Voter backlash over nuclear issues is a thing of the past.
The federal division of Grey encompasses the vast majority of the geographical area of South Australia. It also contains three volunteer locations for the future facility pictured above. In the recent election, its sitting member, Rowan Ramsay, was returned with a convincing swing of nearly 8%.
Some context was provided by the ABC several years previously:
Some people are boycotting local businesses in town due to their opposing views on the issue but the Federal Member for Grey, Rowan Ramsey believes as the debate continues more people are coming around to the idea.
“That’s very concerning, I had not anticipated that people would go to those lengths. All I have ever wanted was a calm rational debate,” Mr Ramsey said.
“I’m getting increasing contact from people who have stayed quiet about the debate but are actually saying we’re getting more and more interested,” he said.
“(People are starting to) see the upside of it if you like. They are saying it is starting to interest us as we start to think about technological change and efficiencies coming into agriculture and the long term decline of population.”
Mr Ramsey has been a key player in the debate even offering up his own property as a possible site to host the facility before it was deemed a conflict of interest.
Mr Ramsey concedes ascertaining how most of the community feels about the issue is difficult but said 100 per cent support was not necessary for the debate to go ahead.
“I think we need a significant majority, there is going to be a survey process which should touch about 20 per cent of the community, and it will be done by an independent company,” Mr Ramsey said.
Comments by a resident in Grey exemplify some of the uncertain opposition thinking:
Ms Woolford is concerned the risk of jeopardising the regions clean, green image does not justify the proposed benefits of having a nuclear waste facility in the region.
It would be hoped that many minds would be put at ease by the findings of no less than a royal commission which examined this and other related aspects of the endeavour for over a year (page 163):
There is no compelling evidence that the development of nuclear facilities in South Australia would adversely affect other economic sectors, provided those facilities are operated safely and securely.
[The royal commission] received submissions warning of reputational damage to South Australia’s clean, green image from further participation in nuclear activities. This assertion is difficult to accept given the experiences of countries with significant activities at all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, which have world-leading industries in tourism and agriculture, including aquaculture and viticulture, including France and the USA.
A major nuclear accident resulting in the widespread dispersal of radioactive material would have profound regional impacts. However, such catastrophic consequences are conceivable only in the event of a serious accident at a nuclear power plant. With respect to managing radioactive waste in a highly engineered and specifically designed storage and disposal facility, the risks and potential consequences of an accident are different and lower. Facility siting would also take into consideration a wide range of factors, including any potential economic and social impacts. Nevertheless, community perceptions are important. The community must fully understand the nature of the proposed activity and be provided with objective, factual information about the risks involved, in order for community perceptions to move beyond fear-based assumptions that such a facility is a ‘dump’.
Given Rowan Ramsay’s electoral performance, there’s reason to believe that outspoken support for a fair, well-informed selection process is a vote-winner. It certainly doesn’t appear to hurt.
“Concerns” have inarguably been fuelled by organisations such as the Medical Association for the Prevention of War. Right away, the question must be asked, what does a radioactive waste facility have to do with preventing war? Despite being repeatedly corrected on the issue, this organisation insists that nations like Canada and the U.S. are adopting small scale cyclotron technology, thereby freeing themselves of the “problem” of waste.
Canada, where one of Ontario’s CANDU reactor stations will begin producing medical isotopes by the end of this year.
The U.S., where a site is being prepared to build a pair of OPAL reactors, effectively copying Australia’s success.
No wonder our nuclear science organisation isn’t interested in their opinion.
No wonder malinformed campaigns are having no effect anymore.
Oscar Archer holds a PhD in chemistry and has been analysing energy issues for over 13 years, focusing on nuclear technology for 4, with a background in manufacturing and QA. By day he works in energy efficiency research & development. He helps out at Adelaide-based Bright New World as Senior Advisor (we want your support!)and writes for The Fourth Generation. Find him @OskaArcher on Twitter.