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Australian government launches uranium mining, processing and nuclear energy review

Australia holds 40 per cent of the world's known low-cost recoverable uranium reserves. Recent rises in the price of uranium have triggered a 'rush for uranium' in the country the initial report from the review sees a government intent on mine and nuclear expansion.
24 November 2006 - ICBUW

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Key findings of the review

Consultations revealed support for the expansion of Australian mining and export of uranium. Skill shortages and government policies restricting the growth of the industry should be urgently addressed.

The rationalisation of uranium mining regulation would ensure a consistent approach to environmental and radiation protection, and the maintenance of high standards throughout the industry.

Downstream steps of uranium conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication could add a further $1.8 billion of value annually if all Australian uranium was processed domestically.

However, high commercial and technology barriers could make market entry difficult. Current legal and regulatory impediments should be removed, but there may be little real opportunity for Australian companies to extend profitably into these areas.

Nuclear power would be between 20 and 50 per cent more costly to produce than coal or gas-fired power. This gap may close in the decades ahead, but nuclear power, and renewable energy sources, will only become competitive in Australia in a system where the costs of greenhouse gas emissions are explicitly recognised. Even then, private investment in the first-built nuclear reactors may require some form of government support or directive.

The earliest that nuclear electricity could be delivered to the grid would be 10 years, with 15 years more probable. At the outset, the establishment of a single national regulator supported by an organisation with skilled staff is required.

To read Greenpeace Australia's response to the draft report: