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Thursday, 20 September 2007
Page: 202


Mr Garrett asked the Prime Minister, the Minister for Environment and Water and the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, in writing on 7 August 2007:

(1)   Are the Minister’s department and/or agencies aware of the 16 July earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, that hit Japan’s north-west coast and disabled the world’s largest nuclear reactor, the Kashiwazaki Kariwa power plant.

(2)   Are the Minister’s department and/or agencies aware that as a result of the earthquake, the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant experienced 50 cases of “malfunction and trouble”, including burst pipes, fires, a leak of about 315 gallons of water containing radioactive material that was flushed out to sea, the release of Cobalt-60 and chromium-51 into the atmosphere and damage to approximately 100 drums of low-level nuclear waste.

(3)   Are the Minister’s department and/or agencies aware that the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant has been closed indefinitely and that this has caused major disruption to regional power supplies.

(4)   Are the Minister’s department and/or agencies aware that officials at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant admitted that they had not foreseen such an earthquake hitting the facility.

(5)   Are the Minister’s department and/or agencies aware that Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant’s No. 1 reactor recorded tremors of 680 gals in the east-west direction and that this was more than twice the designed capacity of 273 gals.

(6)   Are the Minister’s department and/or agencies aware that Japan’s chief government spokesman, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, said the designs of other Japanese nuclear plants will be re-examined to make sure they are strong enough to resist all potential earthquakes.

(7)   Are the Minister’s department and/or agencies aware that Yumio Ishii, President of the Japan Society of Civil Engineers, said on 20 July 2007: “I strongly feel we were lucky the disaster wasn’t worse than it was. The quake-resistance standards for nuclear power plants definitely need to be reviewed.”

(8)   Have the Minister’s department and/or agencies undertaken work to assess risks posed by earthquakes to nuclear power stations and nuclear waste dumps in Australia; if so, what are the details.

(9)   Did the Minister’s department and/or agencies provide advice relating the risks associated with earthquakes to the Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy review; if so, what are the details.

(10)   Did the Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy review commission any research into, or seek any advice on, the risks associated with earthquakes; if so, what are the details.

(11)   Have the Minister’s department and/or agencies undertaken any action based on the impact of the 16 July Japanese earthquake upon the Kashiwazaki Kariwa power plant; if so, what are the details.

(12)   Is the 16 July 2007 Japanese example of the underestimation of the risks posed by earthquakes to nuclear power stations consistent with the understanding of the Minister’s department and/or agencies concerning nuclear power station building safety standards.

(13)   Have the Minister’s department and/or agencies provided any advice about the costs of nuclear power and waste disposal safety standards; if so, what are the details.


Mr Ian Macfarlane (Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) —I provide the following answers on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Environment and Water and myself, to the honourable member’s questions. The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:

(1)   The Australian Government is aware of the 16 July 2007 earthquake in Niigata Prefecture Japan and its effects on the Kashiwazaki Kariwa power plant.

(2)   An International Atomic Energy Agency mission visited the Kashiwazaki Kariwa power plant and reported its preliminary findings and lessons from the event of 16 July 2007. The report is available at http://www.iaea.org.

(3)   The Government is aware that the plant has been shut down until all investigations and any plant modifications have been carried out. The Government understands that there was no significant disruption to power supplies. The plant operator, TEPCO, met its customer needs from alternative generators and adjustments to its load profiles.

(4)   The safety of nuclear power plants in Japan is a matter for the Japanese Government.

(5)   The safety of nuclear power plants in Japan is a matter for the Japanese Government.

(6)   The safety of nuclear power plants in Japan is a matter for the Japanese Government.

(7)   The safety of nuclear power plants in Japan is a matter for the Japanese Government.

(8)   No potential nuclear reactor sites in Australia have been assessed. Investigations on a low and intermediate level waste facility are taking place but no decision has been made. The risks posed to any nuclear facilities would need to be assessed on a site by site basis in the normal course of any approvals process. This was the case for the Lucas Heights replacement reactor.

(9)   Geoscience Australia made a submission to the Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review (UMPNER). It stated that “Australia is the most geologically stable of the continents. It has areas which appear geologically suitable for waste disposal. These are particularly in Precambrian granite-gneiss terranes and clay-rich sedimentary strata, where it is possible to predict the future behaviour of the geological and hydrological systems and provide information on the risks.”

(10)   UMPNER did not commission any research into, or seek advice on the risks associated with earthquakes. See the response to part 9.

(11)   Officials are monitoring developments.

(12)   The safety of nuclear power plants in Japan is a matter for the Japanese Government.

(13)   The UMPNER report provides details of the cost of nuclear power and information on the management of radioactive waste. The Review’s report is available at http://www.dpmc.gov.au/umpner/.