Darwin residents oppose nuclear waste dump

September 7, 2005

Kathy Newnam, Darwin

One hundred and twenty people attended the "Don't Waste the Territory" public meeting organised by the No Radioactive Waste Dump Committee on August 31.

"This project can be stopped", the Australian Conservation Foundation's Dave Sweeney told the forum, pointing to the lessons from the campaign that defeated the plan for a radioactive waste dump in South Australia.

For eight years the federal government "bullied and bulldozed", Sweeney said, but it was beaten by "unequivocal Aboriginal opposition, public opposition", and the South Australian government coming on board the anti-dump campaign. He added that if the federal government thinks the Northern Territory will be a "soft touch" and cop the dump it is going to be "on a steep learning curve".

Sweeney was scathing about science minister Brendan Nelson's claim that the dump will be located in the "middle of nowhere". A local teacher read a statement from her 13-year-old student who said, "They can't put nuclear waste in the middle of nowhere because the middle of nowhere is someone's land".

Greens WA senator Rachel Siewert told the meeting that it is time to "put a nail in the nuclear coffin". She spoke about the dangers inherent in transporting nuclear waste and pointed out that PM John Howard's proposed industrial relations changes would increase the dangers as transport workers are "pushed to the limit to try and make a buck".

The NT Environment Centre's Peter Robertson emphasised the importance of the waste dump for the government to realise its plans for a second nuclear reactor. He told the meeting, "If we get the dump, Sydney gets the reactor". Establishing a national waste dump is a precondition for the operating license for the reactor.

Robertson pointed out that the issue of waste is creating an international crisis for the nuclear industry, with no storage plans for the more than 250,000 tonnes of high-level radioactive waste currently in existence.

Sweeney argued that a national nuclear waste dump would be the "thin edge of the wedge" for the importation of radioactive waste by Australia. "The push will be there, especially if we mine more uranium", he stated.

Speakers also took issue with pro-nuclear lobby claims, including that the Lucas Heights reactor is required for medical isotopes. Sweeney told the meeting that the current public discussion on nuclear issues is not a genuine discussion, but a "series of unchallenged boosters" from the nuclear industry "using fabricated pseudo science".

NT MP Kon Vatsaklis and ALP senator Trish Crossin also spoke, pledging to support for the anti-dump campaign.

The next meeting of Darwin's No Radioactive Waste Dump Committee will be held on is Thursday, September 8, at 6:30pm at the NTCOSS office, Oleander Street (behind the Nightcliff market).

From Green Left Weekly, September 7, 2005.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.