Download: Responsible radioactive waste management – The need for an Inquiry. Jointly written by national environment groups Friends of the Earth, Australian Conservation Foundation and Beyond Nuclear Initiative.
Download: Briefing paper jointly written by representatives from the six areas named as potential sites for the national radioactive waste facility.
The search for a national radioactive waste facility
Updated October 3, 2016
The federal government launched the National Radioactive Waste Management Project (NRWMP) in 2015 to identify a site for construction of the first national radioactive waste facility. The facility is set to house low level waste (LLW) and long lived intermediate level waste (LLILW) produced by states, territories and federal agencies. LLILW is the most dangerous category produced in Australia and includes waste from the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods that were used at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor near Sydney and sent overseas for treatment.
In early 2015 the government called for landholders to nominate areas to be considered for assessment, pledging to only accept areas that had uncontested land tenure and support from the local community.
This comes on the back of two decades of failed attempts to locate a site through top-down decision making. A dedicated campaign in South Australia by the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta Aboriginal Women’s Council saw a proposed site abandoned in 2004. The most recent proposal at Muckaty in the NT was scrapped in 2014 in the midst of federal court action taken by Traditional Owners. Former Minister Ian Macfarlane called the Muckaty process a “disaster”.
From 28 nominated sites across the country, the government identified six to pursue for further assessment: Hill End in NSW (incorrectly referred to as Sallys Flat); Omanama in Queensland; Hale in the Northern Territory; Cortlinye and Pinkawillinie in the Kimba region of South Australia; and Barndioota (Wallerberdina Station) in the Flinders Ranges in SA.
Map of sites shortlisted for the national radioactive waste facility
Though the parcels of land were nominated on a volunteer basis, there was no requirement for landholders to consult with or gain consent from Traditional Owners, neighbours or the broader local community. Each of the six announced sites are strongly opposed by the surrounding community. The full list of nominations was never publicly released.
Government representatives travelled to each targeted region for ‘consultation meetings’ and a public comment period closed on March 11. The affected communities supported each other throughout the nomination process and undertook a joint lobbying trip to Canberra.
On April 29, former Minister Josh Frydenberg announced that Barndioota is the only site that will be further assessed. Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners were devastated to hear the news, with Elder Enice Marsh stating she was ‘shattered’ by the decision. Traditional Owner and neighbouring landholder Regina McKenzie said “”We don’t want a nuclear waste dump here on our country and worry that if the waste comes here it will harm our environment and muda (our lore, our creation).”
The Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association CEO Vince Coulthard said in a press release “This is our land, we have been here forever and we will always be here and we are totally opposed to this dump. ATLA is the main “key stakeholder” yet they have shown us no respect. This is in our sacred country with a very important spring just nearby. This is another example of cultural genocide. This cannot happen!”
Representatives from the other nominated communities released a statement offering ongoing support to their friends near the Barndioota site, stating they “stand shoulder to shoulder” with the community and “will offer whatever support [they] can.”
‘Community consultation’ is currently underway in the region, with government representatives visiting the nearby towns of Quorn and Hawker each week and applications open for positions on a Regional Consultative Committee. A $2 million small grants fund is being offered as compensation to the community. A cultural assessment will be undertaken in early 2017. Minister Canavan has not announced when a decision whether to proceed with the site will be made.
Supporters are also encouraged to upload a photo to the FB page with a sign calling for ‘No Nuclear Dump in the Flinders Ranges’ (see example below of a resident of Quorn, a town near the proposed site).
Information for Communities
An information resource for communities was been put together by state and national environment groups prior to the shortlisting announcment. Download it here (page images are below) and visit the resources page on this website for more information and articles on radioactive waste management in Australia.
Please note that the Government changed the PO Box address for submissions on the National Radioactive Waste Management Project since this information sheet was produced. The correct postal address is:
C/o The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
National Radioactive Waste Section
GPO Box 9839
Canberra ACT 2601