Wollongong’s status as a “nuclear free” city is symbolic only and has no power to divert a shipment of nuclear waste from travelling through the city’s streets this weekend, Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said.
A major police operation is planned for this weekend as the cargo ship BBC Shanghai docks in Port Kembla, carrying a cargo of nuclear waste following reprocessing in France.
Protests will be held by anti-nuclear groups and unions as the ship is unloaded before the waste is trucked along closed roads through Wollongong to the highway.
It will be taken to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s reactor facility at Lucas Heights, where a special shed has been built to provide safe storage for the waste.
Mr Bradbery said he was not concerned that the waste shipment was disrespecting Wollongong’s declared status as a “nuclear-free” zone – as this was a “symbolic” rule that had no power.
“There’s no other option for them other than to ship it through Port Botany or Port Kembla,” he said.
“The material that was shipped out [through Port Kembla] was shipped out in a form that was more difficult to handle.
“I have spoken about this with Cr [George] Takacs, who is a physicist on council. It’s in the most stable form that’s available for storage.
“I have no other option. I’m not the regulatory authority. But at the same time I’m convinced all the precautions have been put in place and I’m quite happy with the safeguards.”
Wollongong was declared nuclear free by the city council in 1980. The vow was re-stated in 2006, with the council encouraging others to do the same.
But the city is hardly nuclear-free.
Part of the ANSTO waste, which is now returning home, had travelled through Port Kembla in 2009 on its way for processing in France.
And there are multiple sites within the city where radiation and nuclear technology are used in medicine and in research.
Greenpeace will bring boats, and protest on Saturday at the eastern breakwater of Port Kembla harbour, while several groups including the Maritime Union of Australia, South Coast Labour Council, and the Beyond Nuclear Iniative will stage a protest on Springhill Rd near where the shipment is likely to leave the port.