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Proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, South Australia

The site-selection process for Australia's first centralised nuclear waste facility has been highly divisive. The final two shortlisted sites near Kimba, SA have faced much resistance from the Barngarla people, farmers, environmentalists and other actors.


2020 looks to be the year in which the Australian Federal Government will decide on a location for its first centralised National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF). The facility is planned to be the destination for the country’s low- to immediate-level nuclear waste [1]. Three South Australian sites were originally shortlisted based on land-holder nomination, Lyndhurst and Napandee near Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula on traditional Barngarla lands, and the Wallerberdina Station near Hawker in the Flinders Ranges on Adnyamathanha land [1]. Both communities near the proposed sites have since faced much division over the planned facility and the site-selection and consultation process has been widely criticised [2, 3]. At the end of 2019, Wallerberdina Station was ruled out as a possible site, leaving the two potential sites near Kimba [4]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, South Australia
State or province:South Australia
Location of conflict:Two remaining shortlisted sites near Kimba, Eyre Peninsula
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Nuclear waste storage
Specific commodities:Low- to immediate-level nuclear waste, mostly generated from nuclear medicine
Project Details and Actors
Project details

At the proposed facility, nuclear low-level waste (LLW) would be disposed of permanently, while long-lived intermediate level nuclear waste (LLILW) would only be stored above ground as an interim measure until a permanent disposal site is developed [10, 23]. In an Australian context, LLW includes laboratory items such as paper, plastic, gloves and filters and requires minimal shielding, while LLILW, such as that from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from nuclear research reactors at Lucas Heights, requires additional shielding and is destined for deep underground disposal [5]. There are no plans for permanent storage of the LLILW, making it unclear how long the intermediate waste would be stored at the site, according to Friends of the Earth Australia [10]. LLILW makes up the highest level of radioactive waste in Australia. Spent nuclear fuel meets the criteria for classification as high level nuclear waste when it is removed from research reactors at Lucas Heights, but after a period of time it cools and therefore becomes classified as LLILW [10].

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Project area:100-160
Level of Investment for the conflictive project135,345,092.00
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2015
Relevant government actors:The Federal Government of Australia - Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
The Government of South Australia
District Council of Kimba
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Friends of the Earth Australia (
No Dump Alliance (
Australian Nuclear Free Alliance (ANFA) (
Australian Conservation Foundation (
SA Conservation
Local organising groups in Kimba and Hawker, SA
SA Greens
Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC)
Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Barngarla and Adnyamathanha peoples
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Genetic contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsContamination of food and water sources
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Residents opposed to the waste facility in Kimba have called for the broader community beyond Kimba council and all of South Australia to have a say in the decision-making process, while preventing the current process from going ahead [3]. Friends of the Earth and the Greens are among those calling for the current site-selection process to be scrapped and pushing for an independent expert panel to undertake a public inquiry into the best options of managing the storage of nuclear waste [10, 22]. In the meantime, they argue the nuclear waste should be kept at the Lucas Heights facility which has previously stated that they are able to cope with the waste on site for the time being [10]. Moreover, Friends of the Earth urged not to rush the decision due to the fact that the facility will solely function as an interim storage location for the long-lived intermediate waste, without any indication as to where the waste will go for permanent storage and when it will be moved [10].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:An upcoming decision in 2020 will determine whether this can be regarded as an environmental justice success. While the Wallerberdina Station is now no longer being considered, support for the two Kimba sites remains highly divisive and the site-selection process continues to be criticised by parties opposing the nuclear waste facility.

UPDATE: With the Federal Government announcing the Napandee farm near Kimba as the site for the waste facility, despite strong community divisions and opposition from many parties including the Barngarla Native Title holders, the site-selection process is increasingly symbolising a failure of environmental justice. However, the mobilisation against the facility has not ended, and the local community in opposition responded immediately with a rally in Kimba.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[18] ARPANSA (2017) ‘Code for Disposal of Solid Radioactive Waste.’ Radiation Protection Series C-3, December 2017.
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[3] Mavromatis, K. (2019) ‘SAVE SA Farmland - Kimba, Eyre Peninsula.’ Short documentary.
[click to view]

[3] Mavromatis, K. (2019) ‘SAVE SA Farmland - Kimba, Eyre Peninsula.’ Short documentary. Available from:
[click to view]

[15] Mavromatis, K. (2020) ‘Barngarla Speak Out.’ Short documentary. Available from:
[click to view]

[16] Mavromatis, K. (2019) ‘Save the Flinders.’ Short documentary. Available from:
[click to view]

[1] Donnellan, A. (2019) ‘Will Australia finally get a national nuclear waste facility.’ ABC News, 28/03/19.
[click to view]

[2] ‘Blakkarly, J. ‘The Australian town divided over hosting the country’s first nuclear waste dump.’ SBS, Updated 10/12/19.
[click to view]

[4] Lysaght, G., Smallacombe, A. and Corvo, S. (2019) ‘Nuclear waste plans for Wallerberdina Station in Flinders Ranges scrapped after community ballot.’ ABC News, 13/12/19.
[click to view]

[5] Power, S. (n.d.) ‘Radioactive waste management.’ Parliamentary Library.
[click to view]

[6] Scopelianos, S. and Opie, R. (2016) ‘A timeline of South Australia’s nuclear dump debate.’ ABC News, Updated 14/11/16.
[click to view]

[7] Australian Government (n.d.) ‘National Radioactive Waste Management Facility Taskforce.’
[click to view]

[8] Waldhuter, L. (2016) ‘Nuclear waste dump protesters bring the fight from outback South Australia to the city.’ ABC News, 15/10/16.
[click to view]

[11] ABC News (2017) ‘South Australia's nuclear dump proposal abandoned.’ Updated 08/06/17.
[click to view]

[12] Smith, D. (2019) ‘Ballot on South Australian nuclear waste dump starts today.’ NITV News, 3/10/19.
[click to view]

[13] McDonald, R. (2019) ‘Barngarla ballot shows "no support" for facility.’ Eyre Peninsula Tribune News, 20/11/19.
[click to view]

[14] Maurice Blackburng Lawyers (2018) ‘Flinders Ranges Traditional Owners take radioactive waste concerns to Australian Human Rights Commission.’ 18/12/18.
[click to view]

[17] McDonald, R. (2020) ‘Kimba community members speak on nuclear debate.’ Eyre Peninsula Tribune Local News, 10/01/20.
[click to view]

[17] McDonald, R. (2020) ‘Kimba community members speak on nuclear debate.’ Eyre Peninsula Tribune Local News, 10/01/20. (See also references [3], [15] and [16] with Mavromatis' documentaries)
[click to view]

[20] Haynes, P., The Advertiser, ‘Kimba votes yes to radioactive waste dump in Eyre Peninsula.’
[click to view]

[22] SBS News (2019) ‘Court rejects Indigenous bid to stop nuclear waste facility.’ Updated 12/07/19.
[click to view]

[23] Australian Government (n.d.) ‘Managing Radioactive Waste.’
[click to view]

[25] Australian Government (2019) Wallerberdina Station, Details of Proposal. Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. National Waste Management Facility. October 2019.
[click to view]

[26] Martin, S. (2020) 'South Australia nuclear waste dump could face roadblock in Senate.' The Guardian, 25/02/20.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[3] Mavromatis, K. (2019) ‘SAVE SA Farmland - Kimba, Eyre Peninsula.’ Short documentary.
[click to view]

[9] No Dump Alliance website
[click to view]

[10] Friends of the Earth Australia (n.d.) ‘No Nuclear Waste Dumps in SA.’
[click to view]

[14] Maurice Blackburng Lawyers (2018) ‘Flinders Ranges Traditional Owners take radioactive waste concerns to Australian Human Rights Commission.’ 18/12/18.
[click to view]

[19] Public Facebook groups ‘No Radioactive Waste Facility for Kimba District’ and ‘Fight to Stop a Nuclear Waste Dump in South Australia’.
[click to view]

[21] Australian Conservation Foundation (n.d.) ‘Petition: Speak out for a nuclear free future: No radioactive waste dump in Kimba or Flinders Ranges.’; ‘We Say No.’ Campaign video.
[click to view]

[24] Australian Government (2019). Video: National Radioactive Waste Management Facility concept design.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Louisa Mathies, EJ Atlas, ICTA-UAB
Last update06/02/2020
Conflict ID:4863
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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