Australian state could take 13% of globe's nuclear waste: Report

SYDNEY (AFP) - A nuclear dump in an Australian state could handle 13 per cent of the world's atomic waste and prove "highly profitable" in the long term, initial findings from a high-level inquiry said on Monday (Feb 15).

The prospect of a nuclear dump in the vast nation has proven controversial in the past. Australia has yet to decide where to store its own radioactive waste let alone any imported material.

But the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission, established last year by the South Australia state government, said a facility accepting global waste created by power generation, industry, medicine and research could be viable.

"The storage and disposal of used nuclear fuel in South Australia is likely to deliver substantial economic benefits to the South Australian community," it said in what it described as "tentative findings".

"An integrated storage and disposal facility would be commercially viable and the storage facility could be operational in the late 2020s."

Financial assessments suggested that a facility with the capacity to store 138,000 tHM (tonnes heavy metal) of used fuel and 390,000 sq m of intermediate-level waste operating over a century "would be highly profitable in a range of scenarios", it said.

"Those volumes represent about 13 per cent of the projected global fuel inventory," the report said, adding community consent would be essential.

South Australia state Premier Jay Weatherill said his government had not formed a position for or against a nuclear waste dump.

"I anticipate that for many South Australians, this will understandably be an emotion-charged debate. However it is important that everyone is afforded the opportunity to have their say," he told reporters.

But the state's Greens leader Mark Parnell urged the government to fight any proposal for the state to become "the world's nuclear waste dump".

"The Royal Commission's tentative findings on the nuclear waste dump are based on dubious economics, heroic assumptions and a big dose of guesswork," he said in a statement.

The commission's final report is due in May.