Interim waste store

Background

The Interim Waste Store (IWS) at ANSTO’s Lucas Height site in Sydney will be a purpose-built temporary storage facility to house intermediate level solid radioactive waste returning from France,, following reprocessing of spent fuel from HIFAR. The spent fuel sent to France years ago will return to Australia in an inert form in 2015. It is proposed that these wastes will be stored in the IWS until the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) is operational, at which time the waste will be transferred to that permanent facility. ARPANSA issued licences to operate the IWS on 8 May 2015.

ANSTO's application for the interim storage of returned radioactive waste

On 1 May 2012, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) announced its intention to site and construct an interim intermediate level radioactive waste storage facility (Interim Waste Store - IWS) at Lucas Heights Science and Technology Centre, south of Sydney, New South Wales.

Operating the IWS facility

On 10 November 2014 the CEO of ARPANSA received an application from ANSTO to operate the Interim Waste Store.

Under the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998, ARPANSA's CEO is required to assess the application and decide whether or not a licence should be granted.

On 8 May 2015, the CEO of ARPANSA decided to issue a licence to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) to operate a controlled facility (the ANSTO Interim Waste Store) at the ANSTO Lucas Heights Science and Technology Centre.

CEO's decision - ANSTO interim waste store

Public consultation

On 10 December 2014, an invitation to make submissions on ANSTO’s application for a licence to operate the Interim Waste Store was issued. Details are available at Application to operate interim waste store.

Siting and construction of the IWS

ARPANSA originally received a licence application from ANSTO for both siting and construction of this facility on 26 September 2012.

Under the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998, ARPANSA's CEO is required to assess the application and decide whether or not a licence should be granted.

In January 2013, ANSTO made a decision to resubmit the applications for siting and construction of the IWS following requests from ARPANSA for more information, including details on the full and proposed uses of the IWS. Amended siting and construction applications for the IWS were submitted by ANSTO on 16 April 2013.

The proposal for the IWS was referred to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC) for assessment under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). SeWPaC determined that no environmental assessment was required for the proposed facility under the EBPC Act. Details of the SEWPaC decision can be found on the SEWPaC website:

(ANSTO)/Waste management (non-sewerage)/Lucas Heights/NSW/Interim waste storage facility, NSW (PDF 370kb)

Public Consultation - siting and construction licence applications

Details of the siting and construction applications, the public consultation process and the community information session are available on our Public consultation webpage.

Decision on ANSTO's application to site and construct an Interim Waste Store

On 29 November 2013, the CEO of ARPANSA decided to issue licences to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) to prepare a site for, and construct a controlled facility (the ANSTO Interim Waste Store) at the ANSTO Lucas Heights Science and Technology Centre.

CEO's Decision - ANSTO interim waste store

Background to IWS applications

The Australian Government supports the internationally acknowledged principle that countries are responsible for the management of any nuclear waste that they produce.

The High Flux Australian Reactor (HIFAR) operated for nearly 50 years at Lucas Heights and was retired in January 2007.

In the 1990s, successive Australian Governments entered into agreements with the governments of France and the United Kingdom for reprocessing and/or final disposal of spent nuclear fuel from HIFAR.

Waste generated from the reprocessing of HIFAR spent fuel is being conditioned in France to make it suitable for transport and storage. In addition, small amounts of secondary waste generated during the operations will be returned to Australia. This includes disposable items such as gloves, swabs, papers, equipment, which will be conditioned and cemented.

This waste is classified as intermediate level radioactive waste and is scheduled to return from France by the end of 2015.

In addition, waste generated from reprocessing of HIFAR spent fuel is expected to be returned from the UK in the second half of this decade. Storage of this waste at the IWS Facility would require ARPANSA approval.

As the Commonwealth regulator, the CEO of ARPANSA’s role is to independently assess the licence applications submitted by ANSTO against the requirements of the Act and decide whether to grant the licences with or without conditions.

Top of Page

Application and review process

ARPANSA will be assessing applications based on the process shown in the following diagram:

Diagram showing preliminary, review and decision phases of the application and review process
 

Notes:

1 Application

The application may be in phases or covering more than one phase - each application requiring a licence, as follows:
(a) Siting
(b) Construction
(c) Operation

ARPANSA has issued an application guide for a nuclear installation and regulatory guidance for licensing waste storage and disposal facilities which can be found at Regulatory guides.

2Technical review

The issues to be considered during the technical review include, but are not limited to, the following:
(a) Health and safety of people and the environment, including whether doses are as low as reasonably achievable
(b) Net benefit
(c) Public submissions
(d) Requirements under the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act and Regulations
(e) International Best Practice
(f) Contingency arrangements
(g) Plans and arrangements for operation of the facility which detail:

  • effective control
  • safety management plan
  • radiation protection plan
  • radioactive waste management plan (for waste that might arise during operations)
  • ultimate disposal or transfer
  • security plan
  • emergency plan

(h) Preliminary safety analysis report
(i) Operating limits and conditions.

Top of Page

3Community involvement

The consultation process involves the following steps:

(a) Once an application is received, and considered complete for the purpose of commencing its review, the CEO of ARPANSA publishes a notice advising of his intention to make a decision on the application in:

  • the nationally circulated daily newspapers
  • the Government Gazette

The CEO also publishes the notice in a Sydney metropolitan daily newspaper, in a local community newspaper, and on ARPANSA’s website.

(b) The CEO will also use this notice to invite members of the public and other bodies to make submissions about the application (within a fixed timeframe and in a manner outlined in the notice).

(c) In order to inform the public and aid in the preparation of submissions, the licence application is published on ARPANSA’s website and the CEO may host a community information session.

(d) Submissions from the public are taken into account in deciding the application. Consideration of the submissions is documented in the Regulatory Assessment Report and the CEO’s Statement of Reasons.


4Determination

The CEO’s decision along with his Statement of Reasons and the Regulatory Assessment Report are published on ARPANSA’s website. Publication demonstrates ARPANSA’s commitment to a high level of transparency and public accountability as a regulatory body.

More information

To contact ARPANSA directly, see Contact us.