Today the Federal Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science announced a shortlist of six nominated sites for consideration for the establishment of Australia’s national low-level waste and intermediate level waste disposal and storage facility.

The Public Notice announcement is here with all sites listed.

Here is list of Frequently Asked Questions. I’m not sure how frequently they could have been asked since it was only announced today… but I think we all know what they mean: here is a list of answers to the basic range of issues that will be coming up for discussion.

As I have discussed once before, I am a member of the Independent Advisory Panel that has worked with the Department to get to this point. I believe the process is on a very good footing thanks to what has been an excellent process. There were 28 nomination through the voluntary process, a much stronger response than anticipated. This goes to show just how well Australians can deal with these issue when we approach it maturely and fairly.

Inevitably, this day comes: the day when people in many communities are made aware that locations close to them are under serious consideration. It happens all at once, since the only other way is basically leaking information, which helps no one.

There will be concerns, there will be some outrage, there will be some statements made that are false and misleading. This is normal, can be addressed and cannot be avoided right out of the gate. I encourage everyone who feels they understand these issues to be very patient with fellow Australians because many of us don’t; most Australians have had little or nothing to do with the back-end of our active nuclear medicine and research activities.

To those who hold concerns, I would say please try to move to a position of curiosity: this facility will not be imposed on unwilling communities and there will be a great deal of information and credible sources available to you to learn about everything involved. I say with no hesitation that the eventual facility will be world-class and safe to people and the environment. In fact, compared to the type of waste facilities most people may have been exposed to, not to mention any other industrial facilities, I think most Australians will be pleasantly surprised (perhaps even astonished) at just how neat, well organised, well contained and inoffensive this facility will be.

I look forward to continuing to assist with this process. I invite media to contact me to ensure a perspective from the Independent Advisory Panel is represented.

23 comments

  1. Maybe instead of just publishing a map of proposed sites for the new consolidated storage centre, the government could also publish a map showing the many hospital basements and other sites that are currently being used as part of our unplanned de facto dispersed storage system?

    Also, out of curiosity, why is ANSTO not on the list of sites to be considered?

    1. Keeping material in situ was found to be the least favoured option in the initial business case. It will be looked at again in the detailed business case. This process was about off-site, consolidated, dedicated facilities, hence no ANSTO.

      1. Thanks. I’d be interested in understanding why it was the least favoured option. Using ANSTO has a certain ‘common sense’ appeal but I do understand than in these matters “expert sense” can be different and is always better.

        1. I’m not sure whether that initial business case is or will be a public document.

          Consider that Lucas Heights was never sited, designed or intended for that outcome, already has multiple other uses, may have plans to expand operations in future and is in close proximity to existing communities.

          It’s not hard to see that in a country like Australia, creating a purpose-designed facility intended for the long-term at an excellent site will get a better result in a business case.

    1. Last question first, no, the full details won’t be made available in the interests of privacy, but the general localities will be disclosed.

      From the 28 sites, there were some where we/the Department were not satisfied that the application came with the necessary rights to make it. That was a small number, they were dismissed.

      Working with consultants GHD and geoscience Australia, a multi-criteria site assessment tool was created.

      The IAP assisted in determining the areas to be considered (E.g. Environmental) the criteria (e.g. rainfall) the metric (e.g. x per annum) and, importantly, the weighting.

      Community support and equity were, universally, weighted highly by the panel and will be very influential in the final decision.

      The MCSA tool was then used to assess the sites. This gave us objective scoring.

      One of the big findings was that nearly all the sites were, technically, what you would call very good at the minimum. Nonetheless the MCSA scoring permitted a rating of the sites.

      A red-flag process was applied where the Department and IAP members applied knowledge that may not have been picked up in the MCSA, such as probability of community dispute. Some sites were removed in that process.

      There were probably 12 that were excellent sites. Somehow that got t0 7, then a site in WA was a late withdrawal which left six.

      The community support metric has not yet been scored beyond our red-flag as we don’t know! The following 2-4 months will be both information sharing and gathering in that regard.

    2. Having just read a piece from Jim Green this morning, let me answer an inference he made: no, there was no inclusion or exclusion of sites for anything I could remotely describe as political reasons, to the very best of my knowledge.

  2. A comment and a question:

    # Comment: The govt should publish a map of our existing informal dispersed storage network (hospital basements etc), not just of proposed sites for a consolidated storage centre

    # Question: Any reason ANSTO hasn’t been considered as a storage site?

  3. It would be interesting to know why sites near Katherine NT and Leonora WA missed out since they met the Aussie fairness criterion of first in best dressed. At first glance none seems to be an aboriginal community. Half the sites are in SA which critics might suggest pre-empts Royal Commission recommendations on an expanded nuclear fuel cycle. The RC might say forget the whole thing … unlikely since SA is already actinide central.

    I understand standard wharf cranes at many ports can unload the casks of vitrified material. If they fall in the water think of it as soluble aspirin. If as ACF insist they cask go back to Lucas Heights NSW initially that’s a 2 or 3 day long truck convoy to Eyre Peninsula SA. Now I’m thinking of scenes like Mad Max with crazies attacking the trucks. Since true believer ALP types are now ascendant in Qld I’ll bet they’ll say no. It looks kinda rigged in favour of SA with maybe the HLW site to be eventually tacked onto the ILW.

    1. I think the NT site may have been a little lower on some of the technical criteria, reflecting that we were spoiled with so many good sites.

      The SA sites all scored very highly and, being in somewhat close proximity to each other, it’s easy to see that those three sites would score similarly on many items. It’s not rigged; SA had the highest number of applications and nearly all of them were very highly scoring sites.

  4. They say all roads lead to Rome but I keep thinking Eyre Peninsula is the logical nuclear capital of Australia with power, desalination, reprocessing and ultimate waste disposal. By fate A bomb tests and large uranium deposits independently found their way nearby. Transmission to the east needs to be quadrupled then replicated to the west. What Bruce Power Ontario is to Canada.

    Therefore the fact EP got multiple ‘hits’ on the site search seems consistent with that view. However if a less logistically suited area got better community approval that would have to get the nod instead.

    1. The meltdown on TV by local residents doesn’t bode well. The belief that the high level repository will be tacked on later runs deep. If that rings true I wonder if a preferred site for a multiphase nuclear complex will shift north to the desert Woomera-Olympic Dam area . At the RC Holtec said their air cooled SMR only loses 3% in efficiency.

      1. The irony too, farmers being concerned for the environment. “My family cleared this area 100 years ago”. Major greenhouse gas emitters via use of fertiliser and diesel and crop spraying AVTUR, distributors of agricultural chemicals into the biosphere, biodiversity loss through monoculture. And generally only marginally profitable in any case.

        1. The environmental impacts of broadscale agriculture are well known. Bringing these impacts in is one of the big sustainability tasks of this century, while also bringing production up: there will be 10 billion people.

          I have huge respect for Australian farmers. They operate in one of the least-protected nations for agriculture in the world,especially compared to their US and EU counterparts, in tough conditions, constantly innovating and delivering the food we need. I don’t see a lot of future in disparaging them.

      2. Developers have coined the term Roxby Corridor for that area. Right click to rotate the pdf map that covers the three shortlisted SA sites. Just needs power and water since local attitudes are positive.

  5. This is an opportunity for our younger science graduates and skilled mining industry workers to leverage their existing competencies into a new and expanding sector in South Australia. Apart from the fact that we need growing industries in which we have a competitive advantage, a proper storage facility would be reducing national risk. The mainstream media get a free kick and click bait every time anything connected with nuclear is current – such a shame that their performance metrics are so driven by ignorance. Congratulations t the current Government for the NFCRC – just a shame that the Rann actions last decade made it necessary. If we could just spend as much teaching science properly at school as we see spent on lobbying against the one of the safest industries and safest power sources!
    I hope very much that an SA site is the winner.

  6. After reading all the comments to this ABC item
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-13/government-releases-shortlist-sites-for-nuclear-waste-storage/6937244
    I’m now inclined to think only outback SA can get the guernsey. The punters seem to want the intermediate repository in non-farmland at Maralinga or Woomera based on what they perceive as the near certainty of a high level repository going in next door. Shame those places don’t have any spare power or water.

    This is for frickin’ hospital gloves and blobs of glass inside steel casks. Imagine the difficulty setting up a power station and reprocessing facility.

  7. The area commenters on other forums repeatedly refer to is shown in red in this 2011 article
    https://grandstrategyaustralia.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/south-australia-the-next-mining-boom-state/
    It is about 250 km north of central Eyre Peninsula.

    A Qld caller has friends farming near the proposed site in that state. They fear crop contamination. Asked how that would happen the answer was ‘dunno all we know is we don’t want it’. It seems everyone thinks the ILW site is a Trojan horse for ‘hot’ material later on.

  8. Too late I guess but the Low/intermediate level waste site should go back to Arcoona [near Woomera] where we argued about it 15 years ago. Why would they even consider farmlands where people live and work?

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