Nuclear waste dumped in SA

Issue 

Nuclear waste dumped in SA

By Emma Webb

ADELAIDE — The first of 120 semi-trailer loads of radioactive waste from the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney have been transferred to South Australia's far north. By the time the operation is over, almost 10,000 drums of contaminated soil will be stored in a shed at a disused airfield 50 km north-west of Woomera.

Other radioactive waste from the St Marys site of Australian Defence Industries will also be moved to Woomera for "interim" storage. Waste from Lucas Heights has been called "low grade" by the CSIRO, while ADI waste is likely to be medium to high level.

The transfer of this waste to Woomera has to be completed by February. In 1992, the Sutherland Shire Council took legal action, and the NSW Land and Environment Court ordered that the material at Lucas Heights be moved by that time.

The federal government has said that this is to be a temporary storage until a permanent site is found. However, once such a large amount of waste is at the site, it is unlikely to be moved again. In September the government released a document that named eight potential sites in Australia for the storage of radioactive waste. Woomera was one.

Senior state and federal government officials are also investigating the possibility of dumping radioactive waste down disused mine shafts at the Roxby Downs uranium mine.

Environmentalists argue that radioactive waste of all types should be stored in above-ground dry stores at the site of manufacture, and that waste minimisation practices should be introduced. Putting the responsibility on the company to store the waste creates a very real incentive for them to minimise waste.

A committee has been established to campaign against the dumping of radioactive waste. For more information contact Steve Baker on (08) 223 1510.

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