Taiwanese energy firm rejects Martin Hamilton-Smith’s claim it would help set up SA nuclear waste dump
Daniel Wills, State political editor, The Advertiser
15 Dec 2016
TAIWAN’S state-owned energy company has bluntly rejected Investment and Trade Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith’s claim the country would consider paying to help set up a nuclear waste dump in SA, saying in a letter that it “hereby declares this is a false information”.
Just days after Premier Jay Weatherill’s citizens’ jury last month overwhelmingly dumped on plans for nuclear storage in SA, amid concerns about trust, Mr Hamilton-Smith insisted he had met with Taiwanese officials who expressed a “clear message” of interest in investment.
“There’s clearly a demand and our neighbours may be in a position to put hundreds of millions, if not billions, into infrastructure and then paying to dump waste on an ongoing basis,” he said.
However, correspondence from state-owned power company Taipower and the country’s Atomic Energy Council to government party MP Su Chih-Feng rejects Mr Hamilton-Smith’s claim.
While they note there was a meeting with Mr Hamilton-Smith on November 10, Taipower says his spin of the events in Adelaide three days later was “a false information”.
The translation from Mandarin to English was done by a Taiwanese NGO and provided to The Advertiser by antinuclear activists Friends of the Earth Australia. It states Taipower was interested in using a dump which had been established, but not paying to help set one up.
“A foreign solution is one of the options for Taipower. However, foreign solution is also sensitive case in terms of international relationships,” the letter states.
“Therefore, foreign solutions should carefully consider both domestic and foreign regulations.
“Foreign solutions is a sensitive case with a lot of uncertainties.
“Taipower will consider to be a ‘customer’ after the country has developed a disposal facility.”
Taiwan’s Atomic Energy Council also said Mr Hamilton-Smith’s claim was “a false information”.
“We also notice that the Citizen Jury in Australia deny the proposal,” it states. “Without the understanding and support from Australian … nuclear waste storage cannot be developed.”
One of the major criticisms of the SA nuclear proposal by the SA Liberals and green groups has been the risk of spending state taxpayer money up front with no certainty of future revenue.
Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce found in his report that countries may be willing to provide a cash precommitment to SA to fund the building of enabling infrastructure.
Mr Hamilton-Smith said Friends of the Earth were “distributing information which talks down the market for storage of low-medium or high level waste”, as studied by the Royal Commission.
“Until that debate is put back on track with bipartisan support, there will be no progress,” he said. “It’s clear however from the informal discussions in November that I and other senior officers of the State Government had that there is interest and potential to work together to better secure the world’s nuclear waste. Storage and investment were both informally discussed but no official position was sought or offered. To get to that stage, we would have to continue the discussion on the Royal Commission’s work and determine a position of our own.”
Opposition treasury spokesman Rob Lucas said Mr Hamilton-Smith “stands condemned for misleading everyone” about Taiwan’s views, if the translations were accurate.
Friends of the Earth Australia nuclear campaigner Jim Green said Mr Weatherill should now “have the good sense to swallow his pride and to dump the dump proposal”.
Media Release – 15 December 2016 – Friends of the Earth
Documents released by Friends of the Earth reveal that:
- Taiwan will not pay SA to accept high-level nuclear waste if that requires investing in waste storage and disposal infrastructure.
- Taiwan would not send nuclear waste to Australia unless and until a repository is built and operating.
- Taiwan would not send nuclear waste to Australia in the face of widespread public opposition.
Dr Jim Green, national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia, said: “Taiwan’s power utility Taipower states clearly and repeatedly that Taiwan will not pay for nuclear waste storage and disposal infrastructure in SA. Yet foreign investment in that infrastructure is central to the state Labor Government’s plans. Preliminary and exploratory studies could cost up to $2.4 billion and Premier Jay Weatherill must now come clean on whether he intends to gamble billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on this project.”
Taipower’s statements are directly at odds with statements made by Martin Hamilton-Smith. Opposition treasury spokesman Rob Lucas is quoted in this morning’s Advertiser saying that Hamilton-Smith “stands condemned for misleading everyone” about Taiwan’s views.
Dr Green continued: “Taiwan would not send nuclear waste to Australia unless and until a repository is built and operating. Yet the Final Report of the Royal Commission clearly states that unless nuclear waste is imported prior to the establishment of a repository, the project would not be profitable.” [See p.300 of the Royal Commission’s Final Report.]
“Taiwan will not send nuclear waste to Australia in the face of widespread public opposition. A clear majority of South Australians oppose the nuclear waste dump plan. A statewide consultation process found 53% opposition compared to just 31% support. A recent poll commissioned by the Sunday Mail found just 35% support. Two-thirds of the Citizen Jurors rejected the dump plan ‘under any circumstances’. The Premier himself has acknowledged the ‘overwhelming opposition of Aboriginal people’.
“It is unlikely that any country would send nuclear waste to SA in the face of widespread public opposition and overwhelming opposition from Aboriginal people. It is unlikely that any country would pay for waste storage and disposal infrastructure in SA. It is unlikely that any country would send waste to SA in the absence of a built, operating repository. The Labor Government’s plan fails on all three counts.
“South Australians opposed to the dump will be spoilt for choice at the March 2018 election with the Liberal Party, the Nick Xenophon Team and the SA Greens all opposed to the Labor Government’s plan to turn SA into the world’s high-level nuclear waste dump. The Premier should have the good sense to swallow his pride and to dump the dump before he puts the Labor Party in an unwinnable position leading up to the state election,” Dr Green concluded.
Email Friends of the Earth for briefing notes and translations of statements from Taipower, Taiwan’s Atomic Energy Council, and governing Democratic Progressive Party MP Su Chih-Feng. Mandarin-language original versions of these statements are available on request.