Environment groups have urged the federal government to deliver on its commitment not to impose radioactive waste storage on unwilling communities, as announced by Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane today.

The latest process to identify a site for a national nuclear waste facility follows more than 20 years of flawed and failed federal attempts to impose a dump on communities in South Australia and the Northern Territory, most recently at Muckaty, north of Tennant Creek.

“That this process is happening at all is a tribute to the tenacity of the Muckaty Traditional Owners who took sustained action to protect their country and culture,” said Beyond Nuclear Initiative convenor Natalie Wasley.

“It took more than eight years for the government to admit the Muckaty nomination was a ‘disaster’.  This must not be allowed to happen to other communities.

“Environment and civil society groups will closely monitor – and engage where possible – with the revised site nomination and selection process,” she said. “The process outlined today includes federal commitments of increased transparency and a stated preparedness to consider a number of alternative siting models.

Environment, public health, Indigenous and trade union groups have called for an expert and independent Inquiry into the full range of waste management options, including decentralised nuclear waste storage instead of a centralised facility.  This approach has not been adopted by Minister Macfarlane, who has opted for a limited, fast-tracked process.

“There are no compelling social or technical reasons to rush a decision on an issue that demands the highest quality decision making,” said ACF’s Dave Sweeney.

“We have time to get this issue right.  The Minister’s revised process is significantly better than the previous one, but we are still a long way short of where we should be,” he said.

Most of Australia’s existing radioactive waste is securely stored at two dedicated federal sites.  Reprocessed spent nuclear fuel set to return to Australia from Europe later this year will be sent to the Lucas Heights facility for interim storage.

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