Media Release

Thursday 2 November 2000


Nuclear Regulator Rules on Safety of Maralinga Test Site

Australia’s nuclear regulator today released a set of conditions for the management and proposed eventual return of the Maralinga atomic test site to its traditional owners.

The CEO of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, Dr John Loy, said in officially licensing the site under the ARPANS Act the conditions he had set were designed to ensure the future safety of the Maralinga Tjarutja people.

Dr Loy said the licensing of the site as a controlled facility followed his approval six months ago that the Maralinga clean-up operation had been carried out according to agreed criteria.

As part of the issuing of the licence he had directed the Federal Department of Industry, Science and Resources to provide him with an official record of the current status of the site within 12 months. That record would need to be kept indefinitely so that knowledge of the contamination remaining on the ground and buried in trenches would not be lost. DISR would also need to develop a radiological environmental monitoring program to his satisfaction. The program would include monitoring the groundwater to ensure that no radiaoactive contamination has reached the water table from the burial trenches.

Dr Loy said that while the licensing of the Maralinga site in itself was essentially an historical exercise it was also an important step in the development of Australia’s independent nuclear regulatory regime.

(The clean-up, which was supervised by the Department of Industry Science and Resources, on behalf of the Federal Government, began in 1996 – three years before the ARPANS Act came into existence. Under the Act all entities within the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction which deal with radioactive material must be licensed by ARPANSA)

Dr Loy said that in accordance with the provisions of the Act, before any possible hand-over to the Maralinga Tjarutja people, the Department of Industry Science and Resources would have to apply to him for a further licence to decommission a controlled facility.

In preparation he had issued the department with guidelines for the next step to take place.

These included the need for modelling of the effects of climate change based on an increase in ‘Greenhouse" gases.

In reviewing an application for a licence to decommission the facility, Dr Loy said that he would want to be assured that there had been close consultation with the traditional owners. He said that he was aware of on-going discussions between the Commonwealth, SA and the Maralinga Tjarutja. Issues raised in those discussions would be considered in the final licensing process.

1 November 2000

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