The South Australian Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle was announced in February 2015. It is tasked with examining the feasibility of the expansion of the nuclear industry in South Australia in the areas of:
1. The expansion of uranium exploration, mining and milling
2. The further processing of uranium
3. Electricity generation
4. The establishment of a national and/or international nuclear waste dump
The Royal Commission will be releasing an interim report in mid-February 2016, with its final recommendations due in May 2016.
Various issues have arisen since the Royal Commission was announced that seriously undermine its claimed impartiality, including:
* The Terms of Reference only consider the expansion of the nuclear industry in SA, and exclude consideration of a reduction of such activities.
* The Issues Papers read more like a feasibility study into the expansion of the industry rather than a balanced inquiry.
* The lack of balance on the Royal Commissions Expert Advisory Committee between proponents and critics of the nuclear industry, and the complete lack of Aboriginal representation or involvement.
* The pecuniary interests in nuclear related companies of the Royal Commissioner and some of his staff.
* The restrictive and formalistic submissions process, including the initial requirement that they were signed by a Justice of the Peace.
* Failure to produce the Issues Papers in any Aboriginal language, despite the fact that the nuclear industry disproportionately affects Aboriginal communities in South Australia, and that in some Aboriginal communities English is not spoken as a first language.
* A factual error in Issues Paper 1, misrepresenting the legal framework of Aboriginal Heritage in South Australia, and completely omitting any reference to the extraordinary legal exemptions enjoyed by BHP Billiton at its Olympic Dam mine and the surrounding area, which would also apply to any future expansion by the company.
Potential conflicts of interest arise for members of the Royal Commissions Expert Advisory Committee and Key Commission Staff. Notably, the direct interests in the nuclear industry by Timothy Stone (Expert Advisory Committee) and Julian Kelly (Technical Research Team Leader). At the very least there is an appearance of bias which undermines the credibility of the Royal Commission:
* Tim Stone is a non-executive director of Horizon Nuclear Power, a UK energy company developing new nuclear power stations. Its parent company is Hitachi, a Japanese company which has entered into joint ventures with General Electric. One of these ” GE Hitachi ” is promoting the commercialisation of the new PRISM nuclear reactor design.
* On the 1st October 2015 Tim Stone was appointed director of Nuclear Risk Insurers, a London-based insurance company.
* Tim Stone is also the co-owner of Alpha-n Infrastructure, a company with a partially built website promoting nuclear power. This has not been disclosed on the Royal Commission’s website.
* Julian Kelly is Chief Technology Officer of Thor Energy, a Norwegian company focusing on experimenting with the use of Thorium in nuclear reactors.
* the expansion of uranium exploration and mining relies largely on market demand and the price of uranium (although government policy can have some influence ” by further subsidising uranium exploration for example),
* the market in further processing and enrichment is already oversupplied, to the point that the main player in the South Australian nuclear industry, BHP Billiton, has shown no interest in expanding into this sector,
* and that developing a nuclear energy industry in South Australia is politically contentious and would take decades,
-it is probable that the main agenda for the Royal Commission is the establishment of a national or international nuclear waste dump in South Australia.