Ten things to worry about concerning South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission

scrutiny-Royal-CommissionRadioactive Waste Management in Australia: The federal government’s revised search for a national facility ACF briefing paper: March 2015 Continuing issues and concerns:  “……·      The Government seems determined to establish a site before the next federal election, which is expected in the second half of 2016. There is no apparent plan in place if a suitable site cannot be found according to the assessment criteria in the proposed timeframe. There are no social or technical reasons to rush a decision that demands the highest quality decision-making, as the facilities currently storing the majority of Australia’s nuclear waste are secure and can provide adequate storage for many years.

  • Despite a wide range of civil society organisations calling for an independent Inquiry into the full range of nuclear waste management options, including decentralised storage, the Government appears set on a centralised co-located facility without an objective assessment of other management options.
  • The revised process allows for nominations of land from any State or Territory. South Australia, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory all have legislation in place prohibiting the storage or disposal of externally produced nuclear waste on their land. The National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012, (section 19) provides the federal government with the power to override these laws. Such a scenario undermines the commitment to ‘volunteerism’, as the democratic rights of the affected electorate would be violated. The federal government has stated that if ‘a freehold landowner put forward a site to become a nuclear waste dump, states or territories would not have veto powers, but the Government did not want to impose its decision without consultation’.
  • The Government has asked all nominators to give consent to public disclosure of the nomination and currently states that it will make nominations public. Ongoing monitoring during the nomination period is required to ensure this occurs and to inform our understanding of community attitudes in nominated regions.
  • The Government has stated its intention to engage with the regional communities in which short-listed sites are located, but does not declare consent by the community to be a condition for final site selection. Furthermore, an Independent Advisory Panel has been established whose objective is partly to develop a site identification methodology that best reflects stakeholder and community values. However, a truly inclusive approach should go beyond the identification stage and include actual consent to the siting. So far, the Department of Industry has only expressed that it may seek evidence of community support.
  • ‘A package of benefits may also be negotiated with the community of the selected site in recognition of the potential development, construction and operational impacts of the facility.’ No details have so far been given on the potential amount and duration of benefits, and this remains a point to observe and brief targeted communities on.
  • Further clarity is also needed in relation to the proposed National Repository Capital Contribution Fund – a fund of at least $10 million, which is a provision of the Act to enhance public services and/ or infrastructure in the State or Territory hosting the selected site. It remains unclear who makes decisions referring to this allocation and on what basis.
  • According to the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012, section 9 (3) the Minister does not have a duty to consider a nomination. This leaves potential for the un-justified preference of some nominations over others and requires monitoring.
  • It is currently uncertain what the position of the Government is on the potential withdrawal of nominations. This, however, seems to be an essential factor to consider in relation to ‘volunteerism’ and the decision making of interested landowners.
  • Compensation for the acquisition of the declared site is open to negotiations but supposed to be guided by a Land Value Calculation and a premium of 3 times the established market price. For 100 hectares of land in remote Australia, this does not equate to a large financial incentive for the landowner. Furthermore, ‘the Commonwealth reserves its right to determine, at its sole discretion, any offer it makes for the acquisition of property’, potentially making the compensation issue less transparent.
  • The actual declaration of a nominated site as the chosen one for a facility gives the Minister the right to acquire adjacent or related land required to access the declared site and may therefore affect the rights of community members, again a potential interference with the concept of ‘volunteerism’ and an issue to alert affected communities to…..
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