Radioactive waste

Radioactive wastes contain radioactive material, meaning they emit ionizing radiation or particles.

These waste materials are usually by-products of nuclear power generation and other applications of nuclear fission or nuclear technology, such as research and medicine.

Man-made radioactive materials are widely used in medicine, industry, agriculture, environmental studies, pollution control and research.

These uses benefit each of us individually and the Australian community as a whole but they also create waste.

In Australia, low-level waste is largely produced as a result of the production of nuclear medicine. It comprises paper, rags, tools, clothing and filters, which contain small amounts of mostly short-lived radioactivity. It is not dangerous to handle, but must be disposed of more carefully than normal garbage. To reduce its volume, it is often compacted or incinerated in a closed container before disposal.

Bananas are slightly more radioacive because they contain potassium, a vital substance for the human body.

The Australian Government is currently seeking a willing community to host Australia’s National Radioactive Waste Management Facility to dispose of Australia’s low-level and temporarily store the nation's intermediate-level radioactive waste.

Read the initial business case (PDF 2.03MB, DOC 4.12MB) to drill down further into the need for a single national facility.

Australia’s legislation, policy and regulatory frameworks, as well as our international commitments, require effective long-term management of our low and intermediate-level radioactive waste.