The federal government’s commitment to responsible radioactive waste management will now face increased scrutiny, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.
Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg has released a list of six sites located across three states and one territory that the government intends to examine for suitability to host the burial of low level and/or above ground shed storage of higher level radioactive waste.
The six sites are Sallys Flat in NSW, Hale in the Northern Territory, Cortlinye, Pinkawillinie and Barndioota in South Australia and Oman Ama in Queensland.
The renewed search for a waste site follows two decades of failed attempts by successive governments to impose a facility at sites in South Australia and the NT.
The most recent attempt, at Muckaty near Tennant Creek in the NT, was shelved in June last year following sustained Aboriginal and wider community opposition to the plan.
“Former Minister Ian Macfarlane correctly described the Muckaty process as ‘a disaster’. This sorry history must not be repeated,” said ACF campaigner Dave Sweeney.
“The approaches of the past – secret deals, surprise announcements, emotively linking the separate issues of nuclear waste and nuclear medicine, commercial-in-confidence ‘agreements’ and the carrot and stick politics of division – have all failed.
“The vast majority of the radioactive waste planned for any national facility is currently stored in two secure federal facilities. Waste returning from Europe is set to be moved to and managed at ANSTO’s Lucas Heights facility in southern Sydney.
“It is time to do things differently and better and stop looking for quick ‘fixes’ to long lasting challenges. There are no compelling public health or technical reasons to rush any of this waste to another location.
“We urge the federal government to carefully consider the full range of available options and to actively advance open and responsible radioactive waste management.
“We should keep an open mind to how we manage radioactive waste and a closed door to undead and unwanted waste from other nations. ACF will support affected communities and closely track every step of this long and contested road.”