On 6 February 2018, the Senate referred an inquiry into the selection
process for a national radioactive waste management facility in South Australia
to the Senate Economics References Committee for inquiry and report by 14
The terms of reference for the inquiry were:
The appropriateness and thoroughness of the site selection
process for a national radioactive waste management facility at Kimba and
Hawker in South Australia, noting the Government has stated that it will not
impose such a facility on an unwilling community, with particular reference to:
- the financial compensation offered to applicants for
the acquisition of land under the Nominations of Land Guidelines;
- how the need for 'broad community support' has played
and will continue to play a part in the process, including:
- the definition of 'broad community support', and
- how 'broad community support' has been or will be
determined for each process advancement stage;
- how any need for Indigenous support has played and
will continue to play a part in the process, including how Indigenous support
has been or will be determined for each process advancement stage;
- whether and/or how the Government's 'community benefit
program' payments affect broad community and Indigenous community sentiment;
- whether wider (Eyre Peninsular or state-wide)
community views should be taken into consideration and, if so, how this
is occurring or should be occurring; and
- any other related matters.
Conduct of the inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry on its website and wrote to
relevant stakeholders and other interested parties to draw attention to the
inquiry and invite them to make written submissions.
The committee received 112 submissions as well as additional information
and answers to questions on notice. Details of the material received are listed
at Appendix 1.
The committee held three public hearings:
5 July in Kimba;
6 July in Hawker; and
2 August in Canberra.
The names of witnesses who appeared at the hearings are listed at
References to Committee Hansard are to the Proof Hansard and page
numbers may vary between the Proof and Official Hansard transcripts.
The committee thanks all of the individuals and organisations that
assisted with the inquiry, especially those who made written submissions and/or
gave evidence at the public hearings.
Background to the inquiry
As a result of more than 70 years of research, health, environmental and
industrial applications, Australia has a widely dispersed inventory of
low-level and intermediate-level radioactive waste. The majority of Australia's
current and anticipated future low-level and intermediate-level radioactive
waste arises from:
the production of nuclear medicine that is used to diagnose and
treat serious illnesses; and
a range of nuclear based scientific and industrial purposes.
While the Australian community benefits from the production of nuclear
medicine and nuclear research activities, there is also a responsibility to
safely and securely manage the associated radioactive waste products from its
generation, through interim storage solutions and ultimately to permanent
The process for finding a permanent solution for storing and disposing of
Australia's radioactive waste began in the 1970s and is ongoing.
The main holders of radioactive waste in Australia are Commonwealth
agencies, accounting for about 96 per cent of estimated intermediate-level
waste and nearly all low-level waste (Table 1). It is anticipated that as much
low-level and intermediate-level waste will be produced until 2070 as is
currently being stored in legacy inventories.
Presently, there is no disposal pathway for stored Australian
radioactive waste, including the waste stored at Lucas Heights. The approach
favoured by the Australian Government is to establish a dedicated National
Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF):
Successive Australian Governments have recognised the
efficiency, safety and security benefits that are derived from the centralised
management of our radioactive waste holdings in a state-of-the-art special
A central NRWMF would permanently house the government's legacy and
future streams of low-level radioactive waste along with holdings of other
entities where these meet strict acceptance criteria. The NRWMF would also
store, on an interim basis, Australia's relatively modest holdings of
intermediate-level waste. Australia does not produce or store any high-level
radioactive waste, and any such waste would not be accepted at the NRWMF.
Further, no foreign waste will be accepted at the NRWMF.
Table 1: Radioactive waste inventory volumes (cubic metres) as at 10
Source: Department of Industry,
Innovation and Science, Australian Radioactive Waste Management Framework,
April 2018, p. 4.
Regarding the need for a facility, Australian Radiation Protection and
Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) Chief Regulatory Officer, Mr Jim Scott,
succinctly stated the reasons why current arrangements at Lucas Heights were
The Lucas Heights
site is not actually able to be a disposal site; that is part of the ANSTO [Australian
Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation] Act. The site that is currently
being looked at for the national radioactive waste management facility will be
a disposal site for low-level waste. That cannot be Lucas Heights under the
current legislation. World's best practice establishes that long-term storage
is not an option; you must have a disposal pathway. So the establishment of a
national radioactive waste management facility is to attempt to locate a site
for a disposal facility. The waste that is currently stored at ANSTO cannot
remain there indefinitely.
The enabling legislation to establish a NRWMF was introduced into
Parliament in October 2010 and passed in March 2012. The National
Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 (the Act) ensures the Commonwealth's
power to make arrangements for the safe and secure management of radioactive
waste generated, possessed or controlled by the Commonwealth. The legislative
framework is based on volunteerism, as no site can be considered as a potential
location for a radioactive waste management facility without the voluntary
nomination of that site and agreement of persons with relevant rights and
The site selection process
The process of finding a suitable site for a NRWMF is complex and needs
to take into account a suite of technical, environmental, social, and
indigenous cultural and heritage considerations.
The authority and broad process for finding land to establish a NRWMF is
defined under the Act. The Act prescribes the minimum set of steps that must be
followed by the responsible Minister in selecting a preferred site.
The Minister may then consider accepting a nomination and instruct the
department to undertake relevant technical assessments before selecting a
single preferred site. At each stage, the Minister is only required to consult
with, and take into account comments from, the nominator and persons with a
right or interest in the nominated land.
The key activities in the site selection process are:
Pre-nomination information—nomination guidelines were
developed and published online to inform nominees of the process.
Minister calls for nominations—potential nominees are
encouraged to speak with the department about their nomination.
Initial site assessment (desktop)
Nomination—the nominator submits a nomination of land to
60 day comments period—allows all community members and
members of the public opportunity to comment on whether they would like to
continue with the site selection process.
Nomination decision—Minister decides whether to accept the
nomination and uses the Site Selection Framework to inform his decision under
the Act (see below).
Continuous public consultation—the consultation process
continues after the nomination has been accepted and is designed in partnership
with the community. At a minimum, consultation includes numerous information
sessions, the establishment of a local consultative committee, information
booklets and newsletters, the engagement of a community liaison officer and the
establishment of a local office to act as link between the community and the
Detailed onsite technical assessment—site characterisation
assessments are undertaken to further assess the site technical capacity to
host the NRWMF, including geotechnical characteristics, security, safety and
radiation characteristics, potential environmental and cultural heritage values
of the land that may be affected by the NRWMF, transport routes and
infrastructure availability and constraints.
Community sentiment assessment—community sentiment will be
assessed including through submissions made to the Minister and the department,
and the community led vote.
Site assessment—the Minister will make an assessment of
the site taking into consideration various factors including community
sentiment, site characterisation, heritage assessment, infrastructure and cost.
Site elimination or site declared—the Minister may
eliminate or select a site using powers under the Act.
Detailed Business Case—submission to the Public Works
Committee for approval to construct.
Regulatory approvals preparation
Regulatory approvals—submission and assessment under the
Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) and Australian
Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) approval processes,
culminating in decisions as to whether to grant permission to begin
Construction—if decisions under the previous step are
positive, site clearance and construction to commence, including associated
infrastructure. Further ARPANSA approvals sought to provide an operating
Operation—if an operating license is granted, NRWMF to
Put simply, the project phases of the site selection process are:
Phase 1: Nominations, site assessment and shortlist identification.
Phase 2: Technical assessment, site characterisation studies and
preferred site identification.
Phase 3: Site selection, facility design and licensing.
Phase 4: Construction.
Phase 5: Operation.
The government has also published a National Radioactive Waste
Management Facility Site Selection Framework. This document outlines the
multi-criteria site analysis (MCSA) framework that the Department of Industry,
Innovation and Science (DIIS) has applied to the nominated land to initially
assess nominations for their suitability. The MSCA framework can also be used
in subsequent phases of the project and the outcomes will be part of the
information provided to the Minister for consideration when making a decision
under the Act.
The selection process to date
Following the Act receiving royal assent in April 2012, the government
released a notice of intention to consider opening a nationwide volunteer
process of land owners to nominate land for a NRWMF in September 2014.
The official call for nominations was conducted between 2 March and
5 May 2015. A total of 28 applications were received, including the Hawker
site and two sites from the township of Kimba—'Pinkawillinie' and 'Cortlinye'.
In November 2015, former Minister for Resources, the Hon Josh Frydenberg
MP, announced the six nominated areas that had been assessed as suitable for a
further assessment and public consultation to assess the level of community
support to continuing the site selection process. Between November 2015 and
March 2016, the consultation process for the six nominated sites was
In April 2016, the former Minister announced that the Hawker site,
'Wallerberdina Station', was the only site of the six shortlisted to be chosen
to progress to the next stage of consideration. In January 2017, the subsequent
Minster for Resources, Senator the Hon Matt Canavan, announced the 11
successful grant recipients for Round 1 of the Community Benefits Programme in
the Hawker region.
In November 2016, Minister Canavan approved a revision to the Radioactive
Waste Management: Nominations of Land Guidelines, that set out a process by
which land holders may nominate their land for consideration as a potential
site for the facility. Following this change to the nomination process, the
Working for Kimba's Future group approached the government with three potential
new sites for nomination—'Lyndhurst', 'Napandee' and 'Tola Park'.
In March 2017, Minister Canavan announced the formal receipt of two new
land nominations near Kimba which were both accepted to proceed to an initial
Phase 1 consultation—'Napandee' and 'Lyndhurst'. Community consultation to
assess the level of community support for two Kimba sites continuing in the
site selection process was undertaken between 20 March and 21 June 2017. The
Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) conducted a ballot at the request of the
Kimba District Council in the last three weeks of this consultation process. On
27 June 2017, the Minister accepted the nominations of the Kimba sites and
announced that the sites were to proceed to the next phase of assessment.
On 1 November 2017, Minister Canavan announced the successful grant
recipients for Round 1 of the Community Benefits Programme in Kimba and Round 2
of the Community Benefits Programme in Hawker.
Public consultation, detailed onsite technical assessment, and community
sentiment assessment has been conducted for all the three nominated sites that
have been accepted—'Wallerberdina Station' (near Hawker), 'Napandee' and
'Lyndhurst' (both near Kimba). As of April 2018, DIIS indicated that an
Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Assessment has been conducted with the traditional
owners at the 'Wallerberdina Station' site and work is underway for similar
assessments for the two sites in Kimba.
Further, DIIS submitted that:
anticipates that an assessment of community sentiment will occur in the second
half of 2018. The department expects that the Minister will have sufficient
information on site suitability (environment, heritage, infrastructure, and
community services) to inform his decision to select a preferred site by the
end of 2018.
A final community sentiment vote is scheduled to be undertaken by the
AEC on behalf of the District Council of Kimba and the Flinders Ranges Council
between 20 August and 28 September 2018. This vote seeks to determine
community support for hosting a radioactive waste management facility in both
Kimba and Hawker.
Following the completion of the community sentiment assessment (including
the vote) and the detailed onsite technical assessment, the Minister will
decide if any of the nominated sites are selected to progress to a detailed
business case. It is anticipated that this decision will take place before the
end of 2018.
Structure of the report
This report consists of five chapters, including this introductory
Chapter 2 discusses the concept of broad community support and
wider community views;
Chapter 3 focuses on issues related to Indigenous consultation;
Chapter 4 considers the financial incentives provided to land
nominators and affected communities; and
Chapter 5 explores general issues related to the site selection
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