Australia’s nuclear agency plans to bring back a second drum of its radioactive waste from overseas, following a major operation that saw a container unloaded at Port Kembla in 2015.
Australia does not have the capacity to reprocess spent fuel rods from its nuclear operations, so the Australian Organization for Nuclear Science and Technology sends them overseas where all the remaining uranium is mined and recycled.
The rest of the waste goes through a process in which it is solidified in molten glass and placed in 500 kilogram cans.
These cans are then placed in a 20-centimeter-thick forged steel transport drum for shipment to Australia.
Subject to approvals, ANSTO plans to bring back its second of these barrels from overseas next year, this time from the UK.
It will be transported to ANSTO’s interim waste storage facility in Lucas Heights, south Sydney.
While ANSTO will not yet disclose the route and transport schedule for security reasons, the 2015 operation saw waste sent to Port Kembla before being transported by road to Lucas Heights.
ANSTO claims that between 75 and 80 percent of the nuclear waste it produces is associated with the production of nuclear medicine.
“For decades Australians have benefited from nuclear medicine and environmental, industrial and mineral research undertaken at Lucas Heights,” said Hef Griffiths, ANSTO nuclear chief.
“These benefits include producing millions of doses of nuclear medicine, increasing the profitability of our mining industry, irradiating the silicon used in everything from fast trains to hybrid cars, and a knowledge base that secures the position. of Australia in international nuclear non-proliferation talks.
“Along with these benefits, Australia has a responsibility to safely handle by-products, including radioactive waste.
“Australia does not shy away from this responsibility, and ANSTO has comprehensive plans to manage it safely.”
On a low to high scale, waste to be repatriated from the UK is classified as intermediate level waste: this means that it requires additional shielding during handling, transport and storage, but does not have radiation levels as high as high-level waste. waste.
ANSTO says the drum that will be used for this waste is so heavily shielded that there will be no detectable trace of radiation above background levels for anyone standing next to it.
It will be stored in the interim ANSTO waste management facility until a national nuclear waste management facility is established towards the end of the decade.