The Federal Government’s nuclear agency has revealed plans to build a new radioactive waste storage facility next to its reactor at Sydney’s Lucas Heights.
The waste was generated at the Sydney facility but was sent to France several years ago to be reprocessed to remove plutonium and residual uranium.
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) is applying for a licence to store the waste back at Lucas Heights when it returns to the country in 2015.
ANSTO’s chief doctor, Adi Paterson, say the application has been lodged because a national radioactive waste facility has still not been built.
“The storage will be on an interim basis while the national waste repository and store is finalised and established, so it is not a permanent storage solution at Lucas Heights,” he said.
“These casks are designed to be incredibly safe and there’s no plausible accident that can happen in relation to this waste.
“Many ANSTO staff, about 1,200 of our staff, live in the area. I live in Grays Point, which is just down the road.
“I think we’re integrated into our community and the discussion we’ve had with ourselves and our community is to assure ourselves of the safety.”
ANSTO says the material will only need to be stored at Lucas Heights until 2020.
But Jim Green from Friends of the Earth is not convinced by the plan.
“There’s been an ongoing scandal over the years with accidents at Lucas Heights and the failure to learn from those accidents,” Dr Green said.
“They’ve said that their spent fuel container at Lucas Heights was water-tight, and then they found that it had been infiltrated with considerable amounts of water.
“Then they’re moving the spent fuel containers and had a number of accidents during that movement, including accidents which irradiated workers, so things don’t always go to plan.”
Dr Green, however, acknowledges there is no other viable site to store the material.