Legislative Council

QUESTION: Commonwealth Nuclear Waste Dump

October 19th, 2016

On the 19th of October, Mark asked then Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation a question about the proposed commonwealth nuclear waste dump.

 The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Earlier this year, on 17 May, I asked the minister a series of questions about the proposed commonwealth intermediate and low-level nuclear waste facility at Barndioota in the Flinders Ranges. The context for those questions was that this land, despite journalists perhaps not understanding the detail here, is not privately owned land, it is public land; it is crown land under the Crown Land Management Act, which is leased.

I asked the minister what discussions he or his department might have had with the commonwealth government in relation to that issue, and the context was that it seemed inconceivable that the commonwealth would shortlist a single site without talking to the owner of that site and seeking the owner's views. The minister, at the time of the question, said that he was not aware of any discussions. He came back subsequently with a more considered answer on 26 July, aside from a fairly predictable routine EPA consultation with the commonwealth, which, in relation to inventories of radioactive waste, was not really relevant. His answer was:

1. Neither the Minister nor the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources has had discussions with the Federal Government over a possible Commonwealth radioactive waste storage facility at Barndioota  in South Australia. 

2. Neither the Minister nor the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources has given any assurances to the Federal Government. 

3. No contracts, memoranda of understanding or other documents have been prepared in relation to this proposed site for a radioactive waste storage facility. 

That was the minister's answer back on 26 July 2016. My question to the minister today is: has that situation changed? Is the commonwealth now in discussion with the South Australian government over the siting of intermediate and low-level radioactive waste on crown land in South Australia?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER  (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change): I thank the honourable member for his most important question. Was it really that long ago that you asked the question?

The Hon. M.C. Parnell: It was in May this year.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Time flies. I am advised that on 21 April 2016, an amendment to section 13 of the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000 was assented to, to allow the undertaking of public consultation and debate in relation to the establishment of a nuclear waste storage facility in South Australia. This amendment clarifies that the government may undertake consultation about the merits of the nuclear waste storage facility in the light of the recommendations of the royal commission's final report.

An honourable member interjecting: 

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Yes, I am getting to it. That is the information that I have advice on. The honourable member will recall from my more considered response that the commonwealth legislated specifically for crown land to be nominated by someone other than the owner of that crown land—envisaging, obviously, a leaseholder of some sort—and that is, in fact, exactly what happened, is my advice.

I am not aware of any updates. I am not aware of any approaches to either my office or my agency, subsequent to that information. I will go back again and check with my agency just to make absolutely sure that that is correct, but as far as I know, as the honourable member said, the commonwealth has shortlisted a site at Barndioota, near the town of Hawker in South Australia, to undertake comprehensive heritage and technical assessments. I am advised that this does not amount to final site selection—so there is hope there for the honourable member—and any site will also need the continuous support of the local community, I would imagine.

I, too, was somewhat taken aback that the commonwealth would initiate the process without any reference to the owner of the land, that being the Crown in the right of South Australia. Mind you, they specifically provided for that in their legislation. They clearly had that intention mind when they drafted that legislation, and so I really should not be surprised that that is what in fact eventuated.

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