8.1 The Committee's terms of reference required it to 'inquire into and report on the environmental impact, health and safety and other implications and effectiveness of security agreements in relation to the mining, milling and export of Australian uranium'. The most significant environmental impact of Australia's involvement in the mining and export of uranium is that the end product of the nuclear fuel cycle is the accumulation of large quantities of intractable radioactive waste.

8.2 In the five decades since the start of nuclear age no solution has yet been found to the problem of disposing of the waste produced by nuclear reactors. Every country which is involved in the nuclear industry is facing the growing problem of what to do with this waste. Although several processes for permanent storage of waste have been extensively investigated none have reached the point where they have been able to be used on any but an experimental basis. Meanwhile the stockpiles of waste continue to accumulate.

8.3 Some people may wish to pretend that this problem does not exist, or might point to the fact that Australia has not legal commitment to receive and treat, or store, the waste produced from its uranium. This attitude is morally indefensible. If Australia continues to export uranium it has a moral obligation to consider how that uranium will be used and how the resulting nuclear waste will be disposed off.

8.4 This problem may become more than a moral one for Australia. The view has often been put in the countries that use Australian uranium that the country which produces the uranium should receive back the subsequent waste and be responsible for its storage. If this view becomes accepted as normal international practice Australia could find itself responsible for the storage of tens of thousands of tonnes of highly toxic nuclear waste for a period of tens of thousands of years. When viewed in this light uranium mining, far from boosting Australia's economy, is a potential economic disaster.

8.5 These reasons by themselves dictate that Australia should not be involved in the mining, milling and export of uranium.



9.1 The world uranium market is driven by the need for uranium and plutonium in nuclear reactors. There has been a downturn in the world uranium market as it has had to compete with recycled concentrated material from warheads, a downturn in new nuclear reactors and more uranium mines opening in Canada.

9.2 World wide nuclear reactor capacity has dropped 10% in the last 10 years. Many countries have ended nuclear power plant construction and many planned reactors have not been built. In 1986, there were 394 civilian reactors with another 160 planned, however in 1996 there are only 434 with just 34 reactors under construction, the smallest number in 30 years. [79]

9.3 The uranium market will not be sustained in the longer term by nuclear energy production [80]. Australian resources would be better spent on alternative energy research and the production of energy from sources which are sustainable, long term, and without the risks to the environment and public health that uranium poses.



10.1 Uranium mining supports the production of nuclear energy which is unsafe, non-renewable and expensive compared with alternative energy options. The expert group on Renewable Energy Technologies in Australia has concluded that wide scale application of solar technologies would be capable of producing electricity for around 5 cents/kWh within a few years at a cost 40-60% below the cost of nuclear power in industrialised countries.

10.2 Solar cells, wind energy and other technologies have now been developed to efficiency and can be accessed widely and at different levels of demand.



1. A levy should be imposed on uranium mining to support the research and development of alternative, renewable, energy technologies.


2. Uranium mining should be phased out in favour of the further development of renewable energy sources.



11.1 In the majority report the Committee has recommended the establishment of a Commonwealth Uranium Authority. In principle the concept of having a single statutory authority to oversee every aspect of uranium mining in Australia has considerable merit. However, there are some major concerns with the proposal contained in the report.

11.2 The proposal to create a Commonwealth Uranium Authority certainly deserves further examination. However, the scheme outlined in the majority report looks more like an emaciated toothless tiger than the ferocious watchdog which is required.



12.1 It is interesting that one of the very few recommendations to emerge from the majority report is that the 'Procedure Committee examine the implications of globalisation for parliamentary scrutiny of government, administration and public policy.' This is a rather circuitous way for the Committee members from the major parties to say that Senate Committees should be able to go on overseas junkets. We strongly disagree with this proposal.



13.1 On the basis of the evidence presented about the ethical, social, environmental and economic impacts of uranium mining in Australia, this minority report recommends against the expansion of the uranium industry, opposes all new uranium mining proposals in Australia and recommends the cancellation of all export licenses for uranium mining and the refusal of any new export licenses for further uranium mines in Australia.

13.2 Should the government decide to continue permitting the export of Australian uranium then the other recommendations contained in this minority report should be implemented to minimise the adverse effects of Australia's uranium mining.



15 May, 1997


[79] Greenpeace Australia, Submission 73.

[80] Friends of the Earth Sydney, Submission 40. pages 7-15.