Nuclear debate heats up behind closed doors

By Lilia Guan
Additional reporting by Paul Hemsley
According to Bob Hawke the greatest contribution Australia could make to the nuclear cycle would be to take the world’s nuclear waste.
The former prime minister made the statement during the ‘Reflections on the Australia-United States Alliance’ conference, held at the United States Studies Centre – University of Sydney.
Mr Hawke said the world’s safest geological locations for deposits of nuclear waste were in North West Australia and the Northern Territory.
Those regions would make the world a safer place and the whole nuclear cycle much safer, the former PM claimed.
“We would return an enormous amount of money that we could hypothecate to the whole question of climate change and dealing with environmental issues,” he said.
“The great problem for Australia is cost on how to deal with it and without whacking up the cost of living for people,” he said.
His comments have been met with mixed reactions from local governments in the region.
West Australia Local Government Association President, Mayor Troy Pickard told Government news given the broader regional implications of such a move, it was unlikely a decision of this kind would fall to a single local government, or even that local government would have much “influence in the matter”.
“As there are obvious concerns within the community about the safety and security of nuclear facilities,” he said.
“We would expect extensive community consultation to be undertaken before any action is considered.”
However a spokesperson for Local Government Association of the Northern Territory told Government News the issue of anything nuclear was so
“contentious that it had no policy for or against the matter”.
He said unless its council members all agreed one way or the other on the matter, the association proposed to stay out of making any comments on the issue.
Darwin City Council Lord Mayor Graeme Sawyer agreed the issue was “hard to say”.
Although Darwin City Council had no official policy on nuclear energy or waste, the council would keep its “mind open” on the matter.
“There are serious concerns with nuclear waste,” he said.
“We already export uranium to the world.”
Cr Sawyer said he doesn’t “necessarily subscribe” to the idea but would put it before the council if it ever came up.
Not-for-profit organisation Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) was “strongly opposed” to nuclear waste dumping.
ACF’s nuclear free campaigner, Dave Sweeney said the organisation was “deeply concerned with the consistent push” on the issue “by former
politicians from both political parties”
“We don’t see nuclear power as a safe or sustainable power source,” he said.
“Rather than facilitating a quarry or dumping ground we should be leading the world on other renewable energy sources.
“Uranium and waste dumping is all directly going down the wrong path.”
Mr Sweeney said there’s been 60 years of research which has not assured one nation on has being safe from having a “single repository” of nuclear waste.
“Australia can and should do better than being a dump for toxic materials on this earth,” he said.
“[Making Australia] radio active terra nullius was profoundly disappointing.”
Mr Sweeney said there was a bi-partisan push for nuclear waste dumping.
Although with the recent situation in Fukushima in Japan, much of that push has been behind closed doors.

“We are seeing increasing amounts of back-room deals in the wake of Fukushima in Japan,” he said.
“Muckety in Northern Territory has been chosen as a nuclear waste dumping site, even though the traditional land owners don’t live to far from the area.”
Australia has had a long history with nuclear, with the British Government’s role in nuclear testing in Maralinga, South Australia still being played out in Britain’s High Courts, said Mr Sweeney.
Is nuclear procurement something your council would consider pushing through?

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required