(OT?) Australia - What price radioactive waste dumps?

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Please note the USA - Australian connection. Also where the juice that runs your computer comes from. This is 'hot' gossip in OZ and extreme viewpoints are common.

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What price radioactive waste dumps in Australia?

SOONER rather than later, Australia needs to reach a national consensus over whether or not to provide sites for storage of the nuclear waste of other countries.

The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, made a quietish visit to Australia last week, during which he had conversations with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Industry, Resources and Science Minister Nick Minchin. I don't know what he said to them, but in an interview, ElBaradei, an urbane 58-year-old Egyptian lawyer, declared that the establishment of permanent waste repositories would become imperative within the next 20 years.

He added that it was not feasible for each nuclear nation to establish its own repository. Most were densely populated and had few open spaces. Nor did their territories have the necessary geological stability. ElBaradei was too urbane to add that some did not have the political stability, either.

The need for international disposal sites would grow. The world's use of electricity was expected to triple in 50 years, especially rapidly in Asia.

The main sources of power would be fossil and nuclear.

No containment by urbanity can hide the fact that Australia, with the broadest of open spaces and riches of stability, geological and social, is under expectant scrutiny.

Expectations will not be easily realised. Australia sends its own low-level radioactive waste  from scientific and medical use  to France for reprocessing. Our sometimes illogically feverish opposition to uranium mining is almost part of our national culture.

Yet, before long, the question will arise, internationally: if not Australia, where?

Cessation of nuclear power production is out of the question. It would ruin countries such as Japan, and smother development in others.

The US has a moratorium on construction of new nuclear plants because of the waste disposal problem, but no other country enjoys the US's plenitude of fossil and hydro energy. In any case, the 133 existing plants in the US continue to produce waste.

Having paid into a fund to finance its disposal, in some cases for decades, US nuclear power companies are threatening to sue the Department of Energy for not honouring its responsibility to remove and store the waste.

The department has chosen a site for deep underground burial of waste, primarily military, at Mt Yucca, in Nevada. Some construction has been done  but will local authorities and residents allow completion? The Department of Energy has held public briefings this month at places such as Terrible's Lakeside Casino, and is to accept written comments until February 28.

There are large tracts of open land in Nevada, northern Utah, New Mexico and Arizona that look a lot like outback Australia, and have similar waterless geological structures. This is where the US department has concentrated its search for disposal sites.

Separately, a consortium of nuclear power plants has struck a recent, possibly ephemeral deal with a Native American tribe in Utah to construct a repository on its reservation.

Anti-nuclear protest flourishes in this four-state region. Greenpeace is heavily involved. In phenomenally trendy Santa Fe, you buy your bumper stickers from places such as Herbs Etc, the Store Different and the Home Planet Cafe. Whatever I think of such soldiers of the alternative culture, they have a constituency.

Australia has been introduced to similar experiences by a company called Pangea, which wants to build an underground nuclear waste depository 10km long and 2km wide in the inland north of Western Australia, served by a dedicated new-built port and railway line.

The state Government is against it and a spokesman for Minchin says: "Pangea doesn't stand a chance." Possibly it doesn't deserve to, although Australian of the Year Sir Gustav Nossal is one of its consultants and supporters, and the company's Australian representatives are agreeably forthright.

THE company name is, on the one hand, a neat borrowing from the name of the vast continent from which our present continents broke and, on the other, a creation of corporate planners with no ear for science fiction menace.

British Nuclear Fuels, wholly owned by the British Government, owns 70 per cent of Pangea, along with some private investors, many at least ostensibly Swiss. With the world waste-disposal industry estimated to be worth more than $200 billion, Tony Blair's Government intends to privatise its majority slice of Pangea soon.

Typical British hide, I'd say. Australia stores the deadly leftovers. They take the money. But British avarice should not be hard to quell, and Australia's virtually unique suitability for nuclear waste storage is not something that can be sidestepped, nor shouted down by ideologues, nor usefully discussed on an emotional high.

When the University of Western Australia held a seminar on the subject last year, demonstrators brought children in mutant outfits and gas masks to the party. This kind of display simply scrambles the brain. Apart from its effect on the children.

ElBaradei persuasively, if theoretically, describes an international waste disposal site as a great world asset. He also says that none should be built without local and international consensus on its safety. There should, he says, be no secrets in reaching this consensus.

Mt Yucca is the world's first permanent underground storage installation for waste with a radioactive life of thousands of years  if it comes to fruition. It is a place for Australians to keep a calm eye on.


The South Australian State Parliament has reassured the people in Hansard record that we will not become the dumping ground of the world. However Senator Nick Minchin, Liberal SA, said this is a Federal issue and he will seriously consider reactive waste material dumping. Nick Minchin is the chosen one by the big business end of town.

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), February 09, 2000


Just working away this morning thinking things through. I recall that the dump storage target ground is at Roxby Downs, central Australia region. The stuff has got to be transported there. We have no railtracks going that way, so roads are it. Have you ever seen the trucks they use? They'll go through suburbs. They'll go by your rural residence. Highly toxic stuff shipped on an ocean of ennui until the spillage is on your doorstep. And you don't give shit? Right?

I think a plebiscite on this issue would fail Down Under. That's why we'll never have a say on the matter....hmmmm. Take care of your own waste when you make it...

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), February 09, 2000.

I think that the other countries can bugger off and store their nuclear crap in their own backyard , not mine. If they insist upon using nuclear technology then THEY can deal with the byproduct.

-- XOR (drwizzard@usa.net), February 09, 2000.

XOR and Pieter, I agree! Its like my own country here, America wants to dump waste from US Nuke plants on you guys... why don't they dump it at all the military bases they are closing here, or are they full of UN vehicles and military hardware...?

I think its wrong to turn over my garbage to my neighbor... I make it...I get rid of it safety! Don't let these liberal left-wing creeps step foot on your turf! BRyan

-- SB Ryan G III (sbrg3@juno.com), February 09, 2000.

The State of Nevada is seriously concerned about the suitability of Yucca Mountain for a nuclear waste repository. Its 1995 Notice of Intent -- (NOI) for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain at http://www.state.nv.us/nucwaste/eis/ymr-eis.htm reviews the many potential problems in considerable detail. Any popular movement opposing a nuclear waste dump in Australia should become familiar with this document. Examples:
"This page contains a summary of the State of Nevada's comments on the Notice of Intent (NOI) for a Geologic Repository for the Disposal of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Yucca Mountain is located in southern Nevada about 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The site is currently being studied as a potential repository for disposal of civilian spent fuel and defense high-level waste, a total of about 85,000 metric tons of waste. The comments which follow were prepared by the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects on behalf of the State of Nevada in response to the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) NOI for preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain. Publication of DOE's Repository EIS is scheduled for fiscal year 1999."

1.3 Overall Scope of the Yucca Mountain EIS

"The impacts associated with the proposed high-level radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, 80 miles from Las Vegas and about 2,500 miles from many eastern U.S. reactors, will affect the State of Nevada as well as at least 42 other states and hundreds of cities and communities located along highways and rail lines that would be used for waste transportation. The program that the Environmental Impact Statement must address is unprecedented for a federal project in its scope, time frame, and the geographical area it encompasses. It is also unique in that the EIS must address not only the more traditional effects of a large and complex project - impacts to the environment, to public health and safety, to area populations, and to state and local economies - but the EIS must also address those impacts that derive from the highly controversial nature of this activity and the fact that the program involves the handling, movement, and storage of nuclear materials. It is the nuclear nature of this project that makes it different from more traditional federal projects and requires the EIS to fully examine the full range of impacts (including those related to risk, risk perception, and stigma) in Nevada and in states and communities through which SNF and HLW must pass enroute to a Yucca Mountain repository. To be adequate, the final EIS must reflect this unique and unprecedented scope of analysis."

1.3.2. Native American Issues

"The EIS must, therefore, specifically address potential impacts to Native American communities in Nevada and in states through which SNF and HLW will be shipped enroute to a Yucca Mountain repository. Such impacts include effects on Native culture, economics, and infrastructures, emergency response/preparedness requirements, state- tribe relationship effects that may be caused by state routing or risk management decisions, implications for tribal sovereignty, Native land claim issues and impacts, and other areas potentially impacting Native peoples and communities."

2.1. Background

"Over the years that the Yucca Mountain Project's environmental program has been underway, the State of Nevada and the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board have consistently faulted the program because it lacks an ecosystem approach to environmental protection. Instead, the program relies on a piecemeal, compartmentalized approach based on population biology and community ecology totally without benefit of interdisciplinary integration. This is the result of (a) environmental management that is unqualified in EIA [Environmental Impact Analysis] and ecosystem management regarding compliance with the substantive spirit of NEPA, and (b) support contractors who are equally unqualified with respect to the scientific as well as the ethical aspects of environmental practice. Thus, the Yucca Mountain environmental program lacks scientific integrity and credibility due in part to the absence of environmental professionals capable of interdisciplinary teamwork and bound to codes of environmental ethics and best standards of professional environmental practice."

2.7 Truly Significant, Reasonably Foreseeable Long-Term Impacts

"With respect to NEPA's focus on cognitive reform regarding understanding ecosystems, the Yucca Mountain EIS IP must provide for the improved utilization of knowledge of ecosystems and their resources. This is because potentially adverse environmental and human health consequences are associated with the "truly significant" issue (40 CFR 1500.1) of "reasonably foreseeable", long-term impacts (40 CFR 1502.22) of a repository on the ecosystem above the facility and the secondary impacts of an altered ecosystem on repository performance. At sufficiently high thermal loads of nuclear waste, the ecosystem is likely to experience impacts from the heat of radioactive decay. Coupled with anticipated increases in ambient temperature resulting from global climate change (warming), higher temperatures will induce ecosystem responses that are not understood for the Yucca Mountain ecosystem. The EIS IP [Implementation Plan] therefore must contain provisions for understanding how increased temperatures both above and beneath the ground surface at Yucca Mountain will affect the environment (40 CFR 1502.15 and 1508.8) and how the environmental consequences (40 CFR 1508.16) will influence protection or impact mitigation (40 CFR 1508.20) with respect to resources such as groundwater for future generations."

2.8 Succeeding (Future) Generations

"Many EISs prepared by DOE do little to substantively protect the environment, particularly with regard to future generations where, aside from operational accidents, most of the threat posed by geologic disposal of nuclear wastes lies. In the case of the Yucca Mountain Project, consideration of long-term cumulative impacts to the environment and therefore to humans is a "truly significant" issue that the NEPA process must address (40 CFR 1500.1 and the Secretarial Policy on the National Environmental Policy Act). The undeniable knowledge that such consequences eventually will materialize poses a fundamental conflict with NEPA's mandate that each generation be a trustee of the environment for succeeding generations. This is an issue that the EIS IP must confront and set forth the means for resolving via EIA and the NEPA process."


"Of particular importance in identifying impacts of the proposed Yucca Mountain repository and related activities (including the transportation of SNF and HLW) is the establishment of adequate baseline information that will permit the assessment of both radiological and non-radiological health effects associated with the project. To do this, it will be necessary to understand not only how the Yucca Mountain project will affect individual and community health, but also the cumulative health effects and cumulative drivers of potential health impacts associated with both Yucca Mountain and Nevada Test Site activities.

"The EIS must contain an analysis of cumulative radiological impacts for all current and proposed activities at both Yucca Mountain and the Nevada Test Site. To accomplish this, the EIS must consider all radioactive wastes (and special nuclear materials) that currently exist, or are being considered for transport, treatment, storage, and/or disposal at the proposed repository or the Nevada Test Site, and all the potential shipping routes that could be used for moving these materials to or from NTS or Yucca Mountain."

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), February 10, 2000.

Some people may say "we've got to get rid of it somewhere!" and the sad thing is most people think we need nuke power plants...if the government would spend as much money to assist the public in solar - wind - and alternative fuels...we wouldn't need to be making our home turf and waste dump! ..but there wouldn't be any money for their pockets if we all had independent power systems! BRyan

-- S BRyan G III (sbrg3@juno.com), February 10, 2000.

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