Nuclear waste

15 November 2016
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Mr SPEIRS ( Bright ) ( 15:40 ): I would like to take the opportunity today to put on the public record my views in relation to the Labor government's proposed nuclear waste dump. Firstly, I wish to state that I am not an anti-nuclear person. I am not scared of nuclear power, and I believe that, in the right circumstances, nuclear energy has a role to play in power production. 

When the government announced a nuclear royal commission, I was committed to being open-minded about the process and interested in seeing whether South Australia could establish a viable economic platform in the nuclear industry, although I could not help but cynically think that this work might be a smoke and mirrors exercise, an attempt by a failing government with questionable leadership to project an image of boldness and creativity in the face of serious economic challenges, but I still gave this process the benefit of the doubt. 

When the royal commission handed down its findings, it concluded that South Australia had little to gain economically from most phases of the nuclear fuel cycle but said that it felt that the only element viable for further exploration was the final part of the cycle—the storage of high-level, unwanted nuclear waste from around the world. As I said earlier, I am not an anti-nuclear advocate, but I cannot support the idea of my home state putting its hand up and saying to the rest of the world, 'Bring your rubbish here.' 

That rubbish is high-level nuclear waste which, according to the royal commission's report, requires isolation from the environment for many hundreds of thousands of years. I cannot support that for a variety of reasons. I cannot support it because the economics of the case are far from certain, requiring huge up-front expenditure before undetermined revenues begin to flow. It is a very simplified analogy, but we can hardly predict the price of a barrel of oil next month never mind the price we are likely to be paid for the storage of a barrel of nuclear waste, a commodity which is not currently traded and which has no price placed on it. 

For the commission to attempt to put any price on nuclear waste is total fantasy, in my view, and cannot be relied upon at all. The economic case also fails to take into consideration potential damage to our food and wine production and tourism industries. I cannot support the proposed dump because it places the onus of responsibility on future generations, who will be unlikely to benefit from the relatively short-term boost in our state's revenues but who will have to manage the waste facilities and all the issues that come with it for hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of years into the future. 

It should also be noted that there is no great jobs bonanza predicted from the dump—1,500 jobs might be created during construction and 600 ongoing jobs would be needed, and this would not be transformative to our state's employment situation. I cannot support the dump because it creates a sovereign risk for South Australia. It is naive to assume that Australia will never be part of a war in the future. Nuclear waste lasts for a long time and the proposed facility could easily become a terrorism target. 

I cannot support the dump because the state government has shown little capacity to be able to effectively deliver comparatively straightforward projects. The new Royal Adelaide Hospital still unused, behind schedule and over budget is a glaring example that this government cannot manage major projects. I cannot support the dump because South Australia's Aboriginal people have categorically ruled out their support for it. 

Finally, I cannot support this project because the government has failed miserably to secure any sort of broad public support for it. The consultation process has been shambolic. It has had two parts: a shameless promotional exercise led by the ironically named Consultation and Response Agency (known as CARA), the agency set up to support the royal commission; and a two-part citizens' jury, an engagement technique which the Premier once championed but now chooses to ignore because it has not given him the answer he wanted. 

The promotional exercise claimed to be consultation but it was anything but. It was destined to get off to a terrible start when the marketing gurus (who were, no doubt, paid extortionately well for their particular brand of genius) came up with the catch phrase 'Know nuclear'. Marketing 101 surely taught these gurus that to use homophones (that is, words that sound the same but are spelt differently) in marketing campaigns is dangerous, stupid and just the basic no-no (that is, n-o n-o, not k-n-o-w k-n-o-w). 

The citizens' jury was, by all accounts, a well-run process, but it appears to have been hamstrung by interference from the government, particularly from bureaucrats from CARA who panicked when they saw the likely outcome. The decision of the jury to reject the dump by a majority of two-thirds to one-third is mirrored in my own electorate-based survey, and I believe this to be an accurate reflection of the general views held by South Australians. In the words of those marketing gurus engaged by CARA, I am saying on behalf of my community: no—that is, n-o—to a nuclear dump for South Australia. 

Extracted from Hansard