Update on the Narangba Irradiation Plant

History of Steritech & Food Irradiation
When Steritechıs Managing Director Mr. George West first came to Brisbane in 1985, he was proclaiming the benefits to Queensland of his companyıs proposal to build a food irradiation plant at Rocklea.  Local opposition mobilised and sent Steritech packing.   Mr. Westıs plans were also ousted from Auckland in 1987 because the containment pond storing the highly radioactive cobalt-60 rods would penetrate below the level of the water table.  However, the nuclear industry is persistent and Mr. West is back in town.  He has persuaded the Caboolture Shire Council to approve the siting of Steritechıs irradiation plant at Narangba.
Although Steritech have a long history of involvement with food irradiation, they are being sneaky this time, insisting that the Narangba plant is not for food irradiation, although all evidence indicates otherwise.  In July this year, State Health Ministers voted to relax the national standards on food irradiation.  Mr. West wrote a lengthy submission in support of food irradiation to their inquiry.

Public Non-Participation
The public has continuously been excluded from the decision-making process.  The Council had been negotiating with Steritech since January 1999, yet the public was not informed until July.  Approval was granted on 31st August, despite submissions against the proposal outnumbering those in favour by 28 to 7.  The Council also refused to hold a public meeting to discuss the matter, despite receiving many requests to do so.  Despite all attempts to sneak this proposal through, public awareness of is growing, along with a grass roots campaign to oppose the plant.  Narangba residents arranged their own public meeting which was attended by 165 outraged locals.

Planning & Environment Court Appeal
An appeal has been lodged with the Planning and Environment Court and we are looking for experts willing to help with the case   We are concerned that no procedure is planned for clean-up in the eventuality of a leak from the containment pond into the surrounding environment, with the potential to cause a major ecological disaster.  Ozone generated in the containment water is extremely toxic to aquatic life.  Furthermore, there is a risk of radioactive contamination should the Co-60 sources corrode, releasing water soluble radioactive ions.  Seismology reports show that the area is prone to seismic activity.

Conflict of Interests in Beattieıs ³Smart State²
We have to ask why such a dangerous and backward project is even being considered in Queensland.  To find answers, we must go to the Qld State Government who has been behind this project since the beginning.  Representatives from the State Development Board and Qld Health were present at Steritechıs first presentation to Council and made it clear that they supported the proposal.  The project fits in with Beattieıs latest vision for a ³Smart State² which treads the tired old path of technology sophistication and Œhigh-techı business in the elusive search for ³innovative industry².  Innovations that require the rezoning of land to accommodate Œhazardous, offensive and noxiousı industry.    
There is a clear conflict of interests within the department of Qld Health.  Steritech must next obtain a license from Qld Radiation Health to possess, use and transport the radioactive sources.  QRH legislation seems to be aimed more at facilitating further expansion of the nuclear industry and products, rather than protecting public health from radioactive exposure.  Furthermore, one of the submissions in support of Steritech came from the Qld Bone Bank, another department within Qld Health.

Howardıs Nuclear Future ?
The Narangba irradiation plant cannot be viewed in isolation, it is an offshoot of the broader nuclear industry which is on the brink of expansion into Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.  The Federal Government is actively engaged in encouraging our industrializing neighbours to adopt nuclear technology.  More and more nuclear products and processes are planned for release to consumers.  This is the context of the Howard governmentıs approvals for more uranium mines, a new nuclear reactor, and new radioactive waste storage facilities.

Rally at Caboolture Showgrounds
The Narangba Working Group is planning a rally on 15th January at the Caboolture showgrounds.  Dr Helen Caldicott and Dick Smith are invited to speak.  500 to 1000 people are expected to attend and demonstrate their support for ecologically sustainable industry.

Write letters to:
Premier Peter Beattie
State Development Board.
Minister for Health, Mrs. Wendy Edmonds
Discuss the issue with your friends
Donate $$ to the campaign to help cover printing costs
Come to the Rally, 2 pm, 15th Jan @ Centenary Lakes Park, Caboolture!!
For more info contact:
Friends of the Earth ­ Brisbane,
Anti-Nuclear Collective
PO Box 5702, West End, Q4101,
Tel: 07 3846 5793, Fax: 07 3846 4791, Email: foebrisbane@uq.net.au

Sybil MacLure

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