The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has applied to the government for permission to build the facility on its site near Lucas Heights, a suburb of Sydney.

It said the facility would be used to store waste which is already on site in several different locations and is needed to allow the removal of a security fence in preparation for the decommissioning of an old reactor.

But reports in the Australian media had suggested ANSTO blamed the need for the site on government’s failure to build a federal nuclear dump.

Responding to reports by ABC and The Australian newspaper, ANSTO said in a statement: “The store will consolidate nuclear materials currently held in various locations on site.

“These are mainly materials that have been on the ANSTO site for many years.

“The key reason the new store is needed is to allow for the removal of the security fence and the eventual decommissioning of ANSTO’s previous reactor, HIFAR.

“That security fence must be removed before some of the major activities in preparation for decommissioning, such as demolition of the cooling towers, can be undertaken.

“In addition, the freed-up space in its existing facilities will also provide ANSTO with the capacity to accommodate waste generated on-site.”

It added: “ANSTO has safely managed its nuclear and other radioactive material for over the past 50 years and will continue to do so.”

The application has been put before Environment Minister Peter Garrett.

His department is expected to examine the application and announce possible sites for the nuclear waste dump later this year.

Kate Martin

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