Australian news, and some related international items

Friends of the Earth comments accuse the Australian Government Industry Department of blatant racism in its Kimba nuclear waste dump plan.

Comments on: Guidelines for the content of a Draft EIS National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, SA EPBC 2021/9128 April 2023

Recommendation #1: The Guidelines must require the proponent (the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science and Resources) to explain how the nuclear dump/store proposal complies with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in particular Article 29.2:

“States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.”

Of course it is common knowledge that the proposal is a gross violation of Article 29.2 and that the nuclear dump/store is unanimously opposed by Barngarla Traditional Owners. Nevertheless, the proponent must be asked to explain its position and its crude racism.

Recommendation #2: The list of documents in section 3.5.1 of the Guidelines should also include the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Recommendation #3: The Guidelines mention a “process for ongoing consultation with FirstNations people”. The proponent should be required to declare whether or not it reservesthe right to ignore the rights, interests and recommendations of the Barngarla Traditional Owners in future just as it has ignored and overridden unanimous Barngarla opposition to the nuclear dump/store proposal.

Recommendation #4: The proponent should be required to discuss the adequacy of the
National Radioactive Waste Management Act (NRWMA) and in particular to provide
justifications for each of the following provisions of the Act:

  • The nomination of a site for a radioactive waste facility is valid even if Aboriginal
    Traditional Owners were not consulted and did not give consent. The NRWMA states that
    consultation should be conducted with Traditional Owners and consent should be secured ‒
    but that the nomination of a site for a radioactive waste facility is valid even in the absence
    of consultation or consent.
  • The NRWMA has sections which nullify State or Territory laws that protect the
    archaeological or heritage values of land or objects, including those which relate to
    Indigenous traditions.
  • The Act curtails the application of Commonwealth laws including the Aboriginal and Torres
    Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Native Title Act 1993 in the important
    site-selection stage. The Native Title Act 1993 is expressly overridden in relation to land
    acquisition for a radioactive waste facility.

Recommendation #5. The proponent should be required to explain why it rejects the SA
Government’s policy that Traditional Owners should have a right of veto of nuclear waste
sites. SA Labor’s Deputy Leader (and now Deputy Premier) Susan Close noted in September
2020 that: “South Australian Labor is calling on the Federal Government to halt its plans to
dump nuclear waste at Kimba. … SA Labor has consistently expressed its concerns about the
site selection process and the lack of consultation with native title holders. … This was a
dreadful process from start to finish, resulting in fractures within the local community over
the dump. The SA ALP has committed to traditional owners having a right of veto over any
nuclear waste sites, yet the federal government has shown no respect to the local
Aboriginal people.”

Recommendation #6. The Guidelines should require discussion on the ‘feasible alternative’
of targeting states/territories which do not have legislation prohibiting a nuclear
dump/store such as the one proposed. The current proposal requires the Commonwealth to
override the SA Nuclear Waste Storage (Prohibition) Act 2000.

Recommendation #7
. The Guidelines state that the no-action alternative should be
discussed “if relevant”. The term “if relevant” should be removed and the proponent should
be required to discuss the no-action alternative since it is in fact a viable alternative.

Recommendation #8. The Guidelines should explicitly require the proponent to consider the
option of abandoning the plan to store intermediate-level waste (ILW) and Kimba since an
overwhelming majority of ILW is currently store at ANSTO’s Lucas Heights site with no
practical or legal obstacles to ongoing storage. The plan to move ILW to Kimba is absurd: it necessarily entails double-handling; and it entails moving waste from a site with strong
security and an abundance of nuclear experts to a site with weaker security and a dearth of
nuclear experts … for no reason whatsoever let alone a good, compelling reason.

It should be noted here that ARPANSA plans separate assessments of the proponent’s plans
for disposal of lower-level wastes and storage of ILW. Further, in its March 2022 Regulatory
Assessment Report approving ANSTO’s new ILW Storage Facility at Lucas Heights to 2037,
the ARPANSA CEO states that a “clear net benefit must be provided by the licence applicant
to support a licence application”. It is implausible that the proposal to move ILW from Lucas
Heights to Kimba would meet this net-benefit criterion. Thus DCCEEW must be alert to the
misinformation and obfuscation that the proponent may present to justify ILW storage at
Kimba instead of Lucas Heights, and DCCEEW must ensure a full evaluation of alternatives to
ILW storage at Kimba.

Recommendation #9
. Further to the above recommendation, the proponent should be
required to consider the option of abandoning plans for ILW storage at ANSTO and instead
working on a consolidated plan for deep underground disposal (or deep borehole disposal)
of both ILW as well as high-level nuclear waste from nuclear submarines.

Recommendation #10. The proponent should be required to thoroughly consider
transportation of waste products arising from reprocessing of spent research reactor fuel.
There is no logical reason or justification for this omission


April 14, 2023 - Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, Federal nuclear waste dump, politics

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