Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Hands Up If You Want to Store Our Nuclear Waste

By Ian Lowe

The federal Government has called for volunteers to site a nuclear waste repository.

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I recently saw a strange announcement by the Australian Government that indicated “the Government’s intention to consider opening a nationwide volunteer process for land owners to nominate land for Australia’s radioactive waste management facility”. This is the latest episode in a long-running saga.

About a decade ago, the Howard Government decided to establish a national radioactive waste repository in South Australia. That looked a safe bet. Successive SA governments have been happy to host the world’s largest uranium mine at Roxby Downs, producing much greater volumes of low-level radioactive waste that would have been stored in the proposed national repository. Despite this, the Rann Government opposed the proposal for waste storage in the State. The specific proposal was also opposed by local indigenous people.

Faced with opposition from a State government, the Commonwealth withdrew the proposal and tried instead to locate the repository in the Northern Territory, as territory governments don’t have the same constitutional standing as states.

Then there was a legal dispute about whether there was genuine support from local traditional owners for the waste facility at Muckaty Station. After a battle that went all the way to the Federal Court, that proposal was also withdrawn.

The Abbott Government then announced it would invite Aboriginal...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.