Australia shortlists sites for waste facility

16 November 2015


Australian resources and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, has released a shortlist of six sites nominated to store low-to-intermediate nuclear waste, including three in South Australia.

The government asked landholders to nominate properties to house the facilities earlier this year. The six sites, chosen from 28 voluntarily nominated sites around Australia, are Cortlinye, Pinkawillinie, and Barndioota in South Australia, Hale in the Northern Territory, Sally's Flat in New South Wales and Oman Ama in Queensland.

Following release of the shortlist, locals who live in the six locations will now be consulted over the next four months about what will eventually be a remote, 100-hectare site. A shorter list of three sites will be released in 2016 and by the end of the year, after the next federal election, the government will finally name its preferred site, which is due to be operating by the end of the decade.

Frydenberg said Australians should embrace the eventual construction of a permanent facility as it would allow Australian to continue to enjoy the benefits of nuclear medicine, for example. "This is something in Australia's interests, we are required to store our own waste and this will also allow Australians to continue to benefit from the nuclear industry, in particular nuclear medicine." he said.

"Australia currently has the equivalent of around two Olympic-sized swimming pools of such waste, which may include laboratory items such as paper, plastic and glassware, and material used in medical treatments," he noted. More than 100 sites across the country, including hospitals and universities, are licensed to store this waste on an interim basis."

The South Australian Government is currently hosting a royal commission into the nuclear fuel cycle, examining what role it could play in the state economy, which is facing a sharp decline of the manufacturing and mining industries.

Earlier, the Howard Government faced strong opposition when it proposed storing waste in South Australia. Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has recently fuelled the debate, remaining sceptical about building nuclear plants but suggesting Australia could play a role in the storage of waste.

The Australian government is under pressure to find a site for a national nuclear waste store. Some 25t of waste is being returned from France after being processed. Used nuclear fuel produced for medical purposes at Lucas Heights was sent to France for reprocessing in the 1990s and early 2000s and, under French law, had to removed by the end of 2015.

The Australia Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has been granted licences by the independent regulator, Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), to build and operate a new temporary waste storage facility until a national repository was established.

Anti-nuclear campaigners say the ANSTO facility at Lucas Heights is the ''least worst option'' for storing reprocessed radioactive waste. The ship BBC Shanghai is expected to reach Port Kembla at the end of November or early in December. From there, the storage containers will be moved by truck to Lucas Heights in a high-security operation.


Photo: Six sites have been selected for an Australian low- to intermerdiate-level waste repository



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