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13 Australian peak Non Government Organisations seek stronger Environmental Law on Nuclear Issues

Joint ENGO Submission on Nuclear Issues as they Relate to the Environmental Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act Review 2020

This submission is made on behalf of the following national and state peak environment groups:

    • Australian Conservation Foundation,
    • Australian Nuclear Free Alliance,
    • Friends of the Earth Australia,
    • Greenpeace Australia Pacific,
    • Mineral Policy Institute,
    • The Wilderness Society,
    • Arid Lands Environment Centre,
    • Environment Centre NT,
    • Environment Victoria,
    • Conservation Council SA,
    • Conservation Council WA,
    • Nature Conservation Council NSW and Queensland Conservation Council.

This submission outlines the importance of retaining s140A of the EPBC Act which prohibits nuclear power; the retention of uranium exploration and mining in the definition of a Nuclear Action and the inclusion of Nuclear Actions as a Matter of National Environmental Significance (MNES).

This submission is made in consideration of the broader objects and principles of the Act and is based on evidence from recent inquiries into both nuclear power and uranium mining. There is clear evidence that nuclear activities can have a significant environmental and public health risk and, in many cases, irreversible impacts, and this is consistent with the current dedicated legislative prohibitions for both nuclear power and scrutiny for uranium mining.

While the current Act does not include a prohibition on uranium mining we strongly advocate that there be a national ban on uranium mining consistent with state legal or policy prohibitions in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and West Australia   Written by Mia Pepper, Jim Green, Dave Sweeney, David Noonan & Annica Schoo.

Summary of Recommendations


• that uranium mining and milling be included in s140A prohibitions as nuclear actions that the Minister must not approve, on the basis that the nuclear industry has failed to successfully remediate any uranium mine in Australia and has impacts inconsistent with the objects and principles of the EPBC Act.

• if the above recommendation is not adopted that uranium mining and milling remains within the definition of a ‘nuclear action’ and that nuclear actions continue to be listed as MNES and the protected matters continue to be listed as the ‘environment’ and so be subject to full environmental assessment at the state level

• DAWE to initiate an inquiry into the human and environmental impacts of uranium mining, as advised by the UN Secretary General following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, noting that Australian uranium was present in each of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors at the time of multiple reactor meltdowns

. • regulatory reform for existing operating mines • that the review committee recommend DAWE prioritise the rehabilitation of abandoned uranium mines and processing facilities, exploration sites and uranium mines that have been in care and maintenance for more than two years.

Nuclear Power:
• the retention of s140A of the EPBC Act 1999 which states “No approval for certain nuclear installations: The Minister must not approve an action consisting of or involving the construction or operation of any of the following nuclear installations: (a) a nuclear fuel fabrication plant; (b) a nuclear power plant; (c) an enrichment plant; (d) a reprocessing facility.”

Other Matters:
• a National Environmental Protection Authority be established
• the effectiveness of assessment bilateral agreements be reviewed, and approval bilateral agreements are not pursued
• legislate requirements for mine closure, address activities that are used to avoid mine closure and to work with states and territories to remediate existing legacy mine sites
• there be established internal process for DAWE to pursue the listing of newly identified species by referring to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee
• that the principles of free, prior and informed consent become a mandatory operational principle within the EPBC Act along with a governance mechanism to operationalise this principle……… .

April 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, legal, politics, reference | Leave a comment

A brief Submission to the the Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

I first tried to use their online formal submission form.  I found several of the questions they posed to be confusing, and obfuscated the issues.    So, I gave up on their form, and just wrote my own ideas


It is patently obvious that the EPBC Act is nowhere near strong enough  to protect Australia’s unique wildlife. A scorecard released recently by Australian National University researchers  reveals the worst environmental conditions in many decades, perhaps centuries, and confirms the devastating damage global warming and mismanagement are wreaking on our natural resources. Australia’s environmental condition score fell by 2.3 points in 2019, to a very low 0.8 out of ten. 1

It is obvious that the polluting industries, especially mining, are keen to further weaken Australia’s environmental protection laws.

Announcing the statutory review of the commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) last October, the Morrison government pitched it as an opportunity to weaken the Howard era laws even further and make it easier still for environmentally destructive projects to be approved.  2

A particular case for scrutiny is in the uranium/nuclear industry. A very telling example of the weakness of the EPBC Act is in the sudden approval given by the then Environment Minister, Melissa Price, for the Yeelirrie uranium project to go ahead, in complete contradiction of its rejection by  WA Environmental Protection Agency . The current EPBC Act specifies protection for species at risk of extinction.  Still, the approval went ahead, the EPBC Act apparently  a toothless tiger. 3

Australian governments, State and federal, are under relentless lobbying by the nuclear industry. There are several nuclear Inquiries going on at State level, and one Federal nuclear Inquiry.  Despite the clear knowledge of nuclear power’s high costs, safety dangers and terrorism risks, the global nuclear lobby’s push is to remove Australia’s nuclear prohibition laws. The EPBC Act contains two strong nuclear prohibitions, which should not be changed  – EPBC Act 1999 section 140A  No approval for certain nuclear installations and EPBC Act 1999 section 22  What is a nuclear action?


April 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment