Atomic bomb test site on Aboriginal land could now be flagged as a nuclear waste dump

Atom bomb test in Austrakia in the 1950s

By Wendy Glamocak Less than four months after land used for nuclear testing in the 1950s was officially handed back to its traditional owners in full, nuclear is back on the agenda at Maralinga in South Australia. Most of Maralinga's 103,000 square kilometre lands were handed back to the Maralinga-Tjuarutja people in the 1980s, and in 2009, a 3,000 square kilometre site known as Section 400 that had been heavily contaminated by radiation and hazardous chemicals was also handed back. In November last year, the Defence Department officially gave the Maralinga-Tjarutja full control and unrestricted access to the lands. 


Those connected to the land are worried that a new Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission announced recently by [Labor] Premier Jay Weatherill will see the land flagged as a potential site for a nuclear waste dump.


Karina Lester is the daughter of Yammi Lester, a man who said he was blinded by atomic tests on the site half a century ago. [Ms Lester visited the Gorleben nuclear dump in Lower Saxony in 2003 and reported that the resistance there inspired her.]


She said her grandmother was part of the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, a council of senior Aboriginal women from northern SA who fought against the Howard Government's plans in 1988 to build a national radioactive waste dump near Woomera.


After strong opposition from the local community, and from former SA premier Mike Rann, who won a High Court challenge against the proposal, the plan was abandoned in 2004.


Ms Lester said many custodians of the land were worried that the royal commission set up by Mr Weatherill meant they would soon have another fight on their hands.


"You know you feel gutted when they want to bring the nuke agenda back on," she said.


"The place has already been contaminated. 


"Traditional owners are trying to move on from what happened back in the '50s, but to perhaps propose that it's a site for the waste, I think, is just another kick in the guts to the traditional owners up there at Maralinga-Tjaratja.


"Enough's enough."




See also Landowners can nominate their property to become Australia's first nuclear waste dump




Language difficulties could 'stand in the way'


Ms Lester said many traditional owners will want to make a submission to the royal commission but she was worried language difficulties would stand in their way.


She wanted the SA Government to make sure that the voices of the traditional owners of Maralinga were heard.


The Premier's office did not respond to ABC questions on Ms Lester's concerns.


The administrative managers of the Maralinga lands said there was insufficient information to decide whether or not to support a nuclear waste dump in the area.


Maralinga-Tjarutja general manager Peter Clark said representatives from his organisation had met the director of the company behind one such proposal, South Australian Nuclear Energy Systems (SANES).


"Our board has informed [SANES director] Bruce Hundertmark that they'll be making no decisions moving forward until they consider a whole range of other issues," Mr Clark said.


"The obvious things that the board and the broader Maralinga-Tjarutja community would need to take on board would be to look at credible and reliable scientific information around the subject."


Mr Clark said some broad-ranging consultations with the larger community and other traditional owners and affected people would need to be held on the issue.


Labor Member for Giles Eddie Hughes said the suggestion of a dump at Maralinga as part of a nuclear power generation plan for the state was unacceptable.


The royal commission is expected to run for about one year.



Nuclear Free Movement: Musings on the current state of play


By Christina Macpherson


Sorry to harp on about South Australia’s Royal Commission into Nuclear Power – but it IS the most important matter to come up in Australia’s recent nuclear history. And, it’s all being done in such a hurry.


[Greens] Senator Scott Ludlam wrote a wonderful, courteous (what a novelty for an Aussie politician!) article, on how this Commission might be done ‘properly’. Alas, few people are confident that this will happen.


This Royal Commission is a cover for an old agenda – to make South Australia the world’s nuclear waste dump. Last time they tried this, the nuclear lobby was beaten in

a campaign led by a bunch of Aboriginal women - the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta . A court decision in 2004 resulted in the dump plan being abandoned.


The public has until March 13 to send submissions about the draft Terms of Reference. These draft terms are extraordinarily narrow – ignoring comparative costs, health, agricultural and tourist impacts, and they exclude uranium mining and the current situation of radioactive contamination at Maralinga. The Conservation Council of South Australia provides clear and simple guidance for anyone wanting help in sending a submission.


South Australian farmers have lately been flat out selling berries, as uproar has gone out about people getting sick, from eating imported berries. I wonder how our fruit and vegies would go, if South Australia did become the world’s hub for radioactive trash importing.


Inertia kills green energy investment


The ‘Renewable Energy Target’ saga drags on – but that’s the way that the Abbott government likes it – the inertia that slowly kills off investor interest. Victoria’s new Labor government now starting some pro renewable initiatives – funding a Community Solar Energy Farm in Macedon. Even some Victorian Liberals are making pro renewable energy noises




Nuclear weapons. The focus has been on this issue throughout February. Experts in studying nuclear weapons and war have been gathering in New York at the Symposium: The Dynamics of Possible Nuclear Extinction. It’s streaming live – and podcasts, transcripts and a book will later be available.


This week – Lots of (not very good) news on nuclear weaponry and war risks, e.g USA law-makers wanting to spend $577 billion on defense, China, Russia, India ramping up their nuclear weaponry. North Korea, too.


This month, the focus on, (and on will be on the growing movement for a clean nuclear-free planet. At the same time, a global revolution is happening at extraordinary speed – the change from “top-down” “vertically integrated” systems to “small scale or “horizontal” systems.


Some business examples – Airbnb, Taskrabbit, Uber, they work through the “digital ecosystem” . Political examples – extreme religious activist groups. So it’s not all good. But

most of it is good - based on trust between individuals, building “reputational capital” between strangers with a common vision.


The nuclear lobby has no grasp of this 21st Century transition.


Even the current nuclear PR for Small Modular Reactors is based on huge centrally organised, government funded, mass purchase and mass distribution – imposed from above. Compare that with the millions of homes and small businesses and institutions where individuals made the choice for solar energy – it was not imposed by government.


The clean planet movement is happening at the local level, most often led by indigenous people – and they are linking up globally. The new digital ecosytem has opened the way for millions of people to work together for a healthy nuclear-free planet.


Nuclear power - energy for the future or relic of the past?


Overwhelming public opposition has forced Italy to abandon any plans for reigniting its nuclear industry, while Germany is pressing ahead with its long-held policy of phasing out all reactors by 2022. You might assume the industry is in terminal decline, but you would be wrong.


DOE, Pentagon considering new uses for Nevada site

House Republicans say two federal agencies are planning to use the remote Yucca Mountain site in southern Nevada for activities other than its congressionally authorized use as a repository for spent fuel from nuclear reactors.


North Korea's nuclear expansion


North Korea could be on track to have an arsenal of 100 nuclear weapons by 2020, according to a new research report. The prediction, from experts on North Korea, goes well beyond past estimates and should force renewed attention on a threat that has been eclipsed by other crises.



South Australia's uranium legacy, future fails public interest test

It's vital that the South Australian royal commission into uranium mining
does not become a taxpayer-funded nuclear industry promotional platform.

Nuclear Royal Commission urged to fast-track storage talks

BUSINESS has urged SA's nuclear Royal Commission to fast-track consideration of hosting the nation's first major waste dump, amid fears the state could miss out on a lucrative opportunity to take a foothold in a future storage industry.

Queensland's 'beautiful but fragile' environment needs attention

...In Townsville, the prospect of uranium mining in the Burdekin catchment contributed to three separate electorates voting out the LNP. With Labor's
solid position to ban uranium mining in Queensland, the ALP won three out of four seats in the area. ...

With the defeat of the LNP after only one term, we now have the opportunity to address some of the most significant threats to Queensland's environment.

While returning the ban on uranium mining is a high priority - there are many other areas now in need of close attention.