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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21867


Mrs Irwin asked the Minister for Education, Science and Training, upon notice, on 9 September 2003:

(1) Has an application been made to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) for the storage of nuclear waste material in South Australia including road transport of nuclear waste through New South Wales; if so, (a) does the application propose specific preferred routes or alternative routes for the transport of nuclear waste material through New South Wales, (b) does the preferred route, or any proposed alternative, pass through the electoral division of Fowler; if so, what is the exact route proposed, (c) what measures have been proposed in the application to ensure the safety of residents and road users in the electoral division of Fowler, and (d) which other federal electoral divisions does the route pass through.

(2) Have any studies been undertaken to evaluate the safety and security issues associated with the road transport of nuclear waste material through the electoral division of Fowler; if so, will these studies be made public and; if so, when.

(3) Has there been any consultation with State or Local Government Authorities concerning the proposed road transport of nuclear waste material through the electoral division of Fowler.


Dr Nelson (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) An application has been made to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) for licences to site, construct and operate the national radioactive waste repository for disposal of low level waste at a site near Woomera in South Australia.

(a) The route options for the transport of radioactive waste to the national repository were first addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the project, which has been submitted to ARPANSA as part of the licence application. Two main route options within NSW were identified for waste being transported from Sydney; one via Orange, Dubbo and Broken Hill using the Great Western, Mitchell and Barrier Highways; the second via Wagga Wagga, Hay and Mildura using the Hume and Sturt Highways.

(b) The EIS also identified a route option for the transport of waste from Brisbane through NSW to the national repository. It is proposed that waste would be transported via Dubbo and Broken Hill on the Newell, Mitchell and Barrier Highways.

(c) One of the two route options proposed for transport of radioactive waste from Sydney to the national repository would pass through the electoral division of Fowler. The overall route involves transport of waste via Wagga Wagga, Hay, and Mildura to South Australia. Possible elements of the route within the confines of Sydney were not proposed to maintain maximum flexibility with respect to the transport arrangements in accordance with ARPANSA's 2001 Code of Practice for the safe transport of radioactive materials.

Transport of radioactive waste to the national repository will be safely managed. The transport of radioactive material, including radioactive waste, is governed by strict regulations and codes of practice, particularly ARPANSA's 2001 Code of Practice for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material, which is based on internationally accepted safety guidelines published by the International Atomic Energy Agency. These codes of practice are designed to ensure the containment of radioactive materials in the unlikely event of an accident. Only solid low level waste will be transported to the national repository. The waste will be securely packaged, with concrete as required, in steel drums which will be placed in steel shipping containers.

The licence application for the repository specifies requirements for driver training, vehicle safety and emergency response plans which will be met before and during transportation of waste to the national repository.

There are well established procedures to manage an emergency involving radioactive material which would enable an appropriate response in the unlikely event of an accident. Initial response would be by the NSW Fire Brigade. The Sydney HAZMAT response unit would be summoned, if the circumstances necessitated it, to an incident in the electoral division of Fowler. Specialists in managing radioactive materials from the NSW Environment Protection Agency would also attend the accident if needed. The Australian Government can provide assistance on request from states and territories via Emergency Management Australia. ARPANSA and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) can also assist.

(d) The Great Western, Mitchell and Barrier Highways pass through the NSW electoral divisions of Sydney, Grayndler, Lowe, Reid, Parramatta, Greenway, Chifley, Lindsay, Macquarie, Calare and Parkes.

The Hume and Sturt Highways pass through the NSW electoral divisions of Grayndler, Lowe, Blaxland, Fowler, Werriwa, Macarthur, Gilmore, Hume, Riverina and Farrer.

(2) Studies have been undertaken to evaluate safety and security issues associated with the transportation of low level radioactive waste to the national repository. The results of the safety studies, and general discussion of security issues (given the restricted classification of this information), were reported in the EIS on the national repository which can be accessed via the internet at www.radioactivewaste.gov.au.

Consideration was given in the EIS to the risk and consequences of accidents involving trucks transporting waste to the national repository. It was concluded that the stringent packaging requirements would ensure that waste would be safely contained in the event of an accident, and that the probability of an accident occurring during an “average” truck trip to the national repository was 0.14% (the number of accidents divided by the number of shipments), a very low likelihood.

Conditioned waste, or waste which is treated for disposal, securely packaged with concrete as required (e.g. items such as gauges may require this sort of packaging), in steel drums and in steel shipping containers would be less accessible from a security point of view than un-conditioned waste stored in hospitals, universities and industry and government stores which have not been designed for the long-term management of the material.

(3) Extensive consultation with the public has been undertaken throughout the national repository project. Public submissions were invited on the proposal in 1992, 1994 and 1998 during the siting phase. Public submissions were also invited on the draft EIS from 29 July to 21 October 2002 and the issues raised were responded to in the supplement to the draft EIS. No submissions were received from the two councils in the electoral division of Fowler, or from relevant state agencies.

A further opportunity for public consultation on the project is currently being provided through the ARPANSA licensing process. ARPANSA has called for public submissions on the licence application to site, construct and operate the national repository until 6 November 2003.