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Friday, 1 May 1987
Page: 2470


Mr MILTON(3.55) —I have expressed my concern on a number of occasions in this House about the political problems created by the nuclear industry, in particular the problem of radioactive waste management. In the second edition of the radioactive waste and nuclear accidents report, produced in my office in January of this year by Chas Collinson and myself, it is stated:

ALP policy must recognise that storage of all categories of nuclear waste will be a continuing problem for all future life forms on earth. It must be recognised that there is currently no operational solution as to how to ultimately and safely dispose of high level waste. It must also be recognised that Australia cannot absolve itself from the high level waste problem merely because we do not have our nuclear power plants.

In this respect a report contained in the February-April 1987 edition of the Institute of Trading Standards publication is most disturbing. A Mitsubishi chemical factory known as the Asian Rare Earth factory in Bukit Merah, Malaysia, has been dumping radioactive waste in many public places in the Bukit Merah area. Not only was the thoria waste dumped in places such as adjacent to public footpaths, but a truck driver was told to dump the wastes in any place he could find. There is also the far worse charge that the waste was sold to farmers to use as fertilisers for food crops.

Professor Dr Sadao Ichikawa, a Japanese expert in genetics, radiation and agriculture, measured the wastes and found that dangerously high levels of radiation existed in a number of the dump sites, including abandoned dump trucks and the temporary storage site at the ARE factory. At one point outside the factory wall he detected a radiation level 150 to 160 times higher than the average natural background level and almost three times above the safe standard for workers set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. Professor Ichikawa pointed out that thoron gas as produced at the ARE factory is unlike any other radioactive gases as it is heavy and it stays at ground level. It will cause lung and skin cancers, leukaemia, birth defects and other ailments. Even more serious is that Mitsubishi Chemicals attempted to influence Professor Ichikawa not to release the results of his radiation measurements. I quote:

He claimed that two Mitsubishi officials met him and the Dean of his factory at Saitama University, Japan, following his return from Bukit Merah in December 1984 to ask him about the readings he took.

When Professor Ichikawa told the officials that the readings were high, he was requested not to publish them.

It is reported that Professor Ichikawa said: `But I refused'. The report went on, quoting the professor:

`They went on to suggest that if I could co-operate with Mitsubishi, then Mitsubishi would provide an extra 10 million yen as grant for the on-going research that the faculty and Mitsubishi was jointly undertaking.'

However, Professor Ichikawa declined the offer.

`Mitsubishi should not pollute Bukit Merah with thoria wastes from ARE. Instead, it should send the waste back and store them at its old mines in Japan,' he said.

In the same issue of the Institute of Trading Standards publication there is a Malaysian report about the warnings from a nuclear scientist in relation to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster who is familiar with the testing of food contaminated with radioactivity. I quote the professor again:

Because of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, milk and agricultural products in European countries are bound to be contaminated . . .

Even if the radioactivity is low and thus the products enter Malaysia, I don't think they are safe because radioactivity accumulates in the body.

If we continue taking contaminated products, then after some years the adverse health effects may show up.

Taiwan, Singapore and the Philippines have contamination due to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in canned milk products from Europe because of the high radioactivity. In this respect I wish to mention a particularly relevant comment in the radioactive waste report issued by my office. It states;

The February 1986 edition of the magazine Soviet Life quoted the Ukranian Minister of Power as saying that the safety precautions at Soviet Nuclear Power Plants were so strict that `the odds of a meltdown are one in 10,000 years'.

The fact of the matter is that we can no longer trust the scientists and politicians to tell us that it is safe. The Chernobyl disaster highlights and confirms some of the important points that anti-nuclear activists have argued over the years. This disaster dispels the myth that nuclear power stations are safe. Accidents, whether they be caused by operator, designer fault, or the nuclear process itself, will happen.


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.