The sites announced today by Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg include Cortlinye and Pinkawillinie, both west of Whyalla, and Barndioota, north of Port Augusta.
Others are in the Northern Territory, Sallys Flat in New South Wales and Oman Ama in Queensland.
“This is not a unilateral government decision we will be making here,” Frydenberg said today.
“My message is to people who have concerns: you will have your opportunity to make your voice heard and that will absolutely be taken into account in a final decision.”
The plan is already causing upset in some local communities, with Kimba District Mayor Dean Johnson saying that at this stage his council is “certainly not supportive”.
The Mayor told ABC radio this morning that there were “very negative feelings” about the issue among locals and he would next week tour the Lucas Heights nuclear facility on a fact-finding mission. One concern relates to how a nuclear dump might affect the region’s “clean, green” farming image.
Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson said the more he learned about such dumps, the more the “fear factor is decreasing”.
“We’re going to explore this. We’re going to look at all the positives that’s involved in a nuclear-based industry and we’re also going to look at all the negatives,” he said.
SA Premier Jay Weatherill said the State Government was open to the prospect of a nuclear waste storage facility in SA, although it would require a change to current legislation.
He said findings from the Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle would guide SA’s response to the proposal.
“The royal commission is currently exploring the potential feasibility of such a facility in SA, among other issues,” Weatherill said.
“The South Australian government will consider this issue in the context of the findings of the commissioner’s report.”
The Conservation Council of South Australia said the Federal Government was yet to release detailed maps showing the exact locations of short-listed sites.
“Worried members of the community are not being given enough information to work out whether [site] areas are in conservation areas,” chief executive Craig Wilkins said.
“It feels like they are stage-managing the release of information.”
The six sites were chosen from 28 voluntarily nominated sites across the country, with the Federal Government proposing that the landowners will get up to four times the value of their land.
Frydenberg said the Federal Government would also offer up to $10 million – for “infrastructural” needs – for the community that hosts that selected 100ha site.
He said the 120-day consultation process for communities around the sites would begin soon.
The preferred site is expected to be named after next year’s national election and operational by the end of the decade. It will house low to intermediate nuclear waste.
Low-level nuclear waste is currently being stored at 100 different sites across the country.
Intermediate waste is stored by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Operation at Lucas Heights in Sydney.
“We have an international obligation to dispose properly of that waste,” Frydenberg told ABC Radio.
He stressed Australia would not be storing high-level waste from countries which buy Australian uranium.
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