South Australia Could Become A Nuclear Dump

15/02/2016 1:33 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Nuclear waste.

A nuclear waste dump may be part of South Australia's future following the release of Royal Commission findings into further developing the state's role in the nuclear industry.

But opponents say any potential nuclear waste site poses an unacceptable health risk.

Without nominating a site, the commission on Monday said the storage and disposal of used nuclear fuel in South Australia would meet a global need, while an integrated storage and disposal facility would be commercially viable and could be operational by the late 2020s.

Commissioner Kevin Scarce released the tentative findings in Adelaide ahead of a five-week feedback period.

“The Tentative Findings reflect the Commission’s current thinking and the evidence behind this,” Commissioner Scarce said.

“We have taken the somewhat unusual step of releasing our Tentative Findings to share with the community the evidence gathered into nuclear fuel cycle activities because we want South Australians to be involved in further refining, informing and improving the Commission’s report, which will be delivered in May.”

The report found a 138,000-tonne storage and disposal facility could generate total revenue of more than $257 billion, with total costs of $145 billion over 120 years, or $5 billion per year over the facility’s first 30 years of operation.

A State Wealth Fund taking 15 percent of profits would generate $6 billion a year for 70 years.

"Approximately $445 billion would accumulate before notional waste deliveries are planned to cease" the report said.

After more than 40 years it could raise $2 billion per year and generate approximately 1500 full-time jobs – peaking at between 4000-5000 -- during the 25-year construction process and 600 full time jobs once operational.

The commission reported the facility would need to be supported with construction of a dedicated port facility, airport and rail freight line.

Doctors for the Environment Australia said any participation in nuclear power generation poses unacceptable risks to health.

"The more resources (people, money, time, intellect, ideas) invested in the nuclear fuel cycle, the less capacity is left for South Australia and South Australians to think, act, and commit, to transition from unsustainable to sustainable methods of energy production," they said in a statement.

The commission's report also found it would not be commercially viable to generate electricity from a nuclear power plant in South Australia in the foreseeable future.

"However, Australia’s electricity system will require low-carbon generation sources to meet future global emissions reduction targets," the report found.

"Nuclear power may be necessary, along with other low carbon generation technologies. It would be wise to plan now to ensure that nuclear power would be available should it be required."

The Government has said it would require a minimum contract of 15,500 tonnes before it proceeded with establishing a facility, and would it would not take any waste until such a target was met.

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