Senator flags terrorism risk

RISKS: Centre Alliance Senator flags terrorist risk to nuclear facility in Kimba or Hawker, government says there is no risk of an attack.
RISKS: Centre Alliance Senator flags terrorist risk to nuclear facility in Kimba or Hawker, government says there is no risk of an attack.

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick has criticised the federal government for not informing the communities of Kimba and Hawker about the terrorism risk that could result from a nuclear waste facility being established in the area.

Senator Patrick recently obtained an emergency response plan from the Defence Department under Freedom Of Information (FOI) laws which reveals Defence believes their Koolymika radioactive waste storage facility in the Woomera Prohibited Area is at risk from:

“terrorist activity aimed at accessing the facility for publicity purposes or for removing drums from the facility for use in a ‘dirty bomb’.”

A 'dirty bomb 'is an explosive device that combines radioactive material with conventional explosives.

When detonated the bomb contaminates the blast area with radioactive material to hinder first responders and to deny general access to the area until it has been properly cleaned up.

The federal government is proposing to move the radioactive waste from Woomera to a low-level nuclear waste facility in Kimba or Hawker.

Senator Patrick said transferring radioactive material from the Woomera Prohibited Area to land in Kimba or Hawker doesn’t eliminate the risk of terrorism.

"It is clear that Defence plans for a terrorism risk in relation to radioactive waste stored inside the Woomera Prohibited Area," he said.

"Shifting the waste out of the Defence secure area to the South Australian countryside could only increase the risk.

"A waste repository outside a secure Defence controlled area could be a focus for terrorists seeking to obtain radioactive material – or could be a terrorist target itself."

When asked whether the same 'dirty bomb' risk would apply to a facility in Kimba of Hawker, First Assistant Secretary - Infrastructure for Defence Chris Birrer said there was not a direct comparison between the sites.

"The plan (Senator Patrick) has relates to the interim storage of the waste that's in (Woomera) now and doesn't relate to the long-term storage for a national facility," he said.

Mr Birrer said that Defence had not briefed the community on the terrorist risk as that was the responsibility of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan said he had not been provided with advice that terrorism would be a risk to a nuclear facility in Kimba or Hawker.

"The Department and myself have gone through the assessment of the risk of the handling, storage, and transport of nuclear  waste and this has never been raised as an issue," he said.

"I have no reason to believe there is any risk of this."