By Jim Green
A survey commissioned by Greenpeace has revealed a strong anti-nuclear sentiment in the Australian population. The survey, conducted by Insight Research Australia in late September and early October, involved telephone interviews with 1043 people around Australia.
Insight Research Australia said, "The Australian people have been shown to be deeply concerned about nuclear waste and very strongly opposed to Australia becoming a 'dumping ground' for the world's nuclear waste. This level of concern was shown to be consistent across all age groups and all social strata, no matter where in Australia people are living."
A massive 85% thought the federal parliament should pass legislation to ban the import of foreign nuclear waste. Only 9% opposed such legislation and 6% were undecided.
Pangea Resources wants to dump high-level nuclear waste from overseas in Western Australia or South Australia. To put the proposal in perspective, Greenpeace says that the 75,000 tonne figure mentioned by Pangea is 233,644 times the amount of spent reactor fuel that has been produced by the Lucas Heights reactor in Sydney over 44 years of operation.
Only 23% of the survey said they supported the federal government's proposal to send all of Australia's nuclear waste to South Australia for disposal. Fifty-five per cent were against it and 22% were undecided.
Significantly, 86% of South Australian respondents opposed dumping. The strong opposition to a national dump in SA takes on added significance because the plan to build a new reactor in Sydney is heavily dependent on there being a waste dump in SA. Moreover, a national dump could facilitate Pangea Resources' plans for an international dump.
Opposition to the planned dump is likely to rise as the government's duplicity becomes more widely known. The dump is being sold as a "national" dump, but the head of radioactive waste management at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation has acknowledged that the "major fraction" of the waste sent to the dump will be from ANSTO.
That is, the planned dump is nothing more than a clearing exercise for ANSTO, designed to reduce opposition to the building of a new reactor in Sydney.
The government's duplicity regarding higher level nuclear wastes from nuclear reprocessing will also generate further opposition the more widely it is understood. The government tells South Australians that there are no firm plans to send reprocessing wastes to SA, while Sydneysiders are assured that reprocessing wastes will be sent to SA, not stored at Lucas Heights.
Eighty-three per cent of survey respondents believe that the federal government should spend as much on alternative renewable technologies as it does on nuclear technology. More people were undecided about this (9%) than were opposed to it (8%).
Younger people, in particular, expressed support for renewable, alternative technologies for power generation and medical and scientific applications.
According to Greenpeace, funding for renewable energy over the next four years will be $321 million, while funding for ANSTO and the planned new reactor will be $472-686 million.
Only 15% of respondents thought that Australia should build a new nuclear reactor; 75% opposed a new reactor, while 10% were undecided. Opposition to a new reactor was equally strong in NSW and other states.
Commenting on the survey, Jean McSorley from Greenpeace International said, "The Australian nuclear industry is attempting to create what it terms a 'nuclear renaissance'. Such a misguided renaissance can only happen if either the problem of nuclear waste is ignored or a solution found. A solution ... is highly unlikely to arise within the near future ...
"The driving forces behind the nuclear renaissance in Australia are organisations and individuals who put short-term gain before the long-term consequences of their actions. These people must be very naive if they think the public will forgive them for the nuclear waste legacy their activities leave behind."