Nuclear waste dump to be built on ‘stable, remote’ Defence land
The government has confirmed it will build a high level nuclear dump to deal with waste from its nuclear powered submarine program but says the location is yet to be decided.
Dealing with high level waste on Australian soil is part of the $368 billion AUKUS deal announced on Tuesday, which will see Australia build and operate eight nuclear powered submarines over the next 30 years.
Defence Minister Richard Marles said during a press conference on Tuesday that a purpose-built facility will have to be built to deal with waste generated by the submarines.
He admitted the government is yet to decide where the dump will be located but said it would be ‘quite some time’ before that bridge is crossed.
“There will be a process that we will determine within the next 12 months for how the site will be identified,” Mr Marles said.
“That’s to say we won’t identify the facility in twelve months’ time, but we will set up a process within the next twelve months for how that will be identified. But we’ve got time. We’ve got time to get this right, we’ve got time to identify the facility.”
30-year timeframe for decisions
It would be about 30 years before the first of the nuclear reactors that will power the subs will have to be disposed of, he said.
“So that is the timeframe. We will, in the course of the next year, announce a process by which that site will be identified. We’re not about to identify right now. And there is plenty of time in which to identify.”
We will, in the course of the next year, announce a process by which that site will be identified.
He declined to say whether South Australia, where the SSN-AUKUS submarines will be built, or WA, which will eventually be home to the nuclear powered fleet, would be the site of a dump.
However, he indicated it will be on Defence land.
“We are committing to the fact that it will happen on Defence land, be it current Defence land or future Defence land,” the minister said.
He told the ABC the location would need to be remote from populations and geologically stable.
“We’re actually blessed with large parts of the country where that’s possible,” he said.
Spent nuclear reactors
Spent nuclear reactors will produce the highest level of nuclear waste, but this won’t need to be disposed of until after 2050, he said.
The first of those will be from the Virginia Class submarines being procured from the US, which will start operating in the early 2030s, Mr Marles said.
“It’s a significant undertaking to deal with the reactors at the end of their life, and this will require a purpose built facility in order to do that,” he said.
It’s a significant undertaking to deal with the reactors at the end of their life, and this will require a purpose built facility in order to do that.
“So that people are clear, we’re talking about the first reactor needing to be dealt with in the 2050s, so this is a long way into the future.
“But we need to be planning for that, and what we’ve made clear today is that within the year we will announce a process by which that place will be identified – so we won’t identify the place in a year, but we’ll announce the process for that and what that facility would look like.”
Mr Marles did not answer questions about how many kilos of highly enriched uranium would need to be disposed of, telling the ABC that information was classified.
Australia was focused on dealing only with it’s own nuclear waste, and not that of its AUKUS partners the US and UK, the minister said.
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