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"It’s all about the dump": Greens gear up for nuclear war

Politics

The South Australian Greens are preparing for a sustained public relations assault from next week, in the assumption that the Royal Commission into the state’s nuclear fuel cycle will recommend the viability of a nuclear waste dump.

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The commission, headed by former Governor Kevin Scarce, will detail its “tentative findings” on Monday morning, preceding another round on consultation.

Greens MLC Mark Parnell told InDaily the party had prepared a variety of options for leaflets and online material, with staff “putting out a call to Greens members for volunteers to hand out flyers”.

“What we’re doing is trying to anticipate what the Royal Commission might come up with, so there will be no surprises that the waste dump is front and foremost in our thinking,” Parnell said.

“That’s on the basis that nuclear power is incredibly expensive and slow [so] they might recommend it but I always thought that was less likely. The processing and value-adding stuff – my understanding is economically it doesn’t stack up [and] of all the different things they’re looking at, it keeps coming back to the dump.”

He said insiders he had spoken to insist “it’s all about the dump”.

“That’s the impression that we’ve had since about a week after the Royal Commission was announced, once the terms of reference were announced… but we’re preparing for a few different scenarios so we can respond on Monday,” he said.

“We have several different versions ready to go.”

He said his party’s position on nuclear waste storage “hasn’t really changed over the past many years”, and suggested Labor should maintain the position it took in 2004, when it went to the High Court to kill off a federal proposal to establish a repository at Woomera.

“We don’t think we need a dump, and the current Government should do what Mike Rann did,” Parnell said.

He conceded “some people might have changed views” since then, but “we’ve got a lot of people to reinforce what a majority of people thought just 10 years ago”.

“We’re going to be at the forefront of the debate, putting an alternate viewpoint to the sort of line that [Liberal] Senator Sean Edwards has been running, that we’re going to have wealth beyond measure if only we accepted the world’s nuclear waste,” he said.

“We’ll be looking for hearts and minds as well, from a different viewpoint.”

He said while there was not a budget allocated for a specific campaign warchest, “if all we’re doing is talking to people who already agree with us, we haven’t got that far”.

“We need to know exactly what the Royal Commission recommends… once it becomes a live debate, we’ll go from there,” he said.

Major environmental lobby group the Conservation Council today kicked off a concerted campaign by the broader green movement, releasing a report it commissioned by left-leaning think-tank The Australia Institute “to analyse the submission of Senator Sean Edwards to the SA Nuclear Royal Commission”.

“The plan involves being paid to take spent fuel from other countries and store it in Australia,” the report summarises.

“The state can then use that old fuel to power a new generation of reactors… The plan sounds perfect. The reality is far from it.

“The Edwards plan ignores the cost of shipping the waste to Australia, and relies on technology that has never before been deployed commercially.”

Furthermore, it argues, only around 4000 of 60,000 tonnes of waste accepted would be reprocessed, so “the remaining 56,000 tonnes would remain in temporary storage, with no funds left for future generations to deal with the problem”.

Conservation Council SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins – a former adviser to Parnell – said the analysis presented “a much-needed dose of reality”.

“There’s been a lot of grandiose claims made about a nuclear waste-led economic boom for our state, including free power and the scrapping of all state taxes,” Wilkins said in a statement.

“The reality is there is no magic pot of gold.”

State Labor MP Tom Kenyon, who has advocated for nuclear energy in InDaily, said: “It looks to me like the Greens are preparing a campaign against something before the facts have even been defined by the Royal Commission.”

“While it’s entirely reasonable that they seek to counter individual submissions, my suspicion is that… they’re not open to the facts the Royal Commission might present,” he said.

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