$900m rare earths mine in Central Australia approved despite radioactive risk
A proposed $900 million rare earths mine in Central Australia is recommended for approval by the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority.

Arafura Resources Sustainability manager Brian Fowler said the low level radioactive material produced in the processing of rare earth material would be stored onsite in purpose-built dams.

"There will have to be a high level of operational management control for this project over a couple of generations, and there'll have to be a high level of regulatory scrutiny, there's no two ways about that," EPA chairman Paul Vogel said.

The primary risks include the permanent storage of naturally occurring radioactive material onsite and the use of significant groundwater resources over the 35 to 55-year lifespan of the project.

Mr Vogel said he understood public concern about such issues, and the effectiveness of the EPA to effectively monitor them, but said the authority was better placed to provide sufficient oversight.

It is estimated the project will use 2.7 gigalitres of groundwater a year, and the EPA has recommended aquifer levels and water usage be monitored in real-time with data made available to the public.

Genesee & Wyoming’s transcontinental nuclear strategy on track
former Nationals leader Tim Fischer ... tells The Weekend Australian that the prospect of one day using the line as part of a nuclear storage industry was part of cabinet’s deliberations in 1999 when it agreed to invest in the line. “Informally, ­certainly it was there,” he says.

While the idea of waste storage has been around since the early 1980s, when Bob Hawke commissioned an inquiry, Malcolm Turnbull has strongly backed this as a future industry for Australia.

Asked if GWA could play a role in this industry, Pauline limited his comments to the current issue of setting up a storage facility for Australia’s own low-level waste. He said: “There is little doubt that one of the safest modes of transport to move low-level radioactive materials, like used and decaying medical isotopes, is via rail. In principle, with the right processes and procedures in place, we as a global freight operator would definitely consider moving that type of material by rail.”

He believes there were some potential storage locations for radioactive material in the Territory and South Australia “that make sense”.

Should Australia ever develop a nuclear waste storage industry, there’s no guarantee that Darwin-Adelaide would play a role given the potential sites closer to the South Australian coast.

Fischer says that the enormous underground chasms deep beneath Roxby Downs could prove to be the perfect location for such an industry. “As far I was concerned, having visited the huge stable empty man made chasms underground Roxby — this was in my thinking absolutely and could still happen,” he said. Even though Darwin is closer to potential Asian and European markets, Fischer said the additional distance to reach ports in South Australia would amount to an insignificant cost.

He said the waste could be moved along the Darwin-to-Adelaide line to Pimba, a small settlement located near the junction where the Darwin line joins the east-west transcontinental line. He said this could involve building a spur line to Roxby, or a system of electric trucks.

“Darwin, Port Pirie, Whyalla, Adelaide, they all have direct centre gauge to Pimba. From there you would truck it right through to underground chasms in a glassification form. It is perfectly safe,” he said. “It’s not rocket science. There’s already uranium going out of Adelaide. There’s already infrastructure there in place. It is the next big economic injection into South Australia,” he said.

Australian Conservation Foundation’s nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney said using the rail line to ship high-level waste faced formidable hurdles on a number of fronts. He said the line had suffered from “a very high level of irregularities, accidents and derailments”. Shipments of waste into any port in Australia would face action by the powerful Maritime Union of Australia, which has previously allowed only Australian-generated waste returning from reprocessing offshore to pass through domestic ports, says Sweeney. And changing various laws to allow the industry to operate would also face considerable ­hurdles, unless a future government had control of the Senate.

Aboriginal traditional owners vow to oppose Alice Springs nuke waste dump
The owner of the date farm shortlisted for the dump has said if the Egyptian pharaohs were buried for thousands of years with no ill-effects on the environment, the same should be possible with nuclear waste.

The farm south of the town is one of six locations around Australia being considered to house low and intermediate level radioactive waste.

Around 50 people turned out at a public meeting in the community of Santa Teresa, near the proposed dump, where opponents of the plan directed their anger at officials from the Commonwealth's Department of Industry.

Mark Weaver, manager for the Government's Radioactive Waste Management Project, said it was a productive discussion but there's a long way to go before any decisions are made.

"There's a lot of talk that this is a rushed process. It isn't," Mr Weaver said.

"The next decision made will not be selecting a site but will be short-listing."

Aboriginal traditional owners said they were sad and in shock following the meeting.

"[The meeting] made us really upset. We're thinking about the land and our ancestors, they are still floating around the land and [the Government] is trying to destroy it," traditional owner Sharon Alice said.

"It's going to destroy the land forever. We're thinking about our future. Dump it somewhere else, not in our backyard."

Barbara Shaw from the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance said it was bad timing for consultations.

Jimmy Cocking, director of the Arid Lands Environment Centre.
PHOTO: Jimmy Cocking, of the Arid Lands Environment Centre, says Aboriginal traditional owners do not want the dump on their lands. (ABC News)
"A lot of our mob have cultural obligations and activities coming up soon, we have a lot of people going into town for health reasons and because it's Christmas, a lot of people go away for holidays," she said.

Jimmy Cocking from the Alice Springs-based Arid Lands Environment Centre said it was clear traditional owners, the people of Santa Teresa, Oak Valley and Titjikala do not want the nuclear waste site in their backyard.

Mr Cocking said if the date farm is shortlisted he will stand by traditional owners in continuing to fight against it.

"If that means demonstrations and protests, we'll be there. But in the meantime, we'll engage in this process and hope that sense comes to the Federal Minister and they realise the error of their ways."

Tim Mickel, owner of the AridGold date farm shortlisted as a location for the nuclear waste facility, said he wanted to stay involved in the process. He said he believed the effects on the environment of any dump at the site would be negligible. "I really don't think there's going to be any effect to the water table, the aquifer, even the environment, and during the process there's going to be monitoring," he said. "The pharaohs managed to bury their dead for 3,000 years and they come up intact, so why can't we do it with nuclear waste and have the same or nil effect to the environment?"

Alice group to oppose date farm as nuke dump site at public meeting
The Federal Government has short-listed a former date farm 70km south of Alice Springs as one of six possible locations to house Australia’s radioactive material.

The government has promised infrastructure upgrades to accommodate the facility and says $10 million will be awarded to the host community.

Opponents of the Central Australia site say it’s flood prone, sits on the edge of two water basins and is productive for horticulture and cattle.

An online petition at change.org has so far attracted 400 signatures.

The petition says bordering the date farm is a land trust made up of three homesteads, the closest being Oak Valley outstation, owned by Mary Le Rossignol and her husband Robert, and the other is Walkabout Bore.

“The proposed nuclear waste dump site is 10km from Oak Valley, our boundary ends at the date farms fence, way too close for comfort,” the petition states.

Tara Liddy, from Oak Valley, said she was opposed to “putting poison into the ground that we belong to”.

“This is where I grew up, and my concern is that my son will not be able to enjoy the same childhood that I did on that country,” she said.

The family has previously claimed they weren’t notified of the landowner’s decision to nominate his freehold property.

Alice Springs doctor Hilary Tyler said the nuclear industry was dirty. “It is a myth that we need a waste dump for medical radioisotopes,” she said. “We can provide all cancer treatment without a nuclear reactor in Australia.” The opponents say Lucas Heights in Sydney has capacity to store all nuclear waste generated there for the next 20 years. “There is no rush to impose a dump on an unwilling community in an environmentally unsuitable location,” organisers of the meeting said in a statement.

Australia could store nuclear waste for other countries, Malcolm Turnbull says
Australia should “look closely” at expanding its role in the global nuclear energy industry, including leasing fuel rods to other countries and then storing the waste afterwards, Malcolm Turnbull has said.

But the prime minister said he was “sceptical” about whether Australia would ever build its own nuclear power stations to provide electricity to domestic customers, given the country had plentiful access to coal, gas, wind and solar sources.

Turnbull made the observations in a radio interview on Wednesday, a day after he named Dr Alan Finkel, a vocal advocate of nuclear power and the outgoing chancellor of Monash University, as Australia’s next chief scientist.

He was asked to weigh in on the issue during a visit to South Australia, where the state Labor government has launched a royal commission into options for participation in the nuclear fuel cycle. Turnbull praised the premier, Jay Weatherill, for setting up the inquiry.

“I was just talking about this with the cook in the cafe downstairs, when I was having some coffee and breakfast with Steve Marshall [the SA Liberal leader],” he told Adelaide radio station FiveAA.

“As Brett, the chef, was saying, and I think a lot of South Australians feel like this and it’s a perfectly reasonable view: we’ve got the uranium [and] we mine it; why don’t we process it, turn it into the fuel rods, lease them to people overseas; when they’re done, bring them back – and we’ve got very stable geology in remote locations and a stable political environment – and store them?

“That is a business that you could well imagine here.”

The Australian Conservation Foundation described Turnbull’s comments as “ill-considered” and warned that radioactive waste was “a complex and contested policy area”. “Radioactive waste presents serious environment, security and public health challenges – and it lasts a lot longer than any politician’s tenure,” said Dave Sweeney, a foundation campaigner. Greenpeace dismissed nuclear power as “an expensive distraction from the real solutions to climate change, like solar and wind power”. “It leaves a legacy of radioactive waste which remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years,” said Emma Gibson, head of program for Greenpeace Australia Pacific. “We only have to look at the Fukushima disaster in Japan to be reminded of the health, social and economic impacts of a nuclear accident, and to see that this is not a safe option for Australians.”