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.
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.
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 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.
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.”