Successive governments have failed to deliver a solution to managing radioactive waste while continuing to produce and indeed increase the production of waste. We have a responsibility to manage Australia's inventory of waste to the highest possible standards. The focus of finding a solution rather than just a location should begin with the Government upholding its commitment to community consent.
Nuclear the wrong question
We have some major hurdles ahead of us on nuclear waste. We need to safely manage the existing nuclear waste accumulated across Australia. We need to consider waste minimisation strategies so that we are not locked into a never ending search for waste storage options. We must protect Australia against the growing threat of becoming the world's repository for the highest levels of nuclear waste known on earth.
Australia has a long history of failed plans to locate national nuclear waste dumps, plans that have disproportionately targeted Aboriginal land. Coercive attempts to dump radioactive waste on unwilling communities do not work. That is the experience here in Australia and internationally.
Instead of simply asking 'which remote location is most suitable for dumping radioactive waste' we should be asking what is the most appropriate way of managing and isolating various categories of nuclear waste and how can we minimise the production of nuclear waste.
National nuclear waste
A long-term waste management solution needs to take a considered and evidence based approach. This would best be achieved by holding an independent Inquiry into national radioactive waste production and management, with input from civil society stakeholders as well as people with expertise in engineering, social science, environmental science, community consultation, radiation and medicine.
International Nuclear Waste
There is a renewed push for the storage of international high- level nuclear waste in Australia. The economics of these proposals are deeply flawed; the benefits to Australia have been grossly over exaggerated and the long-term risks ignored. The waste from nuclear power is the most dangerous and long-lived waste known. No country in the world has been able to establish a high level nuclear waste disposal facility. The inability to contain nuclear waste overseas is a reason for Australia to stop supplying uranium, not a reason to impose it on the Australian environment and public.