Nuclear exports & safeguards

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Nuclear Exports 

Australia's uranium export policy acknowledges the strategic significance which distinguishes uranium from other energy commodities.

The policy provides assurances that exported uranium and its derivatives cannot benefit the development of nuclear weapons or be used in other military programs.

The policy also recognises the needs of customer countries and the nuclear industry for predictability about the way Australia exercises the non-proliferation conditions governing its uranium supply.

Australia now has 24 nuclear cooperation agreements in force, allowing exports to 42 countries plus Taiwan.

Regulation within Australia

In Australia, uranium mining is currently allowed only in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland with exploration allowed in New South Wales. The Northern Territory is required to give effect to the advice of the Commonwealth government before approving mines.

As well as compliance with the general mining regulatory framework, additional laws are in place to manage radiation protection and establish export controls.

Uranium mining is a prescribed nuclear action under the Commonwealth the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Before any uranium mine can be developed in Australia, it must be assessed and approved by the federal and state or territory governments. A typical assessment and approval process takes at least three years from referral to ministerial approval.

All mining activity, including uranium mining, has an environmental impact which is moderated through environment assessment and approval processes, mining conditions and performance monitoring and reporting.

The environmental performance of the uranium industry is scrutinised comprehensively with detailed reporting requirements.

Nuclear non-proliferation

When processed, uranium can be used to produce electricity. However, it can also be used to make nuclear weapons.

Australia works with other countries under “nuclear non-proliferation” arrangements to ensure uranium is only used for peaceful purposes. The Australian uranium industry strongly supports efforts by government to uphold and strengthen these arrangements.

Australian uranium can only be sold to countries with which Australia has a nuclear cooperation agreement which also have safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including an Additional Protocol.

Australian legislation covering the regulation of uranium is managed by the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO). 

Under our nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries, our uranium is measured through the nuclear fuel cycle. ASNO is responsible for checking where Australian uranium is used overseas. This information is reported to the government and Parliament once a year.