CURRENT AUSTRALIAN LAW
The commonwealth legislation that underpins the prohibition of nuclear power was passed into law over 21 years ago, spearheaded by the anti-nuclear Greens and Australian Democrats, in a mostly empty Senate chamber. For a full history of how the ban came about, head over to Bright New World and read the detailed account, where the whole saga is summed up as:
“After a three-and-a-half hour committee meeting, a several-page report drafted over two days, one hour and 36 minutes of debate post-prohibition recommendation, and six minutes of considering the amendments it was decided that Australia should not go down the nuclear path.”
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (the ARPANS Act) was signed into law on the 10th of December 1998, and section 10 reads as follows:
A similar section also appeared in The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) the following year, which formally prohibits the Environment Minister to approve certain nuclear installations:
Both Section 10 of the ARPANS Act and Section 140A of the EPBC Act must be repealed in Federal parliament to make nuclear power legal in Australia. There is also some state government legislation in South Australia (Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000), Victoria (Nuclear Activities (Prohibitions) Act 1983), Queensland (Nuclear Facilities Prohibition Act 2007) and New South Wales (Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Act 1986) that will likely need to be amended if those states wish to develop nuclear power.
There have been three recent Australian parliamentary inquiries regarding nuclear power, one in Federal parliament, and one each in New South Wales and Victoria.
Federal Inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia
On the 6th of August 2019, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy resolved to conduct an inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia. The terms of reference are were quite broad and written submissions from the public were received and the committee held hearings in most capital cities. You can read our submission here. The final report of the committee was published on Friday the 13th of December 2019, and can be read in full here.
The inquiry recommended repealing Australia’s moratorium against nuclear energy for Generation III+ and Generation IV reactor designs, subject to a technological assessment and a commitment to community consent as a condition of approval:
Victorian Legislative Council Inquiry
This inquiry was referred to the Environment and Planning Committee on the 14th of August 2019 to inquire and report on the potential benefits to Victoria in removing prohibitions enacted by the Nuclear Activities (Prohibitions) Act 1983. The terms of reference can be found here, and the final report here. We were proud that our submission was quoted on eight occasions in the final report. It was overall neutral toward nuclear power but did include this positive minority report from three of the members of the committee:
NSW Legislative Council Inquiry
This inquiry was established on the 6th of June 2019 to inquire and report on the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Repeal Bill 2019, a bill that was before the NSW parliament that aims to repeal existing state legislation that prohibits nuclear power in NSW. The terms of reference can be found here, and the final report here.
The recommendations included the abolition of the existing laws against nuclear power and uranium mining with NSW along with putting pressure on the relevant Commonwealth to overturn the ban federally: