Australia step closer to opening its first permanent nuclear waste facility

October 30, 2015 11:02 am 

CANBERRA, Oct. 30 — Australia is a step closer to opening a permanent nuclear waste storage facility in the outback, with a shortlist of seven locations to be revealed by Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg.

Frydenberg is expected to publicly release the shortlist in coming weeks. It was initially tipped to be announced in August, but protests from state and local MPs halted the decision which was approved by the Abbott government.

According to Fairfax Media, the shortlist includes two locations west of Port Augusta in South Australia, two locations in rural Western Australia and one near the town of Mount Isa in Queensland.

A number of European and Asian nations currently use Australian-mined uranium in nuclear power plants, and, according to the government, Australia's vast, barren landscape provides a safe storage place for the nuclear waste.

The news follows Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's backing of a permanent facility to be housed in the outback, despite reservations from state and local MPs.

"We have got the uranium, we mine it, why don't we process it, turn it into the fuel rods, lease it to people overseas, when they are done, we bring them back and we have got stable, very stable geology in remote locations and a stable political environment," Turnbull said earlier this week.

"That is a business that you could well imagine here."

The government is confident that Australia's vast landscape and the remote location of a proposed dump site would mean any storage of nuclear waste would be safe to bring back to Australia.

Once completed, the facility will house radioactive waste from reactors in France, Britain and the United States, after uranium was shipped from Australia between 1996 and 2009.

Currently, a makeshift facility has been built at the Lucas Heights mine site to house waste currently en-route from France to Australia.

On Friday, The Australian Conservation Foundation's anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney said it was important to get approval from an advisory panel and any residents that are housed ear any potential nuclear waste facility.

"We believe there is no environmental or public health reason to rush this (site selection). The majority of the waste is currently in secured federal facilities and we need to take the time to get it right," Sweeney said.

A preferred site is expected to be identified in mid-2016 ahead of its opening before the end of the decade. (PNA/Xinhua)

JMC/EBP

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