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New agency to safely and securely manage Australia’s radioactive waste

21 July 2020

Joint media release with the Member for Grey, Rowan Ramsey MP, and the South Australian Minister for Energy and Mining, Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

A dedicated agency will be established by the Australian Government for the management of Australia’s radioactive waste that brings together responsibility and expertise in this important and specialised field.

The Australian Radioactive Waste Agency (ARWA) will be based in Adelaide and be responsible for all functions of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (the Facility), including engagement with the Kimba community.

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, said the creation of the new agency is the next important step in developing Australia’s radioactive waste management storage solution and capabilities.

“The new agency will be responsible for all stages of the design, construction, licensing applications and operation of the Facility, working in close partnership with ANSTO,” Mr Pitt said.

"A single agency ensures a dedicated focus on managing Australia’s radioactive waste in accordance with domestic and international regulations and best practice.

“And the fact it is independent of existing waste holders will give assurance, particularly noting its role in developing and enforcing the future waste acceptance criteria for material proposed for the site.”

Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey said this was another step in establishing the NRWMF at the Napandee site at Kimba.

“Having the responsible authority based in South Australia will enhance operations at Napandee, establish a centre of excellence and enable us to further technologies for the safe and permanent storage of radioactive waste,” Mr Ramsey said.

“The separation of the agency from other facets in the industry means it will be able to insist on its own rules. It will provide a net benefit for all South Australians, both in employment and technology terms.

“For SA, this is yet another win building on the expansion of our technological know-how.”

South Australian Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan welcomed the establishment of the agency.

“The South Australian Government has consistently said one best practice national facility is appropriate for the storage of this medical and research waste and Kimba has clearly expressed its willingness to be the host community,” Mr van Holst Pellekaan said.

The new agency will also progress long-term work to site a separate, permanent location for disposal of intermediate level waste, as well as other waste management functions outlined in the Australian Radioactive Waste Management Framework.

The 35 jobs at the new agency will be in addition to the 45 jobs at the Facility once operational. The jobs at the Facility will include operational, community liaison, management, tourism, monitoring, security and safety roles.

Minister Pitt said ongoing access to nuclear medicine is dependent on Australia responsibly and safely managing the radioactive waste arising from its production.

“This new agency will work to guarantee Australia’s ongoing access to nuclear medicine and other industrial benefits,” the Minister said.

“Nuclear medicine is used in the diagnosis of a variety of heart, lung and musculoskeletal conditions, and treatment of specific cancers.

“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 government policy and international best practice for this material to be consolidated into a purpose-built facility, where it can be safely managed.”

A domestic and international search for a CEO will be undertaken to ensure that the agency is led with the appropriate skills and expertise.

The agency will be operational from 21 July 2020, initially established as a separately branded function of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources before transitioning to a non-corporate Commonwealth entity.

The agency will be independent of waste producers and existing waste holders.

For more information about the project, including artists’ impressions, reports and 24 dedicated fact sheets go to industry.gov.au/arwa

Media contacts:

Minister Pitt's office 02 6277 7180

Mr Ramsey's office 02 6277 4967

Minister van Holst Pellekaan's office  08 8226 1300