FoE response to government briefing to local councils

COMMENTS ON DOCUMENTS RELEASED BY DEPARTMENT OF RESOURCES, ENERGY AND TOURISM (DRET)

Response to the following PDF documents:

1. DRET response to questions from Senator Ludlam, file name: sqon842 DRET-BERRI COUNCIL.pdf

2. DRET presentation to Berri Barmera Council, file name: sqon842 attachments 1of2.pdf

3. DRET report to Minister Ferguson regarding Berri Barmera Council visit, file name: sqon842 attachments 2of2.pdf

Summary: The DRET documents are inaccurate, misleading and evasive.

1. DRET response to questions from Senator Ludlam

file name: sqon842 DRET-BERRI COUNCIL.pdf

Clear that DRET is reacting to Nuclear Freeways work − no proactive effort to educate or even inform communities along the potential transport routes.

2. DRET presentation to Berri Barmera Council

file name: sqon842 attachments 1of2.pdf

"Provides for a single site facility to manage Australia's radioactive waste." But ANSTO and other science/medical institutions continue producing waste so they continue to need on-site waste stores, expertise etc. − which significantly undermines the argument for a central dump.

Mentions EPBC Act but fails to note that the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill (NRWMB) overrides the EPBC Act in relation to site selection.

No mention of concerns regarding accident emergency response capacity, e.g. NT Government submission to 2010 Senate Inquiry: "There is very limited capacity within the Northern Territory hospital network outside of Darwin to respond to any radioactive waste incident or accident. ... The Port of Darwin does not have the resource capacity (expertise or equipment) to respond to a radioactive incident." Emergency response capacity for radioactive accidents in rural SA?

"No transportation route has been determined." So what is DRET doing to progress a decision on the mode and route of transportation? Three out of four possible routes go through SA according to the government-commissioned 'Transport Assessment Report' (posted at http://tiny.cc/vl2yk)

Mentions 'Code of Practice' for transport ... sadly there is a history of the federal government misusing codes of practice in relation to radioactive waste management, at Maralinga in the 1990s for example (www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/bbing/stories/s120383.htm)

Mentions role of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) – but there have been many problems with ARPANSA, many of them noted in a critical 2005 Australian National Audit Office report, and more recent scandals:

Nuclear regulator ‘too close’ to ANSTO, 8 July 2011
www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/07/07/3264086.htm

Mentions 1993-94 transport of radioactive waste to Woomera, cites it as an example of safe transportation ... but there was a spill/accident of some description during that waste transportation. A media release from the then SA Liberal Health Minister Dr Michael Armitage read in part: “The spillage was cleaned up, and returned to the container which was then placed in a larger drum and sealed. The convoy then continued its journey.” (Source: Sandra Kanck media release, 13/2/03.) Whether the spillage actually involved any radioactive contamination – we will probably never know.

Claims that half of the current stockpile of radioactive waste destined for the proposed NT repository is stored at Woomera. That is true if measuring by volume. Measure by radioactivity (a much better indicator of hazard) and the lightly-contaminated soil stored at Woomera accounts for far less than 1% of the national stockpile.

Claims that there has never been a transport accident with a significant radiological release. Depends on definition of significant. There are certainly examples of transport mishaps leading to human radiation exposure, e.g. current German Chancellor Angela Merkel indefinitely suspended waste transportation in Germany in 1997 because of human radiation exposure well in excess of allowable limits. And a series of accidents moving waste within the Lucas Heights site in the late 1990s led to radiation exposure to four ANSTO employees. There are many other examples of transport accidents involving radioactive materials (a list is available from jim.green@foe.org.au)

Fails to note that ANSTO, DRET, ARPANSA and the Australian Nuclear Association have all acknowledged that the waste can continue to be stored at Lucas Heights, e.g. ANSTO's Dr Ron Cameron said: "ANSTO is capable of handling and storing wastes for long periods of time. There is no difficulty with that." (Other examples in section 5 of the briefing paper posted at www.tiny.cc/kgsx8.)

DRET report to Minister Ferguson regarding Berri Barmera Council visit:

file name: sqon842 attachments 2of2.pdf

Mentions National Radioactive Waste Management Bill − but fails to acknowledge that this is draconian legislation which gives the Federal Minister the power to override all state/territory laws.

Mentions France, Champagne region − ignores 2006 revelations that the Champagne nuclear waste dump contaminated groundwater − albeit at low levels − for 10 years as a result of a cracked waste storage container. Champagne wine-makers took the French national radioactive waste management agency Andra to court in a failed bid to stop Andra from continuing to store and dispose of radioactive waste in France's Champagne-Ardenne region. Relevant articles available from jim.green@foe.org.au

DRET document states that Councillors asked whether waste could be used for a dirty bomb: the answer is 'yes', albeit the case that it is an unlikely outcome. Nuclear engineers Alan Parkinson and John Large have warned of this risk. ''If terrorists can raid a nuclear waste repository or store and steal radioactive material," Mr Parkinson said, "they can easily spread it by conventional explosives.''

Claims that internationally there is an "increased public acceptance" of radioactive waste dumps. However there are countless examples of waste dumps experiencing serious environmental problems and enormous public resistance. The federal government has previously acknowledged the closure of three dumps in the USA because of environmental problems. A topical example is the planned exhumation of 126,000 drums of radioactive waste from a very badly managed repository at Asse in western Germany:

www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,576362,00.html

www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,3618649,00.html

Jim Green B.Med.Sci.(Hons.), PhD
National nuclear campaigner - Friends of the Earth, Australia
0417 318 368, jim.green@foe.org.au
PO Box 222, Fitzroy, Victoria, 3065.