A citizens’ jury of 368 randomly selected South Australians has overwhelmingly rejected the proposal by the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission for a nuclear waste dump in SA.
In the report to the Premier, Jay Weatherill, a two-thirds majority of the jury state that they “do not wish to pursue the opportunity under any circumstances.”
The Premier, who has more spin than a toy top, immediately interpreted this to mean: “Their present view is that the proposal in its current form should not proceed”.
No Premier, their view, now and in the future, is that they do not want the proposal under any circumstances.
A Flawed Royal Commission
The rejection comes in the wake of a flawed Royal Commission and opposition to the dump from every Aboriginal community consulted by the Government.
Appointed as Royal Commissioner was retired Admiral and former SA Governor Kevin Scarce. In November 2014 he acknowledged being an advocate for the nuclear industry, and a month later told the SA Chamber of Mines and Energy that SA should develop nuclear industries to compensate for the downturn in manufacturing. On February 9, 2015 Weatherill announced Scarce’s appointment as head of a Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission. Scarce justified accepting the appointment by saying “I have not been an advocate and never have been an advocate of the nuclear industry”!
Scarce then appointed an Expert Advisory Panel to assist the Commission. Three of the four were nuclear industry hawks, including the notorious and outspoken Prof. Barry Brook.
Further undermining any claim that the Commission was an independent exercise, Scarce told the ABC’s 7.30 programme on March 14 that the question facing the Commission was “How do we convince South Australians that it is safe... and what are the benefits of so doing?”[
At this stage, Scarce’s and Brook’s pro-nuclear comments were unlawful under SA legislation, as was the funding of a Royal Commission on the nuclear fuel cycle.
When the latter unlawfulness was pointed out to Weatherill, he hurriedly tried to revoke the legislation and having failed in that, amended it after the fact to enable “discussion” of SA’s nuclear future.
Directing the Jury
The 350-plus Citizens’ Jury was conceived by Weatherill as a means of manufacturing the appearance of community support for the nuclear waste dump proposal which, incidentally, calls for the importation of 138,000 tonnes of high level nuclear waste and 390,000 cubic metres of intermediate level nuclear waste, all to be stored above-ground for 80 years whilst an underground facility is built.
The Jury met over three weekends and had to digest an enormous amount of reading material and verbal presentations, much of it slanted in favour of the nuclear industry.
For example, only one economic report on the viability of an international nuclear waste dump was commissioned and its two authors were subsequently outed as having strong links to the nuclear industry. One was vice-president of the Association for Regional and International Underground Storage and the other was previously involved in the Association’s former incarnation, Panagea Resources, which had spearheaded a nuclear dump proposal back in Howard’s time as Prime Minister.
It is all to the credit of the citizen jurors that they saw through the manipulation and rejected the dump proposal.
Specifically, they did not trust the State Government to deliver the dump safely and on budget; they acknowledged Aboriginal opposition to it; and they were sceptical of the sincerity of the jury process itself.
Which way Jay?
Weatherill has clearly been embarrassed, but not put off, by the Jury decision.
In addition to spinning their rejection into something it is not, he has cited the 38 years that it took Finland to decide to build an as yet uncompleted underground nuclear dump to let it be known that he was still pressing ahead. “We don’t expect that this is a debate that will be concluded any time soon,” he said.
After a three thousand-strong anti-dump rally outside SA Parliament on October 15, a vocal rally was held outside the ALP State Conference last weekend. Faced with a raft of anti-dump resolutions, Weatherill retreated to accepting a Special ALP Convention “to be held at the conclusion of community consultation and before a decision is made on the development of a high level nuclear waste repository in SA”.
Weatherill had previously said that the latter decision would be made by the end of 2016, yet within days of the Conference motion being passed, he announced he was walking away from its motion too: “There is no upcoming special convention…It may be a question of years away.”
This chicanery and duplicity is the hallmark of a social democratic party committed to managing the affairs of the drivers of the capitalist economy. The primary drivers are the big imperialist finance capitalists, embedded within which are the big multinational corporations running the world’s nuclear power industries.
The working class and its progressive allies must continue their efforts to build a genuinely independent agenda to cut through the bullshit that comes from the parliamentary cesspit.
Our future lies in independence from imperialism.
Our future lies in socialism and not capitalism.
Our energy sources must be clean and sustainable.
No to nuclear power! No to a nuclear dump!