D54

23 June 1997

REPORT RECOMMENDS REVISED CHARGE FOR URANIUM PRODUCERS

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.