Frequently Asked Questions about managing the return of waste


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Q. Where is the intermediate-level waste stored?
A. The intermediate-level waste is being stored in a purpose-built interim waste store at ANSTO's Lucas Heights campus with regulatory approvals by ARPANSA. 

Q. How far is the interim-waste store be from homes?
A. The interim-waste store is  located at ANSTO's Lucas Heights campus. It is approximately 1 km from existing or proposed new housing, which is the same as the other nuclear facilities which operate safely on site. 
ANSTO's role in the safe, appropriate and ongoing management of nuclear facilities and their by-products is on the public record.

Q. How big is the interim-waste store?
A. The building is about 800 square metres in size - equivalent to about one tenth of a soccer field, and comparable to several other buildings on ANSTO's Lucas Heights campus.

Q. Who designed and built the interim waste store?
A. The concept and design have been completed by expert architects, and in consultation with staff from the ANSTO. The concept plans were reviewed by a nuclear waste management expert from Switzerland.

Following approval from ARPANSA, a contract for detailed design and construction was awarded and construction has been completed.

A separate licence to operate the interim-waste store has been issued by ARPANSA.

Q. What security features does the interim-waste store have?
A. The building complies with the international and Australian requirements for storage of this class of material. Those requirements are set by organisations such as IAEA, ASNO and ARPANSA. 
While they are regularly reviewed, security measures at ANSTO did not need to be significantly changed as a result of this project.

As publicly stated previously, the existing security measures at ANSTO are appropriately extensive and include checkpoints, barriers, security cameras, electronic pass systems and armed 24-7 security personnel.

Q. Does the proposed interim waste store increase the radioactivity of Lucas Heights?
A. There is a negligible, if any, difference between background radiation levels at Lucas Heights and other locations across Sydney. The return of reprocessed waste does not change this situation. Live information on radioactivity levels is available from ANSTO.

Q. What expertise is there at Lucas Heights to manage this storage project?
A. ANSTO employs many of Australia's foremost nuclear scientists and engineers. It has 60 years of experience in nuclear technology and its applications, including the proper and safe handling radioactive materials and waste.

It has a dedicated team of professionals who are charged with safely handling and managing nuclear waste in accordance with best international practice. 

Q. How much waste was managed and stored at Lucas Heights before the shipment from France?
A. ANSTO has 60 years of experience in safely operating nuclear instruments and managing resulting by-products. ANSTO held and managed approximately 447 m3 of intermediate-level waste and 1,949 mof low-level waste before the shipment from France.

Q. How long will the interm waste store be needed?
A. Under contracts signed by the Australian Government in the 1990s, Australian was obliged to ensure that the intermediate-level waste was dispatched from France to Australia before December 2015. 
To meet this obligation, ANSTO  received the intermediate-level waste at ANSTO's Lucas Heights campus. The siting, construction and operation of the interim waste store was subject to regulatory approval by ARPANSA. It will be kept at Lucas Heights, until establishment of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility. 
ANSTO has 60 years of expertise in safely managing nuclear material and by-products, and is therefore able to safely manage the intermediate level waste on an interim basis until a national facility is sited and constructed.

Q. What will happen to the interim-waste store after the removal of intermediate level waste?
A. The interim-waste store will be used to store intermediate-level waste from late 2015. After the waste is moved to the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility, the building will be re-purposed for other ANSTO activities. Where applicable, the relevant approvals would be sought.