Background to the Nuclear Waste Dump plan?

To dispose toxic Nuclear waste, the Australian government nominated the lands of several First Nation clan groups in the Northern Territory. One clan initially agreed to the dump, but it has since been discovered, they were not fully informed of the implications.

Editing: 8 February 2012 (SBS), Updated 26 August 2013 (SBS) Updated 7 June 2014 (SU)


The government says it needs a place to store low and medium level nuclear waste somewhere in Australia.

Muckaty station is 120km from the nearest town of considerable population, Tennant Creek, and was first named as a possible location in 2007. After South Australia rejected earlier plans, Muckaty is the only site nominated under the current proceedings.

The site would be used to store medical and research waste in one place; some of it would come from the Lucas Heights nuclear waste facility in Sydney. Were the Muckaty plans to go ahead, some Australian nuclear waste would also be put there when it returns from Europe in 2014/15.

Despite Labor speaking out against Howard-era legislation which first named Muckaty, the current government's National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010 is similar to the previous plans; it suspends the application of certain indigenous and environmental protections as well as state and Territory laws that would prevent a site being selected.


The federal government and opposition both support plans to build a dump for medium-level waste somewhere, and the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill they're voting on specifically names Muckaty station as a possible site.

Certain members of the local Ngapa people - the Lauder family - signed a deal to allow the site to be nominated, in exchange for federal funding.

The Lauder family were backed in their dealings by the Northern Land Council, which recognises them as owners.


Members of indigenous groups opposed to the plans include people from the Milwayi, Yapa Yapa, Ngarrka, and Wirntiku people, and certain Ngapa clans outside of the Lauder family.

The Northern Territory government: Chief Minister Paul Henderson has long said he would like the site to be dictated by science, not 'constitutional vulnerability': the N.T. does not have the power to refuse the dump, as a state would.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has fought a long campaign in the federal Senate against the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010, joined in his fight by various environmental activists.


Some of the traditional owners opposed to the dump say the way the site was nominated was flawed. They say the way the Northern Land Council decided that one branch of the Ngapa clan were the sole owners - giving them the right to nominate the site - was not done correctly or
fairly, claiming that the site, which they hold as a sacred place, was always shared land.

The NLC says it's done everything above board, and is disputing the matter in the Federal Court in Melbourne. Well known human-rights lawyer George Newhouse is representing the 'no' corner.

The government says it will respect the outcome of this court case, which could set the site nomination process rolling again.


The site is remote, being 120km from Tennant Creek. - A long way from the safety of white mans living areas.

The government 'tells us' that it was nominated in exchange for federal (in kind) money, by some of the people deemed to be the traditional owners by the Northern Land Council.

Time is ticking for the government to locate a site for its nuclear waste.


The site nomination process is keenly disputed, and has gone to the federal court.

A sacred male initiation site sits on Muckaty Station.

The N.T. government says it is unfair it is being forced on the Territory, which cannot refuse it.

Some scientists dispute the site is suitable, citing recent earth tremors.

The Northern Land Council's agreement with traditional owners is in dispute, as their is no official meeting minutes available.