Bipartisan support for establishing Australia’s National Radioactive Waste Management Facility

Following a more than 40-year search to deliver a storage facility for waste largely associated with nuclear medicine production, the Parliament has today passed important supporting legislation.

The National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 passed with bipartisan support.

The passage of the Bill means a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility can be progressed in the national interest, and the nearby community that hosts it will be well supported.

This critical national infrastructure will be for the disposal of Australia’s low level radioactive waste and temporary storage of intermediate level waste, currently spread over more than 100 locations.

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said the passage of the legislation was an historic day for Australia’s medical and science communities in particular.

“For more than 40 years, successive Australian Governments have sought a site for a facility to store Australian radioactive waste found in hospitals, universities and science facilities,” Minister Pitt said.

“More than 80 per cent of Australia’s radioactive waste stream is associated with the production and provision of nuclear medicine, which it’s likely every Australian will require during their lifetime.

“The passage of this Bill will provide certainty to the medical community that a long-term solution to our radioactive waste stream is finally identified.

“The Bill also delivers on our commitment to establish a $20 million Community Fund for the local community, to support long-term infrastructure and development priorities.”

The current process to identify a site for the facility commenced six years ago, and saw 28 sites nominated by landholders around Australia.

After an extensive process, which included investigations into technical suitability and community sentiment at various sites, in early 2020 the Government identified Kimba, in South Australia, as the host community.

Following the introduction of the Bill in February 2020, the Government heard the concerns of some stakeholders and has worked with the Opposition on a Bill which addresses these concerns.

The changes included reinstating the Ministerial site declaration process, which can be scrutinised under judicial review, and providing legislative recognition to the shortlisted sites, recognising that the shortlisted communities have engaged in the lengthy process in good faith.

“There has been bipartisan support on the need for a facility to consolidate our country’s radioactive waste for more than 40 years, and I am glad that has continued,” Minister Pitt said.

The Minister may now issue an ‘intention to declare’ a preferred site for the facility. That would then commence the process outlined in the legislation, to acquire the site by the Australian Government for the purpose of hosting the NRWMF.

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