Bob Hawke Repeats His Call For Australia To Take The World's Nuclear Waste

A reactor in Temelin, Czech Republic. Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke is speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra today, appearing at an event with another iconic ex-PM, John Howard.

Hawke used his speech to talk about the importance of dealing with global problems, especially climate change.

Toward the end of his speech he laid out a vision for Australia’s contribution, repeating a call he has made before to take the world’s nuclear waste as the energy industry transitions over the coming decades.

“We’d get an enormous stable flow of income which would be to the benefit of the world,” Hawke said.

“If we have the safest spots (globally for nuclear waste) we should make them available.”

Hawke said he had briefings as long ago as 1991 that Australia was the prime spot for securely storing the world’s nuclear waste. “We have the safest remote areas in the world,” he said.

His idea is that Australia could play a crucial role in helping the growth of the nuclear industry globally, giving Australia income and a leading role in the global effort for tackling climate change.

Governments have shown no stomach for taking this on. A plan for a national dumping facility at Woomera in South Australia was abandoned in 2003. The business lobby in South Australia has raised the possibility of getting a nuclear industry going in SA again but neither the Premier, Jay Weatherill, nor the opposition leader Steven Marshall have any interest in touching it.

This month, the federal court is hearing a challenge to a Canberra plan from 2007 to build a nuclear waste disposal site at Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory. The traditional owners of the land say they were never consulted on the matter and that the dump would be “poison” to the soil.

It’s a case to watch.

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