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Monday, 4 May 1987
Page: 2218

Senator BOLKUS —Has the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs seen recent reports that the International Atomic Energy Agency has kept secret more than 250 reports of breakdowns at nuclear power stations? I ask the Minister: Will the Government investigate the validity of these reports with a view to reappraising the IAEA and its alleged independence in this area?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The reports to which Senator Bolkus refers appear to be based on an article which appeared in the West German magazine Der Spiegel about three weeks ago. Those reports are inaccurate and misleading. The IAEA set up in 1983 an incident reporting system to share information with all participating countries on safety significant events and situations in nuclear power plants world-wide. Only those members of the IAEA which participate in this scheme receive the information collected by the IAEA. The scheme is not secret. As Australia does not operate nuclear power reactors, it is not a member of the incident reporting system.

Responding to the Der Spiegel report, an IAEA spokesman has said that since 1983, 260 incidents had been reported to the organisation, none of which had given any cause for concern. Reports on them had, however, given scientists of all nations the opportunity to learn of such problems and to work out solutions for the future. The Department of Foreign Affairs will seek from the IAEA additional comment on the recent media reports.

Aside from the incident reporting system, or IRS, the Agency's power reactor information system, or PRIS, contains full operating data for around 90 per cent of all civil nuclear power plants in the world. Information is not systematically collected for other types of nuclear installations. This data is regularly published in summary form and distributed to all member states, most recently in the report entitled `Operating Experience with Nuclear Power Stations in Member States in 1984'. More general data on the safety of nuclear installations is published annually in the Agency's nuclear safety review.

The IAEA's safety reports for general distribution are the subject of regular and detailed review by the new Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. We are satisfied that these reports present a fair, balanced and objective view on the basis of the information made available to the IAEA by member states. The Government is confident that the IAEA discharges its safety as well as its other responsibilities in a highly professional and effective manner.