Australian news, and some related international items

Kay Fels’ strong submission against nuclear waste dump siting, – from a farmer’s point of view

Kaye Fels Submission to Senate Inquiry re the Nuclear Waste Repository Proposal at Barndioota South Australia (submission No. 63)

I am a life time resident of the Flinders Ranges region of South Australia. For the past 44 years I have lived and worked and now part own a sheep and cattle station within a 25 kilometre radius of the proposed waste repository.

I am deeply concerned at the way the land was volunteered for this purpose. The owner, who is an absentee landlord, saw an opportunity to capitalise on his sale. The irony is that he is an ex politician who was heavily involved in the nuclear debate in the 1990’s. The argument has been raised that you do not have to contact your neighbours if you wish to make changes but this is not a town block, nor is it something which does not come without stigma and or risks. I’m sure the equity of the neighbouring properties will be strongly affected by having a nuclear waste facility in the vicinity.

Another concern is that our stock (sheep and cattle) may also be stigmatised by the proximity of the waste dump and our organic status compromised. That is one source of income. We have been involved with tourism for over 50 years having established station stays, in purpose built cabins, and have continued to optimise this form of income with bush camping, 4WD tracks and providing services to the tourism industry since 1967. This will all now be jeopardised as the clean, green image of the Flinders Ranges is tarnished and why this area is even being considered is beyond me. The promises of a greater attraction, money for the community, jobs and security fade into insignificance when this highly productive region is being compromised by the effects of a nuclear waste facility.

Now for the risks, of which we are told will be minimal. The sites are located in an area where the underground water table is almost at surface level. This could lead to contamination of the underground water source, so vital to the region. The location is also on a piedmont plain and prone to flooding at intervals and intensities that most people would have no knowledge of. The floodwaters end up in Lake Torrens where the residues come to the surface and are blown to the four winds. There is also evidence where the flood systems have combined and resulted in flows into Spencer Gulf. Both scenarios are a recipe for environmental disaster.

Furthermore the site is located in a severe fault line as is the region of the Flinders. The land is constantly moving. We have evidence of huge cracks running for many kilometres on very similar soil types. This location is within 15km from the proposed site on very similar strata. Please see attached photos. If this disturbance was to occur where there is an above ground repository or even a sump, the results would be disastrous. Given that the proposal is to store low level waste in an above ground facility, and temporarily store intermediate waste in that same facility, it seems ludicrous that this is even considered given the geological and environmental features and risks involved. Why all the money has been spent on trying to convince the community what a great thing it would be when it clearly is unsuitable, beggars belief.

I am also very alarmed at how the original “66% of the people of the region were in favour” of the proposal going ahead was arrived at. When I questioned ANSTO regarding this I was told that it was an independent outsourced survey. People were supposedly telephoned and asked their opinion. When I inquired as to the survey base there was complete dismissal by ANSTO with them saying that they had every confidence in how the survey was conducted. I stated that I was not surveyed nor any of my family who also live and work here they tried to tell me that I was. Clearly this process is deeply flawed and there was a plot to choose a site and they chose here.

Apart from the physical disadvantages there is also the psychological damage caused by this proposal. The community has been split and in a small community such as ours which is renowned for its community spirit this is of huge concern. Family who have been friends for generations have been affected and it is ripping the heart out of the soul of the town. There is a lot of anguish and angst which you can’t walk away from although some have chosen to leave. One of the ANSTO representatives came out to speak to us in 2016 – which was the third or fourth visit in the “consultation”. My husband who had recently been through major heart operations was a little confrontational and asked why there was no continuity with the persons involved in the consultations. This person then proceeded to turn on his heel and leave. My son then informed him that he was here to hear our points of view, and was being employed to do so, and as such he was shirking his role. He then proceeded to accept an apology and contritely heard us out.

This is the problem. ANSTO will walk away from the conflict, problems and influences. We are left to deal with the trauma, the disadvantage, the psychological effects on family and relationships and the very real risks involved.

Whilst ANSTO have had representatives in Hawker and Quorn for the past 18 months their primary role has been to inform the public as to the benefits of the nuclear waste facility and sway the dissidents into coming in line with their way of thinking. All the hard questions are answered with “could”, “may”, “possibly won’t” or “shouldn’t” and there is a wealth of grey area to which there are no definite answers. E.g. will the waste repository have an effect on the organic status of our meat?” Answer: “No it shouldn’t impact on your organic status” Shouldn’t but it probably will! Even though there may be no physical impact again there is the stigma – and if there is any leakage into the water table or any contamination we will be left to bear the fallout literally!

Our family has been producing on the land for six generations and it is hoped this will continue into the future. My grandchildren are very concerned for their future here and do not want their future jeopardised by this intrusion. They have as much connection to the land as the aborigines and feel as protective.

The proposal has also caused a huge rift in the aboriginal community with some of the more vocal men in favour. However the women and the men who have lived here continuously are greatly opposed but are not given a voice and have become afraid of those who have assumed power.

We understand that the repository has to be sited somewhere but here is not the place. There are many more years where it could be housed at Lucas Heights so why make the move until necessary and why in an area which is so not suited for very many reasons. The intermediate waste will be temporarily housed in a facility not but for that purpose. Is this because they will build storage for this waste here too eventually? I am sure if the right reasons were quoted ANSTO were honest with us and the money was taken out of the equation there would be very few who would be in favour.

The $2m incentives to the community has already caused much angst as in their wisdom the Aus. Industry department decided to transfer some of their business grant applications into the $2m funding pool leaving community members aghast at the temerity of the businesses. One business owner has moved away because of the level of bitterness and the grant had “fallen through”. While this was happening Aus. Industry did not set the record straight. Not only has this now set a precedent which was advised against by members of the Barndioota Consultative Committee, it has also caused another deep divide in the community.

Many of the older residents of Hawker and district are confused, frightened and tormented by the proposal. One lady in her nineties whose family used to own the Wallerberdina Station blames herself for having sold the land to someone who would “put it up” for consideration as a nuclear waste facility. She has since developed dementia which I am sure has been hastened by the added stress.

Also of extreme concern is the amount of time, money and resources which has already been expended in convincing the community that this is a good idea. Why all this expenditure has occurred before feasibility studies have been conducted, clearance given by the aboriginals and other land holders and the state government (which I believe is bound by a nuclear waste management act) I cannot comprehend. As a taxpayer I am astounded at the waste of money over the past two plus years on this proposal which may not and I hope not come to fruition. I would like to know how much has already been spent on resources and all costs involved in this project. Independent studies should have been carried out. No, – more resources have been extended gagging people who are exponents of the negative. Some working for government departments have been told their jobs are on the line if they speak out further. Is this an honest and transparent process? – I think not!

The consultation phase was a tokenism with ANSTO telling us what will be happening, how safe it is and pushing the affirmative – not a true reflection of the community’s views and concerns. The consultative committee is a rubber stamp only with member’s views either “put down” or not taken seriously and an unworkable number with little effect. Even the meetings do not have minutes but are conveyed as courses of action with no recourse.

I hope the project will be abandoned and speak for many other persons in the community many of whom are afraid to speak out for fear of reprisal. There are no frank and open discussions and I fear that as already quoted, “the heart of the community has been ripped out”.

Let the Federal Government acquire land which is suitable and not in a pristine area which is free from atomic pollutants. Leave our small communities alone and don’t let one person make the decision that his land is available to the detriment of a whole region and community.

Thank you for taking the time to read my submission. For any further clarification or information I can be contacted at or Kaye Fels Please see photos below [on original] for indication of surface movement during 1990’s taken 3/8/2018

June 11, 2018 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: