Australian plans to dump nuclear waste in desert spark outrage
Neighbours of isolated sites in the Northern Territory have reacted angrily to plans to consider them as nuclear dumping grounds.
Brendan Nelson, science minister for Australia’s Federal Government, has announced three possible dump sites, all in desert areas of the territory.
The chosen site would be used for low-to-mid level nuclear waste such as medical and laboratory waste and processed waste from Australia’s single nuclear reactor.
But residents of the independent-minded state, home to Uluru and Alice Springs, have voiced concerns that central politicians have simply looked at a map and decided the admittedly sparsely populated state is all desert and therefore a perfect place to dump waste from the coastal conurbations
Two of the proposed sites, Hart’s Range and Mt Everard, are within a few hundred miles of Alice Springs while the other, Fisher’s Ridge, is closer to the town of Katherine.
Dr Nelson has said a site must be chosen and up and running by 2011, to meet international treaty agreements on the storage of nuclear waste.
At a press conference on Friday, July 15 he told reporters that the planned dump would improve safety for people and the environment, not create an added risk.
“We want to make it absolutely clear to Australians that nuclear waste is stored in their suburbs, their hospitals, their universities, their factories,” he said.
“There is an enormous amount of ad hoc-ery at the moment in Australia as to where it’s stored and what we’re proposing to do is to put it in relatively remote sites in the Northern Territory which are geologically and environmentally suited to a long-term storage facility.
“Unfortunately, as a federation, it doesn’t matter where we choose to store the Australian government generated waste, there will be state and territory governments who will be totally opposed to it.
“The truth of it which needs to be understood is that every state and territory government in this country currently has low-level and intermediate level waste which it is storing.”
By Sam Bond
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