ABORIGINES challenging proposals to dump nuclear waste from northern Scotland to a sacred Australian site have won a breakthrough meeting with government officials about their concerns.

Wallerberdina, 280 miles north of Adelaide, has been identified as a potential location for Australia’s first nuclear waste dump as part of a deal that returns spent fuel processed at the nuclear facility currently being decommissioned in Dounreay, Caithness, to its country of origin.

This is  despite claims that it is a priceless heritage site rich in archaeological treasures including burial mounds, fossilised bones and stone tools.

Some have claimed the impact would be similar to “building a waste dump at the heart of the Vatican”.

Campaigners who have appealed to the Scottish Government to halt the plans to ship nuclear waste processed at Dounreay in Caithness to Australia, have now been told that their concerns should be addressed before any final decision is taken.

The Dounreay Waste Substitution Policy, agreed in 2012, sees waste from Australia, Belgium, Germany and Italy processed at the Scottish facility to make it safe for storage after being returned to its country of origin.

Campaigners have complained that the intended South Australian destination forms part of an Aboriginal heritage site rich in burial mounds, fossilised bones and stone tools.


While the waste will be initially stored at a facility near Sydney, concern is growing that it could end up at Wallerberdina, one of two areas under consideration as a nuclear waste dump site.

The proposed dump site is next to an indigenous protected area where Aborigines are still allowed to hunt, and is part of the traditional home of the Adnyamathanha people, one of several hundred indigenous groups in Australia.

The UK government has previously confirmed that “a very small quantity of Australian-owned radioactive waste” is currently stored in the country.

Scottish Government policy allows for the substitution of nuclear waste with a “radiologically equivalent” amount of materials from Sellafield in Cumbria.

It is understood that a shipment of such material is due to take place by 2020.

Regina McKenzie, an indigenous woman from the Adnyamathanah community who lives on land adjacent to Wallerberdina was among those who have objected.


And Gary Cushway, a dual Australian/British citizen living in Glasgow, wrote to the First Minister asking that the Scottish Government review the agreement to transfer the material “until a satisfactory final destination for the waste is finalised by the Australian Government.”

Martin Macdonald, the Scottish Government radioactive waste and nuclear decommissioning policy adviser, responded, telling Mr Cushway that developing an understanding of the issues will "help the Scottish Government as we seek assurances from the UK government that human rights of indigenous peoples are understood by all parties and addressed before any final decision is taken to transport the Australian produced radioactive waste to Australia".

He said: "Your correspondence to the Scottish Government highlighted important human rights concerns and international obligations in relation to the rights of indigenous peoples. My colleagues and I would like to offer you a meeting to discuss the human rights issues in more detail to ensure we fully understand your concerns as well as those expressed by Ms McKenzie and other indigenous peoples groups in Australia.

"A meeting would be an opportunity to discuss Scotland’s devolved responsibilities in relation to both human rights and radioactive waste management."

He added that managing the radioactive waste safely is a responsibility of both the Scottish Government and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Mr Cushway welcomed the move saying: "In terms of how important this is, on a recent visit to one of the proposed sites I met with local Adnyamathanha people opposed to the dump who expressed enormous gratitude that a international government had acknowledged traditional owners concerns and hoped that their ongoing stewardship of their country would be fully recognised and respected as a key part of these proposals."