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Search for a site for the national store for intermediate level radioactive waste.



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SEARCH FOR A SITE FOR THE NATIONAL STORE FOR INTERMEDIATE LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE 11 August 2000

11 August 2000             00/332 

SEARCH FOR A SITE FOR THE NATIONAL STORE FOR INTERMEDIATE LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE  A nationwide search for a site for a national store for Australia's intermediate level waste was announced today by the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, Senator Nick Minchin. 

"A safe site will be chosen by scientific experts", Senator Minchin said. "No decision has yet been made for the site for the store." 

The Federal Government made an in-principle decision to have a national store in 1996, following a Senator inquiry into waste management. 

In 1997, the need for a national store was supported by the Commonwealth/State Consultative Committee on the Management of Radioactive Waste, a body which has representatives from all States and Territories. 

"As recommended by the Consultative Committee, the Commonwealth Government is commencing the process of searching for a site for a national store", said the Minister.  

"The process will be open and transparent. 

"It will be a step by step process just like the search for a site for the low level repository, with review at the end of each step.  

"Over the next couple of months an expert, independent high level scientific committee, the National Store Advisory Committee (NSAC) will be established by my Department to oversight the process.  

"The NSAC will work to Terms of Reference developed by my Department, assess the results of work presented to them by technical working groups and make recommendations on the progress of the siting process.  

"A preliminary timeframe of the search process is attached, although this may need to be revised as a result of public consultation and technical assessment. 

"The earliest the preferred site for a national store could be announced would be

late 2002. 

"Environmental assessment, and licensing by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency would follow, with further opportunities for public comment.  

"Construction could proceed a couple of years after the site has been selected, and after the assessment processes have been satisfactorily completed. 

"There will be significant opportunity for public consultation and comment during this search process. 

"Australia needs a national store for intermediate level radioactive waste. 

"Australia has around 500 cubic metres of intermediate level waste stored at many sites around the country, including in the middle of capital cities such as Adelaide. The national store is needed to ensure that existing waste and future waste continue to be managed safely. Much of the waste arises from State activities, including medical and industrial uses, and less than half will be from Lucas Heights. 

"After about 2015, a small quantity of waste from the reprocessing of spent fuel from reactor operations at Lucas Heights will also be sent to the store. 

"It is in the national interest to have a centralised facility for the storage of this intermediate-level radioactive waste, where it can be safely managed.  

"Currently, waste producers have the responsibility of looking after the material in circumstances which are not ideal, and where there is no guarantee of continuity of arrangements", Senator Minchin said. 

Australia requires two national facilities for the management of our radioactive waste - one facility for low level waste, the national repository, and one facility for intermediate level waste, the national store. 

In the case of the low level waste, the material will be disposed of in near-surface trenches at the national radioactive waste repository, a specific site for which is expected to be identified later this year in central-north SA. 

The intermediate level waste will be housed in an above ground store in a building constructed of concrete. 

While co-location of the repository and the store cannot be ruled out, that is only one option. 

"SA should not be the site for the intermediate waste store unless it is selected as the best place in Australia by a scientifically-based assessment of all possible locations in the nation", said Senator Minchin. 

The final decision on the site for the store will be the result of a rigorous scientific assessment of all possible options. 

"No State or Territory can be excluded before the search has even begun", Senator Minchin said. 

"All States benefit from the share of radioactive materials they receive from Lucas Heights, and from the use of radioactivity in medicine, industry and research. They benefit from activities in their own hospitals, universities and factories that generate radioactive waste. 

"Given the small amount of intermediate waste Australia generates, it simply does not make sense for each State and Territory to establish their own store for the management of this waste. 

"All States will benefit from a national store, and should be willing to be considered as a possible site for the facility. 

"It is simply irresponsible to want all the benefits of radioisotopes but to then walk away from dealing with the waste", Senator Minchin said.   

Contact:  Carolyn Coleman, Senator Minchin's Office

             08 8237 7190

CMR390-00

 

ATTACHMENT  

OUTLINE OF THE SEARCH PROCESS  STAGE ONE:  An expert, independent high level scientific committee, the National Store Advisory Committee (NSAC) will be established by my Department to

oversight the process.

●

Members with specific expertise will be sought to serve on the NSAC such as: ●

those with experience on International Atomic Energy Agency Committees involved with management of radioactive waste from both Australia and overseas, along with members from a variety of Australian scientific agencies including universities, the Bureau of Rural Sciences and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (which will be acting in its advisory role, separate from its later role of regulating the store).

●

Terms of Reference for the NSAC will be developed by my Department in consultation with the committee. ●

NSAC will assess the results of work presented to them by technical working groups and make recommendations on the progress of the siting process.

●

Development of the selection criteria to be used in searching for sites throughout the nation.  ●

STAGE TWO:  A discussion paper on the selection criteria which will be used for the search for a site. Technical and social criteria will be considered, based on relevant international criteria adapted for Australia's circumstances, and public comment invited - this paper could be released during the first half of 2001

●

A paper responding to the public comment on the selection criteria - could be released during the second half of 2001  ●

STAGE THREE: 

A paper on shortlisted regions or sites developed as a result of applying the selection criteria for the search for a site to Australia and inviting public comment.

●

A discussion paper responding to the public comment. ● Earliest the preferred site for a national store could be announced would be late 2002. ●

Environmental assessment, and licensing by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency would follow, with further opportunities for public comment.

●

Construction could proceed a couple of years after the site has been selected, and after the assessment processes have been satisfactorily completed.

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