Draft Terms of Reference for the Nuclear Royal Commission

The Draft Terms of Reference were released on Feb 23rd and submissions can be made until Friday March 13th through the Conservation Council SA website here.

Some suggested points from the Conservation Council of SA are as follows:
On February 9, Premier Weatherill promised “a full and thorough examination of the opportunities and the risks that this industry presents for our State.”

When releasing the draft ToR, he said that the government has “ruled out retracting from our involvement in the mining of uranium” and the terms of reference appear to limit consideration of whether there “is any potential for the expansion of the current level” of uranium mining.

The uranium mining industry needs thorough assessment and all aspects of current and past uranium mining operational impacts must be included:

· The Royal Commission should investigate all aspects of the uranium mining industry in South Australia, including issues such as the Olympic Dam mine’s exemptions from environmental, Aboriginal heritage protection, and Freedom of Information laws.

· The Royal Commission should investigate the merits and risks associated with government’s current practice of entrusting SA uranium to repressive, authoritarian states; nuclear weapons states; states refusing to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and states blocking the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

· Following the March 2011 Fukushima accident – a continuing nuclear crisis directly fuelled by Australian uranium – the UN Secretary General urged uranium producing nations to conduct ‘an in-depth assessment of the net cost impact of the impacts of mining fissionable material on local communities and ecosystems’. To date this has not occurred and the SA Royal Commission provides an important mechanism to address this omission.

· The nuclear industry starts with uranium and so should any genuine assessment of the nuclear sector in South Australia. Uranium mining is SA’s point of connection with the international nuclear industry and to seek to quarantine this from full consideration is inconsistent with the Premiers call for an ‘informed and mature’ debate.

Other issues that should be included in the Terms of Reference are as follows:
· The reputational risks of a nuclear industry for South Australia and its potential impacts on key industries such as tourism.
· Contaminated sites such as the Port Pirie Uranium Treatment Complex, Maralinga and Radium Hill. Consideration of Maralinga is all the more important since SA Nuclear Energy Systems Pty Ltd is reportedly proposing to use the site for an international high-level nuclear waste storage or disposal facility. Thus the Royal Commission should be tasked with investigating current radioactive contamination of the Maralinga site, the feasibility of pursuing an industrial venture on contaminated land and other such matters.

If the Royal Commission is to be a genuine inquiry, the draft terms of reference need significant revision. Otherwise it will lack credibility.

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