Disposal in Australia on agenda ?

31 March 1999

The Australian government has rejected a proposal to build an international waste repository in the country.

“It is not government policy to import nuclear waste from other countries and there is no intention to change that,” said a spokesperson for Industry, Science and Resources minister Nick Minchin.

The proposal came from a Seattle based company, Pangea. Pangea has received investment from British Nuclear Fuels and NAGRA, a cooperative of Swiss nuclear operators. BNFL has emphasised that its involvement in the project does not mean it plans to ship waste from the UK to Australia. A briefing document on the Pangea proposal emphasises the importance of finding a solution to the problem of nuclear waste.

Having studied possible sites throughout the world, Pangea found that southern hemisphere countries offered the most stable geology and Australia the most stable politics. The site would be in Western or Southern Australia.

“Australia is a superior host country because it has a stable democratic government that plays a leading role in many international affairs, particularly in environmental and disarmament issues,” says the briefing document.

“If the Australian people accept an international nuclear waste repository, they will solve a major world problem. Australians will gain a project giving large environmental benefits to the world, receiving significant economic benefits, with negligible environmental impact.” Pangea estimates that the repository would add 1% to Australia’s GDP and provide over 50 000 jobs.

Gaining consent of the Australian people is likely to be difficult, particularly with BNFL so heavily involved. The difficulties are likely to be a result of historical ties between the UK and Australia, rather than engineering logic.

“We’ve had their convicts, their colonial wars, their nuclear tests and now they want us to have their nuclear waste as well,” said Democrat senator Andrew Bartlett.

The Pangea plan is supported by the US government; Clinton’s special envoy on weapons of mass destruction, Robert Gallucci, said the proposal would be profitable for Australia.

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