Digging for answers

Response to tentative findings: radioactive waste storage and disposal facilities in South Australia
22 March 2016

This report finds that the business case for a nuclear waste storage facility in South Australia is exaggerated. The project is risky, and a loss overall is well within the range of possible outcomes.

South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission has handed down its tentative findings. One recommendation is for an international nuclear waste dump in South Australia.

The financial case for this project is put forward by Jacobs MCM , and it paints an optimistic picture. With $257 billion in projected revenue, and only $145 billi on in costs, the proposal would appear certain to deliver major financial benefits to South Australia.

However, the initial beneficiaries of a commitment to build a nuclear waste storage facility in South Australia would be companies involved in the international nuclear industry. This is made clear in Jacobs assessment:

"The removal of the 'back end problem' will definitely reduce the perceived risk for potential investors in a new nuclear programme or a debt provider for a mid - project refinancing."

Nuclear companies are anxious to reduce financing and other costs, as nuclear power is already uncompetitive with most other generation technologies. Australian government agencies forecast that by 2030 renewable energy with storage is likely to be cheaper than n uclear in almost all circumstances.

It is against this background of economic competitiveness that this proposal must be seen. This project is not about solving existing nuclear waste problems – it is about facilitating more nuclear energy and more nuclear waste in the future. A taxpayer - funded nuclear waste storage facility would be a boon to proponents of future nuclear development.

Benefits of the proposal that would accrue to the public of South Australia are far less certain and far further into the future. They have been estimated in the commissioned economic assessment by Jacobs MCM and accepted in the Royal Commission’s Tentative Findings.

Like all commissioned economic assessment, the motivations of the consultants should be considered and the assum ptions in their analysis questioned. Jacobs consult extensively to the nuclear industry and have an interest in its expansion and continuation.

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Dan Gilchrist, Rod Campbell, 2016, Digging for answers, The Australia Institute, viewed 27 April 2017, <http://apo.org.au/node/62263>.

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