Storage of radioactive waste – former PM Hawke’s ‘no-brainer’

Based on our knowledge of how these things work, we can safely conjecture about a conspiracy of silence among the pro-nuclear forces regarding their longer term ambitions for using parts of Australia as sites:

for the storage of waste radioactive materials for uranium produced in Australia and sold overseas
for the storage of all manner of global radioactive waste in the name of securing an economic base.

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke is the only significance figure who is publicly promoting this absurd scheme. The fact he feels comfortable in speaking about such matters in the midst of a Federal election suggests that other – and supportive – conversations take place well out of sight of the public.

”It’s a no-brainer,” he says. ”If you’ve got the safest geological sites in the world, why haven’t you got the moral responsibility to make them available?” ( )

No brainer indeed. Such an action would inevitably result in radioactive contamination of large areas of Australia for countless generations

Aside from the dubious concept of our moral responsibility for the actions of the uranium industry, there are plenty of other factors which reasoned and rational debate need to be properly considered. Some very basic indeed.

Former PM Hawke, who invokes the stable geology of the northern Australia as one of the main reasons for promoting such as scheme, must also be aware the an earlier scheme to locate a toxic waste incinerator in Tennant Creek (south of Muckaty) was shelved after a major earthquake in the area during then PM Hawke’s 1988 Bi-Centenary celebrations resulted in a crack in the surface of the earth said (at the time) to be 50km in length.

One of the main selling points of the Tennant Creek area for the toxic waste incinerator – one which was to justify long trips to relocate hazardous materials from distant places – was the stable geological foundations. 1988 changed all that:

“Tennant Creek is the only place in Australia’s recorded history to experience three powerful earthquakes – incredibly all in one day”, said Dr Bathgate.

The series of earthquakes occurred on 22 January 1988 measuring magnitude 6.3, 6.4 and 6.7. The earthquakes produced large ground ruptures and a 35km long fault scarp with up to two metres vertical displacement, causing structural damage and severe warping of a major natural gas pipeline.

“Senior Seismologist Dr Jonathan Bathgate said the area has a known seismic history, and is identified as having high seismic hazard.”

But science has been effectively gagged by the political process in this whole debate.

And – since handling radioactive waste and First Peoples relations to country are very complex matter – many everyday folk rely on the lead taken by unbiased experts in such matters.

There has been a complete lack of leadership taken in this debate by both scientific experts and by professional anthropologists with standing in Universities.

Post-Fukushima we have to ask if this superannuated silence sits squarely with the prestige bestowed upon them as part of the wider society’s allocation of a scarce social good?

The silence of people whose professional expertise must enable them to see aspects of these problems which may be unclear to everyday folk provides the prefect complement for conspiracies of silence by those who seek to make short-term profits through the use of radioactive products.

Commercial-in-confidence clauses are invoked to cloak secret board room deals, and it is clear from the Commonwealth’s government legislative schemes that the politicians will craft legislation which accommodates the same hidden spirit.

With the election of the Abbott lead Liberal-National Party Coalition government, all those pro-nuclear forces to the right of former Prime Minister Hawke will now be able to invoke his name for their schemes. Schemes which, frankly, not only rubbish country but will rubbish country for eons to come.

The need for all experts to speak up and add their contributions to the wider debate about safe and secure radioactive waste management has never been greater.