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Traditional owners expected to challenge nuclear waste facility in South Australia

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP</span>
Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

The federal government has confirmed that a controversial nuclear waste facility will be built near Kimba, in South Australia – but the traditional owners are expected to mount a legal challenge.

Resources minister Keith Pitt announced two months ago that a 211-hectare site at Napandee, 24km out of Kimba, had been chosen from three potential sites to store Australia’s radioactive waste. After 60 days of further consultation, he confirmed that decision on Monday morning.

An Australian Electoral Commission ballot found more than 60% of local residents supported the facility. However, the traditional owners, the Barngarla people, say many of them missed out on the vote because they were not living in the Kimba council area.

When surveyed separately, the Barngarla voters unanimously rejected the proposal.

Related: Australia to receive UK nuclear waste shipment amid bitter dispute over national storage facility

At the time, Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation chair Jason Bilney said he planned to launch a judicial review, challenging in the supreme court the selection of Kimba over other sites.

Guardian Australia has contacted the corporation for comment.

Pitt said the government would now acquire the land to build a new facility that would store low- and medium-level medical waste that is scattered across more than 100 locations in Australia.

It would create 45 jobs, he said, and fulfil the obligation to securely store the waste.

“Nuclear medicine is used in the diagnosis of a variety of heart, lung and musculoskeletal conditions, as well as the treatment of specific cancers, and a byproduct of its production is low-level radioactive waste,” Pitt said.

“Along with the benefits comes a responsibility to manage the byproducts. Without a facility like this, we can’t enjoy the benefits from vital nuclear medicines on an ongoing basis.”

The new facility will house low-level waste permanently, and medium-level waste temporarily, until a permanent solution is found for that.

Conservationists have told a parliamentary inquiry into the future of the Lucas Heights nuclear facility that the Sydney site should be expanded to take the nation’s waste until that long-term decision is made, rather than having a new facility built.

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