Northern Territory

Jun 20, 2014

Muckaty battle won, but war far from over

The Warlmanpa have successfully blocked government plans to put a nuclear waste dump on their land. But will that be the end of the story?

Image: Monica Napper

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3 thoughts on “Muckaty battle won, but war far from over

  1. Camille Bache

    All radioactive waste facilities are designed with numerous layers of protection to make sure that people remain protected for as long as it takes for radioactivity to reduce to background levels. Low-level and intermediate wastes are buried close to the surface. An explosion in a French nuclear waste treatment factory left one dead and injured four others. No radioactivity was released in the incident, experts say. France depends on nuclear power more than any other country in the world.

  2. Damien

    Hi Camille,

    Firstly, this case was about what level of risk from nuclear waste Traditional Owners want to accept as owners of their traditional lands. Both risk in terms of impacts from the facility on the site and surrounding area, and risk in terms of general support for the nuclear industry. This is also mediated by the complex cultural values these Traditional Owners have in this land, and their responsibilities to it.

    Its got nothing to do with how much risk you or anyone else, who does not own this land or have 10,000 years + of passed on cultural responsibility for its stewardship, thinks should be acceptable.

    Secondly, I have found that most proponents of this nuclear waste facility can be as extreme and illogical as the zealous objectors to anything nuclear, they just premise their whole view on the huge and completely false assumption that for the life of this waste (100s to 1000s of years) there will somehow magically be the will, technology, financing and resources to maintain those “layers of protection” you refer to, day in and day out without fail or human error.

    Your talking about Governments who can’t even commit funding or political will for anything beyond 3 year election cycles – and out of anything, the funding a non-economic resource like a waste which produces no return and is out of sight and mind of any politically significant popluations is going to be the first thing to be subject to complete neglect and budget cuts when things get tough.

    I’m not saying these risks mean that we can’t have, or TOs can’t accept, nuclear waste facilities. But we have to realise that the sheer longevity of this nuclear waste means that these risks have to be seriously considered and acknowledged in making any decisions.

  3. JohnB

    This is not a good news story. The Commonwealth appears to have counted among the $12M money that would have or should have flowed in any case, so the real offer to the traditional owners could be worth far less than the headline amount.

    The waste, typically gloves, etc as stated in the article is already being stored in our cities and towns in a couple of hundred locations dotted around Australia, reportedly including ad-hoc facilities in hospital grounds and so forth.

    This appears likely to result in a lose-lose outcome. The TO’s might come away with either no facility and no payment or a smaller facility and very little payment, so their peoples receive no net benefit.

    Alternatively, business-as-usual will result in many uncoordinated repositories for low and medium grade waste to continue in the long term. This may not statistically present significant hazards for the local communities, but it certainly is not a good look.

    That still leaves us with the Lucas Heights fuel rods plus a minor quantity of high level medical and industry wastes. There are technically adequate containment and storage options for these, but the business-as-usual option is less palatable. These really need specially designed storage, such as is/was envisioned for Muckatty.

    If the fall-back proposal is to continue to hold this in drums at Lucas Heights and industrial repositories indefinitely, then the TO’s and their communities again end up with zip.

    Nobody is going to win out of this except for a group of city-based lawyers.

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