Report disputes waste management facility benefits

RALLY: Hundreds of protesters marched across the Joy Baluch AM Bridge in opposition of the proposed national radioactive waste management facility on Sunday, August 19.
RALLY: Hundreds of protesters marched across the Joy Baluch AM Bridge in opposition of the proposed national radioactive waste management facility on Sunday, August 19.

A new report by the Australia Institute has questioned the economic benefits of the national radioactive waste management facility (NRWMF) for local communities.

The ‘Down in the Dumps’ report, written by author Cameron Murray, claims the potential external economic benefit of the facility has been exaggerated.

“Either the waste facility is orders of magnitude larger than needed for Australia’s nuclear waste, or government has exaggerated the economic returns to the community of the NRWMF facility,” Dr Murray said in the report.

The author raised his doubts regarding the $31 million promised in local grants, which was upped from $10m.

Down in the Dumps underlined that $8m of the $31m is earmarked for training local workers, which may “simply be a relabelling of spending that must occur anyway”.

The report also suggested the $3m put aside for Indigenous skill training programs could be “double counting necessary training” or a reallocation of funding cuts from other Indigenous support programs.

A recent economic analysis found the construction of the NRWMF would cost $325m and an operating cost of $7m, while creating 45 jobs.

These figures were deemed “excessively high” for a facility which would receive one or two waste deliveries per year.

Conservation Council SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins said the whole process has been poorly conducted by the federal government.

“Knowing how reluctant many people in Kimba and the Flinders Ranges are to having a nuclear waste dump in their backyard, the federal government has greatly oversold the economic benefits to try and buy community support,” Mr Wilkins said.

The report outlined that transporting intermediate level waste from Lucas Heights to another temporary location in South Australia has “little economic justification”.

Mr Wilkins agreed with this analysis.

“Double handling is incredibly wasteful, is not international best practice, and makes no sense in terms of public health or radiation safety,” he said.

Down in the Dumps claimed there could also be insurance risks for the local community that hosts the facility, resulting in a decrease of any economic benefit.

However, a Department of Industry, Innovation and Science spokesperson said the NRWMF would not have an impact on insurance.

“The Australia Institute report itself notes private insurers will not be impacted, and that the government or facility operator will need to provide liability coverage for any radiation-based risks,” the spokesperson said.

“This is what has always been proposed for this facility. We already have precedent in Australia that shows private insurers are unaffected – suburbs around ANSTO’s Lucas Heights campus do not have higher insurance premiums because of their proximity to the site.”

A postal ballot to measure the community support for the nominated sites in Kimba and Wallerberdina Station was set to commence on August 20, but was postponed by the Supreme Court of South Australia.

The Australia Institute, an independent think tank based in Canberra, conducts public policy research on economic, social, transparency and environmental issues.