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A new agency to manage radioactive waste

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21 July 2020

The Australian Government announced a new Australian Radioactive Waste Agency (ARWA).

This new agency is the next important step in developing Australia’s radioactive waste management capabilities. ARWA will act as the authority on radioactive waste in Australia and work with stakeholders including waste producers, industry, the community, and government agencies, to best manage radioactive waste.

The agency currently sits within our department, and will later become a non‑corporate Commonwealth entity based in Adelaide, South Australia.

Key activities and priorities

From July 2020 ARWA will lead the process to deliver Australia’s National Radioactive Waste Management Facility.

The National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) near Kimba, South Australia, will be purpose-built to safely dispose of Australia’s low-level waste and temporarily store our intermediate level waste.

ARWA will also lead a separate process to site a facility to permanently dispose of Australia’s intermediate level waste. This will likely be a deep geological facility in a different location.

To deliver the NRWMF, ARWA will need to manage detailed applications to ensure safety and regulatory compliance:

  • an EPBC application to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
  • three applications to the nuclear regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (ARPANSA), to site, build and operate a nuclear facility
  • an application to the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office (ASNO)

These applications will take years to put together, and will involve independent public consultation where the community can have their say.

Jobs and community benefits

Over several years, the site preparation and construction of the facility will deliver around 300 jobs.

In 2018, construction of the NRWMF was estimated at $325 million for the purpose of an economic benefit analysis by Cadence Economics. This was a conservative early estimate based on a generic, non-site specific design.

Based on ABS data, a project of this scale could equate to more than 300 jobs during the construction phase. This could deliver $2.5 million worth of construction activity by local firms each year.

By 2022-23, ARWA will have a workforce of approximately 35 full time equivalent employees and up to 15 additional contractors. Job opportunities will vary over time, but will include technical specialists, corporate and governance roles. ARWA will recruit locally and globally to fill these roles with the right people.

Funding for local communities will continue. Communities considered during the site selection process will receive $2 million in grant funding this year through the Community Benefit Program.

This builds on the support the program has delivered. Around $5.7 million has been invested across 57 projects and initiatives for the Kimba and Hawker communities since consultation on the proposed facility began.

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Email arwa@industry.gov.au