Senator pushes Woomera instead of Kimba for waste facility

Senator pushes Woomera for waste facility

South Australian senator Rex Patrick will push for the Woomera Prohibited Area to be the location of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility instead of land near Kimba.

The Centre Alliance senator has announced he will move amendments to the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility Bill, which would allow the Minister for Defence to nominate a site in the prohibited area.

This comes as the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill passed through the House of Representatives on Thursday.

The bill was tabled in February to formally name Napandee, near Kimba as the site for the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility.

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said it was an important milestone for the establishment of the facility.

However Mr Patrick said the bill was now before the Senate Economics Committee which is expected to report on July 31, although this could be extended.

He said the act was based on volunteerism, as no site could be considered as a potential location for a radioactive waste management facility without the voluntary nomination of that site and agreement of persons with relevant rights and interests.

"The Federal Parliament will be given a choice on whether the site should be on prime agricultural land on the Eyre Peninsula in a community that is bitterly divided about it being built there, or in the remote and highly secure Woomera Prohibited Area where a significant amount of low and intermediate level radioactive waste has been stored for more than two decades," he said.

Mr Patrick has pointed to a 2002 study which identified sites for a low level and short-lived intermediate level radioactive waste repository at three sites.

These are located within the prohibited area near Koolymilka, about 20km east of Woomera and about 50km northeast of Woomera.

Mr Patrick said there were already two radioactive waste storage facilities inside the prohibited area, one CSIRO building (Hanger 5 at Evetts Field) and one defence bunker (Koolymilka).

"My amendment will, instead of selecting Kimba as the site, allow the Minister for Defence to nominate a site in the Woomera Prohibited Area," he said.

"If the Minister can't find a suitable site somewhere within that 12.7 million hectares of desert, then she's not looking hard enough.

"My proposed amendments will require the Minister to consult with affected parties, including First Nation's people, before making her decision as to the preferred Woomera site."

Mr Patrick said he would not seek to amend the community funding being directed at Kimba by the bill.

However Mr Pitt said suggestions of a site in the Woomera area could be used for the facility was not practical due to the increase in Defence Force training activities that would limit access to the area.

Kimba mayor Dean Johnson also argued against Mr Patrick's arguments and said he did not understand why he would be against the "nationally important facility" being located near Kimba.

"It will be a purpose built facility which meets very stringent guidelines and will be licensed purposely for the material," he said.

Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said the local community had heard enough and just wanted work on the facility to begin.

"I have visited similar facilities around the world to what is being proposed in Kimba and seen how safe they area and the tremendous opportunities they bring to the towns where they're based," he said.

"This project will provide a long-term economic lifeline to Kimba, which like many regional towns around Australia faces the challenges of falling population and job opportunities.

"The facility will create 45 direct local jobs and provide around $8 million in benefit each year to the Kimba economy." Mr Ramsay said.

SA Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has criticised the passage of the bill through the house and especially Labor for their support for the bill.

A won't forgive them for dumping radioactive waste in our foodbowl and putting our clean, green reputation and our state's key grain export industry at risk," she said.