The Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA) has recommended approval of Tellus Holdings Ltd’s hazardous waste storage proposal.
The EPA said it follows a rigorous environmental impact assessment.
The proposal includes a temporary hazardous waste storage facility, an underground salt mine, a permanent disposal facility for hazardous waste (in the mined out, underground salt caverns), and associated infrastructure such as salt stockpiles, haul roads and access roads.
The proposed site is approximately 120 kilometres south of Alice Springs and 25 kilometres from the nearest community, Titjikala.
NT EPA Chairman, Dr Paul Vogel, said the NT EPA identified potentially significant environmental impacts and risks associated with the proposal and made 19 recommendations to avoid and mitigate those impacts.
“The NT EPA’s assessment of Australia’s first national hazardous waste repository has been informed by the operation, regulation and learnings from other deep geological waste repositories internationally as well as ongoing discussions with the WA EPA who are also assessing a similar, but smaller proposal,” Dr Vogel said.
The EPA’s key recommendations focus on ensuring transparent, ongoing and rigorous regulatory oversight, including requirements for the public disclosure of any financial assurance or security held in respect of the proposal, as well as public disclosure of independent auditor and process safety oversight reports.
“This proposal comes with environmental and financial risks to the community and the Northern Territory Government,” Dr Vogel said.
“To address these risks the NT EPA has made recommendations consistent with the proponent’s commitment to ensure appropriate financial assurance provisions are provided upfront to the NT Government over the life of the proposal, should it be approved.
“A whole-of-project financial assurance would ensure that significant residual environmental impacts and risks are acknowledged, and financial risk to the NT Government is avoided, covering all financial obligations under an appropriate regulatory regime.”
The NT EPA supports the concept of a deep geological repository that can store and isolate hazardous waste and has identified further work required to demonstrate that the Chandler Facility is the best option for disposing of hazardous waste without unacceptable environmental impacts now or in the future.
The NT EPA has provided its assessment report to the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, Lauren Moss, for consideration.