Traditional Owners have criticised the revelation that a shipment of 'intermediate-level' radioactive waste will be sent from Britain to Australia and could be dumped in South Australia.
The material will be sent in the next three to four years and temporarily stored at Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor until Australia builds its first radioactive waste dump.
Three sites in South Australia have been short-listed for the facility: two near Kimba, a small town on the Eyre Peninsula; and one at a cattle station in the Flinders Rangers near the town of Hawker.
Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie described the proposal for the nuclear waste dump as "cultural genocide".
“It’s not our waste and I don’t think the Aboriginal people should be logged with this waste at all,” she told NITV News.
“It’s ripping our families apart.”
Supporters of the dump claim it could bring much-needed employment and money to the surrounding area.
For opponents, the facility would not only be a toxic blot on the landscape, it would defile the traditional Aboriginal relationship with the land.
“Our culture and our way of life is actually under threat," Ms McKenzie said.
Australia agreed to dispose of the waste in exchange for Britain reprocessing spent fuel rods from the first reactor at Lucas Heights in the 1990s.
Australia is believed to have sent around 76 tonnes of low-level radioactive material to Scotland’s Dounreay nuclear power plant.
Britain’s energy minister Richard Harrington told parliament last year in a written statement that radioactive waste will be sent to Australia in 2022 from England’s Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant.
“The substituted radioactive waste will be in the form of four vitrified residue containers holding waste that falls within the activity levels of intermediate-level waste,’’ Mr Harrington said.
Australia does not have a central facility to store radioactive waste.
Past attempts to build a nuclear waste dump near Woomera in South Australia and Muckaty in the Northern Territory were unsuccessful in the face of community opposition.
Gary Cushway is an Australian environmental activist based in Glasgow who is working with Ms McKenzie to campaign on the issue of radioactive waste.
He told NITV News in Britain there was “some awareness but not a great deal” that the nuclear waste being 'returned' to Australia would potentially affect Indigenous communities.
“Obviously part of that is sending this intermediate-level waste from the UK to Australia while there’s no agreed final destination for it,” he said.
“They’ll temporarily store it at the ‘low level’ site which could be years.”
Last year, Ms McKenzie compared building a nuclear storage facility on Aboriginal land to putting a waste dump at the Vatican.
“Our rights as First Nation people have been ignored,” she told Glasgow newspaper The Herald.
“I hope Scotland, who knows quite well what colonisation does to traditional peoples' rights, would see the struggle of my people who are trying to hold onto our cultural beliefs.”
Currently the Hawker and Kimba community votes are still pending a Human Rights Commission determination.