The Federal Government has released the shortlist of six sites for the location of a national radioactive waste dump. Three of these sites are in South Australia.
Friends of the Earth Adelaide is cautious about the Federal Governments genuine commitment to a voluntary site nomination and selection process.
“The test will be how the government handles community opposition, how inclusive and transparent the site selection process will be, and how it will handle the issue of existing South Australian legislation banning the establishment of a nuclear waste dump,” said Nectaria Calan of Friends of the Earth Adelaide.
The National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012, the Act governing the site selection process, over-rides existing state legislation prohibiting the establishment of a nuclear waste dump.
“Will the Federal Government impose a nuclear waste dump on states that have legislated against it, or communities that do not want it?” asked Ms Calan.
“The location of a waste dump cannot simply be decided through individual nominations,” said Ms Calan. “It affects the wider community, particularly those in close proximity to the site. Radioactive contamination knows no property boundaries. The principle of voluntarism extends beyond the individual where an action has wider ramifications,” continued Ms Calan.
“There is yet to be an independent inquiry into all our radioactive waste management options, so the nominations process is premature,” said Ms Calan.
Additionally, here in South Australia the Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle is considering the feasibility of an international nuclear waste dump.
“Will a national nuclear waste repository in SA be the trojan horse for an international high level nuclear waste dump down the track?” asked Ms Calan.
“Rather than considering existing nuclear waste in Australia as an intractable problem, the SA government and some proponents of the nuclear industry seem to consider radioactive waste a business opportunity and want to import it, astounding given that so far globally there has been no success in establishing even one facility for the long term storage of high level waste.”
“ The one deep underground repository for intermediate level waste that does exist, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, saw an incident in February last year where a waste barrel exploded, leading to an aboveground release of airborne radiation, after only 15 years in operation,” said Ms Calan. “According to the US Department of Energy, twenty-two workers tested positive to low-level radiation exposure.”
Friends of the Earth Adelaide has serious concerns regarding the regulatory framework that may be applied to a nuclear waste dump in South Australia, whether national or international.
“BHP Billiton, operator of the Olympic dam mine, is exempt from key regulating legislation in SA, including the Freedom of Information Act, and parts of the Radiation Protection and Control Act and the Environmental Protection Act. With such a precedent here in SA for the regulation of the nuclear industry, where is the guarantee that other nuclear projects such as a nuclear waste dump would not also be exempt from laws regulating radiation, environmental protection, and transparency?” asked Ms. Calan.