Nuclear waste dump a ‘great opportunity’: minister
FEDERAL Minister for Resources Josh Frydenberg clears up some of the misconceptions around plans for a nuclear waste dump on the Darling Downs.
OMAN AMA is one of the six locations identified by the Government last November as a possible site for a new National Radioactive Waste Management Facility.
It followed a nomination process that saw 28 sites voluntarily put forward by land owners across the country.
This short list of six sites has been chosen following an assessment by my department with advice from an independent panel that looked at technical, economic, social and environmental factors such as seismic activity in the area, weather patterns, access to infrastructure and overall geology.
With two to three of the six sites to be short listed in the coming months after which a single site will be chosen, community feedback is important.
It is also important to remember the number of benefits that will flow to the final chosen community. The construction of the facility itself is likely to cost more than $100 million with annual operational expenditures of around $10 million.
This will provide sustainable, well-paying jobs for the local community, not just on site but also in surrounding areas. Upgrades to local infrastructure such as roads and communication links will follow, and other services requested by the local community will be considered. In addition, a capital contribution fund of at least $10 million will be established to fund local projects, with the community to decide how this money will be spent.
The Government is seeking to partner with communities who are willing to continue to the next stage of this process. To date, local communities around the six sites have been engaging constructively and actively with the Government to discuss the proposal.
With 120 days set for a formal public consultation period, which will end on 11 March, forums have been held, experts have been made available and fact sheets have been distributed.
Nevertheless, there remain some misconceptions as to the type of facility to be built and the waste it will house. This is totally understandable given the sensitive nature of the subject.
Let me be clear: the storage facility planned for Australia is not the first of its kind in the world. England, France, Spain, South Africa and other comparable countries have put in place a national radioactive waste facility.
The site in England is located in the high-value agricultural area of the Lake District, in France the facility is in the Champagne region and in Spain it is situated among the rolling hills of the tourist province of El Cabril.
The international experience is that agriculture, tourism, land values and community safety are not adversely impacted by these facilities. In fact, once these facilities were established, local communities have embraced them and see them as a central part of their local economies.
Another misconception is that the Government is planning to store radioactive waste from other countries at this new facility. This is simply not true.
The successful site will have a facility purpose-built to dispose of the low level waste such as surgical gloves, test tubes, eye wear and gowns that have come into contact with nuclear medicine produced in Australia.
It will also have a separate building to store intermediate level waste that was generated by the reprocessing of the fuel rods from the research reactor at the Lucas Heights campus of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), as well as disused radioactive sources that were once used for purposes such as radiotherapy in hospitals.
These waste materials, both of a low and intermediate nature, were produced here in Australia. We will not be taking waste produced overseas to store in this facility.
It must be understood that currently Australia's low and intermediate waste is stored at more than 100 sites around the country.
Hospitals, universities, ANSTO and CSIRO are all temporary stores for these products. With waste having been accumulated for up to six decades, capacity is being reached making it time for Australia to build a single purpose-built facility like there is in other parts of the world.
The facility will be built to the highest safety, security and environmental standards and it has been made very clear by ANSTO that there will be no radiation emitted from the site.
It may be reassuring for people to know that a worker at the proposed waste management facility who comes into daily contact with the waste would have to work more than 10 years at the facility to be subject to the same amount of radiation as a patient undergoing a single CT chest scan.
Building a national radioactive waste management facility is Australia's best option and given the importance of nuclear medicine to our community with more than 10,000 patient doses produced in Australia each week, it is one whose success we all have a stake in.
In the weeks ahead the Government looks forward to continuing its constructive discussions with the Oman Ama community.
We stand ready to answer any questions there may be because we want communities to be fully informed. At the end of this initial consultation period, I will be seeking two to three communities that are willing to move to the next stage of the process and begin an important and valuable partnership with the Federal Government.
This next step will include deeper community consultation and a detailed design proposal, before a preferred location is selected before the end of the year.