NUCLEAR ROYAL COMMISSION FINAL REPORT LAYS PLATFORM FOR VITAL REGULATORY REFORM

The Minerals Council of Australia welcomes the final report by the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission of South Australia.

The Royal Commission, widely acknowledged as an expert-based process, has comprehensively validated the global nuclear industry and its importance in providing affordable, low-emissions electricity to an energy-scarce and emissions-constrained world.

The significance of this Royal Commission cannot be over-stated.  Attempts by some to tarnish this Commission are both futile and desperate.  The clear political neutrality of this Royal Commission demands that serious attention be paid to its findings and recommendations. 

The Commission has found not only that there are significant economic benefits in Australia expanding its role in the nuclear fuel cycle, but that this will also provide great benefit to trading partners and the environment.

With respect to uranium mining, the Commission noted that ‘administrative and regulatory processes that manage current exploration and mining operations are sufficient to support a safe expansion of activity. However, the existing regulatory approvals processes for new uranium mines are unnecessarily duplicative at the state and federal levels’.

Critically, it has recommended that ‘the South Australian Government pursue the simplification of state and federal mining approval requirements for radioactive ores, to deliver a single assessment and approvals process’.

The industry supports this recommendation and accordingly calls for the federal government to, as soon as possible, amend the EPBC Act so as to:

1.  remove uranium mining, milling, decommissioning and rehabilitation from the definition of ‘nuclear action’, and

2.  enable implementation of the One-stop shop for environmental approvals.

The Commission confirmed that ‘uranium production has produced benefits to the South Australian economy, and will continue to do so’.  It acknowledged that projections involving Australia capturing a greater share of an expanding world market would require substantial investment to expand production capacity.

This supports the industry view that the global market is competitive, and that for Australia to capture more of the export revenue and jobs benefits of greater uranium production, a concerted focus on industry competitiveness is required.

With respect to nuclear power, the industry supports the recommendation that ‘the South Australian Government 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’.

This important recommendation normalises nuclear power generation and uranium mining in Australia and validates the critical roles they are playing in the global climate change challenge, and that they may one day need to play in Australia as well.

The industry further acknowledges the report’s emphasis on the safety of increased participation in the nuclear fuel cycle and that a high-level global repository for spent fuel is viable with “significant and enduring economic benefits” to the local community.

The industry calls on state governments around the country as well as the federal government, to heed the call by this Royal Commission for regulatory reform to enable an expanded uranium and potential nuclear industries to flourish – facilitating jobs and growth at home, and more low emissions energy globally.

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