulously wealthy if only we would agree to take the world’s high-level nuclear waste was ill-conceived from the very beginning. The committee heard evidence about previous attempts to establish nuclear waste dumps in other parts of the world and in Australia. Those attempts have mostly failed because the fundamentals just do not stack up. The liability lasts forever, the technology is unproven and risky, the economics are flawed and the public do not want it under any circumstances, according to the South Australian citizens’ jury. So, this current proposal for South Australia has predictably and properly gone the way of its predecessors and it has been comprehensively dumped.

Whilst the Greens welcome the inevitable abandonment of this project, it has come at a significant cost to the community. Millions of dollars of public funds have been wasted pursuing this folly, and the community is rightly angry that other worthwhile projects and other investigations have suffered through this unnecessary distraction from the real issues that are facing South Australia.

The committee only had one recommendation that received majority support. That is the recommendation that no further public money be spent on a nuclear waste dump in South Australia.Hear, hear! That is a good recommendation. I fully support that. It was a waste of money and let’s not waste any more. But there are a number of other lessons that we should learn from this process. When I say ‘this process’, I mean the royal commission into the nuclear industry, the government’s consultation program, the citizens’ jury, as well as the joint parliamentary inquiry that I was privileged to be part of.

Another recommendation I think the committee should have adopted refers to the fact that the law that currently prohibits nuclear waste dumps in South Australia was tinkered with last year in order to assuage the nervousness of the government that it might be breaking the law if it was to spend public money on consultation. So, we changed the law. We put in a special clause that says you are not allowed to use public money promoting a nuclear waste dump, but you are allowed to consult the community. We put that clause in. Now that the consultation has finished, now that the government has spoken, the opposition has spoken, and the people have spoken through the citizens’ jury and through other surveys, let’s put the act back to where it was before. Let’s put it back so that there is no doubt about the prohibition on nuclear waste dumps in South Australia.

A third recommendation I think the committee should have adopted is one that relates to the relationship between the federal and state government. It became apparent very early on that the state was off on a frolic of its own. It was embarking on this major investigation about having a nuclear waste dump in South Australia when everyone knew that the bulk of the laws that regulate these things are at the commonwealth level.

The question that was then asked of the state government was, ‘Have you been talking to the feds? Have you been talking to your colleagues in Canberra?’ ‘Oh, no, we haven’t done that.’ We got millions of dollars into the process, months into the process, and still we never had a single assurance from the commonwealth that they were on board with this project, that they were inclined or likely to give any of the authorities, permits or licences that would be needed to have a nuclear waste dump in Australia.

Another recommendation I think the committee should have adopted is one that relates to nuclear secrecy and improving scrutiny. It comes largely, I think, from the findings of the citizens’ jury where, as I said, two-thirds of them, 350 people, had a strong conviction that South Australia should not pursue the opportunity to store and dispose of nuclear waste from other countries under any circumstances. That is a pretty bold statement.

However, the jury also found that there was a lack of trust in the state government and that the state government had a track record of poor performance when it came to managing issues relating to the nuclear industry. The recommendation that should flow from that is that the government should now review all of its nuclear related legislation with a view to removing the secrecy provisions and the exemptions. The aim should be to open up the nuclear industry to greater public scrutiny. That is the only way to rebuild any public trust, if there ever was any, in the government’s competency as a regulator in this area.

Another recommendation I think the committee should have adopted—the Hon. Dennis Hood referred to it—relates to the Aboriginal communities. That was a big part of the discussion. Many parts of the Aboriginal community were very upset that they were not adequately consulted during the process. Ultimately, that fed through into the citizens’ jury finding that this project was really so half-baked that it should not be proceeded with.

So, my recommendation would be that any future proposals for major developments of any kind, industrial in particular, that are likely to impact on traditional lands and the cultures of Aboriginal people, should always be subject to a comprehensive community engagement program that allows all people to participate in the decision-making process in a manner that is inclusive, respectful and culturally appropriate: that is the least we can do, and it was not done in this nuclear waste dump proposal.

The next recommendation relates to the royal commission. I maintained from the outset that the royal commission was the wrong tool for the type of inquiry that the government wanted to undertake. Using a royal commission under the Royal Commissions Act 1917 was unnecessarily formalistic and legalistic and was inappropriate for the nature of this inquiry. For example, the requirement for all written submissions to have to be sworn before a justice of the peace or some other authority before it could be accepted was misguided and put an unnecessary barrier in the way of public participation.

For example, my submission to the royal commission was rejected. I am a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Courts of South Australia and Victoria, am admitted as a practitioner of the High Court of Australia and am a commissioner for signing affidavits, yet my submission was rejected because I did not go and see the clerk or one of the other JPs to validate the submission I was putting in. I told Commissioner Scarce that he did not need to do this, that he was putting unnecessary barriers in the way, but at the end of the day they did what they did—I think it was the wrong process.

Most importantly, though, the commission never once used the extensive coercive powers that royal commissions have in the conduct of this inquiry. Let’s think about it: the power to get reluctant witnesses from Rome (or wherever they might be), bring them back to Australia, quiz people who do not want to have questions asked of them—that is what royal commissions do best: coercive powers, reluctant witnesses, make them answer. This was effectively an inquiry where people were desperate to have their say—they wanted to have their say. They put in their submissions. There was no need to subpoena, if you like, anyone to come and give evidence.

I think that overly formal attitude of the royal commission fuelled concerns in the community that it was elitist and that it was not open to hearing a range of divergent views. So, my recommendation would be that any future proposals that involve complex economic, social or environmental issues should look for a tool more fit for purpose than is a royal commission, and we should limit royal commissions to those situations where the use of statutory powers clearly are necessary, such as compelling reluctant witnesses.

The next recommendation I would make is in relation to how inquiries, in this case a royal commission, choose the experts to advise them. What we saw with the royal commission is that they had a number of paid consultants—paid by you and I, the taxpayers—and they engaged these consultants who had clear, ongoing connections with the nuclear industry, often as lobbyists for the industry. We paid these people to advise the royal commission and, ultimately, advise the government and the parliament about the desirability of a nuclear waste dump.

The fact that the royal commission provided considerable weight to the findings of these consultants cast further doubt, in my view, on the independence and rigor of its analysis. In particular, the lack of any second opinion on the question of the financial viability of the proposed nuclear waste dump was a serious credibility problem for the royal commission.

I say that because I think that even the Hon. Dennis Hood in his contribution would agree that the only reason that was really advanced to do this was that it was a potential economic opportunity. Only one economic analysis was done. Sure, the committee I was part of got further opinions, we sought them, but the commission did not, and I think that was a flaw. So, we need to keep vested interests at arm’s length—we do not want them running the show.

I also believe that the royal commission failed in, I think, its elitist approach to this inquiry by not giving everyone who wanted an opportunity to be heard that chance. We had a number of national and state conservation groups that basically said, ‘The royal commission refused to hear from us.’ I have put this personally to the commissioner. His view was that he did not think many of these people had anything new to add, and so he did not hear from them. Imagine how that would work if we tried to do an inquiry like that in parliament. Inquiries 101, the stakeholders who want to be heard, give them a chance to be heard! It is not rocket science. Then people scratch their heads and say, ‘I wonder why the citizens’ jury thought that this was a bad idea?’ The royal commission was the architect, in many ways, of its own defeat.

I think the recommendation should be that in all future inquiries, of whatever type, make sure that all the divergent views are heard. Do not tell Friends of the Earth or the Australian Conservation Foundation or the Conservation Council that they are not required to give evidence because, for example, ‘We’ve seen your written evidence; we don’t need to bring you in in person.’ Whereas, the proponents were allowed in person to give evidence on multiple occasions. It was an own goal of catastrophic proportions.

I am delighted that this process is almost over. I have described it as not the nail in the coffin of the nuclear waste dump, but the penultimate nail, because we still in this parliament have to deal with the legislation. The legislation was tampered with last year to allow this process to go ahead. Now that the process has run its course, we need to put the legislation back where it was. That will be the final nail in, I think, a very sorry chapter in South Australian history: how to waste tens of millions of dollars on something that was never going to amount to anything, ever.

For more information see a copy of the Report

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South Australia: all political parties agree: no more money to be spent on plans to import nuclear waste

October 30, 2017

No more cash for nuclear vision as parties conspire against waste dump. In Daily, Tom Richardson , 18 Oct 17  A parliamentary inquiry into Jay Weatherill’s doomed nuclear waste repository has told the State Government not to spend another cent of public money on the plan, with MPs from both major parties conspiring to drive the last nail into the project’s political coffin.The final report of a committee established to review the findings of former Governor Kevin Scarce’s Nuclear Royal Commission, tabled in parliament yesterday, makes only one recommendation: “That the South Australian Government should not commit any further public funds to pursuing the proposal to establish a repository for the storage of nuclear waste in SA.”

The recommendation was endorsed by Liberal, Greens and Labor members of the committee – surprisingly, including even outspoken nuclear advocate and Labor whip Tom Kenyon………

Earlier this year, InDaily revealed Weatherill’s declaration that the project would not be revisited by his Government.

But the work of the committee has continued, with the inquiry hearing “concerns from witnesses that if market conditions changed, for example through competition or changes in technology, the state may be left with a facility which, from an economic and financial perspective, is a break-even proposition at best”.

“Further, while no direct losses would be incurred, there could be significant costs attached to losing other, potentially higher value, investment opportunities,” the report stated.

“Further still, the minimum pre-commitment, or baseline viability, does not mitigate risk of writing-off pre-commitment expenditure estimated at roundly $600 million if the facility did not proceed.”

The committee noted “the possibility of a customer country unilaterally deciding not to send waste to SA despite contractual agreements to do so which, depending on the timing of the risk impact, could leave the facility significantly under-funded”.

Greens committee member Mark Parnell, a consistent opponent of the repository plan, said today “the project was ill-conceived from the outset”.

“The whole exercise has been a colossal waste of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, but it’s now good the process has finished and we can move on to talking about more realistic projects that will create employment and opportunity for South Australians,” he said.

Calling the inquiry’s recommendation the “second-last nail in the coffin”, Parnell insisted the Government must now reinstate Section 13 of the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act of 2000, which was repealed last year.

The law prevented the Government from consulting on the merits of a nuclear waste storage facility, holding that “no public money may be appropriated, expended or advanced to any person for the purpose of encouraging or financing any activity associated with the construction or operation of a nuclear waste storage facility” in SA.

Parnell has his own legislation before parliament to re-establish the original act, saying “we need to fix the legislation to make sure no future government comes back with a project like this, without coming to parliament first”……..https://indaily.com.au/news/politics/2017/10/18/no-cash-nuclear-vision-parties-conspire-waste-dump/

 

The Australian government’s plan to dump Lucas Heights’ nuclear waste on rural South Australia

July 24, 2017

Assuming that the long-lived intermediate-level stuff does go to the sites that you are busy characterising at the moment, how long is it envisaged that it actually stays there before it gets taken somewhere else?

Mr B Wilson: We cannot give a definitive answer on that because we have not commenced a process to identify a permanent disposal solution for the long-lived intermediate-level waste—

Senator LUDLAM: Ouch!

if the really dangerous intermediate-level stuff is to be stored there you cannot tell them how long it is meant to be there for

so we kind of do not really know what is going on there or how long it is meant to be there for.

ECONOMICS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE, Department of Industry – RADIOACTIVE WASTE  1st June 2017

 Full Transcript here: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/estimate/e3ddf88b-3e9c-4546-9d90-8f646689a98c/toc_pdf/Economics%20Legislation%20Committee_2017_06_01_5134.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

Senator Canavan: I have been to Hawker and I am going there again tomorrow, and I would like to put on record my thanks to many in the Hawker community who engage in this process. Some have certainly changed their mind as they have come to have more understanding of it. I think you have probably been to Lucas Heights, and it I think it makes a big difference to people when they see it. There is a lot of misinformation spread about this, and we are trying to engage with people in a genuine way in good faith to give them the information to make informed decisions.

Senator LUDLAM: Who is spreading this information, Senator Canavan?

Senator Canavan: I hear it from time to time. I do not have any particular allegations to make about individual groups here, but you do hear lots of information from time to time about the potential danger of this material. But, of course, as you would probably know, much of the low-level waste is stored safely at Lucas Heights, a place where people go to and from work every day.

Senator LUDLAM: That begs the question of why it needs to move. ……

Senator LUDLAM: Staying in South Australia: has there been any consideration at all—this is for the department or the minister, whoever wants to take this one on—of the tension between the proposed national radioactive waste facility and the existing South Australian legislation, which would be the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000? The tension between the fact that your entire project is presently illegal under South Australian law: what is being done about that?

Mr B Wilson: We are certainly aware of the South Australian prohibition under their law. However, the National Radioactive Waste Management Act that we operate under overrides South Australian law.

Senator LUDLAM: And that is it? You are just going to squash them? Or are there discussions progressing with the South Australian government?….

Senator LUDLAM: Is the department, or you, Senator Canavan, or any of the federal agencies or other actors in communication with the South Australian government environment or heritage departments, or representatives of any body, actually, in relation to the tension between the two acts?

Senator Canavan: I have raised it with the South Australian government. They have indicated that they may seek to make changes. I am not aware of the status of that at the moment. Obviously, they have their own process, which is a separate to ours, on radioactive waste. Certainly, the issue has been raised. Mr Wilson is also right that we are confident that is not a barrier to this project. But Mr Wilson will be giving you that.

Mr B Wilson: We engage—I would have to characterise it as infrequently—with the South Australian government. It is more in the line of updating where we are. We have not had any recent engagements. They are certainly very well aware of the prohibitions under their law about what the South Australian government and its officials can do in this space….

When I said that the National Radioactive Waste Management Act overrides South Australian law, that is the fact. But what we are trying to do in the development of this project is to develop it and act in a way that is consistent with requirements under other South Australian legislation. For instance, in terms of Indigenous heritage protection and other aspects. While we are not necessarily bound by those laws we want to act in a way that is consistent with them.

Senator LUDLAM: With waste that is as dangerous as this, I am very glad to hear it! Is the department still accepting site nominations?

Senator Canavan: The government remains open to further nominations, as we announced on selecting the Hawker site last year. But the ones we have announced are those that we are proceeding with at this stage.

Senator LUDLAM: Wallerberdina and two at Kimba.

Senator Canavan: Kimba, that is right.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes. I will come to the Kimba ones in just a sec. My understanding is—and this goes way back before this project; the same for Muckaty and the same for the ones that came before that—that it was envisaged that it be a permanent repository for low-level waste of various categories, and a temporary or interim storage site for the long-lived intermediate-level waste that may or may not end up going there. That is still ambiguous, unless you can clarify that for us.

Assuming that the long-lived intermediate-level stuff does go to the sites that you are busy characterising at the moment, how long is it envisaged that it actually stays there before it gets taken somewhere else?

Mr B Wilson: We cannot give a definitive answer on that because we have not commenced a process to identify a permanent disposal solution for the long-lived intermediate-level waste—

Senator LUDLAM: Ouch!

Mr B Wilson: What we have told communities—we are trying to be as up-front as we can be—is that it could take several decades, based on the experience in establishing a low-level disposal facility. It could well take a couple of decades to find a permanent disposal solution for the intermediate. There is also some sense in Australia of not rushing to a permanent disposal solution for intermediate. The potential technological solutions—

Pg 108

Senator LUDLAM: Sixty or 70 years certainly could not be called a rush, could it?

Senator Canavan: No, definitely not

Mr B Wilson: The potential technological solutions for that are evolving, and there are potential other new technologies which might reduce the cost to Australia of a disposal solution—if they are proven to be effective and safe. They will be proved up over the next decade or so.

Senator LUDLAM: You a very good at this, Mr Wilson. Are you having any difficulty in the consultation work that you are doing—at any level, really—when communities take you up on the fact that you cannot tell them what kind of waste is proposed to be stored at the site? And if the really dangerous intermediate-level stuff is to be stored there you cannot tell them how long it is meant to be there for—has that come up at all in any of your conversations?

Mr B Wilson: Yes, it does.

Senator Canavan: It does, yes.

Senator LUDLAM: I would think so. Does it bug you a bit that you are not able to provide them with that basic information about what the dump will even be used for?

Mr B Wilson: What we do say is that by the time we come to them with a firm proposal for what this facility will look like—which will be sometime next year—we will be able to tell them, with clarity, what the options are on the intermediate level waste that might be stored there, and how we propose to deal with the low-level waste that will be stored there. So they will have, at that point, pretty good clarity around what the facility will be, what it will handle, and how it will handle it.

Senator LUDLAM: Right, so we kind of do not really know what is going on there or how long it is meant to be there for.

CHAIR: You have a minute and a half for further questions, Senator Ludlam.
Senator LUDLAM: A minute and a half! This stuff is dangerous for tens of thousands of years! Senator CANAVAN: Time flies when you are having fun!

Senator LUDLAM: So it does. I have one or two questions on Kimba and the Eyre Peninsula site. I note that there is a ballot process being advanced by the District Council of Kimba—AEC is overseeing that, which I think is good—to measure community preparedness to progress to stage 2 of consultation. I gather the question is going to be: are you interested in more info, or have you made your minds up? Is that a reasonable characterisation of what you are doing?

Mr B Wilson: It is not our question. It is the council’s question—it is their vote. But it will, effectively, be: ‘Do you support the sites progressing to the next stage of the process,’ or some version of that.

Senator LUDLAM: How do you intend to capture and consider the views of the wider community outside the defined voting area? It is a national radioactive waste dump; you will not be calling it the Kimba radioactive waste dump. I do not have any good answers to this, but how are you proposing to engage broader opinion?

Mr B Wilson: As it was for the previous round of consultations, people who have views from outside the region are perfectly free to submit those views to us. We will compile them and provide them to the minister to take into account. I think there is a sort of reality check here; the facility is proposed to go into an area, and it is that immediate community that obviously will carry more weight than—

Senator LUDLAM: I would hope so; I am not trying to take that away from them.

Senator CANAVAN: We also have people on the ground in both Hawker and Kimba. We have a staffed office there that people can approach, including people from the broader region who might come to Kimba for business or what have you. So we are doing our best to receive those views from a wide area.

Senator LUDLAM: How many people do you have staffing them?
Senator CANAVAN: We have two or three at Hawker, I believe. How many at Kimba? Mr B Wilson: About two at each.

Senator LUDLAM: Senator Canavan, you raised a figure before—you thought there was approximately 65 per cent support last time there was any sort of poll done in the Flinders area. Is that what you would consider sufficient to indicate broad community support?

Senator CANAVAN: I have said before that we are not defining the broad community support level at a precise amount, partly because of the issue that you just raised—there will be a broad set of community interests beyond, potentially, the voting area that deserve to have their voice heard on this issue. Also, within that voting area there might be different categories that deserve special attention, including Indigenous and traditional owners and direct neighbours to any potential site. So it is not, I think, appropriate to characterise a particular level of support. But I have also said we have accepted a site, if it is 65 per cent, as a sufficient level of support. And I would expect any further decisions would need a level of support consistent within a broad range of that amount.

Nuclear agency secretly signed Australia up to The Generation IV Nuclear Energy Framework with no parliamentary discussion

July 24, 2017

Submission to:  Inquiry: The Generation IV Nuclear Energy – Accession. by Noel Wauchope, 24 April 2017

First of all, I find it very strange that this agreement has been signed up to in advance, not by any elected representative of the Australian Parliament, but by Dr Adi Patterson CEO of the Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, apparently pre-empting the results of this Inquiry!

I find it disturbing that this Inquiry is being held without any public information or discussion. Are we to assume that the decision to join this “Charter” is being taken without prior public knowledge?

It is a pretty momentous decision. According to the World Nuclear Association the 2005 Framework agreement “formally commits them (signatories) to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.”

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 currently prohibits the development of nuclear power in Australia. Nuclear power cannot be approved under either the EPBC Act or the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998.  These prohibitions are, as I understand it,  supported by all major parties in Australia?

This would be an extraordinary step for Australia to take, especially in the light of the recent South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (NFCRC) pro-nuclear Royal Commission, which, while recommending South Australia for an international nuclear waste dump, nevertheless stated that

The recent conclusion of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), which issued updated projections for fast reactor and innovative systems in January 2014, suggests the most advanced system will start a demonstration phase (which involves completing the detailed design of a prototype system and undertaking its licensing, construction and operation) in about 2021. The demonstration phase is expected to last at least 10 years and each system demonstrated will require funding of several billion US dollars. As a result, the earliest possible date for the commercial operation of fast reactor and other innovative reactor designs is 2031. This timeframe is subject to significant project, technical and funding risk. It extends by six years a similar assessment undertaken by GIF in 2002. This means that such designs could not realistically be ready for commercial deployment in South Australia or elsewhere before the late 2030s, and possibly later.”

This was hardly a ringing endorsement of Generation IV nuclear reactors.

The South Australian Citizens Jury, Community Consultations, numerous economists, and the S.A. Liberal Party all rejected that nuclear waste plan, as not economically viable.  A huge amount of preparation was done by the NFCRC in investigating the phases of the nuclear Fuel Cycle (more accurately Chain) to arrive at their rather negative view of Generation IV nuclear reactors.

That makes it all the more extraordinary that the Australian government would be willing to sign up so quickly to ANSTO’s request that Australia put resources into these untested, and so far, non-existent nuclear technologies.

I hope that the Committee is aware of the present financial troubles of the giant nuclear corporations, such as AREVA, Toshiba, and Westinghouse Electric. Nuclear power is turning out to be a financial liability wherever it is not funded by the tax-payer, (as in China and Russia). (1)

The World Nuclear Association describes the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) as countries for whom nuclear energy is significant now or seen as vital in the future. Australia’s situation in no way fits these criteria.

Nuclear energy is not significant now in Australia, and even the NRCRC nuclear proponents do not see it as vital for Australia’s future. It is almost laughable, that right now, renewable energy systems are taking off in Australia – both as large solar and wind farms, and as a huge increase in small decentralised systems such as home and business solar panel installations.

That’s where Australia should be putting its resources of human energy, talent, and funding.

The claims made by the nuclear lobby, ANSTO and some politicians, notably Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop, about Generation Iv nuclear reactors, do not stand up to scrutiny:

Non proliferation “-   Furthering Australia’s non-proliferation and nuclear safety objectives.” The well-known claim that a “conventional” nuclear bomb cannot be made from these new types of reactor, might be true, to a certain extent. However, IFRs and other plutonium-based nuclear power concepts fail the WMD proliferation test, i.e. they can too easily be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The use of thorium as a nuclear fuel doesn’t solve the WMD proliferation problem. Irradiation of thorium (indirectly) produces uranium-233, a fissile material which can be used in nuclear weapons.  These materials can be used to make a “dirty bomb” – irradiating a city or other target.  They would require the same expensive security measures that apply with conventional nuclear reactors.

If the purpose in joining the GIF is to strengthen non-proliferation and safety – why is ANSTO the implementing agent not the Australia Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office?

Solving nuclear waste problem? Claims that these new nuclear reactors will solve the problem of nuclear wastes are turning out to be spurious. For example, Nuclear energy startup Transatomic Power has backed away from bold claims for its advanced reactor technology after an informal review by MIT professors highlighted serious errors in the company’s calculations. (2) Even at the best of times, the “new nuclear” lobby admits that their Gen IV reactors will produce highly toxic radioactive wastes, requiring security for up to 300 years.
The Integral Fast Reactor is called “integral” because it would process used reactor fuel on-site, separating plutonium (a weapons explosive) and other long-lived radioactive isotopes from the used fuel, to be fed back into the reactor. It essentially converts long-lived waste into shorter lived waste. This waste would still remain dangerous for a minimum of 200 years (provided it is not contaminated with high level waste products), so we are still left with a waste problem that spans generations. (3)

Climate change. The claim that new nuclear power will solve climate change is spurious. This ignores life-cycle CO2 emissions

Nuclear energy is not zero carbon.

Emissions from nuclear will increase significantly over the next few decades as high grade ore is depleted, and increasing amounts of fossil fuels are required to access, mine and mill low-grade ore.

To stay below the 2 degrees of global warming that climate scientists widely agree is necessary to avert catastrophic consequences for humans and physical systems, we need to significantly reduce our emissions by 2050, and to do this we need to start this decade. Nuclear is a slow technology:

The “Generation IV” demonstration plants projected for 2030-2040 will be too late, and there is no guarantee the pilots will be successful.

Nuclear Economics. For “a time when significant expansion in nuclear power production is underway” – this is a laughable falsehood. In reality, nuclear power economics are in a state of crisis, most notably in America, but it is a world-wide slowdown. (4)

The vagueness of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) agreement is a worry. Australia is to formally commit to participate in the development of one or more Generation IV systems selected by GIF for further R&D.  Surely Australia is not going to sign up to this, without any detail on what kind of research, what kind of reactor, what amount of funding we would be committing to the GIF.

And all this without any public discussion!

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/11/toshiba-losses-uk-moorside-nuclear-plant-westinghouse
  2.  https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603731/nuclear-energy- startup-transatomic-backtracks-on-key-promises/
  3. https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4555
  4.  http://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-industry-crisis-29735/

 

Scrutinising ARPANSA’s Information for Stakeholders on nuclear radioactive waste facility

February 1, 2017

Effectively this is the same draconian situation that existed under the earlier Commonwealth Noonan, David
Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005 introduced by the Howard government to override State and Territory interests to protect community health, safety and welfare from the risks and impacts of nuclear wastes and to nullify Federal laws that protect against imposition of nuclear wastes.


Public submission to the draft ARPANSA Information for Stakeholders & associated Regulatory Guide to Licensing a Radioactive Waste Storage or Disposal Facility

Summary

Revised ARPANSA “Information for Stakeholders” should address the following:

The nuclear fuel waste Store in the Flinders Ranges is intended to operate for approx. 100 years.

The ARPANSA “Information for Stakeholders” fails to be transparent and is not fit for purpose.

ARPANSA must inform the public on the proposed licence period for this nuclear fuel waste Store.

ARPANSA should also publicly acknowledge the Contingency that the proposed nuclear fuel waste Store may be at a different site to the proposed near surface Repository in the Flinders Ranges.

The proposed above ground Store in our iconic Flinders Ranges is unnecessary as the ANSTO’s existing Interim Waste Store (IWS) at the Lucas Heights Technology Centre can manage reprocessed nuclear fuel waste on contract from France and from the United Kingdom over the long term.

The ANSTO application for the Interim Waste Store was conservatively predicated on a 40 year operating life for the IWS, and ANSTO has a contingency to “extend it for a defined period of time”.

ANSTO also has a contingency option for the “Retention of the returned residues at ANSTO until the availability of a final disposal option” – which does not involve a Store in the Flinders Ranges.

The Lucas Heights Technology Centre is by far the best placed Institution and facility to responsibly manage Australia’s existing nuclear fuel waste and proposed waste accruals from the Opal reactor.

The Interim Waste Store (IWS) at the Lucas Heights Technology Centre can conservatively function throughout the proposed operating period of the Opal reactor without a requirement for an alternative above ground nuclear fuel waste Store at a NRWMF in the Flinders Ranges or elsewhere.

It is an inexplicably omission or an unacceptably act of denial for ARPANSA to fail to even identity or to properly explain Australia’s existing nuclear fuel wastes and proposed further decades of Opal reactor nuclear fuel waste production in the “Information for Stakeholders”.

Australia’s nuclear fuel wastes are by far the highest activity and most concentrated and hazardous nuclear wastes under Australian management, and must be distinguished from other waste forms. (more…)

The legal barriers to Australia importing nuclear wastes

November 21, 2016

Nuclear waste debate re-emerges in Australia. Moulis Legal 17.11.16

“…….A long history of talk but with little “legal” support

South Australia’s proposal to encourage the world to export its high-level nuclear waste to Australia is in stark contrast to the previous positions of both the Federal and South Australian Governments. Moreover, significant reform to State laws and to existing Federal practice would be required to facilitate the proposal, none of which has been formulated.

In 1998, the responsible Federal Minister condemned a recommendation by nuclear waste management consortium Pangea Resources for a repository for international high-level nuclear waste in the Western Australian outback. He reiterated Australia’s long-standing bipartisan opposition to such a development:

…no high level radioactive waste facility is planned for Australia and the government has absolutely no intention of accepting the radioactive waste of other countries. The policy is clear and absolute and will not be changed. We will not be accepting radioactive waste from other countries.1

After only cursory consideration of the repository idea in 1998, Western Australia actually went the other way, passing a law to make it illegal to establish a nuclear waste storage facility in the State, or to use any part of the State to store or dispose of nuclear waste, or to even transport nuclear waste in the State.2

Other Australian states – New South Wales;3 Queensland;4 Victoria;5 and South Australia6 – have enacted similar legislation either completely prohibiting a nuclear waste facility in their jurisdiction or making it necessary to seek certain approvals to build one. These legislative constraints would first need to be addressed before any facility were to be capable of being built in any of those States.

At a Federal level, a nuclear waste facility is not prohibited, however the statute responsible for creating the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (“ARPANSA”) also places a blanket ban the construction of nuclear fuel fabrication plants, power plants, enrichment plants and reprocessing facilities.

ARPANSA can permit imports of radioactive waste

Despite the above State prohibitions on the building of nuclear waste facilities and on the transportation of nuclear waste, no absolute prohibition applies to the importation of radioactive waste into Australia. Regulation 4R of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 (“the Regulations”) stipulates that radioactive substances can be imported into Australia, but only if permission has been granted by the Customs Minister or an authorised officer, such as the CEO of ARPANSA.7

ARPANSA administers Australia’s rights and obligations under a number of specific international treaties, with the most relevant to radioactive waste disposal and storage being the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (“IAEA”) Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management(“the Joint Convention”) which was ratified by Australia in 2003.

The discretion under regulation 4R of the Regulations to approve radioactive imports has rarely been afforded with respect to radioactive waste and never on a premise of the commercial disposal of international nuclear waste. ARPANSA officials readily advise interested parties that “current Commonwealth Government policy prohibits importation of spent nuclear fuel or radioactive waste of foreign origin into Australia”.

The international framework

The Joint Convention enforces a commitment to achieving and maintaining a consistently high-level of safety in the management, transboundary movement and disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste. The Joint Convention notes:

… radioactive waste should, as far as is compatible with the safety of the management of such material, be disposed of in the State in which it was generated, whilst recognizing that, in certain circumstances, safe and efficient management of spent fuel and radioactive waste might be fostered through agreements among [the] Parties to use facilities in one of them for the benefit of the other Parties, particularly where waste originates from joint projects8

These principles are also recognised in the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, to which Australia is also a party.9 The Joint Convention also recognises that any state has the right to ban import into its territory of foreign spent fuel and radioactive waste.10

Additionally, just as Australia exports unspent nuclear material, being uranium, to foreign countries under safeguards, countries like Canada do too. Those safeguards are essentially accounting and inspection procedures designed to ensure that neither the uranium nor any by-product of it (such as plutonium) could be used to contribute to the construction of a weapon. Bodies such as the IAEA and the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (an office within the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) track exported nuclear material through its whole lifecycle, all the way through to the spent fuel and the reprocessing and/or the recycling of that fuel.

Any facility that were to accept international nuclear waste could also expect to be subject to scrutiny against the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (“NPT”). The overall quality and security of any nuclear waste disposal facility, as well the country that hosts it, need to satisfy extremely high domestic and international standards to be commercially – and politically – viable.

By virtue of both the Joint Convention and the NPT, Australia would need to establish treaties with overseas governments interested in disposing their nuclear waste in the facility, to specify the arrangements that would be put in place for the management of nuclear waste. Australia may also be obliged to seek evidence of “upstream” agreements in circumstances where the original nuclear product and/or the waste has moved between third party countries before its exportation to Australia…….. http://moulislegal.com/nuclear-waste-debate-re-emerges-in-australia/

Australia must rethink the way that it is a nuclear target, because of Pine Gap

November 21, 2016

when China looks at Australia, it will see Australia as an American base

“I think fundamentally we have to ask is that really the way we want to go. The signal we’re sending to Americans is that if they go to war with China, sure, we’ll be part of that.”

“It is embedding us in global military operations for which there is little strategic benefit for Australia.”

We are told mass surveillance makes us safer and in our fear we accept growing militarisation….. these facilities most likely don’t protect us, but put us at greater risk….These are the questions we don’t discuss.

US military bases in Australia: Protecting us or putting us at risk? http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/us-military-bases-in-australia-protecting-us-or-putting-us-at-risk/news-story/274681984ca0959242829f9da8fa338e    Emma Reynolds news.com.au @emmareyn OCTOBER 2, 2016 THE US is strengthening a network of secretive military bases across Australia that could be used for waging wars against our interests, it was claimed at a weekend summit.

We are providing the US with extra capacity to make that happen, says Prof Tanter.

PINE GAP — ‘THE POISONED HEART OF AUSTRALIA’

Pine Gap was established in Alice Springs in 1966 when the CIA came up with the idea of putting satellites 36,000 kilometres above the earth’s surface. These had giant antennae that could listen to very weak signals from Soviet missiles testing, allowing the agency to work out the capability of enemy weapons.

The spy base was placed in isolated Alice in the NT because at the time, the massive amount of data had to be collected over 130km of land.

Prof Tanter says Pine Gap rivals Uluru as the symbolic centre of Australia, with its strange, mysterious power.

“It’s the poisoned heart of Australia and it is increasingly having an effect on our defence policies and the way in which we conduct our foreign policy,” he says.

The establishment of Pine Gap heralded the start of the American early warning system, which involved powerful infra-red telescopes staring at the earth looking for the heat bloom of nuclear weapons. And it continues to grow in strength long after the Cold War, with the number of antennae growing from two or three in 1970 to 33 today.

It has also grown in capability — picking up satellite and mobile phone transmissions that are important for conducting war in Iraq and Afghanistan and monitoring people allegedly carrying out terrorist activities. It spots jet aircraft in the sky and explosions on the ground.

If a North Korean missile takes off, its trajectory can be rapidly beamed to the US, triggering a possible drone assassination. Prof Tanter says such behaviour makes Australia a target.

“Do we really want to be implicated in that?”

DARWIN — TROOPS ON THE GROUND
In 2011, President Barack Obama visited Darwin to announce US troops would begin making regular visits to the Northern Territory as part of the country’s “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region.

The Gillard government agreed to the “permanent rotation of US marines and US air force aircraft”, meaning we have a constant flow of US soldiers on the ground in Australia. There are currently 1500, but this could rise to 2500.

It was this development that triggered the establishment of IPAN in 2012 as onlookers became alarmed at the move from “the invasion of nerd and computer freaks” to actual “troops in uniform with rifles”, Denis Doherty, national co-ordinator of the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign, told news.com.au.

Some of the world’s best fighters and bombers, and Osprey hybrid aircraft, now regularly fly into Darwin and nearby Shoal Bay Receiving Station and RAAF Tindal in Katherine, with huge ships coming down from a US base in Okinawa, Japan.

The purpose is officially for training, but IPAN delegates say Australia has also acquiesced to potential deployment.

A few thousand troops may sound like small beer but in conjunction with marines at US bases in Hawaii, Okinawa and Guam, it is a significant force.

OTHER BASES The Defence Satellite Communication Station at Geraldton in Western Australia, along with Kojarena 20km inland, was one of Australia’s spy bases. It is now shared with two large American operational military communication systems that pull down information on Indonesian and Chinese satellites from the sky. This is part of the Five Eyes surveillance system used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kojarena is creating “battlefield conditions”, says Mr Doherty, providing data a soldier in Iraq can use to ascertain what’s behind a hill — the visual, weather and so on — making it “an American war fighting base”.

Australia paid $800 million for one of the satellites used by this system. But if America does not approve of an operation the Australian Defence Force requests, for example in Timor, it can turn off our access, says Prof Tanter.

The US also has access to the Delamere Air Weapons range and the Bradshaw Ranges (which are the size of Cyprus) in the NT, and the multinational training facility of Shoalwater Bay in Rockhampton, which boasts a mock town complete with pub, mosque and church.

America trains its troops in Australia in all conditions — jungle, savannah, woodland and desert.

Mr Doherty believes there are effectively almost 50 joint bases from Broome in WA to Richmond in NSW, since the US can use all Australian bases in a poorly defined “emergency”, and regularly does. The government insists there are only two joint bases, Pine Gap and North West Cape, since troops rotate out of Darwin — a claim Prof Tanter slams as “specious”.

“If it was built by the United States, if it was paid for by the United States, and if it can only function as part of an American global technology, then it’s an American base to which Australia might have some access; greater or lesser access as time goes on.”

AUSTRALIA’S PROBLEM

So why is the US using our bases a problem? Well, we aren’t just passive bystanders.

“Australia is very, very deeply involved,” says Prof Tanter.

Aussies work in every division of Pine Gap. The Aboriginal woman who introduced Friday night’s public forum revealed her mother worked there as a cleaner in the 1960s and knew nothing about its purpose. Even the hotel where the conference takes place is a supplier for the base, providing catering and accommodation for staff.

“At least we’re not locked out the way we were before, but with that comes culpability,” says Prof Tanter.

“The government seems to lack the ability to ask the question, ‘When do Australian and American interests coincide, and when do they not?’”

He suggests nuclear war or unethical activity in countries where we are not at war might be examples of that. We could be implicated in human rights offences.

“It is embedding us in global military operations for which there is little strategic benefit for Australia.”

The agreement seems “asymmetrical” to the professor. We have spent 13 years in Afghanistan and lost 40 soldiers and seen 250 seriously wounded, he notes.

“We’re an island a long way from anywhere. The most important thing is to get over this psychology of dependence.”

We find ourselves integrated with other US bases across Asia-Pacific, with bombing information from Delamere weapons range fed back to Canberra, Hawaii and then Washington.

Prof Tanter warns that when China looks at Australia, it will see Australia as an American base

“I think fundamentally we have to ask is that really the way we want to go. The signal we’re sending to Americans is that if they go to war with China, sure, we’ll be part of that.”

A Defence White Paper released in March emphasised the paramount importance of the US and its role in “global security”, stressing Australia’s desire to maintain strong military ties to America and increased “interoperability” of the two countries’ systems. The paper asserts the US “will continue to be Australia’s most important strategic partner”.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says the two main parties are strangely bipartisan when it comes to not criticising defence decisions.

“The Liberals don’t stand up and say, why has there been no discussion on Darwin.”

He believes our submission to US interests, particularly in the case of the Iraq invasion that ordinary Australians were against, “paved the way for IS”.

A Defence Department spokesman this week told news.com.au facilities like Pine Gap make an important contribution to national security.

He said it provides intelligence on priorities such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and foreign military capability and weapons developments. It also supports monitoring of compliance with arms control and disarmament agreements and provides ballistic missile early warning information.

We are told mass surveillance makes us safer and in our fear we accept growing militarisation — but the conference speakers contest that these facilities most likely don’t protect us, but put us at greater risk.

Where should the decision to deploy lie? Do we need to host these bases? Should they do all the things they do? These are the questions we don’t discuss.

South Australia nuclear waste import plan would need a dump nearly 30 times larger than Finland’s waste dump

June 12, 2016

Kim Mavromatis, 10 June 16  THE NUMBERS TELL A STORY
At the Royal Commission NFC event at the Hawke Centre in Adelaide (Wed June 1), Kevin Scarce made reference to Finland’s permanent underground high level Nuclear Waste dump, currently being built at Onkalo, which will have a capacity of 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes. Onkalo is featured in the must see doco “Into Eternity”(https://vimeo.com/111398583). The Royal Commission NFC final report specifies a capacity of 138,000 tonnes of high level nuclear waste for the proposed Nuclear Waste dump in SA and Kevin Scarce highlighted this figure at the Hawke Centre Nuclear event.

Comparing the Nuclear Royal Commission numbers with Onkalo, it’s clear that the proposed Nuclear Waste dump in SA will be of mammoth proportions.

Onkalo (Finland), permanent underground high level Nuclear Waste Dump :
• Capacity 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes high level nuclear waste,
• or 2,500 to 5,000 high level nuclear waste canisters.

Proposed SA Nuclear Waste Dump :
• Capacity 138,000 tonnes high level nuclear waste or 69,000 high level nuclear waste canisters.
• Capacity 390,000 m3 intermediate nuclear waste.
• Capacity 81,000 m3 low level nuclear waste.
• Above Ground Temporary facility Capacity 72,000 tonnes high level nuclear waste.
• Above Ground Temporary facility Capacity 175,000 m3 Intermediate nuclear waste.

Just for high level nuclear waste alone, it will require a waste dump 14 to 28 times the size of Onkalo (69,000 high level nuclear waste canisters). And for decades, half of the high level nuclear waste will be stored above ground in a temporary facility. Imagine the risk of nuclear holocaust with all that high level nuclear waste in the one location?

And the preferred site for the proposed Federal govnt’s low and intermediate level nuclear waste dump, in the Flinders Ranges, is in an area where there is regular earthquake activity.

How smart are these people?????

I suspect if the state govnt say yes to one Nuclear Waste Dump (low, intermediate, high), the floodgates will open and there won’t just be one Nuclear Waste Dump site in South Australia, there will be many (50, 100 ????). And saying yes in SA will also open the floodgates to the rest of Australia. And I question whether they’ll stop at 138,000 tonnes (69,000 canisters) of high level nuclear waste????? If the state govnt takes us down this path and we become the world’s nuclear waste dump, there is no turning back

Humungous amount of nuclear waste targeted for importing to Australia

June 12, 2016

Nuclear Waste Brief by David Noonan, Independent Environment Campaigner.  3 June 16   An un-declared Australia port is targeted to receive a globally unprecedented scale of high level nuclear waste transport and shipping, facing some 100 000 tonnes of SNF waste over a circa 33 year period of proposed peak Nuclear port operations from project Year 11 to Year 45 (Jacobs MCM, Executive Summary, Figure 3 Timeline of spent fuel transfers, p.5).

This is some 25 per cent higher than the global total of 80 000 tonnes of SNF waste shipped around the world in a 45 year period since 1971 according to the World Nuclear Association report “Transport of Radioactive Materials(Sept 2015) and the Jacobs MCM consultancy (p.152).

A total of 30 000 tonnes of high level nuclear wastes were shipped to the UK Sellafield reprocessing facility and a total of 40 000 tonnes was shipped to the French La Hague reprocessing facility, by far the world’s largest nuclear ports, in the 45 year period since 1971 (WNA report).

An undeclared Australian port is targeted to take over three times the total tonnage of high level nuclear waste shipped to Sellafield and two and a half times the total tonnage shipped to La Hague.

Some 400 waste ships of high level nuclear waste, totalling 90 000 tonnes SNF waste and requiring 9 000 transport casks, are to be brought into Australia in a 30 year period of peak port operations.

In a comparable 30 year period, there were some 160 high level nuclear waste shipments from Japan to Europe from 1969 to late 1990’s, totalling 7 040 tonnes SNF waste and involving some 4 000 nuclear waste transport casks (WNA report).

Sweden has shipped over 4 500 tonnes SNF waste around the Swedish coast to their CLAB central interim storage facility by mid-2015 (WNA report). Australia is proposed to do so every 18 months.

Questions on the location of a Nuclear port and on the safety of waste shipments:

The SA State government must publicly explain the basis for the farcical claim made by Jacobs MCM (Introduction p.11) of “an abundance of locations” suitable for deep sea Nuclear port sites in SA.

Is a new deep sea Nuclear port and high level SNF waste storage site to be imposed in the coastal region south of Whyalla? Or as reported in The Australian “World’s nuke waste may pass through NT, SA(12 May 2016): Is the Port of Darwin also in the Nuclear target range?

The Final Report Concludes: “…if a cask was lost at sea and was irrecoverable, there is a potential for some members of the public consuming locally sourced seafood to receive a very small dose of radiation”; and Concludes that terrorist attack scenarios are conceivable and rocket attack has the greatest potential to cause a release of radiation (Appendix L – Transport risk analysis p.312).

A further Jacobs MCM desk top Concludes that radioactivity that escapes from an unrecovered and degrading cask is expected “to be diluted in thousands of cubic kilometres of seawater” (“Safety and risks in the transportation of radioactive material to and from Australia”, April 2016, p.50). see http://www.nodumpalliance.org.au/

Australian Labor Party Policy opposed to nuclear industry

June 12, 2016

2015 National Policy Platform states:

  1. Labor will:
  • Vigorously and totally oppose the ocean dumping of radioactive waste; 
  • Prohibit the establishment of nuclear power plants and all other stages of the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia; 
  • Fully meet all Australia’s obligations as a party to the NPT; and 
  • Remain strongly opposed to the importation and storage of nuclear waste that is sourced from overseas in Australia.

It would be good if people could contact Butlers office and welcome this comment. And as many as possible contact Labor contacts, candidates and connections to make them aware of this and call for them to echo it.