Feb 22, 2010

How to site a nuclear waste dump

Labor's opposition to an NT waste dump before the last election will return to haunt it as Martin Ferguson unveils a permanent waste facility this week. Where was the consent and consultation?

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

The Government is expected to announce tomorrow or Wednesday that it will repeal and replace the Howard Government’s much-criticised Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005, and that a nuclear waste dump will be established at Muckaty Station, virtually in the middle of the Northern Territory.

The legislation is likely to be considered by Caucus when it meets for this week’s session of Parliament.

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55 thoughts on “How to site a nuclear waste dump

  1. Meski

    The middle of erewhon, and the owners approve, sounds like a good location all round.

  2. Jenny McFarland

    The owners have probably been sold a crock if the “consultation” process used for the NTER is any indication. These consultations consist of a whitefella talking in a foreign language and making lots of promises. Few of these eventuate, and the price is horrendous – poison country for thousands of years. How is this a good outcome?? Roads are few and far between in the region – so hazardous waste will have to be transported thousands of kilometres right through remote urban centres to get to the dump. Siting decisions for the dump should be made on the basis of the science, not the shabbiest of politics.

  3. justinnt

    MeSki: out of sight / out of mind ? out of your mind if you think that’s a responsible approach to this important responsibility.
    as for land owner approval, this nomination by the NLC is fiercly contested : by Ngapa Traditional Owners, neighbouring Traditional Owners on the haulage road, and other local people. The Minister, and other members of Federal Government, for their part have ignored repeated correspondence from locals opposed to the dump, including a letter tabled in the Senate last year, signed by 57 Aboriginal Traditional Owners of the Muckaty Land Trust area, imploring Minister Ferguson to meet with them.

  4. Mark Duffett

    @Jenny McFarland, could you be any more patronising of the Ngapa?

    FWIW, if you read between the lines above, the science is saying it doesn’t matter all that much where you site the facility, at least in terms of natural risk (i.e. extremely low).

    And while it might be strictly the case that the Federal facility is planned only for mine waste and Lucas Heights material, I’d be very surprised if the States didn’t take the opportunity to try to deposit the waste for which they are responsible (medical isotopes and suchlike, currently in hospitals all over the place) as well. This disposal stream would be ongoing. So a Lucas Heights disposal site isn’t likely to eliminate any transport risks, such as they may be.

    My family might not live in Alice Springs any more, but you can rest assured this issue wasn’t the reason we moved.

  5. EnergyPedant

    Those who suggest closing Lucas Heights first have to face each person who’s medical treatment would have used isotopes generated there (practically every cancer patient and any number of different scans/tests).

    They should just build a dump somewhere and not tell anyone. Waste dumps are actually quite safe if they are built properly.

    As ANSTO say they could just store waste at Lucas Heights. Actually at the moment that is what they are still doing since there is no waste facility. Its just siting in Barrels in the basement (or somewhere else on site).

    However it being “Nucular” everyone turns NIMBY and every voter within 100km gets up in arms. Therefore you pick a location without many voters within 100km, basically that means one of those empty dry spots in the middle of WA/NT/SA/West Qld.

  6. SBH

    I hear you MESKI but it’s not in the middle of nowhere if you live there. Here’s an APH link which is worth reading as to the level of consultation and agreement by the TOs

  7. SBH

    Oh its worth noting that there are at least five language groups (Warlmanpa, Warlpiri, Mudbura, Warumungu and Jingili) on Muckaty station and the original legislation required consultation with groups who would be affected as well as TOs of the land concerned.

    My concern is more about how those people were treated rather than the nuke aspect, I’d have to say and I probably tend to agree with energypedant. I mean no one complains about the ongoing release of isotopes form coal fire power stations but thats another story.

    What we have is the latest step in building infrastructure to increase the uranium mining industry and to introduce a nuclear power industry. That’s why after 100 years the train line to Darwin was finished by Haliburton, remember them? That infrastructure is being built up by stealth and with no debate with Australian public about whether that’s what we want

  8. SBH

    Maybe the TO’s should have a talk to the Jawoyn who know a thing or two about sickness country

  9. justinnt

    G’day Pedant,
    I propose closing lucas heights.
    I’ve had medical treatment with radio-isotopes.
    I’ve been convinced by the experts from the Medical Association for Prevention of War that Australia does not need a reactor program to ensure a first class health system.

    G’day Mark,
    noting that English is a foreign language is not patronising. neither is recognising that the department has repeatedly misled stakeholders.
    oh and you’re wrong about States’ waste. This dump explicitly disallows inclusion of medical and other low-level radioactive wastes from the states (except the NT) : it’s all about the Commonwealth’s long-lived reactor waste.

  10. Eponymous

    EnergyPedant opined
    “They should just build a dump somewhere and not tell anyone. Waste dumps are actually quite safe if they are built properly.”

    I actually find some solace in that remark. One of the risks when storing nuclear material is that bad people might want to dig it up and spread it out somewhere with a lot of people. If no one knows where that place is, this problem is solved!

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