For several decades the former Australian Atomic Energy Commission, now the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation has been making application to successive Commonwealth Governments for a replacement to the multipurpose reactor HIFAR at Lucas Heights.
In 1992 a public inquiry was conducted by the Commonwealth Government called the Research Reactor Review, or McKinnon Review. The Review recommended a 5-year pause on consideration of the case for a new reactor for further assessment of issues including questions on Australia's need for a new reactor.
In 1997 the current Commonwealth Government announced that a new nuclear reactor would be established at Lucas Heights pending assessment under the Environment Protection Impact of Proposals Act, 1974. An Environmental Impact Statement process was undertaken, resulting in a favourable report from the Commonwealth Minister for Health. Assessment included review of the proposal by three international peer review agencies. The Commonwealth Government confirmed its intention to proceed with the proposal in 1998. Tendering for the proposal was completed by June 2000 and the tender granted to Argentinian company INVAP. The licensing process for design and construction of the new reactor is currently under way, with approval to be granted by ARPANSA in February 2002. The new reactor, to be commissioned around 2006 will be twice the power rating of the existing reactor, which will be decommissioned at a date to be confirmed.
It is understood that a replacement reactor locational study employing international consultants was undertaken around 1996. The public and the councils were not included in this undertaking, which appears to have been performed by the Commonwealth Department of Industry Science and Tourism with advice from ANSTO. The locational study report remains a Cabinet-in-Confidence document.
A cost for the proposed reactor of $286 million has been estimated by ANSTO as part of the current development assessment process although secret government documents obtained via Freedom of Information requests made by Sutherland Shire Council have revealed that the government’s own cost estimate is around $500 million. No design for the reactor has yet been revealed, despite the international peer review stating that the safety arguments used to justify the proposal now impose specific design constraints on the reactor in order to achieve these promised safety levels.
In spite of polls, submissions, lobbying and the actions of several state governments to prohibit the development of the dumpsites which will be unavoidable with a new reactor, the Liberal Government is continuing it's blind charge towards a future contaminated with the nuclear waste produced by the proposed new reactor.
Please take this opportunity to voice your opposition to this project and to raise the call for a nuclear free future.