The shortlisted site for a radioactive waste facility at Hill End in NSW may be out of contention.
As reported here, community opposition appear thorough and united.
The Department is being true to the spirit of this voluntary process and the messages and assessment processes that have been developed from day one: this facility will not be imposed on communities.
The concerns expressed in this ABC report and attributed to the community include concerns about contamination of water and the transportation of radioactive materials.
Such concerns are understandable starting points. However the actual hazard in such matters is negligible. As such I would and will continue to support the Department in continuing to engage with this community at this stage if there seems potential progress to be made. We cannot, in any challenging issue, simply keep walking away early in the face of opposition and concern. However I reinforce the position expressed by senior Department head, Bruce Wilson:
“I can absolutely assure you that if the view of the community is that it doesn’t want to proceed to the next stage of the process, that’s the end of the matter”.
My involvement in the Independent Assessment Panel is conditional upon ongoing respect for that principle.
As a researcher in matters nuclear it is also my expectation and desire that as many Australians as possible set aside pre-conceptions and engage openly with the scientific information about what this facility will be, how it will work, and what the realistic prospect for negative impacts actually is. That is a responsibility that is shared between a Department and the communities in question. All parties must be courageous in the face of a challenge when it would be easier for both the disagree, declare failure and walk away.
That said, if a pattern develops then it is the Department that must interrogate the outcomes. I don’t think residents in Hill End would be more inclined than any other Australians to fear, not like, not trust this facility. I would not expect them to be any more or less capable of reading and understanding the information provided. I expect that they are, frankly, as rational as the rest of us.
As such, it is entirely rational to think that there just might not be enough in it for them to really attend to the technical issues. It’s classic with wind farms: beneficiaries are typically supportive. Neighbours who feel they incur impacts but don’t share benefits can feel very differently. Is there enough in it for this community? It’s a fair question.
As I said on radio, in terms of actual hazard, this facility pales in comparison to a simple petrol station. I would, unequivocally, support the facility in my community; in fact I have publicly argued for opening this process to all possible locations, and that’s exactly how this voluntary process began.
As such I invite ALL Australians, not simply those in areas with shortlisted sites, to engage with the materials from the Department and learn about this issue, which I have posted below. The benefits of nuclear technology are shared among Australians. So must be the responsibility for coming to a smart solution for the waste products. Just because it’s not your town, doesn’t mean the rest of us get to forget all about this.
One in two of us will use potentially lifesaving nuclear medicine in our lifetimes. We should all understand this process so we can make good decisions, together.