Australian govt plans imposing nuclear waste on South Australian rural community

28 May 2017, Submission by David Noonan, B.Sc., M.Env.St.  To:Senator The Hon Matthew Canavan  RE: Proposed Federal government imposition onto community in South Australia of an illegal “100 year” Store for ANSTO’s “10 000 year” irradiated Nuclear Fuel Wastes.

Storage of nuclear wastes affects the rights, interests and safety of all South Australians and is prohibited in our State under the Nuclear Waste Storage (Prohibition) Act 2000.

Proposed imposition of ANSTO reactor nuclear wastes is a major public interest concern in SA and detracts from public trust and confidence in the Federal government, in ARPANSA and in ANSTO.

The National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) comprises two co-located waste management facilities: an above ground 100 year Store for wastes that ARPANSA states require isolation for 10 000 years, AND a Disposal Facility for wastes requiring isolation for up to 300 years.

This submission focuses on the proposed imposition of the illegal Store & consequences thereof.

The Store is primarily for ANSTO irradiated Nuclear Fuel Wastes (NFW) and other existing and proposed reactor wastes, with only minor projected future arising’s of Intermediate Level Wastes (ILW) from States & Territories or from other Commonwealth agencies.

ARPANSA’s CEO (May 2015) has formally considered the proposed NRWMF Store and stated:

This plan will have the provision for ILW storage above ground for approximately 100 years.”

This indefinite storage plan compromises safety in importing nuclear waste to SA without a waste disposal capacity or even a requisite program for disposal of NFW and ILW.

ARPANSA’s Radiation Health and Safety Advisory Council (April 2010) has provided formal advice which concluded: “that Australia’s current policy of indefinite storage for intermediate level waste does not appear to be consistent with International best practice.”

The import, transport, storage and disposal of ANSTO irradiated Nuclear Fuel Wastes is illegal in SA and was prohibited under the leadership of Liberal Premier John Olsen in 2000:

“The Objects of this Act are to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of South Australia and to protect the environment in which they live by prohibiting the establishment of certain nuclear waste storage facilities in this State”

Since April 2016 the NRWMF project has exclusively targeted community and environment in SA in an attempt to again impose an illegal Store for ANSTO’s irradiated Nuclear Fuel Waste in our State. 2

The Minister’s release “Kimba 90-day consultation begins”(20 March 2017) invited submissions on potential approval under the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 of two nominated sites near Kimba for assessment as potential sites for the proposed NRWM Facility.

This is in-parallel with the Federal government targeting the iconic Flinders Ranges on the country of the Adnyamathanha people in a serious threat to their human rights and cultural interests.

These are fundamentally State level public interest issues and represent a multi-generational threat to community in SA: including intended Federal requisition of an as yet unnamed SA port for imposition of decades of irradiated Nuclear Fuel Wastes imports, along with affected stakeholders on transport routes, in addition to the rights & interests of community around a potential Store site.

The Federal government has unacceptably failed to take up the recent Advice of the ARPANSA Nuclear Safety Committee (4 Nov 2016) for transparency and for the essential “ongoing requirement to clearly and effectively engage all stakeholders, including those along transport routes”.

This Store also exposes SA to unresolved security and potential terrorist risks in shipping, transport and indefinite above ground storage of irradiated Nuclear Fuel Wastes and other reactor wastes.

However, Lucas Heights is Australia’s best placed institution and facility to responsibly manage ANSTO’s Nuclear Fuel Wastes and can do so through-out the operating period of the Opal reactor.

An “Interim Waste Store” built at Lucas Heights in 2015 has a design life of 40 years and an approved purpose to take both the Nuclear Fuel Waste from France (NFW received Dec. 2015) and NFW to be received from the UK in circa 2020. The ARPANSA license for this Store “is not time limited” and has Contingency options to retain these NFW’s at ANSTO “until the availability of a final disposal option”.

The policy agenda to impose a NFW Store in SA is a flawed, unnecessary, contested and unsafe plan.

A broad public interest campaign protected SA rights and interests from prior Federal government attempts to impose nuclear waste facilities onto our State over 1998 to 2004 – and can do so again.

That “National Store Project” was abandoned – just as this NRWMF Store will have to be set aside.

Further, the Federal government’s flawed policy agenda for imposition of nuclear waste effectively precludes a long term resolution to Australia’s “low level” radioactive waste responsibilities.

The Minister has an obligation to learn the lessons from experience in failure of prior projects in Australia and internationally and not to deny or override key public interest community concerns.

My background includes experience as an Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) Campaigner over 1996 to 2011 based in Adelaide.

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One Response to “Australian govt plans imposing nuclear waste on South Australian rural community”

  1. Dennis Cambly Says:

    The US is trying to find a place to store their nuclear waste including a proposed location in Canada. It’s due to the sanctions the US put on Russia. All US nuclear waste was going to Russia where they have a method of re-using the waste. 10% of the nuclear waste remains for burial. Over a year ago Russia told the US, due to the sanctions, Russia would no longer accept the nuclear waste.Odd the media never tell the story of how the sanctions on Russia back fired in so many ways.

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