Response to Dr Jim Green

6 July 2018

The Department is aware of recent comments by Dr Jim Green questioning the veracity of the 45 jobs estimate for the proposed National Radioactive Waste Facility.

Recently Dr Green wrote:

“It's a safe bet that they [overseas facilities in UK, Spain and France] are processing VASTLY more waste than is produced in Australia, with a workforce that isn't much bigger than the proposed 45 jobs in regional SA.
ANSTO provides some info on the amount of waste processed [at the overseas facilities]  – but none on the number of employees.
The government's current claim is that there will be 45 jobs even though only 45 cubic metres will be produced each year (aside from uranium mine waste, dealt with separately.) One job per cubic metre ... which is ridiculous.
The government claims that waste would be sent to the 'facility' on an ongoing basis although previous governments said waste would be transferred only once every 3-5 years.”

We agree with Dr Green that this is an important aspect of the current discussion in the communities and so have provided a response to his points below

As ANSTO and the department advised Dr Green in our recent email correspondence, it is not appropriate to draw a direct correlation between numbers of employees and volumes of waste handled. This is a reflection of economies of scale and the fact that waste handling/management only accounts for a proportion of jobs at the Facility.

The numbers of employees at facilities like CSA in France and LLWR in the UK is significantly higher than the 45 jobs estimated for the NRWMF, however, both operating organisations also have many of the roles that are included in the outline NRWMF organisation chart based in headquarters facilities. The NRWMF organisational structure is designed to be largely stand-alone, increasing the jobs in the community.

The number of operational jobs (ie those directly handling waste streams) included in the organisational structure is around 15. For comparison, ANSTO Waste Management Services has a total headcount of around 30 full time Equivalent staff. Other organisations similar to FoE have recognised ANSTO’s expertise in waste management and this is because the operational function is supported by ancillary staff dedicated to assurance functions, including security. This is a requirement to meet ANSTO’s stakeholder expectations including the local community and the independent regulator. These important ancillary roles are also included in the organisational structure. This facility will be an operational facility and not as some have suggested, a minimally crewed warehouse to be opened once or twice a year. That is not an appropriate operational model to responsibly manage waste.

We do not know of the basis to Dr Green’s reference to a past statement that waste deliveries to the facility would only occur once every 3-5 years. If this was stated in the past (and we are unable to locate such a statement) it is not consistent with the operational model proposed at this facility and has never been the position put forward when discussing the NRWMF through this process.

Dr. Green estimates 1 employee per cubic metre of waste. He is correct in stating that this is ridiculous. It is also spurious because it does not recognise that in addition to the 45 m3 of LLW waste generated each year, there will be 5-10m3 of ILW (with strict handling requirements) and 4500 m3 of legacy LLW and 1000 m3 of ILW created over the last 60 years, which will require safe handling, characterisation, quality control and final disposal or storage along with the record keeping, transport planning, inspection and security services that this entails. It also does not account for the base level number of jobs required to safely and securely operate a facility such as this – these jobs are largely independent of waste volumes. Nor does it account for the possible transfer of waste from non-Commonwealth sources.

On this basis, an estimate of 45 jobs is considered appropriately conservative for the safe and secure management of Australia’s legacy, current and future radioactive waste.