Nuclear waste for SA – yes or no?

The question of how Australia deals with nuclear waste disposal is a hot topic.

It will return to the fore on Thursday 24 May with a public lecture in Adelaide hosted by Flinders University and Carnegie Mellon University Australia.

A visiting US expert on nuclear waste, former Obama Administration adviser Professor Allison Macfarlane, will present her views in her first public lecture since arriving in late January to take up the position of Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Applied Public Policy in South Australia.

Professor Macfarlane has been examining both the 2015 Royal Commission process that considered a high-level nuclear waste facility and the ongoing siting process that the Federal Government is carrying out for the nation’s low and intermediate-level waste.

The current Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Applied Public Policy, a position jointly hosted by Flinders and Carnegie Mellon, says that even if nuclear waste is not imported from other countries as a commercial disposal option, Australia still produces its own low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste from medical, industrial and agricultural industries.

Australia also has wastes left over from the clean-up of the Maralinga site, where the British tested nuclear weapons.

“I have a strong view about nuclear waste, and that it needs to be stored underground,” Professor Macfarlane says.

“I do not support indefinite storage of these wastes, because that presupposes government institutions will last for hundreds and thousands of years.

“At the same time, it’s important to proceed in a measured, considered way to siting a nuclear waste repository, as the experiences of many other countries in siting these facilities has taught us.

“All countries’ experiences with the siting process for nuclear waste disposal lead to lessons learned that I will share with the audience during my lecture.

The lecture will be delivered at Flinders University’s city campus – at Level 1, 182 Victoria Square, Adelaide – from 5.30pm on Thursday 24 May. Register here

Dr Macfarlane is Professor of Public Policy and International Affairs at George Washington University, and Director of the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at the University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

She previously served as chair of President Obama’s US Nuclear Regulatory Commission from July 2012 to December 2014.

Professor Macfarlane’s current research role in SA, involving collaborative research in key policy issues that are important to both Australia and the United States, is part of a continuing arrangement between Flinders University and Carnegie Mellon University Australia in partnership with the Australian-American Fulbright Commission.

Professor Allison Macfarlane and Professor Don DeBats, Head of American Studies at Flinders University.
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