Protest Against Nuclear Waste Dump in Scotland by Aboriginal Communities

Martin Williams | The Sunday Herald

Campaigners have accused the Scottish Government of a lack of decisive action following protests over plans to dump nuclear waste from Dounreay at a sacred Aboriginal burial place.

Regina McKenzie protests against nuclear waste dump

Ministers have come under fire for failing to review proposals for a sacred area of Wallerberdina, 280 miles north of Adelaide, to become a potential location for Australia’s first nuclear dump.

It came despite Aborigine tribes people providing a video appeal to the officials to stop the dumping.

Campaigner Gary Cushway, a dual Australian-British citizen living in Glasgow, pressed the point in a meeting with the Government which was arranged after he wrote to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over the controversy.

Wallerberdina is said to include Aboriginal burial mounds, fossilised bones and stone tools.

But it has been earmarked as part of a deal that returns spent fuel processed at the nuclear facility currently being decommissioned at the nuclear site in Caithness to its country of origin.

Mr Cushway said he was “disappointed” by the “lack of decisive action” after asking that the Government review the agreement.

Aborigines provided a video appeal to the Scottish Government to stop the dumping in an area identified as a potential location for Australia’s first nuclear waste dump as part of a deal that returns spent fuel processed at the nuclear facility currently being decommissioned in Dounreay, Caithness, to its country of origin.

Video appeal over nuclear dump Source: Alexis Charles (YouTube)

The video, which came in the form of a documentary, highlighted one Aborigine speaking in the Adnyamanthatha language saying, “the poison, leave it alone” and “we don’t want it”.

The proposed dump site is next to an indigenous protected area where Aborigines are still allowed to hunt, and is part of the traditional home of the Adnyamathanha people, one of several hundred indigenous groups in Australia.

The Dounreay Waste Substitution Policy, agreed in 2012, sees waste from Australia, Belgium, Germany and Italy processed at the Scottish facility to make it safe for storage after being returned to its country of origin.

The UK government has previously confirmed that “a very small quantity of Australian-owned radioactive waste” is currently stored in the country.

Scottish Government policy allows for the substitution of nuclear waste with a “radiologically equivalent” amount of materials from Sellafield in Cumbria.

Campaigners who had appealed to the Scottish Government to halt the plans to ship nuclear waste to Australia, were told before meeting with officials that their concerns should be addressed before any final decision is taken.

But Mr Cushway says the default position across UK and Scottish Government is that the final destination of the waste is a matter solely for the Australian Government who have “a poor track record in addressing indigenous cultural concerns over radioactive waste and other major developments in culturally sensitive areas”.

“They assured me [at the meeting] that a minister had raised concerns with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority which is managing the process and that the Scottish Government’s role now, having agreed previously to substitute waste from Dounreay with waste from Sellafield, is limited to raising concerns and putting pressure on the UK Government to ensure that all legal obligations are adhered to.

“What I’ve been asking is whether it is possible to revoke or cancel the waste substitution agreement.

“They outlined problems the UK government have had sorting out the final destination of their own waste but seemed happy to go along with the decision of the Australian Government with regard to their site selection. A position I don’t agree with.

“I think an effort should be made to revoke the substitution agreement with the UK government which at the time was opposed by Orkney and Shetland Councils.

“I think anyone should be disappointed in any government that plays a part in sending radioactive waste overseas prior to a final destination being agreed, esspecially in the unique circumstances in Australia where so called ‘remote areas’ which are the preferred sites are still inhabited and held sacred by ancient cultures and where waste can be considered dangerous for up to 300 years.”

Regina McKenzie, an indigenous woman from the Adnyamathanah community who lives on land adjacent to Wallerberdina has made a fresh appeal to the Scottish Government to rethink calling for Britain not to make the same mistakes they did when carrying out nuclear tests between 1956 and 1963 at Maralinga, part of the Woomera Prohibited Area in South Australia and about 800 kilometres north-west of Adelaide.

The local aboriginal people claimed they were poisoned by the tests and, in 1994, the Australian Government reached a compensation settlement with Maralinga Tjarutja of $13.5 million in settlement of all claims in relation to the nuclear testing.

Despite the governments of Australia and the UK paying for two decontamination programmes, six year ago concerns were expressed that some areas of the Maralinga test sites are still contaminated ten years after being declared ‘clean’.

Ms McKenzie said: “Australian Aboriginal people live in a land that they are the first people, yet our culture belief, our religion is ignored, our heritage and burial sites desecrated, we have never been acknowledged in the constituion. This act of placing a nuclear waste dump on the Adnyamathana nations country is cultral genocide.

“The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 29.2 says that governments must get consent from traditional owners to place any toxic substances on country, which never happened

“Please dont impact Aboriginal people like Britons did with Maralinga, when they tested the atomic bomb. Don’t destroy culture.

“Help us stop this racist act of impacting first nation people who are a minority of this country we now call Australia. We say no to nuclear waste dump.”.

A Scottish Government spokesman ‎said: “There are no clear devolved powers that we could use to halt the movement of waste to Australia.

“Scottish ministers, however, are concerned about human rights of indigenous peoples everywhere, including the rights of the indigenous Australian people.”

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