NUCLEAR WASTE STORAGE FACILITY (PROHIBITION) BILL 1999
SECOND READING


NUCLEAR WASTE STORAGE FACILITY (PROHIBITION) BILL 1999 - SECOND READING
House:LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY- SECOND READING
Date:4.01 PM WEDNESDAY, 8 September 1999
Member:
Member:Gallop, Dr Geoff
Subject:NUCLEAR WASTE STORAGE FACILITY (PROHIBITION) BILL 1999 - SECOND READING
Page:885 / 2

NUCLEAR WASTE STORAGE FACILITY (PROHIBITION) BILL 1999
Second Reading

DR GALLOP (Victoria Park - Leader of the Opposition) [4.01 pm]: I move -
      That the Bill be now read a second time.

One of the most controversial issues in Western Australia today is the proposal by Pangea Resources Australia Pty Ltd to establish an international nuclear waste dump here. The public outcry was immediate and unequivocal. Western Australians do not want their State treated as an international nuclear waste dump.

Before I go through the provisions of the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Bill, I will give some background to the proposal. In December 1998, the Friends of the Earth released Pangea Resources' promotional video which outlined what the company calls the "Pangea Concept". This video sent shockwaves around the country. Pangea identified Australia - specifically outback Western Australia - as a potential waste dump for high level nuclear waste. Significantly, it proposed that the nuclear waste would be imported from overseas.

I refer briefly to two main elements of the Pangea proposal. Firstly, it wants to establish a disposal facility in a stable democratic country that has the appropriate geology and biosphere conditions. Secondly, it wants to provide countries that want to use Pangea's services with an alternative to disposing of high level nuclear waste in their own countries. Put simply, using Pangea's services means Western Australia's accepting the world's nuclear waste for a period of 40 years. After that time, the site would be permanently sealed off.

The concept, as described, involves a dedicated port and rail link to the inland site, covering approximately five square kilometres on the surface and 20 square kilometres underground, 500 metres down. It is planned that over the 40-year life of the project, 75 000 tonnes of imported spent fuel and high level waste will be deposited. This is estimated to be about 20 per cent of the spent fuel generated each year by commercial reactors worldwide. It is unclear where the world's high level nuclear waste will be dumped after the 40-year lifespan of the Pangea repository has passed. One might well ask whether agreeing to the Pangea proposal would open the floodgates to new, additional sites throughout Western Australia. It is proposed that once the repository is sealed, the nuclear waste will become the property of the Australian Government forever. This means that all the risks of storage will be transferred to the Australian people in perpetuity. Not surprisingly, Pangea and its supporters claim there will be substantial economic benefits for Australia and this State.

Access Economics has undertaken an analysis for Pangea of the purported economic benefits flowing from the proposal. It estimates that over the life of the project, export revenues of $200b would be generated, with payments of approximately $90b to Australian Governments through royalties and payroll and company taxes. Western Australia's share of royalties is estimated at $300m per annum, as well as payroll and other taxes. Access Economics also claims that an additional $36.2b would be added to the gross state product over the period 2000-2049. Undoubtedly, these represent significant economic benefits. However, there is an important qualification to the Access Economics analysis. It specifically does not provide any comment on the technological, social and environmental issues.