Words by: Jack Crawford, SRC General Councillor and Environment Officer elect
The state government is proposing that South Australia become home to an international dump for high-level nuclear waste. This has been pushed by the Weatherill-initiated Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission. The Commission, which has drooled at its own speculations of fantastical profitability, is headed by Kevin Scarce, the state’s former Governor and current Chancellor of Adelaide University.
I want to make the case that students should defy our Radioactive Chancellor and oppose the dump.
What’s wrong with the dump?
High-level waste from nuclear reactors is the most hazardous waste ever produced by industry, and requires complete isolation for hundreds of thousands of years. Previous dumps of a much smaller scale have recently failed, despite advanced technology: see the leak in Germany’s Asse II mine, or the burst canister in New Mexico’s deep underground facility which exposed workers to dangerous radiation.
The Commission is recommending something far more ambitious. We’re talking the largest radioactive dump in history, to store waste from reactors around the world. The proposal involves shipping no less than 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste (one third of the world’s total!) into an SA port, to be stored in local facilities and eventually buried forever in Aboriginal land.
If world leaders genuinely want to solve the problem of existing nuclear waste, I know how they should start: stop producing it and shift to renewable energy to save our planet. But the South Australian proposal is a reckless project designed to relieve the global industry of endlessly growing containment costs. It will only facilitate further investment in nuclear and the production of ever more indestructible waste.
This is clearly illustrated in the Royal Commission’s report, which recommends not only a dump but an expansion of uranium mining and laying the groundwork for nuclear energy generation in SA.
Why is this a student issue?
Firstly, let’s look at what Kevin Scarce represents. He is a military man, having gained a name as a high-ranking naval officer. He is behind the building of three major air warfare destroyers in SA. Today, as well as holding the (primarily ceremonial) position of University Chancellor, he acts as a Deputy Chairman of Seeley International, a corporate “global leader in developing energy-efficient cooling and heating.”
When universities are run like businesses, people like Scarce have positions of control. People who care not for quality education, but know how to run things cheaply and efficiently. People with connections and loyalty to powerful interests, be it corporate or military.
Students and the education system do not exist in a bubble above society. If SA is to become a nuclear state, our universities will be geared toward this cancerous cycle… just as they are currently moulded by fossil fuels, as the relationship between Adelaide Uni and Santos will attest.
Current students are much of the state’s future, and we need to make ourselves heard at this critical moment. The army already promotes itself in student spaces like the Hub; one day will we have the nuclear industry standing alongside them? Will we have a nuclear future, or a green one? I hope you will fight with me for the green one.
* * *
Join the rally:
11am, 15 October (anniversary of atomic bomb test at Emu Field)
Parliament House, Kaurna Land