Australian news, and some related international items

When will Premier Weatherill admit that the nuclear bonanza is a really bad idea.

Margaret Beavis: Claims South Australia will make a fortune out of nuclear waste are just Weatherill,-Jay-wastesan illusion Margaret Beavis, The Advertiser September 13, 2016 THE acclaim around the pot of gold to be made importing nuclear waste into South Australia increasingly feels more like an illusion.There are so many invisible parts making up this story, it is probably only a matter of time before Premier Jay Weatherill finds the courage to say the nuclear bonanza is a really bad idea.

So what are these invisible items?

Firstly, there are no high level nuclear waste facilities anywhere in the world. None. Anywhere.

Both Germany’s efforts have leaked radiation into the water table, and they are currently spending billions pulling the waste out again.

WIPPIn Nevada, the US government has spent over US$10 billion building a site, only to find multiple problems including deliberately falsified data about the water table, and massive community opposition. It will never open. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico closed two years ago after a fire and later an explosion exposed 22 workers and contaminated the whole site. Official investigation found cost cutting, corner cutting and human error was to blame, with a “loss of safety culture”.

The high level nuclear sites in Sweden and Finland were described by the recent Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission in South Australia as “successful”.

These locations have been researched for 40 years, and will not even start taking waste for at least another six years and, in the Swedish case, well over a decade. It is easy to succeed when there is no radioactive stuff to actually deal with.

 Secondly, the health impacts, so minimised by the Royal Commission, are real – and in the worst case potentially catastrophic.

body-rad1For the last forty years we have counselled pregnant women to avoid X-rays as we know their babies have much higher rates of leukemia.

Evidence from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, from vast human trials literally involving hundreds of thousands of nuclear workers to research about Cat scans and nuclear heart scans, all point to significant harms with additional radiation.

There is no evidence of a safe lower dose; the higher the exposure the higher the risk.

And recent large research trial found rates of stroke and heart attack are also increased.

There is a good reason why countries want so badly to be rid of this material, which is toxic for over 100,000 years.

Thirdly, we have nowhere to put it.

The plan is to import it, and then find some poor remote community to take it.

The problem with that theory is that for almost twenty years the government has been looking for a site for Australia’s own intermediate level waste, without success.

handsoffAboriginal communities have been disproportionately targeted. We clearly already have more nuclear waste than we know what to do with.

Finally the promised billions, so pivotal to the whole proposal, are risky.

They have been modelled by a firm that works in this area and has potentially a strong vested interest in this venture going ahead

They have not allowed for potential competition, which would massively reduce the prices paid. They have included countries like Ukraine as clients, when Ukraine is looking into building its own facility at Chernobyl.

They have included countries like Bangladesh, which does not even have a reactor yet.

nukes-sad-And it has made assumptions about the viability of the nuclear power industry, when plants in places like the US are closing down as they cannot compete financially.

Nuclear waste facilities are very expensive to build, and historically costs inevitably blow out. For example, in the current French waste construction project costs have doubled in the last decade.

There has been no independent financial modelling done by the government, which is extraordinary given the enormous financial risks and the extraordinary time frames.

And the income to cover the clean up — decommissioning and other costs — does not start until 2042.

In essence, this proposal is startling in its optimism.

The likely outcome if it goes ahead is a whole lot of highly toxic radioactive waste lasting for 100,000 years in South Australia, and billions of taxpayers’ money spent trying to find a way that works to get rid of it.

If it is such a financial bonanza, many countries would be racing to do it.

The reality is that a royal commission, lots of clever marketing, 100 consultation sites and a couple of citizens’ juries still don’t make this a smart idea.

Margaret Beavis is president of the Medical Association for Prevention of War

September 14, 2016 - Posted by | NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION 2016, South Australia

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