Australia is considering an enormous change in its nuclear energy policy by building an enormous storage facility for nuclear waste in the country’s south, according to a report by an Australian royal commission published Monday.
A large multi-national nuclear waste storage facility would offer huge economic benefits to southern Australia and would be much more efficient than smaller national waste storage facilities, according to the report. The facility could generate $73.5 billion in economic benefits for the region over the next 120 years while generating $188 billion in revenue for the government, mostly from other countries paying to dispose of their nuclear waste. Adding these economic benefits shows that building the facility will make Australia $262 billion, which is far more than the proposed costs of about $106 billion.
The report estimates that building the facility would create 4,500 full times jobs and operating it would create another 600 full time jobs.
“If constructed, a multi-national waste facility based in South Australia would grant a welcome option for countries operating nuclear facilities today,” Agneta Rising, Director General of the World Nuclear Association, said in a press statement. “Far from it being the case that there is ‘no solution’ to nuclear waste, we are seeing lots of progress – with some countries developing national repositories and now the potential addition of this viable alternative.”
The commission’s report has been broadly supported by Australia’s federal government, which “stands ready to work with the South Australian Government if they choose to pursue any new economic opportunities in this area that create jobs and growth,” Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s energy and resources minister, said in a statement.
Difficulties in disposing of nuclear waste was one of the biggest environmentalist objections to nuclear power, even though huge advances in waste reprocessing and disposal have occurred in recent years.
Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid has thwarted America’s attempts to create a secure site to store radioactive nuclear waste, single-handedly preventing America’s Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site from getting enough money to open.
The Department of Energy submitted its proposal to build Yucca Mountain in June of 2008 and the project met the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) safety standards in October of 2014. The NRC released a report Thursday determining that the site would have no adverse environmental impact on the local groundwater, soil, ecology or public health for a period of 1 million years.
Reid has repeatedly blocked funding to complete Yucca Mountain’s licensing process, leaving American nuclear plants without a good place to store spent fuel and creating legal liabilities for the federal government that could exceed $50 billion.
America currently operates 99 nuclear reactors across 61 commercially operating nuclear power plants, accounting for 20 percent of U.S. electricity generated in 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The average plant employs between 400 and 700 highly skilled workers, has a payroll of about $40 million and contributes $470 million to the local economy, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.
The economic advantages of nuclear power have caused large majorities of scientists, engineers and economists to support nuclear power. Opinion polls show the more people know about nuclear power, the more likely they are to support it.
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