Stay out: plan to block nuke waste at NT border

Kristy O'Brien 24th February, 2010

VIDEO: NT likely destination for Nuclear Dump TV News NT (ABC online)

The Federal Government is strongly considering using Aboriginal land near Tennant Creek, south of Darwin, as a nuclear waste facility.

The Northern Territory Chief Minister says he will use local legislation banning the transport of nuclear waste to prevent the Federal Government building a radioactive waste dump in the Territory.

The Federal Government yesterday revealed it would pursue Muckaty Station, near Tennant Creek, as the location for a national radioactive waste repository.

It says it has to find somewhere to store nuclear waste generated by the creation of medical isotopes at the Lucas Heights reactor in Sydney.

Before the 2007 election, the federal Labor Party promised to repeal Howard government legislation that allows the Commonwealth to bypass Territory laws and force a nuclear dump on the Territory

The Rudd Government says it intends to follow through with that promise despite yesterday outlining its intentions for Muckaty Station.

It says Muckaty Station is the only site in Australia that has been "volunteered" by traditional owners via the Northern Land Council, although it acknowledges that not all of the traditional owners are supportive.

Country Liberal MLA David Tollner says if the Commonwealth act no longer exists then the Territory's Nuclear Waste Transport and Storage Bill would come into place, making it illegal to bring nuclear waste into the Territory.

Chief Minister Paul Henderson says his Government will try to use the local legislation against its federal counterpart.

"If they do repeal the act as it stands now, our legislation will be in play and it will stay in play until we have a proper robust debate nationally based on the science," he said.

But Labor Senator for the Northern Territory, Trish Crossin, says Mr Henderson cannot use Territory legislation to block the Muckaty Station dump from going ahead.

"Our legislation does allow us to transport the nuclear waste into the Territory because it's Commonwealth waste and we can transport that across the country at any time and whenever we want to," she said.

Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney says the Federal Government is breaching international best practice by keeping Muckaty Station as an option.

"There has been a decision that Muckaty is the most politically expedient option," he said.

"Minister [Martin] Ferguson should have torn up the Muckaty option, should have gone back to the drawing board and should have done what Labor promised to do, which is a new site selection option based on good science, good policy, community inclusion and consent."

The Northern Territory Labor MLA for the area being considered for the storage facility says the views of some traditional owners are not the views of his electorate.

Gerry McCarthy says the views of those traditional owners are important but everyone else in his electorate is against the idea.

"That's one side on the table and I think there is a lot more of the debate to come.

"The debate is one of science, one of national security and of a facility that will be the first in Australia and needs to be done very, very carefully."

Targeting NT for nuclear waste dump - News Media

AAP | | February 24, 2010

Australia's first national nuclear waste dump could be operational in the Northern Territory outback within the next few years, following what the federal government describes as two decades of indecision.

While conservation groups have accused the Rudd government of selecting the NT as the likely location for the dump because of a convenient imbalance of power between the territory government and the Commonwealth, federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson says delays can no longer be afforded.

Unlike the states, territory governments have less grounds by which to challenge a federal government decision in the High Court.

"Instead of the search for a postcode that is expedient, we have to adopt a process that is responsible," Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney told AAP in Darwin.

Mr Ferguson said Muckaty Station, about 120km north of Tennant Creek, was the only site currently being considered by the federal government for the disposal of medical isotope waste from Sydney's Lucas Heights reactor.

He told reporters in Canberra on yesterday afternoon that a site needed to be found before Australia's waste was bought back from Scotland and France in 2014 and 2015.

"Successive governments of all political persuasions have been unable to actually resolve this issue," he said, as he announced that the Howard government's Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act would go before the Senate to be repealed.

Mr Sweeney welcomed the repeal, but said Labour was not meeting its election commitments.

"Labour in opposition called this approach sordid, arrogant, heavy handed, improper, and Labour in government under Minister Ferguson are continuing the same approach," he said.

Mr Ferguson said the reason Muckaty Station was still being considered and the three other NT sites identified by the Howard government had been scrapped, even though they "scientifically stacked up", was because traditional owners had volunteered the land at Muckaty.

It is understood the three other sites previously considered belong to the Australian Defence Force.

Mr Sweeney said about 60 traditional owners had signed a petition against the development of the dump at Muckaty, some of whom belong to the Ngapa family group that Mr Ferguson claims volunteered the land.

It is understood a small group of traditional owners were paid $A200,000 ($NZ257,000) to volunteer the land for scientific assessment, but the details of that agreement have never been made public.

Greens nuclear spokesman Scott Ludlam, who led a 2008 senate inquiry into the Act, criticised the government for negotiating with the Ngapa people through the Northern Land Council, to the exclusion of other indigenous groups.

Nuclear waste dump should be 'scrapped' | February 24, 2010

Preliminary plans to establish Australia's first nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory outback should be scrapped, an environmental group says.

Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney is calling on the federal government to start its site identification process afresh, after it was revealed only one nuclear dump site is being considered.

Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson on Tuesday announced that the Howard government's Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act would be repealed.

And he said the only site now being considered for the dump was at Muckaty, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek.

But Mr Sweeney says the federal government hasn't stuck by its election commitments.

'Under the Howard government it was flawed and heavy handed and in the Rudd government it's been more of the same with at least the same level, if not more, secrecy,' he told AAP.

'Labor in opposition called this approach sordid, arrogant, heavy handed, improper, and Labor in government under Minister Ferguson are continuing the same approach.

'It's out of step with clear federal Labor commitments and promises, it's out of step with industry best practice and it will fail.

'Labor need to go back to their 2007 clear election promises to fully and unconditionally repeal the Howard government legislation, start a new site selection process, get responsible and mature.'

Mr Sweeney said he welcomed the repeal, but argued the government was still forcing a nuclear waste dump on a community that doesn't want it.

He says about 60 traditional owners have signed a petition opposing the development of the dump at Muckaty, some of whom Mr Ferguson claims volunteered the land.

Mr Sweeney said a small group of traditional owners were paid $200,000 to volunteer their land, but that the government had refused to make the agreement public due to 'commercial confidence and sensitivity'.

'Carrot and stick and secrecy is not the way to have a responsible radioactive waste management policy for this country,' he said.

'The process must be open, it must be transparent, it must be rigorous and independently peer reviewed and tested.

'Above all, there must be a high level of stakeholder confidence and community consent.

'None of those key pre-conditions to a successful radioactive waste management scheme exist in Australia.'

Mr Sweeney said he did not understand why the issue of nuclear waste disposal had been transferred from the science portfolio to the resources portfolio under the Rudd government.

'Ministries of environment, health, indigenous and science all have a legitimate expertise, interest and some carriage of this issue,' he said.

'At the moment we have a minister who is very pro-nuclear personally, has a department whose job it is to advance resource industry developments, and whose personal and political style is combative and secretive.'

He said he was concerned the nuclear waste dump, after failing to gain support in other states, was being forced on the NT because it does not have the same constitutional powers as the states.

'Instead of the search for a postcode that is expedient, we have to adopt a process that is responsible.

'Regardless of where you are or where you live, this is a national issue.

'This is happening because of an imbalance of power.'

NT nuclear waste dump still possible

Tom Arup and Lindsay Murdoch | / | February 24, 2010

The Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, has left open the possibility of a nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory, causing a rift in the government and indigenous groups.

He yesterday announced plans to overturn Howard government legislation that allows the federal government to impose a nuclear dump on the Northern Territory.

It will be replaced by a new regime in which indigenous land councils and other groups voluntarily nominate a site anywhere in the country, which would then be scientifically and environmentally assessed.

Despite the changes, Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory will remain as the preferred site for an Australian nuclear dump. It was first put forward in 2007 by the Northern Land Council in a $10 million deal with the Howard Government.

Mr Ferguson said as the 1.5-square kilometre site at Muckaty, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek, was voluntarily proposed by the land council it was still considered under the government's new regime.

He said the government could no longer wait to find a dump site because Australian nuclear waste was returning from Scotland and France in 2014 and 2015.

The inclusion of Muckaty was met with dissent from Northern Territory members of the government, including Damian Hale and Senator Trish Crossin, who spoke out in a Labour caucus meeting yesterday.

The Rural and Regional Health Minister, and Territory MP, Warren Snowdon also spoke at caucus and said last night the meeting was left under no illusion about his support to overturn the previous government's legislation.