Australia releases shortlist of possible nuclear waste storage sites

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Sydney (dpa) – Six locations in remote parts of Australia are on a shortlist of possible permanent nuclear waste storage sites released by the Australian government Friday.

The site eventually selected will take the nation’s low to medium-level radioactive waste from hospitals, laboratories and industry currently being stored temporarily at more than 100 sites scattered around the country.

The move also opens the door to Australia accepting the world’s nuclear waste sometime in the future, an idea proposed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Resources and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said there will be four months of consultation with affected communities before the government narrows down the list by the end of 2016. The storage site should be operating by 2020.

Earlier this year property owners were invited to nominate their land to house the 100-hectare facility. Three of the sites are in South Australia, and one each in central Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.

“Australia currently has the equivalent of around two Olympic-sized swimming pools of such waste, which may include laboratory items such as paper, plastic and glassware, and material used in medical treatments,” Frydenberg said in a statement Friday.

“More than 100 sites across the country, including hospitals and universities, are licensed to store this waste on an interim basis.

“The facility will be designed, built and operated to the highest safety and environmental standards,” he said.

The move comes as debate has been growing in Australia about nuclear power, uranium mining and the possibility of storing the world’s high-level nuclear waste in a remote desert facility.

Australia does not have a nuclear power station, but there is a nuclear research station at Lucas Heights in southern Sydney that supplies medical equipment.

Pressure is on for the government to find a permanent site as a ship carrying 25 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel from Lucas Heights is on its way back to Australia after being processed in France.

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