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Agenda item 4a: Measures to strengthen international cooperation in nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety

IAEA Board of Governors: 19-23 September 2016
 
Statement by HE Mr David Stuart, Resident Representative to the IAEA
 
Agenda Item 4a: Measures to strengthen international cooperation in nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety 

 

Thank you Chair,

 

Australia welcomes the report of the Director General, Measures to Strengthen International Cooperation in Nuclear, Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety.  The work of the Agency in this field remains of high importance to Australia and we thank DDG Lentijo for his introductory remarks.

 

Chair,

 

The Agency’s safety standards are a major part of a rigorous international nuclear safety framework for the application and use of nuclear energy and technology.  To this end, Australia welcomes the twelve safety standards that were issued in the reporting period, as well as the approval by this Board of two revised Safety Requirements in June 2016. We encourage the continuing efforts of the Commission on Safety Standards and the five Safety Standards Committees to review the Safety Guides in a prioritised process.

 

Australia is pleased to note from the report before us that the new Emergency Preparedness and Response Standards Committee (EPReSC), which has representation from over 60 Member States and 14 international organisations, has already adopted Operating Guidelines, has established two working groups of Member States, has begun revision of a Safety Guide and has begun to study how best to communicate relevant aspects of safety to the public during an emergency.

 

We also to place a high importance on the safe and secure use of radioactive sources.  We note that 133 States have now made a political commitment to the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, with 106 states also committing to the Supplementary Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources.  Given the wide use of radioactive sources, we encourage all Member States to commit to the Code.

 

One area of particular concern to Australia is the long-term management of disused sources.  An Open-ended Meeting of Legal and Technical Experts was held by the Secretariat to Develop Internationally Harmonized Guidance, for Implementing the Recommendations of the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources in Relation to the Management of Disused Radioactive Sources in late June.  We support the views of the great majority of states which attended the meeting that the draft document agreed at the meeting should be sent to the Board of Governors for approval as supplementary guidance under the Code.  

 

Our delegation notes the work of INLEX on the issue of insurance of high-activity radioactive sources.  The international community has been deliberating for some time now as how to best handle indemnity issues arising from possible accidents with such sources.  At its meeting in May this year, INLEX reiterated its recommendation that licences for high-activity radioactive sources include a condition that insurance or other financial security be obtained by the licensee.  Australia is currently considering how to implement this recommendation, and we encourage other Member States to make similar efforts.

 

Australia also notes the close collaborative relationship between the Agency and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and encourages the Agency to continue this collaboration. In particular, the Agency could encourage its Member States to submit data on public, occupational and medical exposure to the Scientific Committee, to improve our understanding of global trends and health implications.

 

Chair,

 

Australia (continues to support the Agency’s role in promoting safe management of radioactive waste and) was an active participant in the Topical Meeting under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management: Challenges and Responsibilities of Multinational Radioactive Waste Disposal Facilities, in September 2016.

 

As reported at that meeting, the South Australian state government is currently conducting an exhaustive public consultation process around the findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission before developing its response.  The national government is also considering its response to those findings. The commission was convened by the government of South Australia and released its report on 6 May 2016. One of its 12 recommendations was to explore the establishment of an above-ground storage facility for an international spent fuel and intermediate-level waste in South Australia, followed by a facility several hundred metres underground for its permanent disposal. The process of examining the recommendations to pursue the opportunity of such a facility is ongoing.  

 

Australia supports the Agency’s further work in radioactive waste safety and welcomes the initiative to organise the International Conference on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management at the IAEA Headquarters from 21 to 25 November this year,. This conference, which will be chaired by the CEO of our regulator ARPANSA, Dr. Carl-Magnus Larsson, will also provide a forum for discussions on disposal of high-level waste, including spent fuel declared as waste.

 

Australia also has regulatory approval for the construction of and is planning to build the first industrial-scale facility for the treatment of liquid intermediate level waste arising from the production of molybdenum-99. When this facility comes on line, it will further demonstrate the viability of Synroc as a modern, stable, low-volume waste form.

 

Separate to Royal Commission response activities, the Australian Commonwealth Government is continuing its assessment of potential sites for a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility for the disposal of low level waste and storage of intermediate level waste.  As part of this process, Australia has requested that the IAEA coordinate and participate in a review of the safety case, prior to submission of the application with its supporting safety case to the regulator.

 

Australia has been and remains a strong supporter of the IAEA peer review services as a means for improving nuclear and radiation safety. (In this context, it is worth mentioning that) we have has requested an Integrated Regulatory Review Service Mission for 2018, the second mission to Australia of this kind.

 

With regard to Emergency Preparedness and Response, Australia appreciates the efforts of the IAEA Secretariat in convening the Eighth Meeting of the Representatives of Competent Authorities identified under the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, which was chaired by Australia, in June 2016 and looks forward to the dissemination of the outcomes among Contracting Parties.

 

Chair,

 

With these comments, the Australian delegation takes note of the Director General’s report on Measures to Strengthen International Cooperation in Nuclear, Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety.

 

Thank you, Chair.