Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Nuclear Waste Returns, But Where Will It Be Stored?

By Ian Lowe

Australia’s nuclear waste is being returned from France, and New Zealand is finally reporting on the state of its environment.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Australia’s radioactive chickens are coming home to roost. The spent fuel rods from the old HIFAR reactor at Lucas Heights, now decommissioned, were sent to France for reprocessing by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). The treatment by the French company AREVA removes useful elements like uranium and plutonium, then places the remaining waste in glass to be returned to Australia. Under French law, the waste must leave France by the end of this year. However, Australia still does not have a repository for the intermediate level waste that will be on its way back here very soon.

ANSTO says that the waste will be transported on “a nuclear-rated ship” to Australia, then taken by truck to a temporary store at Lucas Heights. “Consistent with security requirements and practice established during nine previous export operations, ANSTO will not confirm the destination port, land route, or timing.” But ANSTO does have permission to retain the waste at their site “until the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility is sited, constructed and licensed”. Unfortunately, nobody knows where that will be or when it will be available.

With a change in Minister after Malcolm Turnbull displaced Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, there will be another delay in this long-running saga. The Commonwealth government withdrew its proposal for a waste...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.