Government Divides Hawker and Kimba Communities While Hiding Suitable Alternate Radioactive Waste Sites

28 November 2018

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick today called on the Australian Government to reopen consideration of the 122,000 square kilometres of the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA) as a location for a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF).

Documents released under FOI to Senator Patrick show the Department of Industry undertook analysis of a number of sites, including the WPA, as potential homes for a NRWMF. In a very shallow response to the Department of Industry, Defence dismissed the WPA for its "impracticability" and "intolerable risk".

Defence's analysis cannot be reconciled with the fact that Woomera Test Range is already serving as a radioactive waste storage site. CSIRO is storing 10,000 drums of low and intermediate level waste in a hangar at Evetts Field, 1.3 kilometres from the Woomera Range head, while Defence is storing 35 cubic metres of intermediate level waste in a bunker 5 kilometres down range. Both the CSIRO and Defence waste has been stored there for 24 years.

"Defence’s claims are disingenuous and are nimby in attitude," said Rex.

"If storing radioactive waste in the WPA represents an intolerable risk, why has this considerable store of waste been allowed to stay there for 24 years?" 

"It seems that Defence is never stronger in defending territory than when it comes to defending its own."

At question time today Senator Patrick today revealed the existence of a 414 page report undertaken for the former Department of Education, Science and Training that examines locating a NRWMF inside and nearby the WPA. It recommends Evetts Field inside the WPA as a preferred location.

The 414 page report contradicts Defence’s shallow analysis and addresses all of Defence’s concerns, and more.

"How can the Government tell the deeply divided communities of Hawker and Kimba that there is absolutely nowhere within the more than 122,000 square kilometres of Woomera that would be suitable for a radioactive waste facility," Rex asked.

"Noting Minister Payne’s apparent lack of knowledge of the Evetts field option in the Senate today, I will definitely be pursuing this further."

The relevant FOI documents and reports can be found here.

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