Nuclear National Consent Absent

by Des Menz posted in Nuclear Energy and Waste

Where is the federal government in this whole nuclear fuel cycle debate, particularly in the most contentious issue of all, storage of imported high-level nuclear waste?

When I attended one of the state-wide “nuclear community consultation” roadshows in Clare on 12 September 2016, I put to two of the government officers present about the lack of consultation with the whole Australian population. After all, the Royal Commission avoided this, and so has the state government. 

There has been little, if any, mention in the media about the inclusion of the wider Australian population in the South Australian nuclear waste storage proposal.

The whole matter of nuclear waste storage on the continent of Australia, is a national issue, not just one that is deemed to be acceptable by a single state government.

Federal Government Can Only Call The Shots

Which organisation is responsible for uranium exports in Australia? The federal government.

Which organisation is responsible for uranium imports in to Australia? The federal government.

Which organisation is responsible solely for the licensing, storing, use, and transport of uranium and nuclear material in Australia? The federal government.

The federal government is continuing right now with the long-running investigation for a National Radioactive Waste Repository for domestic low-level and intermediate-level nuclear waste. This has been a federal responsibility for more than 30 years. So if the national government thinks that low level domestic nuclear waste storage is a national issue, then why not a high-level nuclear waste storage operation that has exceedingly greater national impact?

The federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 regulates “nuclear actions” as “Matters of National Environmental Significance”.

Any high-level nuclear waste that enters Australia would need to traverse Australia’s maritme boundaries; this is a federal responsibility. The Royal Commission failed to understand this. 

Federal Government Missing In Action

Up to this particular time, and we are now nearing the end of the "community consultation” period (31 October 2016), the federal government has displayed no appetite to become involved in the process of the Royal Commission and the subsequent consultation, excpet in presenting a weak submission. It has side-stepped its national responsibilities, but of much greater concern it has ignored its responsibility to the general public.

But we know that the federal government has been deeply interested in offering a solution to at least one country, the United States, to take its nuclear waste. I have described this in my report Nuclear? Getting Clear On The Other Facts.

For its part, the South Australian government, with the complicity of the federal government, has overridden, or consciously ignored, or has simply failed to consider, the national interest on three key matters;

  • first, by using the vehicle of a Royal Commission to embark on a dubious concept with very significant national impact
  • second, by continuing the investigations, unlawful as they were, arising from the Royal Commission without the involvement of the rest of the Australian population
  • third, with the complicity of the federal government, the South Australian government has placed itself above the other members of the federation, where no consultation has occurred with the other states 

Is it in Australia’s national interest to allow South Australia to import 138,000 tonnes (the figure promoted in the Royal Commission report) of high-level nuclear waste to be stored somewhere on the Australian continent?

The federal government has failed miserably in allowing South Australia to do its own bidding on what is exclusively a national issue.

Other posts in this series

Nuclear Untold Facts

Nuclear Waste Dump or Bust

Nuclear Dump Not Economical

Bizarre Nuclear Dream or Panacea?

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