Week 17: how to engage the community in selecting the site for a potential waste storage or disposal facility

If a waste disposal facility were to be established, how might the community be engaged in the selection of a site?

YOUR OPINION

  1. The community is often scared of the unknown or by interested parties.

    Sure waste disposal in a desert somewhere has some risk, but isn’t it trivial compared to having a nuclear reactor in the centre of a major city being run by uni students? Yes, but who would let uni students run a reactor in a major city? MIT in Boston, and a number of other US universities.

    Get the experts to decide the location, and put it there. Waiting to find somewhere everyone agrees on will mean we will never have a facility.

  2. Considerations for intermediate level nuclear waste repository, as required for waste temporarily stored at Lucas Heights:

    1) Siting of a repository for intermediate level waste, primarily arising from reactor and radiopharmacuetical operations at Lucas Heights, must be separated from current speculation over high level waste facilities associated with a nuclear power program. An explicit condition of licencing the intermediate level waste repository must be that it will never be extended to store high level waste.

    2) There is no advantage in remoteness and many disadvantages for staffing, security and transport.

    3) Previous attempts to site a waste repository on remote Aborginal land are unjust and futile, demanding legalistic decision procedures foreign to Aboriginal community customs.

    4) People in remote Aboriginal communities are also highly unlikely to derive advantages from the nuclear operations that produced the waste, mainly production of medical radioisotopes.

    5) Rail transport of encapsulated waste from near Lucas Heights, (eg from Moorbank transport interchange), or from ports (eg. material returning from overseas) is required, being much safer than trucking by road.

    6) To avoid ownership, management and responsibility disputes over land used for a waste repository, it should be freehold, bought by the storage authority by voluntary sale with transparent environmental impact assessment, development approval, management procedures, adequate security bond for perpetual maintenance and remediation of damage or design inadequacy.

    7) As a condition of land purchase, a covenant agreeing to operations of the repository should be negotiated with all adjoining landholders in consideration of appropriate compensation. This must remain binding on subsequent owners of those properties.

    8) Subject to appropriate geological,, hydrological and climatic properties, land for the repository should be as close to Lucas Heights as practicable, preferably in rural NSW, close enough a town that can serve as a service centre.

  3. All public consultations, risk assessments and site investigations must clearly identify the category of waste being considered in each instance. As explained in the Issues Paper, the handling and storage requirements vary according to the type of waste.

    As Australia doesn’t currently generate any high level waste, any discussion about this type should specify from where it would be expected to originate – from an Australian nuclear power reactor or from overseas.

    This topic can generate emotion and speculation and must be addressed clearly and logically to prevent fear mongering. Some public comments indicate an assumption that a repository would store all levels of waste, ranging from medical wipes to spent fuel rods.

    1. IMHO Australia DOES produce high level waste. Lucas Heights spent fuel rods are HLW; & the reprocessed fuel rod vitrified waste returned from France contains plutonium & other high level radionuclides. This high level waste can either remain @ Lucas Heights or be shipped to some new facility yet to be determined. Bear in mind that current ANSTO guidelines require HLW be interred into a deep geological repository.

  4. If nuclear waste was stored in a disused underground shaft at Roxby, the people in the area would likely engage in a positive way with the proponents of the site since they chose to live near a low level nuclear hazard when they moved there in the first place and would have already evaluated the risks and benefits. No one else in the state considered that when they chose to live where they live so putting a waste dump near them now means someone else is deciding it is ok for them to live with nuclear waste. Those people are likely to engage with the proponents of the site in a negative and possibly escalating way because the decision to live close to nuclear risk is being imposed on them.

    By contrast, the people of Roxby may actually be enthusiastic about it since waste storage would extend the life of the town beyond the life of the mine.

    It just makes sense to put it back where it came from, from where it has been for the past billion years already.

  5. Australia DOES produce high level waste. Lucas Heights spent fuel rods are HLW; & the reprocessed fuel rod vitrified waste returned from France contains plutonium & other high level radionuclides. This high level waste can either remain @ Lucas Heights or be shipped to some new facility yet to be determined. Bear in mind that current ANSTO guidelines require HLW be interred into a deep geological repository.

  6. I think a highly qualified team of scientific and engineering experts needs to be assembled. This unpoliticised team should a disease the government on the selection of the site. It’s membership should be reported on in the first instance so that all South Aussie can scrutinize and then trust that such a group would take in the required considerations when putting forward it’s recommendation. Trust is the critical issue here and the selection of the site can only gain the people’s confidence if we know who is selecting the site and what qualifications they have.

  7. Explain, educate, involve the community. The way NFCRC has started the process is the way to go. Do not suppress any information, keep an open dialogue at all times. Answer all questions at highest professional standards, but in understandable terms for the layman.

    In Switzerland the issue of radioactive waste disposal is discussed extreemly emotional and controversial at political levels. But in the local communities where Nagra (National cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste) cultivates a direct dialogue with the people involved, a constructive debate has been established.

    Progress in nuclear technology is much faster than the decay of nuclear waste. Within a few decades molten salt reactors will be available running on waste of outdated light water reactors. Waste will become an asset. Once the community realizes that the storage of fuel is a business and not a burden, approval can be achieved..

ADD YOUR OPINION