• Jason Regan

South Australian nuclear waste site named

The federal government has secured a site for a nuclear waste management facility in South Australia but opponents say it's a "long way from a done deal".


Australian Resources Minister Keith Pitt speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, July 21, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The government has acquired 211 hectares at Napandee, 24km west of Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula, with its plans subject to heritage, design and technical studies.

"We have reached a major milestone in our work to deliver this national facility, and a solution that has eluded consecutive governments for more than 40 years," Resources Minister Keith Pitt said on Monday.

The site will be used to store nuclear medical waste currently spread across more than 100 facilities including universities and hospital basements. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation says it is "critical infrastructure for Australia".

"Delivery of a national facility will allow ANSTO to focus on our core business of medicine production and science and innovation," a spokesperson said.

But Conservation SA chief executive Craig Wilkins said under existing state laws, any attempt to impose nuclear waste on SA would trigger an investigation by state parliament's Environment, Resources and Development Committee.


He said a wide-ranging inquiry was essential to reveal all the facts.

"This issue has a long way to run. The facility is at least a decade away and faces many opponents and hurdles," Mr Wilkins said.

Federal Member for Grey, Rowan Ramsey, acknowledged community concern about the facility, which is expected to create 45 jobs.

"The majority of the local community are behind the project that will bring jobs and new economic opportunities for our region and look forward to the facility proceeding," he said.
"This is not to say there are not some people with concerns and I will work with them to resolve those issues wherever possible, as we move into the detailed design, delivery and operational phases."

In June, the federal parliament passed legislation allowing the resources minister to make an "intention to declare" a site for the nuclear waste facility.

Mr Pitt said the vast majority of nuclear waste produced in Australia was associated with the production of nuclear medicine.

"Nuclear medicine is used in the diagnosis of a variety of heart, lung and muscular-skeletal conditions as well as the treatment of specific cancers, and a by-product of its production is low-level radioactive waste," he said.
"Along with the benefits comes a responsibility to manage the by-products. Without a facility like this, we can't enjoy the benefits from vital nuclear medicines on an ongoing basis."