Australia’s uranium sector will receive a much needed boost with the United Arab Emirates signing a deal that will see it purchase yellow cake produced here.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb met with UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah in Abu Dhabi to sign the agreement.
It is the first time Australia will supply uranium to the Middle East and Robb said the long-term deal marked a valuable partnership for Australia and the UAE.
“This Nuclear Co-operation Agreement has been secured because Australia is a reliable supplier of uranium, and the UAE is a responsible user of nuclear energy for civilian purposes,’’ Robb said.
Australia exported 8,391 tonnes of uranium in 2012-13, worth about $823 million.
From 2020, the UAE would hope to import around 800 tonnes per year.
This opens up a massive new market for Australian producers and companies vying to develop new uranium operations.
Under the agreement, Australia will supply uranium for use in UAE’s developing civil nuclear power program and cooperate in nuclear-related activities such as nuclear safeguards, security, safety, and nuclear science.
The agreement reinforces Australia’s close and expanding relationship with the UAE, based on our mutually shared political, strategic and economic interests,” Robb said.
Australia has 22 safeguard agreements covering with around 40 nations around the sale of uranium.
The safeguards cover the safe handling and security of radioactive material, restrictions on re-export and guarantees of use for peaceful purposes.
However Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has expressed concern over the uranium sale deal and questioned whether there would be enough independence between the UAE regulator and nuclear customers.
He advised government to “take a deep breath’’ and ask itself, “do they really want to be selling uranium into the Middle East at the moment?’’
The UAE aims to set up four nuclear power plants by 2020.
Australia has the world's largest uranium reserves, with 33 per cent of the world's recoverable uranium resources.
The Australian Uranium Association predicts that if the uranium industry was able to reach its full potential, exports would increase from 9,000 tonnes a year to 28, 500 tonnes a year. This would equate to between a $14.2 billion to $17.4 billion net value to the Australian GDP.