House debates

Monday, 29 February 2016

Statements by Members

Nuclear Energy

1:30 pm

Photo of Melissa ParkeMelissa Parke (Fremantle, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Health) Share this | Hansard source

The South Australian nuclear fuel cycle royal commission's tentative findings included:

… it would not be commercially viable to generate electricity from a nuclear power plant in South Australia in the foreseeable future.

Indeed, the only aspect of the nuclear fuel cycle the royal commission suggested could be profitable is the importation of high-level nuclear waste.

However, the Friends of the Earth observe:

… the revenue estimates have no basis in reality. There is no comparable overseas model of commercial trade of nuclear waste for disposal. No real idea how many countries might avail themselves of the opportunity to send nuclear waste to Australia for disposal, or how much they might send, or how much they might pay.

The Jacob's report, commissioned by the royal commission, estimated that the cost over 120 years for construction, operation and decommissioning a nuclear waste repository would be $145 billion, yet the royal commission report itself notes that spent nuclear fuel:

… requires isolation from the environment for many hundreds of thousands of years.

What the cost would be of monitoring the repository for millennia is not addressed in the report.

The only deep underground repository for nuclear waste anywhere in the world is the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. It was supposed to be accident-free for 200,000 years, but was closed within the first 15 years in 2014 because of a chemical explosion which ruptured a nuclear waste barrel and resulted in 23 workers being exposed to radiation.

As ACF points out, any plan for international nuclear waste storage would require bipartisan federal support and broad national community consent, which are currently lacking. Certainly, the ALP's national platform provides that Labor remains strongly opposed.


Mark Duffett
Posted on 1 Mar 2016 11:31 am (Report this comment)

FoE and ACF are not credible sources of information in these matters. Parke would do well to listen to other, better credentialled voices. We are all exposed to radiation every day; the exposure from the WIPP was minuscule. As would be the cost of monitoring. The thing about radioactive material is radiates. Very easy and cheap to detect.