The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission has announced it will next week hold additional public sessions on safety of nuclear waste disposal.

It also confirmed today it received more than 170 direct responses to its Tentative Findings – as well as a number of others that expressed an opinion for and against – since the document was released in February, with Commissioner Kevin Scarce saying he was pleased with the feedback.

“I welcome the many meaningful and considered submissions. They identified issues that the community clearly wants to be addressed further, including specific elements of economic analysis, which will be included in the Commission’s final report,” Commissioner Scarce said.

“Safety of nuclear waste disposal was broadly covered in many of the responses, as well as concerns over our State’s reputation, climate change and the economic impact of storing used nuclear fuel.

“We are now assessing all the responses and commissioning additional research to inform the final report. I intend it to be a comprehensive and credible basis for the State Government and community to consider these issues further.”

Commissioner Scarce said the safety theme would be explored further during additional public sessions next week, specifically how the safety of deep geological disposal has been assessed overseas.

The Commission has just returned from Switzerland and Belgium, where it visited high level waste disposal research and development organisations and sites in both countries, investigating the safety assessments and licensing associated with proposed sub-surface storage and disposal facilities. Experts from both countries have been called as witnesses next week, with the first session to be held on Monday, 4 April at 2.30pm.

The Commission’s visits and research have also explored the impact that a nuclear industry and associated facilities have had on various regions’ tourism, wine, food and agricultural industries.

“We have been to France, Austria, Finland, Canada, the UK, the USA and more recently Switzerland and Belgium, and have yet to hear any compelling evidence that nuclear facilities have had a detrimental effect on these industries,” Commissioner Scarce said.

“I acknowledge this is an area that many people are concerned about, but what we have been looking for in this process is evidence to support these concerns. It is something we are aware of and will certainly cover in more detail in the final report.”

Commissioner Scarce said while the majority of submissions provided relevant information to help inform the Commission, some commentary had questioned the detailed independent economic analysis underpinning the Tentative Findings and contained in the supplementary reports and evidence.

“I am considering that criticism carefully. In one or two cases, we will add to the analytical work done to show what the impact of a change in circumstances would be on the potential benefits. In some cases the criticisms do not square with the evidence we have seen. We will address this in the report,” he said.

“Moreover, it is important to understand that what has been described is not a firm proposal, as some have suggested, but an indication of whether there is an opportunity that is likely to be economically beneficial. That analysis can only be a starting point, to ground discussion if the community wants to explore the matter further.”

The Commission is set to complete the report on time by May 6, 2016. The responses it has received will be published on the website prior to that date.