Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Flinders Local Action Group want a new process for disposal of Australia’s nuclear waste

 

From the communities’ perspective this entire process has been dogged by a lack of procedural fairness.
There has been a flood of information but many of the finer details have been obscured. The communities
have been urged to vote “Yes” without knowing exactly what they were voting for.

It is little wonder that we view the proposed amendments, as far as we understand them, with
considerable concern and distrust. We are fearful of opening the way for future nuclear activities that
could be implemented or imposed without the need for public consultation, assent or debate

We are particularly worried that this legislation is being debated under the current cloud of CV-19. We
believe the debate should be postponed at least until this current national crisis has abated and we have
a clearer view of the country’s direction, the effects on our economy and the path to recovery.

We believe that this current process to establish a NRWMF should cease in favour of an entirely new
approach. This should be a fully consultative process, based on the best science to identify a site that is
geologically, culturally and socially suitable for the permanent disposal of Australian generated waste.

Greg Bannon (Spokesperson for the Flinders Local Action Group   Inquiry into National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 [Provisions] Submission No 79

Introduction: For over 60 years Australia has been operating a nuclear reactor. A by-product of this
operation is nuclear waste. ANSTO plans to greatly increase the production of medical isotopes. To this
day, no single, safe location for the permanent disposal of Australian generated radioactive waste has
ever been established.

In March 2015, the Minister for Industry (DIIS) Ian McFarlane, seeking a new approach for Australia’s
nuclear waste, invited private land nominations from around Australia for assessment as potential sites for
a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF).

Six potential sites were short listed and in 2016 one of those, on Wallerberdina Station near the Flinders
Ranges, became the first to progress to the next stage. The other five sites were abandoned, including two
near Kimba in SA. In 2017, a year behind the Flinders, two new sites near Kimba were nominated, accepted
and embarked on the same process.

Flinders Local Action Group (FLAG): Many people, including Traditional Owners, landholders, residents
and visitors, believed that Wallerberdina was culturally and geologically unsuitable for such a proposal.
They began individually protesting about it. Sadly, individual voices carry little weight against a Federal
Department with a pre-determined agenda. This Group was formed in September, 2016, to bring those
voices together.

We have had over four years of interaction with DIIS on this issue and believe we are well qualified to
comment. We believe this particular model for the NRWMF and process developed to implement it is
badly flawed. It has

Generated and fostered a great deal of mistrust in the Department’s process and motives,
 Has been deeply divisive to the communities of the Flinders Ranges and Kimba,
 These communities will carry this division for a long time.
National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill 2020 [Provisions]: Addressing the elements
outlined for amendment:

“Specify the site selected and enable the acquisition of additional land”;
o We know the site selected – Napandee, near Kimba.
o We don’t understand what additional land is required or for what purpose. The original
nomination called for 100 hectares. This was amended upwards to 160 hectares in 2019.
o We hold deep concern that enabling more land to be acquired, of an unspecified area and
for an unspecified purpose, would enable future expansion of the facilty without the
need for public consultation, assent or debate.

 “Abolish the National Repository Capital Contribution Fund and establish a Community Fund to
provide economic and social sustainability for the community”:
o We understand that the current act needs to be changed so the NRCCF (currently stated as
$10m but promised as $20m) can be administered with regional input where the facility is
located. (National Radioactive Waste Management Act, 2012 – Part 6 A, 34E (2) (a) & (b))

We don’t understand “economic and social sustainability for the community”. What is the
predicted level of sustainability and over what time period?
o We understand that the $20m is a “one off” amount, and the facility is predicted to employ
a number of local people. The number that will be employed is subject to dispute.
 “Provide clear and objective links between the operation of the Act and the relevant
Constitutional heads of power”:
o The precise intention of this element is not clear to us.
o We hold deep concern that this enables the Federal Government to override State
legislation and excise Napandee and whatever area of land is deemed necessary for
Federal jurisdiction.

The Question – “Why, after 60 years and two nuclear reactors, has no single, safe location for the
permanent disposal of Australian generated radioactive waste ever been established”?
Harnessing nuclear energy in this country for peaceful use is not the question. It can achieve a range of
benefits for the “human condition”, including the production of isotopes for medical diagnoses and
treatment, as well as research and industrial innovations, but… the process also produces nuclear waste
with varying levels of toxicity. Nuclear waste is inherently dangerous.
Some wastes are short lived and readily disposed of near the point of use. Other material, however,
remains deadly dangerous for 10,000 years or more. It is this material that needs a scientifically based,
geologically stable and socially acceptable location for safe and permanent disposal. Establishment of such
a site is long overdue, so why hasn’t it happened?:

In Australia, as elsewhere, the development of nuclear technology and its products has raced ahead
of the whole industry life cycle.
 Adverse impacts, including waste management strategies, have been left behind.
 Short term outputs have always taken priority over long term stewardship.
 It was always considered that Lucas Heights had plenty of space.
 A naïve expectation that someone else would solve the nuclear waste issue?
Categories of Waste: Disposal of Low Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) at this NRWMF has been given the
strongest emphasis by far. The majority of the information and effort to “sell” this project to the
communities has centred on the permanent disposal of LLRW, but…

Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste (ILRW), classified in Europe as “High Level”, is by far the most
problematic material associated with the NRWMF. ILRW remains toxic and deadly for at least 10,000 years.
Apart from temporary storage alongside the LLRW, defined as “co-location”, there is currently no plan to
permanently dispose of ILRW.

The Matter of Trust: The nuclear industry has a tarnished history. Apart from its catastrophic power as a
weapon of mass destruction, from atomic bombs to depleted uranium bullets, its peacetime activities also
carry a litany of incidents and accidents. Some are well known some much less so, but they are tied
together by common threads of deception and secrecy. With any mishap involving the nuclear industry the
first reaction of those responsible, after damage control in the plant or facility, is to keep a lid on the story
to avoid embarrassing admissions and explanations.

This particular NRWMF process comes on top of 40 years of failed attempts to establish a nuclear waste
dump. Distrust was already well established. This current process has not diminished the cynicism and lack
of trust but has, in fact, reaffirmed and added to it. There are many reasons why:
 Co-location:
 Insistence on co-locating ILRW at the same site as LLRW.
 Most communities won’t accept LLRW when it is coupled with ILRW, even temporarily.

Moving ILRW from current locations to temporary storage at the NRWMF make no sense,
economically or from a safety standpoint. Every handling operation involves cost and risk.
 With the best of intentions, who can guarantee that ILRW will only be in temporary storage
and not become stranded? Who knows the priorities of future administrations?
 The “Hard Sell”: Who doesn’t feel resistant and distrustful when being pressured to accept an
uninvited, unwanted proposal with unknown consequences? Usually, people don’t take the word
of the salesperson at face value but seek independent advice and weigh up what they are told.

It was clear from the start that the Department had a strategy mapped out and intended to
control the process.
 This is where the two communities divided. Those who supported the proposal were
uncritical and accepting. They had no need to question any information.
Those who did not accept everything on face value had to probe and research everything.

Many things in the Department’s narrative did not and do not add up. There were many
errors of omission that needed highlighting. Faced with the unlimited resources of DIIS the
last four years has been a heavy imposition on the time and resources of private citizens
and community members.
 Benefits: We understand that two licences, one for LLRW disposal and the other for ILRW storage
are required. What guarantee is there that ILRW will be licensed for temporary storage without a
plan for its permanent disposal?

The only way the NRWMF can deliver all the promised benefits is if the two categories of
waste are co-located. The figures have always been rubbery. Without ILRW it is not
believable that the facility will require 45 full-time staff. Multiple handling and transport of
ILRW from current temporary storage to new temporary storage, only to be shifted again at
some time in the future, defies logic.

Summary: The NRWMF has been a “work-in-progress” for decades and there is no reason to hurry these
amendments through.

For five years the Department has attempted to control every aspect, while trying to present a picture that
the process has been driven by the communities. From the Department’s perspective only “Yes” was
required and the details would be provided later.

From the communities’ perspective this entire process has been dogged by a lack of procedural fairness.
There has been a flood of information but many of the finer details have been obscured. The communities
have been urged to vote “Yes” without knowing exactly what they were voting for.

It is little wonder that we view the proposed amendments, as far as we understand them, with
considerable concern and distrust. We are fearful of opening the way for future nuclear activities that
could be implemented or imposed without the need for public consultation, assent or debate

We are particularly worried that this legislation is being debated under the current cloud of CV-19. We
believe the debate should be postponed at least until this current national crisis has abated and we have
a clearer view of the country’s direction, the effects on our economy and the path to recovery.

We believe that this current process to establish a NRWMF should cease in favour of an entirely new
approach. This should be a fully consultative process, based on the best science to identify a site that is
geologically, culturally and socially suitable for the permanent disposal of Australian generated waste. emitters. https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/RadioactiveWaste/Submissions?fbclid=IwAR0v

May 2, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump

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