A former South Australian senator and Liberal Party president who jointly owns one of several proposed sites for a nuclear dump in the state said he would be willing to allow high-level waste to be stored on the property in the future.
Grant Chapman owns the long-term lease to Wallerberdina, a station near Barndioota in the Flinders Ranges about 40 kilometres north-west of Hawker, which is currently used to graze cattle.
It is one of six sites across the nation, including three in SA, being considered by the Federal Government to store low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste.
News of its potential future use has alarmed some neighbours, who are opposed to a nuclear dump and said they had not been consulted.
Mr Chapman said if approved, a proposed nuclear storage facility would eventually occupy 100 hectares in the northern section of the 25,000-hectare property.
He said he nominated the site several months ago.
“The balance of the property wouldn’t be affected. Obviously there’d be roads to be built and access to be provided into that particular area,” he said.
“By and large, the rest of the property could continue with its traditional activity.”
Mr Chapman was a strong supporter of storing nuclear waste in Australia during his time as a senator, chairing a Senate committee into the subject.
“If it was shown to be safe for that high level waste to be eventually transformed into a form that was safe to store in that situation then certainly the property would be a potential site for that,” he said.
“But I think that’s a long way into the future. I mean, this immediate assessment that’s being made is purely for low level to medium level waste.”
Neighbour angered and concerned by location
Artist Regina McKenzie, who lives on neighbouring Yappala Station, which shares a boundary with Wallerberdina, said she and her family were angry and frustrated they had not been consulted.
Ms McKenzie said she had heard rumours Wallerberdina was being considered but was shocked when that was confirmed by the Federal Government.
She said Aboriginal people have suffered greatly as a result of the Maralinga nuclear tests and she feared history would repeat itself.
“The water here that we use, the aquifers that are under the earth, what if they get contaminated by some leakages or something?” she said.
“I don’t care how safe they say it is. If it’s so safe, why don’t they take it back and put it in their own back yards. If it’s so safe, have it in Canberra there where all the pollies sit.”
Ms McKenzie said the area was culturally significant to the Adnyamathanha people.
We didn’t want them to take it out of the ground in the first place, it’s against our culture, and now they’re sending it back to the country.Regina McKenzie
“We don’t want [waste] in the area. We didn’t want them to take it out of the ground in the first place, it’s against our culture, and now they’re sending it back to the country,” she said.
“It’s not right. If they take it, they should keep it. It’s poison. We don’t want the poison back.
“I’m a little bit scared about it. My grandchildren are going to come back here and visit as well.
“I just don’t want anything coming back on our communities.”
“We’ve had no consultation whatsoever [about the waste],” she said.
South Australia’s royal commission, which is separate from the Federal Government’s waste proposal, has met with residents in regional areas including Leigh Creek, Coober Pedy and Port Augusta and the Adnyamathanha people since April.
There is a dearth of economic and job creating activity in that area as a result of those decisions and certainly the construction phase if it was to eventuate on our property, but more importantly the continued management and operation phase, would create significant employment.Grant Chapman
Mr Chapman said the property was isolated and its geology made it suitable for safe storage.
He said consultation with locals would begin soon, and said a waste site would create much needed jobs in the wake of Alinta’s decision to close its mine and power stations.
“There is a dearth of economic and job creating activity in that area as a result of those decisions and certainly the construction phase if it was to eventuate on our property, but more importantly the continued management and operation phase, would create significant employment,” he said.
Federal Liberal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey earlier nominated his own property as a potential site, but later withdrew because of a perceived conflict of interest.
Mr Chapman, who does not live on the property, said his political background had played no role in the Federal Government’s decision to consider the site.
“This has got nothing to do with any political involvement of mine,” he said.
“This is an entirely independent and transparent process that’s been undertaken by a government department and I’m leaving it to them to make the judgements on this.”
The Flinders Ranges Council said it was seeking further information about the location of the site from the Federal Government, which wants to finalise a single location by the end of next year.