Comparing Finland to South Australia ‘a waste of time’

The Onkalo nuclear waste repository in Finland.

South Australia’s peak environment body Conservation SA warned on September 19 that a nuclear waste repository under construction in Finland has few lessons for the high-level nuclear waste dump proposed for SA.

Conservation SA CEO Craig Wilkins said there were so many differences between the Finnish and SA nuclear waste plans that Premier Jay Weatherill’s current study trip there would provide little insight.

“Comparing Finland to South Australia is a waste of time as the two nuclear dump plans are completely different,” he said.

“It’s like comparing apples and oranges — or in this case, lemons. If the Premier wants to see an operating deep underground nuclear waste facility, he should go to New Mexico’s $25 billion Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in the US.

“The New Mexico plant is the only example anywhere in the world of an operating deep underground repository. The problem is, it’s currently shut down after an explosion and fire and facing a potential clean-up bill of billions more.”

Conservation SA said there are six major differences between the South Australian and Finnish nuclear waste dumps.

  • The SA proposal is 20 times larger. The Finnish facility is designed to take 6500 tonnes of waste. SA proposes taking on 138,000 tonnes.
  • Finland has taken 30 years of community consultation and development to date. In SA there has been barely 18 months.
  • Finnish waste will go straight from nearby cooling ponds to underground storage. Importing waste to Australia involves it travelling thousands of kilometres on sea and land, with decades of stockpiling nuclear waste above ground.
  • SA will need to build four or five purpose-built facilities from scratch while the Finns only need to build one new facility. Finland has not finished building its nuclear waste facility, let alone proved it can safely operate it.
  • Finland has managed high-level nuclear waste for decades. SA hasn’t even got a central repository for low-level nuclear waste.
  • The Finnish facility will only take its own domestic waste. SA plans to store high-level nuclear waste to make a profit and the more money spent on safety the less profits (if any) it will make.

Wilkins said one thing was likely to affect SA in the same way as Finland — cost blowouts. “The cost of the Finnish disposal plan has blown out by billions of dollars,” he said.

“That’s not surprising as virtually every new nuclear-related build anywhere in the world goes well over budget. However, if SA experiences a similar cost blow-out to Finland, that will virtually guarantee no profits at all, potentially sending South Australia bankrupt.”

For more information about the SA nuclear waste dump visit the website.

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