Hypocrisy in South Australian Premier’s undemocratic Nuclear Royal Commission

Only on the question of the importation, storage and disposal of nuclear waste is the inquiry up-front. This is seen as a definite goer. A big bold tick for the world’s unloved and unwanted nuclear waste. Oh, and by the way, this includes fuel originating from SA’s uranium via “fuel leasing”. The plan is to store the waste for over a decade before it is disposed.

This happens to be just the sort of time delay that would allow the setting up of a plant to produce fresh
uranium fuel from the spent fuel. Another discretely hidden tick, this time for processing.

Dr Dennis Matthews (BSc Hon, PhD), 15 Feb 16   After setting up an inquiry with biased terms of reference, chaired by a person with known sympathies for the nuclear industry, and appointing a committee calculated to support a pro-nuclear agenda, Premier Jay Weatherill now says, with his best poker-face, that this will be a test for democracy.

Well may Jay say that this is a test for democracy, because in setting the test he has bastardised democracy and is now endeavouring to head off any objections. One can almost hear the storm troopers rattling their swords as they look forward to putting down anyone with the temerity to challenge the beloved leader.

The so-called “tentative findings” of Weatherill’s mock democratic consultation are as devious as the man himself.

Weatherill would like us to believe that all he is doing is setting up a nuclear waste industry that will bring untold economic benefits to SA, benefits which the rest of the world seems significantly less eager to embrace, especially those with mature nuclear industries generating this noxious product.

In fact, this travesty of an inquiry is preparing the ground for a full-on nuclear SA with uranium mining, nuclear waste importation, nuclear fuel manufacturing and nuclear power.

The inquiry nonchalantly skips over the issue of uranium mining, ignoring the way in which public concerns were crushed, ignoring the deceitful claim that the Olympic Dam mine at Roxby Downs was really just a copper mine and that the uranium was incidental, and allowing fly-by-night uranium mining companies to pollute the underground water with toxic and radioactive elements by injecting sulphuric acid into the aquifers. All of this covered by the statement “expansion of uranium mining has the potential to be economically viable”. A big tick for uranium mining from an undemocratic inquiry.

When it comes to further uranium processing the inquiry says that there is no opportunity for SA in the next decade. It follows this with support for fuel leasing which links overseas use of SA uranium with the return to SA of the uranium as spent nuclear fuel, which leaves the door open for reprocessing in SA. A sly way of giving a tick to uranium processing.

On the question of nuclear power the inquiry is quite clear that this would not be commercially viable in the foreseeable future. Given that, like most of the proposals, setting up a nuclear power station in SA would take something of the order of a decade and that much legislative, regulatory and training work would have to be done in order for this to happen, then this is not very re-assuring. Sure enough, the inquiry says “It would be wise to plan now to ensure that nuclear power would be available should it be required”. In other words, the inquiry supports nuclear power, but we have to do all the preparatory work first. Another big tick, hidden behind a gauze curtain.

Only on the question of the importation, storage and disposal of nuclear waste is the inquiry up-front. This is seen as a definite goer. A big bold tick for the world’s unloved and unwanted nuclear waste. Oh, and by the way, this includes fuel originating from SA’s uranium via “fuel leasing”. The plan is to store the waste for over a decade before it is disposed. This happens to be just the sort of time delay that would allow the setting up of a plant to produce fresh uranium fuel from the spent fuel. Another discretely hidden tick, this time for processing.

So, the inquiry actually gives Weatherill and his mates in the nuclear industry everything they ever wanted. Too bad they weren’t prepared to be up front with the SA public. But I guess that’s democracy for you.

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