Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Senator Scott Ludlam probes the Australian government’s plan to dump Lucas Heights’ nuclear waste on rural South Australia

Assuming that the long-lived intermediate-level stuff does go to the sites that you are busy characterising at the moment, how long is it envisaged that it actually stays there before it gets taken somewhere else?

Mr B Wilson: We cannot give a definitive answer on that because we have not commenced a process to identify a permanent disposal solution for the long-lived intermediate-level waste—

Senator LUDLAM: Ouch!

if the really dangerous intermediate-level stuff is to be stored there you cannot tell them how long it is meant to be there for

so we kind of do not really know what is going on there or how long it is meant to be there for.

ECONOMICS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE, Department of Industry – RADIOACTIVE WASTE  1st June 2017

 Full Transcript here: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/download/committees/estimate/e3ddf88b-3e9c-4546-9d90-8f646689a98c/toc_pdf/Economics%20Legislation%20Committee_2017_06_01_5134.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf

Senator Canavan: I have been to Hawker and I am going there again tomorrow, and I would like to put on record my thanks to many in the Hawker community who engage in this process. Some have certainly changed their mind as they have come to have more understanding of it. I think you have probably been to Lucas Heights, and it I think it makes a big difference to people when they see it. There is a lot of misinformation spread about this, and we are trying to engage with people in a genuine way in good faith to give them the information to make informed decisions.

Senator LUDLAM: Who is spreading this information, Senator Canavan?

Senator Canavan: I hear it from time to time. I do not have any particular allegations to make about individual groups here, but you do hear lots of information from time to time about the potential danger of this material. But, of course, as you would probably know, much of the low-level waste is stored safely at Lucas Heights, a place where people go to and from work every day. 

Senator LUDLAM: That begs the question of why it needs to move. ……

Senator LUDLAM: Staying in South Australia: has there been any consideration at all—this is for the department or the minister, whoever wants to take this one on—of the tension between the proposed national radioactive waste facility and the existing South Australian legislation, which would be the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000? The tension between the fact that your entire project is presently illegal under South Australian law: what is being done about that?

Mr B Wilson: We are certainly aware of the South Australian prohibition under their law. However, the National Radioactive Waste Management Act that we operate under overrides South Australian law. 

Senator LUDLAM: And that is it? You are just going to squash them? Or are there discussions progressing with the South Australian government?….

Senator LUDLAM: Is the department, or you, Senator Canavan, or any of the federal agencies or other actors in communication with the South Australian government environment or heritage departments, or representatives of any body, actually, in relation to the tension between the two acts?

Senator Canavan: I have raised it with the South Australian government. They have indicated that they may seek to make changes. I am not aware of the status of that at the moment. Obviously, they have their own process, which is a separate to ours, on radioactive waste. Certainly, the issue has been raised. Mr Wilson is also right that we are confident that is not a barrier to this project. But Mr Wilson will be giving you that.

Mr B Wilson: We engage—I would have to characterise it as infrequently—with the South Australian government. It is more in the line of updating where we are. We have not had any recent engagements. They are certainly very well aware of the prohibitions under their law about what the South Australian government and its officials can do in this space….

When I said that the National Radioactive Waste Management Act overrides South Australian law, that is the fact. But what we are trying to do in the development of this project is to develop it and act in a way that is consistent with requirements under other South Australian legislation. For instance, in terms of Indigenous heritage protection and other aspects. While we are not necessarily bound by those laws we want to act in a way that is consistent with them.

Senator LUDLAM: With waste that is as dangerous as this, I am very glad to hear it! Is the department still accepting site nominations?

Senator Canavan: The government remains open to further nominations, as we announced on selecting the Hawker site last year. But the ones we have announced are those that we are proceeding with at this stage.

Senator LUDLAM: Wallerberdina and two at Kimba.

Senator Canavan: Kimba, that is right.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes. I will come to the Kimba ones in just a sec. My understanding is—and this goes way back before this project; the same for Muckaty and the same for the ones that came before that—that it was envisaged that it be a permanent repository for low-level waste of various categories, and a temporary or interim storage site for the long-lived intermediate-level waste that may or may not end up going there. That is still ambiguous, unless you can clarify that for us.

Assuming that the long-lived intermediate-level stuff does go to the sites that you are busy characterising at the moment, how long is it envisaged that it actually stays there before it gets taken somewhere else?

Mr B Wilson: We cannot give a definitive answer on that because we have not commenced a process to identify a permanent disposal solution for the long-lived intermediate-level waste—

Senator LUDLAM: Ouch!

Mr B Wilson: What we have told communities—we are trying to be as up-front as we can be—is that it could take several decades, based on the experience in establishing a low-level disposal facility. It could well take a couple of decades to find a permanent disposal solution for the intermediate. There is also some sense in Australia of not rushing to a permanent disposal solution for intermediate. The potential technological solutions—

Pg 108

Senator LUDLAM: Sixty or 70 years certainly could not be called a rush, could it?

Senator Canavan: No, definitely not

Mr B Wilson: The potential technological solutions for that are evolving, and there are potential other new technologies which might reduce the cost to Australia of a disposal solution—if they are proven to be effective and safe. They will be proved up over the next decade or so.

Senator LUDLAM: You a very good at this, Mr Wilson. Are you having any difficulty in the consultation work that you are doing—at any level, really—when communities take you up on the fact that you cannot tell them what kind of waste is proposed to be stored at the site? And if the really dangerous intermediate-level stuff is to be stored there you cannot tell them how long it is meant to be there for—has that come up at all in any of your conversations?

Mr B Wilson: Yes, it does.

Senator Canavan: It does, yes.

Senator LUDLAM: I would think so. Does it bug you a bit that you are not able to provide them with that basic information about what the dump will even be used for?

Mr B Wilson: What we do say is that by the time we come to them with a firm proposal for what this facility will look like—which will be sometime next year—we will be able to tell them, with clarity, what the options are on the intermediate level waste that might be stored there, and how we propose to deal with the low-level waste that will be stored there. So they will have, at that point, pretty good clarity around what the facility will be, what it will handle, and how it will handle it.

Senator LUDLAM: Right, so we kind of do not really know what is going on there or how long it is meant to be there for.

CHAIR: You have a minute and a half for further questions, Senator Ludlam.
Senator LUDLAM: A minute and a half! This stuff is dangerous for tens of thousands of years! Senator CANAVAN: Time flies when you are having fun!

Senator LUDLAM: So it does. I have one or two questions on Kimba and the Eyre Peninsula site. I note that there is a ballot process being advanced by the District Council of Kimba—AEC is overseeing that, which I think is good—to measure community preparedness to progress to stage 2 of consultation. I gather the question is going to be: are you interested in more info, or have you made your minds up? Is that a reasonable characterisation of what you are doing?

Mr B Wilson: It is not our question. It is the council’s question—it is their vote. But it will, effectively, be: ‘Do you support the sites progressing to the next stage of the process,’ or some version of that.

Senator LUDLAM: How do you intend to capture and consider the views of the wider community outside the defined voting area? It is a national radioactive waste dump; you will not be calling it the Kimba radioactive waste dump. I do not have any good answers to this, but how are you proposing to engage broader opinion?

Mr B Wilson: As it was for the previous round of consultations, people who have views from outside the region are perfectly free to submit those views to us. We will compile them and provide them to the minister to take into account. I think there is a sort of reality check here; the facility is proposed to go into an area, and it is that immediate community that obviously will carry more weight than—

Senator LUDLAM: I would hope so; I am not trying to take that away from them.

Senator CANAVAN: We also have people on the ground in both Hawker and Kimba. We have a staffed office there that people can approach, including people from the broader region who might come to Kimba for business or what have you. So we are doing our best to receive those views from a wide area.

Senator LUDLAM: How many people do you have staffing them?
Senator CANAVAN: We have two or three at Hawker, I believe. How many at Kimba? Mr B Wilson: About two at each.

Senator LUDLAM: Senator Canavan, you raised a figure before—you thought there was approximately 65 per cent support last time there was any sort of poll done in the Flinders area. Is that what you would consider sufficient to indicate broad community support?

Senator CANAVAN: I have said before that we are not defining the broad community support level at a precise amount, partly because of the issue that you just raised—there will be a broad set of community interests beyond, potentially, the voting area that deserve to have their voice heard on this issue. Also, within that voting area there might be different categories that deserve special attention, including Indigenous and traditional owners and direct neighbours to any potential site. So it is not, I think, appropriate to characterise a particular level of support. But I have also said we have accepted a site, if it is 65 per cent, as a sufficient level of support. And I would expect any further decisions would need a level of support consistent within a broad range of that amount.

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June 13, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics, reference, South Australia

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