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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 113

(Question No. 1101)


Senator Coulter asked the Minister for Science and Small Business, upon notice, on 1 March 1994:

  (1) What has been the total Commonwealth funding commitment to the Uranium Enrichment Research Program since its inception in 1965 to the present.

  (2) What was the level of funding on an annual basis for the program from 1965 to the present.

  (3) What is the purpose of the program.

  (4) What relevance does the program have, given the Government's opposition to the development of a uranium enrichment industry in Australia.


Senator Schacht —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  (1) and (2) From 1965 to 1983 the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC) conducted research on uranium enrichment focussing on a major project on centrifuge enrichment technology. For part of that time the AAEC also undertook a small project in laser enrichment technologies. Precise details of the resources devoted to R&D in this area were classified at the time and so are not available.

  In its 1979 Review of Research Activities and Capacity at the AAEC, the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council (NERDDC) reported that for 1977/78, which was near the peak of the centrifuge project, expenditure on uranium enrichment R&D was $4,059,000.

  Following the Government's policy decisions in 1983, no uranium enrichment research was conducted from 1983/84 to 1987/88. In 1988, the Ministers for Industry, Technology and Commerce, and Science, Customs and Small Business authorised a limited program in laser enrichment. This was noted in an answer provided on 17 August 1989 to House of Representatives Question Number 1954.

  Government expenditures on this program have been:

  1988/89—$21,000

  1989/90—$272,000

  1990/91—$187,000

  1991/92—$172,000

  1992/93—$153,000

  1993/94 (to 28/2/94)—$90,000

  (3) and (4) The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) was authorised by Ministers to undertake a limited program in the field of laser enrichment of uranium so that ANSTO would be better able to advise Government regarding the technical aspects of this technology.