I’ll take nuke waste: MP offers his farm for radioactive dump

Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey, whose seat of Grey covers 900,000 square kilometres of the state’s north, said his electorate is an obvious location for radioactive waste.

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Mr Ramsey even offered his property.

“I’m happy to have that on my farm, as long as my farm is the geologically correct place to have it,” he said,

Mr Ramsey has visited repositories in France, Sweden and Finland, and estimated it would take about 3 hectares of his 2,400 hectare holding near Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula.

With jobs and income up for grabs, he said his neighbours were largely supportive.

“A number of them said ‘what’s wrong with my farm?’” he said.

“And there may not be anything wrong and if they want to put their farm up as well, I’m more than happy for that to happen.”

Australia has three operational uranium mines, Olympic Dam and Beverley in South Australia and Ranger in the Northern Territory, producing about 40 per cent of the world’s uranium.

‘A number of them said ‘what’s wrong with my farm?”

Australia has no power plants, but does have a reactor at Lucas Heights in NSW for uses including nuclear medicine.

But there’s nowhere to store the waste, which is either shipped offshore or kept in hospitals and universities.

Storage of low and medium level waste is one consideration of a Royal Commission beginning this week, which Premier Jay Weatherill said would also examine nuclear enrichment and power generation.

“Much of the debate around nuclear power is characterised by shreds of information,” Mr Weatherill said.

“We want reliable information so that debate can be well informed so people, we can raise people’s awareness so they can work through the issues and make judgements about the ethical, practical and financial issues at stake here.”

Aboriginal communities are worried their lands could be targeted because of their isolation and stable geology.

Yankunytjatjara woman Karina Lester was involved in the successful high court fight against a waste dump proposal put forward more than a decade ago by the Howard Government.

Ms Lester said she was dismayed that the issue was back on the agenda.

‘We are impacted everyday by those actions of what’s happened in the past’

“Aboriginal people are struggling still to this day of overcoming what happened in the 50’s with the tests at Maralinga,” she said.

“The concern I have is whether the Anangu and Aboriginal people of South Australia are being engaged in this, because we have either experienced Maralinga or we are descendants of.

“We are impacted everyday by those actions of what’s happened in the past.”

Ms Lester blamed the black mist that covered her lands for illnesses in her family, including her fathers’ blindness. 

She said Aboriginal communities have already shouldered enough of the radioactive burden, telling the government to “look elsewhere”.

“Those countries or those lands that might look bare on a map are actually someone’s country that has stories, and stories that are very important to Aboriginal people for our identity, our health and wellbeing,” she said.

“Aboriginal people are looked as a dumping ground again – quick fix, out of sight out of mind.”

But one Aboriginal group has emerged that said radioactive waste was a responsibility it was willing to bear.

The Adnyamathanha people of the northern Flinders Ranges know the many challenges that uranium poses – not only is the Beverly mine on their traditional lands, but just up the road is Mount Painter, the source of uranium used at Maralinga.

‘Aboriginal people are looked as a dumping ground again’

Chairman of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association Vincent Coulthard said his country already had a nuclear history and his people felt obliged to take responsibility for the waste it had generated.

He has offered to take back the waste and return it to the ground, so other communities can be spared the radioactive burden.

“We worry about where the waste is going to go particularly if it’s taken into other people’s country, because that’s not right, that we should,” he said.

“If the waste is being created in our country then they need to find somewhere to put it but not in other people’s country, you know.”

Mr Coulthard said if selected, the Adnyamathanha people should be recompensed.

“The government and the companies have generated an enormous amount and they should pay, they should pay,” he said.