Hearings last Tuesday of Senate Standing Committee on Economics

The following can be attributed to a spokesperson from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources:

“The department was pleased to attend the committee hearings on Tuesday to discuss the proposed legislation to support the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility,” the spokesperson said.

“Specifically it was also an opportunity to address some questions about the process and proposed facility, including some those which have since been raised in the media, as outlined below.

Is there are need for a facility?

“The legislation delivers on the Australian Government’s commitment to site the facility at Napandee in Kimba, South Australia.

“The facility will be for the disposal of low-level waste and temporary storage of intermediate level waste, which will be stored at the facility only if it meets strict Waste Acceptance Criteria.

“About 80 per cent of Australia’s radioactive waste stream is associated with the production of nuclear medicine which, on average, two in three Australians will need during their lifetime.

“This medical waste, along with Australia’s historical radioactive waste holdings, is currently spread over more than 100 locations across the country, like science facilities, universities and hospitals.

“It is international best practice to consolidate this waste at a purpose-built facility.

Can’t the waste be permanently stored at ANSTO?

“Australia cannot indefinitely produce the vital nuclear medicine that it needs, without responsibly and safely managing the radioactive waste by product.

“The national facility will not fit at ANSTO – it requires at least 40 hectares plus a buffer zone and enabling infrastructure.

“On the other hand, the whole ANSTO Lucas Heights campus, designed for nuclear medicine and research, is only 70 hectares in size, and already has more than 80 buildings on it.

Do we need more scrutiny around the process to identify a site?

“The process to site the facility was developed with the assistance of an Independent Advisory Panel which included members with a range of academic, industry and environmental backgrounds, and people who are both generally supportive and against the proposal to establish the facility.

“And the process has already been independently scrutinised on two occasions.

“In 2018, the Senate Economics References Committee ran an inquiry into the process for the selection of a site for the facility, and this found that that the process was sound.

“Four years of community engagement and three years of technical studies support the identification of Napandee as a site, which is suitable technically to safely and securely manage Australia’s waste, and broadly supported by the community.

What economic benefits would the facility deliver for regional Australia?

“Independent economic analysis conservatively estimated the facility would bring over $8 million in economic benefits to Kimba each year.

“The facility will also be the area’s largest employer, bringing 45 local jobs.

“And some 62% of the local Kimba community supported the facility in a Council-run ballot undertaken last year.

What are the ways of protecting cultural heritage?

“While there is no native title or registered heritage at Napandee, which is cleared farming land, the department recognises the Traditional Custodians in the region, who have strong views about a radioactive waste facility being situated in the area.

“If the Barngarla People are willing to consider the opportunity, the department is seeking to engage with the objective of a funded agreement between BDAC and the Government, which could include:

  • a Barngarla economic plan – including $3 million allocated by the Australian Government
  • training, employment and business opportunities
  • a cultural heritage assessment and management program
  • the opportunity to ensure Barngarla heritage and cultural values are enhanced by the Facility and its design

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