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South Australian nuclear waste site named

SA nuclear waste
Keith Pitt's plans for a nuclear waste dump in SA are being challenged by traditional owners. Photo: AAP
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South Australia’s peak environment group has called for a wide-ranging state parliamentary inquiry into federal government plans to build a nuclear waste dump near the rural South Australian town of Kimba.

The government has acquired 211 hectares at Napandee, 24km west of the Eyre Peninsula town, for the facility subject to heritage, design and technical studies.

“We have reached a major milestone in our work to deliver this national facility, and a solution that has eluded consecutive governments for more than 40 years,” Resources Minister Keith Pitt said on Monday.

The site will be used to store nuclear medical waste currently spread across more than 100 facilities including universities and hospital basements.

But Conservation SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins said under existing state laws, any attempt to impose nuclear waste on SA would trigger an investigation by state parliament’s Environment, Resources and Development Committee.

He said a wide-ranging inquiry was essential for all the facts to come out.

“This issue has a long way to run. The area’s traditional owners are likely to launch legal action in response to the announcement,” Mr Wilkins said.

“And even assuming that is lost, and all other appropriate regulatory obstacles are overcome, the facility is at least a decade away and faces many opponents and hurdles.”

SA Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey, whose federal seat of Grey covers the site, acknowledged community concern about the facility, which is expected to create 45 jobs.

“The majority of the local community are behind the project that will bring jobs and new economic opportunities for our region and look forward to the facility proceeding,” he said.

“This is not to say there are not some people with concerns and I will work with them to resolve those issues wherever possible, as we move into the detailed design, delivery and operational phases.”

In June, the federal parliament passed legislation allowing the resources minister to make an “intention to declare” a site for the nuclear waste facility.

Mr Pitt said the vast majority of nuclear waste produced in Australia was associated with the production of nuclear medicine.

“Nuclear medicine is used in the diagnosis of a variety of heart, lung and muscular-skeletal conditions as well as the treatment of specific cancers, and a by-product of its production is low-level radioactive waste,” he said.

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