Nuclear tenders ignore traditional owners

In 2007, the Northern Land Council nominated Muckaty as a proposed site for the deposit of radioactive materials, with compensation to be paid to the one clan supporting it, which the NLC identified as traditional owners.

Four other traditional owner groups living at Muckaty, 110km north of Tennant Creek, oppose the proposed dump.

Neda Vanovac AAP NewsYahoo
8 October 2013

The federal government's plan to manage Australia's long-term nuclear waste has excluded the stakeholder voices of traditional Aboriginal land owners, an anti-nuclear activist says.

A Federal Court case is set for June to hear the objections of traditional owners at Muckaty Station, who do not want their lands to become a repository for nuclear waste.

Anti-Nuclear activist Uncle Kevin Buzzacott, showing his support to Manuwangku (Muckaty) protest.

But on September 23 the Abbott government called for applications for an initial business case to identify and analyse capability options for the long-term management of Australia's radioactive waste to ensure it is safely and securely managed.

Applications close on Friday 11th October 2013.

The federal government already has concept designs for the $130 million facility drawn up by ENRESA, the Spanish radioactive waste management agency.

In 2007, the Northern Land Council nominated Muckaty as a proposed site for the deposit of radioactive materials, with compensation to be paid to the one clan supporting it, which the NLC identified as traditional owners.

Four other traditional owner groups living at Muckaty, 110km north of Tennant Creek, oppose the proposed dump.

They began legal proceedings against the Federal Government and the NLC in June 2010, accusing the NLC of breaching its duties by failing to properly identify the traditional Aboriginal owners of the nominated land, not consulting adequately and not getting proper consent before recommending the site.

The latest tender process has once again excluded them, says Lauren Mellor, spokeswoman for the Environment Centre NT.

The government is considering all radioactive waste management options in Australia. This decision to broaden the discussion to look at all options is something campaigners against the Muckaty dump have supported for a long time.

"But what it does is exclude stakeholder voices - like the Public Health Association of Australia, like environment groups, traditional owners, local government voices, the ACTU, who have all been calling for an open and public commission," Ms Mellor told AAP.

"Effectively, it's privatising what should be the responsibility of the federal government to safely manage Australia's radioactive waste inventory in the best interests of the public."

New Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane has said he plans to visit Muckaty within the month but has not responded to requests for comment.

"We want Manuwangku (Muckaty) to be free from nuclear waste forever", Penny Phillips, Traditional Owner

Previous Resources Minister Gary Gray visited Muckaty Station shortly before the election but only one traditional owner opposed to the dump was invited by the NLC to attend a meeting with him, Ms Mellor said.

In a letter to Mr Gray dated August 3 this year, traditional owner Penny Phillips was unequivocal about the desires of the Milwayi, Yapa Yapa and Wirntiku groups.

"We will not agree to a nuclear waste dump anywhere on the Muckaty Land Trust," she wrote.

"We want Manuwangku (Muckaty) to be free from nuclear waste forever".

The Greens say that treating a nuclear waste dump as a growth business is unwise and unwanted.

"It seems that behind the scenes, (the Abbott government) are developing a business case for the dump with private operators," Senator Scott Ludlam said in a statement.

"As soon as you commercialise a nuclear waste dump, it is in the operators' interest to look at taking other waste, including other countries'."

He supports calls for an independent public commission to determine how to safely and responsibly handle Australia's nuclear waste.

This "would enable a more sophisticated management regime than the current plan to dump the waste containers in a shed on a cattle station", he said.

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