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Clan Allows Nuclear Dump for $12,000,000

Lindsay Murdoch in Nhulunbuy
Jasmin Afianos in Tennant Creek
May 26, 2007

Aboriginal elders in a remote Northern Territory community have agreed to accept $12 million for allowing Australia's first national nuclear waste dump to be built on their land. But the secretly negotiated deal has bitterly divided traditional owners of the 2241 square kilometre Muckaty station where the Federal Government will now look to build the controversial dump to store 5000 cubic metres of nuclear waste.

Bindi Jakamarra Martin (pictured ©Stephen Cherry), a Warlmanpa man from the Ngapa clan, said that building the dump on a 1.5-square-kilometre site 120 kilometres from Tennant Creek would "poison our beautiful land" and "change our dreamings". "Our dreamings cross right into that land where they want to put that dump," he said.

But Amy Lauder, a senior elder of the 70 member Ngapa clan, said her people's acceptance of the deal was right for them—despite protests from other clans owning the station, which was handed back to the traditional owners in 1995 after a long court battle. "Other clans can speak for their country—not our Ngapa country," she said. She said the $12 million would "create a future for our children with education, jobs and funds for our outstation and transport".

Under the deal, Canberra would take the Ngapa clan's land from them for up to 200 years to store nuclear waste from all the states and territories. The deal—made public yesterday after two years of negotiations—would see up to 150 truckloads of radioactive material driven thousands of kilometres from Lucas Heights in Sydney and Woomera in South Australia to the site, which is 10 kilometres from the busy Stuart Highway and eight kilometres from where people live at the station homestead. Experts will now study the site to see if it is scientifically suitable to store nuclear waste. The Federal Government had previously announced the dump would be built on one of three Defence-owned sites in the territory after the South Australian Government scuttled plans to build it at Woomera.

The Muckaty deal has angered the Northern Territory Government, whose laws against developing a dump in the territory can be overridden by Canberra. "This potential facility could compromise the social, cultural and traditional ties of Aboriginal people to their country," said Elliott McAdam, a minister in the territory's Labor Government.

Environmentalists have called on the federal Science Minister, Julie Bishop, to reject the site.

Dave Sweeney, nuclear campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, said Muckaty was not selected as a site on a scientific basis, and turning it into a dump would be "environmentally irresponsible and socially divisive".

But Mrs Bishop yesterday praised a full council meeting of the Northern Land Council, which nominated Muckaty as the site for what she calls a radioactive waste management facility. "The NLC has consistently taken a responsible approach to this issue, focusing on the evidence of safely operating radioactive waste management facilities in Australia and overseas," she said. The dump will store items such as gloves, clothing, glassware and contaminated soil, including waste from the treatment each year of 400,000 ill people.

Spent fuel from two research reactors sent to be stored overseas will also be brought back to be stored in above-ground containers. William Jakamarra Graham, another traditional owner, said: "We don't care about the money—$12 million is nothing to us. But we care about our land and what will happen to the children of the future—we don't want to leave them a nuclear dump."

Sydney Morning Herald


Howard warns on nuclear power option

04 June 2007

Prime Minister John Howard yesterday announced Australia would implement a carbon trading scheme from 2012 to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Howard warned that capping the carbon dioxide produced by power stations could hurt the economy, and Australia might have to turn to previously shunned nuclear energy. "An emissions trading scheme and setting a long-term goal for reducing emissions will be the most momentous economic decision Australia will take in the next decade," he said.

The target for emissions would be set only next year, after rigorous economic modelling, he said. This means the target will be announced only after national elections later this year. A Newspoll last month showed that Australians prefer the opposition Labour party, which is strong on environmental issues, by a 20-point margin. "The world is not going to come to an end tomorrow because of climate change," Howard said. "But equally we would be foolish indeed to ignore the accumulated scientific evidence that mankind's behaviour has contributed to global warming."

Howard said Australia, which holds 40% of the world's uranium reserves, would have to set aside opposition to atomic energy. "Governments need to let the market sort out the most efficient means of lowering emissions with all low-emission technologies on the table. That must include nuclear power," he said.

Australia has huge reserves of coal and its use in power stations is far cheaper than nuclear energy would be. A carbon "cap and trade" system would change that. The scheme would involve the government setting a cap on emissions, then granting businesses permits to cover the amount of greenhouse gases they produce each year. Companies wishing to emit more carbon dioxide than their allocated quota would have to buy permits from companies with a surplus, thereby creating an economic incentive to reduce pollution.

Howard, whose conservative government joined the U.S.A. in refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, said Australia's trading scheme would be better than those already in place in Europe.



Ziggy Continues to Sell Nuclear Option

June 12, 2007

Australians must consider all options, including nuclear power, in the fight to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the head of the federal government's nuclear energy inquiry said. Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation chairman Dr Ziggy Switkowski was the guest speaker at a lecture on climate change and nuclear power in Australia, at the University of Melbourne in suburban Parkville.

The former Telstra head led the taskforce charged with researching and reporting on uranium mining, processing and nuclear energy in Australia in 2006. He said nuclear power was still a viable option to combat climate change in Australia, and if Australians were serious about tackling global warming then embracing nuclear power was a logical next step.

"We are living through a significant warming period largely driven by the accumulation of GHG (greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere arising from our use of fossil fuels such as coal, gas and petrol," Dr Switkowski said.

"And all available platforms for generation must to be on the table. For baseload generation, there are probably only four options (now in question): coal, gas, hydro and nuclear."

He said nuclear power stations produced lower greenhouse gas emissions than fossil-fuelled power stations. One nuclear fuel pellet about two centimetres long produces the same amount of electricity as 1.5 tonnes of coal. The energy produced by the splitting of the uranium nucleus in the power plant was used as a heat source that turned water into steam, which then drives a turbine that spins a generator to produce electricity.

Web page editor: This statement makes no reference to the mining of uranium, the building and life of a nuclear power station and the disposal of nuclear wast.

Dr Switkowski said electricity demand in Australia would double by the 2040s, "and planning for, and investment in, electricity generation need to happen now", he said. The challenge is to moderate and meet this growing demand in an environmentally responsible way," he said.

Dr Switkowski said Australia could have its first nuclear power plant operating within a decade, and public attitudes towards nuclear energy were changing.

"At the 12-month anniversary of the Nuclear Review we have come from a position where nuclear power was not an acceptable topic within polite Australian society, to one where many people have an informed view and are open to debate—though not necessarily supportive," Dr Switkowski said.

Dr Switkowski is currently a non-executive director of Suncorp, Tabcorp, Healthscope and Opera Australia. He is also a graduate of the University of Melbourne with a PhD in nuclear physics.

© 2007 AAP

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