South Australia commission starts work

19 March 2015

A first-of-a-kind Royal Commission investigating South Australia's potential participation in the nuclear fuel cycle has formally commenced. Meanwhile Queensland's threat to reinstate a ban on uranium mining has been greeted as an opportunity by Western Australia.

The commission was announced in February and has now been formalised with the publication of its final terms of reference and the official appointment of former state governor Kevin Scarce as its commissioner. It has to submit its final report to the state's government by May 2016.

The commission is tasked with providing an independent and comprehensive inquiry into the state's participation in four areas of nuclear fuel cycle activity: exploration and extraction of minerals; the further processing of minerals and manufacture of materials containing radioactive substances; the use of nuclear fuels for electricity generation; and the storage and disposal of radioactive and nuclear waste.

In each case, the commission will consider the feasibility and viability as well as the risks and opportunities associated with those activities, and consider their future impact upon the South Australian economy, environment and community as well as any measures that might need to be taken to facilitate and regulate them.

State premier Jay Weatherill described the launch of the commission as a "significant moment" in the state's history. Public involvement and openness have been placed at the heart of the process, and Weatherill noted that the final terms of reference had been shaped with the help of over 1000 submissions received during the initial four weeks of consultation.

"Whilst many people have strong views at both ends of the pro-nuclear anti-nuclear spectrum, overall I have been impressed with the maturity of the debate to this point," he said, adding: "It is important to note that there will be many more opportunities for people to have their say during this process - this is just the beginning."

The commission has set up a website,, to communicate information about its investigations, research and other activities and provide access to submissions, transcripts, evidence and other relevant materials.

Mining opportunity

South Australia is home to the Olympic Dam uranium, copper and gold mine, which produced 6% of world uranium output in 2013, and previous surveys have found general public support for nuclear power in the state. However, the debate about whether nuclear should play a part in Australia's energy mix and the role of Australian uranium is ongoing at both the state and federal level.

Although the South Australian commission will not consider a withdrawal from uranium mining as an option, the government of the state of Queensland is considering reinstating a ban on uranium mining that was lifted in 2012.

Praising the South Australian commission, Western Australia's mines and petroleum minister Bill Marmion said his state, which is home to four major, but as yet undeveloped, uranium projects would capitalise on any ban in Queensland.

"The industry can rest assured we are working to maximise uranium opportunities in Western Australia", Marmion said, describing Queensland as "short-sighted".

Plans for in situ leach uranium production at Wiluna and Mulga Rock are well advanced, while development at Kintyre and Yeelirrie is currently on hold pending favourable uranium market conditions.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News