Opposition grows to radioactive waste dump in Flinders Ranges

Issue 
A protest against the proposed nuclear waste dump in the Flinders Ranges. Photo: Ace Collective

About 150 opponents of the proposed site of a radioactive waste dump in South Australia's Flinders Ranges gathered on June 24 in Port Augusta to voice their opposition. The federal government has recently shortlisted Barndioota station near Hawker as the site of a national nuclear storage facility.

The area, where a number of songlines cross and which hosts a sacred women's site, is of immense cultural significance for the Adnyamathanha people and has been proven to be immensely rich in Aboriginal heritage.

About 150 opponents of the proposed site of a radioactive waste dump in South Australia's Flinders Ranges gathered on June 24 in Port Augusta to voice their opposition. The federal government has recently shortlisted Barndioota station near Hawker as the site of a national nuclear storage facility.

The area, where a number of songlines cross and which hosts a sacred women's site, is of immense cultural significance for the Adnyamathanha people and has been proven to be immensely rich in Aboriginal heritage.

About 150 opponents of the proposed site of a radioactive waste dump in South Australia's Flinders Ranges gathered on June 24 in Port Augusta to voice their opposition. The federal government has recently shortlisted Barndioota station near Hawker as the site of a national nuclear storage facility.

The area, where a number of songlines cross and which hosts a sacred women's site, is of immense cultural significance for the Adnyamathanha people and has been proven to be immensely rich in Aboriginal heritage.

Adnyamathanha traditional owner Regina McKenzie said: “We view this proposal as an attack on our cultural beliefs, history and heritage. We do not want this waste dump on our ancestors' yarta [land].

“'No' is a very simple word in the English language, and we are wondering why people are struggling to understand the simplicity of the word 'no'."

Protest organiser Gayle Mather said the message is clear — many ordinary people do not want the proposal to go ahead.

The proposed site is environmentally unsuitable. It is geologically unstable and prone to flooding. Its nomination puts local economies at risk. Pastoralists, farming communities and the tourism industry in the area are opposed to the dump.

Adnyamathanha Traditional Landowners Association CEO, Vince Coulthard, said he has many concerns: “One being the fact that they haven't really consulted and only did one consultation with us in relation to the proposed nuclear waste dump.

“But more importantly, the proposed site is in a very fragile area. It's next to a very important water hole in that area.”

Mara Bonacci of Friends of the Earth's Anti-Uranium and Clean Energy Collective said: “The federal government's consultation process is fundamentally flawed.

“Traditional owners were made aware of the nomination by a media announcement and have not been consulted by the government. This complete disregard of the importance of community consultation contradicts its purported commitment to an open and voluntary site selection process.

“We need an independent inquiry to determine the best way to deal with our radioactive waste, not a rushed and flawed process that puts people, the environment and local economies at risk”.

Fifteen year-old Gypsy-Rose Entriken gave this speech at the protest.

* * *

I am 15 years old and I am worried. As a child in the eyes of many, I doubt you realise that I am worried for the future. My future, my friends, my family, my children's and even my great, great grandchildren's future, in this world of war, politics, greed, racism and toxic waste.

This international nuclear waste dump that the royal commission and Premier Jay Weatherill are proposing to put right here in South Australia cannot be guaranteed safe.

Do you realise what these politicians are playing with? It doesn't matter whether they call it low-level, intermediate-level, or high-level waste, the containment and isolation process required to store the waste is the same. The toxic waste from military, medical and industrial reactors will still need to be stored for hundreds of thousands of years.

Do you really believe that in all that time no natural disasters will occur? No earthquakes? No floods? No accidents trucking the waste across Australia, and no ships transporting it will sink? No errors in the equipment, and most of all no way to detect underground leakage?

Nuclear radiation is undetectable around us. We can't see it, feel it or smell it. Exposure causes lifelong health effects. The next generation suffer nuclear-induced birth defects.

If nuclear waste is so dangerous, why are we allowing the government to make these decisions and condemn our future? We know that the financial profits from dealing with other countries' nuclear problems is their best reason to support the dump.

Australia hosts one nuclear reactor and according to the ANTSO worldwide protocol, we manage all the waste that our country produces. In order for Australia's economy to profit from a nuclear dumpm, the worldwide protocols will need to be changed.

I say it is unfair for us to have to contain and be responsible for other countries' waste. The protocols are there for a reason, to help us control our own problems and to teach us to be responsible for our actions.

The government hasn't adequately informed us. We aren't being given the chance to vote on this. Twenty-five thousand South Australians were chosen to be involved in the debate, but only 50 people get a say. We can't accept this as democracy.

How can we choose our side when this issue requires unity? We need to stand with the Adnyamathanha people, whose land we are proposing to fill with toxicity.

Since the 1950s Australia's nuclear industry has racially discriminated against Aboriginal people, putting them at risk from bomb testing, uranium mining and now nuclear dumping.

Radiation doesn't discriminate. It affects everyone. We stole land, stole lives and now what we gave back we are planning to destroy. How can we call this equality?

In the 70 years that nuclear waste has been produced, a dump of this scale has never been done before. What the royal commission isn't admitting is it would be a trial dump. In our backyard.

In 2014 a much smaller dump in New Mexico, US, had a major waste leak that wasn't contained. It resulted in worker exposure and is no longer operational.

Politicians tell us “It's safe”. Well I'm sorry, but open your eyes. Look around. Stop ignoring the evidence.

Since 2011 the Japanese government have been covering up the disaster of Fukushima. Radioactive water has leaked into the Pacific Ocean for six years and continues to this day. Fukushima has now contaminated one-third of the Pacific Ocean. Seventy per cent of the Earth's surface is made up of water, so the contamination of its largest ocean is a major issue that is continually forgotten.

This dump won't solve the issue. It's only a temporary “quick fix”. It's a disguise for the real problem — 390,000 tonnes of radioactive waste.

If there is no way to contain it, we must stop making it. Our future is too important to waste. As Corcoran Loza says: “Short-term financial gain for long-term unknown pain is simply insane.”

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