Australia’s first centralised nuclear waste dump would improve the nation’s environment according to pro-nuclear Western Australian Federal MP Dennis Jensen.
Australia does not have a centralised dump for radioactive waste, with organisations that produce radioactive waste being required to store it themselves or ship it offshore.
There are about 100 waste storage sites in rural and urban areas around the country which are not designed to house waste permanently and are starting to reach capacity.
Dr Jensen, the Federal member for Tangney, an electorate in Perth’s southern suburbs, says a centralised disposal site would be better for the environment as it would bring all existing waste together rather than leaving it scattered.
The Federal Government is asking major landholders around the nation to nominate sites for a potential centralised dump. Expressions of interest close on May 5.
Australian Nuclear Association secretary John Harries agreed with Dr Jensen, saying there would be a “net gain for the environment for having [nuclear waste] all in one place”.
“As it stands, you need to have a lot of people able to manage waste in a lot of different places,” Dr Harries said.
“[The satellite disposal sites] will no longer need somewhere to store the waste on the long term.”
Dr Jensen said current regulations on nuclear waste were contradictory and confusing.
“If you throw away one smoke detector it goes to the tip,” he elaborated.
“If you throw away 10 they’re meant to be properly stored and disposed of because of the radioactive materials in them and you’ll be fined if you don’t do so.”
Dr Jensen said a centralised site would help streamline these regulations, and make more sense of them for people dealing with minute amounts of waste.
Dr Harries agreed.
“As it stands there’s different regulations in every state,” he said.
“With a central waste disposal site there’ll be a well defined path for sending the waste to someone to properly manage it.”
Hospitals, universities and many other organisations produce radioactive waste. Various household items such as smoke detectors contain minute amounts of radiation.
Friends of the Earth Australia spokesman Jim Green said a centralised site was unnecessary.
“I’ve not seen anything to show me that as it stands medical and scientific facilities aren’t capable of managing their own radioactive waste,” Dr Green said.
“On average, medical facilities in Australia store one-seventh of a cubic metre of waste …
…That’s around a suitcase worth.”
The office of Fremantle-based Greens senator Scott Ludlam was contacted for comment.