Sutherland Shire to get radioactive waste storage facility

Jim Gainsford and Kate Carr
St George and Sutherland Shire Leader

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency has given the green light to the controversial plan to build a nuclear waste storage facility at ANSTO. 

Construction of the facility at Lucas Heights is set to begin next year, with intermediate-level radioactive waste set to arrive back in Australia from France in 2015.

Sutherland Shire mayor Steve Simpson said this afternoon that the council was ‘‘strongly supportive of the work ANSTO does but we are still calling on the federal government to expedite a permanent waste storage facility for nuclear waste collected throughout Australia’’.

‘‘All Australian families benefit from the nuclear medicine produced at ANSTO but we don’t believe that Lucas Heights is the appropriate place for the storage of nuclear waste,’’ Cr Simpson said.

“This waste is returning from France in 2015 in accordance with agreements relating to the processing of the waste. The waste will comprise one flask of processed nuclear fuel and six smaller drums of waste. Fortunately the licence from ARPANSA will not cover waste to be returned from the UK which we’re told is due to be returned at a later date.

“The fact that the waste will end up at ANSTO as there is no National Radioactive Waste Repository is not good enough for the residents of the Sutherland Shire who are concerned about the safe transportation and storage of this nuclear waste.

“Indeed the ARPANSA approval notes that the interim storage of the waste at ANSTO is not in line with international best practice and ARPANSA stresses the need to establish a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF), as storage of nuclear waste at Lucas Heights is not an acceptable long term solution.

 “The continued transportation of Intermediate Level Radioactive Waste to Lucas Heights in the form of reprocessed fuel represents an unnecessary risk to the surrounding residents and communities".

“I recognise the important work performed by ANSTO but like with any endeavour, public safety should be of the highest concern,” Cr Simpson said.

An ANSTO spokesman sought to reassure residents by noting that ANSTO had 60 years of experience in safely managing infrastructure in Sutherland Shire.

‘‘The fact is that Australia benefited from 50 years of nuclear medicine production made possible by this material. Along with the benefits of ready access to a nuclear medicine diagnosis comes the responsibility to safely manage the by-products,’’ the spokesman said.

A statement on the ARPANSA website said the decision approvef construction of the facility followed ny ‘‘a thorough assessment by the Agency taking into consideration world best practice in the storage of inert radioactive waste and following open consultation with the community’’.

‘‘ARPANSA considers the storage facility to be an interim measure which should not delay the development of a proper long-term strategy for the storage of radioactive waste and the establishment of a national radioactive waste management facility,’’ the statement said.


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