The front page headline “Trash and treasure” on the February 16 edition of South Australia's only daily newspaper, The Advertiser, welcomed the recommendation from the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission for a nuclear waste dump in outback SA. The commission had cost a massive tax-payer funded $8 million.
Three full pages were given over to gushing endorsements, with headlines including “A $445 billion bonanza lies in store” and “An unimaginably huge bucket full of money”. Reporter Daniel Wells waxed lyrical: “Imagine Scrooge McDuck swimming through a money bin of glowing gold coins.”
In one article it was grudgingly admitted that at a February 15 public meeting, addressed by Commissioner Kevin Scarce, he was told to “bugger off” and “we say no to a nuclear dump”.
Scarce said there was no evidence to suggest a nuclear industry would spoil SA's clean and green image.
Federal resources minister Josh Frydenburg welcomed the “discussion” and Labor Premier Jay Weatherill has not rejected the waste dump. He has called for this “controversial issue” to be considered “in a respectful and intelligent way”.
Reaction from environment action groups was immediate and scathing. Arabunna elder and Australian Nuclear Free Alliance president Kevin Buzzacott asked: “Is this what we want to leave our children, the burden of dealing with radioactive waste that no other country wants or can deal with?”
Craig Wilkins from the Conservation Council said: “The Commission acknowledges that nuclear waste needs to be isolated for 'many thousands of years' yet there is no attempt to cost the management of waste over these timeframes.
“If there is one thing we know, the nuclear industry is expert at overstating the benefits and radically understating the costs and risks.”
Yankunytjatjara woman Karina Lester said she expected her people, who were victims of the Maralinga atomic bomb tests, to reject a dump on their land or anywhere else.
Craig Cook in the February 17 Advertiser reported widespread dismay from South Australia's country mayors. He said: “Their communities would need persuasion to see any merit in such a facility.”
Other issues include a poor historical record of cleaning up nuclear waste, the risk of accidents during transportation and health and safety concerns, not least from terrorism. Also the question was raised: if this is worth so much cash, why has no other country jumped in?
A public meeting organised by Anti-Nuclear Coalition SA (ANCSA) met on February 16. Speakers included anti-nuclear campaigners Helen Caldicott and Craig Wilkins. Professor of Environmental Mathematics at University of SA John Boland spoke of the "low carbon" deception of the nuclear industry and said it was time for SA to get big solar happening.
ANCSA has been meeting regularly since the Royal Commission began hearings last year. The next meeting is on February 25 at 6pm at the Joinery, 111 Franklin Street Adelaide. It is crucial for all environmental activists to get involved in the campaign against this immoral concept.