Waste dump tender is ‘putting the radioactive cart before the horse’.

Media Release Beyond Nuclear Initiative

August 7, 2012

Calling for tender to design a remote radioactive waste facility while the only proposed site is under federal court challenge is putting the radioactive cart before the horse, the Beyond Nuclear Initiative (BNI) has said today.

BNI coordinator Natalie Wasley said “The only site federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has indicated he intends to pursue for a national radioactive waste dump- Muckaty, 120km north of Tennant Creek in the NT- is subject to a federal court challenge and ongoing community challenge. The NT government is strongly opposed and trade unions, environment and health groups across the country have committed to stand up and stop the Muckaty proposal”.

“The Minister is making radioactive policy on the run, based on a political assumption that a remote site is needed and a miscalculation that people living nearby or culturally connected to those areas do not have the determination or capacity to defeat this proposal,” Ms Wasley added.

Earlier this year, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) applied for a license to store radioactive waste returning from overseas reprocessing onsite at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor near Sydney where it was produced. The storage period is expected to be five years.

Ms Wasley said “The ANSTO application for interim onsite storage is an acknowledgement that successive government attempts to force a radioactive waste dump on unwilling remote communities have so far failed. In light of this application, expected to open for public comment this month, we don’t need a tender for a site that doesn’t exist, we need a process to manage the waste that does exist”.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions, Public Health Association of Australia, Australian Conservation Foundation and other national organisations have consistently called for a comprehensive public commission into radioactive waste management.

“If radioactive waste is destined to be stored at a remote site for at least 100 years as the tender asserts, it is not a big ask of the government to initiate a commission with all stakeholders at the table that would take around two years. Seven years have already been wasted because of the top-down approach targeting the NT.”

“The ALP promised a process of radioactive waste management that was transparent but this announcement today highlights Minister Ferguson’s bullish and secretive approach. The announcement of a tender for a facility suited to an arid or semi-arid area will make people even more determined to challenge the Muckaty plan,” Ms Wasley concluded.