In the first major nuclear policy development for nearly a decade, Australia took a small step towards increased participation in the nuclear industry with the launch of South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission Tentative Findings.

While the Tentative Findings flag clear benefits from the establishment of a nuclear waste storage and disposal facility in South Australia, they cast doubt on any expansion further into the fuel cycle or nuclear power generation in the foreseeable future.

The Tentative Findings may smooth the way for one of the three nominated sites in SA to host the Commonwealth’s low and intermediate radioactive waste management facility. In the longer term, the findings support SA providing facilities for the storage of high radioactive waste.

What happens next?

With the release of the Tentative Findings, the Royal Commission has begun a 5 week feedback period. Meetings are being held throughout SA this week and submissions on the Tentative Findings are due by 5pm on 18 March 2016.

Guidelines and the process for making a submission are set out on the Royal Commission website.

The Royal Commission will release its Final Report on 6 May 2016.

What are the key Tentative Findings?

Click here to view the table.

Is international nuclear waste coming to Australia?

If the Tentative Findings are formalised in the Final Report, Australia will still be a way off acting on the findings and establishing a nuclear waste storage and disposal facility.

The establishment of a nuclear waste storage and disposal facility in SA (or expansion into other areas of the fuel cycle) would require Commonwealth and SA laws to be amended and a new regulatory framework put in place.

It will also require substantial bipartisan political support, which is by no means guaranteed.

At a State level, following the release of the Royal Commission’s Final Report in May, the SA government will undertake its own community consultation process followed by a period of decision making. The SA Government expects to provide a full response to Parliament before the end of the sitting year.