South Australia’s Government says it will back a Federal Government proposal to build a nuclear waste dump in the state’s outback.
New Premier Steven Marshall made the comments this week after his cabinet was sworn in at Government House.
“That’s a federal issue. We need to be assured the host community is satisfied with that,” Mr Marshall said.
“The Labor Party has held the same position that we have.”
The Federal Government is looking to store low-level nuclear waste and temporarily store intermediate level waste at one of two locations near Kimba, or one at Barndioota, near Hawker, in the Flinders Ranges.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) held informal community consultations in both towns this week.
ARPANSA is the independent federal agency that would assess any application made by the Federal Government for a nuclear waste repository.
The ABC understands the Federal Government wants to make a decision on the location of the nuclear waste facility before the end of the year.
Kimba community split over proposal
Kimba local Audrey Lienert opposes the facility, but attended the ARPANSA session to gain further information about the process.
“It has split the community terribly,” Mrs Lienert said.
She said there was a common concern among those who did not support the facility at Kimba.
“If the word gets out that we’ve got nuclear here in our farming land, what [will] our market be overseas, and what will that do to our prices?”
But not all locals are against the proposal.
Lifelong Kimba farmer Trevor Cliff said the economic benefits could not be overstated for the small farming community of 600.
“Every country town is struggling with numbers. It’s hard to attract industry,” Mr Cliff said.
“To me, it’s something that can help the town employment-wise.”
He is convinced the facility and the transport of nuclear waste will be safe.
“I’m very happy to accommodate it here. I have no fear of the actual product.
“It’s well-contained, well before it gets to Kimba.”
He admitted the issue had been contentious, but disputed the town had been split.
“One of my best mates, he’s trapped on the no side and we talk about it,” Mr Cliff said.
“He can have his side, and I say my side — that’s democracy for you.”
Hawker locals battle over culture and economic growth
The Flinders Local Action Group (FLAG) comprises members who are against the facility being built in the Flinders Ranges.
FLAG member Greg Bannon said the group was strongly opposed to the potential Wallerberdina Station site near Hawker.
“That stretch of land between Lake Torrens and the ranges is totally unsuitable for something that will have to be managed for at least 300 years,” Mr Bannon said.
He pointed to further concerns from local traditional owners, the Adnyamathanha people, and regular seismic activity in the region as more evidence the site was poorly suited.
But Barndioota Economic Working Group chairman Malcom McKenzie said the potential for jobs could not be understated.
“If everything’s all safe to do I’m for that facility to go ahead because I want to see jobs for that region,” he said.
“I want to see opportunities for Aboriginal people and for the people of the area. And it’s a great opportunity I think we’re going to proceed with.”
ARPANSA’s role ‘informal’ for the moment
ARPANSA chief executive Carl-Magnus Larsson said the organisation would assess any application carefully.
“A facility will not go ahead unless we’re convinced it can go ahead and that protection of health and safety of people is taken care of,” Dr Larsson said.
He stressed recent meetings between the communities and ARPANSA had been informal because no official application had been lodged by the Federal Government.
He said if the agency were to receive an application, it could take between six and 12 months to decide whether to grant a licence for the facility.
A federal Senate inquiry into the process of site selection is ongoing, with submissions closing on April 3.
The findings of the inquiry are due in August.