A waste stream that lasts hundreds and thousands of years is hard to get your head around, even harder when you consider it is the world’s most toxic and dangerous waste and your government has plans for it to come your way.
The SA Labor government’s plan to import 138,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste to South Australian shores, to stand above ground for decades pending disposal, brought a lot of people together. At first people seemed to be in shock but once that subsided, the community began to organise.
Traditional Owners and regional communities organised meetings in remote areas. People became informed and groups were established. Facebook forums grew, press conferences were held and research reports released. Posters were posted up, t-shirts hand-printed, badges made and sold.
Numerous info nights and ‘Politics in The Pub’ were hosted. Unions and churches passed resolutions opposing the plan and shared information with their members. Fact-sheets were printed and distributed.
A postcard and petition campaign saw over 35,000 signatures delivered to the Premier’s office and thousands hit the streets for a National Day of Action on October 15, 2016 ‒ a date that marked 63 years since the first British atomic bomb was tested at Emu Junction.
In offices, homes and on the street, people were doing what they could to get the word out. Members of the Citizens’ Jury took their job seriously with long days spent trawling through evidence and deliberating on such a crucial topic. Two-thirds of the 350 members of the Jury rejected “under any circumstances” the plan to import vast amounts of high-level nuclear waste from around the world as a money-making venture.
Advertiser journalist Daniel Wills wrote in response to the Jury verdict:
“This ‘bold’ idea looks to have just gone up in a giant mushroom cloud. When Premier Jay Weatherill formed the Citizens’ Jury to review the findings of a Royal Commission that recommended that SA set up a lucrative nuclear storage industry, he professed confidence that a well-informed cross-section of the state would make a wise judgment. Late Sunday, it handed down a stunning and overwhelming rejection of the proposal. Brutally, jurors cited a lack of trust even in what they had been asked to do and their concerns that consent was being manufactured. Others skewered the Government’s basic competency to get things done, doubting that it could pursue the industry safely and deliver the dump on-budget.”
Shortly after the Citizens’ Jury rejected the nuclear waste import proposal, Stephen Marshall, the Leader of the Opposition, and the head of Business SA Nigel McBride declared the proposal “dead”. The Nick Xenophon Team also announced that they would actively oppose the nuclear waste import plan. The SA Greens were opposed from the start.
The Weatherill government announced on November 15, 2016 that it would not seek to repeal or amend the SA Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000; legislation which imposes major constraints on the ability of the government to move forward with the nuclear waste import proposal.
And, finally, in June 2017 the Premier declared the nuclear waste proposal “dead”, saying that there is “no foreseeable opportunity for this”, and it is “not something that will be progressed by the Labor Party in Government”.
The No Dump Alliance (NDA) released a book about the campaign: ‘Standing Strong: How South Australians won the campaign against an international high-level nuclear waste dump’.
‘Standing Strong’ covers the key issues championed by Aboriginal and civil society groups opposed to the plan including the lack of Traditional Owner consent, dubious economics, the risks to people and the environment and the impact on future generations.
“This book documents how our community said no to the threat of radioactive waste,” said Yankunytjatjara woman and NDA spokesperson Karina Lester. “We know nuclear is not the answer for our lands and people, we have always said no. It is important that all politicians get the clear message that nuclear waste and nuclear risk is not wanted in SA.”
To view the Standing Strong book, click here.