Nuclear Royal Commission: Tentative Findings released

Commissioner Kevin Scarce released the Tentative Findings in Adelaide on Monday, February 15.
Commissioner Kevin Scarce released the Tentative Findings in Adelaide on Monday, February 15.

An increase in South Australia’s nuclear activity could deliver $257 billion to the state’s economy, according to findings released by the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.

Commissioner Kevin Scarce released the Tentative Findings in Adelaide on Monday, February 15.

The 42-page document reviews the opportunities and risks of increasing the state’s participation in nuclear fuel cycle activities, including long-term storage and disposal of used nuclear fuel.

The inquiry found that South Australia could safely increase its participation in nuclear activities, but acknowledged that the community should have the final say.

If the public supports an increase in nuclear activity, an integrated storage and disposal facility with a capacity of 138,000 tonnes could be operational in the late 2020s.

Financial assessments provided by external consultants indicated that a facility could generate total revenue of more than $257 billion, with total costs of $145 billion over 120 years.

About 1500 full time jobs would be created during the 25-year construction of a facility, and 600 jobs would be available once operational.

Mr Scarce said the commission has not been driven by “emotion or opinion”.

“We know that nuclear is an emotional subject, and I want to stress from the outset that the process that we are under is a process of science and facts,” Mr Scarce said. 

“I will also make the point that any future moves to increase the state’s involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle should not proceed without social consent.”

Commissioner Kevin Scarce speaks about the Tentative Findings

Commissioner Kevin Scarce speaks about the Tentative Findings

Key observations include:

  • South Australia can safely increase its participation in nuclear activities and, by doing so, significantly improve the economic welfare of the South Australian community;
  • Community consent would be essential to the successful development of any nuclear fuel cycle activities;
  • The management of the social, environmental, safety and financial risks of participation in these activities is not beyond South Australians, and;
  • Long-term political decision-making, with bipartisan support at both state and federal levels, would be a prerequisite to achieving progress.

South Australians have five weeks to give feedback on the Tentative Findings, with the closing date for responses set at 5pm on Friday, March 18, 2015. 

A series of public meetings have been scheduled in Adelaide, Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Whyalla, Port Lincoln, Mount Gambier, Ceduna, Renmark and Aboriginal communities in the far north and west coast.

A final report which includes public feedback will be released in May 2016.

Following the Tentative Findings’ release, the Australian Democrats called on Premier Jay Weatherill to put nuclear plans to referendum at the 2018 state election.

The Premier said cabinet discussed the findings on February 15, but is yet to form a position, either for or against.

Mr Weatherill announced the Royal Commission in February 2015 and appointed former Governor Kevin Scarce to lead the review into the state’s participation in four areas of the nuclear fuel cycle: mining, enrichment, energy and storage.

Mr Scarce said it “takes a brave community” to support the storage of nuclear waste.

“This particular activity is an activity over a couple hundred thousand years. It’s a significant change for us and the community needs to understand the risks and the benefits. The document, I hope, brings that to light,” he said.

“I encourage the community to challenge the evidence upon which both the revenue assumptions and the cost assumptions, and the safety assumptions, are made.

“If the community doesn’t support this, I’m still happy that we’ve had the discussion.”

The Tentative Findings, full list of public meetings and information regarding the feedback are available online.