‘Send it to Woomera’: McGowan cold on nuclear waste being stored in WA
Western Australia has nominated defence force land in the Woomera prohibited area in South Australia as the best location to store dangerous radioactive waste from Australia’s nuclear submarines.
The premier’s comments add to the growing headache the Albanese government faces over what to do with the spent nuclear reactors from the AUKUS deal submarines once the vessels begin producing them from the mid-2050s.
Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles was in Perth today.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
On Wednesday the leaders of Victoria, Queensland and South Australia all signalled they did not want a nuclear waste facility in their state.
When asked whether he would be happy with a nuclear waste facility set up in WA after a press conference alongside Defence Minister Richard Marles in Perth on Thursday McGowan responded: “no”.
Woomera is a large swath of defence land in the north west of South Australia used as a long-range weapons testing area, including for nuclear weapons, after the second world war.
McGowan said it was a natural place for the waste facility.
“What they’ll have to find is somewhere remote, somewhere with very good long-term geological structure that doesn’t change or move and somewhere that is defence lands,” he said.
“Now, that narrows it down a lot and that’s why Woomera springs to mind.”
Marles said the government would begin a process to pick a site for the waste within the year and revealed he had “a chat” with McGowan about the issue. But he said it was still early days.
“We have time to deal with this, we’ve made clear that we will be dealing with this on defence land in an appropriate place and that obviously means a place which is remote from populations in this country,” he said.
“We’ve got time to get this right, we will get it right.”
On Wednesday South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas told ABC Radio the waste should be sorted somewhere safe but that didn’t mean it had to be in South Australia.
“Now, where the nuclear waste goes, a similar case should be applied and that is – not what is in the best interests of a parochial argument – rather, what is in the best interest of the nation’s security and that should inform the federal government’s judgment,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Daniel Andrews’ government suggested WA could take the waste, prefaced with a dig at the state over its share of the GST.
“Given all the GST is heading to WA, perhaps they can take the nuclear waste too,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said under no circumstances would the state become a dumping ground for nuclear waste.
WA has a nuclear waste dumping facility in the Goldfields that stores waste with low-level radioactivity including discarded medical imaging machines.
McGowan said this low-level waste was completely different to the radioactivity from spent nuclear reactors from submarines.
With Paul Sakkal.
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