Discussions to continue on South Australian waste disposal

14 November 2016

South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill has today announced the state's plans to continue discussions on a proposed nuclear waste facility and promised a referendum to restore "bipartisanship and broad social consent" on the issue.

Weatherill's comments followed last week's rejection by a Citizens' Jury of proposals that South Australia should store and dispose of nuclear waste. The jury formed part of the state-wide consultation process following the publication of the final report of South Australia's Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission in May, which recommended the government should pursue the establishment of storage and disposal facilities for multi-national used nuclear fuel and intermediate-level waste.

In a statement, Weatherill said the "unprecedented" state-wide consultation program had helped guide the government's next steps on the matter. "The Government believes continued public debate about South Australia's role in the nuclear fuel cycle is important, however an absence of bipartisanship stands in the way of any meaningful progress," the statement noted. The state opposition Liberal Party withdrew its support before the consultation had been completed, removing the bipartisanship the Royal Commission said was critical to the process.

"I believe continued public debate about South Australia's role in the nuclear fuel cycle is important and ultimately it is a matter that the people should decide, not political parties," Weatherill said. "We have listened to the diverse points of view and have tried to carefully balance what we've heard to map out our next steps. We will not pursue a change to our policy, but if the mood in the community shifts and bipartisanship is re-established we will remain open to this question," he added.

If broad social consent were to be achieved through a referendum, local Aboriginal people would be given a final right of veto on any future facility, the government said.

The public consultation program, described as the largest in South Australia's history, included 17,000 face-to-face conversations, 33,000 online conversations, 4500 online surveys and 11,500 letters, emails and phone calls as well as two Citizens' Juries. A representative survey found 43% of people supported or strongly supported the pursuit of a waste disposal facility, with 37% opposed or strongly opposed and 20% undecided. However, two-thirds of the 350 members of the Citizens' Jury on the issue felt that a disposal facility should not be pursued under any circumstances.

The South Australian government is scheduled to deliver its full response to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission in parliament tomorrow.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News