edit 30/4/12

So, the ground was tested and it turned out not be radioactive waste, but a naturally occurring poisonous gas

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/soil-not-radiation-made-workers-ill-20120419-1xa31.html

ANSTO has claimed that the barrels containing the radioactive waste were not compromised by the crash, and were safely shipped out of Brisbane. However, a doctor who treated two police officers at the scene claims otherwise, and is convinced that they suffered from radiation poisoning.

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydney-nsw/buried-fury-at-betrayal-bubbles-to-the-surface/story-e6freuzi-1226333766448

Whatever the story, the risk of accident for trucks carrying radioactive waste on long hauls is not something we should take lightly. A decade ago, the Howard Government calculated a 23% chance that a truck transporting waste between Lucas Heights and the formerly proposed waste dump site at Woomera, SA, would crash each year.

The haul to Muckaty will be much longer, and on roads that are notoriously dangerous.

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Early this morning, road workers on the mid-north coast of NSW were sent to hospital vomiting, after uncovering radioactive material, buried at an unmarked site on the side of the road after a truck crash in 1980. It seems that the State Government was aware that the waste lurked somewhere in the area, but didn’t think twice about sending workers in blind.

Read full news story here

This event stands as a stark reminder of the dangers that the nuclear chain continues to pose to human health, and the risks that governments and the nuclear industry are willing to take with the lives of workers, communities and our environment.

Today’s events also come in the wake of the safe passage of the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill through both houses of Federal Parliament last month, locking in a radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, 120 km north of Tennant Creek in the NT. Waste will be trucked over 3000 km from the Lucas Heights reactor in Sydney, to Muckaty in the NT.

Natalie Wasley from Beyond Nuclear Initiative says

“Resources Minister Ferguson is pursuing plans to transport radioactive spent fuel thousands of kilometers to a remote site in the Northern Territory, which has fewer trained emergency responders, less equipment and response capability than NSW. This incident should be a wake up call to the Prime Minister and Resources Minister to immediately drop the Muckaty plan.”

Despite the staggering risks to human health and the environment, and despite the express dissent of Traditional Owners at Muckaty, who are contesting the nomination of their sacred country right now in the Federal Court, the Government is still intent on moving this dangerous waste from voter-dense Southern Sydney, to somewhere a little more out of sight, out of mind. Sound familiar?

The Irony is that the transport of this waste puts those living in Sutherland, Liverpool and Campbelltown (the greater Sydney councils through which the probable transport route will pass) at much greater risk than if the waste were simply to stay at Lucas Heights. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has admitted that there are already 1-2 incidents with transport of radioactive materials to and from the Lucas Heights reactor each year. They have also admitted that they have the capacity to store the waste indefinitely. Clearly, the rationale for moving the waste to Muckaty is political quick fix, and has very little to do with the safe, long term storage of waste.

More than 30 years on, the result of one truck crash is still echoing forward, a threat to unsuspecting and unprepared workers. The waste marked for transport to Muckaty will remain radioactive for much longer.

Traditional Owners at Muckaty have been running a strong campaign against the waste dump for almost 7 years now, since the site was first nominated. Organisations and activists around the country have joined the fight, and now it’s time to stand up as a movement with the communities and workers at risk all along the transport route.

Sign the petition against transport of radioactive waste to Muckaty here

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