Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear waste from Britain heading to Lucas Heights – first load of many.

Nuclear waste from Britain heading to Lucas Heights,    THE AUSTRALIAN,   JACQUELIN MAGNAY   30 DECEMBER 21, LONDON@jacquelinmagnay,

Australia is to receive a two-tonne shipment of nuclear waste from Britain that will arrive under tight security and amid high secrecy in the coming months.

The shipment of intermediate-level nuclear waste has been ­prepared for delivery to the Australian Nuclear Science and Tech­nology Organisation facilities at Lucas Heights, in Sydney’s south.

It will be just the second tranche of intermediate-level nuclear waste returned to the country, and its arrival shines a spotlight on Australia’s lack of a long-term storage plan for nuclear waste classified above low-level material.

The radioactive uranium and plutonium waste has been vitrified in four glass containers and then encased in an outer container made of specialised steel, known as a TN81 cask.

ANSTO says its previous experience in receiving intermediate-level nuclear waste – which occurred in 2015 when a larger shipment was returned from France – will mitigate any risks.

In that shipment, all local roads along the route were shut for more than five hours, and the ­operation involved the NSW Riot Squad and other police units to contain antinuclear protesters.

In the coming weeks, the ­nuclear waste will be moved by rail from the decommissioned ­nuclear plant at Sellafield in Cumbria to the British coast before being loaded onto a ship operated by Nuclear Transport Solutions.

It is expected to travel through Australian waters, including some maritime parks, before berthing.

The cargo is likely to be unloaded at Port Kembla in Wollongong under heavy guard, arriving sometime before the middle of next year.

Wherever the ship berths, the container will be loaded onto a truck for transport through ­residential and industrial areas, as well as along the Princes Highway through the Royal National Park south of Sydney and on to the Lucas Heights facility.

ANSTO says the final route will be a closely guarded secret and will be decided in consultation with NSW authorities.

NTS confirmed that the return of the intermediate-level waste in the form of vitrified residue to Australia had first been expected to take place last year.

Preparations for the shipment have been carried out since 2014……..

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency has recently certified “the transport package”, and it will allow ANSTO to “temporarily” store the nuclear waste in the ­Interim Waste Store at Lucas Heights before another temporary storage facility for intermediate waste – currently being considered for Napandee, near the town of Kimba in South Australia – is ready to receive it.

This planned alternative storage solution, which is known as the ­National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, would bring together all the low-level radioactive waste from 100 different sites around the country and allow temporary storage of intermediate-level waste.

However, the proposed site in Kimba is being contested, with a judicial review requested earlier this month by traditional landowners the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation.

Longer-term storage plans for the intermediate waste are yet to be considered.

Despite this uncertainty, Australia is committed to receiving the waste after 114 ANSTO spent fuel rods were sent to Dounreay, Scotland, to be reprocessed of ­plutonium and uranium in 1996.

The processed waste being ­returned is of an equivalent radioactive level, but in a more condensed form than was originally exported to Scotland, and it has now been transported to the old Sellafield power station.

This means that instead of 52 500-litre drums of cemented waste, the British shipment will comprise four canisters of glass waste of an equivalent level.

It is classified by British authorities as having radioactivity levels greater than four GBq/tonne for alpha emitters and Beta/gamma emitters greater than 12 GBq/tonne – which puts it in the intermediate category.

ANSTO says it has experience in handling and storing such waste, citing the 2015 arrival of 25 tonnes of similar-level nuclear waste from France.

The new shipment will be stored next to that waste……………..

It is unclear if local councils positioned along the expected transport route will be notified when the shipment lands.

Previously, some export transportation of spent nuclear fuel rods from ANSTO to France for reprocessing has been carried out in the middle of the night with tight secrecy and no prior notice. Several councils, including Wollongong through which the nuclear waste will be carried, have called for Australia to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Australia can expect to have to receive further shipments of returned waste every six or seven years, including spent fuel elements from the Opal reactor sent to La Hague in France for reprocessing before being returned.

December 30, 2021 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, wastes

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