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ANA Conference, Sydney.



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Minister for Industry, Science and Resources ANA Conference 24 October 2001, Sydney Dr Clarence Hardy, Executive Chairman of ANA, Mr Roger Alsop, President of ANA, Robin Batterham, Ladies & gentlemen ●

Pleased to open ANA conference and to have the opportunity to acknowledge the contribution of nuclear science and engineering to Australia ●

When PM offered me ISR portfolio 3 years ago, one of the reasons I welcomed the job was because it brought together for the first time ever all the key radioactive issues ●

Obvious synergy in having ANSTO, radioactive waste management, uranium mining and Maralinga clean-up all in same Dept ●

As Minister, one of major tasks has been selling benefits of radioactivity ● Task I have enjoyed, although the hysterical, irrational anti-nuclear campaigning of various fringe groups has made it challenging ●

Harnessing radioactivity for peaceful use has unambiguously made the world a better place ● Nuclear power gives us a major greenhouse friendly energy source ● Nuclear science allows us to study the building blocks of matter ● Medical radioisotopes are treating more and more Australians ●

We must of course deal responsibly with the byproducts of the use of radioactivity ● But the benefits unambiguously outweigh the costs of doing so ● That’s why the Coalition in Government has given 100% support to the responsible use of radioactivity ●

We made the decision to invest $300 million in the replacement reactor ● We are allowing new uranium mines to open, as long as they comply with environmental rules and aboriginal land rights legislation ●

We have identified a site for the low-level waste repository ● And we have commenced the search for a site for the intermediate level store ● We have established ARPANSA as a strong and independent regulator - and I acknowledge the work John Loy has done ●

We have successfully completed the Maralinga clean-up and ARPANSA has officially advised the Government that we have met the radiological criteria laid down in the original plan. ●

Australia should have a bipartisan approach to these important issues ● Regrettably the Labor Party has opposed us every step of the way ● It has been my experience that the majority of politicians come into politics because they want to ●

put in place good public policy If as Minister for Industry, Science & Resources I was more interested in short term political advantage than good public policy, I would not put a new reactor in a marginal seat, a new uranium mine in my home state or a radioactive waste repository in my home state

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As a Minister and as a Government, I and my colleagues do these things because we believe they are right for Australia’s future ●

We are not radioactivity ideologues - we have demonstrated leadership on these issues because it is good policy ●

I normally avoid discussing partisan politics at industry conferences ● But can’t avoid it when on every key radioactive issue, Kim Beazley’s policy position is so devoid of any consideration of good policy - is so motivated by the politics of scaremongering - as to warrant profound condemnation

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These issues stand as the ultimate example of why Kim Beazley does not have the ticker to be PM ● Let me go into detail on some of these issues ● HIFAR has done a sterling job over the past 43 years. Like an old Kingswood, it still gets the job done, reliably and safely ●

But we decided in 1997 that Australia had to invest in a new model ● Made decision to make the biggest single investment in science ever in this country - $300 million - to build a replacement reactor ●

You know better than me the benefits that the replacement reactor will bring ● 10 times the capacity to achieve performance levels for neutron beam applications ● more irradiation facilities ● higher neutron fluxes ●

allow Australia to pursue research strengths across mining, industry, agriculture and the environment, and move into expanding fields like biotechnology and nanotechnology ●

it is attracting back to Australia nuclear scientists from overseas, with 5 scientists already in the process of coming to Australia ●

it will expand our capacity to manufacture radiopharmaceuticals ● currently we expect that most Australians will be treated by a Lucas Heights radioisotope at some stage of their life, and use is growing ●

last year demand for Lucas Heights radioisotopes increased by 13 percent ● and the replacement reactor will allow us to remain a world leader on the vital issues of nuclear non-proliferation ●

Our national interest could not be clearer - Australia needs the replacement reactor. ● In recommending to me that INVAP be selected to design and construct the reactor, I believe ANSTO has made a good choice. ●

The tender process was rigorous and exhaustive and I had no hesitation in accepting ANSTO’s recommendation. ●

Having visited Argentina earlier this year to meet INVAP executives, I have every confidence in the company’s capacity with its Australian partners to deliver Australia a world class research ●

reactor The Labor councilors on the Sutherland Shire Council and their fellow travelers in the green movement make a lot of irresponsible noise on this issue ●

They have scaremongered with no concern for objective facts ● They have tried to whip up health concerns, when health studies show no difference in the health of people in the Shire to other parts of Sydney ●

They have tried to exploit community concerns post New York. ● ANSTO has responsibly advised the community of the heightened vigilance at Lucas Heights, reminding them of the already strong permanent security presence ●

And ANSTO published the results of their study into the effects of the direct impact of a plane on the reactor in the EIS. ●

The answer is that even if a 747 was able to be navigated to hit the relatively small target of the reactor, there is only a 1 percent chance of residents being exposed to radiation above 8 millisieverts - a level akin to background radiation levels in many parts of the world and well below the occupational exposure limit of 20 millisieverts.

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But this reassurance has not stopped the Greens telling bald-faced lies ● Lee Rhiannon [Greens NSW MLC] said on radio earlier this month that the Greens hadn’t been able to find any other city where there was a reactor in the environs of the city ●

Maybe she hasn’t heard of Boston, Washington, New York, Paris, Grenoble, Hamburg, Munich, Berlin, Athens, Buenos Aires, Beijing, Santiago, Prague, Budapest, Bombay, Osaka, Moscow, Warsaw, Pretoria or Kiev!

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Of course everyone has heightened their vigilance, but power and research reactors around the world continue to operate ●

Including the reactors of NY and Washington - if they are continuing to operate, then turning ours off would be a knee-jerk capitulation to terror ●

another example of ill-informed criticism of the reactor came when Michael Caton - that actor from The Castle - was recruited by the Shire Council to criticise the replacement reactor ●

you may be aware that Caton stars in a series of beer commercials, advertising Hahn Premium ● When he publicly came out against the reactor, I wrote to him, pointing out that reactor-made americium [am ur ISS e um] was used in beer brewing industry, to measure the level in bottles. ●

The product he endorses actually benefits from a reactor! ● I never received a reply to my letter! ● Kim Beazley’s Labor Party has been a constant critic of our decision to build a replacement reactor. ●

2 senior Shadow Cabinet Ministers, Senator Bolkus and Carmen Lawrence have both said that Labor would cancel the reactor contract if they could, and other Labor identities have regularly attacked us on this issue.

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Beazley did not contradict them - from which we can only conclude that he opposes the replacement reactor ●

He should have heeded the words of Sir Gustav Nossal ●

"The decision has been taken, funds have been set aside, it would be a tragedy if scare tactics and noisy minorities destroyed an indispensable medical and research tool." ●

Of course, you all know of Gareth Evan’s famous quote in 1998 ● "On the new reactor, I am afraid that the realities of politics in an election year, and in particular our need to win Hughes, have lead us to a position of opposing a new reactor at the Lucas Heights site - as difficult as that may be to justify in objective safety-focussed terms."

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Gareth was absolutely right - Federal Labor opposes the reactor for one main reason - political advantage - to stitch up green preferences and to try to knock off a great local member in Danna Vale

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Their approach contrasts to the very responsible position of Bob Carr who has refused to play Federal Labor’s game ●

He recently made the sensible point that the risk at Lucas Heights was no more than that of a hazardous industry or of an aviation disaster in the CBD ●

But Kim Beazley’s failure of leadership does not end there ● Any pretence of good policy evaporated last month when he declared that Labor opposed building a low level repository in South Australia ●

I thought that this was somewhat of a paradox since it was Beazley’s now deputy, Simon Crean, who as the relevant Minister in 1992, kickstarted the search for the repository - acknowledging that it is far better policy to have one central facility for the final disposal of low level waste, than 50 temporary stores around Australia

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Also paradoxical because it was under Labor in 1994 that South Australia was first short-listed as a possible site for the repository ●

That process then developed further under our Government to the point where the final scientific advice to us was that a site west of Woomera at Evatts Field is the best site for the repository ●

And we are currently conducting an EIS on the site - which will be the 4th formal round of consultation on the facility ●

So Labor proposes to throw out the results of a 9 year, comprehensive, scientific process that they themselves initiated ●

And their stated reason - South Australians don’t like it ● That didn’t seem to affect Labor’s thinking in 1994 then again in 1995 when they moved low and intermediate level radioactive waste from other States to Woomera, without any public consultation

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Just shifted it to an old hangar and an old bunker at Woomera without a thought for what South Australia thinks ●

What is Labor’s solution to the issue of safe radioactive waste management? ● They have refused to say where they will put it ● What happens if they identify another State as a site then that State says, we don’t want it; and if that happens again and again ●

Under Labor, we would continue to leave low level waste in overflowing temporary stores in the centre of Australian cities ●

A completely irresponsible solution ● On the issue of the store for intermediate waste, we are also the only party championing a responsible solution ●

We have commenced a search for the site of a store, through a process similar to that followed for the repository - first consulting on the criteria that should be applied then looking across the country for a site that best meets those criteria - and consulting widely at each stage of the process

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Irrespective of whether we build a replacement reactor, no side of politics can ignore the fact that we have reprocessed spent fuel that will be returned from Europe from 2015 and it has to go somewhere

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We are about working out where that somewhere is - Labor can only put their head in the sand. ● While on the subject, can I reassure you that we have a very solid relationship with the French that will ensure the ongoing reprocessing of our spent fuel rods ●

We have a contract with COGEMA and a diplomatic exchange of letters with the French Government that commits them not to do anything that would hinder COGEMA’s reprocessing of our spent fuel.

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The French courts have rejected actions that questioned the legality of the reprocessing. ● COGEMA has also agreed to take spent fuel from the new reactor - irrespective whether it is initially uranium-molybdenum fuel or silicide based fuel ●

So we have a long term future plan in place that will deal with all our spent fuel ● It is only on the issue of high level waste where Labor agree with us ● We are categorically opposed to taking any other country’s waste - we told PANGEA that in strong terms when their proposal was floated ●

We believe it is each country’s responsibility to manage their own waste ● On the issue of uranium mining, it has been my pleasure as resources minister to see the Beverley mine opened in SA ●

In addition we are close to final approval of the Honeymoon project, also in SA. ● I have been down the Jabiluka mine shaft and look forward to that mine commencing production in the not too distant future ●

Our policy is clear ● We recognise that nuclear power is an important source of electricity generation that is used and accepted in many countries. ●

In fact the use of nuclear power is growing ● Uranium production was up 12% last year ● The US Energy Information Administration is forecasting that "nuclear will provide 10% more electricity in 2015 than 1999" ●

In Australia, there are significant benefits to the community from uranium mining including $426 million in exports in 2000 and employment directly of around 600 people in regional Australia. ●

Nuclear power means 2.4 billion tonnes of CO2 are avoided every year ● Even the French Government, in which the Greens are a coalition partner, are happy to produce over 70% of their electricity using nuclear power as they know it is clean, safe and ●

greenhouse-friendly I do not expect Australia to need to consider nuclear power while it continues to have large reserves of fossil fuels ●

But we should stand willing to supply the world with uranium, providing all non-proliferation concerns are met. ●

But such a sensible position is beyond Kim Beazley - who has said "Labor will not allow any new mines to open." ●

This is Labor saying no to regional jobs, no to jobs for indigenous people, no to export income, and no to a greenhouse friendly fuel ●

Labor’s position is completely at odds with its commitment to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on Greenhouse. ●

In closing, as ISR Minister, I have been proud to implement sensible, consolidated policies that deliver the benefits of radioactivity to Australia and the world ●

In doing so, I have been served by some excellent officials ● You all know of the excellent work of Helen Garnett and her team at ANSTO ● Of our colleagues at AGSO - Geoscience Australia and at ARPANSA ● If I can especially recognise Caroline Perkins who has carried the thankless task of managing the

issues of the repository, store and Maralinga for a number of years ●

Can I conclude that scaremongers can only succeed by cynically exploiting public ignorance. ● Your Association has a vital role in ensuring we have a much better-informed community, if we are to defeat the peddlers of fear. ●

Thank you for the opportunity to open your conference, I wish you well for the next 2 days ●