If a week is a long time in politics then 106 of them must be close to an eternity.
That’s how long it has taken Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson to steer his controversial nuclear waste legislation though both Houses of Parliament.
Introduced as an urgent matter with Coalition support in February 2010, the law passed the Senate this week. While the delay might cause frustration to an impatient Minister, in the timeframe over which radioactive waste remains a serious human and environmental risk it is but a blip.
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Few would dispute that Australia is in urgent need of a radioactive waste management facility. Over 50 years, some 4000 cubic metres of accumulated radioactive waste from hospitals and medical research facilities has stored up in hundreds lock-up sheds around the country. It is clearly an inadequate situation.
To make matters more pressing, Australia has an obligation to take back nuclear fuel from Sydney’s Lucas Heights research reactor, which was sent to Scotland and France for reprocessing and is due to return to Australia in 2015-16.
It makes sense to secure radioactive waste in one central, safe location. But because no one wants the thing in their backyard, the Northern Territory – which lacks the powers states have to fight off the federal government – is going to get it.
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