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ARPANSA sits on the fence regarding Napandee choice for nuclear waste dump

ARPANSA to Senate Committee on National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 [Provisions] Submission 86 (Extracts)

(…….“ARPANSA does not have specific comments on the Amendment Bill per se, as the Bill does not relate to thehealth and safety criteria that are core to any review and assessment under the ARPANS Act and Regulations. It is also premature for ARPANSA to comment on the suitability of the specified site at Napandee, near Kimba in South Australia. The site, the design of the facility and the plans and arrangements for managing safety will be considered in ARPANSA’s review and assessment of an application for a licence to prepare a site for the facility”…  )

…. the IWS was designed and constructed as a contingency solution. The bulk of the activity in the repatriated waste is immobilised in a glass matrix and contained in a dual-purpose (transport and storage) TN-81 cask; and the remainder technological waste is made up of less active material in cemented form.

Additional ILW remains in the UK from reprocessing of HIFAR spent fuel, and is planned to be returned to Australia in 2022. Should the shipment take place at that time, the NRWMF will (again) not be available, which in all likelihood leaves Lucas Heights as the preferred (by ANSTO) option, and possibly the only feasible destination. ARPANSA is aware that the waste in this second shipment is likely to be immobilised and contained in a TN-81 cask with considerably less activity content than the first cask. ARPANSA expects an application from ANSTO for approval to make a change with significant implications for safety under section 63 of the Regulations10, supported by a revised safety analysis report and an updated safety case well in advance of the time the second shipment is intended to be loaded on a vessel for shipment to Australia.

8 A chemical process by which fissile material (uranium and plutonium) is separated from fission products for which no further use is foreseen and therefore considered waste; this waste is repatriated.
9 The CEO’s Statement of Reasons is at operationIWS.pdf
10 Section 63 states a licence holder must obtain approval from the CEO before changing anything described in the application for the licence or modifying the controlled apparatus, controlled material or controlled facility described in the licence

Production of molybdenum-99 in the ANSTO Nuclear Medicine Facility (ANM). ANSTO received a licence to operate the ANM Facility on 12 April 2018. In the facility, molybdenum-99 (Mo-99; a fission product) is extracted from uranium plates that have been irradiated in the OPAL reactor. The immediate decay product of Mo-99 is technetium-99m (Tc-99m), used in the majority of nuclear medicine procedures.

in Australia and overseas. ANSTO was authorised to commence routine production for the domestic and international nuclear medicine markets on 24 May 2019.
The liquid residue from the Mo-99 extraction and purification process is classified as ILW. The storage tanks at the ANM can accommodate six years of Mo-99 production. ANSTO’s intention is to immobilise the radioactive substances in the liquid waste in an inert ceramic matrix in a planned facility at Lucas Heights known as the SyMo Facility. ANSTO received ARPANSA’s authorisation to prepare a site and construct the facility in 201411. Construction is under way and an application for a licence to operate the facility is preliminarily expected by mid-2021.

Implications of ILW generation and storage at Lucas Heights for the NRWMF. The licence decisions regarding the IWS were predicated on the fact that the intended storage facility (the NRWMF) was not available; that no alternative interim solution other than the IWS was feasible; and that there was some urgency as Australia was under obligations to enable repatriation from France before the end of 2015.

Furthermore, there was at the time of the decision no consideration given to disposal of ILW in the national plans, only to storage. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation Act 198712 prevents disposal of waste at the ANSTO premises at Lucas Heights; this is supported by ARPANSA.

The CEO of ARPANSA, therefore, imposed a condition on the licence to operate the IWS which requires ANSTO to provide plans for the final management of the waste held in the IWS: “the licence holder must submit to the CEO, no later than 30 June 2020 and in a form acceptable to the CEO, plans for the removal of waste stored in the facility.”

Likewise, the CEO included a condition in the licence to operate the ANM Facility that requires ANSTO to report by 30 June 2020 on, inter alia: plans for storage and disposal of the ILW, and contingency plans should one or several components of the ILW management system not eventuate or fail. This condition complements the condition issued with the IWS licence.

ARPANSA is aware that some stakeholders have interpreted ARPANSA’s decisions regarding the IWS as a requirement for relocation of the waste stored in the IWS, even suggesting that there is an urgent need for relocation. This is not correct. ARPANSA has not raised safety concerns regarding storage of waste at the IWS. ANSTO seems to share this view. ANSTO has indicated to ARPANSA that the mandatory recertification of the TN-81 casks every 10 years can be carried out at the IWS; and in response to a request for identification of contingency measures in the short to medium term, ANSTO Identified the following:

Retention of the returned residues at ANSTO until the availability of a final disposal optionRetention of the returned residues at ANSTO until the availability of the NRWMF for storage

……..Regarding the ILW planned to be processed in the SyMo facility, ARPANSA anticipates that information on storage, including whether this would involve the NRWMF, is included in the forthcoming report developed by ANSTO, in compliance with the condition issued with the operating licence for the ANM facility.

Radioactive Waste at Woomera
CSIRO holds just under 10,000 drums of waste at the Woomera Prohibited Area. CSIRO currently estimates that less than 200 of these barrels would require management at a future NRWMF. These 200 barrels are estimated to be LLW, with no ILW currently detected. These drums are undergoing characterisation work to improve the inventory of waste held. ARPANSA has been monitoring CSIRO’s characterisation work since 2016. This includes environmental monitoring of radiation levels. CSIRO is developing a pilot program to test new methods to manage their waste, however, this will require ARPANSA’s approval prior to implementation.

Radioactive Waste at ARPANSA
ARPANSA has custody of approximately 68 m3of radioactive waste, being legacy waste from activities carried out by the ARL and its predecessors at a time these organisations were involved in production of radiopharmaceuticals. The waste will be kept in safe storage until such time it can be safely disposed of in a suitable facility.

About half of the waste is stored at ARPANSA’s premises in Melbourne, comprising 137 x 220 litre steel drums (i.e. approximately 30 m3). Most of these drums are filled with building material contaminated with radium. This material was recovered from the decontamination and subsequent demolition of the former Commonwealth Radiation Laboratory (one of ARL’s predecessors) in Melbourne. About 27 m3 could be considered LLW, with the remaining three m3 considered ILW due to its radium content.

The waste at the Defence site comprises 76 x 220 litre steel drums (i.e. approximately 15 m3) and 42 x 540 litre High Integrity Containers (i.e. approximately 23 m3). Much of this waste is a mixture of disused
medium-lived radioactive material (cobalt-60, cesium-137 and strontium-90) and long-lived laboratory waste from the operations of the ARL and the Materials Research Laboratory. There are also a number of drums and containers enclosing consumer materials recovered from the public, such as watches and compasses with radium dials and luminous paints containing radium. About 27 m3 could be considered LLW, whereas about 11 m3 could be considered ILW.

ARPANSA’s requirements for a licence application for the NRWMF
The requirements ARPANSA places on an applicant for a licence for a radioactive waste storage or disposal facility are in accordance with the ARPANS Act and Regulations, regulatory guides and ensures that international best practice is considered.
The licence requirements are extensive and can be found in the ARPANSA Regulatory Guide: Applying for a Licence for a Radioactive Waste Storage or Disposal Facility, REG-LA-SUP-240L v3.1 January 2019. In addition, any disposal facility for solid radioactive waste should meet the requirements set out in nationally agreed Radiation Protection Series (RPS) C-3 Code for Disposal Facilities for Solid Radioactive Waste 2018……

June 19, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump | Leave a comment