A report released today recommends a change in the nature of the
charge payable by uranium producers under the Nuclear Safeguards
(Producers of Uranium Ore Concentrates) Charge Act 1993 ("the Act").
The report recommends that uranium producers pay a "safeguards
fee" for every kilogram of uranium produced. The report also
recommends that the safeguards fee include a component for the costs
of future safeguards and physical protection activities for
Australian-obligated uranium and derivative materials in the
international nuclear fuel cycle. Currently, uranium producers are
required to pay a fixed amount per producer per year to offset costs
incurred by the Australian Safeguards Office (ASO) for nuclear
safeguards and physical protection activities in relation to the
production and export of uranium.
The report finds a number of problems with the current operation
of the Act, principally that:
- the level of the charge is too high in relation to ASO's
current annual running costs, but the charge does not take account
of future cost liabilities for Australian-obligated uranium and
derivative materials in the international nuclear fuel cycle; and
- the "flat fee" nature of the charge could inhibit the
development of new uranium mines and have a disproportionate
impact on smaller producers.
The report will now be considered by the Government, which is
expected to announce its response within three months.
The review of the Act is part of the comprehensive review of all
Commonwealth legislation which restricts competition, or imposes
costs or confers benefits on business approved by the Government in
June 1996. The comprehensive review accords with the requirements of
the national competition policy agreed between the Commonwealth and
all State and Territory Governments.
The review of the Act was undertaken by a Committee of Officials
representing the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Finance,
and Primary Industries and Energy, and ASO. Submissions to the
Committee were sought from current and prospective uranium producers
and relevant industry associations.
Further information and copies of the report can be obtained from
the Committee Secretary, Margaret Durnan, Nuclear Policy Branch,
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra, telephone (06) 261
2017 or fax (06) 261 1110.