The Federal Government has selected a farm on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula as the site of a controversial nuclear waste dump.
Jeff Baldock’s Napandee property 20 kilometres west of Kimba will be used to permanently store low-level waste and temporarily store intermediate-level waste.
The decision to use the 160-hectare area for what the Government calls a “disposal and storage facility” was made after four years of consultation.
Nearly 62 per cent of people voted in favour of the site being used in November, while a site near Hawker in the Flinders Ranges was opposed by Aboriginal traditional owners and residents.
Mr Baldock said the decision would be “fantastic for our community”.
The Federal Government said the $200 million facility would boost the region’s economy and create about 45 jobs during construction.
It comes with a $31 million community development package to give local businesses and workers skills to build and run the dump.
“I am satisfied a facility at Napandee will safely and securely manage radioactive waste and that the local community has shown broad community support for the project and economic benefits it will bring,” Resources Minister Matt Canavan said.
Mr Baldock said construction was still “a while away yet” with acquiring the land the next step to go ahead.
He said 25 ongoing jobs would be a boost for the farming community, whose population has been decreasing.
“They bring family and come and live in this area,” he said.
“They’ve got to have somewhere to live, they’ve got to eat, drink and sleep in our community.
“It’s going to be huge for the local shops and general business houses in Kimba as well.”
Dump to consolidate nuclear waste
Local federal Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey said waste would come in from more than 100 sites around Australia, such as hospitals and universities, and the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney.
Processed medium-level nuclear fuel rods from Lucas Heights will be temporarily stored at Kimba while a permanent site is found for them, he said.
Mr Ramsey, who tried to nominate his own property near Kimba for the dump but was barred as a federal MP, said there would be no fly-in, fly-out workers at the facility.
“All of those things should provide a long-term economic benefit to the community,” he said.
Kimba Mayor Dean Johnson said it was a “relief to finally have a decision” on the site after votes in 2017 and 2019.
“I think it’s really important today that now we draw a line in the sand and we all move forward,” he said.
Aboriginal group opposed the vote
The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation launched legal action in 2018 against the District Council of Kimba, arguing it contravened the Racial Discrimination Act by excluding native title holders from a ballot due to be held that year.
The Federal Court dismissed the claim last year because it said no contraventions of the Racial Discrimination Act had been established.
Mr Canavan said the Federal Government would work with the Barngarla people “to protect culture and heritage, and to maximise economic opportunities and outcomes for local Aboriginal communities near the future facility”.
The Howard government proposed a similar dump in South Australia in 1998 but withdrew its plans after losing a fight with the South Australian Labor government in the Federal Court.
In 2007, a property called Mukaty Station in the Northern Territory was put forward to host the nuclear waste facility.
The plan was abandoned in 2014, again because of legal action, this time by the area’s traditional owners.
A group called No Radioactive Waste Facility for Kimba District will hold a rally against the decision in the town on Sunday.
Friends of the Earth national nuclear campaigner Jim Green said the Federal Government promised the facility would not be approved unless it received at least 65 per cent of community support.
“They’ve ignored the traditional owners, ignored South Australians. South Australia’s got legislation banning the imposition of nuclear waste dumps and that’s been ignored and it’s just disrespectful from start to finish,” he said.
“South Australians have got greater ambitions for our state than to be someone else’s nuclear waste dump.”