© Commonwealth of Australia 1997

ISBN 1440-2572

View the report as separate downloadable parts:






Allowable levels of radiation
Independence of the proposed Agency
Process for appointment to, and composition of, Advisory Councils
Public review of new projects
Liability in case of accidents
Waste disposal and storage issues






APPENDIX 1 - Submissions received by the Committee


APPENDIX 2 - Public hearing



For further information, contact:

Committee Secretary
Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 3515
Fax: +61 2 6277 5829




Senator Sue Knowles, Chairman LP, Western Australia
Senator Andrew Bartlett, Deputy Chair AD, Queensland
Senator Kay Denman ALP, Tasmania
Senator Alan Eggleston LP, Western Australia
Senator Chris Evans ALP, Western Australia
Senator Ross Lightfoot LP, Western Australia
Substitute Members  
Senator Forshaw for Senator Evansfor the Committee's inquiry ALP, NSW
Senator Stott Despoja for SenatorBartlett for the Committee's inquiry AD, SA

Participating Members

Senator Eric Abetz Tas, LP
Senator Bob Brown Greens, Tasmania
Senator Mal Colston Ind, Qld
Senator Brenda Gibbs ALP, Qld
Senator Brian Harradine Ind, Tasmania
Senator Meg Lees AD, South Australia
Senator Dee Margetts GWA, Western Australia
Senator John Woodley AD, Queensland



1.1 The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Bill 1998 and associated Bills were introduced into the House of Representatives on 8 April 1998 and into the Senate on 23 November 1998. On 26 November 1998, the Senate, on the recommendation of the Selection of Bills Committee (Report No. 11 of 1998), referred the Bills to the Committee for report by 1 December 1998. The reporting date was subsequently extended to 2 December 1998.

1.2 The Committee considered the Bills at a public hearing on 30 November 1998. Details of the public hearing are referred to in Appendix 2. The Committee received seven submissions relating to the Bills and these are listed at Appendix 1.



Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Bill 1998

2.1 The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Bill 1998 (ARPANS Bill) proposes to establish a scheme to regulate the operation of nuclear installations and the management of radiation sources, including ionizing material and apparatus and non-ionizing apparatus, where these activities are undertaken by Commonwealth entities. [1]

2.2 The Minister in the Second Reading Speech stated that:

This Bill is a critical piece of legislation which introduces, for the first time in Australia, a comprehensive regulatory framework for all Commonwealth radiation and nuclear activities. The ARPANS Bill closes a current gap in regulation where State and Territory Government activities, and private undertakings are regulated by State and Territory radiation laws, but Commonwealth agencies have operated without corresponding Commonwealth oversight and regulation. [2]

2.3 The Bill gives effect to the Government's commitment to comprehensive Commonwealth legislation in this area and to the establishment of a national regulatory body. The Bill also incorporates many of the recommendations of the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Dangers of Radioactive Waste, which called for an improved regulatory framework. [3]

2.4 The Minister in the Second Reading Speech stated that `regulation of Commonwealth activities is also strongly supported by all State and Territory Governments and the Bill has been crafted following consultation with States and Territories'. [4]

2.5 The object of the Bill is to protect the health and safety of people, and to protect the environment, from the harmful effects of radiation. For this purpose, the Bill:

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (Licence Charges) Bill 1998

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (Consequential Amendments) Bill 1998

2.6 The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (Licence Charges) Bill 1998 provides a capacity for annual charges to be made for licences issued under the ARPANS Bill. The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (Consequential Amendments) Bill 1998 makes consequential changes to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation Act 1987 and provides for transitional arrangements in relation to the proposed ARPANS Act.



Allowable levels of radiation

3.1 Some submissions and witnesses at the public hearing raised issues in relation to allowable levels of radiation provided for in the proposed legislation. [6]

3.2 The ARPANSA Taskforce stated, however, that the ARPANS Bill and Regulations `apply a radiation protection regime that, within the boundary of overall dose limits, doses from justified practices must be as low as can be reasonably achieved and that practices are optimal, within dose constraints to be agreed by the CEO for each source'. [7] ANSTO also noted that the ARPANS legislation sets the same standards for limiting public radiation doses from regulated facilities and sources as recommended by international scientific and medical authorities, such as the World Health Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency; and mirrors the standard in all Australian States' legislation on radiation safety. [8]

3.3 The Taskforce noted that the ARPANS Bill require that in deciding whether to issue a licence authorising a radiation practice, the CEO must take into account any matter specified in the Regulations. The Regulations specify that these matters include whether the applicant has shown that there is a net benefit from carrying out the proposed practice and whether the applicant has shown that the `as low as reasonably achievable' requirement will be met. The Regulations also set dose limits and specify that compliance with these limits would be a condition of any licence issued by the CEO. [9]

Independence of the proposed Agency

3.4 The ARPANSA Taskforce stated that the ARPANS Bill ensures that the exercise of powers under the legislation is independent from the Government of the day by creating the CEO as a statutory office holder; making it clear that, subject to any Ministerial direction, the CEO is the decision-maker on all matters referenced in the legislation; providing that the CEO report quarterly and annually to Parliament; and enabling the CEO to present a report relating to any of the CEO's functions to be tabled in either House of Parliament at any time. [10] This addresses the claims of several witnesses and submissions in relation to the Agency's perceived lack of independence. [11]

Process for appointment to, and composition of, Advisory Councils

3.5 As noted above, the ARPANS legislation provides for the establishment of three advisory structures – the Radiation Health and Safety Advisory Council, the Radiation Health Committee and the Nuclear Safety Committee.

3.6 Some submissions and witnesses argued that that the proposed legislation does not provide for adequate community representation on the advisory councils and committees. [12]

3.7 The ARSANSA Taskforce noted that in relation to the Council the legislation stipulates that each member of the Council must be appointed by the Minister and that persons must not be appointed unless the Minister is satisfied that the person has the relevant expertise in relation to radiation protection or nuclear safety. The legislation also provides that that the Council must include a person to represent the interests of the general public, as well as representatives of two State/Territory Governments, the CEO and up to eight other members.

3.8 In relation to the committees, the Taskforce noted that, the legislation requires that all committee members must have expertise relevant to, or knowledge of, nuclear safety or radiation protection. The legislation further provides that that both committees must include a person to represent the interests of the general public. In addition, the Nuclear Safety Committee must include a person to represent the local government or the local administration of an area affected by a matter related to the safety of a controlled facility. [13]

Public review of new projects

3.9 The Sutherland Shire Council raised the issue of local government involvement in ARPANSA processes and specifically that there was no requirement in the proposed legislation for development applications to be submitted to local councils. [14]

3.10 The ARPANSA Taskforce stated, however, that there are mechanisms allowed for in the Bill which will ensure that there is public awareness of, and allow for participation in ARPANSA decisions. These include the role and operation of the Council and Committees (which will include community representatives and external experts) and the requirement for the CEO to present an annual report and quarterly reports to Parliament. The Taskforce advised the Committee that the Radiation Health Committee will continue to make draft codes and standards open to public comments. Arrangements for public consultation processes for the Council and the Nuclear Safety Committee for licensing decisions by the CEO will also be developed. [15]


3.11 Under the ARPANS legislation, a controlled person must not undertake prohibited dealings or conduct, without a licence or an exemption (penalty – $1.1 million (corporation) or $220 000 (individual); and must comply with the conditions of licence (penalty – $1.1 million (corporation) or $220 000  (individual). The ARPANSA Taskforce noted that `as is evident from a comparison with like legislation the penalties imposed under the ARPANS legislation are significant and are equal to or in excess of the penalties imposed under legislation which has similar objectives'. [16]

Liability in case of accidents

3.12 Sutherland Shire Council claimed that Crown activities should not be exempt from prosecution for an offence under the proposed legislation. [17] The ARPANSA Taskforce stated, however, that the Bills in no way mitigate the liability of Commonwealth entities licensed by the CEO of ARPANSA. All Commonwealth entities will retain individual responsibility for maintaining safety in respect of radiation sources and nuclear facilities. ARPANSA will be responsible for setting standards and safety goals and undertaking inspections to ensure compliance with the legislation.

3.13 The Taskforce noted that it will not assume liability for incidents or accidents occurring within the jurisdiction of the licensed organisation – `this is entirely appropriate and consistent with best practice regulation in modern industries. The fundamental safeguard is the fostering of a safety culture by the operator – and this is best achieved when the responsibility is clearly borne by the operation'. [18]

Waste disposal and storage issues

3.14 Some submissions and witnesses raised issues relating to possible waste disposal and storage problems. [19]

3.15 The ARPANSA Taskforce stated, however, that the Bills and Regulations provide definitions of radiation sources and nuclear facilities, which would include any waste disposal or storage facilities. ARPANSA also noted that the Bill does not, however, pre-empt or replace the existing mechanisms by which the Government would decide to construct or site such facilities. The Taskforce noted that the legislation `simply ensures that should such a decision be taken, that the resulting facility would be subject to the highest level of regulatory control'. [20]



The Committee reports to the Senate that it has considered the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Bill 1998, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (Licence Charges) Bill 1998 and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (Consequential Amendments) Bill 1998.

1. The Committee recognises and supports the need for a strong regulatory structure to monitor Commonwealth activities involving radiation protection and nuclear safety.

2. The Committee believes the Bills presented to the Senate provides that structure but would recommend amendments to the legislation to:

3. The Committee recognises the importance of getting the new framework in place but also notes the strong community concern about the details of its implementation. It is therefore recommended that:

Senator Sue Knowles
December 1998






The Opposition supports the appropriate use of radiation and nuclear material for industrial and medical uses. Hence it welcomes these Bills which will establish an overdue national framework for regulation of these activities at the Commonwealth level.

The Opposition welcomes the various amendments the Government has agreed to accept to strengthen this Bill and improve the accountability of the proposed Agency. The Opposition also welcomes the removal from the Bill of references to nuclear activities which do not currently occur in Australia and which should not be allowed to be established – including nuclear power plants and commercial re-processing

There is unfortunately one area where agreement has not been reached.

In the case of a nuclear installation, the Bill should provide that prior to making a decision on licensing for a significant nuclear installation, the CEO has conducted a public Inquiry into the need for the facility. On such proposals there should also be a requirement that an environmental impact study has been undertaken in accordance with the procedures set out in the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974.

Senator Michael Forshaw (ALP, New South Wales)

Senator Kay Denman (ALP, Tasmania)




Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee Report on the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Bill 1998 and Related Legislation


The introduction of legislation providing for the protection of the Australian community from the adverse effects of radiation and for the safety of Australians who deal with radioactive materials is extremely important. Too important to be allowed to go through Parliament without the opportunity for the Australian community to register its concerns about the regulatory regime which we will have to rely on to protect us from hazards which have the potential to remain with us for an indefinite period of time.

For that reason, this committee was called at Senator Margetts' instigation and, as predicted, heard a range of concerns expressed. Many of those concerns have the potential to be addressed by way of amendment to the legislation and the hearing has clarified the issues, providing a way forward to strengthen the protection provided by the Bill.

A number of community groups expressed concern about how much of the framework of nuclear regulation is to be contained in regulation rather than in the legislation itself.

The Government, however, is to be commended for going some way towards meeting those concerns and particularly for allowing a period of open public consultation on the Regulations which are so important to the effective functioning of ARPANSA as a regulatory body.

It does not, however go far enough and concerns remain which are outlined in this report.

The Issues

One of the key concerns raised by several parties to the hearing and others who made written submissions is the fundamental issue of whether there is such a thing as a safe level of exposure to radiation.

It is the view of the minority report that there is no safe level of exposure and to legislate to allow any increase in the radiation to which any Australians are exposed is fundamentally flawed. Even following the presentations by ARPANSA and ANSTO, concern remains about the allowable exposure to radiation. A particular concern is the power of the CEO to grant exemptions which could see workers exposed to higher doses of radiation than otherwise allowed. The aim should be to have exposure as close to zero as is technically possible and there should not be power to grant exemptions.

The standard in the legislation, purports to be `World's Best Practice'. Whilst this should mean `As low as technically achievable' (ALATA), the standard in this legislation is set `As low as reasonably achievable'. If this is `world's best practice', it is not good enough, especially when we know that better standards ARE achievable elsewhere. World's best practice does not equate to IAEA acceptable levels. Standards are constantly under review and technological developments are taking place, but `best practice' in the nuclear industry is constrained by economic forces which should not be the primary concern in a Bill to protect Australians from radiation and provide for nuclear safety.

The precautionary principle MUST be the most important consideration where nuclear health and safety issues are concerned. For this reason, we will seek to delete the threat of imprisonment for ARPANSA inspectors making a false or misleading statement in a warrant. Criminal law should quite adequately deal with criminal fraud, should that be a problem. Including threats of imprisonment in this way in this legislation could be seen as intimidatory- and not necessarily in the best interests of the community.

Despite our stated problems with the use of the term `world's best practice', the inclusion of a requirement for the CEO to have regard to `world's best practice' when issuing licences is an improvement on the original Bill.

For the regulatory authority set up under this legislation to have the confidence of the Australian community, it must clearly be independent of the Government of the day and be responsible to Parliament. The regulatory authority (the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency) falls some way short of this standard because it is not an independent statutory authority. We are pleased, however, to see that the Government has now agreed that the CEO have direct power over the staffing of ARPANSA.

The recommendation to exclude nuclear power reactors from the legislation is an improvement in accountability. The Greens and Australian Democrats, however, are concerned that licenses for `a nuclear fuel fabrication plant', `an enrichment facility' `a fuel storage facility' and `a reprocessing facility' remain possible under this legislation, albeit with the approval of the CEO. These activities should either be specifically prohibited under this legislation, or at the least, should not be able to take place without full and separate Parliamentary scrutiny.

Separate approval should also be obtained for ANY other new facilities, such as a spent fuel conditioning plant, a nuclear waste disposal facility, a waste storage facility or an isotope production facility. It should be noted however that any proposal for such a facility would itself be of great concern to The Greens.

If our concerns regarding scrutiny of any proposal for any new nuclear facility are not satisfactorily addressed, we will seek to amend the definition of `nuclear installation' to delete reference to any nuclear installation which does not currently exist.

Major nuclear installations require much greater prior scrutiny than is envisaged in the Bill. In particular there must be a comprehensive public inquiry into and Parliamentary scrutiny of the question of whether there is a need for the installation before the process even gets to the stage of an impact statement or an inquiry into the proposal itself.

No licence proposal should be considered until a public, open inquiry into the need for the installation and an impact assessment process have been completed. An amendment to achieve that end will be moved in the Committee stage of the Bill.

The proposed government amendment to give public notice of the licensing of a nuclear installation is grossly inadequate. The whole process must be open to public participation and this should be reflected in the Regulations.

There is no reference in the Bill to the regulation of, or setting of standards in the uranium mining industry, yet codes of practice in the industry were covered by the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Act which is repealed by a Consequential Amendments Bill. It is desirable for the Commonwealth to have oversight of such standards and for there to be an open public process for the ongoing development and improvement of the Codes. The Bill is silent on this question.

We commend the Government on clarifying the situation regarding existing codes and development of improved codes by agreeing to have the current requirements of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Act included in the Regulations.

The only role for the community in this Bill is a purely advisory one and even there it is a role severely constrained by the legislation. A further amendment is required for protection from prosecution for Committee or Council members who make public any information or concerns they may have about radiation protection or nuclear safety.

We commend the introduction of conflict of interest provisions for Committee and Council members in the Regulations and would like to see that extended to include a register of financial interests.

There is clearly a need for the strengthening of reporting requirements throughout the Bill. We are particularly concerned that the CEO's functions include the monitoring and reporting on the operations of the Agency and it's advisory bodies, and it is pleasing to see that the Government will be moving appropriate amendments in this regard.

In summary, whilst the Greens (WA) and Australian Democrats are pleased that the Government has made some concessions to acknowledge community concerns about this Bill, we feel that further amendments are required to ensure adequate protection for the community from the dangers of radiation and nuclear activities.

Senator Dee Margetts, The Greens (WA)

Senator Natasha Stott Despoja , Australian Democrats, South Australia


APPENDIX 1 - Submissions received by the committee

1 Dr Jim Green
2 ARPANSA Taskforce,

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency

3 Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO)

- Additional Information, dated 30 November 1998

4 Dr Alan Roberts
5 Sutherland Shire Council

- Additional Information, dated 30 November 1998

6 Ms Jean McSorley

- Additional Information, dated 30 November 1998

7 Campaign for a Nuclear Free Future and Australian Conservation Foundation

- Additional Information, dated 30 November 1998


APPENDIX 2 - Public hearing

A public hearing was held on the Bill on 30 November 1998 in Senate Committee Room 2S2.

Committee Members in attendance

Senator Sue Knowles (Chairman)
Senator Andrew Bartlett (Deputy Chairman)
Senator Kay Denman
Senator Alan Eggleston
Senator Michael Forshaw
Senator Dee Margetts
Senator Natasha Stott Despoja


Australian Conservation Foundation (ACT)
Mr Larry O'Loughlin, A/g National Liaison Officer

Ms Jean McSorley, Nuclear consultant

Dr Jim Green, Nuclear consultant

Sutherland Shire Council
Councillor Kevin Schreiber, Mayor
Dr Garry Smith, Principal Environmental Scientist

Councillor Ken McDonell

Councillor Genevieve Rankin

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)
Dr Ron Cameron, Director Safety
Mr Allan Murray, Government & Public Affairs Division

ARPANSA Taskforce
Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency

Dr John Loy, A/g Chief Executive Officer

Nuclear Safety Bureau,
Mr Don MacNab, A/g Director

Australian Radiation Laboratory
Dr John Cable, A/g Director



[1] Explanatory Memorandum, p.2.

[2] Minister's Second Reading Speech.

[3] Senate Select Committee on the Dangers of Radioactive Waste, No Time to Waste, April 1996.

[4] Minister's Second Reading Speech.

[5] Explanatory Memorandum, p.2; Minister's Second Reading Speech.

[6] Submission No.1, pp.3-5; Submission No.6, p.1; Submission No.7, p.3; Committee Hansard, pp.4-6, 14.

[7] Submission No.2, p.2.

[8] Submission No.3, pp.3-4. See also Committee Hansard, pp.25-26, 28-29.

[9] Submission No.2, p.1.

[10] Submission No.2, p.2. See also Committee Hansard, pp. 32-33.

[11] Committee Hansard, pp. 2, 12, 17-18, 21-22; Submission No.1, p.3; Submission No.4, p.1; Submission No.6, p.5; Submission No.7, p.9.

[12] Submission No.1, p.2; Submission No.4, p.1; Committee Hansard, pp.2, 11, 16-17.

[13] Submission No.2, p.3. See also Submission No.3, p.4.

[14] Committee Hansard, p.14.

[15] Submission No.2, p.3.

[16] Submission No.2, p.4.

[17] Submission No.5, p.3.

[18] Submission No.2 p.5. See also Submission No.3, p.2.

[19] Submission No.1, pp.5-6; Committee Hansard, pp.10-11, 14-15.

[20] Submission No.2, p.5.