Staff from around Australia and possibly overseas will be recruited for a new government agency to manage a nuclear waste dump in South Australia.
The Australian Radioactive Waste Agency will have about 35 staff in Adelaide, with a satellite office at Kimba, near where the waste repository will be built on a farming property.
The agency will also be involved in the design and construction of the new facility, which will store low-level nuclear material, mostly used in nuclear medicine.
Legislation to establish the dump has already passed federal parliament’s lower house and is before a Senate committee after the location was selected earlier this year.
The Napandee property on Eyre Peninsula was chosen after an exhaustive process lasting four years with community concerns eventually ruling out alternative locations in SA.
Resources Minister Keith Pitt said the establishment of the new agency was another step forward in what had been a very long-running process to develop a vitally important facility.
“Two in every three Australians will use nuclear medicine and that means two of every three Australians will produce some low-level radioactive waste that needs to be stored and managed,” he said.
“This is a national piece of infrastructure that is critical for all of those individuals.”
Mr Pitt said ARWA would operate as an independent agency with staff to be drawn from around Australia and possibly around the world to secure those with the right skill set.
But the Australian Conservation Foundation said the government had jumped the gun, establishing the new agency when legislation for the dump was still before the parliament.
“It is absurd to establish a new federal agency for a proposal that is still under active Senate review and has no current legislative basis,” campaigner Dave Sweeney said.
“This initiative has all the hallmarks of a tailor-made political fix for a federal plan that has no broad social licence.”
When the Napandee site was chosen, owner Jeff Baldock welcomed the plan and urged the government to move forward.
He said it was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure Kimba’s future” and the waste facility would potentially provide jobs and much-needed revenue for the region.
“It’s very rare that a small country community gets the chance to guarantee that it’s still going to be here in 300 years’ time,” he said.