New report reveals gross misuse of evidence in nuclear investigation

In a report released today, Bright New World has revealed that the leadership of the South Australian Liberal Party systematically ignored four independent sources of evidence in forming their position against further investigations into hosting used fuel in South Australia. 

In claiming that the South Australian taxpayer would need to spend $600 million to $1 billion to advance this process to a decision, the Liberal leadership cited the evidence of expert testimony and peer review provided to a Parliamentary Committee.

Yet transcripts of the Committee and simply reading the peer review report from Nuclear Economics Consulting Group reveal that not only did these sources not make this claim, they went to lengths to explain the exact opposite would be true. 

When asked about the expenditure, Mr Jim Voss made his position crystal clear:

I do not believe that it is necessary for South Australia to consider that they would finance that up-front. I believe that, in fact, the discussions with customer countries would be a progressive set of discussions

Dr Tim Johnson, lead author of the economic study for the Royal Commission, affirmed in discussion with the Shadow Treasure himself that spending would be progressively staggered:

Dr JOHNSON: Yes, exactly that. But you don't have to make that decision in one go; you can do it as a series of decisions over the next—you could make a decision to carry on, after the citizens' juries, and so on—
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: In other words, you might spend $20 million—
Dr JOHNSON: Exactly.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —and after a year decide that this is all too hard, and cut your losses at that stage. But on the program schedule, which you have outlined to us, you expend the $100 million, or whatever it is, you get to year six, and that is when you take the critical decision, at that stage.
Dr JOHNSON: Exactly.

Meanwhile, peer review from Nuclear Economics Consulting Group could not possibly have been clearer:

Such an approach would involve a series of Project “decision gates” that must be passed before additional commitments are made. Focusing near-term activity and expenditures on resolving important issues early (i.e., successfully passing the decision gates for these issues) will allow better management of the Project assessment and development process…A priority is placed on Project issues that (a) are essential for Project feasibility and (b) that could be investigated at relatively low cost.

While claiming a position of protecting the South Australian taxpayer, the Liberal leadership is committing the ultimate form of waste: cherry-picking evidence provided from processes the taxpayer has already paid-for to back-fill a position against the nuclear fuel cycle that has clearly been determined on political, not economic, grounds. Those with major project experience can see this fallacy clearly, and the list of signatories to Bright New World's open letter grew again this week with the addition of former Liberal Minister Ian MacLachlan.

The fallacy is also plain to see in the inconsistency of the Liberal leadership. This week, we saw the Liberal leadership release a freight plan for diverting rail and building a new freight airport. They can apparently find $20 million to study this project, more than double the costs so far of the nuclear investigations in South Australia, and around 20 times more than the amount required to undertake the crucial next step of verify in the market for used nuclear fuel. The South Australian Freight Council was not consulted in developing this plan and have been frank in calling it an uncessary expense. The project will likely cost $2 billion -$3 billion and, unlike the nuclear opportunity, there has been no compelling analysis provided of significant net-benefits to the state of this investment.

So why do it? The clue is that the candidate for a minor party, Nick Xenophon Team, supports the plan, which is likely to be popular with residents of seats in the Adelaide Hills. The Liberal Party considers these seats under threat, seats that may not have shown much enthusiasm for the nuclear issue. 

So the economic future of our entire state, and arguably the environmental future of the world, is being held politically and economically hostage by a tussle over a couple of seats in suburban Adelaide. That is enough for the Liberal leadership to whitewash evidence of perhaps the strongest opportunity for new industry development in decades. 

South Australians are in the process of being badly ripped-off in a tussle for political power. The nuclear economic opportunity is so great it must be placed above politics and calmly and prudently investigated in exactly the form recommended by the experts: one step at a time. 

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Ben Heard