Territory Stories

Devil's advocate



Devil's advocate

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The quarterly magazine from the Arid Lands Environment Centre


Arid Lands Environment Centre


Devil's advocate; E-Journals; PublicationNT; Devil's advocate




Alice Springs


Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).; This publication contains may contain links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.; Healthy futures for arid lands and people




Environmental Protection; Australia, Central; Conservation Of Natural Resources; Arid Lands Environment Centre (Australia); Periodicals

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Arid Lands Environment Centre

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Alice Springs


Devil's advocate


Autumn 2015

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Arid Lands Environment Centre



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Beyond Nuclear Initiative Radioactive waste management post-Muckaty As ALEC Members and supporters would know, in June 2014 the Australian federal government abandoned plans to build the first national nuclear waste facility on Aboriginal land at Muckaty in the Northern Territory. The decision came half way through a federal court case challenging the nomination of the site and is a testament to the determined eight year campaign by Traditional Owners and their supporters around the country and world. Press conference June 19, 2014 announcing Muckaty campaign victory Australian non-government and civil society organisations, including environment groups, public health organisations and trade unions, have consistently requested the government halt the search for a single remote site in favour of a process based on an audit of all radioactive waste materials in parallel with an independent Inquiry that considered the full range of waste management options. However, in November 2014 federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane instead announced intention to open a nationwide site nomination and selection process for locating a national radioactive waste facility. The National Radioactive Waste Management Project (NRWMP) launched on Monday March 2 and aims to shortlist nominations, assess preferred sites and declare a final location by the middle of 2016. The Beyond Nuclear Initiative considers this timeframe to be unnecessarily compressed and constrained, especially given that the first shipment of long-lived intermediate level waste returning to Australia from overseas reprocessing in December 2015 will be taken to a purpose built storage facility at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor complex just south of Sydney. Waste currently stored in Australia is concentrated at two secure federal facilities; the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation campus at Lucas Heights and the CSIRO facility at Woomera in South Australia. The majority of Australias nuclear experts are also situated at Lucas Heights. There is little opportunity for public input and consultation built into the NRWMP, especially in the early stages. Once preferred sites are shortlisted and field assessments begin, we understand that public input will include submissions to the Environmental Impact Assessment in accordance with the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act (ARPANS). Essentially, there is still an underlying assumption and a continuing push that we need a single remote facility. However, Minister Macfarlanes public statement that the Muckaty process was a disaster has clearly influenced the approach to the revised NRWMP. After decades of top down decision-making based on a Decide-Announce-Defend model, this new process does at least contain some degree of transparency, clarity and a stated commitment to volunteerism. Two committees have been convened to assist the government developing criteria to select a site; a Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) and Public Interest Panel (PIP). The Australian Conservation Foundation was the only civil society organisation engaged with radioactive waste issues during the Muckaty/Northern Territory waste dump proposal that was offered a position on the PIP. According to the government website (radioactivewaste.gov.au), each shortlisted site will be assessed against three facility design options, two of which only have low level waste being transported to the facility and intermediate level waste managed under current arrangements. Looking at a broader range of options in collaboration with the two advisory panels even if just on paper is far better than the single-minded pursuit of a solo site for all radioactive waste located on remote Aboriginal Land. The Minister has taken a welcome half step back, but there are still many unanswered questions regarding this process, which we maintain would be far better addressed through an independent Inquiry. The Beyond Nuclear Initiative will continue to monitor progress of the NRWMP and inform stakeholders and interested parties of key developments and opportunities for input into the process. That this process is happening at all is a tribute to the tenacity of the Muckaty Traditional Owners who took such sustained action to protect their country and culture. It is also a tribute to all who supported them. Now we need to maintain our vigilance and efforts to advance radioactive waste management in Australia in a more socially and environmentally responsible way. Building international connections and support A delegation representing the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) attended the World Uranium Symposium held in Quebec City, Canada from April 14-16. The event featured presentations from over 100 international experts on a wide range of topics. The Australian contingent - which included Dr Helen Caldicott, ANFA co-chair Barb Shaw (Alice Springs), ANFA co-chair Peter Watts (Arabunna nation) and Dave Sweeney (Australian Conservation Foundation)- presented at three plenary sessions and two workshops. Following the Symposium was the 5th International Uranium Film Festival. Beyond Nuclear Initiative is very proud that the documentary about the Muckaty nuclear waste dump campaign titled Protecting Manuwangku featured at the festival. The film was produced by Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning (UTS) in collaboration with NITV, Beyond Nuclear Initiative and Muckaty Traditional Owners. BNI assisted the ANFA delegation to document the Quebec tour by managing updates on the ANFA website and sharing information and images via twitter on #uranium2015. ANFA website: http://www.anfa.org.au/tour2015 Twitter #uranium2015 or following @ beyondnuclearoz Facebook page: Beyond Nuclear Initiative SA Royal Commission A major development nationally has been the announcement of the South Australian Royal Commission into expansion of the nuclear industry, including options of uranium enrichment, nuclear power and hosting of an international nuclear waste facility. Not long after the Commission was announced, Premier Weatherill and nuclear advocate Ziggy Switkowski expressed the first two of these options are unlikely to be recommended, exposing that the main agenda was investigating development of a radioactive waste import industry. Campaigners and communities likely to be in the firing line of expanded uranium operations (or international nuclear waste dump proposals) have also expressed concern that the chair of the Commission and majority of the expert panel (with the exception of Professor Ian Lowe) are clearly pro-nuclear. As well as impacts on the local environment and communities, an expanded nuclear industry in South Australia would impact people right along transport routes (up to and including Darwin Port) and workers handling radioactive materials. It would also further set back the struggle for a clean energy future that requires increased political support and direct investment in renewables infrastructure. ANFA co-chairs Peter Watts and Barbara Shaw at the World Uranium Symposium, Quebec.