STOP FERGUSON'S NUCLEAR WASTE DUMP                          Friends of the Earth, Australia Anti-nuclear & Clean Energy (ACE) Campaign: <> April 2010

Martin Ferguson, the federal resources minister and MP for the Victorian electorate of Batman, announced in February that he intends to pursue plans for a national nuclear waste dump at Muckaty, 120km north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory.                                                                          

Mr Ferguson wants to give himself sweeping powers to override state and territory laws and to bypass federal environmental and Aboriginal heritage laws. He is pursuing an approach as draconian as the Howard government's.

Section 11 of Mr Ferguson's National Radioactive Waste Management Bill gives the minister the power to override any state/territory laws which might impede his nuclear waste dump plans. The bill also allows the minister to override the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and the Aboriginal Heritage Protection Act 1984 in relation to site selection.

Mr Ferguson falsely claims that Ngapa Traditional Owners support the nomination of the Muckaty site. He well knows that many of them oppose the dump – as well as numerous requests for meetings, he received a letter opposing the dump in May 2009 signed by 25 Ngapa Traditional Owners and 32 Traditional Owners from other Muckaty groups.

Mr Ferguson is also well aware of the unanimous resolution passed by the NT Labor Conference in April 2008 which called on the Federal Government to exclude Muckaty on the grounds that the nomination ''was not made with the full and informed consent of all Traditional Owners and affected people and as such does not comply with the Aboriginal Land Rights Act''.

And Mr Ferguson knows that fellow ministers Jenny Macklin, Kim Carr, Peter Garrett and Warren Snowdon, among others, have acknowledged the distress and opposition of many Muckaty Traditional Owners.

Traditional Owners opposed to the dump will continue fighting to keep their country clean. In addition to their ongoing efforts to inform the public and the politicians about the situation, they are also likely to mount a legal challenge.

Muckaty Traditional Owner Dianne Stokes says:

"All along we have said we don't want this dump on our land but we have been ignored. Martin Ferguson has avoided us and ignored our letters but he knows very well how we feel. He has been arrogant and secretive and he thinks he has gotten away with his plan but in fact he has a big fight on his hands."

More information:

* Beyond Nuclear Initiative (including audio from an April 2010 protest at Tennant Creek, videos, photos, and lots of information) – * Friends of the Earth – * 2010 Senate Inquiry – Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee Protest led by Muckaty Traditional Owners, Tennant Creek, April 3, 2010.


Firstly, it needs to be shown that radioactive waste is not being produced unnecessarily.

Since the Lucas Heights research reactor is the major source of the waste that Mr Ferguson wants to dump in the NT, a government serious about waste minimisation would be exploring non-reactor options for medical and scientific applications. Last year a Lucas Heights nuclear scientist told a Parliamentary hearing that he expected a non-reactor method of producing the most commonly-used medical isotope, technetium-99m, to be available in 7-10 years. This is the sort of work that needs serious government support.

Another sensible minimisation strategy would be to curb the profit-driven overuse of diagnostic imaging technologies in private medical practices.

Secondly, all options for radioactive waste management need to be considered – not just 'remote' repositories (always more remote for some people than for others). This includes the option of ongoing storage at the Lucas Heights site, which is operated by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). All relevant organisations have acknowledged that this is a viable option including Mr Ferguson's own department, the regulator ARPANSA, the Australian Nuclear Association, and ANSTO itself.

Requiring ANSTO to store its own waste is the best and perhaps the only way of focussing the organisation's mind on the importance of waste minimisation principles.

Thirdly, if a site selection process is required, it ought to be based on scientific and environmental criteria, as well as on the principle of voluntarism. When the federal Bureau of Resource Sciences conducted a national repository site selection study in the 1990s, the Muckaty area did not even make the short-list as a ''suitable'' site.