National and state environment groups have today released an assessment of the state Royal Commission into the nuclear industry in SA.
The report – commissioned by Conservation SA, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Friends of the Earth Australia – looks at the Commission’s progress since its surprise unveiling by Premier Jay Weatherill ten months ago.
The report raises serious concerns about the Royal Commission, from the unrepresentative and unbalanced composition of the Expert Advisory Committee, conflicts of interest, the Royal Commission's unwillingness to correct factual errors, to a repeated pattern of pro-nuclear claims being uncritically accepted and promoted.
“The nuclear industry embodies unique, complex and long lasting safety, security, environmental and public health challenges,” said Conservation SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins.
“The sector lacks a secure social license and it is imperative that any consideration of an expansion of the industry is predicated on the highest standards of evidence, rigour, transparency and inclusion. Sadly this report shows these standards are not being reflected in the current Royal Commission.”
The Royal Commission has been criticised by civil society groups including environmental, public health and Aboriginal organisations for its restricted processes and limited information flows.
“Unlike most Royal Commissions this one was not a response to a pressing public issue, but rather it is a calculated political initiative with a pro-nuclear agenda,” said ACF nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“As a result the Commission looks less like an objective risk-benefit analysis and more an industry feasibility study. Environment groups and others will continue to closely track this deficient process.”
The Royal Commission is set to make an interim report in February 2016 with a final report due no later than 6 May 2016.
“We are concerned about skewed and inaccurate information and assumptions, especially in relation to nuclear growth and reactor longevity and so-called small modular reactors,” said Friends of the Earth Australia’s Dr Jim Green, a co-author of the report.
“The Royal Commission praises the United Arab Emirates for the speed of its nuclear power program without making any mention of the elephant in the room: undemocratic countries can build reactors more quickly than democratic countries.
“Statements by the Royal Commission regarding the impact of the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters are incorrect – and the list goes on.”
The groups have called for an expanded Advisory Committee, increased Aboriginal access to information and decision points and dedicated studies into the potential for growth in SA’s renewable energy sector as important steps to bring some much needed balance into the Commission’s deliberations.