Australian news, and some related international items

Letter to Australia’s Senators – alarm over proposed National Radioactive Waste Amendment Bill

Dear Senator
When the National Radioactive Waste Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 comes before the senate in August 2020, I/we would like you to consider the serious nature of the information in this letter and to reject this Bill.

The proposed dump on a farm (Napandee) near Kimba SA has been promoted as a permanent low level waste (LLW) dump to be managed for 300 years, necessitated by nuclear medicine. This lie by omission has been repeated ad nauseam by the National Radioactive Waste Management Taskforce; government agencies tasked with dealing with the waste, namely ANSTO and ARPANSA; government ministers (state and federal); the local Liberal MHR Rowan Ramsay and business associations. This rationale for the dump has been directed to two very small rural communities, while the remainder of the state and the nation have been ignored, in spite of the repeated message that this is an issue of national significance. (The Australian Radioactive Waste Management Framework 2018 states
that the general public should be actively engaged in implementing its aims for nuclear waste disposal.)

Following the debacle of the SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission 2015-2016 (RC) initiated by your colleague, then, Premier Jay Weatherill, its recommendation to more fully explore the possibility of SA becoming a dump for international high level waste (HLW) was rejected

Until then, the current national dump proposal (running in parallel with the RC and supported by it) had been overshadowed by public outrage over the RC’s recommendation re international waste. Most South Australians had no idea that, once again, SA was being primed as a dumping ground for
the nation’s waste.

In 2000, the SA Olson Liberal government enacted the Radioactive Waste (Prohibition) Act; later strengthened by the Rann Labor government, it was amended during 2015 because the RC was not in compliance with the Act! Following the conclusion of the RC, the Act was fully reinstated.

n spite of this, both Labor and Liberal state politicians overwhelmingly have remained mute, lacking the courage to either openly support the national dump plans or to criticise them. Their silence, their unwillingness to defend and uphold the Act is a betrayal of the South Australian public.

In claiming majority support for its dump plans in the Kimba vote, the federal government ignores its failure to include the Barngarla traditional owners, and the bitterly divided community which remains.

The federal government’s PR exercise has failed to satisfactorily explain the sources or composition of the waste planned for Napandee; for example the majority of the waste (by quantity) is currently stored at Woomera, much of it waiting for categorisation and repackaging, as the drums containing
it are in poor condition. This material is legacy waste; the result of research conducted during the Cold War, when Australia worked in close collaboration with UK’s nuclear weapons programme.
Currently there exists no facility at Woomera for repackaging this waste.

While endeavouring to maintain the justification for the national dump i.e. LLW waste necessitated by nuclear medicine, the planned temporary, above ground storage of reprocessed spent fuel and other sources of high level waste have been largely ignored. By labelling these wastes as intermediate level (ILW) the federal government has sought to downgrade the level of concern. IAEA advice for the final disposal of radioactive waste does not differentiate between ILW and HLW; so let us call reprocessed spent fuel for what it is – HLW.

One of the greatest concerns about the dump is the removal of HLW from temporary storage at Woomera, and in the case of reprocessed spent fuel or other high level isotopes, from temporary storage at Lucas Heights to another temporary storage site at Napandee, with NO plans for permanent disposal. Surely, this is not international best practice!

The packaging drums (TN81) for reprocessed spent fuel returning from France and the UK have an anticipated life of 40 years. Given that there are no long-term plans for this waste and that it is envisaged that management of its temporary storage could be for 100 years, it is, therefore, highly
probable that repackaging would be required. There are, however, no plans for providing repackaging facilities at Napandee.

Due to Australia’s relatively small quantities of HLW, the IAEA notes the difficulty we would face in developing a permanent, deep geological repository for its disposal. Given the lack of any long-term plan for this waste; the inability of any other country to permanently dispose of its intractable wastes; and the enthusiasm that still persists in some quarters for hosting an international waste dump, (including amongst the SA government’s top advisers) the IAEA’s comments should ring alarm

The nation’s HLW becoming stranded indefinitely at the Napandee site, where it could also become a stepping stone to an international waste dump, is not only a nightmarish scenario; it is a realistic possibility.

The federal government’s plans are deeply disturbing. The public has been kept in the dark, or entirely misled. I/We, therefore, request you consider this letter when voting on the forthcoming Bill.

July 18, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL

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