Australian news, and some related international items

The military connection to the push for advanced nuclear reactors in South Australia

With a nuclear waste dump in South Australia that accepts international shipments, the full range of the “nuclear industry” in the state would be complete, truly making it the “Defense State” that has become the state motto.[9]

SOUTH AUSTRALIA’S NUCLEAR MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX: THE GLOBAL CONTEXT, Spirit of Eureka ,Talk by David Palmer at “SA  The Nuclear State” forum 03 May 2017   “……..If citizens – the people – whether they are in the Fukushima region of Japan or in Adelaide, South Australia – have a right to speak out on the dangers of the nuclear industry, then who are the elites promoting the nuclear industry? If we look at prominent figures in government the institutional linkages become all too clear. Consider the example of Kevin Scarce, Governor of South Australia until 2014, a Rear Admiral retired from the Royal Australian Navy, current Chancellor of the University of Adelaide, and Deputy Chairman of Seeley International, the largest air conditioning company in Australia that is known for energy-efficiency. Scarce led the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission and was the primary author of the report that recommended the South Australian government accept a nuclear waste dump. All the links are there in Scarce’s connections and positions: military, university, corporate, and government.

Furthermore, the Royal Commission did not focus solely on a nuclear waste dump. It considered possible expansion of nuclear industries in the state that encompassed mining, enrichment, and power generation. The Royal Commission report states that “The activity under consideration is the further processing of minerals, and the processing and manufacturing of materials containing radioactive and nuclear substances (but not for, or from, military uses) including conversion, enrichment, fabrication or reprocessing in South Australia.”[3]

But during the time this Royal Commission report was being prepared and finally delivered, Adelaide became the focal point for naval shipbuilding contracts, particularly submarines. Both Labor and Liberal politicians  sought to outdo each other in pushing for submarines to be built in Adelaide. They will be diesel powered, but the majority of submarines internationally use nuclear power propulsion. Potential overseas contractors also use designs geared for nuclear power. There are those in Australian naval circles who would like to see these Australian subs with nuclear, not diesel, power. And where will these submarines be used, and with what international interests? We know the answer to that question, as recent events in the Western Pacific have confirmed. The USS Carl Vinson, the nuclear powered air craft carrier, was on exercises in the Indian Ocean in early April with Australia’s HMAS Ballarat, when it was ordered to the Korean peninsula this month in response to the North Korean threat to explode a nuclear bomb.[4] This latest development is just one example of the escalating naval tensions on our side of the Pacific. Crises like this will potentially increase pressure for Australia to build submarines – and possibly other naval vessels – that are nuclear powered.

What does the corporate profile of the “nuclear industry” look like? Consider this list from the 2015 “Top 100 Global Defense Companies.”[5] Of 100 listed, 41 are based in the United States. Seven of the top ten are American: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrup Grumman, United Technologies, and L-3 Communications. Five of these seven corporations in the top ten have products related to nuclear military technology or applications, such as guidance systems and missiles for warheads. United Technologies and L-3 Communications have divisions related to civilian nuclear power, beyond their military contracts. All these seven corporation have operations in Australia, and five have operations in South Australia (Raytheon, United Technologies, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin). I’ve only considered the top seven US companies in the top ten of this list. Further investigation into other companies on this list, US and international, will tell us more.

South Australia Premier Wetherill’s rationale for the nuclear waste dump obviously is related to the mining industry in the state. The Royal Commission report called for “the expansion of the current level of exploration, extraction and milling of minerals containing radioactive materials in South Australia,”[6] as well as a reduction in regulations over the mining industry. In this section of the report there is great detail on safety measures to be undertaken and environmental impact concerns, but the scope of this overall plan – from mining, to energy production, to waste storage – creates an entirely new level of South Australia’s dependence on the nuclear industry. Contrary to past Labor Party policy, particularly under former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, Premier Wetherill backed an expansion of uranium mining, using the Royal Commission’s recommendation as the basis for his advocacy. He dropped his proposal for the nuclear dump when the Liberal Party opposition refused to support it.[7] The Greens, of course, have criticised the entire scope of the initiative. In his earlier visit to Finland to inspect that country’s advanced nuclear waste storage operation at Okalo, near the town of Eurajoki, Wetherill emphasized that South Australia had 25 per cent of the world’s uranium reserves. But when he met with Eurajoki Municipal Council president Vesa Jalonen near the Okalo site, Jalonen rejected Wetherill’s “moral argument” that South Australia should accept nuclear waste as a responsibility to the over 400 nuclear plants around the world that have used uranium from South Australian mines. According to The Australian, “Mr Jalonen said the local economy had benefited from the nuclear industry after moving away from agriculture, but [added] … ‘[i]t is impossible to say what is right, but I think you don’t have to think in that (moral) way about taking responsibility for uranium … ‘Of course there are big questions of the (economic) benefits you can get.’”[8] Jalonen’s comment exposed Premier Wetherill’s evasion of his real motives: economic, not ‘morality.’ The Okalo site, deep underground, is the most advanced nuclear waste storage facility in the world, and it is technologically far superior to what was proposed for South Australia. It also is only a tenth of the size of the operation pushed by South Australian nuclear waste storage advocates. The Finnish site does not accept any waste except from Finnish sources. The South Australian facility would accept international waste, far beyond realistic capacity.

Mining clearly is driving much of this nuclear waste dump agenda. BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining corporation, operates Olympic Dam Mine in Roxby Downs, which holds the largest deposit of uranium in the world but currently only has 25 percent of its mining there based on uranium. The demand for building new nuclear power plants has decreased dramatically since the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster of 2011. China stopped all new nuclear power plant construction after the 2011 Fukushima disaster; Japan shut its reactors, with only one up again as of April 2017; and ratings agencies such as Standard and Poors have substantially cut credit ratings of energy companies that concentrate on nuclear power.

Nevertheless, other uses, particularly related to military applications, have increased. With a nuclear waste dump in South Australia that accepts international shipments, the full range of the “nuclear industry” in the state would be complete, truly making it the “Defense State” that has become the state motto.[9]
But is this really the direction that South Australian – and Australians nationally – want  their economy and their society to take? Is it consistent with, or a violation of, Aboriginal land rights and respect for the land? How dependent have we become on corporations that rely on military contracts and ties to US military interests? What role will the “nuclear industry cycle” play in this process? What are the dangers for us not just from potential radiation from a nuclear waste dump, but also from the broader possibilities of an expanding nuclear-based military-industrial complex in South Australia – and across Australia?

The debate about a South Australian nuclear waste dump needs to consider these broader ramifications. At the same time, refusing to agree to an international nuclear waste dump in South Australia is a crucial initial step toward turning away from the nuclear military-industrial complex toward a better, more productive economy and a safer environment for all.

[1] Ben Heard, Nov. 2, 2016. (accessed 21 April, 2017)

[2] “New Push for high-level international nuclear waste dump in South Australia,” The Advertiser, 2 March, 2017 (accessed 21 April, 2017)

[3] Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Report – May 2016, p. 29. (accessed 21 April, 2017)

[4] (accessed 21 April, 2017)

[5] “Defense News Top 100 Defense Companies (2015) (accessed 4 April, 2017) Data on individual companies is from corporate websites of company listings on this site.

[6] Royal Commission Report, p. 9.

[7] (accessed 4 April, 2017)

[8] (accessed 4 April, 2017)

[9] (accessed 4 April, 2017)

May 13, 2017 - Posted by | South Australia, spinbuster, weapons and war

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: