The Australian government said on 29 April that a site in South Australia has been shortlisted as a possible location for a national radioactive waste management facility. Barndioota, near Port Augusta, north of Adelaide, was selected after months of consultation which followed the release of six possible sites for the facility - three in South Australia, and one each in New South Wales, Queensland, and the Northern Territory. All were voluntarily nominated.
Barnidoota was selected after the completion of a 120-day consultation period that included face-to-face meetings with stakeholders, community visits, and the receipt of more than 1700 individual submissions. Randomised community surveys were also carried out to gauge levels of support across each community. The minister noted that while encouraging levels of support were identified across a number of the sites, Barnidoota "displayed a broad level of community support for moving to the project's next phase".
Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg said it was not the final decision and further consultation and analysis would be needed. He said Barndioota's shortlisting presents an opportunity to continue consultation and concept development with the community to ensure information is provided and any outstanding questions are answered.
A final site will only be selected if there is broad community support and it meets strict environmental and radiation protection regulatory requirements. A second phase of further consultation and detailed design, safety, environmental and technical assessments will now be carried out, including an independent heritage assessment undertaken with traditional owners to identify the full extent of indigenous heritage at the site and to ensure its protection.
The third phase will involve selection of a site, the development of final engineering and technical designs, and the submission of proposals for environmental and regulatory approvals. The fourth phase - construction of the facility - is expected in 2018-20, according to the Australian Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.
The nominated land at Barnidoota covers about 6,300 hectares. The facility itself will require about 100 hectares. In recognition of any short-term disruption caused by the detailed assessments in the second phase of the project, the Barnidoota community will receive up to AUD2m ($1.5m) for "local projects that create lasting economic or social benefits", Frydenberg said.
Australia produces about 45 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste a year from the production and use of radioisotopes for use in medicine, research and industry. This is in temporary storage at more than 100 licensed sites at universities, hospitals and laboratories. Site selection for a national repository has been underway since the 1970s, and legislation enacted in 2012 aims to establish a single-site facility for managing that waste based on a "volunteerism" approach. Plans for a national radioactive waste management facility at Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory were shelved in June 2014 when the Northern Land Council, which represents Aboriginal peoples in the area, withdrew its nomination.