Site shortlisted for Australian waste facility

29 April 2016

The Australian government has shortlisted a voluntarily nominated site in Barndioota, South Australia, as a possible site for a national radioactive waste management facility, minister for resources and energy Josh Frydenberg announced today.

Barnidoota was one of six voluntarily nominated sites shortlisted by the government for community consultation in November 2016, alongside two other locations in South Australia and one each in New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Barnidoota was selected after the completion of a 120-day consultation period that included face-to-face meetings with stakeholders, community visits, and the receipt of more than 1700 individual submissions. Randomised community surveys were also carried out to gauge levels of support across each community. The minister noted that while encouraging levels of support were identified across a number of the sites, Barnidoota "displayed a broad level of community support for moving to the project's next phase".

The shortlisting does not represent a final decision to locate the facility at Barnidoota. A final site will only be selected if there is broad community support and it meets strict environmental and radiation protection regulatory requirements. A second phase of further consultation with the community, and detailed design, safety, environmental and technical assessments will now be carried out at Barnidoota, including an independent heritage assessment undertaken with traditional owners to identify the full extent of indigenous heritage at the site and to ensure its protection.

The process will then move to a third phase, involving selection of a site, the development of final engineering and technical designs, and the submission of proposals for environmental and regulatory approvals. The fourth phase - construction of the facility - is currently expected to occur in 2018-20, according to the Australian Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

The nominated parcel of land at Barnidoota covers about 6300 hectares. The facility itself will require about 100 hectares. In recognition of any short-term disruption caused by the detailed assessments in the second phase of the project, the Barnidoota community will receive up to AUD2 million ($1.5 million) for "local projects that create lasting economic or social benefits", Frydenberg said.

Australia produces about 45 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste per year from the production and use of radioisotopes for use in medicine, research and industry. This waste is in temporary storage at more than 100 licensed sites at universities, hospitals and laboratories. The process of selecting a site for a national repository has been evolving since the 1970s, and legislation enacted in 2012 aims to establish a single-site facility for managing that waste based on a "volunteerism" approach.

Plans for a national radioactive waste management facility at Muckaty Station in the Northern Territory were shelved in June 2014 when the Northern Land Council, which represents Aboriginal peoples in the area, withdrew its nomination of the site.

A decision on the final location for the facility is expected to be made "within a year" to allow for the next round of consultation and assessment to take place, Frydenberg said.

Filed under: This article is not categorised