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Do I need a licence?

Background

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (the Act) applies to 'controlled persons' and 'permitted persons' who undertake activities in relation to nuclear installations or prescribed radiation facilities and dealings with controlled material or controlled apparatus.

In section 13, the Act defines a 'controlled person' as:

  1. Commonwealth entity

    This includes:
    • Commonwealth Departments
      (eg Department of Defence, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)
    • bodies corporate established for a public purpose by or under an Act (eg CSIRO, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation)
    • a company in which a controlling interest is held by the Commonwealth (eg Telstra)
    • an employee of a person or body covered by any of the above.
  2. Commonwealth contractor

    This means a person (other than a Commonwealth entity) who is a party to a contract with a Commonwealth entity. Refer to section 11 of the Act for further information.

  3. an employee of a Commonwealth contractor
     
  4. a person in a prescribed Commonwealth place.

Section 11A of the Act defines a 'permitted person' as a person (other than a controlled person) who is permitted, under an arrangement with the licence holder, to do any of the following things that the licence authorises the licence holder to do:

  1. undertake an activity referred to in subsection 30(1) in relation to a controlled facility that is owned or controlled by the licence holder
  2. deal with a controlled material or controlled apparatus that is owned or controlled by the licence holder.

If you don't fit one of these definitions then you may need a licence with one of the State or Territory Regulators.

What are prohibited activities?

Prohibition on certain nuclear installations

Nothing in the Act is to be taken to authorise the construction or operation of any of the following:

  • a nuclear fuel fabrication plant
  • a nuclear power plant
  • an enrichment plant
  • a reprocessing facility

The CEO must not issue a licence under section 32 of the Act in respect of any of the facilities mentioned above.

What activities require a licence?

Conducts in relation to nuclear installations and prescribed radiation facilities are any of the following activities:

  • preparing a site for a controlled facility
  • constructing a controlled facility
  • having possession or control of a controlled facility
  • operating a controlled facility
  • decommissioning, disposing or abandoning a controlled facility.

A controlled person must not undertake any of these conducts unless the person is authorised to do so by a facility licence OR the person is exempted from the conduct concerned.

In addition to authorising certain conduct in relation to a controlled facility, a facility licence may authorise dealing with controlled material or controlled apparatus. 

A prescribed radiation facility is a facility that is prescribed in section 13 of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Regulations 2018 (the Regulations) and includes:

  • certain particle accelerators
  • certain irradiators used in industry and research 
  • certain facilities used for the production, processing, use, storage, management or disposal of a certain activity of sealed and unsealed sources.

A nuclear installation includes:

  • a nuclear reactor for research or production of nuclear materials for industrial or medical use
  • a plant for preparing or storing fuel for use in a nuclear reactor
  • a nuclear waste storage or disposal facility with an activity greater than that prescribed by the Regulations  
  • a facility for production of radioisotopes with an activity greater than that prescribed by the Regulations.

Dealings with controlled material or controlled apparatus

To ‘deal with’ in relation to controlled apparatus or controlled material is any of the following:

  • possess, or have control of, the apparatus or material
  • use or operate the apparatus or use the material
  • dispose of the apparatus or material.

A controlled person must not deal with controlled apparatus or controlled material unless authorised to do so by a source licence OR unless the person is exempted for the dealing concerned.

Controlled material means any natural or artificial material, whether in solid or liquid form, or in the form of a gas or vapour, which emits ionising radiation spontaneously.

Controlled apparatus means apparatus that:

  • produces, or could produce, ionising radiation when energised
  • apparatus that produces ionising radiation because it contains radioactive material
  • apparatus prescribed by section 9 of the Regulations that produces harmful non-ionising radiation (NIR) when energised and (that is, apparatus that produces NIR that could expose people to amounts in excess of certain exposure limits).

The holder of a licence must comply with the conditions of the licence.

A person covered by a licence must comply with the conditions of the licence that are applicable to the person.

It is important to note that you do not have to own the controlled apparatus or controlled material to require a licence. If in doubt, please contact ARPANSA.

How do I work out if a licence is required for my non-ionising radiation (NIR) apparatus?

Regulation 4(2) of the Regulations prescribes the following:

Apparatus is controlled apparatus if:

  1. the apparatus is:
  • a magnetic field non-destructive testing device; or
  • an induction heater or induction furnace; or
  • an industrial radiofrequency heater or welder; or
  • a radiofrequency plasma tube; or
  • microwave or radiofrequency diathermy equipment; or
  • an industrial microwave or radiofrequency processing system; or
  • an optical source, other than a laser product, emitting ultraviolet radiation, infrared or visible light; or
  • a laser product with an accessible emission level more than the accessible emission limit of a Class 3R laser product, as set out in AS/NZS 2211.1:2004 Safety of Laser Products, Part 1: Equipment Classification, Requirements and User’s Guide; or
  • an optical fibre communication system exceeding Hazard Level 3R, as defined by AS/NZS 2211.2:2006 Safety of Laser Products, Part 2: Safety of Optical Fibre Communications Systems (OFCS)

AND

  1. it produces non-ionising radiation that could lead to a person being exposed to radiation levels in excess of the exposure limits mentioned in Schedule 1

AND

  1. the excess levels of radiation mentioned in paragraph (b) are readily accessible to persons:
  • in the course of intended operations or procedures of the apparatus; or
  • under a reasonably foreseeable abnormal event involving the apparatus; or
  • under a reasonably foreseeable single element failure of the apparatus; or
  • without the use of tools or other specialised equipment required to remove protective barriers or access panels.

Need more guidance?

ARPANSA has developed regulatory guides to assist in determining whether a NIR source may be a controlled apparatus. All dealings with a controlled apparatus must be authorised by a licence.

  • REGULATORY GUIDE: How to determine whether a UV source is a controlled aparatus -
    see Regulatory Guides
     
  • REGULATORY GUIDE: How to determine whether a RF source is a controlled aparatus -
    see Regulatory Guides
     
  • REGULATORY GUIDE: How to determine if a Class 1M or Class 2M laser product is a controlled apparatus - see Regulatory Guides

Exemptions

The Act and Regulations refer to both 'threshold' exemptions and those that would normally require a licence but may be subsequently declared exempt by the CEO of ARPANSA.

Schedule 1 Part 1 of the Regulations sets out the exempt activity and activity concentration values for specific radionuclides. 

Section 44 of the Regulations describes certain dealings with controlled material or controlled apparatus that are exempt. 

In the case of apparatus emitting non-ionising radiation, only the apparatus prescribed in subsection 9(1) requires a licence. 

In addition to the exemptions prescribed in the Regulations the CEO may declare certain activities (in the case of a facility) or dealing (in the case of a source) exempt from the need to be licensed provided certain statutory tests are met. 

How to seek an exemption

REGULATORY GUIDE: How to seek an exemption from a licence - see Regulatory Guides

The CEO invites feedback on the usefulness of any of ARPANSA's regulatory documents. Comments may be made via email to licenceadminatarpansa.gov.au or mail to:

Chief Inspector
Regulatory Services Branch
ARPANSA
PO Box 655
MIRANDA NSW 1490