Australian news, and some related international items

Citizens Jury clearly examined the economic danger of importing nuclear wastes

scrutiny-on-wastes-sa-bankruptClear-headed citizens’ jury refused to be dazzled ANALYSIS, InDaily, Richard Blandy, 7 Nov 16 The citizens’ jury’s rejection of a high-level nuclear waste dump for South Australia was based on courage and common sense, writes economics commentator Richard Blandy – one of the expert witnesses called to address the jury. My fellow expert economic witnesses, chosen by a formal voting process by all the members of the citizens’ jury, were Dr Mark Diesendorf , a former Principal Research Scientist in the CSIRO and former Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Technology, Sydney), Dr Richard Dennis, Chief Economist at The Australia Institute, Barbara Pocock, Emeritus Professor of Economics at UniSA and a member of the SA Economic Development Board, and me.

All of these expert witnesses opposed the royal commission’s proposal to establish a high level nuclear waste dump in South Australia.

DemocracyCo, the body running the citizens’ jury process, added to this group Dr Tim Johnson, Project Manager/Consultant at Jacobs Engineering, which undertook the analysis of the nuclear dump for the royal commission. Dr Johnson was the project manager for Jacobs’ work on the cost analysis and business case for the dump.

Naturally enough, Dr Johnson supported the royal commission’s proposal to establish the dump.

Dr Diesendorf, participating in proceedings through a Skype link to Sydney, said the dump proposal painted a scenario of huge financial risk which had not been adequately addressed. South Australia could only proceed if it operated under two delusions – a delusion of grandeur and a delusion of being able to manage large risks that had not been adequately addressed.

I noted that there is no global market for high level nuclear waste at present so the price we could expect to get was a guess. The forecast profitability of the dump rested on highly optimistic assumptions, and the dump could easily lose money (on the Royal Commission’s own analysis in Figure J6) instead of being a bonanza. As Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said in his recent State Budget: “There is no silver bullet … [including] the nuclear royal commission.”

Richard Dennis pointed out that South Australia had already spent $10 million on the nuclear dump proposal, but still did not have a cost/benefit analysis. The price we would get for storing nuclear fuel was exaggerated and the volumes we would store were exaggerated. Would no other country enter the market if there was a bonanza happening in South Australia? One of the key assumptions of economics is that huge profits will attract competitors. If the project were likely to make so much money, why wouldn’t BHP be wanting to invest in it, or at least spend the next $10 million to explore the project further?

Barbara Pocock noted that all the economists agreed the dump was not a goer. In an earlier session, Dr Johnson had also agreed that the proposal needed a lot more work. It was a complicated project that had never been done before. At a projected cost of $145 billion, it was equivalent in financial size to 70 new Royal Adelaide Hospitals. A cost overrun would be very easy. The SA proposal was 20 times bigger than what the Finns are building. The profits come from holding the waste in inexpensive temporary storage for a very long time – but nothing will go wrong! We should not be dazzled and desperate. We should remember the State Bank – which cost us $3 billion and 20 years of economic confidence.

Tim Johnson summarised and defended the analysis that Jacobs had undertaken for the royal commission, which is contained in accessible reports, including the royal commission report itself. I will not go through this material again, here.

Most questions from the members of the citizens’ jury were directed to Dr Johnson, with other members of the panel commenting from time-to-time.

Late in the afternoon last Sunday, the 350 people of the citizens’ jury reported on their findings, the most important of which is reproduced below (supported by two thirds of the jurors):

No, not an option for the state under any circumstances for reasons of consent, economics, trust and safety.
· Under no circumstances should South Australia pursue opportunity to store and dispose of nuclear waste from other countries for reasons of consent, economics, trust and safety………


November 8, 2016 - Posted by | Nuclear Citizens Jury

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