Tens of thousands of truck trips could be added to roads in western Lake Macquarie each year under a plan to help double the amount of coal ash recycled from Eraring power station.
A planning modification lodged by the station's owner, Origin Energy, proposes altering existing approvals for how coal ash is disposed and constructing new recycling infrastructure at the 2880-megawatt plant.
The modification has been on exhibition with the NSW Department of Planning since September 18 and submissions close today.
Multiple recycling facilities exist at the plant, some operated by third party contractors including Daracon, Flyash Australia and Boral, and these and other initiatives have sustained an annual recycling rate of about 40 per cent across the past 15 years, the application says.
But as part of a 2019 approval to expand the Eraring ash dam, Origin is meant to achieve an 80 per cent ash reuse or recycling target each year. The planning modification seeks approval to install four additional 600-tonne ash storage silos and three 45-tonne silos to increase throughput capacity from 1.05 million tonnes per annum to 1.4 million.
Additional infrastructure like roads, a weighbridge and utilities would also be built.
Under the proposed changes, truck movements to and from Eraring would increase to a total of 411 per day, up from 188 under existing recycling operations. Although 60 per cent of all truck movements would occur within a five-hour morning period. Heavy vehicle traffic would continue to be split 50/50 to the north and south. Southern movements to M1 Motorway occur via Morisset. The northern are via Wangi Road through either Awaba or via Toronto.
The extra truck movements are dependent on markets, but the amount stated is more than the 62,500 truck trips Centennial Coal proposed for Wangi Road last year as part of a plan to haul coal between its Myuna mine and Eraring. It dumped the plan last week following community opposition.
Origin's proposal aligns with the state's Circular Economy Policy and Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy. It is also consistent with some of the recommendations from last year's NSW Coal Ash Inquiry. Environment groups recently described the state government's response to the inquiry as a "lost opportunity".
About 200 million tonnes of coal ash waste is currently dumped in unlined sites across NSW, with more than half of the material stored in the Hunter and Central Coast.
One of the major uses of recycled ash could be in roads construction and there are hopes the state's roads department will ultimately make use of the product.
Origin's modification can be found online at planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/41796.
Origin is conducting a durability assessment of an ultra-high-volume fly ash pavement constructed on a coal haul road at Eraring in 1995. Its modification report notes "results to date indicate that the road has outperformed the standard heavy vehicle pavement design".