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Should Australia Agree To Handle Foreign Nuclear Waste ?

Former Minister for Science McGauran, former chairman of ANSTO Mr Ward-Ambler and the CEO of ANSTO have discussed the possibility of treating, storing and final disposal of foreign nuclear waste.

In ANSTO's annual report for 1995/6 Mr Ward-Ambler mentioned that the waste from South East Asia's prospective nuclear power industry "would grow rapidly and predictably". It said that "the capacity of Australia to contribute to the environmentally secure and safe management of those wastes would seem to be of prime national interest".

The (misguided) rationale for this is that, since Australia supplies uranium to the international nuclear power industry, it has a moral obligation to take back the nuclear waste and "manage" it. Foreign producers of nuclear waste look enviously at Australia's wide open, unpopulated, spaces as being perfect as a world dumping ground.

Underlying this is the smell of money to be made! Any "profits" from such trade would probably go to those private companies involved in the uranium industry such as Energy Resources of Australia (ERA), BHP and Western Mining Corp.

The cost of a reprocessing plant, storage facilities, a deep underground "final" resting place, security, and ultimate decommissioning of the plant in the future would far outweigh any medium term cash prospects. All the losses would be borne by the government - otherwise known as the taxpayers.

The cost to the environment and to the health of surrounding populations make the suggestion ludicrous. It is doubtful that such costs would even be calculated.

If moral standards are to be applied, then Australia should stop the sale of uranium until the international nuclear industry really has the technology to safely and permanently dispose of the waste its produces. This would, in turn, release Australia from any "obligations".
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