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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Australian Taskforce on Uranium

The Australian Government's taskforce on nuclear energy has delivered its draft report. In short, the taskforce found that that more uranium should be mined in Australia. It also said a nuclear energy sector would face enormous cost disadvantages compared with fossil fuels. Australia has plenty of cheap coal, but is approaching nuclear power as a way to hit its emissions targets under the Kyoto Accord.

The first nuclear power plant, if greenhouse gas emission reduction measures bring about price parity, will also not be ready to operate until 2021 at the earliest.

Then there’s the other side of nuclear fuel production – enrichment (Australia currently mines uranium, but does not enrich it for nuclear fuel). While the taskforce said downstream processing of uranium(enriching) was difficult to achieve, it’s also feasible and potentially lucrative.

Other points in the report … .

* In one scenario, deployment of nuclear power starting in 2020 could see 25 reactors producing over a third of the nation’s electricity by 2050.

* The challenge to contain and reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be considerably eased by investment in nuclear plants. Australia’s greenhouse challenge requires a full spectrum of initiatives and its goals cannot be met by nuclear power alone. The greenhouse gas emission reductions from nuclear power could reach 8 to 18 per cent of national emissions in 2050.

* Australia has 38% of the world’s low-cost reserves of uranium with most in a small number of deposits. Olympic Dam is the largest deposit in the world and contains approximately 70% of Australia’s known reserves.

* In 2005, Australia’s uranium oxide exports earned $573 million with a record production of over 12 000 tonnes. Exports are forecast to increase strongly both from rising prices and rising production reaching over 20 000 tonnes by 2014–2015. Australia’s present uranium exports are enough to generate more than twice Australia’s current annual electricity demand.

* Australia will increase production over the medium and longer term by expanding existing mines. Each of the three operational mines (Olympic Dam, Ranger and Beverley) can expand production or extend their lives through the discovery of further reserves on already approved mine leases. Many smaller known deposits could be developed relatively quickly, but are currently not accessible under state or territory government policy.

* Canada and Australia produce more than 50% of the world’s natural uranium supply, with five other countries accounting for a further 40%. A number of new mines and mine expansions can be expected in the medium term, while increases in uranium production can be expected from Canada, Kazakhstan, Namibia, Russia and the United States. Forecasts show sufficient capacity over the medium term (to about 2015), but after this time greater uncertainty over both supply and demand is projected. On current forecasts, demand exceeds existing capacity. Thus, there is an excellent opportunity for Australia to fill the gap.

If you haven't read my uranium report, CLICK HERE to find out more about it.And of course, you can read one of my reports on uranium. CLICK HERE.

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