Australia’s federal government announced that it has formally selected Napandee, a 211 hectare property near the town of Kimba on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula as the site for a long-planned radioactive waste storage facility. The site has been acquired by the government and will be used to store low and medium-level nuclear waste.
The Barngarla people, the traditional owners of the land, have unanimously rejected the government’s plan saying they would seek a Supreme Court judicial review of the site selection process along with some landholders. "There have been significant and repeated grave problems with the government’s conduct regarding the site selection process," a spokesperson for the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation said in a statement. "We remain confident that, once assessed by the Court, the declaration to locate the facility at Napandee on our Country will likely be overturned."
Resources Minister, Keith Pitt announced in August that Napandee had been chosen from three potential sites to store Australia’s radioactive waste. These included the outback town of Lyndhurst and Wallerberdina, a property in the nouthern Flinders Ranges. After 60 days of further consultation, he has now confirmed the selection of Napandee.
The consultation culminated in a ballot which showed just over 60% of Kimba residents supported the project. However, the Barngarla traditional owners and said they were not included in the consultation.
The Australian Radioactive Waste Agency (ARWA), created to establish the Napandee facility, will start work on detailed designs. ARWA was set up in July 2020 to manage all Australia's radioactive waste and to lead the process to deliver it. ARWA will also lead a separate process to site a facility to permanently dispose of the country's intermediate-level waste. This will likely be a deep geological facility in a different location.
Australia’s radioactive waste is currently held at more than 100 locations including in science facilities, universities and hospital basements. The vast majority of the waste produced today is associated with the production of nuclear medicine. The facility delivery and operation will be managed by ARWA in Adelaide, which will have at least 35 staff when it reaches its total complement.
Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), which runs Lucas Heights, where Australia’s medical radioisotopes are produce, said the Napandee facility would be “critical infrastructure”.
ANSTO said that the national facility “will receive and expertly manage radioactive waste currently being stored on an interim basis at Lucas Heights and more than 100 other locations around the country”. It added: “The development of a purpose-built, national facility is crucial to ANSTO and its nuclear medicine and research activities, with more than 90% of the waste produced in Australia being linked to ANSTO’s nuclear medicine production.”
The new radioactive waste management facility is expected to create 45 new, permanent jobs in the local Kimba community.