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Danger Zone « Previous | |Next »
February 4, 2003

You would think that one of the last places that a federal government would bury radioactive waste is next door to a military bombing range. Good public sense would say that burying 5.7 million litres of low-level radioactive waste inside the defences forces testing ground at the Woomera Prohibited Area in South Australia would not be considered the best option.

Especially, when the alternative sites to site 52a (called 40a and 45a) are located east of the Woomera Prohibited Area and in the same geologically favourable conditions as site 52a.

Well the Commonwealth is deadly serious. Site 52a is the preferred option. And it is going to spend up big on a public relations campaign to convince South Australians that it makes good sense. South Australians are basically saying not in our backyard.'

Does it make good sense?

Consider this story by Rebecca Di Girolamo in The Australian-(no link). This is carrying the story. As a heap of junk for code has pointed out the story is being ignored by the South Australia's tabloid newspaper, The Advertiser

Rebecca quotes the Commonwealth Department of Defence as saying that it does not make sense. It's position is that the proximity of the ballistics weapon site at Woomera leads to a potential risk for accidental explosion that is suprisingly high. It argued its case in a submission to the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) statement.

Australia's space and science industries concur with this judgement. Philip Teakle of Australia Space Research Institute (ASRI) says:

"Why would you site Australia's national radioactive repository in an area where you have the probability of a big bomb hitting it? Is this not asking for trouble? Either the site will get hit or range activities will have to be curtailed."

BAE Systems, the company contracted by the Department of Defence to provide support services to the nearby Woomera township, argue that any chance [of the repository being hit], however minimal, is not just not good enough. Site 52 a is 'illogical and dangerous' and fraught with unnecessary that have been 'ignored, undermined and miscalculated.'

The draft EIS statement accknowledged that there was a potential for 42 weapons penetrating the protective cover of the repository each year. It then said that the risk of the repository being hit was 'remote' and, even if it were hit, the environmental consquences would be 'minimal'.

This is the claim that is disputed by ASRI, Defence and BAE Systems. The Defence Department's submission to the draft EIS has not been released.

Why site 52a rather than sites 40a or 45a? One suggestion is that it is the cheap option. The federal government would save millions of dollars in road, water and electricity services as these are already established at site 52a. It is a case of short-term savings over the long-term wealth of the Woomera Prohibited Area.

Is this a case of bean counter mentality disguised as science and bureaucratic rational planning?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:44 PM | | Comments (0)