Australian government names preferred site for waste facility

12 August 2021

Australia’s Federal Minister for Resources and Water, Keith Pitt, on 11 August announced his intention to make a declaration under the National Radioactive Waste Act 2012 confirming part of the land at Napandee near Kimba in South Australia, as the preferred site for the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF). Public comment is invited until 22 October. Following the consultation period, the Minister will consider relevant comments and may then declare Napandee as the site for the facility after which the Government would take steps to acquire the site.

The Ministry notes that the project “is an emotive issue for many, including the Traditional Custodians of the Napandee site, the Barngarla people”. It adds that the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency “will continue to work in a way that respects the views of those who have concerns” and that the announcement “is another step towards a $31 million Community Development Package to support the local host community”. A poll showed that more than half the population of the Kimba support the proposal but the announcement now opens the door to a legal challenge by traditional owners, according to ABC.

The legislation for the project had been amended to list several other site options that had previously been discarded in a successful bid to gain Opposition support. However, the formal determination can now be challenged in the courts opening the way for a judicial review of the site selection process by the Barngarla people. ABC notes that consultation was only carried out with ratepayers, not with Barngarla traditional owners, some of whom have said they do not want the facility on their land. In a statement, representative body the Barngarla Aboriginal Corporation said it was denied the right to vote on the site. "If the Minister declares Napandee as the site, we will bring it to a judicial review," the statement said.

The Napandee facility would host primarily low-level waste and sometimes store intermediate-level waste temporarily.The waste is currently held at more than 100 locations across the country. More than 80% of radioactive waste in Australia is associated with the production of nuclear medicine. "We want to make sure we can continue to use the world's leading best health technology for all Australians," Pitt said. "To do that, it has to be stored and dealt with. Upon reviewing all the information, it is clear that radioactive waste can be safely and securely stored at Napandee."

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