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Radioactive waste management.



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PRIME MINISTER

RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT

The Government has decided to abandon the establishment of a national low level waste repository at site 40a near Woomera in South Australia.

This decision has been taken in light of the recent Federal Court decision and the effective failure of the states and territories to cooperate with the Australian Government in finding a national solution for the safe and secure disposal of low level radioactive waste.

All states and territories accepted the need for the safe and secure disposal, in one place, of low level waste. But no-one wants it in their back yard.

The Australian Government is committed to taking responsibility for the safe and secure disposal of its low level waste.

The states and territories now have a responsibility to do the same in relation to their waste and as a matter of priority.

To ensure that this happens, the Australian Government will seek a commitment from all states and territories that they will adopt world's best practice in the management of radioactive waste materials in their jurisdictions. This should include: 1. undertaking an immediate and comprehensive inventory of all low level waste within

their jurisdictions; 2. establishing safe and secure storage facilities for low level waste held within their jurisdictions; and 3. establishing appropriate disposal arrangements.

So that this happens to an acceptable standard, the Australian Government will consider various options to ensure that state and territory arrangements are transparent, accord with world's best practice, and are consistent with our international obligations for safe radioactive waste management.

The independent Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) will work cooperatively with relevant state and territory regulators to establish nationally consistent operating principles and guidelines.

The Australian Government fully accepts responsibility for its own low level waste. The Australian Government will be examining sites on Commonwealth land, both onshore and off shore, for the establishment of a suitable facility.

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In examining possible sites, it is the intention of the Australian Government to co-locate the low level waste facility with the national store for intermediate waste. Last year the Australian Government ruled out a national store for intermediate level waste in South Australia on advice from a group of scientific experts. Given the Australian Government's commitment not to locate the national store for intermediate waste in South Australia, co-location will mean that neither a low level waste repository nor a national store for intermediate waste would be located in South Australia.

The examination of possible sites will commence immediately and will be completed as a matter of priority.

14 July 2004