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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2295

Senator WALSH (Minister for Resources and Energy)(9.50) —No, I will certainly not set in train processes to establish the cascade at Lucas Heights. The present enrichment work that is being done will take about another 12 months and some time before the end of that period I will expect a review of what is to happen there. Senator Sir John Carrick mentioned the Uranium Enrichment Group of Australia and said that the Government had not asked other countries to unlock confidential information relating to enrichment. I do not think it is so much a question of unlocking. What the Government did was decline to facilitate the transfer from other governments of confidential information pertaining to enrichment. Senator Sir John Carrick has a very optimistic view of the commercial potential for uranium enrichment in Australia.

Senator Sir John Carrick —Not I-UEGA.

Senator WALSH —The honourable senator uncritically repeated it, whether he was the original source of it or not. Senator Sir John Carrick has had super- optimistic views of one or two other projects which ultimately were proven to be unjustified. I do not share his optimism about the very bright market prospects for enriched uranium. As I understand it, there is a substantial overcapacity, both in enrichment and yellowcake, and there will be for some considerable time. He mentioned the Australian Science and Technology Council report. I have not read all of the ASTEC report. The early part of the report touches upon enrichment. There is-I would not stress this too heavily-some inconsistency in that the report makes what I think is a very sensible recommendation that various facilities in the nuclear cycle, the links in that chain, should be located in different countries so that, ideally, no individual country would have the complete capacity to make an atomic weapon should it choose to do so. I think that would be a very desirable state of affairs.

The ASTEC committee went on to suggest that uranium enrichment was an activity that could well be conducted in Australia, which was somewhat at variance with the ideal situation canvassed one or two pages earlier in that report, that is, that every link in the chain which comprises the nuclear cycle should be located in a different country. Because Australia mines and mills yellowcake, following to its conclusion the earlier ASTEC suggestion, it would be better if the uranium were enriched in some other country and fabricated into fuel rods in a third country, and so on. I know that the Government will at some time in the near future give consideration to the ASTEC-Slatyer report and might well develop a policy about the possibility of enrichment in Australia at some time in the future, but I cannot put any timetable on when that is likely to happen.