Nuclear facilities under scrutiny

A PARLIAMENTARY committee inquiry into ANSTO’s proposed new nuclear medicine and Synroc waste treatment plants is routine.

The Standing Committee on Public Works has begun a consultation process into the $168million project, which will include a public hearing in February.

A spokeswoman for the committee said the inquiry was ‘‘standard procedure’’, required by law.

She said the committee had to be notified of all government works with a proposed cost of more than $2million, and hold a public inquiry into those valued at more than $15million to  ensure they were fit for the purpose and represented value for money. The committee comprises three members from the Senate and six from the House of Representatives.

Under the proposal, the new nuclear medicine manufacturing plant would be completed by 2016.

It would produce molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), used for the diagnosis of heart disease, cancers, and kidney and gastrointestinal tract disorders.

The world’s first Synroc waste treatment plant, to manage by-products from the manufacture of nuclear medicines, is expected to attract most attention.

It is claimed Synroc technology, in which radioactive waste is stored in synthetic rock, reduces the volume of nuclear bi-products by 99 per cent compared with other methods.

The technology was pioneered at the Australian National University, Canberra, in the 1970s, but has had limited use internationally.

Sutherland Shire Council’s initial reaction to the plan was to welcome the investment and jobs, while expressing concern over the waste treatment plant.

The federal government says waste from medicine manufacturing plants would be treated and stored at at Lucas Heights until  a national waste repository was  built.

Yet, the government had not said where the repository would be built.

Federal Liberal MP for Hughes Craig Kelly said, while the proposed project would have great medical benefits and bring more than 200 jobs to the area,  developing a long-term repository for nuclear waste was ‘‘top priority’’.

FEEDBACK

For details of the proposal, or to make a submission to the inquiry, visit: aph.gov.au/pwc.

Submissions close on January 24, and a public hearing is due to be held in February, with details yet to be announced.

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See related story: http//www.theleader.com.au/story/346153/anstos-global-medical-role-with-synroc/

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