Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Australia is bound to take back nuclear wastes, but govt hypocrisy continues about its destination

a-cat-CANNote that the Australian government has learned nothing from the Muckaty experience.  They will still try to barter with Aboriginal communities  – with decent living conditions as most Australians have now offered in  exchange for radioactive trash dumping on Aboriginal land land.

Note that the government is still lying about the main purpose of the Lucas heights nuclear reactor –  pretending that the tacked-on nuclear medicine facility is the main thing.

That’s nonsense – the Lucas Heights reactor was set up originally in 1958 as the precursor to nuclear weapons and nuclear power for Australia.  Medical radionuclides can be obtained without a nuclear reactor.

wastesAustralian authorities are searching for a site to store 14 tonnes of nuclear waste heading from overseas http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/australian-authorities-are-searching-for-a-site-to-store-14-tonnes-of-nuclear-waste-heading-from-overseas/story-fni0fiyv-1227027497896  ELLEN WHINNETT NATIONAL POLITICAL EDITOR HERALD SUN AUGUST 18, 2014 A NATIONWIDE hunt is under way to find somewhere to store 28 containers of ­nuclear waste due to return to Australian shores by the end of next year.

The Federal Government is searching for a suitable site to permanently house the waste, which will be shipped back to Australia from France and the UK by the end of 2015.

The hunt follows the collapse in June of an agreement to store the waste on Aboriginal land at remote Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory.

The six cubic metres of treated waste will be held in stainless steel containers, which will weigh up to ­14 tonnes. The containers will be returned to Australia in a purpose-built storage container about a third the size of a shipping container.

The Government is seeking a remote site which has low rainfall and is geologically ­stable, and has identified Central Australia as potentially the most suitable region. Tens of millions of dollars could be expected to be paid to any community that agrees to house the waste on their land.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the Government was looking for sites submitted by landowners.

He said several land councils in Central Australia had been invited to consider nominating a site. A national tender will be held if no site is nominated by the Northern Land Council or Central Land Council by September 30.

The Commonwealth Government owns land at ­Woomera, in outback South Australia, and has been considering it as a potential site for a nuclear waste dump since the Howard government.

“The Government is committed to ensuring Australia has an appropriate facility for the management of radio­active waste created within Australia, largely as a result of nuclear medicine production,’’ Mr Macfarlane said.

The waste was created by the now-defunct HIFAR and Moata nuclear reactors which operated at the Lucas Heights reactor in Sydney.

Under international agreements in the 1990s, Australia shipped the waste offshore to countries with more experience managing nuclear waste, including France, the UK and the US, for processing and storage. These countries reprocessed the waste, removing further radioactive materials from it before storing it.

The move has put pressure on the Government to find a permanent site to house the waste, and a further six drums of technological waste, generated during the reprocessing of our spent fuel.

French law does not permit the Australian waste to be held beyond 2015 and the Australian Government is not aware of any mechanism under which it could delay the return of the waste.

August 18, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, wastes | Leave a comment

What is the best thing to do with Australia’s radioactive waste?

it is time to restore trust, credibility and common ground in relation to radioactive waste management based on good science, good process and acceptance that social and human concerns are valid and need to be addressed alongside technical criteria.  

What is clear is that the approach taken to date has failed – and if it is simply tried again in another place it is likely to fail again.  The government holds a duty of care to all Australians, including future generations, to get this issue right and the best start is through a dedicated National Commission into responsible waste management.

WASTES-1Many years, many debate and countless column inches later, the nation is no closer to a lasting solution to nuclear pollution. Why? http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/08/15/comment-radioactive-waste-time-new-approach-old-issue By Dave Sweeney
It’s now just two months since the federal government’s long held plan to relocate Australia’s radioactive waste to a remote site in the Northern Territory collapsed during a high profile Federal Court action bought by Aboriginal Traditional Owners opposed to a dump on their country.

After seven years of sustained and against the odds campaigning the people of Muckaty and Tennant Creek dodged a forever bullet, but the celebrations have been clouded by the continuing radioactive rumour mill.

NT Senator Nigel Scullion has joined Chief Minister Adam Giles and former Prime Minister Bob Hawke in banging the nuclear drum and are now actively promoting a new Territory dump site for Australia’s, and possibly the world’s, radioactive waste. A recent flying visit to Tennant Creek by Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has also raised renewed emotions and concerns about the dump push.

Like the waste itself, the issue is far from dead.

But all this political re-positioning continues to miss the central and long-standing question – what is the best thing to do with Australia’s radioactive waste? Continue reading

August 16, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, wastes | Leave a comment

Dr Jim Green puts the case for an independent Commission of Inquiry into radioactive waste management

Green,JimManaging Australia’s radioactive waste, Online opinion By Jim Green – , 12 August 2014 How should Australia manage radioactive waste? The short answer is that there is no obvious approach − hence the need for an independent Commission of Inquiry.

This discussion primarily concerns waste produced at the Lucas Heights nuclear research reactor site Lucas-09south of Sydney, operated by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), as well as much smaller volumes produced and/or stored at numerous medical, scientific and military sites. Radioactive waste produced at Australia’s uranium mines, from the use of Australian uranium overseas, and the radioactive contamination of Maralinga and other nuclear bomb test sites, are separate problems.

To date, efforts to find a radioactive waste repository site have been unsuccessful. For the past 15 years, Coalition and Labor governments have attempted a ‘crash though or crash’ approach, attempting to impose a repository first in South Australia and more recently in the Northern Territory − both attempts failed in the face of opposition from Traditional Owners and the wider community.

All options should be considered Continue reading

August 12, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, wastes | Leave a comment

Victoria Daly Regional Council, (Northern Territory) backs down from radioactive waste plan

wastesTop End council denies radio-active dump plans ABC News  ABC Rural  By Carmen Brown  8 Aug 14 The Victoria Daly Regional Council is backing away from reports it is planning to build a dump capable of storing radio-active material in the Top End.

A council employee revealed plans to build a 100 hectare waste facility near Timber Creek, which would be used to store municipal waste and ‘listed’ items including farm chemicals, acids and low-level radio-active medical waste.

However, Victoria Daly Regional Council Mayor, Steven Hennesey, denies the claims and says the site will only be used for household rubbish and asbestos.

“It is not, under any circumstances, going to deal with radio-active waste, and it is not going to be a toxic dump,” he said……..http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-06/top-end-council-denies-radio-active-dump-claims/5651756

August 8, 2014 Posted by | Northern Territory, wastes | Leave a comment

Bob Hawke sees importing nuclear waste as solution to Aboriginal disadvantage!

briberyBob Hawke: nuclear waste storage could end indigenous disadvantage.  Former prime minister says Northern Territory leader Adam Giles supports idea, despite rejection of Muckaty dump plan  in Arnhem Land theguardian.com, Sunday 3 August 2014 “….. Hawke said he was confident that the answer to long-standing indigenous socioeconomic problems was to allow radioactive waste to be stored on Aboriginal land, and use the revenue to improve living standards.

Speaking at the Indigenous Garma festival in the Northern Territory, Hawke said he had met Adam Giles, the territory’s chief minister, to discuss the idea and had got a favourable response……..”.I believe I have the answer. I’ve discussed this proposal with Adam Giles, who tells me he’s been approached by a number of elders who, like himself, are keenly supportive of the proposal.”

Despite having some of the largest deposits of uranium in the world, Australia has maintained a long-standing opposition to nuclear power and storing radioactive waste from overseas.

In June, traditional Indigenous owners in Muckaty Station, north of Tennant Creek, triumphed in a seven-year battle to stop domestic nuclear waste being dumped on their land……..

he stressed that the solution would give Australia “the capacity for substantial new expenditure on indigenous Australians”………Dave Sweeney, a nuclear-free campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation, said Hawke’s proposal was a “bloody disgrace”.

“Here you’ve got a privileged white man standing up saying this rubbish should be dumped on systematically disadvantaged people’s land,” he told Guardian Australia. “It’s offensive and it’s dumb.

“For more than 20 years Aboriginal communities at multiple sites in South Australia and the NT have mobilised and defeated federal government plans for a national radioactive waste dump on their country, most recently at Muckaty. To think that they will accept an international dump is fanciful.

“To put forward that the best way to address the shameful state of the economic and structural disadvantage of the world’s oldest continuing culture is through hosting the world’s worst industrial wastes is a profound and perpetual policy failure.” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/03/bob-hawke-nuclear-waste-storage-could-end-indigenous-disadvantage

August 4, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, wastes | Leave a comment

Transport of toxic chemical and radioactive wastes – France says NO to Orica

a-cat-CANFor a long time, I’ve been posting away about radioactive waste, as if it were the only pollution problem.  But of course it’s not. Indeed the same stupid white males who brought us radioactive wastes also bring us chemical wastes – in a sort of mindless onslaught on the very ecosystem we need for our survival.

I thought it ironic that France is now refusing to accept toxic chemical wastes from Australia.

Meanwhile a few very greedy business individuals, and a few not very bright worthies like Bob Hawke, Martin Ferguson, Alexander Downer – are advocating that Australia import radioactive wastes from France and everybody else.

The French have woken up now to the danger and diseconomics of nuclear power, and they’ve also woken up to the dangers of transporting chemical wastes. These wastes are best stored near the point of origin. The same goes for radioactive wastes.

Fortunately, most Australians reject the idea of importing radioactive wastes. The Abbott government and the Labor opposition are forced by public opinion to pretend that they oppose this too. However, under the power of their corporate funders, both parties would be ever so amenable to a business idea like that –  anything to get corporate and media support to be in office.

text-wastes-warningFrench reject Orica’s toxic waste, SMH  July 27, 2014 Natalie O’Brien More than 100 tonnes of highly toxic waste will have to remain at Botany after the French government vetoed plans by chemical giant Orica to ship it from Sydney to France for incineration.

Environmentalists across the world have applauded the decision after angry protests during the Tour de France bicycle race and a petition with 23,746 signatures was collected calling for the shipment to be stopped.

French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal said she would not back the plan to send the Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) waste to an area in south-east France because of fears something could go wrong to the ship which could cause marine pollution.

“The transport of dangerous waste … is an environmental aberration,” she was reported as saying.

She also said such waste “should be treated near their source of production”. ……..

It is Orica’s third attempt to ship the HCB, a carcinogenic pollutant banned in Europe since 1981, from Botany to an overseas destination for incineration. Protests stopped its planned export in 2007 to Germany and in 2010 to Denmark. Experts have said that the longer it remains at Botany the more waste is generated because it has to be repackaged every four years to keep it secure.
Objections had also been made to the Australian government from numerous lobby groups including Doctors for the Environment Australia, Friends of the Earth, the Nature Conservation Council, The National Toxics Network, Greenpeace Australia, International POPs Elimination Network, and the Basel Action Network (the Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives).

Dr Mariann LLoyd-Smith from the National Toxics Network, said they shared Ms Royal’s concerns about transporting such a large amount of toxic waste by sea to France and they were also concerned about the repeated engineering failures and toxic emissions of the intended French incinerator.

“Now as a matter of urgency, we need to bring all the parties together and decide on a suitable non-combustion destruction technology not only for Orica’s HCB wastes but also to address current and future toxic waste,” she said.

“We then need to start the process to allow the Australian community to select an appropriate site where we can deal with our own hazardous waste in an environmentally sound way in line with Australia’s international obligations.” : http://www.smh.com.au/environment/french-reject-oricas-toxic-waste-20140725-zwd3k.html#ixzz38oF7vOkW

 

July 28, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Christina reviews, politics international, wastes | Leave a comment

History of the Aboriginal fight against nuclear waste dumping in South Australia

South-Australia-nuclearhandsoffThe nuclear war against Australia’s Aboriginal people, Ecologist  Jim Green 14th July 2014 Dumping on South Australia “……….The failed attempt to establish a dump at Muckaty followed the failed attempt to establish a dump in South Australia. In 1998, the Howard government announced its intention to build a nuclear waste dump near Woomera in South Australia.

Leading the battle against the dump were the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a council of senior Aboriginal women from northern SA. Many of the Kungkas personally suffered the impacts of the British nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga and Emu in the 1950s.

The proposed dump generated such controversy in SA that the federal government hired a public relations company. Correspondence between the company and the government was released under Freedom of Information laws.

In one exchange, a government official asked the PR company to remove sand-dunes from a photo to be used in a brochure. The explanation provided by the government official was that: “Dunes are a sensitive area with respect to Aboriginal Heritage”.

The sand-dunes were removed from the photo, only for the government official to ask if the horizon could be straightened up as well. ‘Terra nullius’!

In 2003, the federal government used the Lands Acquisition Act 1989 to seize land for the dump. Native Title rights and interests were extinguished with the stroke of a pen. This took place with no forewarning and no consultation with Aboriginal people.

Victory in the Federal Court

The Kungkas continued to implore the federal government to ‘get their ears out of their pockets’, and after six years the government did just that.

In the lead-up to the 2004 federal election – after a Federal Court ruling that the federal government had acted illegally in stripping Traditional Owners of their native title rights, and with the dump issue biting politically in SA – the Howard government decided to cut its losses and abandon the dump plan.

The Kungkas wrote in an open letter: “People said that you can’t win against the Government. Just a few women. We just kept talking and telling them to get their ears out of their pockets and listen. We never said we were going to give up. Government has big money to buy their way out but we never gave up.”

The Kungkas victory had broader ramifications – it was a set-back for everyone who likes the idea of stripping Aboriginal people of their land and their land rights, and it was a set-back for the nuclear power lobby.

Senator Nick Minchin, one of the Howard government ministers in charge of the failed attempt to impose a nuclear dump in SA, said in 2005:

“My experience with dealing with just low-level radioactive waste from our research reactor tells me it would be impossible to get any sort of consensus in this country around the management of the high-level waste a nuclear [power] reactor would produce.”

Minchin told a Liberal Party council meeting that “we must avoid being lumbered as the party that favours nuclear energy in this country” and that “we would be political mugs if we got sucked into this”…….. http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2476704/the_nuclear_war_against_australias_aboriginal_people.html

 

 

July 19, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, South Australia, wastes | Leave a comment

Australia’s nuclear waste from Lucas Heights is returning home – but to where?

Australia Has Nowhere to Put Its Shipment of French Nuclear Waste VICE News, By David Wood July 13, 2014 In the second half of next year France will be sending nuclear waste to Australia for permanent storage. The waste comes from uranium and plutonium exported to France between 1999 and 2004 to run its nuclear power plants. It’s coming home because of an international agreement that states that Australia — as the nation of origin — must take the spent fuel back. This same agreement means we’ll also be taking waste back from the UK sometime before 2020.

Lucas-09

The bulk of the French waste consists of unrecycled nuclear fuel mixed into molten glass to form what’s known as a durable product. This will be accompanied by six drums ofintermediate level refuse including gloves, protective clothing, and old equipment, embedded in cement. All this makes a total volume of about 13.2 cubic meters, roughly one third the size of a shipping container, with a half-life of 24,000 years.

Despite having known about this arrangement since the ’90s, Canberra now has just 17 months to build something deep, strong, and stable enough to house 14 tons of radioactive rubble. And to make matters worse, no one even knows where to put it.

In the second half of next year France will be sending nuclear waste to Australia for permanent storage. The waste comes from uranium and plutonium exported to France between 1999 and 2004 to run its nuclear power plants. It’s coming home because of an international agreement that states that Australia — as the nation of origin — must take the spent fuel back. This same agreement means we’ll also be taking waste back from the UK sometime before 2020.

The bulk of the French waste consists of unrecycled nuclear fuel mixed into molten glass to form what’s known as a durable product. This will be accompanied by six drums ofintermediate level refuse including gloves, protective clothing, and old equipment, embedded in cement. All this makes a total volume of about 13.2 cubic meters, roughly one third the size of a shipping container, with a half-life of 24,000 years.

Oscar-wastesDespite having known about this arrangement since the ’90s, Canberra now has just 17 months to build something deep, strong, and stable enough to house 14 tons of radioactive rubble. And to make matters worse, no one even knows where to put it.

The issue that brought the plan undone was that the government never properly negotiated with the land’s traditional owners. Muckaty has the overland telegraph built on it, has at times had cattle on it, as well as the Stuart Hwy across it. But for tens of thousands of years it’s belonged to the Warlmanpa Aboriginal people. That fact brought the issue to head in the Federal Court where it was eventually thrown out last month.

To celebrate, a party was thrown at Tennant Creek’s Nyinkka Nyunyu Aboriginal Art and Culture Centre for what was a reclaiming of land for its traditional custodians. During the event a 20-year old muso and Milwayi woman, Kylie Sambo, sang her song “Muckaty.”

“Don’t waste the Territory, this land means a lot to me,”she sang proudly. “Been living here for centuries. This place we call Muckaty.”

This sentiment makes sense to anyone who lives anywhere. Former NSW premier, Bob Carr, who comes from a markedly different background from Kylie, similarly resisted the waste being stored at Sydney’s Lucas Heights. “The Federal Government has got to look at locations that are remote, geologically stable, and dry,” he told Canberra back in 2005. “The optimal locations are going to be outside NSW.”

Both cases are textbook examples of the not-in-my-backyard philosophy. And as it turns out, if a long-term solution can’t be cobbled together before next December, the waste will most likely end up in Lucas Heights anyway — a fact which a whole new bunch of Sydney residents are now fighting………https://news.vice.com/article/australia-has-nowhere-to-put-its-shipment-of-french-nuclear-waste

July 14, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, wastes | Leave a comment

Radioactive racism, the war to dump nuclear waste on Aboriglnal land in Australia

handsoff

legal rights and protections are repeatedly stripped away whenever they get in the way of nuclear or mining interests. Thus the Olympic Dam mine is largely exempt from the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act. Sub-section 40(6) of the Commonwealth’s Aboriginal Land Rights Act exempts the Ranger uranium mine in the NT from the Act and thus removed the right of veto that Mirarr Traditional Owners would otherwise have enjoyed. NSW legislationexempts uranium mines from provisions of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act. Native Title rights were extinguished with the stroke of a pen to seize land for a radioactive waste dump in SA, and Aboriginal heritage laws and land rights were repeatedly overridden with the push to dump nuclear waste in the NT

The bipartisan nuclear war against Aboriginal people, Dr Jim Green, Online opinion 11 July 14 The nuclear industry has been responsible for some of the crudest racism in Australia’s history. This radioactive racism dates from the British bomb tests in the 1950s and it has been evident in more recent debates over nuclear waste.

TweedleDum-&-DeeSince 2006 successive federal governments have been attempting to establish a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty, 110 kms north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. A toxic trade-off of basic services for a radioactive waste dump has been part of this story from the start. The nomination of the Muckaty site was made with the promise of $12 million compensation package comprising roads, houses and scholarships. Muckaty Traditional Owner Kylie Sambo objected to this radioactive ransom: “I think that is a very, very stupid idea for us to sell our land to get better education and scholarships. As an Australian we should be already entitled to that.”

While a small group of Traditional Owners supported the dump, a large majority were opposed and some initiated legal action in the Federal Court challenging the nomination of the Muckaty site by the federal government and the Northern Land Council (NLC). Continue reading

July 12, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, politics, wastes | Leave a comment

How South Australian Aboriginals won in their battle against nuclear waste dumping

handsoffThe bipartisan nuclear war against Aboriginal people, Dr Jim Green, Online opinion 11 July 14 “……….Dumping on South Australia  The failed attempt to establish a dump at Muckaty followed the failed attempt to establish a dump in South Australia. In 1998, the Howard government announced its intention to build a nuclear waste dump near Woomera in South Australia. Leading the battle against the dump were the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a council of senior Aboriginal women from northern SA. Many of the Kungkas personally suffered the impacts of the British nuclear bomb tests at Maralinga and Emu in the 1950s.

The proposed dump generated such controversy in SA that the federal government hired a public relations company. Correspondence between the company and the government was released under Freedom of Information laws. In one exchange, a government official asked the PR company to remove sand-dunes from a photo to be used in a brochure. The explanation provided by the government official was that: “Dunes are a sensitive area with respect to Aboriginal Heritage”. The sand-dunes were removed from the photo, only for the government official to ask if the horizon could be straightened up as well. Terra nullius.

In 2003, the federal government used the Lands Acquisition Act 1989 to seize land for the dump. Native Title rights and interests were extinguished with the stroke of a pen. This took place with no forewarning and no consultation with Aboriginal people.

The Kungkas continued to implore the federal government to ‘get their ears out of their pockets’, and after six years the government did just that. In the lead-up to the 2004 federal election − after a Federal Court ruling that the federal government had acted illegally in stripping Traditional Owners of their native title rights, and with the dump issue biting politically in SA, the Howard government decided to cut its losses and abandon the dump plan.

The Kungkas wrote in an open letter: “People said that you can’t win against the Government. Just a few women. We just kept talking and telling them to get their ears out of their pockets and listen. We never said we were going to give up. Government has big money to buy their way out but we never gave up.”

The Kungkas victory had broader ramifications − it was a set-back for everyone who likes the idea of stripping Aboriginal people of their land and their land rights, and it was a set-back for the nuclear power lobby. Senator Nick Minchin, one of the Howard government ministers in charge of the failed attempt to impose a nuclear dump in SA, said in 2005: ”My experience with dealing with just low-level radioactive waste from our research reactor tells me it would be impossible to get any sort of consensus in this country around the management of the high-level waste a nuclear [power] reactor would produce.” Minchin told a Liberal Party council meeting that ”we must avoid being lumbered as the party that favours nuclear energy in this country” and that ”we would be political mugs if we got sucked into this”………http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16489&page=3

July 12, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, South Australia, wastes | Leave a comment

Proposal for Nuclear Waste Dump on Aboriginal Land in Western Australia

WASTES-1Nuclear dump plan for desert MICHAEL DULANEY The West Australian July 6, 2014, A traditional owner in the northern Goldfields wants to house a proposed nuclear waste dump on land in the Gibson Desert to help develop the region’s economy.

Kanpa community chairman Preston Thomas has seized on the Commonwealth dumping Muckaty Station as the site for a Federal nuclear waste repository.

It is part of his vision to provide biofuel to the Ngaanyatjarra Lands and develop agriculture around the remote Kanpa Aboriginal community, about 900 km north-east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

The Northern Territory station was withdrawn last month after a Federal Court case and division between Aboriginal groups in the region who claim they were not consulted properly.

The Federal Government is looking for an alternative site for Australia’s first radioactive waste dump.

Kanpa’s representative body the Pira Kata Aboriginal Corporation, chaired by Mr Thomas, has applied for a native title sublease of about 500sqkm between Kanpa and the Great Central Road.

Mr Thomas wants this area to be considered for the facility, which requires an area of about 3sqkm – about the size of two football fields……..Mr Thomas has been in discussions for the project with AgGrow Energy Resources since 2010, after the company’s involvement in a similar pilot project in the Pilbara………Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the Northern Land Council, which represented traditional owner interests at Muckaty Station, had been given three months to find an alternative site.

If the process was not concluded by September, a nationwide tender would be conducted, with “preliminary discussions” already under way.https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/business/wa/a/24395664/nuclear-dump-plan-for-desert/

July 7, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, wastes, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Aboriginal Australia has had a huge victory in the Muckaty nuclear waste dump case

Muckaty nuclear dump defeat is a huge victory for Aboriginal Australia http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/19/muckaty-nuclear-dump-defeat-is-a-huge-victory-for-aboriginal-australia
This has been hard fought litigation, and we are proud to have given voice to the resilience and determination of our clients Today, the Commonwealth Government has agreed not to act upon the nomination of land at Muckaty Station as a site for Australia’s first radioactive waste dump. The resolution comes seven years after the nomination, four years after the court case was started, and two weeks into a seven week trial. The matter has settled with no admission of liability. Maurice Blackburn’s social justice practice conducted this case on a pro bono basis, and we couldn’t be prouder of the outcome or happier for our clients.Muckaty Station, 110km north of Tennant Creek, is an Aboriginal land trust under the Aboriginal land rights act. In the 1990s, the Aboriginal land commissioner, justice Gray, was tasked with working out who were the traditional owners of that particular country and the nature of land tenure under customary law. He wrote a report and handed the land back to Aboriginal people on the basis of his findings.
This means the land is owned outright by Aboriginal people, like most people own their homes. Under the law, the land is dealt with according to customary law or agreed processes. The idea is that Aboriginal people are in charge of their land, with the Northern Land Council (NLC) acting on their behalf. It is a statutory scheme that now seems quite visionary, especially in relation to the small minded attitudes that underpinned the Intervention and its successor, the Stronger Futures regime.
Muckaty-June2014-group3

Understandably, the return of land to Aboriginal people is a source of immense pride for many. Aboriginal people treat their customary obligations seriously and with dignity, undercutting many of the old lines about Aboriginal people from the reactionary songbook.
In relation to Muckaty, there may be many Aboriginal people who have an interest in the land under customary law. The NLC is charged with dealing with land according to certain rules. They have legal duties to obtain informed consent from people who have primary spiritual responsibility for country, but also to give those with an interest in the land the opportunity to express their views.

In 2005, the Howard government introduced legislation to facilitate the building of Australia’s first radioactive waste dump. The Commonwealth had sites that it owned already and could use, but the NLC lobbied to introduce a provision which permitted Aboriginal people to volunteer a site.

In 2006, the NLC began negotiations with the Commonwealth about a nomination of a site on the Muckaty land trust. The proposed nomination was immediately contentious. Eventually, the Commonwealth offered $12m in the event that the nomination was declared to be the site of the dump. The NLC say they obtained consent and consulted with the right people. The deal was signed in 2007.

There is no doubt that some traditional owners consented to the nomination. It is easy to see why – these are some of the poorest people in Australia and this is a lot of money, though it starts to look quite miserly when compared with international examples.

However, there are five key dreamings on Muckaty that are relevant to this site. The NLC’s stated position was that one sub-branch of one dreaming group were exclusively able to consent to the nomination. Representatives of every other dreaming oppose the dump.

This contrasts with justice Gray’s report, which clearly articulates how decisions about country in the Central Desert area are made collectively, by consent. It is also troubling for other reasons. This proposal is not a microwave tower, or a railway or even a mine. This proposal involves burying radioactive waste on country, within a short distance from a significant sacred site. Even if, as the Commonwealth maintains, it will be safe within a couple of hundred years, it arguably involves permanent sterilisation of land under customary law. The consultation for a proposal of this significance should have been thorough, so people knew exactly what it was they were consenting to, but also that any dissent was treated seriously and as potentially a reason not to proceed with the proposal.

The court heard evidence last week from traditional owners and witnesses on behalf of the applicants seeking to stop the dump. The court was presented with a united front from traditional owners, who explained that the consultation process was confusing and unclear, with people not certain about the location of the proposed dump or who that land belonged to. Meetings were very tense and people felt like they weren’t listened to. The witnesses told the court that they were not told who would be getting the money or how it would be managed.

The NLC maintains it has done everything properly. The traditional owners maintain that they were ridden over roughshod and the anthropology which identified the relevant people to speak for country was mistaken. Hopefully, this is an opportunity for the NLC to reflect on their processes and try to get it right.

This has been hard fought litigation and we are proud to have given voice to the resilience and determination of our clients. In the seven years since this nomination was made, the movement to stop a dump on Muckaty has grown. Local council, unions, community groups all got on board and stood firm in their opposition to the dump.

But the truth is that this is a much bigger issue than the court case. This is an opportunity to rethink these issues from a public policy perspective. These remain some of the most important discussions we can have. If you are a person who places importance on the rights of Aboriginal people, the protection of the environment or simply good governance, you have a duty to be part of them.

 

 

 

 

 

June 21, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, wastes | Leave a comment

Northern Land Council in 2005 asked Australian government to change law. to faciliiate nuclear dump on Aboriginal land

NT News, 20 June 14 The NLC’s decision to pull out of a Federal Court case, which was arguing the NLC had acted deceptively and had consulted the wrong traditional owners, means the site on Muckaty will no longer be used for a radioactive waste dump. The NT News welcomes this decision, which has also seen the Commonwealth agree to settle the case and abandon Muckaty.

While understanding the nation needs to store radioactive waste, we do not believe the fact we do not have full statehood should see the Territory forced to take a dump on any form of land, Aboriginal or otherwise.

The site should be chosen based on the best scientific advice, not because money is waved in the faces of impoverished Aboriginal people. If the proper scientific advice is that the dump should be located on land within the Territory, we will look closely at the proposal when the exclamation-time comes.

The NLC is, however, hardly above criticism in this saga. It asked the Commonwealth to change the law in 2005, so traditional owners could nominate their land.

It says it used the right anthropology and located the right people, but we will never know: they pulled out of the case before their lawyers were subject to cross-examination in the Federal Court.

They wasted an untold amount of money arguing for the dump, causing a lot of anguish for people in Tennant Creek and nearby Elliott, and a lot of confusion in Darwin and Alice Springs.

We are prepared to take Mr Morrison at his word that the reason the NLC agreed to settle the case was because he did not enjoy seeing such deep fractures among the traditional owners…….” http://www.ntnews.com.au/news/opinion/good-first-step-by-council-boss-over-muckaty/story-fnk0b216-1226961682192

June 21, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, wastes | Leave a comment

What will happen next, about Australia’s obligation to take back its high level nuclear waste?

Lucas-wastesAustralia’s first nuclear waste dump in limbo after Muckaty Station ruled out news.com.au 21 June 14, paul.toohey@news.com.au“……..In 2012, Labor introduced changes to the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act. It broke its promise by continuing to allow Aboriginal groups to nominate land (therefore validating Muckaty) but included another significant clause.

It said if a nomination on Aboriginal land should fail, any private landholder, anywhere in Australia, could nominate their land for the waste dump, as long as vaguely specified community consultations were made.

What is likely now to happen is that some small struggling outback town — preferably one in a geologically suitable arid zone — is likely to get together and go for some of that $12m, or whatever amount the Commonwealth is prepared to offer.

The Beyond Nuclear Initiative will then likely relocate and begin another campaign. And the reality is that it will be able to raise much more substantial popular opposition than it did with remote Muckaty, which was pretty much out of sight and mind…….

Behind the scenes, Muckaty has been deeply divisive. As traditional owners fought each other, it became clear that few had real traditional knowledge of land they rarely, if at all, visited.

And some in the NLC, the organisation that is supposed to represent the interests of traditional owners, wondered why they were involved in a dump nomination at all…….

The case got going in Melbourne several weeks ago and then moved to Tennant Creek where, last Saturday, there was explosive evidence that went widely unreported…….

The Ngapa clan can now nominate another site on the northern part of Muckaty for a dump, and the Commonwealth has given them three months to do so. But the same disputes about who owns that site would almost certainly curse that nomination, as it would any other nomination of Aboriginal land in the Territory……

The government is prepared to store the repatriated fuel rods at Lucas Heights near Sydney in the short term, but this case has only stalled, not ended, the search for a site. http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/australias-first-nuclear-waste-dump-in-limbo-after-muckaty-station-ruled-out/story-fn5fsgyc-1226961714663

June 21, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, Northern Territory, wastes | Leave a comment

Muckaty still at risk of getting radioactive trash dump

wastesMuckaty could still house nuclear dump, 9 News 20 June 14 Opponents of a nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory have won the battle, but perhaps not the war. The Northern Land Council has three months to nominate another site for Australia’s nuclear waste storage facility after abandoning the Muckaty site, following a seven-year battle with Aboriginal traditional owner groups who launched a Federal Court challenge against the NLC for what they said was inadequate consultation and a failure to obtain informed consent from all traditional owners.

The NLC settled with opponents of the dump midway through a trial that had travelled from Melbourne to Tennant Creek and Muckaty, and was due in Darwin next week. “The NLC have walked away without being held truly accountable,” said Gerry McCarthy, local member for the Barkly tablelands, of which Muckaty is a part.

He now hopes for a scientific approach to locating the dump, which previous reports said would suit conditions in the northwestern corner of South Australia.

“Science will prove this facility needs to go to the driest part of this continent, (with) a water table very deep and preferably contaminated by salt, and also an area of minimal infrastructure that provides access to what will be low to intermediate-level waste coming home from France shortly,” he said.

Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney told AAP that for 20 years, successive governments had tried to find a “remote and vulnerable community and a remote place to dump Australian waste”. He said the federal government needed “an open, inclusive, evidence-based assessment of the range of radioactive waste management options available” for responsible and effective long-term storage.

Clan members think the NLC capitulation is not the end of the matter, with Marlene Bennett saying they were “still feeling slightly apprehensive”…….. Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion told ABC he hoped for another nomination of a northern site at Muckaty, not susceptible to the conflicts of the first.

Mr McCarthy said the NT couldn’t refuse the dump, which “should never be forced on a community due to constitutional exploitation”.Spent nuclear fuel rods are due to be returned to Australia from France by mid-2015, and traditional owners are ready to continue their fight if Muckaty is circled again.  http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/2014/06/19/10/05/land-council-abandons-muckaty-dump-push#g3vDwhQZgipFw5Th.99

 

June 21, 2014 Posted by | Northern Territory, wastes | Leave a comment

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