Sam Chard, General Manager Australian Radioactive Waste Agency
I write in response to the article ‘Feds push on with plan for nuclear waste facility in Central Aus’ (TheEcho, 11 August 2020).
What we are proposing is a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility for the permanent disposal of Australia’s low-level waste, and temporary storage of our intermediate level waste.
More than 80 per cent of this waste is the by-product of nuclear medicine that two in three Australians will need in their lifetime.
Unlike the proposal considered by the 2015 South Australian Royal Commission, the facility will only be used for Australia’s waste, not international waste, and no high-level waste can be stored at the facility.
These conditions are set in legislation.
The co-location of low and intermediate level waste at the facility has been the basis of the facility proposal since 2015 and the Kimba community was well informed about the proposal, in advance of their local council ballot.
Sixty-two per cent of respondents from the Kimba community supported the proposal moving ahead – 90.41 per cent of eligible locals participated in the ballot.
39.71 per cent of the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation voted against the proposal in their own ballot – 58.38 per cent did not respond.
The intermediate level waste will be temporarily stored at the purpose-built facility for a few decades, until a different type of facility, likely a deep geological one, is sited in a different location. Progress is already being made on that facility, with Australian science agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), already examining disposal options.
With respect to heritage, the land at Napandee is privately owned, has been used for farming for 80 years, and there is no Native Title on it.
That said, the government continues to seek the involvement of the Barngarla, who are the traditional owners of the land in the area.
The fact is that Australia’s radioactive waste has built up over the past 60 years, and is spread over more than 100 sites across the country.
It is not only international best practice but good common sense to consolidate that waste, in a single, safe, secure, and purpose-built facility near a community that broadly supports it.
Under the existing federal legislation, the Minister for Resources could have proceeded with the site at Kimba under a Ministerial direction, but a decision was made to open this up to more scrutiny.
Instead of letting one Minister have final say, the government put the decision in the hands of the whole Australian Parliament, the elected officials acting on behalf of the Australian people.
To find out more, please visit: www.industry.gov.au/arwa