Senate Inquiry Recommends Passage of Australia’s Waste Bill: Waste and Recycling

September 17, 2020

An Australian Senate committee has recommended that Parliament pass legislation that would make Napandee, South Australia, the site of a low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste management facility. The Standing Senate Committee on Economics released its final report on the provisions of the National Radioactive Waste Management (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Amendment Bill 2020 September 14.

ARWA’s conceptual design for the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (Image: ARWA)

In February, the Senate referred the Bill’s provisions to committee for investigation and report, to give Parliament and other interested stakeholders a further opportunity to engage on the issue, said Australia’s Resources Minister, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt. “We take note of the report submitted today by the Committee. We thank the members of the Committee for their work and take note of the recommendations that have been made. This report brings us one step closer to the establishment of a facility to eliminate safely our low-level radioactive waste and temporarily store our intermediate-level waste, a process that has been going on for four decades,” he added.

The Bill would establish a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility to permanently dispose of low-level radioactive waste and temporarily store intermediate-level radioactive waste by amending the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 to, among other things, specify the selected site and allow the acquisition of additional land for the installation.

The committee held four public hearings and received 105 written submissions and more than 3,600 items of correspondence in response to the inquiry. In his final report, he recommends that the bill be passed without further amendment. It also recommends that the Australian Radioactive Waste Agency (ARWA) “discuss the issues and find a way of continued consultation” with the Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation.

Australia does not produce nuclear energy but has a long history of operating research reactors and producing radioisotopes for medicine, research and industry. According to World Nuclear Association, the country generates about 45 cubic meters of mostly low-level radioactive waste per year from the manufacture and use of radioisotopes. This waste is currently stored at more than 100 sites across the country, including scientific facilities, hospitals and universities. Six voluntary sites have been shortlisted for a national repository for the two categories of waste, and after a process of around 28 years, Napandee, near Kimba, was identified earlier this year by the government as the preferred site for the low-level waste facility.

ARWA was established in July to manage all of Australia’s radioactive waste and lead the process of delivering the national radioactive waste management facility. It will also lead a separate process to establish a permanent disposal facility for the country’s intermediate level waste. It will probably be a deep geological facility in another location.

Research and writing by World Nuclear News

Norman D. Briggs