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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 101

(Question No. 4962)


Mr Milton asked the Minister representing the Minister for Resources and Energy, upon notice, on 27 November 1986:

(1) Is the Minister able to say whether the commercial production of Synroc has commenced; if not, when will production commence.

(2) Is the Minister able to say (a) where Synroc will be produced, (b) who will be responsible for its production, (c) how much will be produced and (d) what will be the unit cost of production.

(3) Will the commercially-produced Synroc be cost effective relative to other methods of radioactive waste disposal.

(4) What quantity of Synroc will be required to dispose of the world's present stocks of radioactive waste.

(5) Is the Minister able to say whether there are plans to test Synroc with the radioactive waste encapsulated; if so, when and where will this occur.


Mr Barry Jones —The Minister for Resources and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) The Synroc process is at present at a research, development and demonstration phase and it is too early for any country or organisation to have firm plans for its commercial production. Australia has R & D agreements on Synroc with UK, Japan and Italy.

(2) (a) See (1); (b) See (1); (c) See (1); (d) The unit cost of production is expected to be comparable with that of borosilicate glass containing the same weight percent of radioactive waste. Operative experience with the AAEC/ANU non-radioactive Synroc demonstration plant will be necessary before firmer predictions can be made.

(3) See (2) (d).

(4) Synroc is being developed as a second generation high level radioactive waste (HLW) disposal form. However, as Synroc is still at the R&D phase, it would be premature to estimate its impact on the disposal of world stocks of radioactive waste.

In 1986, the OECD estimated that cumulative OECD spent fuel arisings to 1985 were 46 000 tonnes. If all of this were reprocessed and encapsulated into Synroc, 7000-14 000 tonnes of Synroc would be required.

(5) Yes.

(i) At the AAEC, low levels of radioactive waste has been incorporated in small laboratory scale specimens of Synroc and the product tested with excellent results.

(ii) In the UK, HLW from spent fuel elements has been incorporated into small samples of Synroc at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment (AERE), Harwell. Testing will commence soon.

(iii) In Japan, the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI), will also incorporate HLW from spent fuel elements into small Synroc speci- mens in 1987-88.