SA Taxpayers asked to front $145 billion for nuclear dump gamble


The Australia Institute has today publicly released its report on the economics of an international nuclear waste dump in South Australia. 

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The report is in response to the tentative findings of South Australia’s nuclear royal commission, which claimed a net benefit of $51 billion to South Australia. 

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In contrast, the Institute’s analysis shows that the primary beneficiaries of a waste dump in South Australia would be international nuclear power companies and that any economic benefit to the state had been overstated and comes with major risks. 

“If any other industry said ‘start building us $145 billion worth of infrastructure, it will take 120 years to finish, we’ll start paying you in ten years, trust us’, they’d be laughed out of town,” said Richard Denniss in Adelaide at the launch of the report. 

“This economic viability of this proposal for an underground nuclear waste dump is based on storing nuclear waste above ground for over 80 years. As solar, wind and battery storage get cheaper the chances of the nuclear industry being around in 50 years’ time to pay for expensive waste disposal is getting smaller and smaller. 

“While there is no doubt that there will be immediate costs and risks for south Australian citizens the Royal Commission’s economic assessment, by consultants Jacobs MCM, makes it clear that the dump would “definitely reduce the perceived risk for potential investors in a new nuclear programme or a debt provider for a mid-project refinancing.” 

“The Jacobs assessment assumes other countries will pay SA a staggering $1.75 million per tonne for SA to store their waste. This estimate is based on some heroic assumptions. They literally assume that poor countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Vietnam and Bangladesh will not only develop nuclear power, but will pay more to get rid of the waste than rich countries like Sweden, the USA and Switzerland.” 

“The assessment assumes these countries have no other option. For example Jacobs say the Ukraine 

“lacks sufficient storage options”. On the contrary, they are building a storage facility at the best place in the world for one – the radioactive site of the Chernobyl disaster.” 

“Perhaps the strangest part of the economic assessment is the assumption that no one will compete with South Australia for such huge revenues. China, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and South Africa are all potential competitors, to say nothing of Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, yet the consultants give no consideration of this impact on price. 

“When it comes to economic modelling such as this it is important to remember that the conclusions of a consultants report are only as good as its assumptions.  

“Even if the optimistic assumptions come to pass, the new revenue from the nuclear waste dump would lead to South Australia getting less money from the GST. That’s how the system works but the Royal Commission has ignored it.” 

“South Australia has heard the promises of the nuclear industry for over 100 years, since Radium Hill was discovered. It’s about time the state realised its future lies in investing in its people’s education and health and its booming renewable energy sector and not in the self-interested promises of the nuclear industry.”

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