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Traditional owners apply for judicial review to stop South Australia nuclear waste dump

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Mihajlo Maricic/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Mihajlo Maricic/Alamy

Barngarla people say they were never consulted over the project which ‘should never be built’ 

Traditional owners say they will keep fighting to stop a nuclear waste dump planned for South Australia.

Late last month, the federal government confirmed a facility will be built at Napandee, 24km from Kimba, and it is beginning the regulatory and design processes.

However, the Barngarla people say they’ve been excluded from consultation and will now lodge an application for a judicial review of the entire project.

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The first hearing is expected to be in March – the month the SA election is due and the federal election could be held. That could then be appealed and the case could end up in the high court, and in a different political context.

Plans to build a nuclear waste facility in South Australia have been thwarted for more than two decades. After a series of governments, inquiries, and a state royal commission, one was meant to be operational in 2020. Now it is planned for 2030.

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Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation chair Jason Bilney said if they win the legal challenge, it opens the way for the government to nominate other sites.

“They didn’t include us from the start,” he said. “What we’ve always hoped for and fought for is to stop the nuclear waste dump because it should never be built on Napandee. It didn’t have our support,” he said.

A ballot of ratepayers found more than 60% supported the facility. The traditional owners say they were excluded because they do not live in the council area. They held a separate ballot, in which they unanimously rejected the proposal.

Bilney said if you added those two ballots together, the support would have been less than half.

“This [judicial review] will delay it,” he said.

“Everyone has the right to question this government and the processes they go through.”

Bilney also said the site was just a “Band-Aid solution” and echoed conservationists who are pushing for the low and intermediate level waste to be stored at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s facility at Lucas Heights.

Ansto says a purpose-built facility is crucial, and in line with international best practice.

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Resources minister Keith Pitt said the facility would be a “critically important piece of national infrastructure” because “it’s now estimated that every Australian will benefit from nuclear medicine during their lifetime, either through diagnosis or treatment”.

Pitt said the government remained “fully committed” to the project and would continue to engage with the community, with the timeline determined by regulatory processes.

It’s anticipated the facility will begin receiving waste after 2030,” he said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation said it was a “long way from a done deal”.

“This plan will face scrutiny in the federal court, but it also needs to face the court of public opinion. The government needs to give Australians, particularly South Australians and the Barngarla people, a genuine say about this plan and its inter-generational risks and impacts,” campaigner Dave Sweeney, said.

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