Nuclear waste site a target for terrorists, expert warns


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Nuclear waste site a target for terrorists, expert warns

A BRITISH nuclear risk expert has warned that terrorists could target radioactive waste being transported thousands of kilometres across Australia to a proposed waste dump in the Northern Territory.

John Large, who advises governments, companies and non-government agencies, said the waste that will be taken to the remote site on the disused Muckaty cattle station is suitable for use in a "dirty" radioactive bomb that could be built with limited technology or knowledge.

Experts acknowledge a home-made radioactive bomb is the most likely terrorist nuclear threat, he said.

Mr Large told the Herald that transporting waste by land routes is prone to accident, open to a malicious act and requires additional packaging and handling for transportation. He said it would be a major target for terrorists.

Mr Large made the comments after a Labor-led Senate committee last Friday upheld a move by the federal Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, to build Australia's first national radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek.

The move comes despite objections from the Northern Territory government and many Aboriginal traditional owners in the area, who have challenged the right of one family clan to offer a 1.5 square kilometre site in return for at least $11 million in cash and access to services.


The committee ignored a number of warnings about the risk of transporting radioactive waste and submissions that it should be stored close to the point of its production.

A nuclear campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, Dave Sweeney, said radioactive waste at Lucas Heights, which the government plans to move to Muckaty, is protected by high security including 24-hour police patrols and high razor wire.

An army anti-terrorist squad is based nearby.

But Mr Sweeney said it is proposed that Muckaty would have a maximum six security guards on rotating shifts in one of the most remote places in Australia.

The NT Government said in a submission to the committee that the "transport of radioactive waste by road raises concerns relating to the security of waste whilst in transport to the facility and the potential for a significant impact on transport routes as a result of an accident".

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation told the committee the transport risk was low and that the operation and transport of waste to radioactive waste management facilities overseas had an exemplary record.

But a report by Mr Large's company, Large & Associates, said it was known that one terrorist group in Britain acquired plans for a nuclear power station and the location of radioactive waste storage facilities.

The report said terrorists had ''no reservations about the use of radioactivity'' to create mayhem.

Conservation groups have attacked the Senate committee's declaration that the nomination of Muckaty was voluntary despite acknowledging in its findings controversy over whether Aboriginal owners are entitled to offer the site according to legal and traditional requirements and whether Aboriginal owners had been properly consulted.

The government may introduce legislation into Parliament this week authorising the dump.