South Australian Artist, Writer, Video Producer and Animator, David Arandle working under the pseudonym 'The Extraordinary Tourist' or 'TET' for short, blogs about Art, Life, Social Issues, humor, Internet/Technology, Movies, Entertainment, World Issues, Business, People/Places and more.
The Australian Government is currently searching for a location to build a nuclear waste storage facility where it can centrally and properly store the country's low and intermediate level nuclear waste. Presently it's eyes are set on South Australia as a possible location. The South Australian Government recently released the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission report looking into the feasibility of building such a facility within our state but going further and also looking at creating a commercial nuclear waste storage facility able to store spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants (High level waste).
Australia does not yet have any nuclear power plants. The intention is to sell storage space to those countries that do but have no, or poor facilities, to store their own waste. Currently the SA Government is seeking community input and response to the report to help gauge the acceptance levels of such a facility within the state, and to understand community concerns of those who may be against the idea. You can add your input through the YourSay Nuclear Community Conversation Website. My personal feelings about nuclear energy is that it is the 'snake oil' of the clean energy business. Proponents will tell you that unlike other industries the nuclear energy industry manages 100% of its waste product responsibly, therefore making it the cleanest most environmentally friendly process out there short of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydro electricity. They're not entirely wrong. The nuclear process is far cleaner than any fossil fuel power station and you certainly get plenty of bang (pun intended) for your buck. Where it falls down, for me, is that the waste product (spent fuel rods) need to be stored safely away for generations and generations, to be managed by communities that almost literally will inherit this useless nuclear waste from their predecessors. That's why I consider nuclear energy to be snake oil. It looks great but the more this industry expands, the more waste we get and the more we have to build facilities to store it. Right now it's great, we can manage it, sure. A hundred years from now, how much of this useless nuclear waste will have been stockpiled and how long can a facility continue to run safely once its capacity has been reached? (And I haven't even mentioned the fact that uranium is a finite resource and the impacts to the environment mining for it). Any other industry would be laughed out of the room as being non viable with such a toxic waste product but somehow nuclear energy has gained a foot hold. Presently there is somewhere in the vicinity of 440 Nuclear Power Plants world wide with that number forecast to reach 500 by 2020. I don't doubt that nuclear energy can be safe. Technology is improving all the time. As far as I'm aware there are only three cases of reactor meltdowns with only two of those being major causes of environmental concern (Fukushima and Chernobyl) . Some would argue that's a pretty good record but it is a young industry, and one in which, ideally, a clean slate on meltdowns is, arguably, the only acceptable level of failure. My issue is with the waste. So much waste that has to be stored and maintained for unacceptably long times. So long that the waste could in fact outlive the human race if we continue to support environmentally irresponsible energy sources in favour of short term economic and financial gains. Make no mistake stockpiling nuclear waste is equally as environmentally irresponsible as continuing to rely on fossil fuels as an energy source. The nuclear industry is developing techniques to reprocess spent fuel to extract materials that can be reused as nuclear fuel. Something which is very encouraging but not standard practice across the industry (as near as I can tell - though things seem to be moving in that direction). I would be more on board with an SA nuclear waste dump if it came with a nuclear waste reprocessing facility. At least then we've got a waste product that has some value once we reprocess it. However, as I understand it, even reprocessing spent fuel does not result in zero waste. It just reduces the amount of waste that needs to be stored each year. Which is a better result than not reprocessing but still not better over the long term. What I don't want to see is the Nuclear industry gain such a big foothold in the energy space that it impedes the development and implementation of renewable energy sources, as well as research into up and coming, and far better alternative energy solutions. Australia has been progressing in this direction with commitments to renewable energy sources, however, once we build a facility that can store spent nuclear energy fuel, how long before our government decides to change direction and back nuclear power stations? Why wouldn't they if we already have a purpose built facility to store spent fuel? Anyhow, if you have an opinion either way on the issue and you're an Australian resident (especially if you're an SA resident) be sure to leave your thoughts on the YourSay site ASAP. I did and ended up in an interesting discussion with Christopher Nugent, another commenter who seems to be a supporter of the SA government's proposal. Christopher raised many interesting points in response to my initial thoughts so I thought I'd copy the entire conversation in full below. I'm sure I could have kept going but towards the end it started to feel a bit like we were both just trying to have the last word.
YourSay Initial Response to the NFCRC Report by TET (David Arandle)
I accept that Australia needs to manage its own nuclear waste. What I object to is the proposed plan to also be a commercial storage facility for the waste of other countries. Yes there are economic benefits that are massive, extremely attractive and probably highly beneficial but at the end of the day you’re still stockpiling nuclear waste that takes hundreds of years to break down and be safe.
What happens when we reach capacity? Do we keep expanding? We're essentially storing a worthless product that we can't get rid of and will be a burden for future governments and communities for generations. Nuclear waste is a cancer that all countries should be discouraged from producing in the first place. The economic benefits only look good to people who aren't thinking beyond their own life time.