Any time now, the latest shipment of 24 tonnes of nuclear waste from Sydney’s Lucas Heights facility will be transported in lead containers to La Hague in France for long-term storage at a total cost of $45 million. It will be the 10th such shipment since 2009.
The Lucas Heights nuclear reactor has produced about 5.5 million nuclear medicine doses for Australian patients since 2007, used for diagnosis and treatment of heart, lung, and skeletal conditions and cancers. In addition, millions of additional doses of nuclear medicine have been exported to the US and Asia.
Like any nuclear operation, waste is created which must be stored safely.
So why are we sending our waste to France, do I hear you ask? Well, France generates most of its electricity from nuclear power stations, and so has its own waste and reprocessing facility.
Australia should have its own facility too. In fact, all the preliminaries are in place to establish waste storage at Kimba, South Australia. A site has been selected. A poll of Kimba residents last June showed almost 60 per cent in favour. Kimba, population 636, is that small town that you could so easily bypass on your way to Perth. The large billboard proclaiming that Kimba is halfway across Australia might be enough to entice the tourist to cross the railway line, and find a most pleasant, clean and well-loved town.
We stopped and set out our lunch on a picnic table in a very neat park near the hospital. I asked an old gentleman who wandered past about the waste dump. He was very much in favour.
At that time, which was before the poll, he was pointing to the jobs the government had guaranteed would be created – important for supporting the town, even in times of drought. He mentioned the fact that having younger families move in might help the school. To him, the most important point was the guaranteed future of the hospital, which had been struggling to survive.
The Commonwealth has offered a $10 million “community fund” and improved internet as sweeteners. The new Kimba site will be purpose-built to international standards.
In a letter to the community earlier this year, the Commonwealth guaranteed there would be no negative impact on local agriculture.
So why hasn’t it been built? Ideology is the barrier! The No Radioactive Waste on Agricultural Land in Kimba or SA activist group is supported in its scaremongering by the usual suspects like Friends of the Earth and the Australian Conservation Foundation, who would close all Australian industry if given the chance.
Opponents of the waste dump say Australia’s radioactive waste should be centrally stored at Lucas Heights, just 30km out of Sydney. They apparently are not aware that over the last 50 years, waste has been stored at more than 100 sites throughout the country with no problems.
Leftie groups perhaps don’t realise that Lucas Heights irradiates more than 45 tonnes of silicon each year – the raw material that powers electronic devices such as their beloved solar farms, hybrid cars and wind farms.
The recently defeated Labor government in South Australia supported the protesters, robbing Kimba – and the massive construction force needed to build the $120 million facility – of jobs.
Maybe Labor’s job creation policy includes creating French jobs to store our waste. But not Aussie jobs at Kimba!