Government delivers response to Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Report

Posted 15 November 2016

Premier Jay Weatherill has delivered the Government’s formal response to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Report to State Parliament.

The State Government will support nine of the 12 recommendations in the Royal Commission Report (see detailed list at the end of this article).

Specifically, the government will support all five recommendations that relate to expanding uranium exploration and mining.

Most significantly, this means the development of a new State-wide mineral exploration drilling initiative to support the discovery of new mineral deposits in South Australia, with a particular focus on uranium.

The Government also supports the recommendation that relates to promoting and increasing the use of nuclear medicine at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). The Premier has recently spoken to the Prime Minister about the potential to expand the activities at SAHMRI and will continue to work with the Commonwealth to pursue these opportunities.

In relation to energy, the Government supports the Royal Commission’s recommendation to further collaborate with the Commonwealth on monitoring and reporting on the development of new nuclear reactor designs.

The Government supports the recommendation to promote and collaborate on the development of a comprehensive national energy policy that enables all technologies to contribute to a low-carbon energy system.

The Government has decided not to support the Commission’s recommendation to pursue the removal of existing Federal prohibitions on nuclear power generation, recognising that in the short-to-medium term, nuclear power is not a cost-effective source of low-carbon electricity for South Australia.

On recommendations relating to a nuclear waste storage facility, the Government will not pursue policy or legislative change, however the Government will continue to encourage discussion and remain open to pursuing this opportunity for South Australia.

The Government has concluded the only path forward is the restoration of bipartisanship and broad social consent secured through a State-wide referendum.
If broad social consent were to be achieved through a referendum, a local Aboriginal community would also be given a final right of veto on any future facility on their lands.

The Government’s full response can be found here.

Background

In March 2015 the South Australian Government established the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission to consider the potential for South Australia to increase its participation in the nuclear fuel cycle.

The Royal Commission Report was released in May this year. It found that South Australia could safely increase its participation in nuclear activities. It included 12 recommendations and 145 findings in relation to the State’s further participation in elements of the nuclear fuel cycle.

The Royal Commission’s recommendations became the basis for an extensive community consultation program which informed the Government’s formal response to the Royal Commission report.

Data was compiled from a range of sources, such as state-wide surveys, feedback forms received on-line and via post, discussion boards, social media and phone calls.

Two Citizens’ Juries were also held, in addition to two Citizens’ Juries, stakeholder forums, more than 132 community information sessions, student engagement, Aboriginal meetings and an industry forum.

The State Government also engaged with the Commonwealth Government in the development of the response.

Quotes attributable to Premier Jay Weatherill

The government’s response to this Royal Commission Report is all about embracing a high-tech future for South Australia that will generate jobs and prosperity for decades to come.

The report was the foundation of the largest consultation program in our state’s history. It outlined the risks and opportunities of further engagement in the nuclear fuel cycle.

The report made a substantial contribution to our state, and opened the doors to a wide range of possible nuclear, resource and energy options for all South Australians to consider.

I want to again thank former Governor Kevin Scarce for his exemplary work putting together this outstanding report.

I also appreciate the extensive community input and contribution to this decision-making process.

The Government supports recommendations relating to the expansion of uranium exploration and mining, which provide exciting economic opportunities for our State.

I’m also excited about the many positive commercial opportunities that are on the table for South Australia in nuclear medicine around the SAHMRI cyclotron.

We can also position ourselves as leaders in developing a national energy policy, playing a greater role in transforming Australia’s energy sector towards a low-carbon energy sources, such as exploring emerging renewable technologies and advancements in nuclear energy.

Having considered all of the community feedback, the government has decided that discussion should continue on a proposed nuclear waste facility.

The Government has also concluded that the only path forward is the restoration of bipartisanship and broad social consent, secured through a State-wide referendum.

Continued public debate about South Australia’s role in the nuclear fuel cycle is important and ultimately it is a matter that the people should decide. Not political parties.

If broad social consent were to be achieved through a referendum, a local Aboriginal community would also be given a final right of veto on any future facility on their lands.

Royal Commission recommendations and Government response

Based on the findings set out in its report, the Commission recommends that the South Australian Government:

1. Pursue the simplification of state and federal mining approval requirements for radioactive ores, to deliver a single assessment and approvals process
SUPPORT

2. Further enhance the integration and public availability of pre-competitive geophysical data in South Australia
SUPPORT

3. Undertake further geophysical surveys in priority areas, where mineral prospectivity is high and available data is limited
SUPPORT

4. Commit to increased, long-term and counter-cyclical investment in programs such as the Plan for Accelerating Exploration (PACE) to encourage and support industry investment in the exploration of greenfield locations
SUPPORT

5. Ensure the full costs of decommissioning and remediation with respect to radioactive ore mining projects are secured in advance from miners through associated guarantees
SUPPORT

6. Remove at the state level, and pursue removal of at the federal level, existing prohibitions on the licensing of further processing activities, to enable commercial development of multilateral facilities as part of nuclear fuel leasing arrangements
NOT SUPPORT - not considered due to limited economic opportunities for South Australia and significant barriers to entry

7. Promote and actively support commercialisation strategies for the increased and more efficient use of the cyclotron at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)
SUPPORT

8. Pursue removal at the federal level of existing prohibitions on nuclear power generation to allow it to contribute to a low-carbon electricity system, if required
NOT SUPPORT - not considered a cost-effective short to medium term energy source for South Australia

9. Promote and collaborate on the development of a comprehensive national energy policy that enables all technologies, including nuclear, to contribute to a reliable, low-carbon electricity network at the lowest possible system cost
SUPPORT

10. Collaborate with the Australian Government to commission expert monitoring and reporting on the commercialisation of new nuclear reactor designs that may offer economic value for nuclear power generation
SUPPORT

11. Pursue the opportunity to establish used nuclear fuel and intermediate level waste storage and disposal facilities in South Australia consistent with the process and principles outlined in Chapter 10 of the report
SUPPORT CONTINUED INVESTIGATION

12. Remove the legislative constraint in section 13 of the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000 that would preclude an orderly, detailed and thorough analysis and discussion of the opportunity to establish such facilities in South Australia
NOT SUPPORT - consistent with the response to Recommendation 11, the State Government will not pursue policy or legislative change at this time.