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Nuclear Legislation to be debated



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Campaign for a Nuclear Free Future ' GPO Box 1875

Canberra ACT 2601 Fax: (02) 6247 3064

MEDIA RELEASE 29 N ovem ber 1998 j

NUCLEAR LEGISLATION TO BE DEBATED

Tomorrow morning (Monday 30 November 1998) the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee will take evidence from environment groups and government agencies on the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Bill. The Bill will establish the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

The legislation is the first to regulate nuclear activities by Commonwealth agencies, such as the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) which operates the HIFAR reactor and other activities at Lucas Heights. Since 1992, when ANSTO ceased to be under the control of state regulations, the environment movement has been pushing for appropriate legislation to cover the organisation. Many groups believe, however, that the current legislation falls far short of best practice.

Key problems are: • The Bill does not require major nuclear installations, such as research reactors, to be licensed through a public process. As the Bill stands licences can be given without any public or parliamentary input.

• The regulations give the CEO of ARPANSA the power to increase worker and public radiation exposure above levels recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. There is no explanation of who would have input into such a process.

• The Bill does not detail how standards or Codes relating to nuclear activities are to be developed, reviewed or enforced.

• The Bill does not allow for public nominations to the advisory committees to ARPANSA, these will be Ministerial appointments only.

Among those giving evidence tomorrow will be:

• Larry O ’Loughlin, Australian Conservation Foundation 0419 266 110 • Jean McSorley nuclear campaigner, H 02-9568 3265 mobile 0417 662 720 • Dr. Jim Green, independent consultant, H 02-9211 0805

ANSTO, Sutherland Shire Council and the ARPANSA Task Force will also present evidence.

The only public hearing of the Committee on this Bill will be 9.00am - 1pm, Monday 30 November 1998 in Room 2S2, Parliament House, Canberra.

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Bill 1998 Briefing Notes November 1998 Campaign for a Nuclear Free Future

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Bill 1998 was introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament on 8 April 1998. At that time it was presented as a Bill to rectify ‘regulatory gaps’. In particular it was argued the Bill would provide a regulatory framework for Commonwealth organisations which deal with radiation - and which are currently not covered by any legislation, for example Customs Officers handling X-rays or CSIRO researchers using radioactive isotopes.

The Bill is currently before the Parliament again and the Government is arguing that it needs to be passed immediately.

The Bill, however, has significant implications for all aspects of the nuclear industry in Australia - from the handling of relatively minor uses of radiation ie X-rays to uranium mines, radioactive waste dumps, right up to providing a regulatory structure for nuclear activities such as reprocessing or nuclear power.

The Bill is highly controversial, but unfortunately, it has not been developed in a manner suitable to its scope, with effectively no public consultation on the legislation.

The legislation is premised on an acceptance that Australia will expand its involvement in the nuclear industry by: • development of a new research reactor, • expansion of uranium production at existing mines; • development of new uranium mines; • endorsing ongoing international traffic of nuclear waste; • providing a regulatory framework for potential new nuclear facilities - nuclear reactors,

reprocessing, enrichment.

The Bill it seems is intended to provide the ‘regulatory’ structure for all of these activities.

The proposed legislation is flawed because: • it provides for the regulation of nuclear facilities such as commercial nuclear power plants, reprocessing or enrichment facilities. The legislation should not cover these nuclear activities; • it repeals the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Act 1978 - yet it does not detail

measures for the development, review or enforcement of either existing or new codes; • it does not provide the capacity for the Commonwealth to regulate some nuclear activities - specifically uranium mining and milling although this was originally intended; • the Bill does not provide that the Commonwealth be responsible for setting standards and

ensuring their compliance for all nuclear installations, including uranium mines, whether publicly or privately owned; • the standards for radiation exposure are inadequate; although the notion that a level at which ‘harmful’ effects of radiation can be determined is scientific nonsense - there is no safe dose

of radiation exposure; • the Bill’s exemption provisions allow for unregulated nuclear activity on the grounds of ‘national security’.

• the administrative procedures of the Act are weak, for example much of the detail is to be covered by regulations which are easily changeable, the Commonwealth cannot be prosecuted for breaches of the Act, there is limited capacity for ongoing public scrutiny and limited mechanisms to ensure ARPANSA operates independently from Government.

Campaign for a Nuclear Free Future GPO Box 1875 Canberra ACT 2601 Fax: (02) 6247 3064 Email: caserec@peg.apc.org