Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission WEEK 11 – MANAGEMENT,
STORAGE AND DISPOSAL OF NUCLEAR AND RADIOACTIVE WASTE, dan 17 Sept 11115 Any risk assessment for the management of spent nuclear fuel should firstly consider the current management practice internationally. In considering the possible establishment of a new facility, it should firstly be accepted that transportation of spent nuclear fuel to any centralized facility presents risk which could be avoided entirely if waste is managed at or near its present locations.
In some cases, spent nuclear fuel is currently stored in closer proximity to human populations than desirable, so I can understand some host nations’ desire to export their spent nuclear fuel liability to a distant receiving country like Australia. I also acknowledge the position presented by Barry Brook and Ben Heard that future reprocessing technology may be able to separate uranium and plutonium from the spent fuel and produce electricity as a by-product of this process. The risk associated with this vision of the future is that such technology currently expressed in theory may never eventuate, and the spent nuclear fuel may thus prove to be an extremely long-lived management liability.
Risks which Australia should consider if considering the prospect of importing spent nuclear fuel include the possible appropriation of shipments by terrorist groups either in transit or after receipt. Similarly, a transport vessel may be attacked and join the number of sunken nuclear-fuelled submarines slowly corroding on the seabed around the world, destined to have unknown ecological impacts. As this Commission is no doubt aware, spent nuclear fuel can be reprocessed to obtain plutonium and uranium, both of which can be then repurposed as weapons material. This has serious implications for nuclear weapons proliferation risk.
Following receipt of spent nuclear fuel, the responsibility for protecting this material would presumably become Australia’s and would remain so for centuries (pending some technological breakthough in speculative technology). Should Australia enter war during the course of the life of the radioactivity contained in the stored spent fuel, or otherwise become a future terrorist target, any centralized repository of spent nuclear fuel represents a potential air-strike or bomb target.
If such an attack were to occur, storage vessels may be ruptured and release radioactive material to the atmosphere, essentially functioning as a ‘dirty bomb’. Wherever spent nuclear fuel is stored, it is my opinion that every measure should be made to protect it from air-strike or terrorist attack. The fallout from such an event would lead to the establishment of a new sacrifice zone, akin to those surrounding stricken Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear power plants. Consequences for human health would take years to manifest and be demonstrably linked to such an event- meanwhile displaced persons would suffer anguish and may, as in the case of Fukushima, lead to people taking their own lives. Should such a facility be located in the South Australian outback, those most directly affected would likely be indigenous Australians, who would mourn the event as a colossal, cultural loss as their connection to country is severely damaged.
Obviously wartime or terror attack-proofing of spent fuel storage is not achieved in many locations where spent nuclear fuel is currently stored. I would assume that the quantity of these stores would be smaller than any proposed new facility, dedicated exclusively to the storage of spent nuclear fuel. Perhaps there is a case for improving management of spent nuclear fuel at or near existing storage.
Should a new facility be constructed, it should (in my opinion) be secure and underground, in a position where water infiltration is extremely unlikely. Examples of corrosion and water infiltration proving problematic for nuclear waste storage facilities include Orchid Island (Taiwan) and Yucca Mountain (USA).
When all is thoroughly considered, it might be concluded that the improvement and standardisation of current storage practise at or near locations where spent fuel is currently held provides an alternative pathway to proceed down if the objective of this exercise is risk minimisation.
I hope that The Age and other media will make clear the fact that this radioactive trash returning from UK and France, emanates from radioactive trash that originated at Lucas Heights. Australia is legally obliged to take it back. A completely different proposition from the hare-brained idea of importing foreign nuclear wastes.
The nuclear lobby, and the South Australian government will use this exception to confuse the public – so that this exception could become a foot in the door for the ill advised plan by some greedy Australian individuals, and by the desperate overseas nuclear companies, for South Australia to become the world’s nuclear toilet.
Nuclear waste dumps: Abbott government close to releasing shortlist of possible sites, SMH, September 3, 2015 James Massola Political correspondent The Abbott government is close to releasing a shortlist of possible sites to host a nuclear waste dump, but has missed a self-imposed August deadline. At least four locations — two in South Australia’s Kimba shire, one in Leonora in Western Australia and one in Yalgoo, WA — are among those in the running to be on the shortlist of sites that will host the “national radioactive waste management facility”, though a final decision on the location is not due until 2017.
The delay in the release of the list has prompted suggestions from Labor of a link with the Canning byelection on September 19. Continue reading
Short term greed overtakes long term prospects in South Australia’s push for nuclear waste importing
SA Nuclear royal commission: Waste dump best economic option for state, Business SA says ABC News 3 Aug 15 Establishing an outback nuclear waste dump would be the best economic move for South Australia if the State Government decides to expand its role in the nuclear industry, Business SA says.
It has been revealed Premier Jay Weatherill last year received a report commissioned by former Employment and Science Minister Tom Kenyon, which found setting up a waste dump near Woomera could reap billions for the local economy.
A royal commission headed by Kevin Scarce is in the process of examining the potential for an expansion of the state’s role in the nuclear industry, including whether a nuclear power station or nuclear waste dump should be built.
Business SA’s chief executive Nigel McBride (above, at left) said countries such as Japan and South Korea would pay handsomely to dump their nuclear waste in the state’s outback.
We know that there are huge potential financial benefits from being able to provide that service, and it’s logical that they’ve identified somewhere in the Woomera region as a potential site because of course it’s very remote,” Mr McBride said.
“There is a huge market out of countries like South Korea who has got a lot of nuclear waste they need to deal with, Japan and other Asian countries and of course countries around the world.”………..
Mr McBride said South Australia was the ideal location for a waste dump, and could store the nuclear fuel safely.
He said the biggest concern would be transportation options……
More than a decade ago, South Australia’s Labor Government fought and won a vigorous battle against the Howard government to stop a low-level nuclear waste dump being located in far north South Australia.
The royal commission is expected to hand down its findings by May 2016. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-02/nuclear-waste-dump-best-economic-option-business-sa-says/6666212
Interestingly, the visit to Lucas Heights revealed another nuclear waste issue that apparently has been forgotten. None of the numerous employees and scientists present at the discussion knew what happened to the radioactive waste water – heavy water – from the HIFAR reactor. Is it still on site, has it been treated or even discharged? The risks in the latter would be enormous and the fact that no one had any information on it therefore both shocking and scary.
This is a strong reminder of the importance of independent monitoring of nuclear activities and the accountability civil society helps to enforce on operators. For Friends of the Earth, this is just the beginning of a tour that will release many more valuable lessons and incredible stories.
ANSTO’s radioactive waste management, Online opinion, By Anica Niepraschk , 3 July 2015 ANSTO, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, through its nuclear science, industry and medical operations at Lucas Heights in southern Sydney is the largest producer of radioactive waste in Australia.
Since 1959 Lucas Heights is producing ever growing amounts of low and intermediate level waste which it stores on site in designated facilities. The most recent addition to ANSTO’s waste facilities is an newly built hangar for reprocessed fuel, which has to return from France until the end of the year.
Although the construction of a reprocessing plant is currently discussed by the South Australian Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Australia so far has no capacity to reprocess the highly radioactive contents of ANSTO’s nuclear fuel rods. They are therefore sent overseas for reprocessing. Agreements with France and the UK provide for the resulting intermediate level waste to be returned to Australia, with the French shipping due to arrive in Australia until the end of the year…………..
The so called Radtour has been taking a great number of interested people and anti-nuclear activists to key nuclear sites in Australia for over 25 years, providing an opportunity to learn about the country and affected communities in a way that is rarely part of public narratives. It has thereby created strong bonds with Aboriginal and other communities throughout the country. Continue reading
Spokesman Dave Sweeney believes the bulk of the waste should remain at the ANSTO facility in Sydney and at the CSIRO facility in Woomera, SA, where the country’s, if not the world’s top minds, are located.
He says there wasn’t an urgent need to move the waste and argued there were still risks associated with transporting and storing radioactive material in the middle of nowhere.
“We are not aware of all the sites that have nominated, but we are aware of some of them and there are problems,” Mr Sweeney said.
The sites the ACF are aware of all rest in outback WA
Time is ticking for Australia’s first nuclear waste dump, news.com.au JUNE 05, 2015“…..[THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT] put out a call for any land owner, council or company to nominate their land for the facility. Submissions closed last month. And the Department of Industry and Science plans to release the short list in mid-July. Industry and Science Minister, Ian McFarlane, has said he wants to settle on a site by mid-2016.
Why the hurry?
Well, at the end of next month around 28 steel canisters of reprocessed nuclear waste is set to return home from France and the government needs to find somewhere to put it. Continue reading
ANSTO staves off nuclear waste squeeze AFR by Christopher Jay 28 May 15, The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation ANSTO) will use a slab of this year’s $193 million budget allocation to extend and retrofit two existing nuclear waste storage facilities, to stave off a critical shortage of storage space which will otherwise materialise by 2017.Another $26.8 million over four years has been allocated to pack, ship and return Australian high level waste being reprocessed in the UK Sellafield plant no earlier than mid-2019. EPA Continue reading
US pressed Canberra to play ball on nuclear waste by: PAUL CLEARY http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/wikileaks/us-pressed-canberra-to-play-ball-on-nuclear-waste/story-fn775xjq-1227373417008 May 29, 2015
This pressure coincided with parliament’s approval on June 8 that year of a six-part regime to facilitate the mining, milling and exporting of uranium oxide.
Senior US officials began raising the waste issue in June when the two countries began high-level talks over a nuclear co-operation agreement, cables posted on the WikiLeaks website reveal.
A US embassy cable reported that Australia shared the US government’s views about uranium enrichment but “was unreceptive to questions about waste disposal in the Australia-Pacific area”.
When in September that year the Mirror editorialised against Australia’s accepting nuclear waste, US embassy officials told the Department of Foreign Affairs Australia should expect the US to “nudge” it about this issue.
The editorial was brought to the attention of the US embassy by Ron Walker, who headed the defence and nuclear division in the department. US officials bluntly told him Australia was essentially ignoring the problem of nuclear waste. “We replied by telling Walker he and other GOA (government of Australia) officials should assume that during the course of the next several decades there will inevitably be speculation about potential sites for nuclear waste storage,” the US officials wrote in the cable.
“We added that while we read GOA views ‘loud and clear’, the GOA should assume there will be continuing discussion about storage sites for nuclear wastes and in fact we would probably from time to time even go as far as to nudge the GOA about its responsibility in helping to find appropriate, safe and secure storage areas.”
The following week, two officials from the Australian embassy in Washington, described as “Starr and Knight”, asked the US State Department for guidance on talking points to respond to media reports. State Department officials said Australia should mention the US government’s policy of encouraging international co-operation in storage and processing of spent fuel.
One week later, an embassy official asked the State Department if the Australian government could use a form of words at the next Pacific Forum that said it was “highly unlikely” the US government would ask Pacific countries to accept spent nuclear fuel.
The US officials said Australia should not use this language.
The nuclear agreement referred to was signed by the Fraser government in 1979, but the Hawke government ended the plan to develop nuclear enrichment technology when it dismantled Australia’s laboratory-scale centrifuge enrichment plant.
clear need to engage with the targeted communities from the early stages and throughout the whole duration of the project. Failing already during this essential first part of the process might actually poison the whole of it and leave the Government with nothing but another failed attempt to deal with Australia’s radioactive waste
Don’t waste the homelands Community opposition to a national radioactive waste dump has enjoyed a strong grassroots movement for decades. Now, the latest battle is in Western Australia. http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/05/20/comment-dont-waste-homelands By Anica Niepraschk 20 MAY 2015 WESTERN AUSTRALIAN IRON ORE COMPANY GINBALBIE METALS’ NOMINATION OF A SECTION OF ITS LAND TO HOST AUSTRALIA’S PROPOSED RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT FACILITY COMES AS THE THIRD KNOWN NOMINATION IN WA. THE TWO-MONTH NOMINATION PERIOD FOR THE PROJECT CLOSED ON MAY 5.
Another known nomination comes from a landowner in Leonora, against local opposition but supported by Leonora Shire. The Shire had been keen on nominating freehold land itself but could not identify any suitable land.
The third revealed nomination from WA involves land in Kanpa, near Warburton in the eastern part of the state, and lacks support from the Ngaanyatjarra elders.
Similarly, Ginbalbie Metals’s nomination of a land near Badga station in the mid west of the state faces opposition from the traditional custodians of the land. Neither the local community nor Yalgoo shire had been consulted on the nomination. The site is even subject of a current native title claim by the Widi Native Title Claimant Group. The group expressed its strong opposition to Federal Industry Minister Macfarlane, stating that ‘the proponent has displayed an appalling level of disrespect’ for the traditional owners by failing to consult them. They generally reject radioactive waste dumps and uranium mining on their homelands.
This opposition to hosting a radioactive waste facility follows failed attempts by Canberra to impose a facility on communities in South Australia (1998-2004) and the Northern Territory (2005-2014). Community trust in the federal government’s handling of the process has eroded drastically over this period of time. Continue reading
A National Radioactive Waste Management Facility planned by the Federal Government? – ConspiracyOz http://conspiracyoz.com/2015/05/17/a-national-radioactive-waste-management-facility-planned-by-the-federal-government-conspiracyoz/
Environment agency orders Hunters Hill clean up Kirsty Needham www.smh.com.au May 17, 2015 The Baird government has been ordered by the Environment Protection Authority to clean up homes in Hunters Hill contaminated by a uranium smelter 100 years ago, after years of stalling. Plans to transfer contaminated waste from Nelson Parade in Hunters Hill to a Kemps Creek landfill have plagued successive state governments. Western Sydney residents rejected becoming a “dumping ground” for the radioactive waste, while Hunters Hill residents complained the contaminated soil had to be removed from the residential street.
Former Treasurer Andrew Constance put the clean-up on hold last February. But the Environment Protection Authority has issued a management order to Government Property NSW, which owns three of the contaminated houses, and has been tasked with carrying out the remediation of six properties in Nelson Parade. The EPA said the land was significantly contaminated with arsenic, lead and coal tar pitch which exceeded safety levels for residential land. Government Property NSW hadn’t met the remediation plans approved by the EPA in 2007 and 2013, the EPA said. It has been ordered to lodge a revised clean-up plan, confirm it has engaged a remediation contractor, and give monthly progress reports to the EPA.
A spokesperson for Government Property NSW said the agency had complied with the EPA management order and provided the details. “The details of the Project Plan will soon be published by the Department of Planning & Environment,” he said. “No restricted solid waste will be transferred from Hunters Hill to Kemps Creek while other alternatives are pursued. A national radioactive waste management facility planned by the federal government still remains the preferred option, the location of which is still to be determined.” A decision on where to send the waste has been delegated to the Planning Assessment Commission, which is expected to hold a public meeting.
Gindalbie Metals nuclear dump proposal surprises nearby WA shire, ABC News By Sarah Taillier 14 May 15, A shire in Western Australia’s Mid West says it has been caught completely off guard by a proposal to develop a national nuclear waste dump on land near its boundaries.
Iron ore miner Gindalbie Metals yesterday confirmed it had nominated Badja Station, south of Yalgoo as a potential site to hold low and intermediate level radioactive waste.The proposed site lies about 70 kilometres from the township of Morawa, where more than 600 people live.
Shire of Morawa president Karen Chappel said she was stunned to hear about the application from a resident yesterday. “It could have an absolute major impact on our shire and to just hear via the telephone that this is what’s happening [is unreasonable],” she said.”I seriously would have thought that the Shire of Morawa was owed the courtesy of being told that this was on the run.”
Ms Chappel said the shire was trying to source more information about the proposal. “When we’ve gained the information that we think is necessary, our council will be taking a formal position on where we sit with regard to this proposal,” she said.
Under the selection process, states and territories will not have the right to veto the Federal Government’s site selection.
“That may be legislation, that may be the principal of it, but underneath it all, every politician is put there by population and the people,” Ms Chappel said.
“They have an obligation and a responsibility to sit and listen to how their decision affects us and I would suggest they would need to sit and listen to this one.”
A shortlist of nominated sites is expected to be made public in July……..
Greens spokesperson Robin Chapple described the proposal to develop a nuclear waste dump as a “blatant cash grab from a struggling company”. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-14/gindalbie-metals-nuclear-dump-proposal-surprises-shire/6468176
Why does the Australian government persist in the lie that the nuclear waste contracted to return from UK and France originated from medical/scientific research? The medical radionuclides are but a tiny, tacked on part of the Lucas Heights reactor, and they are short-lived and not requiring export for reprocessing. The returning high level wastes originated from the reactor’s own process.
Federal budget 2015: Why Australia’s nuclear waste legacy will cost $27 million May 13, 2015 Lisa Cox National political reporter The Abbott government will spend nearly $27 million over four years to return radioactive waste that has been treated in the United Kingdom to Lucas Heights.
The funding is part of an agreement with the UK to return one of two batches of Australian waste, which the government said was largely generated from scientific research and nuclear medicine over a number of decades.
The second batch of nuclear material was sent to a facility in France for processing and its return has been funded in budgets since 2010.
Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear-free campaigner David Sweeney said of the federal money: “We believe the waste coming back to Lucas Heights is the least worst way to manage it.”
“That is – it’s still not a good thing,” he said.
“But because of the expertise, security and the presence of a purpose built facility at Lucas Heights it is the most appropriate option for the nation.”……….http://www.smh.com.au/business/federal-budget/federal-budget-2015-why-australias-nuclear-waste-legacy-will-cost-27-million-20150513-gh0i49.html
Australian govt turns from Northern Territory in search for vulnerable communities to host nuclear wastes
Nuclear waste dump unlikely in NT after land councils, stations refuse to nominate site ABC News, 11 May 15, By Anthony Stewart The Northern Territory appears unlikely to house the Federal Government’s proposed radioactive waste dump after major land holders fail to nominate a site.
The Federal Government began a renewed searchfor a site to store Australia’s intermediate-level nuclear waste and dispose of low-level waste in March this year. A formal application process closed on the May 5.
The ABC confirmed the Northern Land Council, Central Land Council, and Northern Territory Government had not nominated any land. Gilnockie and Supplejack Downs Stations also decided against participating in the process.
In a statement, the Federal Government refused to confirm whether any other organisation had nominated land.
“Details on nominations will be made public following the close of the nomination process and consideration by the Minister for Industry and Science. On current timeframes, this is expected in July 2015,” the statement read………
Anti-nuclear campaigner Lauren Mellor said it was the end of a long fight against nuclear waste in the Territory. “It’s very good news. We have spent the last decade with residents and traditional owners of the Northern Territory fighting a nuclear dump process,” she said. “The Federal Government has pulled out of the trenches in the Northern Territory.”
She said the fight had been pushed to other parts of Australia. “Unfortunately our concern is they will go and target another vulnerable community as they’ve done many times before to try and push them to house a national or even international dump,” Ms Mellor said.
Several organisations in both South Australia and the Western Australia have indicated they have nominated land under the process. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-11/nuclear-waste-dump-unlikely-in-nt/6461078
Gindalbie applies to host nuclear waste facility in WA’s Mid West By Emily Piesse Iron ore miner Gindalbie Metals has confirmed it has nominated part of its land holding in WA’s Mid West as a potential site for a low level radioactive waste dump.
The site, on Badja Station in the Shire of Yalgoo, has been put forward by the company under a national tender process by the Federal Government. The nuclear waste facility, which would be a national repository for low level waste, would be the first of its kind in Australia.
Most low level waste is stored in hospitals, universities and other private facilities but this would act as a central storage centre.
The Shire of Leonora in WA’s Goldfields has also confirmed it has supported an application to have the nuclear waste dump on a pastoral station’s freehold land between Leonora and Malcolm.
A spokesperson for Gindalbie confirmed the miner had submitted Badja Station to be assessed, but said it was too early to comment as the Government was yet to finalise its shortlist of sites.
Badja Station is currently the subject of a native title claim by the Widi people.
Widi spokesperson Clayton Lewis said he had no prior knowledge of Gindalbie’s proposal.”It was a bolt out of the blue … [we’re] just amazed that it’s going to happen or potentially going to happen in our country,” he said.
“We think if we can get a decent body of support at this early stage we can certainly contest it.”
A spokesperson for federal Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane would not confirm whether Badja Station was under consideration, but said initial site assessments had begun.
Under the selection process, states and territories will not have the right to veto the Government’s site selection.
A shortlist of nominated sites is expected to be made public in July.
Remote sites in South Australia offered for nuclear dump , THE AUSTRALIAN, 9 May 15 Michael Owen Up to four sites in South Australia’s far north have been put forward as potential radioactive waste dumps.
The federal government, however, is officially remaining tight-lipped about the response to its call in March for voluntary site nominations for a national radioactive waste facility, which closed on Tuesday.Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane’s office refused yesterday to say how many nominations had been received or where they had originated.
“There won’t be details or a breakdown of nominated sites released at this early stage,” a spokeswoman said. “Information about shortlisted sites will be released after an initial assessment period and after consideration by the minister. That is expected to be completed around July.”
A preferred site is not expected to be identified until at least the middle of next year.
This week the government released a request for tender on Austender, seeking expressions of interest from “suitable companies to undertake the necessary site characterisation work”.
The request also seeks the successful tenderer to assist in the “development of a detailed business case which will inform the government’s decision as to whether to proceed with the project and its cost”.
Federal Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey said his vast electorate of Grey, in South Australia’s far north, was an ideal site for a radioactive waste dump as it was remote, sparsely populated and geologically stable. He said he had tried to nominate his own 2400ha farm, but was asked not to by Mr Macfarlane because of concerns of a potential conflict of interest.
“But as a consequence my understanding is there have been a number of other properties nominated in my community. I’ve encouraged people right across the board to nominate,” Mr Ramsey said. “I understand as many as four sites have been nominated in my electorate.”
The search for a site intensified last year after the federal government failed to convince a Northern Territory community to build a facility on its land.
This comes as South Australia’s royal commission into an expansion of the state’s role in the nuclear cycle picks up pace. Among other issues, the commission will examine whether to store international radioactive waste……..http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/remote-sites-in-south-australia-offered-for-nuclear-dump/story-fn59niix-1227347545498