Federal Court rules against proposed nuclear waste facility in South Australia

Photo: The Guardian

In a landmark decision, the Federal Court on July 18, 2023 ruled against the former Coalition government’s proposal  to establish a radioactive waste management facility at a site on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.

The Federal Court found in favor of the area’s traditional owners, the Barngarla people, who claimed that they were never properly consulted by the former Coalition government about the decision to choose the Eyre Peninsula site.

In her ruling, Judge Natalie Charlesworth said “apprehended bias” and “pre-judgement” by former Resources Minister Keith Pitt, meant that the court would uphold an application by the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation opposing the facility.1

The declaration to convert a property called Napandee, 24km from Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula, into a national radioactive waste facility was made by Keith Pitt in 2021. Following the declaration, the land was acquired by the Commonwealth.

The aim of the proposed facility was for low-level nuclear medical waste, currently stored in hospitals and universities around the country, to be permanently stored at the Napandee site. As well, intermediate-level nuclear waste was to be stored at the site until a separate facility was built for that material.

In a media release, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) welcomed the Federal Court’s decision and congratulated the Barngarla people for their “persistence and determination to protect their country”. The ACF added that the Coalition’s proposal “has always been a divisive and deficient plan – the court has confirmed that it is also an unlawful one… More responsible and credible alternatives exist and should now be properly examined.”2


Following the Federal Court’s decision, the Albanese Labor Government announced on August 10, 2023 that it would abandon the previous government’s plan to establish a radioactive waste management facility on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.3

1.  Tory Shepard, ‘Traditional owners apply for judicial review to stop South Australia nuclear waste dump’, The Guardian, Dec 7, 2021.
2. Australian Conservation Foundation, ‘King hit for nuclear waste dump at Kimba’, Jul 10, 2023.
3. ABC News, ‘Decision to abandon SA nuclear waste facility leaves Kimba community divided’, Aug 10, 2023.

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