Cth Bill for a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility

Friday 2 July 2021 @ 11.51 a.m. | Legal Research

On 13 February 2021, the National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Bill 2020 (Cth) (‘the Bill’) was introduced into the House of Representatives by Minister for Resources Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt (‘the Minister’). The Bill passed the lower house with amendments on 11 June 2021, and finally passed both houses with further amendments on 22 June 2021.

The Bill received royal assent on 29 June 2021. The National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Selection, Community Fund and Other Measures) Act 2021 (Cth) ('the Act') wholly commenced on 30 June 2021.

Purpose of the Act

In his second reading speech, the Minister stated that the Bill:

“gives effect to the commitment made by successive governments to the Australian community to establish a purpose-built National Radioactive Waste Management Facility to permanently dispose of low-level radioactive waste and temporarily store intermediate-level radioactive waste.”

The Act amends the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 (Cth) (‘the NRWM Act’) to:

  • establish a framework for selecting the site of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility ('the Facility');
  • establish a Community Fund to provide support for the community in which the Facility is located; and
  • link the operation of the NRWM Act and the relevant constitutional heads of power.

Site Selection

The first reading of the Bill outlined the exact boundaries of the site for the Facility, to be located at Napandee in Kimba, South Australia. However the Senate amendments removed the specification of the exact site. The Act, instead, refers to sites which have been nominated and approved.

According to the replacement supplementary explanatory memorandum, allowing the Minister to select a site as opposed to direct specification of the site will ensure that the site selection, as a ministerial decision, can be subject to appeal and review under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1979 (Cth). The memorandum also clarifies that the Bill would not prohibit the Minister from approving new nominations outside of the statutory shortlist nor would the Minister be obliged to declare one of the shortlisted sites.

Community Fund

The Act also establishes the Community Fund, which according to the Bills Digest, would be used:

“for purposes associated with the economic and social sustainability of the host community, so as to support both the establishment and operation of the facility.”

According to the explanatory memorandum, the Community Fund may be used to contribute to:

“sustainable health services, agricultural research and development, enhancements to local critical infrastructure and further development of the local Aboriginal community economy.”

The Act requires the Minister to make a lump-sum payment of $20 million on behalf of the Commonwealth to the Community Fund. The Act also requires that prior to the establishment of the Community Fund, the Minister ensures that the following bodies are consulted:

  • the regional consultative committee;
  • the local government body; and
  • the government of the State or Territory.

In his second reading speech, the Minister stated:

“The bill changes the focus of the fund from a state or territory based fund to a community based fund, enabling the host community to make decisions on how the payment is spent to best support the establishment of the facility and its operation in safely and securely managing controlled material.”

Other Amendments

Finally, the Act also introduces a new definition of ‘controlled material’ which is the type of material that can be stored at the Facility. The Act defines ‘controlled material’ as it is defined within the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (Cth) with some additional requirements. According the the Bills Digest, these additional requirements:

"have been included to invoke certain constitutional heads of power and to ensure provisions in the NRWM Act can be read down to the extent permitted by the Constitution.” 

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National Radioactive Waste Management Amendment (Site Specification, Community Fund and Other Measures) Act 2021 (Cth)Bill and explanatory materials available on TimeBase's LawOne Service

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