The $108 million Maralinga Rehabilitation Project to clean-up the former British atomic test site in South Australia, the largest remediation of this type, was completed in 2000. The rehabilitation was agreed by the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments and the Maralinga Tjarujta traditional owners, following methods identified by technical experts. The rehabilitation permits unrestricted access to about 90% of the former restricted area, but excludes full time occupation of the remaining 120 square kilometers.
The clean-up has largely been directed at remediating plutonium contamination caused by minor trials. The clean-up involved two components, the removal of surface soil from the more contaminated areas, and the treatment of contaminated debris pits. Over 350,000 cubic meters of soil and debris was removed over about 2 square kilometers of land, and was buried in 10-15 meter deep trenches under a capping of clean soil of at least 5 meters. Treatment of contaminated pit debris at various sites has involved in situ vitrification, a process which involves application of an electric current to heat and melt debris encasing the contaminated material in a vitric/ceramic block, and exhumation of the contaminated debris and at depths of at least 5 meters.
The independent regulator to the project, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, has indicated that the clean-up of the test sites has met the radiological criteria laid down in the original plan. Discussions are progressing with the South Australian Government and the Maralinga Tjarujta traditional owners as to the long-term management of the site, and the possible hand back of the land from the Commonwealth to South Australia for addition to the Maralinga Tjarutja freehold lands.
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Perkins, C., Harris, J. The Maralinga Rehabilitation Project. MRS Online Proceedings Library 663, 731 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1557/PROC-663-731