THE news that the federal government has decided to use the ANSTO facility at Lucas Heights as a nuclear waste storage site has been met with dismay in Sutherland Shire.
ANSTO confirmed the news on Tuesday, with chief executive Adi Paterson saying Australia had benefited from nuclear medicine and now had a responsibility to deal with its by-products.
"Radioactive waste resulting from nuclear medicine production and research must be managed by the countries that make it, consistent with international best practice," Dr Paterson said.
He said about 13.2 square metres of intermediate nuclear waste would be stored in a $30 million purpose-built facility at Lucas Heights from 2015 for a maximum of five years, while the national nuclear repository is built.
The proposed new storage facility at Lucas Heights would enable Australia to meet obligations to repatriate Australian waste being reprocessed in France.
Under arrangements established by governments in the 1990s, it is due to return to Australia by the end of 2015.
Menai MP Melanie Gibbons and Sutherland Shire mayor Carol Provan were quick to condemn the plan.
Ms Gibbons said that given the federal government was yet to decide on the location of the repository, there was a very real fear the waste could remain in the shire far longer than five years.
"I don't believe this is the right solution," she said. "Why are we still waiting for a national waste solution to be built? I urge the federal government to complete the establishment of a national waste repository in time for the arrival of this waste."
Cr Provan said the news was "disgusting" and added the shire was being used as the "defacto dumping ground" for the entire nation's nuclear waste.
"They told us they would investigate a national repository but they have done nothing about it," Cr Provan said.
She said the shire was paying the price for inaction by successive federal governments, which had failed to decide upon a suitable location for permanently storing the waste.
Councillor Steve Simpson, who spoke to the council about the need to prevent ANSTO from storing nuclear waste earlier this year, said he was shocked the shire learned of the decision through a press release.
"I feel we have been neglected," Cr Simpson said. "Our suburb isn't a waste dumping ground."
Sutherland Shire Environment Centre spokeswoman Jenni Gormley said she was concerned the construction of an "out of sight, out of mind repository" could lead to Australia becoming a global dumping ground for uranium.
"Australia should instead cease the overseas exportation of uranium and avoid the need for a "remote" storage facility," Ms Gormley said.
A website and phone line have been set up to provide the public with more information.
Details: 1800 444 470 or
Are you concerned ANSTO will be used to store nuclear waste?