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Monday, 20 August 2001
Page: 26104


Senator HILL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (3:19 PM) —I have an answer to a question from Senator Brown that I took on notice in a recent debate on 6 August this year. I know that the Senate likes to get these responses as quickly as possible. I seek leave to incorporate the answer in the Hansard.

Leave granted.

The response read as follows—

The Government is progressing plans for the safe and responsible management of Australia's radioactive waste, which addresses the recommendations relating to waste management arising from the EIS into the replacement research reactor.

The Government is in the process of establishing a national radioactive waste repository for disposal of Australia's low level and short-lived intermediate radioactive waste, including that arising from the existing HIFAR reactor, and from the replacement research reactor

A preferred site and two alternatives in central-north South Australia are currently undergoing environmental assessment under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The draft EIS is expected to be completed in early 2002.

The Government has decided that the most appropriate way to manage the long-lived intermediate level waste arising from reprocessing of spent fuel from the existing HIFAR reactor and replacement research reactor is to house it in a purpose-built above-ground storage facility.

The Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, Senator Minchin, announced a process to establish a store for the management of intermediate level radioactive waste in August 2000.

In February, 2001, Senator Minchin announced that the Commonwealth would establish a purpose-built store on Commonwealth land for the storage of national intermediate level radioactive waste produced by Commonwealth agencies, including waste produced by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

The siting process for the store is progressing and involves

Development of selection criteria that would be used to identify potentially suitable sites

Identification of potentially suitable sites

Public comment at various stages of the process.

An expert committee, the National Store Advisory Committee (NSAC), is advising on the siting process.

A discussion paper on the method which will be used to identify a suitable site “Safe Storage of Radioactive Waste - the National Store Project: Methods for Choosing the Right Site” was released for public comment in July 2001.

In February 2001, Senator Minchin ruled out co-location of the store for intermediate level waste with the repository for low level waste in order to avoid any suggestion that the two processes are not completely separate.

The earliest a site for the national store could be identified would be late 2002.

Waste arising from the conditioning of spent fuel from HIFAR will arrive back in Australia in 2015, and waste arising from the conditioning of spent fuel from the replacement research reactor will be returned to Australia after 2025.

The waste will be returned to Australia in a form suitable for storage in the national store.

The national store will be designed to operate for a period of up to at least fifty years until a suitable geological repository deep underground is established for the disposal of Australia's intermediate level waste.