Residents blast plan to dump nuclear waste on Downs
UPDATE: Residents have blasted a Federal Government plan to store nuclear waste on the Darling Downs.
The Federal Government today announced six areas were on a shortlist to house low level nuclear waste.
One of those places is the Darling Downs district of Oman Ama, which is located to the east of Inglewood.
Resources and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg made the announcement after a call in March, by then-Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, for landholders to nominate their properties to house the facilities.
"Australia currently has the equivalent of around two Olympic-sized swimming pools of such waste, which may include laboratory items such as paper, plastic and glassware, and material used in medical treatments," Mr Frydenberg said.
That waste has to go somewhere and the government is looking at Oman Ama.
A waste dump is expected to be operational by the end of the decade and will house low to intermediate nuclear waste.
Dr Colin Owen works in Inglewood and said the issue had stirred up the town "enormously".
"I spoke to about 50 people and the reaction was universally negative. I haven't heard one person in favour," he said.
Their biggest concerns include environmental issues, Dr Owen said.
"There are bores that people use domestically and this area is part of the catchment zone for the Murray Darling systems."
He said the news came as a "total shock" to residents.
"No one knew anything about it," he said.
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Dr Owen, who lives close to Oman Ama, said he was also concerned about health aspects.
"From a medical point of view I'd want to know more about the toxic effects."
The region is socio-economically depressed and locals fear a nuclear waste storage site could decrease land values further, Dr Owen said.
"I spoke to a neighbour of the proposed site and she's vigorously opposed to it," he said.
Inglewood Royal Hotel proprietor Benjamin Pye also said the town had been abuzz since news of the short listing broke.
"The general consensus is we don't want it," he said.
"When everyone heard the news they were shocked."
The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science will now engage in extensive consultation over the next 120 days with local stakeholders with an interest in the sites.
The outcomes and feedback of the consultation process will help inform the government's consideration of the next phase of detailed assessment, which will involve a further shortlist of two to three sites with an expectation of a final site being identified before the end of next year.
The government will give $10 million to the region that accepts the waste.
Mr Frydenberg said more than 100 sites across the country, including hospitals and universities, were licensed to store the waste on an interim basis.
"The facility will be designed, built and operated to the highest safety and environmental standards," he said.
"This will require a thorough assessment by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and Australia's independent radiation safety regulator.
- Do you feel strongly about the plan to dump waste on the Darling Downs? Email email@example.com
11.55AM: Southern Downs MP Lawrence Springborg said he wouldn't have a problem with a low-level nuclear waste dump close to his home.
The Opposition leader said he had heard about the proposal a couple of months ago, but hadn't been given any official information from the Federal Government.
"All I'll say is we haven't got all the information," he said.
"Some of the material that I have seen suggests it'll be low level medical waste that's from medical procedures used to save people's lives."
Mr Springborg said people needed to keep in mind that Oman Ama was one of six sites shortlisted in Australia.
"Whether Oman Ama is the right place ... well we need the people to make an informed decision," he said.
When asked if he'd be happy to have the waste in his own backyard, Mr Springborg said it was difficult to say.
"If it's low-level medical waste then I personally wouldn't have a problem with it, but others might not," he said.
"It may be more than that, the point is we don't have all the information."
10AM: Goondiwindi region Mayor Graeme Scheu said he was shocked that his region had been identified as a site for a potential nuclear waste dump.
The Federal Government has shortlisted Oman Ama as one of six sites across Australia that could store low to intermediate nuclear waste
Cr Scheu said he had received no warning from the Federal Government.
"I had no idea it was progressing - I didn't even know they were looking in Australia let alone in our area - it was a bit of a shock," he said.
There will be 100 days of community consultation before the Federal Government makes a decision on which of the six sites will be chosen.
The community that accepts the waste will receive $10 million.
Cr Scheu said the council would keep an open mind on the proposal until more information was provided.
"I don't even know which property it is," he said.
"There are a million questions to be answered before we can comment.
"You can't just make hasty decisions on no information, whilst it sounds terrible or great - whichever way you want to look at it - there are months of community consultation ahead of us."
Cr Scheu said how the nuclear waste would be transported and the proposed site's close proximity to Coolmunda Dam were of concern.
Federal Member for Maranoa Bruce Scott said while he knew the Federal Government was looking for sites to store nuclear waste, he only became aware that Oman Ama had been shortlisted in recent days.
Mr Scott said he personally had reservations about storing nuclear waste on the Darling Downs, but added the community must decide.
Mr Scott stressed the site was volunteered by a district landholder and that he looked forward to the community consultation process.
He said he would strongly support the community's stance.
The nuclear waste will include radioactive material used in nuclear medicine including cancer therapy and is a hazardous product.
7AM: A Darling Downs district is on a Federal Government shortlist for the storage of nuclear waste.
The Federal Government says six areas are on the shortlist including three in South Australia, one in the Northern Territory, one in New South Wales and Oman Ama in Queensland.
Oman Ama is located on the Darling Downs east of Inglewood.
About 150 people live in the district.
Resources and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg made the announcement after earlier calling for landholders to nominate their properties to house the facilities.
"Australia currently has the equivalent of around two Olympic-sized swimming pools of such waste, which may include laboratory items such as paper, plastic and glassware, and material used in medical treatments," Mr Frydenberg said in a statement.
The waste dump is expected to be in operation by the end of the decade and will house low to intermediate nuclear waste.
Mr Frydenberg has said Australia would not be storing high level waste from countries which buy Australian uranium.
"More than 100 sites across the country, including hospitals and universities, are licensed to store this waste on an interim basis," he told ABC.
"The facility will be designed, built and operated to the highest safety and environmental standards.
"This will require a thorough assessment by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, Australia's independent radiation safety regulator, and an environmental assessment."