Traditional Owners have to fight industry, government and 'ecomodernists' on nuclearisation

The plan to turn South Australia into the world's nuclear waste dump has
lost momentum since 2016 though it continues to be promoted by some
politicians, the Business SA lobby group, and an assortment of
individuals and lobbyists.

Jim Green, 3 July 2018, Online Opinion,

The plan to turn South Australia into the world's nuclear waste dump has
lost momentum since 2016 though it continues to be promoted by some
politicians, the Business SA lobby group, and an assortment of
individuals and lobbyists including self-styled 'pro-nuclear
environmentalists' or 'ecomodernists

In its 2016 report, the SA Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission established
by the state government promoted a plan to import 138,000 tonnes of
high-level nuclear waste (about one-third of the world's total) and
390,000 cubic metres of intermediate-level waste. The state Labor
government then spent millions on a state-wide promotional campaign
under the guide of consultation.

The government also initiated a Citizens' Jury process. However
two-thirds of the 350-member Citizens' Jury rejected the waste import
proposal "under any circumstances" in their November 2016 report
The Jury's verdict was non-binding but it took the wind out of the
dumpsters' sails.

A key factor in the Jury's rejection of the waste import plan was that
Aboriginal people had spoken clearly in opposition The Jury's
report said:
"There is a lack of aboriginal consent. We believe that the government
should accept that the Elders have said NO and stop ignoring their
opinions. The aboriginal people of South Australia (and Australia)
continue to be neglected and ignored by all levels of government instead
of respected and treated as equals."

The respect shown by the Citizens' Jury to Aboriginal Traditional Owners
had been conspicuously absent in the debate until then. The SA
government's handling of the Royal Commission process systematically
disenfranchised Aboriginal people

The Royal Commission

Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce ‒a retired Navy officer ‒didn't appoint
a single Aboriginal person to the staff of the Royal Commission or to
his Expert Advisory Committee. Aboriginal people repeatedly expressed
frustration with
the Royal Commission process.

The Royal Commission acknowledged the opposition of Aboriginal people to
its nuclear waste import plan – but it treated that opposition not as a
red light but as an obstacle to be circumvented. The Commission opted
out of the debate regarding land rights and heritage protections for
Aboriginal people, stating in its report "Although
a systematic analysis was beyond the scope of the Commission, it has
heard criticisms of the heritage protection framework, particularly the
consultative provisions."

Despite its acknowledgement that it had not systematically analysed the
matter, the Royal Commission nevertheless arrived at unequivocal,
favourable conclusions, asserting
that there "are frameworks for securing long-term agreements with rights
holders in South Australia, including Aboriginal communities" and these
"provide a sophisticated foundation for securing agreements with rights
holders and host communities regarding the siting and establishment of
facilities for the management of used fuel."

Such statements were conspicuously absent in submissions from Aboriginal
people and organisations. There is in fact an abundance of evidence that
land rights and heritage protection frameworks in SA are anything but

Enter the ecomodernists

Ben Heard from the 'Bright New World' pro-nuclear lobby group said
https:decarbonisesa.com20161102we-must-be-a-full-service-provider-to-the-nuclear-back-end the
Royal Commission's findings were "robust". Seriously? Failing to conduct
an analysis and ignoring an abundance of contradictory evidence but
nevertheless concluding that a "sophisticated foundation" exists for
securing agreements with Aboriginal rights-holders ... that's "robust"?
Likewise, academic Barry Brook, a member of the Commission's Expert
Advisory Committee, said
https:bravenewclimate.com20160607on-the-nuclear-fuel-cycle-royal-commission he
was "impressed with the systematic and ruthlessly evidence-based
approach the [Royal Commission] team took to evaluating all issues."

In a November 2016 article about the nuclear waste import plan, Ben
Heard and Oscar Archer wrote
"We also note and respect the clear message from nearly all traditional
owner groups in South Australia that there is no consent to proceed on
their lands. We have been active from the beginning to shine a light on
pathways that make no such imposition on remote lands."

In Heard's imagination, the imported spent nuclear fuel would not be
dumped on the land of unwilling Aboriginal communities, it would be
processed for use as fuel in non-existent Generation IV 'integral fast
reactors'. Even the
stridently pro-nuclear Royal Commission gave short shrift to Heard's
proposal, stating in its final report "[A]dvanced
fast reactors and other innovative reactor designs are unlikely to be
feasible or viable in the foreseeable future. The development of such a
first-of-a-kind project in South Australia would have high commercial
and technical risk."

Heard claims his
imaginary Generation IV reactor scenario "circumvents the substantial
challenge of social consent for deep geological repositories, facilities
that are likely to be best located, on a technical basis, on lands of
importance to Aboriginal Australians".

But even in Heard's scenario, only a tiny fraction of the imported spent
fuel would be converted to fuel for imaginary Generation IV reactors (in
one of his configurations, 60,000 tonnes would be imported but only
4,000 tonnes converted to fuel). Most of it would be stored
indefinitely, or dumped on the land of unwilling Aboriginal communities.

Despite his acknowledgement that there was "no consent" to proceed from
"nearly all traditional owner groups in South Australia", Heard
nevertheless wrote an 'open letter'
promoting the waste import plan which was endorsed by 'prominent' South
Australians, i.e. rich, non-Aboriginal people.

One of the reasons to pursue the waste import plan cited in Heard's open
letter is
that it would provide an "opportunity to engage meaningfully and partner
with Aboriginal communities in project planning and delivery". There is
no acknowledgement of the opposition of Aboriginal people to the waste
import plan; evidently Heard believes that their opposition should be
ignored or overridden but Aboriginal people might be given a say in
project planning and delivery.

A second version of Heard's open letter
https:www.brightnewworld.orgmedia201733an-open-letter-to-south-australias-elected-members-and-political-parties-2-march-2017 did
not include the above wording but it cited the "successful community
consultation program" with Aboriginal communities. However the report
arising from the SA government's community consultation program
(successful or otherwise) stated
"Some Aboriginal people indicated that they are interested in learning
more and continuing the conversation, but these were few in number."

Geoff Russell, another self-styled pro-nuclear environmentalist, wrote
in a November 2016 article
https:newmatilda.com20161110the-nuclear-waste-dump-south-australia-does-a-brexit in New

"Have Aboriginals given any reasons for opposing a waste repository
that are other than religious? If so, then they belong with other
objections. If not, then they deserve the same treatment as any other
religious objections. Listen politely and move on.

"Calling them spiritual rather than religious makes no difference. To
give such objections standing in the debate over a repository is a
fundamental violation of the separation of church and state, or as I
prefer to put it, the separation of mumbo-jumbo and evidence based

"Aboriginals have native title over various parts of Australia and
their right to determine what happens on that land is and should be
quite different from rights with regard to other land. This isn't about
their rights on that land.

"Suppose somebody wants to build a large intensive piggery. Should we
consult Aboriginals in some other part of the country? Should those in
the Kimberley perhaps be consulted? No.

"They may object to it in the same way I would, but they have no
special rights in the matter. They have no right to spiritual veto."

Where to begin? Russell's description of Aboriginal spiritual beliefs as
"mumbo-jumbo" is beyond offensive. He provides no evidence for his claim
that Traditional Owners are speaking for other people's country. Federal
native title legislation provides limited rights and protections for
some Traditional Owners ‒and no rights and protections for many others
(when the federal Coalition government was trying to impose a national
nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land in SA in 2003, it abolished all
native title rights and interests over the site).

National nuclear waste dump

The attitudes of the ecomodernists also extend to the debate over the
siting of a proposed national nuclear waste dump. Silence from the
ecomodernists when the federal government was passing laws allowing the
imposition of a national nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory without consent from Traditional
Owners. Echoing comments from the Liberal Party,
Brook and Heard said
https:theconversation.comnuclear-waste-is-safe-to-store-in-our-suburbs-not-just-the-bush-28206 the
site in the Northern Territory was in the "middle of nowhere". From
their perspective, perhaps, but for Muckaty Traditional Owners the site
is in the middle of their homelands.

Heard claims
https:theconversation.comlocation-location-location-why-south-australia-could-take-the-worlds-nuclear-waste-59242 that
one of the current proposed dump sites, in SA's Flinders Ranges, is
"excellent" in many respects and it "was volunteered by the landowner".
In fact, it was volunteered by absentee landlord and former Liberal
Party politician Grant Chapman, who didn't bother to consult Adnyamathanha Traditional
Owners living on the neighbouring Indigenous Protected Area. The site is
opposed by most
Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners and by their representative body
the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association (ATLA).

Heard claims
https:theconversation.comlocation-location-location-why-south-australia-could-take-the-worlds-nuclear-waste-59242 there
are "no known cultural heritage issues" affecting the Flinders Ranges
site. Try telling that to the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners who live
on Yappala Station, in the Indigenous Protected Area adjacent
to the proposed dump site. The area has many archaeological and
culturally-significant sites that
Traditional Owners have registered with
the SA government over the past decade.

So where did Heard get this idea that there are "no known cultural
heritage issues on the site"? Not from visiting the site, or speaking to
Traditional Owners. He's just repeating the federal government's propaganda.

Silence from the ecomodernists about the National Radioactive Waste
Management Act (NRWMA), which
dispossesses and disempowers Traditional Owners in every way imaginable.
The nomination of a site for a radioactive waste dump is valid even if
Aboriginal owners were not consulted and did not give consent. The NRWMA
has sections which nullify State or Territory laws that protect
archaeological or heritage values, including those which relate to
Indigenous traditions. The NRWMA curtails the application of
Commonwealth laws including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Native Title Act 1993 in the
important site-selection stage. The Native Title Act 1993 is expressly
overridden in relation to land acquisition for a radioactive waste dump.

Uranium mining

Silence from the ecomodernists about the Olympic Dam mine's exemptions from provisions
of the SA Aboriginal Heritage Act.

Silence from the ecomodernists about sub-section 40(6) of the
Commonwealth's Aboriginal Land Rights Act, which exempts
http:web.archive.orgweb20130425181741http:mirarr.netduress1.htm the
Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory from the Act and thus
removed the right of veto that Mirarr Traditional Owners would otherwise
have enjoyed.

Silence from the ecomodernists about the divide-and-rule tactics used
by General Atomics' subsidiary Heathgate Resources against Adnyamathanha
Traditional Owners in relation to the Beverley and Four Mile uranium
mines in SA.

Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Dr Jillian Marsh, who in 2010 completed
a PhD thesis on
the strongly contested approval of the Beverley mine, puts the nuclear
debates in a broader context
"The First Nations people of Australia have been bullied and pushed
around, forcibly removed from their families and their country, denied
access and the right to care for their own land for over 200 years. Our
health and wellbeing compares with third world countries, our people
crowd the jails. Nobody wants toxic waste in their back yard, this is
true the world over. We stand in solidarity with people across this
country and across the globe who want sustainable futures for
communities, we will not be moved."

Now, Traditional Owners have to fight industry, government, and the
ecomodernists as well.


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