The Guardian March 26, 2003


More obstacles for nuclear dump

by Bob Briton

Opinion polls showing overwhelming opposition of the people of South 
Australia are not the only problems facing the Commonwealth's proposal for 
a nuclear waste dump in the north of the State.

Last month the Kokotha, Kuyani and Barngala Indigenous communities rejected 
an offer from the Federal Government of a one-off payment of $90,000 to 
drop their native title claims over land that was favoured to become the 
site for the dump.

Kokotha Land Council representative Andrew Starkey summed up the attitudes 
of the communities when he told the media: "Our heritage is not for sale".

Site 52a in the military's Woomera Prohibited Area has encountered 
resistance from other quarters. The Japanese space industry, the Australian 
Space Research Institute Ltd and the Department of Defence expressed their 
quite reasonable concern that the Commonwealth's proposal would put the 
dump just three kilometres from Range E missile target area.

Environment Minister David Kemp stepped in to order a review of the 
radiation hazards posed by the proximity of a military bombing range. 
"Independent advice" was called for. It seems that the site, vigorously 
promoted by Science Minister Peter McGauran, will quietly be forgotten.

Other sites have other problems. Site 40a is actually part of Arcoona  a 
working sheep station in SA's north. Any decision to put the nuclear dump 
on the station will involve the spending of an extra $1 million on 
infrastructure and security.

Another drawback is that the owner of the property, Andrew Pobke, has gone 
public with his opposition to the proposal. "I would be concerned if they 
just came in and set up a dump and it interfered with the operation of my 
property", Mr Pobke told The Advertiser last week.

Site 45a is another short listed location. It is to be found on Andamooka 
station  a property currently leased by WMC Resources. The giant mining 
corporation is also opposed to sharing its life with a nuclear waste dump 
and it is unlikely that the Federal Government will go against its wishes.

Peter McGauran was recently obliged to deny that land near Broken Hill was 
being considered as a location for the dump. The Science Minister was 
responding to claims by Campaign Against Nuclear Dumping spokesperson Dr 
Jim Green who said that Broken Hill was listed among a number of "suitable" 
sites in several States and Territories.

McGauran insists that Broken Hill's nomination was ruled out on scientific 
grounds, as were many of the other locations contained in a 1997 federal 
government report.

Despite the fact that Broken Hill declared itself nuclear free 20 years 
ago, under Commonwealth plans 1690 cubic metres (or 170 truckloads) of 
radioactive waste is set to be carted through Broken Hill and several other 
settlements along the Barrier and Stuart Highways. Semi-trailer rollovers 
are common on both these routes.

In NSW, Greens MP Ian Cohen has called on Premier Bob Carr to ban the 
transport of nuclear waste from the reactor at Lucas Heights through 
Sydney' s streets and regional towns.

Communities living around the reactor and in the Blue Mountains are 
concerned at the prospect of 250 truckloads of low to medium level waste 
being hauled through their settlements. Mr Cohen has said that Bob Carr 
refuses to comment on the issue until after the state election.

The United Trades and Labor Council of SA recently voted to ban work on the 
project and supply products or services needed for its construction. Thirty 
UTLC affiliates now join the CFMEU in refusing to work on the dump.

Last week the State Government finally delivered long promised legislation 
to ban construction of a dump in SA and the transport of radioactive waste 
in the state. All but a few Liberal members of the Legislative Council 
voted for the legislation.

The Bill had a troubled path through the Upper House. The original had to 
have several amendments to make it legally sound and even the final version 
of the Bill contained a sunset clause requiring new, more effective 
legislation to be introduced after July 19th this year.

Of course, the Commonwealth could push ahead with the waste dump project by 
overriding state laws and assuming control of land through the Land 
Acquisition Act.

However, given the breadth of opposition to the dump, persistence on the 
issue could be very damaging politically.

The Federal Government is set to announce its intentions on some of these 
matters this week. Its decisions will show whether it is listening to the 
voice of the people or pressing ahead with another project on behalf of 
rich and powerful interests like the would-be operators of a free 
enterprise nuclear waste dump.

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