Aboriginal and environmental voices blocked by #NuclearCommissionSAust

It would certainly be beyond their comprehension that any community, any government, would actually volunteer to take other countries’ nuclear waste, which remains radioactive for thousands of years. Yet in Australia, this is what nuclear proponents, the SA premier, and now the prime minister are backing.

South Australia’s Royal Commission has refused Australian environmental movement experts ACF and Friends of the Earth permission to appear. On 8 December Rose Lester, a second-generation Yankunyjatjara nuclear survivor, found her own plea blocked by Commissioner Scarce.

Madigan, MicheleFears and fictions in SA’s nuclear waste tussle, Eureka Street,  Michele Madigan |  10 December 2015 The long anticipated arrival of reprocessed nuclear fuel rods in the first week of December has thrown the spotlight again on Australia’s nuclear industry. Greenpeace’s highlighting of the deficiencies of transport gives little hope that government plans will fit with the usual assurances of ‘world’s best practice’ in this, the world’s most dangerous industry…….

At a screening last month of his film Containment, Harvard Professor Robb Moss agreed with me regarding the ‘providence’ of its timely showing to Australian audiences. Five years in the making, Containment shows, among other sequences, how the US is attempting to tackle the massive problem of dealing with their own high level radioactive waste.

It includes interviews with government officials and regulator personnel amid their attempts to contain the radioactivity for the expected 10,000 years — a time frame that will embrace ‘people who will not share our language, our nation and even our civilisation’. It’s unsurprising that the oft repeated phrase from those from the nuclear industry was that ‘the hardest thing is to get the community onside’.

During the successful 1998-2004 campaign against the proposed national nuclear dump in South Australia, we noted that Yucca Mountain community, Nevada, was the preferred site in the US. Apparently there is renewed pressure to locate a dump here, but the state of Nevada continues to show its resolve by its longterm refusal, currently led by Nevada’s Harry Reid, the US Senate Democratic Leader. Such is their success that President Barack Obama has continued to back their opposition.

It would certainly be beyond their comprehension that any community, any government, would actually volunteer to take other countries’ nuclear waste, which remains radioactive for thousands of years. Yet in Australia, this is what nuclear proponents, the SA premier, and now the prime minister are backing.

Pope Francis has the measure of such reality: ‘In conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power [is found] the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests,’ he writes in his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’.

‘There is a logic in all this whereby different attitudes can feed one another, leading to environmental degradation and decay.’

On 2 December, Dr Margaret Beavis, GP and national president of the Medical Association for Prevention of War, wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald that the oft-cited medical science argument for both national and international dump proposals does not stack up.

‘When it comes to justifying new nuclear waste storage, a lot has been said about it being essential for medical diagnostics and cancer treatment,’ wrote Beavis.

‘This is misleading … the vast majority of isotopes used for medical tests are very short-lived. They decay on the medical facilities’ premises until their radioactivity is negligible. They can then be disposed of in the normal waste stream (sewers, landfill etc.) according to set standards …

‘Most cancer radiotherapy uses x-rays,’ she said, ‘which does not produce any waste at all. A very small proportion of cancer treatments need radioactive materials, which also are too short-lived to require a remote repository, or are legally required to be sent back to the (overseas) supplier once used up.’

South Australia’s Royal Commission has refused Australian environmental movement experts ACF and Friends of the Earth permission to appear. On 8 December Rose Lester, a second-generation Yankunyjatjara nuclear survivor, found her own plea blocked by Commissioner Scarce.

Lester argues ‘that the Inquiry must investigate and consider Maralinga [site of British atomic tests in the South Australian desert in the 1950s and 1960s] as a major incident of radiation exposure … that affected all Australians, especially remote Indigenous communities living across the Maralinga Tjarutja region, and that irreversible contamination continues to degrade the environment’. She describes this as a form of ‘nuclear racism’ and suggests that the proposed new dump is a continuation of this.

We can all ask, alongside the 71 per cent of Australians who remain opposed to importing international nuclear waste: Where is the duty of care?

Michele Madigan is a Sister of St Joseph who has spent the past 38 years working with Aboriginal people in remote areas of South Australia and in Adelaide. Her work has included advocacy and support for senior Aboriginal women of Coober Pedy in their campaign against the proposed national radioactive dump.

http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=45812#.Vmnx7tJ97Gh

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