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THE BAIN REPORT AND ANSTO's MISSION REVIEW

A review was commissioned by the ANSTO Board in late 1993 to review

A N S T O ' s operations. The review w a s carried out by three organisations, Bain International Inc., Batelle Memorial Institute, and Pacific Northwest Laboratories, and the report (the Bain report) w a s released in 1994. (Bain International et al., 1994.)

The Bain report proposed a rationalisation of ANSTO's activities, with some activities to be transferred and s o m e to be stopped altogether. The remaining activities would fall within a n u m b e r of "Key Research Areas" including

radioactive waste management, safety of nuclear installations, resource processing and elimination of radionuclide contamination, applied accelerator technologies, and environmental and industrial applications of radionuclides. T h e report r e c o m m e n d e d discontinuing all nuclear physics applications, and transferring s o m e environmental science activities to m o r e appropriate agencies. It also

r e c o m m e n d e d that nuclear medicine programs including the Biomedicine and Health research program, Australian Radioisotopes, and the National Medical Cyclotron, be transferred out of A N S T O . (Bain International et al, 1994.)

The Bain report devoted considerable space to arguing for a new reactor to replace H I F A R . T h e national interest w a s high o n the agenda. T h e report said the

government places high priority o n "influence and independence" in matters across the nuclear fuel cycle. Independence w a s equated with independence from other countries such as the U S in matters such as nuclear expertise and

intelligence gathering and analysis. T h e report (p.18) lists the elements of A N S T O ' s involvement in "supporting nuclear policy across the fuel cycle":

underpinning an influential role in international bodies such as the I A E A and the O E C D Nuclear Energy Agency; intelligence assessment of nuclear proliferation and safety issues; formulation of nuclear policy; developing bilateral safeguards agreements to enable responsible export of uranium; safety p r o g r a m m i n g and control for nuclear p o w e r e d warships in Australian ports; and environmental assessment and clean-up of radioactive sites (such as Maralinga and the uranium mines). (Bain International et al., 1994.)

The Bain report argued that to support the government's nuclear policies, A N S T O needed the experience derived from operation of a research reactor. It m a d e cryptic statements (pp.100-101) such as that" as a reaffirmation of

Australia's c o m m i t m e n t to nuclear technology, it (a n e w reactor) w o u l d enhance the nation's worldwide and regional status and provide a continuing capability to effectively monitor nuclear developments." T h e report (p.98) argued that:

The wide range of skills, expertise and experience inherent in the continued

safe operation of HIFAR and the research carried out on it enables ANSTO to provide sound, objective advice to the government. This, in turn, helps

government to interpret and respond to the nuclear issues and possibilities by which it is confronted. It also provides government with a strong position and a credible voice in the international setting. For instance, understanding and adhering to the IAEA standards and procedures for operating nuclear

reactors and handling radioactive material is of particular relevance to

Australia, given the nation's position as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and its stance as a strong proponent of non-proliferation

internationally. Therefore, through its operation of a research reactor, ANSTO is able to contribute to the support of government's nuclear science policies and international obligations.

A s discussed in chapter 4.4, these arguments are mostly overinflated. There is a remarkable degree of circularity and tautology in the argument that a research reactor is necessary to enable A N S T O to understand and adhere to standards and procedures for operating nuclear reactors.

The Bain report (p. 100) considered four options - building a replacement reactor, upgrading H I F A R , running H I F A R d o w n , and building a different machine such

as a spallation source - and opted for the first option. The report (p.100) said that more detailed costings of a replacement reactor have been carried out since the RRR. The estimated total is $425 million over the n e w reactor's life of 40 years, which would include construction, operation, maintenance, and decommiss-ioning costs, and that figure would take into account off-setting revenue. The report reproduced without critical commentary s o m e creative accounting

provided by A N S T O to the effect that a saving of $23 million could be m a d e if a decision on a replacement reactor w a s m a d e in mid 1996, instead of waiting the five years recommended by the R R R , because of reduced capital costs, and costs saved by operating H I F A R for two less years. Better still, if in addition to a decision being m a d e in 1996 instead of 1998, the construction schedule for a n e w reactor was reduced from ten to eight years, a total cost saving of $66 million could be made, largely because of savings of $40 million in costs relating to H I F A R . There is no mention of the potential savings of hundreds of millions of dollars by

abandoning the project altogether.

The Bain report did not seriously address the various objections to a new reactor.

For example its comments (p.105) on radioactive waste comprised nothing more than a throw-away c o m m e n t that the disposal of high-level waste is a crucial issue and one which A N S T O should be involved in addressing. The report (p.100) also advanced the circular argument that a n e w reactor would enable the broadening of waste m a n a g e m e n t expertise. The Bain report had even less to say about issues such as the safety and environmental impact of H I F A R or any future reactor.

ANSTO's response to the Bain review was, naturally, to set up another review, this time an internal Mission Review. In response to the Mission Review, several recommendations were implemented by the A N S T O Board including:

• termination and redirection of several research projects to better reflect core activities;

• a series of measures, including capital improvements, to ensure the continuance of Australian Radioisotopes as a business under A N S T O m a n a g e m e n t ;

• continued biomedical research by maintaining 1) a research capability to support the development and production of commercial and potentially commercial radioisotopes and radiopharmaceuticals, and 2) a capacity to produce labelled ligands in support of a national program of emission tomography research;

• the appointment of a Director of Business Collaboration for improved communication with industry and other users of A N S T O ' s research and development and services;

• the appointment of a Canberra Liaison Officer to provide day-to-day

communication with government departments, to better enable A N S T O to stay abreast of political developments and to play a role in shaping nuclear science policy; and

• implementation of a range of structural changes to A N S T O to facilitate improvements in effectiveness and efficiency.

It is notable that ANSTO has maintained its central involvement in medical radioisotope production and nuclear medicine m o r e generally, contrary to the Bain report's recommendation that the Biomedicine and Health research program, Australian Radioisotopes, and the National Medical Cyclotron, be

transferred out of A N S T O . Even if those transfers had taken place, A N S T O would still have a central role in medical radioisotope production for so long as it

operates a reactor, but all the same it is to be expected that A N S T O will maintain as significant a role in nuclear medicine as it possibly can given that such activities provide an important ideological buffer against nuclear critics.