Media Release The Hon Martin Ferguson AM MP
Minister for Resources and Energy
Minister for Tourism
FAIRNESS RESTORED TO RADIOACTIVE WASTE PROCESS
The Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson AM MP, will this week introduce the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010 to the Australian Parliament.
This honours our longstanding commitment to repeal the Howard Government’s Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005.
The new legislation finally provides a proper process to establish a purpose-built facility for managing radioactive waste generated by Australia’s medical, industrial, agricultural, and research use of nuclear material.
Minister Ferguson said: “The Bill being introduced this week means that a site can no longer be automatically imposed on a community in any State or Territory.
“Firstly, the three sites selected by the Howard Government on Defence land in the Northern Territory have been ruled out, as we promised before the 2007 election.
“Secondly, there is no pre-determined site outcome – the new Bill requires any site to be volunteered by the landowners.
“Affected landowners and communities must also be consulted.
“Thirdly, the Bill restores procedural fairness rights that were stripped away by the Howard Government.
“Fourthly, the Bill ensures the selected site will go through full environmental, heritage and other approvals processes.”
The Bill contains provisions for two volunteer nomination processes.
The first allows a Land Council to volunteer Aboriginal land on behalf of Traditional Owners and the second provides for a nation-wide volunteer process.
The Bill also recognises that Ngapa land on Muckaty Station was a volunteer nomination by the Northern Land Council in 2007 and that the Commonwealth entered into a Site Nomination Deed in relation to that land.
The nomination has the continuing support of the Ngapa clan and the Full Council of the Northern Land Council.
The Deed has no termination date and the parties to it have the reasonable expectation that the Commonwealth will act in good faith and good spirit to implement the 2007 agreement.
For that reason, the new Bill allows the nomination of Ngapa land on Muckaty Station to stand and it will also allow the Land Council to nominate other Ngapa land if that is the wish of the Traditional Owners.
Minister Ferguson said: “Australia has been attempting to meet its international obligations to properly manage its own radioactive waste since 1988.
“It is about time we did so.”
Australia’s radioactive waste stockpile is presently stored at more than 100 less-than-ideal sites at Australian universities, hospitals, offices and laboratories, mostly in our capital cities.
While safe, this situation is not consistent with international best practice.
Australian research reactor waste is also presently stored in Scotland and France.
We have both contractual obligations and a moral responsibility to accept the return of our own waste for proper management by 2015-16.
Australia’s low and intermediate level radioactive waste is an unavoidable result of very many worthwhile activities including the screening and treatment of cancer and other diseases, as well as medical research.
Every year, around 500,000 Australians undergo medical procedures using radioisotopes produced by the research reactor at Lucas Heights.