News

Nuclear site would have ‘less radiation than bananas’

GLIMPSE INTO FUTURE: An example of some of the radioactive waste that would be stored at the proposed facility at Oman Ama.
GLIMPSE INTO FUTURE: An example of some of the radioactive waste that would be stored at the proposed facility at Oman Ama. Jayden Brown

GOVERNMENT officials have addressed the media on their plans for a proposed nuclear waste facility at Oman Ama, stating radiation levels around the site would be lower than what is found in a banana.

The proposed 40-hectare facility would be used to store mostly low-level radioactive waste, with some temporary storage of intermediate-level waste.

Bruce Wilson from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science said the material was safe.

"Low-level waste includes material such as gowns, gloves and test tubes used in handling radioactive material," he said.

"Intermediate waste includes equipment and machinery used in nuclear processes."

The higher-level waste also includes materials coming off fuel rods of nuclear reactors.

Most of Australia's 4250 cubic metres of low-level and 656 cubic metres of intermediate-level waste would be stored on site.

Despite community concern about high-level radioactivity, Mr Wilson confirmed there was no high-level waste in Australia and the proposed facility wouldn't be able to host it.

He also declared no waste from overseas would be stored at Oman Ama.

"At the facility there will be no liquid, no corrosive, no volatile, and no organic waste," he said.

"This ensures the material will not be subject to volatile reactions or breakdowns."

Low-level waste would be placed in drums, compacted and stored in a larger drum.

The drum would then be encased in concrete and those drums would be place in concrete slabs.

The waste would be transported and stored at the facility in those slabs.

Transport routes could include taking waste via Goondiwindi, Stanthorpe or Warwick - although the Department is yet to finalise those details.

There will be a 100ha exclusion zone around the site, located approximately 3km off the Cunningham Hwy.

Mr Wilson said no measurable radiation would come from the site.

Levels inside the site would be so low that employees could walk around the stored waste without any protective clothing.

"We will be having very comprehensive and very detailed environmental monitoring done on the site," he said.

"All that data will be made publicly available."

Scientists claim a person standing near the site would be exposed to less radiation than they would get on an international flight.

The Department claims the community will benefit greatly from the facility.

At least 15 new, full time jobs would be created.

Mr Wilson also raised the prospect of increases to infrastructure such as mobile phone coverage, internet and roads.

Most of the construction of the $100 million project would be completed by businesses in the area.

A community benefit package of at least $10 million is also up for grabs.

Concerns about property devaluation were also addressed by Mr Wilson.

The government claims property prices at similar facilities around the world have been unaffected.

A similar facility at Esk has failed to affect property prices or the town's reputation, officials claim.

The final site will be chosen in 2017.

Final site design, licensing and approvals would take two years, with construction to begin in 2018.

The facility would not be operational until 2020.

The site would be operated for at least 100 years, with further monitoring for several hundred years more.

Topics:  editors picks, nuclear, nuclear waste dump, nuclear waste facility, radioactive, uranium



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