Plans for South Australia to be world’s nuclear waste dump

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As the public outrage over the Fukushima nuclear meltdown dies down, nuclear industry proponents are reviving their plan for South Australia to be the world’s nuclear waste dump. Noel Wauchope reports.

ON 9 FEBRUARY, with exquisite timing, Terry Krieg of the Australian Nuclear Forum, delivered his fourth nuclear industry advertorial, on ABC Radio National’s Ockham’s Razor.

Exquisite timing, because the South Australian election is on March 15 and Krieg's talk on this prestigious science program is the last effort of that State's nuclear lobby to get their cause up as an election issue.

The SA election date is three days after the third anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. That disaster is ongoing, with four reactors still in a perilous state and the continual leaking of radioactive water into the surrounding water table.

As a result of Fukushima, global enthusiasm for the nuclear fuel cycle has remained considerably dampened.

Along with that nuclear dampening, the uranium market has suffered badly. South Australia has seen the abandonment of BHP’s plan for a grandiose new open cut mine at Olympic Dam, crippling losses for Heathgate ResourcesBeverley uranium mine, Marathon Resources giving up on uranium exploration as an unviable business.

Australian uranium mining overseas has fared no better, with Paladin’s much-troubled Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi now shutting down.

So, no surprise that Labor and Liberal contenders are being very low-key about nuclear and uranium issues.

For instance, the Herald Sun reports

[Jay] Weatherill [SA Premier]: No (chance that SA will have a nuclear industry). I think it's a dangerous distraction…

[Steven] Marshall [SA Opposition leader]: It's only the sort of decision you could make from government, preferably in a bipartisan way. I'll be quite honest with you, the Opposition doesn't have a nuclear energy division, we're not in a position to make an informed announcement, it's a potential for the future but I think it would be a long way off.

South Australia's nuclear push undeterred

Krieg presented a

"… timeline for how South Australia should embrace nuclear energy in the next three decades." 

The plan includes Officer Basin as the world's nuclear waste dump.

This would be the first step to the full nuclear fuel cycle. BHP should help the State Government to set up an infrastructure development program, and a nuclear education program in schools and universities.

In Terry Krieg's first ABC radio talk in September 2011, he revealed that he did not believe that anthropogenic climate change was true. That's all gone now, apparently, as was his latest pitch is all about nuclear power reducing carbon emissions.

Covering issues of safety, health, economics, Krieg concludes that if Australia doesn't get this nuclear plan happening

Australia will rightly be regarded as technologically backward and irrelevant."

This plea is not a one-off for South Australia. 

South Australia has a long history of involvement with nuclear issues, from hosting Britain's atomic bomb tests in the 1950s, through a determined drive for importing nuclear wastes in the 1990s.

The usual suspects are still there: John White of the Nuclear Fuel Leasing Group, Alexander Downer, along with many others — as described by Sandi Keane in Plans for Australia to become world's nuclear waste dump.

They all just went a bit quiet after Fukushima.

In 2013-2014, a new distinctly South Australian push has taken up the torch. Terry Krieg, from Port Lincoln, is just one of many. These South Australians get inspiration from both national and overseas nuclear advocates.

Federal Liberal and Labor remain coyly silent.

However, the Department of Industry recently recommended Small Modular Nuclear Reactors that they say can be 

‘… readily dispatched into the market.’

This, despite the fact these designs exist only at the blueprint stage. It's not clear who was responsible for this extraordinary paper.

The Energy Policy Institute of Australia (EPI) says there has been

‘… significant technological advances in safe nuclear power generation, suggesting small modular reactors (SMRs) as being particularly suitable for use in mines and towns in remote locations in many parts of Australia.’ 

Business Council of Australia president Tony Shepherd, who is also on Tony Abbott’s Commission of Audit and who has a varied range of business interests, has also called for nuclear power to be placed "on the table".

Lowy Institute fellow John Carlson ‒ long involved in Australia's nuclear policy ‒ is a firm nuclear power supporter

He calls for a: 

"… multilaterally-based uranium enrichment centre in Australia." 

Queensland businessman Martin Nicholson joins the fray with the contemporary tactic of attacking renewable energy and rubbishing nuclear critics.

As in previous decades, overseas nuclear publicists are also a big part of the push.

The most active is the USA's Breakthrough Institute with its nuclear advertorial film "Pandora's Promise,  shown around Australia late last year.

Nuclear propagandists, such as nuclear physicist Wade Allison (UK) and nuclear engineer Rod Adams (USA) publish pro-nuclear articles and/or comments in Australian online journals.

Still the heartland of Australia's nuclear fuel cycle promotion is Adelaide

Alone among Australian climate academics, Adelaide University's Professor Barry Brook promotes nuclear with a propaganda website Brave New Climate — ostensibly about climate, but it's all nuclear.

Brook's Twitter account @decarboniseSA hosts tweets from very active pro-nuclear tweeters. I suspect that these tweeters are either paid to tweet by the nuclear industry, or employed in a nuclear related industry.

Tom Wigley, PhD in mathematical physics, University of Adelaide and Ben Heard of Think Climate Consulting, very actively promote the nuclear industry across many media platforms.

In Adelaide, Professor Stefan Simons pushes the USA military connection and the desirability of nuclear submarines for Australia. Simons’ research at University College London’s Adelaide campus is funded by BHP. 

Back in London, lecturers in UCL are not impressed with the pro-nuclear bias in his research: 

‘Senior lecturers have spoken out against University College London (UCL) Australia’s pro-nuclear, pro-shale gas research, claiming that strong industry ties make the idea it is independent “laughable”.'

Flinders University's Dr David Palmer comments:

“The issue is processing uranium for nuclear power that then can be used for defence. You have to understand this in terms of Adelaide — it’s a military industrial intelligence complex.

“Simons is connected to the University College of London, but basically he’s a front man for business interests. We can clearly question what he is doing, given the fact that he’s getting funding from indirect corporate sources."

Meanwhile, Palmer’s colleague at Flinders University, Professor Pamela Sykes, runs a program funded by USA’s Department of Energy, researching the proposition that low dose ionising radiation is good for health.

Business circles in Adelaide

Business SA has just come out for uranium enrichment, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) and nuclear waste dumping.

Said Business SA chief executive Nigel McBride:

"The first state in Australia which breaks through and builds a micro-power plant will be on to a winner." 

And there’s another bunch of Adelaide business people now enthusing about the nuclear fuel cycle for South Australia.

Nathan Paine, Chief Commercial Officer at the Property Council of Australia, said:

"The development of a domestic nuclear power sector could turn us into the "Dubai of Asia". You'd almost be able to give every South Australian ... when they turn 18, a cheque for $50,000 and a house." 

Defence Teaming Centre chief executive Chris Burns said:

"What we've got unique resources for in this state are for nuclear energy... Never sell it, only lease it and bring it back here to bury it. I think that's the industry for the state."

I don’t know why this diverse group of people is so passionately in favour of the full nuclear power cycle and radioactive waste dumping for South Australia. I can only suppose that they see South Australia as an economically depressed state and therefore envisage the nuclear developments as some kind of financial bonanza for the State.

And I ponder whether some academics covet the kind of notoriety achieved by being Australia’s only climate “experts” advocating nuclear power.

It distresses me that only one of people mentioned has any expertise in health and ionising radiation. That person is Professor Pamela Sykes, who has been co-opted by the USA Department of Energy to try to prove how healthy low dose radiation is.

Read more by Noel Wauchope at

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