Radioactive waste management: the need for a single national facility
Radioactive wastes contain radioactive material, meaning they emit ionising radiation or particles. These waste materials are usually by-products of nuclear power generation and other applications of nuclear fission or nuclear technology, such as research and medicine. Man-made radioactive materials are widely used in medicine, industry, agriculture, environmental studies, pollution control and research. These uses benefit each of us individually and the Australian community as a whole but they also create waste.
In Australia, low-level waste is largely produced as a result of the production of nuclear medicine. It is not dangerous to handle, but must be disposed of more carefully than normal garbage. To reduce its volume, it is often compacted or incinerated in a closed container before disposal.
Industry was invited to get involved in the process to build a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, with tenders opened for Site Characterisation works (closed 28 November).
The tender is to deliver a range of technical assessments that will form part of Phase Two of the process in relation to the proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, including:
- Assessing flora and fauna, geology, seismic activity, risks, the surrounding environment, transportation and other infrastructure
- Inputting into the Detailed Business Case, with reference to the site specific design and cost estimates that arise from site characterisation; and
- An additional option, following site characterisation, for the preparation and development of submissions for licencing and approvals process. The National Radioactive Waste Management Facility will consolidate Australia’s radioactive waste holdings, which are currently spread across more than 100 locations around the country.
Bruce McCleary, general manager of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility Taskforce says that site characterisation is an important activity in the next part of the project.
“Three sites, two in Kimba and one at Wallerberdina Station were voluntarily nominated by their landowners and moved to Phase Two assessment after the community supported continuing the discussion,” McCleary says.
“Phase Two involves building a detailed understanding of the nominated sites, through in-depth community consultation and technical assessments.
“Community consultation is now well underway, including appointment of locally engaged officers and establishment of site offices at both sites, creation of committees and working groups, and regular visits from members of the project team and experts to provide information on the project.
“The other part of it is site characterisation, which involves looking in detail at all aspects of each site, and understanding whether they fit the technical criteria to be a suitable location.”
McCleary says this second phase of the process at all three sites will be underway until the end of next year.
More on the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility project can be found at www.radioactivewaste.gov.au.
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