The National Radioactive Waste Management Bill passed the Australian Senate on March 13, and the amended legislation finally passed through the House of Representatives the next day. The legislation preserves the highly contested Muckaty nomination, which is currently the subject of a federal court challenge by senior Traditional Owners opposed to the plan. The dump would house a range of radioactive waste including spent nuclear fuel rods form the Lucas Heights research reactor and decommissioned reactor parts.
The National Radioactive Waste Management Bill now passed in the Senate, was introduced two years ago and is strongly opposed by the Northern Territory government, Traditional Owners and a growing number of trade unions and civil society groups. Anti-nuclear protesters have tried to stop debate in Federal Parliament by disrupting th eproceedings.
The Government has consistently stated the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill did not specify a site for the dump, but it has offered to give the Northern Territory Aus$10 million if it accepts the waste dump. The Greens managed to get included an important amendment against international wastes being included. Greens spokesman on nuclear issues Scott Ludlam says he is confident the community will continue to fight any plan to use the Northern Territory site. The Greens will continue to fight the project: "The site is in an earthquake zone, it floods regularly, there are very long transport corridors, there are no jobs being applied and it's opposed from people on the ground, on the front line from Tennant all the way up to the NT Government and people around the country," he said. Donna Jackson, from the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, says she is shocked the legislation has been passed while there is still a legal challenge before the courts about the ownership of the Muckaty site.
The Beyond Nuclear Initiative says radioactive waste management legislation passed this afternoon in the Senate is deeply flawed and will not slow down the campaign against the proposed Muckaty radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory. The dump is earmarked for low and long-lived intermediate level waste, including spent fuel rods and decommissioned reactor parts from the Lucas Heights nuclear facility in Sydney.
Minister Ferguson’s legislation repeals three Department of Defence site nominations made by the Howard government- Harts Range, Mt Everard and Fisher’s Ridge- but preserves the highly contested Muckaty nomination. Mitch, a spokesperson for Harts Range and Mt Everard said “It is almost seven years since the NT dump plan was announced. We are happy that Harts Range is now off the list but we support the Muckaty people to say no. This proposal is based on politics not science. This is a very sad day”.
Muckaty Traditional Owners have launched a federal court case against both the federal government and the Northern Land Council, which nominated the Muckaty site in 2007. Muckaty Traditional Owner Penny Phillips said, “At the start Senator Nigel Scullion said ‘not on my watch’ will the waste dump happen. He should be fighting against it and look after people in the Territory. Its very confusing for us- the Senators are meant to represent us. Do they care about Traditional Owners, do they care about people in the Barkly, the cattlemen? The government should come and see this country. We have been inviting them many times and they have ignored us”.
Beyond Nuclear coordinator Natalie Wasley concluded “Beyond Nuclear Initiave welcomes the passing of Senator Scott Ludlam’s amendment that international waste cannot be stored at the facility, however, the rest of the legislation is neither new nor good. It builds on the mistakes of the Howard era and lacks credibility and consent. There are still many hurdles for the government before a dump is up and running, and this proposal will be challenged every step of the way.”
At its most basic, advancing the Muckaty site is a case of politicians in capital Canberra dumping the most dangerous and poisonous radioactive waste we produce on one of Australia's poorest and least resourced Indigenous communities. It has happened without transparent or democratic processes and in clear contravention of international obligations, including under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. If Muckaty were to become home to Australia's radioactive waste it, would be a body-blow to the reconciliation process set in motion with the apology to the stolen generations.
It is crucial to realise that what is being proposed is Australia's new 'greenfield' approach to radioactive waste management. However, instead of developing a credible process the government has been obsessed with identifying a vulnerable postcode. To place Australia's worst radioactive waste on the lands of some of its poorest people - without broad community understanding or consent - is not cutting edge scientific thinking, robust policy or best practice.
Sources: Beyond Nuclear Initiative, Media Alert, 13 & 15 March 2012, Green Left Weekly, 13 March 2012 / Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Foundation, 28 March 2012
Contact: Dave Sweeney, Australian Conservation Foundation, First Floor, 60 Leicester Street, Carlton VIC, 3053, Australia.
Tel: +61 3 9345 1111