Australian news, and some related international items

#Nuclear waste will be NO bonanza for South Australia


“……..The economic costs of nuclear reactor decommissioning are a negligible component of lifetime nuclear reactor costs when a decision is made to build a nuclear reactor, largely because these costs are so far into the future and have been heavily discounted to net present values.

When it comes to actually decommissioning a nuclear plant, the experience of the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority at Sellafield is costs are rapidly escalating with actual experience at the site – from 25.1 billion pounds in 2009-2010 to 47.9 billion pounds in 2013-2014 according to the UK Audit Office report at .


Payments for waste storage might well be in the billions, but nowhere in the world have payments ever come close to meeting the full costs of storage so far, let alone for half a million years. It is definitely not a bonanza when the costs are higher than any income. I think it highly unlikely that any company or country will pay South Australia the money needed to identify a site, design and construct the storage facilities , and presumably operate it for many years and maintain it securely until it is full, and presumably totally closed off for at least 250,000 years. Even if any waste storage facility was restricted to Australia’s own nuclear waste, this will include reprocessed fuel rods from Lucas Heights , including small amounts of plutonium.

These wastes are from Australian government facilities, and although the federal government might pay some upfront design and construction costs, I can’t see them paying SA for the full costs, let alone a bonanza.. The Advertiser published an article on 11 April 2015 about Yucca Mountain, Nevada which was intended to be permanent storage for 70,000 tonnes of hazardous waste in casks in 8 kilometres of tunnels 305 metres underground. Funding was cut off in 2007 because Nevadans oppose the site. The US government has already spent somewhere between $15 billion and $100 billion in drilling and testing this site so far. A federal court ordered the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to resume the licensing process for the site, and it seems likely Congress will support it again in the next few years.

Australia has already been through at least 4 series of processes over the last 30 years for identifying and building a waste storage site for its own wastes, mainly for Lucas Heights fuel. I doubt if anyone has attempted to calculate the public cost to date. Most of the likely sites will be aboriginal land or pastoral lease or Crown land subject to native title claims, and I believe most aboriginal groups will oppose further and effectively permanent loss of control and poisoning of their lands.

If we receive the waste, we are not going to be able to get rid of it. For those who still think nuclear waste is safe or harmless, the Ranger Commissioners at page 102 of their first report had this to say about solidified reprocessed spent fuel – in 100 years time, if the material was not shielded in any way, a person standing 10 metres away would receive the annual allowable whole body dose of radiation for members of the public in 18 seconds.

OTHER COSTS The cost of regulatory regimes at both state and federal have never been included in any cost analysis of nuclear power. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission 2015 Congressional Budget Justification gives some idea of the income and budget involved in the oversight of the industry, and many of the additional tasks involved in co-operating with other federal agencies plus state and local government agencies. The income is about $100 million less than expenses. This is only one agency

Emergency services co-ordination and training, work of the Crown Solicitor including contract costs, court costs , consultation costs, costs associated with changes in legislation, security costs and many other hidden costs are never included in the costs for the nuclear industry. As the Ranger Commissioners said, any public assistance not fully paid for by the nuclear industry amounts to a breach of the polluter should pay principle. We made that mistake with coal and gas – studies of the hidden costs paid by government and individual public showed that the true costs were several multiples of the carbon tax……. .

August 28, 2015 - Posted by | Submissions to Royal Commission S.A.

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