Radioactive waste disposal and storage

The National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (proposed)

Australian Government policy

The Australian Government is planning to build a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) to provide a centralised location for the disposal of Low Level Waste (LLW) and storage of Intermediate Level Waste (ILW) generated in Australia. The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science is responsible for the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility Project, which has been established to implement Australia's radioactive waste management policy. This policy is to ensure that all wastes generated in Australia are stored or disposed of in Australia at safe and secure facilities.

This policy is aligned with the principles of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. Under the Convention, "radioactive waste should, as far as is compatible with the safety of the management of such material, be disposed of in the country in which it was generated." The development of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility is a long-term project which will involve public consultation at all phases of the project.

ARPANSA and DIIS have developed a communications protocol which defines the mechanism for formal communications of information by identified stakeholders in a timely and efficient manner, and seeks to remove duplicative activities of the Commonwealth with respect to the project.

More information can be found on the Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science's dedicated website for the NRWMF Project at http://www.radioactivewaste.gov.au/

ARPANSA's role

ARPANSA endeavours to protect the people of Australia and the environment from the harmful effects of radiation. ARPANSA is the independent regulator of Commonwealth entities that use radiation or produce radioactive materials to conduct their business. ARPANSA also provides expert advice on radiation protection, being trusted and transparent in applying a wealth of experience and unbiased scientific knowledge.

Providing expert advice

During the site identification phase, ARPANSA’s staff may, if requested, provide advice on international best practice for radioactive waste management and technical advice on aspects important to the site characterisation studies. Such advice would only be to clarify best practice criteria for the protection of people (workers and the public) and the environment and will not include any advice on technical solutions to meet ARPANSA’s licensing requirements.

Find out more about the safety of radioactive waste management in Australia.

Regulation and licensing

The proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility would be a controlled facility under the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (the Act). Under the Act, licences are required to prepare a site for, construct, or operate a controlled facility. The decision to submit a licence application is a matter for the applicant. The applicant will also have to obtain approval from the Minister for the Environment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

When an application is received, it will be reviewed by ARPANSA’s Regulatory Services Branch and other expertise at ARPANSA as relevant and necessary. The matters that will be taken into account before the CEO makes a decision on whether to issue a licence are specified in the Act and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Regulations 1999 (the Regulations). The CEO may request expert advice during the licensing process. The CEO will also, in accordance with regulation 40 of the Regulations, invite public submissions and take into account the content of all public submissions before making the decision. The CEO will publish a Statement of Reasons outlining the rationale behind the decision.

For further information on the licensing process, see document links at the end of this page.

Find out more about ARPANSA:

Relevant documents

NRWMF Communications Protocol

Regulation and licensing

The Regulatory Guide and accompanying Information for Stakeholder documents were released for a period of public consultation from 17 October to 9 December 2016. The following documents summarise the comments received and ARPANSA's response.

Fact sheets