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Australia presses ahead with controversial nuclear waste bill

A bill has been passed that will dump radioactive waste in an Aboriginal community.
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Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributor on

The Australian government has now passed a bill that gives permission for the country's first nuclear waste dump to be created. Location of choice? A remote Aboriginal community.

The controversial plan, fiercely fought against by environmental and Aboriginal support groups, will allow the storage of nuclear waste at Muckaty Station, an Aboriginal community in central Northern Territory.

The National Radioactive Waste Management Bill, introduced in 2010 by the ruling Labour party, has since received support from conservative party members. Despite an ongoing court case debating the legality of such a move, the bill has been approved by the Senate and will be signed into law.

Currently, Australia's nuclear waste from industries including the medical and mining fields has no permanent home. Over 100 temporary sites store radioactive waste across the country, but the pressing need for a fixed location is one of the main reasons the bill has been approved.

Under landowner laws for natives, indigenous groups are recognized as the traditional, outright holders of specific states in Australia. The government maintains that the local community supports the plan, and will receive compensation for the build.

However, Aboriginal groups immediately launched legal action, maintaining that the scheme in fact is not supported. The Northern Territory government has been offered AUS$10m if the construction is permitted.

There are concerns that the transportation of radioactive waste to the remote location could endanger public health, and the terrain itself is not suitable to host such dangerous material. The Guardian reports that Senator Scott Ludlam of the Greens, who managed to push through an amendment to the bill which bans foreign imports of waste to the site, said:

"The site is in an earthquake zone, it floods regularly, there are very long transport corridors, there are no jobs being applied and it's opposed from people on the ground, on the front line from Tennant (Creek) all the way up to the NT government and people around the country."

Muckaty is the only option currently under consideration for the site. The Northern Territory government has complained of high pressure to submit to the build, and believes that it does not hold the same rights as full Australian states.

(Via: The Guardian)

Image credit: Nosha/Flickr

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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