Australian news, and some related international items

Andrew Williams. Submission to Senate – Small Nuclear Reactors and Wastes – th elephant in the room

Submission 48 to Environment and Other Legislation Amendment (Removing Nuclear Energy Prohibitions) Bill 2022

There are many reasons why nuclear power is unlawful in Australia. Most are not new, and just as
relevant as they always have been.

I do understand that the current push by the nuclear industry of Small Modular Reactors sounds
appealing. Distributed ‘baseload’ power with a number of reactors producing no greenhouse gas
emissions (unlike coal and gas). However, digging only slightly below the surface reveals
insurmountable problems and dangers.

  1. Nuclear Waste is quite frankly the elephant in the room. It is building up all over the world, a
    burden for future generations who have not had a say or benefited from its production. This itself is
    a major ethical issue. The intermediate level waste currently intended to be imposed against the
    South Australian law on a small and now divided farming community (Kimba) must be kept safe
    from people and the environment for a minimum of 10,000 years. Some radionuclides present in
    high level waste from nuclear power plants require containment for over 100,000 years. This needs
    to be acknowledged. It is constantly downplayed by the nuclear industry. (Any plan for a reactor
    build must have this ‘back end’ cost factored in). I would like to make a brief comment on the way
    the current plan for Australia’s relatively small amount of radioactive waste has played out since
    any proposed SMR waste would likely end up at the planned NRWMF at Kimba. The process has
    been manipulative and divisive (to put it politely). It has involved deliberate lies and bribery. It has
    deliberately trampled on the rights of First Nations people. A proper process to honestly and
    respectfully address the waste issue would be a pre-requisite for the consideration of nuclear power
    in Australia.
  2. SMRs require at least 7 years to build (effectively stalling action on climate change) and require
    large taxpayer subsidies, whereas renewables can be up and running in 6 months. Furthermore, they
    have not been tried and tested in the US.
  3. As much as denial is attempted by some, there is an inextricable link between domestic nuclear
    energy production and the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. This is a long and deep
    subject, but this short summary is correct. Australia has its own history on this, which will be
    familiar to some on this committee.
  4. The mining and processing of the uranium required to fuel the nuclear reactors produces
    radioactive tailings and presents a radioactivity hazard to the miners. Workers in nuclear power
    plants also experience radioactive risks, especially those involved in loading the fuel and handling
    the ‘spent’ fuel, which sits in cooling ponds for 7 years and is itself (along with the reactor) a
    potential radioactive threat (loss of electricity necessary for the cooling ponds results in
    uncontrolled atmospheric radioactive release, a real threat in the invasion of Ukraine).
    These and other important reasons are why nuclear power should remain prohibited in Australia.
    The reasons for its current prohibition have not gone away, they have grown stronger.

March 14, 2023 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics

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