Home Latest News Where will they dump N-waste?

Where will they dump N-waste?

By David Noonan

First published in in Adelaide Voices p.15-16 Sept 2023

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were cities, civilian populations, blasted, burnt and irradiated by the first Atomic-Bombs.

On 6th of August 1945 Hiroshima was the ‘primary target’ for use of the first High Enriched Uranium (HEU) A-Bomb intended to destroy a city. They wanted good pictures of the bomb-blast and the weather conditions were favourable for photos – so Hiroshima City was destroyed.

On 9th August a US nuclear bomber first flew to Kokura City, the ‘primary target’ for use of the first Plutonium Bomb, but cloud cover was unfavourable for taking good pictures of a bomb-blast over Kokura.

So instead, they flew on to destroy a ‘secondary target’ – Nagasaki City.

How capricious is the Atomic Age.

The International Red Cross states there can be no effective response to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences from the use of nuclear weapons. Yet our AUKUS ‘partners’ the US and the UK still target cities.

All nuclear weapons states are modernising their arsenals, all fail to honour NPT disarmament obligations.

Australians have two conflicting roles on nuclear weapons:

Hiding under the US ‘nuclear umbrella’ our federal governments have been complicit in US nuclear war fighting capabilities. The role of the US Base at Pine Gap is in part to target nuclear strikes onto China. Australia’s Defence Policy is to support and assist US ‘nuclear deterrence’ – the threat to use nuclear weapons.

In contrast, Australian civil society set up ICAN, the “International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons”. ICAN was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. ICAN took the lead role to bring about the Ban Treaty. The “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” has entered into force. The use and the threat of use of nuclear weapons is now illegal under International Law.

When in Opposition, the ALP and Anthony Albanese repeatedly committed to Sign and Ratify the Ban Treaty. So why are we still waiting? For all humanity, Australia needs to show the leadership to Sign the Ban Treaty and get Australia out of nuclear war fighting roles.

We must all call on our Prime Minister to do so in this term of ALP government.

AUKUS is a Morrison Coalition plan being delivered by an Albanese ALP government. Under AUKUS Australia faces taking up an attack role in a US war with China: through nuclear powered attack submarines; in basing the US military to conduct war fighting out of Australia; and in Pine Gap’s role to target China.

Australia is risking crisis and conflict spiralling into war, and potentially into a devastating nuclear war.

And AUKUS increasingly makes Australia a target in a war between the US and China.

In agreeing to AUKUS the ALP decided you didn’t need to know about keeping the waste:

The ALP only belatedly disclosed a secret pre-condition in AUKUS plans to buy second-hand US nuclear submarines: for Australia to keep the US subs military High Level nuclear waste forever.

In a breach of trust the ALP is seeking to ‘normalise’ High Level nuclear waste in Australia. Claims of ‘nuclear stewardship’ in taking on US nuclear subs and in retaining the US sub wastes are a farce.

Disposal of High Level nuclear waste is globally unprecedented, with our AUKUS ‘partners’ the US and UK having proven unable to do so in over 60 years since first putting nuclear subs to sea.

AUKUS proposes Australia buys second-hand US nuclear powered submarine: to buy 3 to 5 existing US subs at three yearly intervals from 2033 through to the mid 2040’s.

These second-hand US subs and their military nuclear reactors can be up to 10-12 years old and will be loaded with intractable US origin High Level nuclear wastes when we buy them.

Further, the US nuclear subs military reactors are fuelled with High Enriched Uranium (HEU) and their High Level nuclear wastes are still weapons grade HEU fissile materials at the time of de-commissioning of the subs.

From 2033 Australia will be taking on weapons grade HEU fissile materials, analogous to the HEU used to destroy Hiroshima City. We are to retain these A-Bomb fuels forever at a ‘remote’ dump site.

Civil society faces another AUKUS announcement over nuclear waste and A-Bomb fuel:

The public has a right to know who is targeted and a right to Say No to imposition of nuclear wastes.

Minister for Defence Richard Marles MP has stated there will be ‘an announcement’ by early 2024 on a process to manage High Level nuclear waste and to site a waste disposal facility, saying “obviously that facility will be remote from populations” (ABC News 15 March 2023).

Defence is already working to identify potential nuclear waste disposal sites. Political leaders in WA, Queensland and Victoria have already rejected a High Level nuclear waste disposal site.

Our SA Labor Premier has so far only said it should go to a safe ‘remote’ location, in the ‘national interest’.

AUKUS compromises public confidence in government and sets up a serious clash with civil society:

  • Defence must be made accountable over AUKUS and the proposed High Level nuclear waste dump siting process;
  • Defence must commit to comply with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 29 provision of Indigenous People’s rights to “Free, Prior and Informed Consent” over storage or disposal of hazardous materials on their lands.
  • Defence must declare whether the SA Nuclear Waste Storage (Prohibition) Act 2000 is intended to be over-ridden to impose an AUKUS dump on unwilling community in SA.

The national press has reported: “Woomera looms as national nuclear waste dump site including for AUKUS submarine High-Level waste” (AFR, 11 August 2023). The article states the AFR understands the Woomera rocket range is the ‘favoured location’ for the submarine waste.

A suite of public interests are at stake: For instance, which Port will be requisitioned for AUKUS nuclear waste transport? Will Whyalla be targeted for nuclear waste shipments?

Most of the “Woomera Protected Area” (WPA) is State owned Crown land and not federal owned Defence lands. Siting a nuclear dump on the WPA would be imposed through compulsory land acquisition and over-ride of SA laws.

Storage and disposal of nuclear wastes compromises the safety and welfare of the people of South Australia, that is why it is prohibited by the SA Nuclear Waste Storage (Prohibition) Act 2000.

The Objects of this Act cover the public interests at stake:

“The Objects of this Act are to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of South Australia and to protect the environment in which they live by prohibiting the establishment of certain nuclear waste storage facilities in this State.”

An AUKUS military nuclear dump including A-Bomb fuel is likely to be imposed on community in SA or in NT, with override of State laws and disregard for Indigenous Peoples rights to Say No.

The SA Premier is yet to say if he will support an Indigenous right to Say No to an AUKUS dump in SA.

South Australians have a democratic right to decide own future and to reject an AUKUS waste dump.

We need to be ready to run a campaign against a next AUKUS announcement targeting SA and NT.

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