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Thursday, 28 March 1985
Page: 962

Senator ELSTOB —My question, which is directed to the Minister for Resources and Energy, concerns the nuclear energy industry. Is there in existence an international emergency system whereby, in the case of an impending nuclear disaster, expert resources are immediately available? If such a system is not currently available will the Government consider placing this concept before the International Atomic Energy Agency?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Following the accident at Three Mile Island in the United States of America in 1979 there has been a worldwide reassessment of nuclear safety activities including emergency planning and preparedness. Safety at nuclear installations is primarily the responsibility of individual countries, although the International Atomic Energy Agency maintains a program in support of the safe utilisation of nuclear energy. The IAEA's principal role is to assist nuclear safety authorities in member states in the development and improvement of their emergency planning and preparedness capabilities. This includes such things as sending specialist assistance missions to member states on request to assist in developing, improving and testing their emergency plans; preparing guidance documents to assist member states in their response to radiation accidents and emergencies; and providing inter-regional training courses on planning, preparedness and response to emergencies.

In addition, the IAEA has established a system to facilitate emergency assistance to member states in the event of a radiation accident. These are the kinds of precautions that are being set in train on an international basis. It should perhaps be noted as a footnote that in an IAEA Press release, dated 6 March 1985, it was noted that nuclear power reactors world wide have now accumulated more than 3,500 operating years of experience with still no accident having significant harmful effects on the public.