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N-waste in Australia a terror risk: Expert

world Updated: May 11, 2010 16:40 IST
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Radioactive wastes being transported to a proposed waste dump in Australia's Northern Territory could be targeted by terrorists for making "dirty" bomb, a nuclear expert has warned.

John Large, a Britain-based nuclear risk expert, said that waste that will be taken to disused Muckaty cattle station is suitable for a "dirty" radioactive bomb.

Experts acknowledge a home-made radioactive bomb is the most likely nuclear terrorist threat.

Transportation of waste was prone to accident, open to malicious acts and required extra handling for transportation and packaging, Large told The Age.

Large's comments came after a Labor-led Senate committee last Friday upheld the move by federal Resources and Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson, to locate Australia's first national radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, 120 km north of Tennant Creek.

The Northern Territory government and many Aboriginal traditional owners have objected to the plan, the latter challenging the right of one clan to offer a 1.5-square-km site in return for at least $11 million and access to services.

The Senate committee ignored warnings about the risk of transporting waste and submissions that it should be stored close to the point of its production.

Dave Sweeney, nuclear campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, said radioactive waste at Sydney's Lucas Heights, which the government plans to move to Muckaty, is protected by high security including 24-hour police patrols.

The government may introduce legislation authorising the dump later this week.