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National Radioactive Waste Management Facility

12 November 2020

The National Radioactive Waste Management Facility is a vital piece of national infrastructure, which will support the ongoing development of our nuclear medicine and research industries.

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said this will be a permanent facility, where our low-level radioactive waste will be disposed of and then monitored over several hundred years, and intermediate level waste will be temporarily stored.

“The waste that will be managed at the facility is from the production of nuclear medicine (such as gloves, gowns and flasks) and from research activities,” he said.

“Waste has been accumulating for over 70 years, and for more than 40 years successive governments have been searching for a site.

“This waste is currently being stored in more than 100 locations around the country, including temporary facilities at ANSTO’s Lucas Heights campus that will start reaching capacity from 2026.

“We need a better solution to safely consolidate this waste. Without it, valuable space at ANSTO will continue to be taken up, and they will have to divert more and more resources away from research and innovation and towards waste management.

“After four years of detailed, thorough, and transparent consultation, we have found a suitable site for this facility near Kimba, South Australia. The site is technically suitable and the facility is broadly supported by the community.”

Minister Pitt dispelled concerns that the facility could impact on agriculture.

“Firstly, the land where this facility to be sited is of marginal agricultural value, we are talking about 160 hectares out of 8.14 million hectares of agricultural land in South Australia,” Minister Pitt said. 

“Secondly, we know that internationally, radioactive waste management facilities have existed side-by-side in agricultural communities for decades with no negative impact.

“The countries we sell grain to have nuclear programs, as do the other grain producers in the international market.

“And further, we have specifically dedicated part of the site for agricultural research and development and will continue to work with the local agricultural industry.”

Regarding alternative proposals, including Leonora in Western Australia, Minister Pitt said that while it may seem an attractive proposal, the proponent has not provided any evidence of broad community support for consultation nor provided relevant information to support any nomination.

This legislation currently before the Senate will allow the facility to be delivered at the Napandee site, and was supported by a recent Senate Committee including by Labor members. The Minister encouraged One Nation to speak to the Kimba council and the landowner directly to ensure she’s heard all sides of the matter.

The Government will continue to progress this legislation through the Parliament.

The facility will play a crucial role for Australia’s nuclear medicine industry, and our ability to drive further innovations in nuclear medicine and research.

To find out more about the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, visit: radioactivewaste.gov.au.

Media contact: Minister Pitt's office 02 6277 7180