Australia’s court case on radioactive waste plan highlights need for independent study and process on nuclear waste management

Comment: Australia’s radioactive waste management on trial   Australia has never had an independent examination of the best way to manage our nation’s radioactive waste. It’s time for that to changeBy  Dave Sweeney  28 MAY 2014– “…….Internationally the industry thinking has been evolving to a series of approaches that seek to achieve both the isolation of the waste and inclusion of the community.

In a 2006 report, an expert UK committee on radioactive waste management stated:

“It is generally considered that a voluntary process is essential to ensure equity, efficiency and the likelihood of successfully completing the process. There is a growing recognition that it is not ethically acceptable for a society to impose a radioactive waste facility on an unwilling community.”

The current Muckaty plan and process is at sharp odds with this common sense and common decency approach.

It is also in conflict with Australia’s international obligations under the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples which explicitly requires that “states shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of Indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent.”

It is the end result of over two decades of non-transparent and non-inclusive policy making that has been determined by unaccountable departmental representatives and driven with various degrees of enthusiasm by a chain reaction of successive politicians.

Unlike most comparable nations, Australia has never had an independent examination of the best way to manage our nation’s radioactive waste. A dedicated, open and expert National Commission into responsible radioactive waste management would help address a long standing federal policy failure.

The process behind the Muckaty plan will soon be examined by the Federal Court but what is missing and needed is to put Australia’s radioactive waste management on trial.

It is time for a new approach — one that reflects and is informed by best practise, sound science and respect — a public National Commission into responsible radioactive waste management.

As a nation we need to move from the flawed and failed push to find a vulnerable postcode for a dumpsite to a credible process that actively explores the range of management options and which one ticks the most boxes.

Dave Sweeney is the Australian Conservation Foundation’s nuclear free campaignerhttp://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/05/28/comment-australia-s-radioactive-waste-management-trial

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