Nuclear Waste

Western Australia has a long history of opposing nuclear waste dump proposals and being targeted by international organisations to host the worlds high level nuclear waste. According to the World Nuclear Association there are around 400,000 tons or waste from nuclear power around the world – stored at temporary sites near reactors, for which there is no safe solution.

In WA there is legislation preventing the development of a nuclear waste dump –

Nuclear Waste Storage and Transportation (Prohibition) Act 1999. But there is federal legislation The National Radioactive Waste Management Act (section 24) which can override state and territory laws to impose a nuclear waste dump.

WA has two operating “intractable waste facilities” that accept low level nuclear waste and NO current proposals for any intermediate or high level waste facilities – we are ever watchful and ready to respond to any proposals – as we did during the last round of Federal site selection in which a number of WA sites were nominated.

Mt Walton – a government run facility north of Southern Cross. This facility takes small amounts of radioactive wastes generated from teaching, research, hospitals and industrial activities.

Sandy Ridge – a private owned and operated facility by Sydney based company Tellus. This facility is a kaolin mine and intractable waste facility – that aims to store low level radioactive waste and Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM)

In Western Australia where our geology has a lot of uranium, thorium which are NORMs, industrial activities involving drilling can become contaminated. Offshore oil and gas pipes are also often contaminated with NORMs. Decommissioning and retiring equipment can have complex waste management needs.

WA has a big job managing existing radioactive wastes from industrial activities, research and medicine. These types of wastes are significantly different to nuclear waste from spent nuclear fuel – such as the waste generated from Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor, or from the proposed AUKUS nuclear submarines.

There are no examples in the world where those types of wastes are being safely or responsibly managed. There is no high level nuclear waste facility operating any where in the world. There is one facility which is being built in Finland called Onkalo – it is not yet operating – it has been under construction for over 20 years and has a price tag over $1 billion.

A trial intractable waste facility in the US known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) suffered had a series of accidents leading to the spread of radioation through large parts of the facility. Read more.