National Radioactive Waste Management Facility

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National Radioactive Waste Management Facility

13 November 2019


I rise this afternoon to congratulate the residents of Kimba in rural South Australia and to speak about an exciting opportunity for South Australia. On Thursday of last week, the five-week community ballot regarding the proposal for a national radioactive waste management facility in Kimba closed. The question posed to members of the community of Kimba was:

‘Do you support the proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility being located at one of the nominated sites in the community of Kimba?’

The construction of such a facility is an essential part of the nuclear medicine which one in every two Australians will require in their lifetime. It will manage the disposal of low-level radioactive waste used in said nuclear medicines, which we make at the Lucas Heights facility near Sydney. Nuclear medicines have allowed us to control and often cure conditions like cancer and thyroid conditions and are used in medical imaging. These forms of waste are currently held on a temporary basis in more than 100 locations across the country, including universities, hospital basements, research facilities and suburban areas.

Over 90 per cent of the community in Kimba participated in the vote, with 61.58 per cent voting yes and 38.42 per cent voting no. This significant level of community support for the site being built in Kimba reveals how engaged the community there have been throughout the process and how the local community understands the strong economic case for a nuclear industry.

I note that a site in the Flinders Ranges Council area in rural South Australia is also being considered, and their community is also conducting a similar ballot of their own. The successful location will be the beneficiary of a federal community development package of up to $31 million, including a $21 million community fund to provide long-term support for the region, $8 million of grants to strengthen the economic and skills base of the host community and $3 million from the government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy to support the delivery of an Aboriginal economic heritage participation plan. This will kickstart infrastructure, apprenticeships and other skills needed to build the facility and will not require fly-in fly-out workers. It will create 45 local jobs and provide an enormous economic benefit to the local community. The Mayor of Kimba, Dean Johnson, has noted: “In times of drought, you just get reminded again of how reliant we are on agriculture. An alternative industry would be good for the town.”

Let me tell you that the Mayor’s comments are accurate and should not be exclusive to Kimba alone; they could well be extrapolated to the state as a whole. South Australia needs new, bold industries like the nuclear industry.

In 2015 the Scarce Royal Commission found that South Australia’s economy would benefit from an expanded exploration and mining industry, the future generation of electricity from nuclear fuel and the safe management and disposal of internationally used nuclear fuel and that the state could benefit by as much as $100 billion over expenditure for the 120-year life cycle of a storage project.

The report confirmed that a visionary proposal to delve into the lucrative world of nuclear technology is possible.

The chance to transform the South Australian economy is right before us. The flow-on effects to the economy would be enormous. Our energy intensive desalination plant could be running year round. Our scientific and tertiary sectors would boom, and with potential customers likes China, India, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states forging ahead with nuclear generation we’d have customers lining up for storage. Literally billions of dollars are there for the taking. A nuclear industry would mean jobs, growth and real energy for South Australia.

So I congratulate the people of Kimba for engaging in the ballot and supporting the establishment of the new radioactive waste management facility. I look forward to the outcome of the second ballot in rural South Australia. Although I acknowledge this is but an early development, it is my hope that it represents the genesis of a nuclear industry for South Australia.

The economic benefits for my home state and this nation cannot be underestimated and must be explored.

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