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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 2701

Uranium Exports

(Question No. 1566)


Senator Ludlam asked the Minister representing the Minister for Resources and Energy, upon notice, on 27 February 2012:

(1) Has the department provided advice to the Minister, the Ministers office or the New South Wales Government or its agencies regarding uranium deposits or the development of the uranium sector in that state; if so:

(a) to whom and when was the advice provided; and

(b) can this advice be supplied.

(2) What is the current status of Australia's involvement in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) initiative.

(3) Has the department provided advice to assist in Australia's preparations for the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty conference to be held in Vienna; if so, to whom and when.

(4) Which departmental officers will attend the upcoming Non-Proliferation Treaty conference in Vienna.

(5) Did any departmental officers attend the recent Investing in African Mining Indaba meeting in Cape Town; if so:

(a) who; and

(b) what were the outcomes of the meeting.

(6) What is the current status of the Australia-Africa Mining Industry Group proposal to link AusAID funding to Australian resource projects.

(7) What advice has been provided or meetings held to consider or advance this proposal.

(8) Has the department reviewed the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Inquiry into Australia's relationship with the countries of Africa ; if so:

(a) what is the departments assessment of this report; and

(b) to whom has advice been provided in relation to this assessment.

(9) What advice or assessments has the department provided to the Government or its agencies (detailing which) regarding the Fukushima nuclear disaster, including:

(a) what has been the nature of this advice; and

(b) to whom has it been provided.

(10) Has the department been involved in any assessments or responses to papers, reports or processes of the United Nations, or other international organisations, regarding the Fukushima nuclear disaster?

(11) Has there been any material change in the legal, regulatory or operational framework of the uranium sector in Australia since the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

(12) In regard to the sale of uranium to India:

(a) what advice has the department provided to: (i) the Minister, and (ii) other parts of government, on this matter;

(b) can the Minister confirm what the process will be to advance this policy shift; and

(c) what is the departments role in this process.

(13) What is the current composition, status, meeting schedule and 2012 work plan of the Uranium Industry Framework taskforce.

(14) Can the Minister confirm the status of initiatives to streamline state and federal uranium approvals.

(15) Has the department provided any briefings to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency or the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities regarding the progress of the proposed nuclear waste dump at Muckaty, Northern Territory; if so, can the relevant notes or briefings be provided.

(16) Has the department prepared any modelling on the proposal to compensate states and territories for storing waste produced in their jurisdictions at the proposed nuclear waste dump at Muckaty; if so, how would the cost of storage be calculated, for example, per cubic meter or degree of radioactivity.

(17) Has the department calculated or prepared any modelling on the likely amount raised over the 300 to 400 year period for which the facility is scheduled to be operating.

(18) Did the department consult with the Northern Territory Government before agreeing to the $10 million amendment proposed by Senator Scullion; if so, can the Minister provide any correspondence or notes on correspondence relating to any such consultations.

(19) Has the department or Minister entered into discussions or correspondence with the Northern Land Council with regard to other site nominations being put forward if the Muckaty site does not go forward.


Senator Chris Evans: The Minister for Resources and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) No.

(2) In 2010 the International Framework on Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC) evolved as a successor to GNEP. Australia has been attending meetings of IFNEC/GNEP on a non-active participant basis to ensure Australia's interests in nuclear non-proliferation, security and safety are taken into account.

(3) No.

(4) The department will not be attending the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

(5) Officers from the Resources, Energy and Tourism portfolio did not attended the African Mining Indaba meeting in February 2012.

(6) AusAID advises that it has not received a proposal from AAMIG to link its funding to Australian resource projects.

(7) The Department has participated in two general meetings with the AAMIG, called by industry and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to discuss their activities in Africa. The Department has not provided any advice on the AAMIG proposal.

(8) The Department has reviewed relevant areas of the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade and provided the response to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the agency responsible for coordinating the Government's Response to the report.

(9) The primary responsibility within the Australian Government on nuclear safety and radiation protection issues rests with the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). ARPANSA has been, and continues to be, the primary source of advice to government on radiation health and safety aspects of the accident. The department contributed information on the past sales of uranium to Japan.

(10) A departmental representative joined Australia's delegation to the International Atomic Energy Agency's Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety (20-24 June 2011).

(11) No.

(12) The department has provided general background information to the Minister and senior officials on India's potential uranium demand and forecast expansion of its nuclear sector with information taken from public sources. Following the ALP's conference decision on uranium sales to India, the Government is considering its policy and timelines on this matter.

(13) The Uranium Council (formerly the Uranium Industry Framework) includes representatives from Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, industry and the Northern Land Council. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 12 June 2012 . The work program for the Council includes the following:

Two workshops on Environmental Risk from Ionising Contaminants: Assessment and Management (ERICA) Tool: these will be a training course for industry and government participants to understand the ERICA tool, a computer based assessment tool that predicts the risks to reference animals and plants from exposure to radioactive material released to the environment.

Radiological Protection of Non Human Biota project: being led by ARPANSA, the project is to develop a systematic approach through the collation and analysis of existing data to evaluate different methodologies that assess the effects of radionuclides on the environment due to uranium mining operations which is consistent with overseas approaches and directly applicable to the Australian environment. This will complement the ERICA Workshops and will be for use by regulators and industry when developing proposals for new mines.

Transport Strategy: this will examine delay and denial issues domestically and internationally. The project will also provide information on the strict Australian and international requirements for transporting uranium.

(14) With regard to access to defence land within the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA), under the coexistence model announced in May 2011, while Defence will remain the primary user of the WPA, industry will be given certainty of access through a transparent regulatory process and defined access periods. Development of the legislation to underpin the regime will commence in 2012.

The department has removed environmental requirements from uranium export permissions where the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPAC) has assumed regulatory responsibility through the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

(15) These agencies are kept informed during regular discussions for which no briefing papers or notes are required.

(16) The proposed amendment by Senator Scullion to the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010 provides for the host State/Territory to be compensated for wastes stored/disposed of by other States/Territories at a facility within its borders. The compensation will be raised by a fee on wastes from other States/Territories. No modelling has been prepared on this proposal.

Following overseas practice, a combination of volume and activity based charges is expected to be applied at a national facility providing for disposal of low level waste and storage of intermediate level waste.

(17) No.

(18) There have been no consultations on Senator Scullion's amendment with the Northern Territory Government.

(19) No. Discussions with the Northern Land Council were confined to Muckaty Station. Following passage of the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill 2010 consultation with the NLC will resume, providing an opportunity for the NLC to raise any other prospective sites within its jurisdiction.