You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

SA to push on with nuclear dump talks

AAP logoAAP 14/11/2016 Tim Dornin and Rick Goodman

Proposals to build a high-level nuclear waste dump in South Australia's north appear dead and buried over a lack of bipartisan support for continued discussions.

But the state government has refused to completely abandon the idea, flagging a future statewide referendum on the issue.

"I believe continued public debate about South Australia's role in the nuclear fuel cycle is important and ultimately it is a matter that the people should decide, not political parties," Premier Jay Weatherill said on Monday.

But the premier said any continued discussions must first have bipartisan support, something Opposition Leader Steven Marshall has rejected.

"Quite frankly this is a risky project. It doesn't stack up economically and it doesn't have the support of the Liberal Party," Mr Marshall said.

"We have a much greater ambition for South Australia than to become a nuclear waste dump."

The government has been considering the dump proposal following a recommendation by a royal commission into the nuclear fuel cycle which found the state could reap billions of dollars by storing waste from other countries.

But more than two thirds of a 350-strong citizens' jury recently rejected the idea and urged the state government not to take the matter further.

A broader statewide consultation process revealed stronger support with 43 per cent of the 50,000 people involved backing the idea of pursuing a nuclear waste facility.

Thirty-seven per cent were opposed to the idea with 20 per cent undecided.

Mr Weatherill said he believed it was important for discussions to continue, as to do otherwise would be "shutting down democracy".

But he conceded he was taking a big political risk.

"That's why I want to put this in the hands of the people so that they can say no and that will be respected," he said.

Mr Weatherill has also revealed that should the idea be supported at a referendum, any site subsequently selected for a dump would be subject to a veto by the local Aboriginal community.

The Australian Conservation Foundation said further discussions on the dump would just continue the stress and division the proposal had sparked.

"Today was the day the premier should have accepted that this controversial proposal does not enjoy community support," anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney said.

The Greens said the decision to press on with the debate "defies belief".

"From day one, the Greens have said that this project is ill-conceived, economically reckless and poses enormous reputational damage for our state," Greens MP Mark Parnell said.

A group supporting the dump proposal said winning approval at a referendum was the "hardest road for nuclear to walk".

Bright New World founder Ben Heard said it would be difficult for proponents of the dump to counter Australia's ant-nuclear lobbying machine.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon