Nuclear waste amendment bill backed

Photo: file
Photo: file

The National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 passed the senate Monday evening with bipartisan support following some changes.

The bill was initially tabled in parliament in February 2020 with the intention to name the Napandee site near Kimba within the legislation, but after amendments the site will not be named in the bill.

Instead federal resources minister Keith Pitt will be required to name the host site through ministerial decision, which will allow for a potential judicial review of the site selection process in future.

Mr Pitt said the passage of the bill means the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility can now go ahead, and that the community that hosts it will be supported through a $20million community fund.

"More than 80 per cent of Australia's radioactive waste stream is associated with the production and provision of nuclear medicine, which it's likely every Australian will require during their lifetime," he said.

"The passage of this bill will provide certainty to the medical community that a long-term solution to our radioactive waste stream is finally identified."

Mr Pitt said following the introduction of his bill last year the government worked to address the concerns of stakeholders and worked with the opposition to amend the bill.

As well as reinstating the ministerial requirement to name the site, the three shortlisted sites of Napandee, near Kimba, Lyndhurst, and Wallerberdina near Hawker, are named in the legislation to provide recognition of the communities and their involvement in the "lengthy" consultation process.

Mr Pitt is also not bound to name one of the three sites currently shortlisted.

Australian Conservation Foundation nuclear free campaigner Dave Sweeney said Mr Pitt had to "backflip" and reinstate legal scrutiny over the selection of a site to host Australia's nuclear waste.

"The minister's backflip to break this year-long stalemate further highlights the federal government's piecemeal and politicised approach to radioactive waste management," he said.

He said he was concerned that the bill reintroduces the three shortlisted sites, but Mr Pitt said the government will not impose a facility on an unwilling community.

"The amendments to the bill do not signal a change in the government's assessment of the Wallerberdina Station site," he said.

"As the responsible Minister, the level of community support will weigh heavily into my consideration when considering where to declare a site for a facility."

As the responsible minister, the level of community support will weigh heavily into my consideration when considering where to declare a site for a facility.

Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt

Kimba mayor Dean Johnson said it was a very exciting step forward for Kimba.

"Siting the facility here will deliver a significant economic boost to the Kimba community," he said.

"It will mean that some more of the technical studies and heritage studies can get underway in earnest, meaning more people in our town, eating at our cafes, staying in our great pub or caravan park, and shopping in our stores."

A community ballot was held in the Kimba district in late 2019 with 61.6 per cent of voters in favour of hosting the facility at the volunteered sites of Napandee or Lyndhurst.

In February 2020, then resources minister Matt Canavan named Napandee as the preferred site due to logistics and having stronger support from direct neighbors.