Here are the facts

31 January 2017

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science crest

Answers to questions from the Flinders Local Action Group

Recently the Flinders Local Action Group raised some questions about the proposed establishment of a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility at Wallerberdina Station.

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science is taking this opportunity to provide factual information against each of the six points raised, for consideration by the communities in Hawker, Quorn and surrounds, as they continue to discuss whether this is the type of industry for their area.

Site nominated without reference to community attitudes or acceptance

The process to find an appropriate site began with an open call for nominations, to which 28 landowners across the country volunteered.

Some 25 met basic criteria and six were chosen for initial consultation, giving communities in four states and territories the chance to understand the proposal and consider if they
wanted to be involved.

At the end of 120 days of consultation, 65 per cent of the community around the nominated site at Wallerberdina Station said they wanted to move forward to this current stage of the process, including 90 per cent of business owners in Hawker and Quorn.

We are here because the community gave strong support to the nomination proceeding to the next stage.

However, we acknowledge that not all members of the community support the nomination and will continue to engage with all interests to address any concerns that may be held.

Site selected before cultural and geo-surveys to test site suitability

The site at Wallerberdina Station has not been selected, it is being considered.

Early in this process, we undertook a desktop assessment to determine which of the 28 volunteered sites were most likely to meet core criteria (i.e. geological stability, and access to
a population that could provide an ongoing workforce).

In this next Phase 2 we are undertaking technical assessments at the site, which go to matters such as geology, geography, flora and fauna, ground and surface water flows, and seismic activity. We are also working with the traditional owners of the land on cultural and heritage assessments.

If the site fails on technical, heritage or community support criteria, it will not proceed at that location.

Lack of information from ANSTO regarding the amount of intermediate-level waste to be stored and for how long

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, which is managing this process, has consistently stated publicly on all of its
information material the volumes of waste and forecast waste streams.

Australia’s current stores of 4250m3 of low-level radioactive waste will be permanently stored at the facility, and its 656m3 of intermediate-level
waste may be temporarily stored at the facility until a permanent location at a different site is developed.

The facility will also be used to store the future approximately 40m3 of low level and 5m3 of intermediate level waste that Australia produces each year.

The intermediate level waste will be safely held in the national facility that is currently being considered for many decades, until the creation
of a different type of facility.

No public forum and ANSTO presenting issues as positive with no consideration of any possible negative side effects

The Australian Government has a legislated responsibility to safely manage the by-products of its nuclear medicines and research programs, including radioactive waste.

This is a point that our Department, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the independent nuclear regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency
(ARPANSA), have all made frequently over many years.

The Department and ANSTO have provided the community with information on the facility, in line with the established science, and international and domestic experience.

This includes the benefits Australia gets from its nuclear program, such as the aforementioned security of nuclear medicine supplies, leading research that assists industry, irradiated silicon used in renewable energy sources, and archaeological techniques that help us understand ancient Aboriginal culture.

It also includes information about the 15 permanent jobs, upgrades to local infrastructure to support a federal facility, many local contracts and community funding, all of which will follow this facility, no matter where it is eventually located.

We are also being very up front about how risk factors are acknowledged and managed, and safety is assured, based on not only Australia’s experience in managing this type of material, but
internationally in places such as the Champagne region of France.

The local community, through the newly established consultative committee and other consultative mechanisms, will be able to access and contribute to the development of the risk and safety case for the facility.

These discussions are happening in meetings, at community events, in the media, at our community drop-in centres, and various other places, and will continue well into next year, particularly as we get more information from the technical and heritage assessments, and as the recently appointed Barndioota Consultative Committee is activated, and the locally engaged officer is announced.

No acknowledgement that current state legislation bans nuclear dumps in SA

The Department has always acknowledged that where we assess sufficient community support for moving the project forward, we also would work with the relevant State or Territory Government, including on any legislative issues.

A process that divides the community

The facility would not be considered at Wallerberdina Station, if the community had not told us they did not want it considered there.

Our focus is now on providing the community with the information that it needs to make a decision about whether or not this is the right type of industry for their area.

This will continue to involve conversations with people from the entire cross-section of community, including those strongly for, strongly against, and undecided on the proposal.