Site search triggers concerns

CONCERNS: FOI documents show federal government is aware of mental health issues caused by nuclear site search.
CONCERNS: FOI documents show federal government is aware of mental health issues caused by nuclear site search.

The federal government's search for a site to store nuclear waste has triggered concerns about mental health, business bycotts, and community division in Kimba according to documents released on Wednesday.

Kimba and Hawker have been short-listed as potential sites for the government’s waste management facility, which would store low-level and intermediate-level nuclear waste 

Documents written in 2017 released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that members of the group opposed to the nuclear waste facility in Kimba had raised the issue of mental health in direct discussion with the government.

"They believe mental health issues are arising in Kimba due to the stress of being in this process. These issues have been raised with the Kimba doctor and counsellor," reads the documents.

A Department of Industry spokesperson said 'If anyone in Kimba advises they have concerns about their health, they can be referred to the Kimba Mental Health and Wellbeing Group'.

"Following a Community Benefit Programme application, that group received funding of $30,000 for Healthy Mind Healthy Community workshops, to improve resilience, mental health and wellbeing."

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick, who requested the FOI documents, said the federal government had a duty to offer assistance through normal health channels to anyone in the community struggling with mental health issues.

"It's clear from the FOI that the government is aware of the division in this community and the effects of that division on the community," he said.

"It was also obvious during the Senate Inquiry process that the government knows it won't get past 60 per cent of people supporting the proposal, and therefore it won't be in a position to claim broad community support."

The FOI documents state that the government had 'consciously not defined ‘broad community support’ to a specific percentage because there are a range of factors that need to be considered'.

The Kimba community remains deeply divided on the nuclear facility, with some locals believing it could bring new jobs and an economic boost to the town while others are concerned about the danger it poses to the town's environment.

The documents also show that local business owners have raised the issue of the group opposed to the facility boycotting certain businesses in Kimba.

"While these claims may be exaggerated, this appears valid and determinedly to the town," the FOI documents read.

The FOI documents indicate that the two sites at Kimba, Napandee and Lyndhurst, are likely to proceed to stage 2 of the project. In an early site technical assessment Nedpandee received a rating of 90 while Lyndhurst was rated 82.

"Both sites were ranked as 'highly suitable' by the initial desktop assessment," the FOI documents said.

"This assessment involved a multi-criteria site assessment where the sites were evaluated against the criteria of health, safety, security, environment protection, equity, economic viability, and stable environment.

"On balance, it is recommended that if there is a decision to proceed, both sites should be taken forward."