Australian news, and some related international items

Coober Pedy gets another visit from #NuclearCommissionSAust

Coober Pedy RC Sept 15 2 , Noel WauchopeThe South Australian Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission went to Coober Pedy again, on September 18th. John Bok, Regional Engagement Manager for the Commission was there to make a presentation about the Royal Commission. Bok stressed that he was there only to provide information about the Commission’s processes, and also that the Commission’s findings would be evidence based..

The meeting was held in a somewhat noisy atmosphere, at the Italian club, and Bok had a bit of trouble with the sound, at some stages. Some of the questions put to him were not easily audible, which was  a pity. as amongst the  attendees were  Sr Michele Madigan and members of the Kunga-Tjuta survivors of the British government’s atomic testing in the 1950s and 60s.
According to Jon Bok, the current series of public hearings, in Adelaide, and selected regional sites, will be informed by experts.  I couldn’t help wondering if any of those “experts” had any idea of the kind of expertise of those Aboriginal women. Earlier this year, upon hearing about the waste dump proposal, the group issued this statement:

We are the Aboriginal Women. Yankunytjatjara, Antikarinya and Kokatha. We know the country. The poison the Government is talking about will poison the land. We say, “No radioactive dump in our ngura – in our country. It’s strictly poison, we don’t want it.”

Mr Bok carried out his brief, setting out the procedures for the Royal Commission’s examination of submissions, public hearings, report writing, and eventual recommendations to the State Government.  The stock phrases of the Commission flowed fast  – risks and opportunities, evidence based – look at feasibility and viability – community consent based…. The Commission will report on feedback from communities and submissions, but these may be only communications based not evidence based. One person commented that then there’s no point, really – a one way communication. Which is pretty much my own assessment of what is really going on.
Bok’s mention of the Commission’s overseas visits was revealing more by what was omitted than anything else.  They went to France (jn fact they spent four days there, mainly with AREVA, at the exact time that this nuclear giant company was being dismantled by the French government, in order to avoid bankruptcy.) Of course, Bok didn’t mention AREVA’s disaster. Still he did shed some light on the financial realities of nuclear reprocessing at Le Hague. Bok said:
Reprocessing  takes some of the spent nuclear fuel, and processes it so that some of it can be used in nuclear reactors. But it uses only some. Even after reprocessing there is still some radioactive waste to be dealt with. At the moment it is expensive to reprocess. Many countries find it too expensive.
Mr Bok went on to discuss Commissioner Kevin Scarce’s visit to Fukushima., with the aim of trying to learn any lessons from the nuclear accident there. The take home message from Fukushima was that different engineering would have had  a different outcome. 
The reassuring message on nuclear reactors was that there are new designs, additional safeguards, and Bok gave an example of a new American design that will have water tanks included in it.
Kevin Scarce went to Canada for a comparison, and Bok stressed the similarities of Australian and Canadian conditions. He didn’t mention the notorious corruption in the Canadian nuclear industry, back in the news only today.
Scarce didn’t visit Chernobyl. And he didn’t visit any renewable energy centres.
I’m not very reassured by the Regional Engagemnet Manager’s account of the processes of the Nuclear Royal Commission.  Too many comfortable cliches about community involvement etc.  And a subtle underlying theme of the global nuclear lobby. We are not to think of nuclear waste as radioactive trash. No, it’s supposed to be a useful resource. As Jon Bok said, referring to Finland’s deep nuclear waste tomb:
 There is a thought in the broader nuclear energy community that at some time in the future we might be able to unlock the energy of these wastes … the take home message on waste storage – it’s not so much a technical issue as one of community consensus
At one point in his speech, Jon Bok did mention that renewable technology is moving so quickly that there may be no need for nuclear power.
With all its connections to the nuclear lobby, it is doubtful that the Royal Commission will come to that conclusion, even though South Australia is already  a world leader in renewable energy. But circumstances might just force them to accept that conclusion. The Aboriginal Women. Yankunytjatjara, Antikarinya and Kokatha won the nuclear waste dump battle last time. My money’s on them again.

September 25, 2015 - Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016

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