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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2122

Senator MARGETTS (7.09 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

I want to make some very brief remarks with regard to this fairly scant report of the Nuclear Safety Bureau. In particular, I would like to refer to a couple of items relating to the visits of nuclear warships and other nuclear operations. Page 2 of the report states:

Eighteen Abnormal Occurrences were reported to the NSB for the period 1 July to 30 September 1993 . . .

The bureau said that the majority of those were level 1—level 1 is not the lowest level; it is an anomaly beyond the authorised operating regime—and that was the same number as in the previous quarter, but that there has been an increase in level 0 events, which are also anomalies but basically are considered to be of no safety significance. The bureau does not actually say the basis upon which they are considered to be of no safety significance, but I have never heard of a major nuclear accident being reported by a government as being of significance to the health and safety of those people living around it. I have concerns about the increased number of abnormal occurrences and why this should happen. On page 3 of the report the bureau states that, as a result of an emergency exercise prepared and coordinated by the Nuclear Safety Board, it has concluded:

. . . Ansto's emergency arrangements would protect, in accordance with the National Health and Medical Research Council . . . recommendations, on-site personnel . . .

I do not think that is enough detail. Any report will show some problems with the system. Apart from an average recommendation there should be a little more detail in a quarterly report about what kinds of results come up for an emergency exercise.

  Perhaps of greater concern is the advice to the Commonwealth on page 4. The report states:

The NSB provided comments to the Visiting Ships Panel . . . on revision of two documents covering operational aspects and environmental radiation monitoring aspects associated with visits of nuclear powered warships . . .

We are still hearing that insufficient notice is being given to many facilities that are supposed to be on alert when these ships come into port. Much of the information which should be available to communities who live in the vicinity of the ports visited by nuclear ships still is not supplied. So I am very keen to find out when these two documents will be available, especially with regard to such things as change in radiological criteria, port specific population and interpretation of meteorological data, because these are no longer subject to the kinds of excuses that have been used in previous times.

  During the Cold War less information was available to people living in the ports that were frequented by nuclear warships than was available by looking at Jane's Fighting Ships. So there was quite a lot of information which did not need to be kept secret. One could assume that the only reason many of those pieces of information were kept secret was to keep them from the hosts of the visiting ships. It is time that such things as the visits of nuclear ships were considered in terms of their community implications, and that information with regard to the safety, precautions and monitoring of ships is made available so that people see that there is at least a perception that nothing is being hidden from those communities.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.