Australian news, and some related international items

South Australia Nuclear Royal Commission Issues Paper 4 – misleading and serious omissions

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the issues paper appears to be talking about a so-called public-private-partnership (PPT).

 There is no mention of “user pays” or “polluter pays” principles. Nor is there any discussion of the role of Government economic regulation of such a venture.




Once again, the word “ionising” has been omitted from “ionising radiation”. It is hard to believe that this is an oversight and appears to be a deliberate move by the nuclear industry to play down the fact that radiation from radioactive substances is very different in its effect on living tissue from other forms of radiation such as visible light and radio waves.

In addition a new ploy has emerged, not only has nuclear waste been differentiated from radioactive waste but in the majority of cases it is simply referred to as “waste” and we end up with terms like “waste disposal facility”.

I anticipate that in the near future the nuclear industry, its fellow travellers, and the unsuspecting public will be using these sterilised and  misleading terms. For example, it would be a simple matter to quote sections of the issues papers out of context in such a way that terms like “radiation”, “waste” and “waste disposal facility” can be bandied about until they become the standard.

As previously, there is widespread use of terms like “proposed”, “under development”, “being developed”, “would involve”, and research is “ongoing”. Such terms have no place in a document that is being used to determine government policy, especially on such a contentious issue as expansion of the nuclear industry.

This issues paper is in three sections: Nuclear and Radioactive Waste, Facilities and Techniques for the Management, Storage and Disposal of (nuclear and radioactive) Waste, and Risks and Opportunities.


This issues paper is interesting in that it distinguishes  between “nuclear wastes” and “radioactive wastes”. Despite all radioactive waste having originated from the nuclear industry, including the mining, milling and processing of radioactive ores, nuclear reactors, nuclear science and engineering, research, and nuclear medicine, the industry would have us believe that there is something intrinsically different about radioactive nuclear waste and radioactive waste.

This appears to be another nuclear industry ploy which is likely to confuse and mislead the general public in much the same way as ignoring the distinction between ionising radiation and non-ionising radiation.

This manipulation of the language to suit the nuclear industry’s agenda is further exemplified by its arbitrary division of nuclear wastes into “internationally agreed” categories. It comes as no surprise that the organisation that came up with this scheme is the international nuclear industry as represented by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) whose mission is to promote nuclear power.

The IAEA has arbitrarily and artificially divided nuclear waste into six categories three of which are in effect deemed non-radioactive and can be disposed of as landfill. The other three categories need to be safely stored for periods from a “few hundred years” to forever (disposal in deep stable geological formations). Because the waste category depends on the concentration of radioactivity then diluting the waste with inert material such as sand or water is sufficient to move it from a high risk category to a lower risk category.

The diagram (figure 1) which supposedly explains the distinction between the various categories has print so tiny as to be unreadable except at high magnification. If we are to believe figure 1 then diluting high level waste by a factor of five is sufficient to reclassify the waste into the exempt category. Exempt waste is deemed to be exempt from regulatory control.

It is claimed “The most significant considerations which affect the management of these (nuclear) wastes” are the longevity, the energy of the (ionising) radiation and the amount of (ionising) radiation”. There is no mention of the distinction between alpha ionising radiation and other forms of ionising radiation or the fact that alpha ionising radiation, despite being low energy ionising radiation, is particularly dangerous when ingested or inhaled. This applies to radon gas, radon gas decay products generated within the human body, and alpha radiation emitting elements such as uranium and radium in the surface of fine dust particles that are readily inhaled but not readily excreted.




  • The heading of this section illustrates a growing tendency of the nuclear industry, namely to omit the word “nuclear” when discussing nuclear waste and to talk about “waste disposal facilities” in much the same way we might talk about the average council dump.
  • It is stated that nuclear wastes “require management from the point of their production to their final disposal”. This implies that after final disposal nuclear wastes do not need to be monitored. This demonstrates a confidence in nuclear waste disposal techniques which is not supported by experienced gained over more than 60 years of nuclear waste generation.
  • “Disposal” is defined in an ambiguous manner as “where the (nuclear) wastes are intended to be addressed in a permanent and irretrievable manner”, which is immediately followed by the apparently contradictory statement “Some disposal techniques still envisage the (nuclear) waste being retrievable
  • High level nuclear waste is said to be initially stored in underwater (sic) ponds!

From its description, deep geological storage (disposal?) is a process that does not yet exist. It is stated that Finland started such a project “in the last decade”, but gives no year, and then goes on to say that the project “is due to first receive (nuclear) waste in 2020”. Is the project “due” to take 11 years or 21 years?

  • It is stated that only one quarter of (10%) “spent” nuclear fuel is sent for reprocessing. This demonstrates that even the conversion-“enrichment”-fabrication-use-purification-conversion cycle is a nuclear industry mirage and that the so-called nuclear fuel cycle is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Despite this, the South Australian Government and its Commissioner persist in propagating such blatant nuclear industry spin.
  • It is stated, “the costs of the (nuclear waste) facilities and future storage (of nuclear wastes) are typically funded through a collection of electricity generation levies, but also through budget expenditure.” The example of the USA is given but we are not told what % of the costs are recovered from (nuclear?) electricity customers, what % is through cross-subsidisation from non-nuclear electricity customers, and what % is from general government revenue.
  • It is stated that “over the last 40 years, 4906 m3 of radioactive waste has accumulated in Australia.” It is clear from this figure that radioactive waste from mining, milling and processing, such as the radioactive tailings at the Olympic Dam project, are not classed as radioactive wastes. This demonstrates the folly of categorising nuclear wastes according to the concentration of
  • It is claimed that Australia does not produce any high level (nuclear) waste yet at Lucas Heights “spent” fuel is stored in cooling ponds at the Lucas Heights nuclear facility in NSW. Some of the “spent” fuel from Lucas Heights has been sent overseas for processing and the Australian-obligated processing waste will be returned to Australia this year.



This section dealing with risks is marked by an almost complete absence of the word “nuclear” and a complete absence of the word “ionising”. Instead of “ionising radiation” it uses simply “radiation”. Instead of “nuclear waste store” it uses “waste facility” and instead of “nuclear waste” it uses simply “waste”.

When it comes to economic costs and benefits, only the benefits are discussed and there are cryptic, ambiguous statements about who pays for the planning and establishment of the (nuclear waste) facility versus its operation and the circumstances under which “the storage of (nuclear) waste is paid for by those that generate the (nuclear) waste.”

The implication is that Government would pay for the planning and building of the nuclear waste facility and for the infrastructure such as road and rail transport and for the long term management and monitoring. The generator of the waste would then pay a fee to a private company for using these taxpayer funded nuclear waste storage facilities. In other words, the issues paper appears to be talking about a so-called public-private-partnership (PPT).

There is no mention of “user pays” or “polluter pays” principles. Nor is there any discussion of the role of Government economic regulation of such a venture.



May 8, 2015 - Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016


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