“Nuclear waste, what a disgrace,” was chanted loud and clear by more than 100 participants in the Walk Against Nuclear Waste Importation as they gathered on the steps of the Willunga Hub on August 24.
Inside was a consultation team who welcomed the walkers with feedback forms and Know Nuclear information packs, taking an opportunity to inform the community about what the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission recommendation on storing international radioactive waste.
“The proposal before us is an economic one: $5.5 billion per annum, $445 billion over the life of the facility,” said John Phalen, Director, Engagement, Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Consultation and Response Agency.
“What we are asking people to do is examine the opportunity,” he said.
“But there are some risks that go along with this; it’s radioactive material.
“There are a number of countries that produce nuclear power but they don’t have the criteria to store the radioactive waste underground.
“Australia does have that criteria.
“It has stable geology, it has stable political systems, and therefore South Australia can provide a solution for those countries.”
But is it right for South Australians?
A statewide consultation program is asking this question, with Willinga, Strathalbyn and Victor Harbor among the 100 selected sites for Know Nuclear representatives to talk to local communities.
“I don’t think nuclear dumping is good for our environment or our future,” said Jeffrey Simmons.
“Especially when we take it from other parts of the world.”
Sherilee Williams agreed. She said she had a deep respect for the land and its traditional owners since walking from central Australia’s Dingo Fence to Mount Compass a few years ago.
“They (the state government) are thinking South Australia’s desert is a wasteland but it’s a sacred place; it’s a place of healing,” she said.
“My experiences in the desert goes very deep. For me, it’s much more than economics.
“That’s why I’ve come here today; I’d like to be more educated about the issue and to ask what the government plans to do, because once it’s here, it’s here forever.”
Nine-year-old Amanda Sweet was one of about 200 visitors to the Willunga Hub who filled out the Know Nuclear feedback form.
“I want to find out about the (nuclear waste) dump,” she said.
Mr Phalen thanked the community for providing feedback, which he will take back to the government.
“We’ve heard a wide range of views today,” he said.
“They’ve been quite balanced but most importantly it’s been a good discussion.”
Community consultation runs until October. Feedback forms are available at nuclear.yoursay.sa.gov.au
Living in a radioactive environment
Boris Sopotsko from Hallett Cove grew up in St Petersburg, Russia, 40 kilometres from a nuclear power plant and remembers as a child being taught where to run, where to hide, and what to eat after an explosion or leak.
“I hate the idea so much,” he said, referring to an international nuclear waste storage facility proposed for South Australia.
“It makes me feel ill.
“I remember our school had a gas mask for every single student and an under ground shelter; a nuclear bomb shelter.
“The walls had posters showing us how to check which way the wind was blowing and what to do to avoid contaminated rains.
“We were well trained, but that doesn’t mean we’d survive.”
Mr Sopotsko feared for the state’s future and said he actively opposed the importing, storing and burying of international nuclear waste in South Australia.
“Nuclear waste from all over the world is clearly a concern, especially when shipping in high seas,” he said.
He said transporting the material on roads and rail posed a safety risk: “you freeze with dread at the sight,” he remembers.
Storing the waste above ground was also a concern. “We live in a time when the West has enemies,” he said. “This would be an easy target.”
Underground storage poses a contamination risk to soil and water. “Germany’s waste deposit in Lower Saxony has experienced an underground radioactive leak and people’s resistance against further storage is very strong.”
Prosperity: “will South Australians get the contracts?”
“There are very few countries in the world that have the level of expertise we need to build and manage nuclear waste,” Mr Sopotsko said.
“The government say it will generate billions of dollars for the state, but for me, the reality is that the cost too high.”
- In March 2015 the state government established the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.
- The Royal Commission found economic opportunities existed for South Australia to import, store and bury nuclear waste from other countries.
- A Citizens’ Jury considered the Royal Commission findings.
- A state-wide consultation program followed, and will run until October, asking South Australians to consider the evidence and understand the opportunities and risks.
- A second Citizen’s Jury will review community feedback and report to Premier Jay Weatherill in November.
- In December the South Australian Government will consider the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
Visit nuclear.sa.gov.au to find out more.
Have your say at nuclear.yoursay.sa.gov.au