Will Australia become “the world’s nuclear waste dump”?
This sort of thing keeps getting raised, as a potential future for nuclear energy in Australia is discussed, particularly in the context of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. Whilst there might be commercial opportunities for Australia in storing waste from other nations in a geological repository here, and I believe that there’s nothing unsafe about it, I really don’t think we have any obligation to do so.
Of course, all the discussion to date saying that we’re going to end up serving as the “world’s nuclear waste dump” is little more than conspiracy theory.
Saying Australia has some sort of obligation to take back radioactive waste or irradiated fuel because we’re a Uranium exporter is kind of like asking, say, Saudi Arabia to plant a whole load of trees, or build a massive carbon dioxide geosequestration facility, to deal with the dangerous waste from their exported fossil fuels, isn’t it?
Every nation using nuclear energy has understood, from the outset, that they’re responsible for dealing with the waste themselves.
Howard has said it’s not going to happen, Switkowski has said he doesn’t see any reason to support it, and I think the majority of the pro-nuclear-energy community don’t see any extremely compelling reason for it to happen.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, other than the fact that it’s a political and a public relations disaster, but at this point in time, I see no need and certainly no obligation whatsoever for it to happen.