After considering the feedback provided in the 120 day community consultation period that concluded in March, the Government has shortlisted the voluntarily nominated site in Barndioota, South Australia, as a possible site for a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility.
Importantly, Barndioota’s shortlisting does not represent a final decision to locate the facility, but rather, it presents an opportunity to continue consultation and concept development with the community to ensure information is provided and any outstanding questions are answered.
Last November, the Government shortlisted six voluntarily nominated sites for community consultation, with three in South Australia, and one in each of New South Wales, Queensland, and the Northern Territory. During the 120-day consultation period that followed, my Department undertook more than 180 face-to-face meetings with stakeholders, and visited the communities of each of the six shortlisted sites at least three times. Further, at least 35,000 information packs were delivered to these communities and in turn more than 1,700 individual submissions were received. Randomised community surveys were also undertaken to obtain a thorough understanding of the levels of support for this facility across each community.
This process was very constructive and I’d like to thank the landholders and all the members of the shortlisted communities for their active participation. While encouraging levels of support were identified across a number of these sites, Barndioota displayed a broad level of community support for moving to the project’s next phase. This will include further consultation with the local community and detailed design, safety, environmental and technical assessment. To facilitate this, my Department will establish an office in the local area.
As part of this next phase, an independent Indigenous heritage assessment will also be undertaken in consultation with traditional owners to identify the full extent of heritage at the site and ensure it is protected. The Government will also work with local Indigenous stakeholders to explore local eco-tourism opportunities.
In recognition of any short term disruption that this detailed assessment may involve, the Barndioota community will also be provided with up to $2 million for local projects that create lasting economic or social benefits.
It is important to reiterate that one in two Australians will require potentially lifesaving nuclear medicine during their lives, with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation delivering around 10,000 patient doses of such medicine each week. The Government is committed to safely and responsibly managing the by-products from these processes and Australia’s important research program by establishing a single, national radioactive waste management facility to enable this life-saving work to continue.
I again emphasise that this facility will only be established at a site that has broad community support and meets Australia’s strict environmental and radiation protection regulatory requirements. In accordance with legislation, the Government remains open to considering new expressions of interest for additional facility sites or locations.
I expect to make a decision on the final location for establishing this facility within a year to allow for the next round of thorough consultation and assessment to take place. Ends