Australian news, and some related international items

Premier Weatherill’s nuclear political quagmire (a martyr for the nuclear religion?)

weatherill-martyrWith citizens dissenting, Labor party members preparing for internal debate and anticipation building among nuclear industrialists, the Weatherill government has waded into a political quagmire, in which it now stands waste-deep.

Simplify Day won’t ease nuclear tension in South Australia, Online opinion, By Dan Monceaux, 9 Nov 16  “……If support for future high-level nuclear waste storage had been demonstrated by the Citizens Jury, or granted by Traditional Owners, repealing legislative barriers would have been the necessary next step before opening the gate for further investment. The Jury’s report recommends against such reforms, casting doubt on the nature and content of the policy announcement expected later this month.

The Jury has also called for the State Government to draw no more from the public purse. To date the State has committed $13 million dollars to the Royal Commission, Citizens’ Jury and ‘Get to Know Nuclear’ public relations campaigns combined.

The jury’s objections have no doubt stolen some wind from the sails of supporters. The Premier now risks compounding the identified problem of a lack of trust in government, if he is to announce any further financial commitment to explore the Commission’s proposal. Meanwhile, dissenting voices within the South Australian Labor party will likely draw confidence from this as the party heads towards a contentious Special Convention on the topic.

Whatever the decision, the announcement will likely be shaped by the final report of the Citizens’ Jury, the persistence of public demonstrations, monitoring of online debate and the resolution of conflicting views within the Labor party. The only verdict received thus far already rubs against some strongly held views within Government, resources, engineering and defence sectors.

Few (if any) conflicts of opinion are likely to be resolved before Simplify Day: November 15. This day has been set aside by the Government of South Australia to “remove outdated legislation” without specifying which Acts or regulations.

With no demonstrable social license from the citizenry and no clear consensus within the Labor party, repealing nuclear prohibitions or advancing many of the Royal Commission’s recommendations could prove self-destructive. In some cases, it might also be illegal. Some suggest that the Government may have already broken the law during its public relations campaign by failing to provide a balanced view of both opportunities and risks associated with nuclear industrial development. To deny risk, they argue, is to promote- and to promote certain activities is currently illegal under the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000.

The Jury’s conclusions aside, nuclear industrialists remain eternal optimists. Also on Simplify Day, they will converge on Adelaide for the first ever Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle conference. Its speaking program includes former Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce, Madeline Richardson (the Chief Executive of CARA, the South Australian government agency responsible for community consultation) and a range of international nuclear industry and government representatives.

The event’s convenor James W. Voss has had a long term interest in the prospect of nuclear waste storage in Australia, and was involved in a push to establish such a facility back in the late 1990s. The ANFC16 event is supported by the University of South Australia, University College London (UCL) and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). In his conference overview, Voss describes the event as “potentially a game-changing event for the nuclear industry” and notes that “apolicy announcement is anticipated at the time of ANFC16.“

With citizens dissenting, Labor party members preparing for internal debate and anticipation building among nuclear industrialists, the Weatherill government has waded into a political quagmire, in which it now stands waste-deep. Whether emerging nuclear policy and legislative reforms sink or swim will likely be a question of critical mass.

November 8, 2016 - Posted by | Nuclear Citizens Jury, politics, South Australia

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