Regulator To License Lucas Heights Nuclear Reactor

July 13, 2006

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) CEO John Loy will announce his intention to issue an operating licence for the new Lucas Heights nuclear reactor at 10.30am, Friday July 14.

The decision will allow the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) to proceed with the new 'OPAL' research reactor at the nuclear plant in southern Sydney. ANSTO made front-page news last month for covering up a series of accidents at the nuclear plant.

Friends of the Earth condemns ARPANSA for putting nuclear and political interests ahead of its statutory obligation to "protect people from the harmful effects of radiation".

The Howard government's stacking of the current nuclear power inquiry is nothing new. The government also allowed former ANSTO CEO Helen Garnett to sit on the selection panel which interviewed applicants for the job of CEO of ARPANSA.

Friends of the Earth nuclear campaigner Dr Jim Green said: "The government deliberately undermined the independence of ARPANSA from the start by allowing ANSTO to select its own regulator. Small wonder that ARPANSA has granted reactor construction and operating licences."

"This disgraceful conflict of interest sets an alarming precedent given the Howard government's intention to expand Australia's role in the nuclear fuel cycle. Will corporations intent on introducing nuclear power to Australia, or importing high-level nuclear waste, also be allowed to choose their own regulator?"

On the alleged need for the reactor, Dr Green said: "The government persists with the lie that the reactor is required for medical isotope production although ANSTO has never once provided a shred of evidence that supply is disrupted during the lengthy, routine maintenance closures of the existing HIFAR reactor."

Having abandoned its plan to impose a nuclear dump on South Australia in 2004, the Howard government is in the early stages of an even more heavy-handed attempt to impose the nuclear waste on Northern Territorians. That battle will rage for some years and in the meantime ARPANSA intends to breach its own promises in relation to waste management.

John Loy said in August 2000 that he would need to be "very much assured" that a radioactive waste store would be built before issuing a reactor operating licence. Dr Green said: "The Howard government has made very little progress on waste storage and none on final disposal. John Loy is breaching his own promises in relation to nuclear waste."

CONTACT: Dr Jim Green 0417 318 368