Earthquake fears over nuclear dump site

Jane Bardon and Emma Masters March 12th, 2010

Muckaty Station Country
Image: ABC News

There are calls for more research into the suitability of the site at Muckaty Station for a nuclear waste dump.

MAP: Tennant Creek 0860
Reports into the suitability of the site chosen by the Federal Government for a nuclear waste dump say more scientific investigation is needed into the threat of earthquakes around the Tennant Creek region.

A Greens Senate motion has forced the Federal Government to release eight reports and two reviews into the possible sites for a nuclear waste dump.

The Territory Government has argued earthquakes make the Muckaty Station site, which was chosen by the Commonwealth, unsuitable.

The Synthesis Report by Parsons Brinkerhoff says the area has a seismic hazard factor of 0.9.

It says additional seismic studies may be required to further define the hazard factors.

An academic peer review of that report agrees more investigation is needed.

It says Parsons Brinkerhoff has rated the risk factors using "assumptions" and "interpretation of technical data".

It concludes more studies are needed into seismic activity, subsidance, collapsing soils, chemical erosion and the implications for the contamination of surface and ground water used by local townships.

The Northern Territory's Resources Minister Kon Vatskalis says he will look closely at the scientific reports.

Mr Vatskalis says if proper scientific and environmental assessments were done sites like Muckaty Station would be ruled out.

"You bet we are going to have a look at those scientific studies because we still believe the science should dictate where the repository should go, not political reasons, not constitutional anomalies that allows the Federal government now to just shove it in the Territory," he said.

Concerns over 'missing' documents

Meanwhile, the Greens say the newly released documents prove the previous Federal Government did not do a proper assessment of four sites proposed for a radioactive waste dump in the Northern Territory.

The Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says an the assessments appear to lack detail and gloss over important issues.

"They say there are no critical issues that would have removed any of the sites from further consideration which is remarkable when you consider that one of those sites [is] subject to flooding, one of them is an active seismic zone which is the Muckaty nomination which is hit by earthquakes every now and then," Senator Ludlam said.

"It looks as though it was a very cursory desktop level assessment of the sites that won't stand up under further scrutiny."

The Greens also say one key document, an anthropological report, is missing.

Senator Scott Ludlam says according to the Government, the Resources Minister Martin Ferguson has never seen the report and it cannot be located.

"It's very very peculiar that they've said we don't have this report and we've never seen this anthropological report when in fact the entire case rests on that document," he said.

"So there's more work for us to do in making sure that the Government finally does hand that material over when they can locate it."