Free nuclear power is a fantasy: Report

A new report from The Australia Institute shows that a proposal to establish a global nuclear waste industry in South Australia would fail to secure 90% of the imported waste, leaving an expensive and risky legacy for the state. 

The report was commissioned by the Conservation Council of South Australia to analyse the submission to the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission by Liberal Senator Sean Edwards. The Royal Commission is due to release tentative results next week.

“The Edwards plan is deeply flawed. It is a plan funded by taking thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste, but would fail to process over 90% of that waste, leaving it to future generations to deal with,” said report author, The Australia Institute’s Dan Gilchrist.

Senator Edwards is proposing that South Australia imports 60,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel from other countries, and then leaves most of it, 56,000 tonnes, in dry cask storage which is designed for temporary use. 

Report: The impossible dream: Free electricity sounds too good to be true. It is. 

“The plan relies on technology that has never been deployed commercially – not with all the expertise in France or Germany or Japan or the United States.

“Indeed, logically, if a viable solution emerges, other countries will no longer pay Australia billions to hand over the waste. 

“The plan fails to consider a basic economic principle: if Australia can generate free electricity – why wouldn’t other countries? 

“Nothing in the plan explains what our great-great grandchildren are meant to do with this legacy. Indeed, the plan never mentions the leftover waste, as if it was not worth worrying about. Worse, all the money is spent in the first 50-60 years. Nothing is left to deal with the leftover waste. 

“In many ways it is like a vastly complex loan. Australia will ‘borrow’ many billions of dollars, spend the lot, and leave it to future generations to pay it back. Indeed, a loan would be better, since it would not require South Australia to store tens of thousands of tonnes of radioactive material in the meantime. 

“It is no wonder that Senator Edwards has been able to promise free electricity and reduced taxes. He is spending someone else’s money. Eventually, however, the piper must be paid.”

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