Hi Steve, Thanks for raising a few important issues. I agree that …

Comment on Council asked to consider spectre of transport accident involving radioactive waste by Justin.

Hi Steve,
Thanks for raising a few important issues.
I agree that it is important that any concerns about the broad detriments of the nuclear industry are put into perspective, and that we should focus on the significant hazards and harms presented by this particular action.
This waste isn’t tiny, but once a dump is set up, any future movements will be infrequent and irregular. The “train loads of dangerous materials being transported on a constant basis through our town” is a feature of BHP’s plans to expand Olympic Dam, not the Commonwealth nuclear waste dump.
I’m glad you acknowledge the importance of being “prepared for any emergency that might arise because of that transport”. The relevant workers, through their union (emergency service workers in the NT are represented by United Voice) have clearly stated that the NT just does not have capacity to handle any such incident.
Your cyanide story prompts two points:
First of all, two wrongs don’t make a right. if you’re genuinely concerned about other transport actions, I trust you’ll see that they’re followed up appropriately.
But secondly, and more importantly, let’s not lose sight of the fact that these materials – including the most highly radioactive waste produced in this country – present a unique and unmatched hazard to both human health and the environment. Unlike chemical contaminants like cyanide, radioactive isotopes cannot be neutralised: and the longevity of these hazards makes their management a challenge like no other. That’s why these materials are subject to stringent environmental and occupational safety regulations, including dedicated legislative instruments and a dedicated independent regulator. To dismiss the significant challenge posed by these wastes would be a dangerously ignorant error.
I couldn’t agree more with your assertion that: “This is a community problem, we are all in it together, we are collectively responsible for both the problem and what we are going to do about it.”
To me, that says that no one family alone should have the power to decide where a store for nuclear materials is sited. This is a decision that affects many other Australians, and for which all Aussies should recognise some responsibility. Unfortunately, the federal strategy of imposing the unwanted materials on a disempowered, conflicted and defunded community does not reflect your responsible attitude.
You say that: “In the end those we elected to make these decisions will have to be the final arbiters and we will have to accept that decision – that’s how democracy works.”
I think that, probably quite by accident, you are selling our democracy short. Far beyond getting to choose between two alternative dictators every three years, Australians have a proud tradition of community participation in decision making. In fact, this is the only way a solution to this seemingly intractable problem may be built. Nuclear waste remains a dangerous hazard for far longer than any government or politician will last: we need to develop community owned agreement around siting and management plans that has the best chance of standing the test of time. If we left it all to an elected leader, we’d be back where we started not long after their term of leadership.
The Federal minister recently admitted that the first tranche of reprocessed waste returning from overseas will be stored at Lucas Heights in NSW. Of course, he’d originally planned to have a dump built and operating at Muckaty by now, but the total lack of progress has forced him to admit that the reactor program is perfectly capable of managing the waste for as long as it takes to develop social license for an alternative management plan. With the heat taken out of the debate, we now (for the first time in over 20 years) have an opportunity to follow international best practice, and pursue the same kind of community-owned process that has been successful in a couple of other nations.
I believe that it is only by sharing that decision making power with all stakeholders can we hope to develop a durable solution.

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