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Issue #1721      March 2, 2016

Editorial

Nuke industry targets SA

South Australians are being bombarded with media messages boosting the “benefits” of nuclear industries and ridiculing their opponents. People with concerns over the controversial proposals being bandied about are accused of promoting the “rainbow warrior mythologies of the hard left” and engaging in “Midnight Oil-style gesture politics”, according to the Australian Financial Review. Sledging from the pro-nuclear sector has kicked up since the release of the “tentative recommendations” of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission headed by former SA Governor and retired Rear Admiral, Kevin Scarce.

The state is suffering high unemployment already and the situation is set to become disastrous when General Motors Holden stops vehicle production next year. The nuclear lobby is exploiting this vulnerability to sell some very doubtful goods to a wary public. To nobody’s surprise, the recommendations coming from the Royal Commission are for a waste dump to be established in the state and for other nuclear options, including power generation, to remain open.

A dump (officially a “storage facility” or even “repository”) for high level nuclear waste is being sold as a jobs and finance bonanza. It is projected to cost $147 billion over the claimed 120 year life of the dump but bring in $257 billion in revenue over the same period. A handy $5 billion a year would be put into a sovereign wealth fund for the cash-strapped state. The people of SA are right to be sceptical. Last year SA senator Sean Edwards said that nuclear power would mean free electricity for residents of the state.

The Royal Commission found that nuclear energy would not be economical for the “foreseeable future” because of relatively flat demand for electricity and the unexpected and, for some corporations, unwelcome success of wind and solar power generation. If, at some stage, Australia needs to hurry up its efforts to get to a zero emission target for power generation by 2050, the nuclear option is back on the table.

Nuclear power is still being sold as “clean” and “safe” energy in spite of the fact that other countries are prepared to pay $1.75 million per tonne to store their waste in South Australia. Commissioner Scarce stunned an audience at the Adelaide Town Hall with the claim that even the major nuclear accidents over the decades, the most recent of which took place at Fukushima, have not resulted in serious consequences for human health.

The federal government is looking kindly on developments in SA. The Liberal party has had a pro-nuclear stance for many decades and a Howard-era inquiry into the nuclear option came back with a big thumbs up. Josh Frydenberg, the Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia, says it would be a “brave” federal government that stood between the people of SA and their preferred options for the future. The corporate media drum beat is that the community is changing its mind on nuclear industries and their safety record.

At odds with the claim that there is hardly the need to discuss such a benign proposition, Australia’s “safe” credentials are being sold. The country is politically and geologically stable and we have vast “empty” areas to dump the nuclear cast-offs. The spirit of Terra Nullius is alive and well in the current, national nuclear “conversation”. Assurances about Australia’s supposed high technical standards were undermined recently with revelations that the ship carrying treated nuclear waste back to Australia from France was a flag of convenience “ship of shame” of doubtful suitability with a low paid crew.

Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians would be well advised to resist state and federal government agendas, particularly the reckless proposition for a high grade waste dump in SA. It’s a foot in the door for the whole nasty, antiquated industry. The argument will go “seeing we currently store high grade waste, we may as well have the power generation that could use it.” And, as can be seen during various diplomatic showdowns around the world, if a country has nuclear power generation, it is an open question whether they have or are developing nuclear weapons. Australia mustn’t buy into this nightmare.

Next article – CPA Greetings on IWD

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