BY MOLLY WISHART
SYDNEY — Three hundred people attended a rally at Cronulla on March 25 to protest the federal government's plan to build a new reactor in the nearby southern Sydney suburb of Lucas Heights.
Cronulla was chosen as he site of the protest because the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) releases radioactive waste water to the sea via Cronulla.
Speakers at the rally included Sutherland Shire councillor Genevieve Rankin, Sutherland Shire mayor Tracie Sonda, local resident and actor Michael Caton (of The Castle fame), local resident Lorraine Dixon, Green Left Weekly journalist and Democratic Socialist Party member Jim Green, Kerry Nettle from the Greens, Peri Young from the Labor Party, James Courtney from Greenpeace, and Natalie Stevens from Sydney People Against a New Nuclear Reactor (SPANNR).
In his speech, Courtney discussed the spent fuel shipment from ANSTO which remains on a ship in a French port because of a court injunction won by Greenpeace France on the grounds that French nuclear company Cogema does not have a license to store or reprocess the spent fuel. Another French court is expected to announce the findings of its review of the court decision on or about April 1.
The DSP's Jim Green spoke about the suppression of non-reactor medical and scientific technologies, citing as one example Labor's refusal in 1994 to pursue a thorough, costed proposal to research cyclotron methods of producing the most commonly used medical isotope, technetium-99m.
Another example given by Green concerns the cutting-edge diagnostic technology called positron emission tomography, which uses cyclotron produced isotopes. He noted that PET is only available at two hospitals in Australia, and that instead of expanding this technology the federal government is starving it of funds and consequently the Melbourne PET facility may be forced to close.
Peri Young said Labor could not promise to stop the new reactor project because a contract has been signed between ANSTO and the Argentinean company INVAP. Labor was embarrassed by a report in the March 28 Sydney Morning Herald which said that federal Labor science spokesperson Martyn Evans had admitted telling the Argentinean ambassador that Labor had "never been in the business of simply cancelling contracts".