Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Bushfires – a serious danger to transporting nuclear wastes from Lucas Heights to Kimba

Transporting nuclear wastes across Australia in the age of bushfires, Independent Australia, By Noel Wauchope | IN 2020, the final decision on a site for Australia’s interim National Radioactive Waste Facility will be announced, said Resources Minister Matt Canavan on 13 December.

He added:  I will make a formal announcement early next year on the site-selection process.”

With bushfires raging, it might seem insensitive and non-topical to be worrying now about this coming announcement on a temporary nuclear waste site and the transport of nuclear wastes to it. But this is relevant and all too serious in the light of Australia’s climate crisis.

The U.S. National Academies Press compiled a lengthy and comprehensive report on risks of transporting nuclear wastes — they concluded that among various risks, the most serious and significant is fire:…..

Current bushfire danger areas include much of New South Wales, including the Lucas Heights area, North and coastal East Victoria and in South Australia the lower Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas. If nuclear wastes were to be transported across the continent, whether by land or by sea, from the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney to Kimba in South Australia, they’d be travelling through much of these areas. Today, they’d be confronting very long duration, fully engulfing fires.

Do we know what route the nuclear wastes would be taking to Kimba, which is now presumed to be the Government’s choice for the waste dump? Does the Department of Industry Innovation and Science know? Does the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) know? Well, they might, but they’re not going to tell us.

We can depend on ANSTO’s consistent line on this :

‘In line with standard operational and security requirements, ANSTO will not comment on the port, routes or timing until after the transport is complete.’

That line is understandable of course, due to security considerations, including the danger of terrorism.

Spent nuclear fuel rods have been transported several times, from Lucas Heights to ports – mainly Port Kembla – in great secrecy and security. The reprocessed wastes are later returned from France or the UK with similar caution. Those secret late-night operations are worrying enough, but their risks seem almost insignificant when compared with the marathon journey envisaged in what is increasingly looking like a crackpot ANSTO scheme for the proposed distant Kimba interim nuclear dump. It is accepted that these temporary dumps are best located as near as practical to the point of production, as in the case of USA’s sites.

Australians, beset by the horror of extreme bushfires, can still perhaps count themselves as lucky in that, compared with wildfire regions in some countries, they do not yet have the compounding horror of radioactive contamination spread along with the ashes and smoke.

Fires in Russia have threatened its secret nuclear areas……

Many in America have long been aware of the transport danger:

The state of Nevada released a report in 2003 concluding that a steel-lead-steel cask would have failed after about six hours in the fire and a solid steel cask would have failed after about 11 to 12.5 hours. There would have been contamination over 32 square miles of the city and the contamination would have killed up to 28,000 people over 50 years.

The State of Wyoming is resisting hosting a nuclear waste dump, largely because of transportation risks as well as economic risks. In the UK, Somerset County Council rejects plans for transport of wastes through Somerset.

In the years 2016–2019, proposals for nuclear waste dumping in South Australia have been discussed by government and media as solely a South Australian concern. The present discussion about Kimba is being portrayed as just a Kimba community concern.

Yet, when the same kind of proposal was put forward in previous years, it was recognised as an issue for other states, too.

Most reporting on Australia’s bushfires has been excellent, with the exception of Murdoch media trying to downplay their seriousness. However, there has been no mention of the proximity of bushfires to Lucas Heights. As happened with the fires in 2018, this seems to be a taboo subject in the Australian media.

While it has never been a good idea to trek the Lucas Heights nuclear waste for thousands of kilometres across the continent – or halfway around it by sea – Australia’s new climate crisis has made it that much more dangerous. Is the bushfire apocalypse just a one-off? Or, more likely, is this nationwide danger the new normal? https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/transporting-nuclear-wastes-across-australia-in-the-age-of-bushfires,13465

January 9, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, Federal nuclear waste dump, safety

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