South Australia's plan to store the world's radioactive waste also provides the necessary impetus for Australia's nuclear industry to begin the development of reactors. Noel Wauchope reports.
However, recent pro-nuclear submissions to the South Australian Parliament’s Joint Committee on Findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission have instead focussed on the benefits of "new nuclear" technology, particularly "small modular reactors" (SMRs) — note how the word "nuclear" is left out since people distrust it.
The global nuclear lobby is keenly interested in the South Australian government's plan to import nuclear waste, because it would solve the waste problem for nuclear companies wanting to sell reactors and particularly, new types of nuclear reactors, to Asian countries.
I was surprised that out of 55 submissions to the South Australian Joint Committee on Findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, only five were pro-nuclear.
However, despite the NFCRC's distinct lack of enthusiasm for new nuclear technology, three of those five submissions were focussed, not on waste importing, but on new nuclear reactors.
Ben Heard's whole argument is directed at new reactors:
Our research indicates that South Australia could make a significant contribution in this technology development beginning at a modest reinvestment of revenues from used fuel.
Many nations in this region already exploit nuclear technology however this use is constrained by lack of a back-end solution…… The availability of a multinational solution for the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle could change these investment decisions profoundly.
Heard backs up his argument by playing the climate card of nuclear being "low carbon" and so on.
Dayne Eckermann writes:
'The main motivation for myself and others to embrace and openly support this technology is its immense power output from a relative small facility.'
And the South Australia Chamber of Mines and Energy's (SACOME's) view:
Australia’s well-equipped political, legal and educational structures mean that a reactor program could – with the support of experienced international partners – be started swiftly
SACOME strongly believes that the advances in small modular reactors and advanced reactor designs will provide the necessary facilities to be able to service remote mine clusters and townships where economical to do so.
Of the remaining two submissions, one from Leighton Smith was short — a very few lines of general support for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission waste import plan. And the other submission from Graeme Weber, was confined to a recommendation of the Gawler Range Volcanics as a site for waste facility.
I understand that, for the Parliamentary Committee, all submissions were actually published. This is in contrast to the NFCRC process, in which submissions from interested parties such as foreign nuclear companies were kept confidential.
While Premier Weatherill's propaganda campaign rolls on with a somewhat simplified story on the nuclear waste import plan, the serious players in the Australian nuclear lobby, are holding their fire for now, with only those three submissions to the Parliamentary Committee. Like Oscar Archer, at the beginning of the NFCRC saga, they are primarily keen for "new nuclear", with the waste import as a necessary prelude. Still, all of them realise that the first steps are to change laws and associated regulations, such as:
- State Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000.
- Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 2000,
- Customs Act 1901
- Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1999
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Act 1987
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