This week the South Australian Royal Commission released “tentative findings” recommending the state take more than 100 tonnes of high-level radioactive waste and store it in the desert for hundreds of thousands of years.
A final report is due in May, but already there has been excitement around the proposal, which the Commission says could generate billions of dollars a year and thousands of jobs for the South Australian economy. The state has the highest unemployment in the country.
Australia has no nuclear power plants and doesn’t generate high-level nuclear waste that needs to be stored for a very long time; it would be imported.
If the facility goes ahead, the designers may consider a problem that has baffled linguists and semioticians (sign experts): how to tell the distant future don’t dig up the dump?
The report notes that the used fuel of nuclear power plants requires isolation from the environment “for many hundreds of thousands of years” and that many countries, including Finland, France, Hungary and South Africa, have developed purpose-built waste repositories.
This is true, but it’s worth pointing out none of these already built repositories are for the final disposal of nuclear fuel. They are either for low to intermediate level waste, which needs to be isolated for several hundred years, or they are temporary, interim solutions to the problem of finding a final resting place that will isolate waste for tens of thousands of years.
Finland is building the world’s first deep underground repository for high level nuclear waste and Sweden is close behind. The Finnish site is scheduled for completion in 2023.
Read the full article by James Purtill here: www.abc.net.au