Australian news, and some related international items

Time to end the silence on Australia’s nuclear reactor and its radioactive wastes

A public inquiry into Australia’s radioactive waste management options would be the long overdue circuit breaker to help restore some sound science, procedural integrity and community confidence 

We need to talk about Lucas Heights DAVE SWEENEYABC  3 MAY 2012 If only politicians would face up to the problem of nuclear waste, we might go some way towards solving it. ABC News Online 1 MAY 2012 SUCCESSIVE FEDERAL governments have attempted to manage Australia’s radioactive waste by keeping the issue as low on the political radar and as far from the public eye as possible.

This approach has meant that instead of developing a credible process to identify the range of best management options they have been obsessed with a finding a vulnerable and politically powerless postcode to host the nation’s radioactive waste.

We now have the reality of radioactive waste from spent nuclear fuel from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisations nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in southern Sydney set to make the long trip back from European reprocessing plants in the coming years.

The Australian Conservation Foundation campaigns to remove Australia from its involvement in the global nuclear trade. We want to end uranium mining – the asbestos of the 21st Century – and are working to halt federal government plans to dump radioactive waste on contested Aboriginal land at Muckaty in the Northern Territory.

For some, ACF’s conditional support for the idea of radioactive waste
being stored in Sydney is surprising. However, if coupled with a
comprehensive public inquiry into how best to manage Australia’s
radioactive waste, housing the waste at Lucas Heights may offer the
‘least worst’ option for dealing with this waste. All nuclear
activities create nuclear waste. The waste in question is a
contaminated cocktail of radioactive elements and isotopes, some of
which pose a very significant radiological and human health hazard and
require long term active intervention and management.
It makes sense to store such material in the place where the waste was
produced, a place that has clear tenure, comprehensive security, the
highest concentration of nuclear expertise in the country and is
already host to larger volumes of similar waste. Lucas Heights fits
that description.

Given that nothing about nuclear waste is desirable, storing the
material at ANSTO’s nuclear facility – pending the outcomes of a
genuine and open assessment of what is the best long term approach –
is at least sensible.

The key point is the need for a credible, robust and public inquiry
into Australia’s waste management options. This has not happened to
date and is a big part of why the divisive approach of the former
Howard government, which has been enthusiastically followed by the
current portfolio Minister Martin Ferguson, has failed to deliver a
site or a solution.

A public inquiry into Australia’s radioactive waste management options would be the long overdue circuit breaker to help restore some sound science, procedural integrity and community confidence……
When it comes to radioactive waste management in Australia, it’s now
time to do things differently and better. It is time to stop the
posture and bluster and bring the legitimate concerns of diverse
stakeholders out of the private trenches and to the public table.
The interim storage of returning waste at ANSTO’s site – under the
strictest conditions and with the highest standards and scrutiny –
provides the space for this to happen. It would be a deep disservice
to the people of the region if this chance was squandered.

We now have the opportunity to develop a mature, effective, inclusive
and responsible approach to radioactive waste management – an approach
that is in the interest of all Australians, now and long into the
future. It is up to our politicians to demonstrate that they have the
capacity and courage to meet this long term challenge. The next step
along this path starts with asking the right questions.

May 3, 2012 - Posted by | General News

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