South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill; deceptive or just ignorant about Finland’s nuclear waste plan?

This article first appeared on Independent Australia

Premier Weatherill is using Finland’s nuclear waste dump model as a benchmark for Australia but they are not comparable, says Noel Wauchope.

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN PREMIER Jay Weatherill has gone to Finland to study their nuclear waste storage project.

With the premier are three stalwarts of the mining and nuclear lobbies: marketing man Bill Muirhead, chief executive of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Consultation and Response Agency (CARA) Advisory Board Madeleine Richardson and chair of CARA John Mansfield.

Unsurprisingly, they all seemed to have no anxieties about nuclear waste disposal.

Premier Weatherill waxed lyrical in The Advertiser about the Finland waste disposal site, describing it in operation:

There, spent nuclear fuel is placed in eight metre long iron canisters, encased in copper tubes … Inside the underground tunnels, the canisters are placed in deep holes.

Reading this, you would think that is actually happening in Finland. But no — that’s just the plan. The facility, in fact, has no nuclear wastes yet disposed of there. In fact, no wastes will be placed there until 2020, at the earliest.

Weatherill’s comments imply that the Finland project and the South Australian plan are pretty much the same kind of thing. Well, apart from some rather obvious differences in climate, which might matter, the whole plan is different.

South Australia’s nuclear waste import plan would need a dump substiantially larger than Finland’s waste dump:

Onkalo (Finland), permanent underground high level Nuclear Waste Dump

  • Capacity 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes high level nuclear waste
  • or 2,500 to 5,000 high level nuclear waste canisters

Proposed SA Nuclear Waste Dump

  • Capacity 138,000 tonnes high level nuclear waste or 69,000 high level nuclear waste canisters
  • Capacity 390,000 m3 intermediate nuclear waste
  • Capacity 81,000 m3 low level nuclear waste
  • Above ground temporary facility capacity 72,000 tonnes high level nuclear waste
  • Above ground temporary facility capacity 175,000 m3 Intermediate nuclear waste

Just for high level nuclear waste alone, it will require a waste dump 14 to 28 times the size of Onkalo (69,000 high level nuclear waste canisters). And for decades, half of the high level nuclear waste will be stored above ground in a temporary facility.

A perhaps even bigger deception is in Weatherill’s main theme, praising Finland for its transparency and community consent, since that is a subject of considerable dispute.

In fact, Finland’s technology for deep disposal of nuclear wastes was developed by the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB). SKB has for several years been attempting to obtain a licence to start construction in Sweden, but has been denied permission by a land and environmental court ruling.

The reason for the court’s denial is that, as the project was being discussed with the public, SKB’s research was found to be incomplete and, in certain cases, inaccurate. It turned out, for instance, that there is significant disagreement over the estimated

corrosion rate of the copper canisters, which are considered the main engineering barrier to prevent the escape of long-lived radionuclidesinto the surrounding


In 2016, Sweden established the Swedish National Council for Nuclear Waste. This

independent body published a 167-page report entitled ‘Nuclear Waste State-of-the-Art Report 2016: Risks, uncertainties and future challenges, which detailed considerable risks – environmental, health and economic – with the waste burial technology.

Sweden has the Swedish NGO Office for Nuclear Waste Review. It is a coalition comprising five NGOs working with nuclear and radiation safety issues, advising the Government and informing the public. The coalition is financed by the Government’s Swedish Nuclear Waste Fund.

Finland has no such agency. That might account for the relative ease with which the Finnish nuclear industry gained public acceptance for the plan with no substantial criticism from the public. In Sweden, the nuclear waste burial project has not gone ahead, as there is much debate and opposition from some scientists and from a well-informed public.

Representatives from municipalities near the Finland repository construction site, Johanna Huhtala and Raija Lehtorinne, explained:

‘ … the locals trust the nuclear industry completely.’

I guess that the Finnish model for community consent is more to Weatherill’s liking than the Swedish one. I can’t see him setting up a South Australian NGO office for nuclear waste review.

Pro nuclear submissions to South Australian Parliament show the primary interest is in promoting “new nuclear”

This article first appeared on Independent Australia  [where links are included]

THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN government’s promotional campaign for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (NFCRC) continues to stress the economic gain to the State through importing nuclear wastes.

However, recent pro-nuclear submissions to the South Australian Parliament’s Joint Committee on Findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission have instead focussed on the benefits of “new nuclear” technology, particularly “small modular reactors” (SMRs) — note how the word “nuclear” is left out since people distrust it.

The global nuclear lobby is keenly interested in the South Australian government’s plan to import nuclear waste, because it would solve the waste problem for nuclear companies wanting to sell reactors and particularly, new types of nuclear reactors, to Asian countries.

This idea was pioneered by Australians and spelt out early in 2015, just as the NFCRC was starting, in an ABC Radio National talk by Oscar Archer. Since then, we haven’t heard any more about this, as the whole emphasis in SA government propaganda, has been on the billions supposedly to be made by that state from importing nuclear wastes. The idea of developing new nuclear technology is mentioned in the NFCRC report (p56 and p63) but very much played down and not recommended for South Australia.

Still, for foreign nuclear companies, the underlying aim is to further, or more correctly, to save, the nuclear industry by setting up new nuclear reactors, in particular SMRs.

It is vital for the nuclear industry to have a nuclear waste disposal plan. The industry has pretty much given up on selling nuclear reactors to countries that already have nuclear power and they are struggling with the waste problem. The big hope is to sell to “new” countries.

They are clearly looking to South Asia, as shown at the conference, The Prospects for Nuclear Power in the Asia Pacific Region, held in August, in Manila. The deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mikhail Chudakov said that IAEA sees South Asia as a region where nuclear energy is “high on the agenda” and could be one of the drivers for global nuclear power deployment.

The thing is, no country is going to embark on the nuclear power path – for small or large reactors – unless they have a prior plan for the disposal of radioactive wastes. This is vital for the nuclear industry — which is where Australia comes in.
I was surprised that out of 55 submissions to the South Australian Joint Committee on Findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, only five were pro-nuclear.

However, despite the NFCRC’s distinct lack of enthusiasm for new nuclear technology, three of those five submissions were focussed, not on waste importing, but on new nuclear reactors.

Ben Heard’s whole argument is directed at new reactors:

Our research indicates that South Australia could make a significant contribution in this technology development beginning at a modest reinvestment of revenues from used fuel.

Many nations in this region already exploit nuclear technology however this use is constrained by lack of a back-end solution…… The availability of a multinational solution for the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle could change these investment decisions profoundly.
Heard backs up his argument by playing the climate card of nuclear being “low carbon” and so on.

Dayne Eckermann writes:

‘The main motivation for myself and others to embrace and openly support this technology is its immense power output from a relative small facility.’
And the South Australia Chamber of Mines and Energy’s (SACOME’s) view:

Australia’s well-equipped political, legal and educational structures mean that a reactor program could – with the support of experienced international partners – be started swiftly

SACOME strongly believes that the advances in small modular reactors and advanced reactor designs will provide the necessary facilities to be able to service remote mine clusters and townships where economical to do so.

Of the remaining two submissions, one from Leighton Smith was short — a very few lines of general support for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission waste import plan. And the other submission from Graeme Weber, was confined to a recommendation of the Gawler Range Volcanics as a site for waste facility.

I understand that, for the Parliamentary Committee, all submissions were actually published. This is in contrast to the NFCRC process, in which submissions from interested parties such as foreign nuclear companies were kept confidential.

While Premier Weatherill’s propaganda campaign rolls on with a somewhat simplified story on the nuclear waste import plan, the serious players in the Australian nuclear lobby, are holding their fire for now, with only those three submissions to the Parliamentary Committee. Like Oscar Archer, at the beginning of the NFCRC saga, they are primarily keen for “new nuclear”, with the waste import as a necessary prelude. Still, all of them realise that the first steps are to change laws and associated regulations, such as:

State Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000.
Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 2000,
Customs Act 1901
Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1999
Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Act 1987


Mixed motives in South Australia’s nuclear waste import plan

This article first appeared on Online Opinion   [included links]

In South Australia the continued nuclear push focusses solely on a nuclear waste importing industry. Yet that might not be economically viable. Behind the scenes, another agenda is being pursued – that of developing new generation nuclear reactors.

First, let’s look at the message. The message from the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (NFCRC) is clearly a plan to make South Australia rich, by importing foreign nuclear wastes.

The earlier NFCRC report “Tentative Findings” stated that:

…the storage and disposal of used nuclear fuel in South Australia is “likely to deliver substantial economic benefits to the South Australian community”, with a commercially viable storage facility operational in the late 2020s – $5 billion a year over 30 years and $2 billion a year for the following 40 years.

The NFCRC’s final recommendation is that :

…a state wealth fund that spreads the benefit to future generations of South Australians could reach about $445 billion overmore than 70 years.

South Australia has the attributes and capabilities to manage and dispose of international used nuclear fuel safely, and it would have significant intergenerational benefit to the community.

This theme has been repeated ad nauseam by the NFCRC’s publicity, by politicians, and the mainstream media.

At present, the South Australian government is running a state-wide process of over 100 forums – “community consultations”, where personnel, from the NFCRC and other nuclear experts are explaining the purportedly lucrative plan to local communities. At the same time, the Nuclear Citizens’ Jury process is being continued, with meetings planned for October and November.

Meanwhile, the South Australian Parliament is holding a Committee Inquiry into the NFCRC’s recommendations. This Committee asked witnesses about various aspects of the plan. However, an intense focus in questioning Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce, and Dr Tim Johnson from Jacob Engineering (financial reporter to the NFCRC) was directed at the economic question. It was clear that the politicians were concerned that there’s a possibility of the State spending a significant amount of money on the project, which might then not go ahead. And, indeed, Dr Johnson acknowledged that, financially,” there is a very significant risk”. Mr Parnell quoted Jacobs’ report:

…the total expenditure prior to the decision to proceed and sign contracts with client countries is likely to be from around AUD300 million to in excess of AUD600 million…

In other words, before we actually decide to go ahead, before we have signed any contracts,expenditure is up to and in excess of $600 million.

Whereas other countries are compelled to develop nuclear waste facilities, to deal with their waste production from civil and military reactors,that is not a necessity for Australia, (with the exception of relatively tiny amounts derived from the Lucas Heights research reactor).

So, the only reason for South Australia to develop a massive

nuclear waste management business is to make money. If it’s not profitable, then it shouldn’t be done.

Or so it would seem.

There is another, quieter, message. When you read the Royal Commission’s reports, you find that, while the major aim is for a nuclear waste business, in fact, the door is kept open for other parts of the nuclear fuel chain. It recommended:

Remove existing prohibitions on nuclear power generation
Monitor developments in new nuclear reactor designs for future consideration
Nuclear power may be necessary, along with other low-carbon generation technologies. It would be wise to plan now to ensure that nuclear power would be available should it be required ….This is likely to include consideration of small modular reactor (SMR) designs, but exclude for the foreseeable future fast reactors and other innovative designs because the generating capacities of SMRs would be attractive to integration in smaller markets, such as in South Australia and in off-grid applications.

Nowhere in the NFCRC report, do they make a link between establishing the waste repository and planning for nuclear reactors. It is as though the two projects are not related. But they are.

The clearest explanation of this came early in 2015, just as the NFCRC was starting, in an ABC Radio National talk by Oscar Archer. He outlined a plan:

Australia establishes the world’s first multinational repository for used fuel – what’s often called nuclear waste. This is established on the ironclad commitment to develop a fleet of integral fast reactors …The development of the intermediate repository and the first reactors is funded by our international partners……

By unblocking the back end of the nuclear fuel cycles for our international partners and customers, rapid development in conventional Generation III+ nuclear technology receives a strong boost …

Each PRISM “power block”, or set of twin reactors, adds 622 megawatts of saleable zero-carbon generation to Australia which further improves the revenue position. …….The transition to PRISM world-wide is under-way on the back of Australia’s pioneering embrace of this technology with support of key partners.

Archer’s plan is significant because it illustrates a very important point about South Australia’s nuclear waste plan – IT SOLVES A GLOBAL NUCLEAR INDUSTRY PROBLEM. Both in ‘already nuclear’ countries, especially America, and in the so far non nuclear counties, such as in South Asia, the nuclear industry is stalled because of its nuclear waste problem. In America, the “new small nuclear”, such as the PRISM, technologies (Power Reactor Innnovative Small Module) cannot even be tested, without a definite waste disposal solution. But, if South Australia provided not only the solution, but also the first setting up of new small reactors, that would give the industry the necessary boost.

The NFCRC is not recommending Oscar Archer’s plan.

However, the significance remains. Once Australia has set up a nuclear waste importing industry, the nuclear reactor salesmen of USA, Canada, South Korea, will have an excellent marketing pitch for South Asia, as the nuclear waste problem has been removed from their shores.. And South Asia is exactly the market that the NCRC has in its sights. The NFCRC eliminated most of the EU, Russia, China, North America as customers. This was explained by Dr Tim Jacobs, of Jacobs Engineering, (financial reporters to the NFCRC), at the recent hearing of the South Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on Findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission .

Globally, the ‘conventional’ nuclear reactor business is struggling, The ever escalating costs of USA’s nuclear reactors being built, of France’s Flamanville reactor, and most notable lately, Britain’s Hinkley C nuclear fiasco, have cast a gloom over ‘big nuclear reactors’

However, this is quite good news for the ‘small nuclear’ lobby. In the USA, the charge is led by Bill Gates, and a bunch of billionaires, who work to get governments, and taxpayer funding to support their novel nuclear reactor projects. In Britain, the nuclear charity (yes, it has charity status!) the Alvin Weinberg Foundation , and 33 new nuclear companies are practically ecstatic at the news that Teresa May’s government is having doubts about Big Nuclear.

Australia has its own cadre of small nuclear enthusiasts. These individuals have, in a short period of time, achieved world recognition as advocates for the various types of new small nuclear reactors. On the international scene, leading lobbyists are the Breakthrough Institute, with their Ecomodernist Manifesto. (They put in a submission to South Australia’s NFCRC), and Australian lobbyists Barry Brook and Ben Heard.

The themes of the Ecomodernists are rather touchy feely writings about the environment, so it is no surprise that they have many very caring and sincere environmentalists in their movement. The subtle message of the Manifesto is that renewable energy is not that great, and that brave new nuclear is needed to combat climate change. A similar, but more clearly spelled out theme is the message from the Australian lobbyists.

Australia’s present government is influenced by climate sceptics who dismiss the science, and also the economic concerns about climate change.

South Australia’s government is influenced by a strong nuclear lobby push and the Royal Commission advocacy for solving that State’s present financial problems by a futuristic nuclear waste repository bonanza scheme.

The global nuclear lobby surely does not care about whether or not the South Australian nuclear waste importing scheme is economically viable. Their fairly desperate need is to sell nuclear reactors to those countries that don’t already have them. In particular, the ‘small nuclear” lobby sees an urgency now, with ‘big nuclear’ failing, to get their industry happening.

A commitment by an Australian State to take in nuclear waste could do the trick for them – as Oscar Archer put it – by unblocking the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. The NFCRC plan also promises the chance of a market in Australia for the mini nuclear reactors.

South Australia’s Nuclear Royal Commission compromised by biased leader Kevin Scarce

This article first appeared on Independent Australia

I’m not the only person who can conduct this Commission effectively and competently and it is critical that whoever is appointed has the confidence of those who are vitally concerned with this matter.

Rightly or wrongly, in this role I would not have the full confidence of sections of the Indigenous community which has a vital           interest in this inquiry.

That was Brian Martin ending his role as head of Royal Commission into Juvenile Justice in the Northern Territory, just four days after his appointment as reported in Reuters World News 1 August 2016

Martin seemed an excellent choice for the job, when appointed on 26 July. He has a strong legal background, as a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia, later as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in 2004 and acting Judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia in 2012.

Brian Martin did not think that he had a conflict of interest in relation to his previous role as a Northern Territory judge. He did not doubt his “capacity to be both independent and competent in the role of the commissioner”. However, he recognised that a community perception of his having a conflict of interest would compromise the Royal Commission and its results.

As Mark Kenny wrote in The Age on 2 August 2016:

‘Indeed, Martin acknowledged this [public confidence] was the crucial factor — irrespective of the facts. He observed if any public doubts about the impartiality or commitment to the unvarnished truth were allowed to “fester” during the commission’s long months, its outcomes would be compromised.’ 

Why no outcry about the conflict of interest in appointing Kevin Scarce as head of SA’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle RC?

Apparently, while it’s not OK to have a conflict of interest in a National Royal Commissioner, this has not yet been a problem for a State one.

On February 9th 2015, the South Australian Government appointed Rear Admiral the Honourable Kevin Scarce as head of its Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (NFCRC). This royal commission, which ran until May 2016, has been kept very off the radar of the wider Australian public, but touted strongly by the South Australian media, notably by The Adelaide Advertiser. Nobody in the mainstream media seems to have noticed the conflict of interest in the appointment of Kevin Scarce and in the appointments of his advisers.

Unlike the situation with Brian Martin, this is not a case of a perception of conflict of interest by some special sections of the community. It looks more like a choice of a royal commissioner that is unusual and inappropriate and involving a much more obvious conflict of interest.

The general practice in royal commissions is to appoint a serving or retired judge, due to the quasi-legal nature of the process. Brian Martin appeared to be well qualified for the Royal Commission into Juvenile Justice in the Northern Territory. Yet, as he had dealt with Aboriginal cases in his previous role as justice in the Northern Territory, this could raise questions about his impartiality.

Kevin Scarce with no legal background, was a most unusual choice as royal commissioner for South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission. Furthermore, his military career and close involvement with defence agencies, raises questions about his impartiality. The nuclear industry has undoubted connections with nuclear weapons and this has always been a vexed question for Australia. Nuclear powered and nuclear armed ships are allowed to visit Australian ports but for short stays only and under stringent conditions.

There is a strong defence lobby pushing for Australia to acquire nuclear powered submarines. Kevin Scarce was previously the head of Maritime Systems at the Defence Materiel Organisation.

Kevin Scarce is a  shareholder in Rio Tinto Group, the owner and operator of Ranger and Rossing uranium mines in Australia and Namibia

Prior to his appointment as Royal Commissioner, Kevin Scarce advocated a nuclear industry for South Australia. Speaking in November 2014 at a Flinders University guest lecture, Scarce acknowledged being “an advocate for a nuclear industry”.

He enthused about a compact fusion “reactor small enough to fit in a truck”, that “it may be less than a decade away” and could produce power “without the risk of Fukushima-style meltdowns”.

These claims have been dismissed even by the nuclear industry itself, as well as by nuclear friendly scientific experts. All of which indicates that this Royal Commissioner is low on science knowledge, as well as legal expertise, and raises the question?  Who has been influencing Kevin Scarce?

Scarce appointed an Expert Advisory Committee comprised of:

  • Professor Barry Brook, an active advocate of the NuclearvIndustry. He is the author of, or contributor to several pro-nuclear publications such as; Key role for nuclear energy in global biodiversity conservation, Australia’s nuclear options and An Open Letter to Environmentalists on Nuclear Energy.
  • Dr Timothy Stone, an advocate for nuclear power generation and nuclear industrial expansion in Australia. In the UK Dr Stone has held the position of Expert Chair of the Office for Nuclear Development and he is currently on the board of Horizon Nuclear Power as non-executive Director.
  • Director John Carlson, a former Director General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office. In part 6 of the introduction to Mr Carlson’s paper “Nuclear power for Australia”— an outline of the key issues he claims ‘Nuclear has a major advantage over other energy sources’.
  • Dr Leanna Read, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, which advocated for nuclear power in Australia in August 2014.
  • And, for a more sceptical opinion, just this one – Professor Ian Lowe – a former President of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission reported its findings in May recommending that South Australia develop a nuclear waste importing business, (with the potential for later introduction of advanced nuclear reactors, such as Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs).

Will the outcome of the SA nuclear RC be compromised, given the criticisms so far?

Kevin Scarce has continued to be dismissive of criticisms of the plan. The Australia Institute crunched the numbers presented in the Commission’s interim report and wrote a detailed factual rebuttal.

Scarce responded on ABC radio on 31 March 2016, (7)  by saying that the RC “will take apart” the Australia Institute’s report “piece by piec’e.

When asked if such an aggressive attitude was appropriate, Scarce said:

I’m a military officer, what would you expect?”

The selection of pro nuclear advisers and speakers continued through the Royal Commission’s year-long proceedings and subsequent Citizens’ Jury sessions, as Independent Australia has shown in recent articles. 

Numerous well researched criticisms sent to this Royal Commission seem to have been ignored. Kevin Scarce has dismissed opposition as based on emotion or opinion, rather than on facts, saying: “The debate has been formed upon fear…”

In the case of the Royal Commission into Juvenile Justice in the Northern Territory, critics may still find problems, such as the narrowness of scope in the terms of reference, and the involvement of the Northern Territory government (more or less investigating itself). But at least Brian Martin’s swift action has avoided the “festering” effect of having a royal commissioner who is perceived to be biased.

Meanwhile in South Australia, the outcome of its Nuclear Royal Commission may well be compromised, as public confidence in Kevin Scarce might fester amongst Australians in general, and even amongst South Australians, despite that State’s government now bombarding them with pro nuclear propaganda.

Chocolates, bananas, ionising radiation and a nuclear waste dump

This article first appeared on Independent Australia

On the matter of ionising radiation and health, Noel Wauchope rebuts five misleading speakers at the Nuclear Citizens’ Jury hearings on Australia’s nuclear waste importation plan.

IN TWO DAYS of 25 Citizens’ Jury sessions in Adelaide (on 25-26 June), about nuclear waste importing, there was minimal coverage of the question of ionising radiation and health.

What little there was, was skimpy, superficial and downright deceptive, in 209 pages of transcripts.

There was not one mention of the world’s authoritative bodies on the subject — The World Health Organisation, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission or any of the reports on biological effects of ionising radiation.

There was no explanation of the “linear no threshold” (LNT) theory on ionising radiation and health, despite the fact that this theory is the one accepted by all the national and international health bodies, including the Ionising Radiation Safety Institute of Australia who, on this topic, quote the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

The LNT theory holds that the long term, biological damage caused by ionising radiation – essentially the cancer risk –increases directly as the radiation dose increases. There is no safe lower level of ionising radiation.

Instead of explaining this basic concept in radiation protection, the slight coverage on radiation and health given to the Jury, was done in a trivial manner as the following examples (listed in the transcript report) illustrate.

First Speaker

Greg Ward, Chief of Staff, Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, was asked the following question by a juror (p 28):

“Why didn’t the commission report to us the effect of radioactivity in these two [Hiroshima and Nagasaki] populations?”

Greg Ward

That’s just one example … There are lots of studies being undertaken … to look at it from other angles as well … I would have to say that there’s a cloudy area, and that’s largely around the impact of low doses of radiation on humans … You’ve got others who would argue that actually small amounts of radiation actually has a beneficial effect on your immune systems, but there’s certainly no — I would have to say there’s no universal agreement at this point.


But there IS universal agreement on the Linear No Threshold theory, as explained by the health bodies named above.

Second Speaker

Chad Jacobi, Counsel Assisting, Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (p. 31):

Chad Jacobi

the effects that we’re looking at, they are what are known as stochastic effects, they deal with lower doses where you need to do epidemiological studies in order to determine the relationship between radiation and a particular consequence … outstanding evidence, from Geraldine Thomas … She gave excellent evidence on this topic and her evidence is very interesting.  


Mr Jacobi did not go on to explain any of this evidence, so the jurors were left in the dark here.

However, Professor Geraldine Thomas of the Imperial College London, cited by Jacobi, is well known as a speaker promoting the message that ionising radiation is nothing to worry about. She pops up wherever the nuclear lobby is doing a soft sell and in particular, downplays the health effects of radiation on all species as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. She also claimed (at an international conference on radiation research in Warsaw in 2011):

Following Fukushima I doubt that there’ll be any rise in thyroid cancers in Japan.

Thomas’ views are greatly contested. Screening has shown an abnormal rise in thyroid cancers in Fukushima. Professor Timothy Mousseau has studied the Chernobyl and Fukushima situations extensively, finding ill effects of radiation — including genetic damage and increased mutation rates in many species.

Third Speaker

Nigel McBride, Chief Executive Business SA — the state’s peak business and employer group. Mr McBride had a lot to say — some snatches (p 88):

Nigel McBride

Maralinga atomic experiments … British atomic tests are not linked to this discussion; they’ve got nothing to do with it very subtle way of linking two completely unrelated issues to bring fear and emotion … 60,000 people work directly in the UK nuclear industry and in 60 years there has not been one fatality. Neither has there been a fatality in Canada, France, Germany, India and even the U.S. … Five and a half thousand people we understand die from some level of obesity yet we don’t ban sugar and sugary drinks … education over hysteria.


On Maralinga, from Keith Thomas, Chief Executive of the South Australian Native Title Services (p 97):

Keith Thomas

For Aboriginal people the past really does shape the present and the future. Significant events like happened at Maralinga very much become a part of that … that’s affected people all the way to the present as there’s people dying young, which shouldn’t be happening … Aboriginal people — “We don’t want that stuff here because we’ve seen what it does to people.”

On nuclear workers’ fatalities:

An investigation in the U.S. last year, revealed at least 33,480 American nuclear workers died as a result of their radiation exposure. International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organisation also reported on nuclear workers’ leukaemia.

Fourth Speaker

Jason Kuchel, Chief Executive South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy. At last, the fun part about bananas and chocolate. He provided these to jurors, as some sort of evidence of the benignness of ionising radiation (p 117):

Jason Kuchel

I took the opportunity during the break to put some bananas and some chocolates on the tables … you will get to see the point of that as we go through. … [the risks of] getting an x-ray, flying in a plane or even eating a bananaAt the Onkalo waste repository in Finland, the worst case radiation dose if someone were to stand on top of the facility for a whole year and there was a defective package, the equivalent radiation would be equal to eating one bite of a banana.  

As the facility is not yet accepting radioactive waste, all that hardly matters. And that was all from Mr Kuchel.

Fifth Speaker

Associate Professor Michael Penniment, Director Royal Adelaide Hospital, went on at length about the present storage of radioactive materials in hospitals and so on in Adelaide. He took a long time to go near the question of health effects of low level radiation but he finally got to talking about radioactive sources (p 124):

Michael Penniment

It may be that you may not want to avoid them anyway … I got the banana association straight up. I didn’t get the Lindt one [the reference is to the Lindt chocolate factory, which is quite near a nuclear power plant]; I didn’t see that coming. But certainly there’s some radioactive potassium.

You can decrease your risk by doing a few things: you can live in a wooden house, that will take per cent house; if you live in a tent, that will take 20 per cent off; if you live in the open, that will take 50 per cent off.  (He goes on to elaborate the benefits of radiation in treating cancer).  And that’s it — end of his presentation.

However, later in the Q and A section, Penniment did return to that subject ( p.132):

I saw an article by … David Webb … in the follow-up to Chernobyl … there were 28 deaths, and those were the radiation workers that were sent in to clean up the initial spill … And then there was something of the order of 1500 people that died from suicide because of their concerns about radiation, which he described as really the fallacy of radiation, that those people were so worried, and beyond that nobody has died form that incident.

There’s even data that suggests, and it’s reassuring to me, there was data from the British Radiology Association a number of years ago that low level exposure that’s above what we’ve set as the community limit actually may have an improvement in health in terms of what’s called radiation hormesis. The study of radiation workers in the 50s and 60s where controls aren’t as tight as 30 they are now suggests that it may actually have a very low level exposure to radiation but above what we would deem safe might actually have an improvement in health.


On Chernobyl deaths:

Professor Penniment has taken his information from the World Nuclear News. As well as the sources noted above, eminent Russian scientists have put the death toll at 985,000. The most recent study TORCH-2016, an independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, explains the difficulty in getting an accurate estimate but suggests a conservative estimate of 30,000.

On nuclear workers’ health: 

As explained above, in rebutting Nigel McBride.

On radioactivity of bananas:  

Bananas, brazil nuts and some other foods contain radioactive potassium-40 — but in extremely low doses. Potassium-40 in bananas has a specific activity of 71 ten millionths of a curie per gram. Compare that to the 88 curies per gram for Cesium-137. This is like comparing a stick of dynamite to an atomic bomb. Our bodies manage the ingested Potassium 40, so that after eating bananas, the excess is quickly excreted and the body’s Potassium-40 level remains unchanged.

The radioactive isotopes that come from nuclear fission (such as strontium -90, cesium -137 and iodine 131) were unknown in nature before atomic fission: our bodies are not adapted to them. And as well as being far more radioactive that Potassium -40, they can accumulate in the body.

I had hoped for something sensible to come out of these Citizens’ Juries. That doesn’t look like happening if the juries continue to be fed this kind of nonsense.

Nuclear Citizens’ Jury in action: the purpose and the process

On June 25 and 26, the South Australian government held the first of three citizens juries, dedicated to discussing the recommendations of the recent Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission. The sessions are being run by the South Australian company DemocracyCo.

From the start, there are problems with the purpose of this Citizens’ Jury. Premier Weatherill did not really help to clarify this, in his opening speech, as he explained its purpose:

It is not to arrive at a decision, but to arrive at a decision that the government can make a decision.

The initial company charged with setting up the jury plan was the Sydney company New Democracy. They used the term “Citizens Jury” which is trademarked by the Jefferson Institute. Here’s where the trouble starts. The Jefferson Institute, in in its definition of Citizens’ Jury  clearly states:

The Citizens Jury convenes diverse groups of citizens to study an issue deeply, discuss different perspectives on the issue, and recommend a course of action or craft their own solutions to address the issue at hand.

The Citizens Jury process has been used in several countries, and was used Adelaide in 2015. On that occasion, the Citizens’ jury recommended the mandatory desexing of cats and dogs. All of these Citizens’ Juries made a decision and a recommendation, in keeping with that trademarked definition. To my knowledge, this Nuclear Citizens’ Jury is the first in the world to abandon that principle of making a decision, verdict, or recommendation. Instead, it is charged with the job of developing a readable, understandable, summary of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission’s 320 pages of recommendations.

How did New Democracy come to this decision to abandon an intrinsic purpose of a Citizens’ Jury? One can only surmise that this was done under pressure from the South Australian Labor government and the Royal Commission?

No wonder that Premier Weatherill floundered a bit in his introduction at the jury opening.

Having arrived at this plan for the jury, New Democracy handed over the process to the South Australian company, who, by the way, had managed the Adelaide Cats and Dogs desexing question.

There are intrinsic flaws in this Citizens Jury process

For one thing, there are too many members (50) in this “jury”, and in the one planned for later this year (350) . A jury should be made up of 10 to 20 members.

Apart from that, the process looks good at the start. New Democracy and DemocracyCo have gathered their 50 members following a random selection from a database of over 820,000. A payment of $500 (Citizens Jury 1) for the four day commitment ensures that the members are not disadvantaged, by for example, missing work, and other costs. Facilitators are selected to be neutral. DemocracyCo have gone to a lot of trouble to ensure that the hearings are transparent and accessible to all. They provide videos, at and at and will be providing transcripts. Watching these videos, it is clear that DemocracyCo’s facilitators are endeavouring to manage the hearings in a fair way, courteously giving space for jury members to question the speakers.

Even so, the process is fraught with difficulties. Following Premier Weatherill’s introduction, the first session  introduced members of the Royal Commission team. They outlined the Royal Commission’s steps and recommendations. I got the impression that they were keen to have the Royal Commission strongly influencing the process. Questions from the jury members were at times answered in a vague way.

If this were a real legal jury, speakers could not get away with waffly answers.

Here’s an example:

A female jury member asked Greg Ward, (member of the RC) about the non existence of a functioning underground nuclear waste storage. Her exact words:

But they haven’t actually done it

Mr Ward’s reply:

There is one – the USA’s WIPP .

He then very quickly went on to lengthy information about the countries trying to develop one. A lawyer would have stopped Mr Ward from doing that waffle – the lawyer would have said:

Yes or No?

The lawyer would also have been briefed, and would know that the Waste Isolation Pilot Project is not functioning, and has in fact, been a disaster.

Another interesting question to Greg Ward:

You make it clear that the Royal Commission has no responsibility to educate the community at large. We jury members, with our lack scientific knowledge are given this job – our job is greater than the Commission’s. Who is going to support and fund this necessary education of the public?

Answer from Greg Ward:

It is a big challenge. I think you will enjoy the process. (repeats) It is a big challenge. You will need to focus on the real issues and the facts. I’m sure that you will provide the right advice.

A problematic area is in the choice of witnesses. This is done in a complicated way, but

DemocracyCo is trying to be fair here. In looking for expert witnesses, the jury members are not necessarily aware that some might come with technical knowledge, but with an implicit or well-known bias on the subject. This is most likely to happen with witnesses on the subject on health and ionising radiation.

A later meeting, on selection of witnesses on the subject of “education” (educational methods etc), the meeting recommended a speaker from Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). What was needed was an education expert, not a radiation expert.

If you go to DemocracyCo’s Citizen Jury website – Citizens’ Jury One Video Library or to Youtube – you can see 24 videos of these recent hearings.

To try to assess the content of all of these witness speeches is quite a daunting task. However, when one breaks it down into topics, it becomes easier to analyse these speeches from witnesses, and to detect any biases, omissions and flaws. Day One was pretty much a big spruik from the Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission. Day Two was more complicated.

As one goes through all these hearings, as I have done, questionable areas emerge. Some of these are – the economics of waste importing, transport safety, including terrorism risks, the effects of low dose radiation, and perhaps the most significant aspect of all – Aboriginal rights. I think that if observers study each aspect separately, flaws in the Royal Commission’s (RC’s) case will become evident.

It’s not a proper “Jury”, with a purpose to arrive at a yes or no verdict. It is a campaign ruse by the Weatherill government to get these “ordinary people” to develop a readable, understandable, summary of the RC’s 320 pages of recommendations. Apparently the RC personnel are not able to do this themselves.

Two rays of light in all this. First, the jury members are already asking intelligent questions. Secondly, DemocracyCo’s personnel are making every effort to run these hearings fairly, and transparently.

The South Australian nuclear lobby may be in for some surprises.

Submission to South Australian Parliamentary Committee. 10 holes in the Royal Commission’s pro nuclear case

It’s no surprise that South Australia’s questionable Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission (NFCRC) is recommending that Australia become the world’s nuclear waste import hub. That has been the intended outcome from the beginning, when the Commission was set up, over a year ago.

The questionable integrity of the NFCRC was discussed in a submission by Yurij Poetzl over a year ago. Poetzl pointed out Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarse’s conflict of interest, as a shareholder in Rio Tinto, and as a member of CEDA (the Committee for Economic Development In Australia). CEDA’s Policy Perspectives of Nov 2011 clearly supports and promotes the growth of South Australia’s nuclear industry. The Royal Commissioner selected predominantly pro-nuclear experts for the Commission’s Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee had no involvement of health or medical professionals. Poetzl went on to list 22 significant questions that were not addressed in the RC’s Terms of reference. (1)

Speaking in November 2014 at a Flinders University guest lecture,Scarce acknowledged being an “an advocate for a nuclear industry”.

This doubt is raised again, in the latest batch of Submissions, which were published on the RC’s website on 2nd May. In a Submission that is neutral, not anti- nuclear, Gary Rowbottom notes that

Mr. Scarce, in his delivery of the tentative findings, a mere day after the release of these findings, seemed to be critical of any comments made in opposition to deepening Australia’s involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle, often citing lack of evidence for viewpoints expressed.

there is a fair bit of evidence that the commission members themselves are in the majority, clearly quite pro nuclear. I am not happy at the lack of subjectivity that may have brought to the findings, particularly on the waste issue. Whilst Mr. Scarce did say that they did look at the negative sides of all the Issue papers, there is not much evidence of that in the Tentative Findings.

Kevin Scarse, would, I am sure, once again dismiss such criticisms as just “opinion” or “emotional”, “not fact-based” or “formed upon fear”.

The Royal Commission’s problem is that criticisms of its findings are fact-based.

The latest batch of submissions brings up many unanswered questions.

1. Aboriginal rights
Our involvement with fighting the nuclear industry is nothing new. We were long ago concerned by the government agreeing to uranium mining activities that have now permanently contaminated our land and our groundwater. We want no further expansion of the nuclear industry and we will continue to fight for our rights as traditional owners in respect of the wisdom of our old people that came before us. We care for our country. We only wish governments and industries would do the same. Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob

Our members consider that any attempt of a proposal to place this site on Aboriginal lands in SA will be a blatant disregard for the Custodians of their lands already so long disregarded.

These particular Findings of the Royal Commission (including their many subclauses, not included), which note expressly Aboriginal Communities and specifically those communities deeply affected by the British nuclear tests at Maralinga, ring immediate alarm bells for our members. – Ngoppon Together Inc

2. Economics.

The Royal Commission’s Tentative Finding, that substantial economic benefits could be obtained at low risk from the storage and disposal of used nuclear fuel in South Australia, is not soundly based. Excessive reliance has been placed on Jacobs MCM (2016), which has made over-optimistic assumptions in the financial analysis, such as the willingness of potential customers to pay for their share of the cost of the geological disposal facility before it has been built.

The proposal has major financial risks to taxpayers that have been ignored or played down in the Tentative Findings. These are sufficient grounds to reject the scheme. However, if the Royal Commission is determined to ignore or downplay the risks and recommend the proposed project, it should also recommend that the substantial financial risks be taken by a private corporation or consortium, not Australian taxpayers – Dr Mark Diesendorf

The proposal is that we should accept waste before the repository has been completely built and tested. This proposal is so reckless, as to be negligent. We would face the very real risk of being left with high-level nuclear waste, and no technology to properly handle it- Dr Andrew Allison

If Russia, with vast territory, a mature nuclear power industry, and experience with their own stockpiles of waste, could not establish a waste dump for profit, what chance does Australia have of succeeding in such an enterprise?- Meg Backhouse’s submission.

If this is such a great deal, how come no other country has grabbed it before now? – South Australian Greens

Item 88 How can financial assessments based on operating over about 100 years be relevant when the storage is required over many hundreds of thousands of years? Item 150 The Federal and State Government will have to underwrite the risks if the project goes ahead, which will require taxpayer funds. In the event of a disaster the Government (and therefore, the taxpayer) will be required to sort out the mess. – Graham Glover.

3. Safety.
Accepting waste that – in the Report’s own words ‘requires isolation from the environment for many hundreds of thousands of years’ (p 16) requires a very high-level of confidence that the risks associated with the location of such waste in our state are very low. The Tentative Report does not provide a level of evidence that can give confidence about these risks. Unfortunately the nuclear industry and its proponents have a long record of over stating the benefits of the nuclear industry and understating its risks – to the cost of citizens’ in terms of health, community stability, and economic outcomes. We are asked in the Tentative Report to take these recommendations ‘on faith’ given that the proposed high-level waste dump is not operational anywhere on earth – and, further, that the dump proposed for our state is twenty times larger than that planned (not actual) for Finland. – Mothers for a Sustainable South Australia

4. Transport dangers.
The Royal Commission apparently assumes that the movements of many hundreds of thousands of tonnes of spent nuclear fuel from many countries around the world to the Gawler Craton will be low risk, no problems and perfectly safe. As contradictory as those stances are, I do not accept that position of default safety. Further I do not accept that the unloading of the HLNW will be perfectly safe. I do not accept that road transport from port to repository site will be perfectly safe, even on a dedicated purpose built road. -submission from Paul Langley

We are concerned at the obvious dangers of transporting overseas high level radioactive wastes into our state and country. – Catholic Religious South Australia

5. Climate change

Has the NFCRC incorporated the potential impacts of climate change on the ecology and geology the State? It is essential that some scenario planning for climate change impacts be included in the assessment as conditions in the next one hundred years are likely to be very different to those experienced in the last 100 years. Trisha Drioli

There is no analysis of the potential impacts on the environment into the future. In fact, it is not possible to even comprehend what the environment could be like 100,000 years into the future. For example, climate change models predict significant changes in weather patterns including precipitation and temperature. Models of potential sea level rise indicate significant inundation of coastal areas, but if worst case scenarios eventuate, such as significant melting of the polar ice caps, most of South Australia would be underwater. That might take thousands of years, but there is nothing to indicate the possible impacts of the environment if a currently arid environment became wetter or if groundwater levels rose or if a site became completely inundated. Mark Parnell

6. Health
The Commission’s opening tentative finding states that “South Australia can safely increase its participation in nuclear activities, and by doing so, significantly improve the economic welfare of the South Australian community.”

The evidence base for adopting such a confident and conclusive statement is questionable. – factual evidence is given in this submission by Dan Monceaux
7. The legality of the Commission under question


It is currently South Australian law that “no public money may be appropriated, expended or advanced to any person for the purpose of encouraging or financing any activity associated with the construction or operation of a nuclear waste storage facility in this state.”

As a South Australian citizen, I am very concerned by what appears to be a disregard for the rule of law. This is particularly concerning as the nuclear industry across the world has a somewhat tarnished reputation when it comes to transparency and compliance with legal requirements. Any lack of confidence in the rule of law (whether perceived or real) will be extremely detrimental to this project and to South Australia as a democratic state. -from submission by Trish Drioli

8. Lack of transparency?
Transparency” is a term when used in such context, makes a mockery of public consultation and decision-making. In an industry that is hidden within Legislative Agreements that prohibit “freedom of information” and with information locked up in inter-departmental exchanges that circumvent any public disclosure, there is no transparency. Local get-togethers do not equal public engagement. These are serious matters which are of National concern from submission by Anne McGovern

Many who are attending the meetings in surrounding affected communities are stating they are being told it will be low level waste only, when the report clearly states that the profits expressed so strongly are actually determined on expected high level nuclear radioactive waste from international power stations and other uses, as stated on page 16, tentative finding number 73 through to 95, in addition to intermediate and low level waste. (NFCRC, 2016)

9. Impact on other industries.
The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Tentative Findings Report contains many generously overstated ambitions, almost no analysis of the environmental, tourism or agricultural consequences with its focus on narrowly supported economic benefits.

Concerns about environmental and safety effects of the waste depot are not the result of over-emotional, irrational fears. Holly-Kate Whittenbury

Item 155 Any chance of South Australia being regarded as the “Clean & Green” or the “Carbon Neutral” State will be overshadowed if this proposal goes ahead. Impacts on agriculture, tourism and the renewable energy sectors could be significant, irrespective of whether a major nuclear accident has occurred or not. South Australia could be known as the “Dumb” or the “Dump” State. – Graham Glover.

It was disappointing to note that “Impacts On Other Sectors” was given relatively little attention. … SAWIA notes that its members have genuine concerns about the potential risks to the reputation of the South Australian wine industry in the event of a nuclear accident occurring on South Australian soil.

Such a risk would also have the potential to harm the State government’s economic priority of ‘Premium Food and Wine produced in our Clean Environment and Exported to the World’ – SOUTH AUSTRALIAN WINE INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION INCORPORATED

10. Deceptive spin about medical wastes.

Even if the waste depot did only receive low level, medical waste, the facility would not be economically viable; medical waste, as described by physician Louise Emmett, only needs to be stored for such a short time that it would hardly make it to the waste facility for dumping, before it breaks down;

“In the vast majority of nuclear medicine practices the storage issue is not particularly current in terms of what we keep. It’s waste products have a short half life, up to eight days half life, so it would be difficult to take that long distances for storage.” (Baillie, R. 2012)

This quote was taken from a 2012 interview with ABC reporter Rebecca Bailie and described the deceptive and secretive attempts to store nuclear waste on Muckaty cattle station in the Northern Territory and describes the government and nuclear proponents’ spin on the storage of dangerous waste using medical uses as an excuse as a method of breaking down strong public resistance. Clearly, the supporters of the waste dump in 2016 are using the same deceptive techniques. Radiologist Doctor Peter Karamoskos has also pointed out the deception this time round in 2016;

It is at best misleading and at worst a lie to claim that a large-scale nuclear waste repository such as what is being proposed would be solely justified to handle the minuscule amounts of nuclear medicine waste generated in Australia.” (Parnell, M.2015)…….. Holly-Kate Whittenbury