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Notice given 8 April 2009

*1482  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General—With reference to the uranium seized on 1 April 2009 during a police raid on a property in Harcourt, central Victoria:

(1) Was the quantity of uranium found 300 grams as reported in the media.

(2) (a) Where is this material currently stored; and (b) what are the long-term plans for its handling.


 (3) (a) What is the chemical form of the uranium; and (b) what is its isotopic composition.

(4) Given that it is possible to determine where uranium is mined and last chemically processed: (a) can the Attorney-General confirm that this uranium came from an Australian uranium mine; and (b) if an assessment has not yet been conducted will the Federal Government commit to do so as a matter of urgency and publicly report the outcomes.

(5) If the uranium is Australian, is it from an existing mine, Olympic Dam, Ranger or Beverley, an old mine, or was the material sourced from a research facility at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation or the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.

(6) Is this uranium related to a significant security breach of the Olympic Dam mine in 2007 wherein ten 300 gram jars of yellow cake uranium samples were found.

(7) What security measures are in place at uranium mines in Australia to prevent the theft, unauthorised use or loss of material control of radioactive materials.

(8) Will the Attorney-General be working with the Minister for Resources and Energy and the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research to review the security and procedures at nuclear facilities and uranium mines following this incident.

(9) (a) Are there inadequate material control procedures; if so, what steps will the Federal Government undertake, or require uranium mine operators to implement, in an attempt to address this; and (b) does this incident reflect a disturbing deficiency in workplace culture in relation to the responsible handling of uranium; if so, what steps will the Federal Government undertake, or require uranium mine operators to implement, in an attempt to address this.

(10) Is the Federal Government considering expanding the role and jurisdiction of the Office of the Supervising Scientist to cover uranium mining operations outside of the Alligator Rivers Region; if not, why not.

(11) (a) How much information on quantities of uranium mined, processed, transported etcetera comes from the companies themselves; and (b) how much of that information is independently verified by the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office or other government agencies.

(12) Given that media reports on this incident state that uranium is valuable on the black market, what is the size and value of the black market in nuclear materials in Australia.

*1483  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence—In regard to the Talisman Sabre military exercises in Shoalwater Bay, Queensland:

(1) What type and number of land vehicles, amphibious vehicles, aircraft and navy vessels will be involved in the 2009 exercises.

(2) What types and quantities of fuel are expected to be needed for the 2009 exercises.

(3) How much live fire will be used in the 2009 exercises.

(4) Will any missile firing take place in the 2009 exercises.

(5) How many troops from Australia and the United States of America (US) will be involved in the 2009 exercises.


 (6) What was the Government’s response to the warning provided to it by the International Whaling Commission before the 2007 exercises that the use of underwater sonar in the exercises could seriously injure or kill whales.

(7) Is the Government aware that in 2007 the US Navy claimed an exemption from the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (US) when conducting exercises with powerful sonar designed to hunt for super-quiet submarines.

(8) Will the Government be allowing high-powered active sonar to be used in the 2009 exercises.

(9) Given that the 2005 exercises are reported to have involved the sinking of two decommissioned US Navy ships off Australia’s coast: (a) what types and what volume of chemicals will disperse as the vessels disintegrate; and (b) how will this be monitored.

(10) What form of assessment occurred before permission was given for US warships to be sunk in Australian waters.

(11) Will there be any further ship sinking exercises as part of the 2009 exercises.

*1484† Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts—

(1) Why was the proposed Waratah Coal Inc. rail line and coal port for Shoalwater Bay rejected in September 2008.

(2) What potential environmental damage was identified.

(3) Does the Minister consider that the movement of tens of thousands of troops with heavy equipment across this environmentally-sensitive area, conducting live fire exercises, infantry manoeuvres, air combat, ship-to-ship operations and anti-submarine warfare with navy vessels using sonar, will not cause land and marine environmental damage of a similar order, albeit possibly of a different type.

*1485† Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research—Given that one of the major justifications for the OPAL [Open Pool Australian Lightwater] reactor at Lucas Heights was to provide radioisotopes for radiopharmaceuticals, mainly via technetium-99m generators to be sold domestically and overseas:

(1) Has the new molybdenum-99 production facility for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) been commissioned.

(2) What have been the financial costs to Australia for importing replacement technetium-99m generators for the domestic market due to OPAL-sourced generators being unavailable.

(3) What has been the corresponding financial loss to ANSTO as a result of being unable to export such generators.