National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012
On 4 April 2012, the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 (the Act) came into effect. This legislation repeals the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005 and restores procedural fairness rights for establishing a national radioactive waste management facility.
The Act establishes a legislative framework for siting a facility on volunteered land. This approach closely accords with international best practice.
Two volunteer nomination processes are provided for by the Act. The first allows for a Land Council in the Northern Territory to volunteer Aboriginal land on behalf of its Traditional Owners. If, for any reason, a facility cannot be sited on Aboriginal land nominated by a Land Council in the Northern Territory, a nation-wide volunteer process for siting a facility will be initiated. Under both processes, extensive consultation will be undertaken. The Act will also ensure that the selected site undergoes full environmental, heritage and other approval processes.
Under the Act, a facility will be established to manage radioactive waste generated by Australia’s medical, industrial, agricultural and research use of nuclear materials. This waste is a very small fraction of the hazardous waste that is produced and routinely disposed of in Australia.
Currently, Australia’s radioactive waste is stored at more than 100 sites around Australia, many of which were not built for this purpose. It is internationally accepted that centralised radioactive waste management facilities offer substantial safety and security benefits by minimising risk of accidental loss of control of radioactive waste, thereby protecting the community and environment from any adverse effects.
The Act promotes the consistent, safe and responsible management of radioactive waste, in accordance with Australia’s obligations as a party to the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.
For more information, see the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 on the ComLaw website.