The South Australian government led by Premier Jay Weatherill has been pushed into a quandary after the Royal commission gave the final report recommending a high-level nuclear waste dump with a potential to earn billions of dollars in revenue. This is because the government has to take a decision lured by its economics but weighed by the risks of losing political capital.
According to the Royal commission chaired by Kevin Scarce, the proposed nuclear dump could generate $257 billion in revenue against $145 billion in costs over 120-years, reports The Guardian. The report echoes the preliminary findings delivered in February. For Weatherill, this opportunity of significant benefit requires strong public support as voices of resistance are strong.
It is learned that the government will soon embark on a public consultation process before taking a final decision. The resistance to nuclear dump is from the indigenous land owners where the site is located. “This is a much more profound decision that communities are usually asked to make. I don’t see it as simply ticking the community support box,” Weatherill said.
Weatherill is yet to spell out his public consultation plan after ruling out a referendum on the issue. Opposition leader Steven Marshall urged both sides to work together to make such a large project possible.
The report has deeper implications. Politically, it has stirred the Australian Labor Party at a federal level as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is against the nuclear industry. Weatherill said the process would proceed if the community wanted it even though many ethical, moral and financial issues are involved.
“It is a distinctly political judgement about where we believe this community is,” Weatherill told reporters, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.
In the next South Australian election scheduled for March 2018, this issue can turn into a central plank. Scarce, in a press conference, highlighted the competitive advantages of SA in terms of stable geology, strong international reputation, a good regulatory environment and vast land mass.
The report wanted the nuclear dump facility to be owned and controlled by the state government. Political bipartisanship and stable government policy will be essential and the federal government’s support will be required, he said.
For the nuclear industry, South Australia has the right infrastructure. It is home to 30 percent of the world’s uranium reserves and hosts the largest- uranium deposit at BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine, 500 km north of Adelaide.