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.