In a November 2016 article about the nuclear waste import plan, Ben Heard and Oscar Archer wrote: "We also note and respect the clear message from nearly all traditional owner groups in South Australia that there is no consent to proceed on their lands. We have been active from the beginning to shine a light on pathways that make no such imposition on remote lands."
In Heard's imagination, the imported spent nuclear fuel would not be dumped on the land of unwilling Aboriginal communities, it would be processed for use as fuel in non-existent Generation IV 'integral fast reactors'. Even the stridently pro-nuclear Royal Commission gave short shrift to Heard's proposal, stating in its final report: "[A]dvanced fast reactors and other innovative reactor designs are unlikely to be feasible or viable in the foreseeable future. The development of such a first-of-a-kind project in South Australia would have high commercial and technical risk."
Heard claims his imaginary Generation IV reactor scenario "circumvents the substantial challenge of social consent for deep geological repositories, facilities that are likely to be best located, on a technical basis, on lands of importance to Aboriginal Australians".
But even in Heard's scenario, only a tiny fraction of the imported spent fuel would be converted to fuel for imaginary Generation IV reactors (in one of his configurations, 60,000 tonnes would be imported but only 4,000 tonnes converted to fuel). Most of it would be stored indefinitely, or dumped on the land of unwilling Aboriginal communities.
Despite his acknowledgement that there was "no consent" to proceed from "nearly all traditional owner groups in South Australia", Heard nevertheless wrote an 'open letter' promoting the waste import plan which was endorsed by 'prominent' South Australians, i.e. rich, non-Aboriginal people.
One of the reasons to pursue the waste import plan cited in Heard's open letter is that it would provide an "opportunity to engage meaningfully and partner with Aboriginal communities in project planning and delivery". There is no acknowledgement of the opposition of Aboriginal people to the waste import plan; evidently Heard believes that their opposition should be ignored or overridden but Aboriginal people might be given a say in project planning and delivery.
A second version of Heard's open letter did not include the above wording but it cited the "successful community consultation program" with Aboriginal communities. However the report arising from the SA government's community consultation program (successful or otherwise) stated: "Some Aboriginal people indicated that they are interested in learning more and continuing the conversation, but these were few in number."
Geoff Russell, another self-styled pro-nuclear environmentalist, wrote in a November 2016 article in New Matilda:
Have Aboriginals given any reasons for opposing a waste repository that are other than religious? If so, then they belong with other objections. If not, then they deserve the same treatment as any other religious objections. Listen politely and move on.
Calling them spiritual rather than religious makes no difference. To give such objections standing in the debate over a repository is a fundamental violation of the separation of church and state, or as I prefer to put it, the separation of mumbo-jumbo and evidence based reasoning.
Aboriginals have native title over various parts of Australia and their right to determine what happens on that land is and should be quite different from rights with regard to other land. This isn't about their rights on that land.
Suppose somebody wants to build a large intensive piggery. Should we consult Aboriginals in some other part of the country? Should those in the Kimberley perhaps be consulted? No.
They may object to it in the same way I would, but they have no special rights in the matter. They have no right to spiritual veto."
Where to begin? Russell's description of Aboriginal spiritual beliefs as "mumbo-jumbo" is beyond offensive. He provides no evidence for his claim that Traditional Owners are speaking for other people's country. Federal native title legislation provides limited rights and protections for some Traditional Owners - and no rights and protections for many others (when the federal Coalition government was trying to impose a national nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land in SA in 2003, it abolished all native title rights and interests over the site).
National nuclear waste dump
The attitudes of the ecomodernists also extend to the debate over the siting of a proposed national nuclear waste dump. Silence from the ecomodernists when the federal government was passing laws allowing the imposition of a national nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory without consent from Traditional Owners. Echoing comments from the Liberal Party, Brook and Heard said the site in the Northern Territory was in the "middle of nowhere". From their perspective, perhaps, but for Muckaty Traditional Owners the site is in the middle of their homelands.
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