Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear waste now returning to Sydney can be stored safely at Lucas Heights. Then we need to work on a permanent solution

Australian Conservation Foundation, Dave Sweeney, 12 Mar 22, The Pacific Grebe is a nuclear waste transport vessel that left Cumbria in the UK on 20 January 2022. The ship is now off Australia’s east coast.

On board is a waste transport cannister holding intermediate-level radioactive waste (ILW) being returned to Australia after reprocessing in the UK.

This is serious waste that needs to be isolated for up to 10,000 years. It requires active management and effective regulatory control.

The transport vessel is expected to arrive in Port Kembla this Saturday (12 March) with the ILW to be transported by road to interim storage at the ANSTO nuclear facility at Lucas Heights.

ACF is opposed to nuclear power and weapons in Australia but supports responsible radioactive waste management.

We do not view this waste transfer as an activity to disrupt, but rather as an important time to highlight the Australian government’s deeply flawed handling of the nation’s radioactive waste management.

The federal plan for a national radioactive waste facility near Kimba in regional South Australia lacks a clear rationale and is contested by several interested parties. The Barngarla people, the area’s Native Title holders, were unable to vote against the federal plan in a carefully-curated community ballot.

The Barngarla are challenging the government’s plan right now in the Federal Court. Local grain producers are bitterly opposed, as are a growing number of South Australian political and civil society groups and voices.

Once again battlelines are being drawn and uncertainty increases.

What the Pacific Grebe cargo and interim destination shows is a pathway forward on radioactive waste management.

The vast majority of Australia’s ILW is made and stored at ANSTO. This makes sense as ANSTO has expertise, high security, a permanent on site presence and is home to Australia’s best radiation monitoring and response capacity.

And ANSTO has storage capacity. Right now, following a $60 million dollar federal budget allocation last year, a new extended interim storage facility is being constructed at Lucas Heights.

Together with the existing facilities, Australia’s chief nuclear regulator has confirmed that this waste “can be safely stored at Lucas Heights for decades to come.”

ACF maintains that there is a compelling case that Australia’s ILW be managed in extended interim storage at ANSTO’s nuclear facility at Lucas Heights pending the outcome of a dedicated and transparent review of long term future ILW management.

There is no clear or cogent radiological, public health, environmental or economic rationale for double handling this waste through a planned additional interim storage stage at Kimba.

This waste should come into Port Kembla and be securely transferred by skilled maritime workers and appropriate industry experts. It should then go – without incident – to ANSTO. It should remain at Lucas Heights with the rest of ANSTO’s intermediate level waste as ANSTO is best placed to manage this waste.

After this the much-needed work begins of bringing diverse perspectives from the trenches to the table to answer the missing and very hard question: What is the best thing to do with this stuff in the long term?


March 12, 2022 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, wastes

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