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Environment Centre NT - protecting nature, living sustainably, creating climate for a change

No NT Nuclear Waste Dump

National Indigenous Television Special: Uranium, Friend or Foe?

In August 2014 NITV ran an important televised debate forum featuring leading voices in the Australian uranium and nuclear industry debate, and its impacts on Indigenous communities.

You can watch it here:

NT Nuclear Waste Dump Campaign

In 2005 the Federal Government announced a plan to build a nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory. While three sites were initially selected, the only site now under consideration is on Muckaty Station, 120km north of Tennant Creek.

Traditional Owners, the NT Government, Unions NT, medical groups and the wider community oppose the proposed waste dump at Muckaty.

The Federal Government is attempting to use  heavy-handed and undemocratic legislation called the the National Radioactive Waste Management Billto build the dump.At the time of writing (November 2011) the Federal Government has been unsuccessful in attempts to get this contested bill passed by the Senate.

What kind of radioactive waste is it?

The waste that the Federal Government proposes to dump on the Territory includes:

  • Low-level and short-lived intermediate- level radioactive waste destined for shallow burial.
  • Long-lived intermediate level waste which will be stored above ground as an ‘interim’ measure until some future government establishes a deep underground geological disposal facility.

The Government has made no progress finding a site for disposal of the long-lived intermediate-level waste so ‘interim’ storage in the NT would last for decades and possibly centuries.

Where is the waste coming from and how much is there?

Measured by radioactivity, almost all the waste comes from the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor site south of Sydney as spent fuel rods. These spent fuel rods are taken overseas to be re-processed and are on contract to be bought back to Australia in 2014.

Measured by volume, Lucas Heights accounts for almost half the waste, lightly contaminated soil stored at Woomera in SA accounts for about half, and very small volumes are stored at various scientific, medical and defence sites around Australia.

How should Australia’s radioactive waste management be managed?

All options for radioactive waste management need to be considered − not just ‘remote’ repositories. This includes the option of ongoing storage at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor site on the outskirts of Sydney, operated by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). All relevant organisations − including ANSTO, the regulator ARPANSA, the Australian Nuclear Association, and even Federal Resource Minister Martin Ferguson’s own department − have acknowledged that ongoing storage at Lucas Heights is a viable option.

A site selection process is required, it ought to be based on scientific and environmental criteria, as well as on the principles of community consent. When the federal Bureau of Resource Sciences conducted a preliminary site selection study in the 1990s, based on environmental and scientific criteria, the Muckaty area did not even make the short-list as a ”suitable” site for a nuclear dump. Yet Muckaty is the only site now under consideration.

Nuclear Medicine

Many countries have good nuclear medicine services but do not have a nuclear reactor or a nuclear waste dump. As the Medical Association for the Prevention of War says, the government has been ‘peddling a lie’ by linking the proposed NT dump to nuclear medicine. See:

See Darwin rally against the waste dump:

Check out Tennant Creek Hip-hop artist Kylie Sambo express her opposition to the dump through music:

Read a detailed account of the campaign in Keep the Poison out of Muckaty

Keep the Poison Out of Muckaty