The West

Nuclear dump plan for desert
Nuclear waste dump proposed for land in the Gibson Desert. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology

A traditional owner in the northern Goldfields wants to house a proposed nuclear waste dump on land in the Gibson Desert to help develop the region's economy.

Kanpa community chairman Preston Thomas has seized on the Commonwealth dumping Muckaty Station as the site for a Federal nuclear waste repository.

It is part of his vision to provide biofuel to the Ngaanyatjarra Lands and develop agriculture around the remote Kanpa Aboriginal community, about 900 km north-east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

The Northern Territory station was withdrawn last month after a Federal Court case and division between Aboriginal groups in the region who claim they were not consulted properly.

The Federal Government is looking for an alternative site for Australia's first radioactive waste dump.

Kanpa's representative body the Pira Kata Aboriginal Corporation, chaired by Mr Thomas, has applied for a native title sublease of about 500sqkm between Kanpa and the Great Central Road.

Mr Thomas wants this area to be considered for the facility, which requires an area of about 3sqkm - about the size of two football fields.

He said he first expressed interest in the nuclear dump to then industry minister Martin Ferguson in 2012 after years of frustration trying to provide industry and employment in the remote community, where he lives with his family.

With $12 million in Federal compensation offered to traditional owners in the NT, Mr Thomas said he wanted the dump to support employment and development which would benefit the whole Ngaanyatjarra Lands.

One project already identified is a 250ha sorghum crop used as agricultural feed and biomass to supply liquid fuel to Aboriginal communities and mine sites active in the area.

Mr Thomas has been in discussions for the project with AgGrow Energy Resources since 2010, after the company's involvement in a similar pilot project in the Pilbara.

Development stalled without support for water access from Ngaanyatjarra Lands communities or a contract to replace the current diesel fuel requirements and upgrade diesel-powered generators.

Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku president Damien Mclean said biofuel could potentially be used to power the nuclear waste dump.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the Northern Land Council, which represented traditional owner interests at Muckaty Station, had been given three months to find an alternative site.

If the process was not concluded by September, a nationwide tender would be conducted, with "preliminary discussions" already under way.

The West Australian

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