Australia's nuclear agency plans to bring back a second cask of its radioactive waste back from overseas, following a major operation that saw a container unloaded at Port Kembla in 2015.
Australia does not have the capacity to reprocess the spent fuel rods from its nuclear operations, so the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation sends these overseas where any remaining uranium is stripped and recycled.
The remainder of the waste goes through a process in which it is solidified in molten glass and placed in 500 kilogram canisters.
These canisters are then put into a transport cask with 20 centimetre-thick walls made from forged steel for shipping to Australia.
Subject to approvals, ANSTO plans to bring back its second of these casks from overseas next year, this time from the United Kingdom.
It will be taken to ANSTO's interim waste storage facility at Lucas Heights in southern Sydney.
While ANSTO will not yet disclose the route and timing of the transport for security reasons, the 2015 operation saw the waste shipped into Port Kembla before it was taken by road to Lucas Heights.
ANSTO says between 75 and 80 per cent 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 minerals research undertaken at Lucas Heights," ANSTO's chief nuclear officer Hef Griffiths said.
"Those benefits include production of millions of doses of nuclear medicine, increased profitability of our mining industry, irradiation of silicon used in everything from fast trains to hybrid cars, and a base of knowledge that secures Australia's position in international nuclear non-proliferation talks.
"Along with these benefits comes a responsibility for Australia to safely deal with the by-products including radioactive waste.
"Australia does not shy away from that responsibility, and ANSTO has comprehensive plans to safely manage it."
On a scale of low to high, the waste to be repatriated from the UK is classed as intermediate-level waste: this means it requires additional shielding during handling, transport and storage, but does not have levels of radiation as high as high-level waste.
ANSTO says the cask to be used for this waste is so heavily shielded that there will be no detectable traces of radiation above background levels for someone standing right beside it.
It will be stored at ANSTO's interim waste facility until a national nuclear waste management facility is established around the end of the decade.
Anyone wanting more information on the project can email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (02) 9717 3090 or visit www.ansto.gov.au/2022-waste-repatriation-project.
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