Frequently Asked Questions about managing the return of waste


Origins and use icon

 Transport icon

Storage icon

Licensing icon

Solutions icon

Speech bubbles

Origins and use Transport Storage Licensing Solutions



Q. How was the intermediate-level waste be transported?
A. The intermediate-level waste was transported from France in a dedicated, nuclear category rated ship. Specialised ships and containers have been safely used in 170 nuclear shipments over the past 30 years - covering more than 8 million kilometres.

After the ship entered Port Kembla, the waste was transported to an interim waste store at ANSTO's Lucas Heights campus by truck carrying a specialised, multi-axle trailer. 

The interim waste store and the transport of waste are subject to regulatory approval by ARPANSA. 

Q. What are the specifications of the transport and storage container?
A. Consistent with international best practice, a multi-tier approach will be taken for the transport and storage of the reprocessed fuel waste. These can be described as follows:
  • Mixing the material with molten glass to produce a durable waste form, in a process called vitrification.
  • Pouring that glass into sealed stainless steel canisters, each of which weighs around 500 kilograms (when full).
  • Inserting the stainless steel canisters into a transportation and storage cask. This container was made from forged steel. It is 6.5 metres long and 3 metres in diameter. Its walls are more than 20 centimetres thick and it weighs 95 tonnes when empty.

    The container has impact limiters installed at each end to protect against high speed projectiles and crashes. It is designed to withstand a drop of 9 metres, temperatures above 800oc, an earthquake or a jet plane strike. In testing, similar containers have withstood crashes from speeds of over 160km/hr.

Q. Who designed and built the transport container?
A. The container was assembled in France by TN International, whose specialisation includes the design and construction of containers to transport nuclear materials. The containers are widely used in Europe for transport and storage of waste. 
TN International is a subsidiary of the French Company, AREVA, who were contracted for the manufacture and transport of the container to Australia.

Q. Has a similar container been used before?
A. Yes, the container is a well-tested design, and is widely used throughout Europe for the transportation and storage of nuclear waste. TN International has constructed more than 100 similar containers.

Q. Is it the same container the waste was transported to France in?
A. No. The material which was exported to France was spent fuel, which had different design and size characteristics to the reprocessed vitrified waste and therefore required different transport containers.

Q. How heavy is the container?
A. The container weighs approximately 95 tonnes when empty, and 112 tonnes when fully loaded.

Q. Have there been any international accidents involving this cask type?
A. No.

Q.What would have happened if the cask cracked en route?
A. There was no credible chance of that happening. The container is 6.5 metres long, 3 metres in diameter and, with walls more than 20 centimetres thick, and weighs 95 tonnes when empty.

It is designed to withstand a drop of 9 metres, temperatures above 800oc, an earthquake or a jet plane crash. Similar containers have been successfully used in 170 nuclear shipments around the world over 30 years.

Q. At which port did it arrive?
A. The waste was transported on the nuclear-rated ship the BBC Shanghai and arrived at Port Kembla in NSW in early December 2015.

Q. How was the safety of wharf workers ensured?
A. The safety of people involved in the loading and unloading of the container from the ship and its transport to an interim store was ensured in several ways.
  • Radiation dose monitoring was undertaken prior to shipping to verify that adequate shielding was in place.
  • Before loading onto the ship, the external surfaces of the container were sampled extensively for radioactive contamination, and shown to be free of contamination.
  • The contamination sampling was repeated in Australia before the container was offloaded and moved onto the transport truck and trailer.
  • Accredited radiation-trained personnel were on site and monitored safety at all times and all locations, from receipt of the waste at the port to placement in an interim storage facility.
This approach, combined with the strong design of the transport and storage container, meant that the safety of workers was protected.

Q. How many shipments were there ?
A. There was one shipment from France that arrived in Australia in late in 2015.

Q. How was waste transported from the port to the interim store at Lucas Heights?
A. The waste was transported from Port Kembla to ANSTO's Lucas Heights campus on a truck with a specialised multi-axle trailer suitable to carry the loaded container (which weighed around 112 tonnes). The multi-axle trailer allowed for the weight to be spread evenly.

Prior to leaving the dock, the truck underwent a series of inspections to ensure compliance with the safety requirements of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency and other regulatory bodies.

Q. What route did the truck take?
A. The container was transported 60 kilometres from Port Kembla to Lucas Heights.Considerations included the safety, security, traffic impacts and road quality.

Q. Were there any community impacts?
A. The transport was timed to minimise road impacts. Containers of the type that Australia will use are regularly moved around the world without incident. One specialised shipping company alone has completed more than 170 nuclear shipments in 30 years without a single incident resulting in the release of radioactivity.

 Q. What happened during shipping and trucking?
A. The waste was transported safely and securely to the interim store at Lucas Heights.
Specialised ships and containers have been used in 170 nuclear shipments over the past 30 years. The ships have safely covered millions of kilometres and there has never been a single incident resulting in the release of radioactivity. 
The engineering of the container was extremely high. It can withstand a drop of 9 metres, temperatures above 800oc, an earthquake or a jet plane crash. In testing, similar containers have withstood a crash impact of over 160km/hr.

Q. Have there been any accidents in similar transport operations?
A. No. Since 1971 there have been more than 20,000 shipments of spent fuel and high-level waste (over 80,000 tonnes) over many million kilometres around the world. During that time, there has never been an incident where a container of the type Australia is using has been breached, or leaked.

Q. What security precautions will be in place during transport?
A. A full security plan was put in place, and informed decisions about the port, route, and timing of the transport. It was developed in consultation with relevant Federal and State police, transport and security agencies.