Day 23 review: Today’s public session explored the challenges posed by the transport of radioactive materials (including uranium and waste) including the availability of appropriate shipment services within and from South Australia. The Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission held five sessions today, including hearing evidence from two expert witnesses from overseas. The first hearing was Dr Edwin Lyman, Union of Concerned Scientists. Dr Lyman is a Senior Scientist in the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. His areas of interest include nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism and nuclear power safety and security, and he has published articles in a number of journals and magazines on these topics. He was president of the Nuclear Control Institute in Washington DC, an organisation concerned with nuclear proliferation. His evidence covered:

  • The safety of packages used during the transport of nuclear materials
  • The extent to which the packages for nuclear materials transportation are subjected to tests which reflect real-world accident conditions

The next witness was Adelaide-based Frank Boulton, Class 7 International Pty Ltd, who has expertise in matters including the practical operation of radioactive material transport supply chains, compliance with regulatory requirements and the establishment of effective communication channels between all relevant bodies during consignments. He discussed:

  • The characteristics of radioactive materials which influence the means and methods of their transportation
  • The practical steps that are undertaken to transport uranium ore concentrate for export

Two experts from Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) then provided an overview of the nation’s radiation protection and nuclear safety protocols. Dr Samir Sarkar is currently a Principal Inspector within the Regulatory Branch. He holds a PhD in nuclear science from Kanazawa University in Japan and his areas of expertise include nuclear fuel management, radioactive waste management and the transport of radioactive materials. Dr Sarkar is the Australian Representative at the International Atomic Energy Agency Transport Safety Standard Committee. Jack Dillich has been the Chief Inspector and Head of the Regulatory Branch since 2014 and is responsible for licensing, compliance and inspection of all Commonwealth entities using radioactive sources and operating nuclear or radiation facilities. They spoke on:

  • The different classes of packages which are utilised for the transportation of nuclear materials and the nature of their testing requirements
  • The processes undertaken to approve packages in Australia as meeting the relevant regulatory requirements
  • Accident case studies

Head of Nuclear Services and Chief Nuclear officer from Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation Mr Hefin Griffiths was the next witness. ANSTO is a Commonwealth research organisation which provides specialised advice and scientific services. It also manufactures   products, including radioisotopes for cancer detection and treatment. ANSTO, and its predecessor the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, has operated nuclear research reactors at Lucas Heights in Sydney since 1958, including the current Open Pool Australian Lightwater reactor since 2007. He was questioned on:

  • The arrangements that ANSTO enters into to facilitate the transportation of spent nuclear fuel overseas
  • The strategies ANSTO employs to provide information relating to the transportation of spent nuclear fuel to the community

The final witness was Alastair Brown, from International Nuclear Services (INS) in the UK. INS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in the UK. In addition to providing a wide range of consultancy services relating to the management and transportation of irradiated fuel, it undertakes international consignments of specialist nuclear cargoes and manages the associated emergency response measures. Mr Brown is the Technical Director at INS and has worked in the nuclear industry for 26 years. He provided evidence on:

  • The specialised assets that are utilised to address safety and security concerns during international shipments of spent nuclear fuel
  • The practical steps that are carried out in planning and undertaking an international spent nuclear fuel consignment
  • The incidence of accidents at sea

Video and transcripts of each session will be uploaded into the Public Sessions archive. The next public session is on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, in the Commission’s office, 50 Grenfell St, Adelaide. Click here for topic and witness list for this session which covers Topic 15 – Low and intermediate waste storage and disposal.