Australia’s experience and expertise with radioactive waste gives little cause for confidence about the future management of long-lived high-level radioactive waste from AUKUS submarines, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.

“Australia has scant real world experience and does not have a good track record when it comes to managing radioactive waste,” said ACF’s nuclear analyst Dave Sweeney.

“Successive federal governments have searched, without success, for a site for low and intermediate level waste for more than three decades.

“This controversial search, which has sown distrust and division, continues today on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.

“Nuclear submarines are powered by highly enriched uranium – the same material that can be used in nuclear weapons and which inevitably becomes high-level radioactive waste.

“This waste remains poisonous and carcinogenic for tens of thousands of years.

“There have been several attempts – from Pangea Resources in the 1990s to Kevin Scarce in the 2010s – to open the door to Australia becoming the host site for the world’s worst waste.

“To date sanity has prevailed and these ideas have ended up in the bin, where they belong.

“AUKUS presents by far the biggest threat yet that Australia will become a dumping ground for the world’s worst nuclear waste.

“Nuclear power station operators in countries all over the globe will see Australia as a soft touch on this very hard issue.

“AUKUS has been developed in secret by the Defence Department. There has been no public consultation and next to no public debate. Defence will undoubtedly view the management of radioactive waste from AUKUS as subservient to the maintenance of the program.

“If Defence applies its standard, highly secretive approach to the management of this high-level nuclear waste, hundreds of generations of Australians will live with the consequences.

“This dangerous adventure which the Australian people have unwittingly embarked on has been characterised by a complete lack of rigour or transparency, insufficient oversight, an insane price tag and a deep disregard for genuine security.”

Read Measure twice, cut once: Advancing responsible radioactive waste management in Australia

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