Consultation on draft Nuclear Waste Transport, Storage and Disposal (prohibition) Regulations 2019

The Nuclear Waste Transport, Storage and Disposal (Prohibition) Act 2004 (the Act) prohibits the importation of nuclear wastes, including naturally occurring radioactive material (NORMs) into the Northern Territory and the establishment of permanent storage and disposal facilities for nuclear waste.

The Act contains a number of exemptions designed to ensure that Northern Territory industry is not inadvertently captured by the operation of the Act. Recent amendments to the Act clarify these exemptions and in particular how they apply to the offshore petroleum industry.

Under these amendments, certain wastes can be brought into the Northern Territory if they:

  • are produced from the operation or maintenance of a pipeline conveying petroleum or other energy-producing hydrocarbons or
  • are generated incidentally as part of the exploration, recovery or exploitation of petroleum and other energy-producing hydrocarbons from specified projects.

These specified projects must occur offshore in identified sedimentary basins, and demonstrate delivery of significant social and economic benefits to the Northern Territory.

The draft Nuclear Waste Transport, Storage and Disposal (Prohibition) Regulations 2019 PDF (197.1 KB) (draft Regulations) identify proposed sedimentary basins and projects, along with social and economic benefits that are considered important to support sustainable economic development of the Territory.

Consultation on the draft Regulations was open for public comment over a period of four weeks and closed on 31 March 2019. One confidential submission was received.

The Nuclear Waste Transport, Storage and Disposal (Prohibition) Regulations 2019 was Gazetted 13 May 2019.

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Proposed prescribed sedimentary basins

The sedimentary basins that are proposed to be prescribed in the Regulations are the:

  • Arafura Basin
  • Bonaparte Basin
  • Browse Basin
  • Carpentaria Basin and
  • Money Shoal Basin.

These sedimentary basins are being proposed as they are relatively close to the Territory coastline making it more likely industry participants will utilise Darwin as a servicing and supply hub for their project over alternative options in north Western Australia or Queensland.

The basins are also identified as having offshore oil and gas resource potential with industry activity occurring or likely to occur in the future.

Proposed economic and social benefits

A project can be exempt from the amended Act provided it delivers significant economic and social benefits to the Territory.

The draft Regulations provide examples of significant economic and social benefits that should be considered in determining whether or not to specify a particular project in the Regulations.

These examples are intended to demonstrate that the overall benefits delivered to the Territory must be more than would normally occur if the project was only contributing to the Territory's waste management industry by adding to the volume of waste entering the waste management system.

Proposed prescribed projects

For an offshore oil and gas project to be exempt from the amended Act, the project must be a prescribed project in the Regulations.

To allow the continual operation of existing offshore petroleum projects that operate in close proximity to the Territory and have established relationships that are recognised as delivering significant social and economic benefits, four projects have been proposed as prescribed projects in the draft Regulations.

Any future projects that may require exemption under the Act will be required to apply for prescribed project status and demonstrate that the project operates in a permitted area in accordance with the Act, and delivers benefits to the Territory that are recognised as aligning with the intent of the significant economic and social benefit examples identified in the Regulations.

Last updated: 18 August 2020

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