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Yellowcake Road: The legal regime for the road transport of uranium oxide in Western Australia

Bell, Emily (2017) Yellowcake Road: The legal regime for the road transport of uranium oxide in Western Australia. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Uranium is a contentious and emotive commodity. Attitudes towards uranium and the nuclear fuel cycle have, overall, been negative. Distrust of the nuclear industry and misunderstandings about the level of risk posed by the transport of uranium oxide (also known as yellowcake) has influenced a policy ban prohibiting uranium exports from Western Australian ports. Western Australia has a nascent uranium industry, with four major projects at various stages of government approval. When these mines commence production, producers will be forced to truck the uranium oxide by road to either Port Adelaide or Port Darwin for export.

This thesis analyses the issues facing Western Australian producers as a consequence of the export ban. The current regulatory regime exposes Western Australian producers to three governments, five regulatory agencies, and at least seven different approvals and permits. The radiation protection schemes in each jurisdiction varies, so a consignment of uranium oxide is subject to different requirements between the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. Further, different versions of the Code for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material operate around Australia, compounding legislative discrepancies.

This thesis considers that the current regime is overly complex, overlapping and out-of-date with international best practice, and considers broad reforms to harmonise the legislation governing the transport of uranium oxide. It argues that multiple regulators and different legislative requirements impose significant financial burdens and compliance costs on Western Australian producers. These differences also threaten the integrity of the overall goal of radiation protection to protect the health and safety of people from the harmful effects of ionising radiation. Further, Australia’s inability to remain up-to-date with international developments affects contractual relationships with overseas uranium consumers and may induce shipment denials.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Law
Supervisor(s): Lewins, Kate
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