By Eve Sinton • Fossil Fool Bulletin 4 August 2020
In late January of this year, the federal resources minister at the time – Matt Canavan – announced that a national nuclear waste dump would be established on farming land 20km west of the small community of Kimba, South Australia.
Farmer Jeff Baldock had conveniently offered up a 160 ha property for the project. He is likely to get four times the market value for it.
The dump would house low-level waste, mainly from nuclear medicine, and provide 45 new local jobs. The community has been promised $31 million in benefits as a reward for 62% of them voting in favour of the facility (396 to 294).
Already, there’s a catch
But, already, there’s a catch: the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility will also “temporarily” house medium-level waste from places such as Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor. Until somewhere else is found for the stuff.
Which is not what the community voted for, but it may very likely be forced upon them as a long-term solution for nuclear waste that will be dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. After all, who else would want it?
The dump site is on the traditional lands of the Barngala people, few of whom were able to vote alongside the townspeople of Kimba. The Barngala conducted their own poll and were overwhelmingly against having nuke waste dumped on their land.
Matt Canavan has since resigned as resources minister, to support Barnaby Joyce in a failed National Party leadership coup.
His replacement, Keith Pitt, has wasted no time pushing ahead with the nuke dump.
Traditional Owners’ rights denied
Friends of the Earth say, “Since the passing in Australian Parliament’s lower house of the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment Bill, a Senate Inquiry continues to look into implications of this legislation that names Napandee at Kimba as the site for Australia’s national nuclear waste dump and removes Traditional Owners rights to challenge that decision.
“In a cynical and undemocratic move, federal resources minister Keith Pitt announced that a new ‘Australian Radioactive Waste Agency’ will be established and located in Adelaide. We are calling on SA Premier Marshall to uphold SA law that prohibits a nuclear waste dump in that state.”
On July 21, Pitt issued a joint media release with the Member for Grey, Rowan Ramsey MP, and the South Australian Minister for Energy and Mining, Dan van Holst Pellekaan.
“A dedicated agency will be established by the Australian Government for the management of Australia’s radioactive waste that brings together responsibility and expertise in this important and specialised field.
“The Australian Radioactive Waste Agency (ARWA) will be based in Adelaide and be responsible for all functions of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (the Facility), including engagement with the Kimba community.”
Keith Pitt said the creation of the new agency is the next important step in developing Australia’s radioactive waste management storage solution and capabilities.
“The new agency will be responsible for all stages of the design, construction, licensing applications and operation of the Facility, working in close partnership with ANSTO. A single agency ensures a dedicated focus on managing Australia’s radioactive waste in accordance with domestic and international regulations and best practice,” Pitt said.
Australia becomes a global nuke dump?
And speaking of international regulations, there are numerous people pushing for Australia to host an international nuclear waste dump to deal with highly dangerous spent reactor fuel and similar hazardous material – which remains life-threatening for at least 100,000 years.
It was a pet project of former South Australian Premier, Jay Weatherill, nuclear enthusiasts Alexander Downer and Martin Ferguson, and of course, BHP which operates Australia’s biggest uranium mine, Olympic Dam.
The South Australians even held a Royal Commission which claimed such a dump would generate billions in profit, although a citizens jury was 70% opposed to the idea.
The Minerals Council of Australia is delighted by developments around the nuclear waste dump. CEO Tania Constable said, “The establishment of the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency in Adelaide to manage South Australia’s National Radioactive Waste Management Facility is another positive step to support the development of a high-tech Australian nuclear industry, especially life-saving nuclear medicine.
“Australia’s world-class medical research reactor at Lucas Heights produces vital nuclear medicines and procedures which will be used by one in two Australians during their lifetime, and the new facility will play an important part in developing Australia’s nuclear technology expertise.”
Constable went on to spruik the expansion of Australia’s uranium resources. She complained that Australia’s current ban on nuclear energy and technologies prohibits the development of significant new advanced nuclear industries.
Deplorable process facilitates nuclear expansion
Australia’s nuclear waste stockpile certainly needs to be well managed, but the process at Kimba has been deplorable. The creation of the dump leaves the country exposed to unwelcome expansion of the nuclear industry. There are numerous Coalition nuclear power enthusiasts such as John Barilaro and Barnaby Joyce. And ANSTO wants to grow its nuclear medical supply business to grab 30% of the global market.
Do we really want to be the world’s nuclear waste dump?
Napandee National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, Kimba – 45 jobs
• 14 security and safeguard jobs;
• 13 roles in waste operations and technicians;
• 8 roles in site management and community outreach;
• 5 jobs in environmental protection and quality control;
• 5 jobs in safety and radiation protection.
Australian Radioactive Waste Agency, Adelaide – 35 jobs
• The agency will be operational from 21 July 2020 – initially established as a separately branded function of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources before transitioning to a non-corporate Commonwealth entity.
• A domestic and international search for a CEO will be undertaken to ensure that the agency is led with the appropriate skills and expertise