Woomera not in contention for nuclear storage facility

NUCLEAR: Wallerberdina Station near Hawker is one of the sites nominated to host the proposed national radioactive waste management facility.
NUCLEAR: Wallerberdina Station near Hawker is one of the sites nominated to host the proposed national radioactive waste management facility.

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (DIIS) has dismissed any possibility of reconsidering the Woomera Protected Area (WPA) as a site for the national radioactive waste management facility.

With ongoing operations at the site conducted by the Department of Defence, DIIS described a nuclear waste facility as an “incompatible land use”.

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick called for federal government to pursue the WPA as the host of the facility, as the site already stores radioactive waste.

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) stores 10,000 drums of low and intermediate level waste in a hangar at Evetts Field, 1.3 kilometres from the Woomera Range head.

Defence also stores 35 cubic metres of intermediate level waste in a bunker 5km down range.

However, a DIIS spokesperson said the 122,000-square kilometre military testing range was not suitable.

“The waste at Woomera must be relocated out of the controlled defence area, and will be consolidated, with waste from more than 100 other locations around Australia, into the facility when it is established,” the spokesperson said.

“The national radioactive waste management facility will create 45 jobs in the safe management of the by-products of nuclear medicine production and other important research.”

Two sites in Kimba and one near Hawker have been nominated to host the potential facility, but the selection process has been delayed, as the Federal Court is set to hear the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation v District Council of Kimba case this month.

“While the Department is mindful that both communities have a desire for an outcome as soon as possible, a court process is currently underway, and we thank the communities for their patience,” the spokesperson said.

Traditional owners lodged an Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) complaint in December 2018, alleging a fundamentally flawed process in the consideration of the site near Hawker.

Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association CEO Vince Coulthard said the group remains strongly opposed to any nomination of its land for a future radioactive waste dump site.