Australian clan asks for waste

29 May 2007

Land in Australia's Northern Territory will be assessed for suitability for radioactive waste management facilities after nomination by its indigenous owners.

The Ngapa clan has put forward 1.5 sq km of its 200 sq km holding near Muckaty Station as a potential site for a low-level waste (LLW) disposal site and an intermediate-level waste (ILW) store.

LLW typically takes the form of laboratory materials like gloves, glasswear and clothing as well as contaminated soil and objects like luminous dials. The material is typically placed in steel barrels which are then compacted to save space. ILW would include disused radiotherapy and industrial radiation sources as well as waste resulting from the recycling of used nuclear fuel from Australia's research reactors, which has taken place in France and the UK.

The country's first research reactor, Hifar, has recently been shut down, having been replaced by Opal, which is currently in the commissioning phase.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (Ansto) would now be permitted to study the land, alongside a number of other possible locations. If Muckaty Station were to be chosen, the Ngapa clan would receive A$1 million ($819,000) to invest in enhancing their education and training opportunities, while payments amounting to A$11 million ($9 million) would be made to a charitable trust for their benefit. The clan numbers around 60 people. The Ngapa land would be leased to the Australian government for 200 years, before being returned to them.

Meanwhile, Ansto has submitted an application for a licence to enter the second phase of decommissioning Hifar. The first stage was the removal of highly radioactive used nuclear fuel and the reactor's heavy water. The second phase would see the dismantling of non-radioactive parts of the facility and detailed work begin to fully plan the remainder of decommissioning work. Further permissions would be required before the third and final stage could commence, leaving the site free for alternative use around 2016.

Much material from Hifar's decommissioning would eventually be stored in the LLW and ILW facility.

Further information

Ansto

WNA's Radioactive waste repository & store for Australia information paper

WNN: Hifar shut down for the final time
WNN: Opal shines

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