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What’s so unclear about nuclear?

John C
 
What’s so unclear about nuclear?
Answer: Nothing!
 
Nuclear energy and weaponry have been around long enough for any rational person to arrive at the conclusion that these have no place or future on our planet. Yet the proponents of the nuclear industry continue to flog this dead horse.
 
Recently, a forum titled “SA The Nuclear State” and organised by the Anti-Nuclear Coalition SA was held in Adelaide. It was attended by around 60 people. The key-note speaker was Dr David Palmer, a historian who has been researching the nuclear industrial-military complex.
 
The reader might be aware that the SA government has proposed the idea of locating a massive international nuclear waste storage facility in remote SA, ostensibly to boost the ailing SA economy and jobs well into the future. A rather questionable Royal Commission was held into this, which came up with the conclusion that an international nuclear waste dump is a pretty good idea. This was followed by a Citizen’s Jury set up by the state government in the hope that the public would also be supportive of the idea. The Citizen’s Jury thought it stunk and did not want a bar of it. The reader is directed to an article previously published by Vanguard for a more in depth analysis of the background: http://www.cpaml.org/environment.php?id=383.
 
This has put a dampener on Premier Jay Weatherill’s plan. It was a great victory for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals and organisations leading the campaign against the nuclear dump.
 
You would think that would be end of the matter.
 
However, Dr Palmer in his keynote address to the forum referred to an article in The Advertiser which reported that recently, nuclear industry lobbyists sent an open letter to “state MP’s and42 influential people demanding the State Government commits to completing first-stage investigations of the proposed high-level repository”.
 
Further, in another Advertiser article late last year, Ben Heard, a strong proponent of the nuclear power lobby was quoted as saying “We must be a full service provider to the nuclear back-end”.
 
This sort of statement is a giveaway as to what is really behind the proposed international nuclear waste dump. As if though the idea of such a dump is not bad enough, the pro-nuclear forces would like to see SA involved in the entire nuclear cycle.  Of course this then has repercussions for the rest of Australia. One of which is the potential for the nuclear industry becoming a target for terrorists.
Dr Palmer has researched the 100 largest global defence corporations. Of the top ten, seven are American and 5 of the latter develop/manufacture products associated with nuclear weaponry.
 
A key point is that five of the top seven have a presence in SA. These are Raytheon, United Technologies, Boeing, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin. There are a few other less well-known companies, but still in the top 100, operating in SA that have connections to the nuclear weapons industry.
 
SA has secured the contract to build submarines. Currently these are diesel powered. However one can foresee pressure for progression to nuclear powered subs. Pretty much all of the US subs are nuclear powered, so for “interoperability” considerations, you can bet your bottom dollar that the US would prefer their allies to have nuclear capable subs.
 
Uranium mining is an activity carried out by BHP at Olympic Dam Mine at Roxby Downs in SA. According to Dr Palmer, the demand for new nuclear power plants has been decreasing whilst uses for nuclear materials in military sphere have increased.
 
Interestingly, the Royal Commission, apart from “assessing” the proposal for a nuclear waste dump, deals in Chapter 2 with the “expansion of the current level of exploration, extraction and milling of minerals containing radioactive materials in South Australia”.
Retired RAN Admiral and former SA Governor Kevin Scarce who was appointed to head up the Royal Commission, who is a known proponent of the nuclear industry, is also Chancellor of the University of Adelaide and deputy chairman of a large company. Just in this example alone it is plain to see the web of connections that exist between military, university, corporate and government sectors and influential supporters of the nuclear industry.
 
SA has the dubious distinction of being labelled the “Defence State” due to the significant operations of the military-industrial complex in the state. It appears from Dr Palmer’s research, that if the plans for an international nuclear waste dump go ahead, the potential for the establishment of the nuclear-military-industrial complex in the state is not out of the question. This will take the activities of the military-industrial complex in SA to a qualitatively different level and one which should raise alarm bells.
 
Another speaker at the forum was Tony Clark, an Adnyamathanha man and a long-time activist for his Nation’s lands. He recounted the struggle against the first attempt back in 1998 by the then Howard federal government to establish a nuclear waste repository on traditional Aboriginal lands in remote SA.  As stewards of the land for future generations, the Indigenous people of the region fought persistently and won. As Mr Clark said, it shows what can be achieved when “the underdog decides to stand up”.
 
Nineteen years later, the First Nation people are today faced with another attempt by the Turnbull federal government to establish a nuclear waste dump in the same region. This is in addition to the international nuclear waste dump being proposed by the SA state government.
 
Mr Clark is as passionate as ever about protecting the land from this latest threat and encouraged those involved in the fight against the nuclear industry to persist because “this struggle can be won by the strength of fighting this battle together as like-minded people”.
 
The third speaker was Ally Fricker who is a veteran peace, environmental and anti-nuclear campaigner. She elaborated further on the corporations which operate in SA and their involvement in the nuclear industry, as well as explaining that there are intimate connections between the civilian and military components of the nuclear industry. In fact, promoting “peaceful” uses for nuclear materials such as the generation of power was from the very beginning, primarily a spruiking exercise in order to permit the continuation of the development and manufacture of nuclear weapons. The concern of the ruling class even at the time of the first atomic bomb was that if “peaceful uses” of nuclear materials were not dreamt up, then the people would oppose the continuation of the nuclear military efforts and the latter would have to be shut down. In other words the nuclear military industry cannot exist without the so-called “civilian” component of the industry.
 
It was also mentioned that one of the current bottlenecks to the further expansion of the nuclear industry is that there is no solution to the build-up of high level nuclear waste scattered around the world. The existence of a nuclear waste repository where this material can be sent, vis a vis the one proposed by the SA state government, is promoted as a “solution” to the problem by the nuclear industry. Therefore if the international nuclear waste dump goes ahead in SA, this paves the way for the expansion of the nuclear industry.
 
The take home message of the forum is summed up in Dr Palmer’s concluding remarks that “the debate about a South Australian nuclear waste dump needs to consider these broader ramifications. At the same time, refusing to agree to an international nuclear waste dump in South Australia is a crucial initial step toward turning away from the nuclear military-industrial complex toward a better, more productive economy and a safer environment for all”.
 
The forum reaffirmed the imperative that any proposals for nuclear waste dumps on Australian soil must be defeated. Otherwise, Australia will find itself more entrenched in the deadly ambitions of imperialism. Part of the strategy must include further well researched facts about the nuclear industry (civil and military) by “citizen scientists” in order to counter the flimsy arguments presented by proponents of the industry.
 
There is already a strong organised opposition to the nuclear waste dumps and the wider nuclear industry in place. By expanding this base, the united action of the Australian people will send those of the nuclear industry packing.
 
Fight to gain Australian independence and sovereignty!

 

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