Policy confusion holding back Australia’s uranium potential

In a thinly-veiled swipe at the Queensland government’s decision to ban uranium mining, Toro Energy’s managing director says policy confusion was holding back Australia’s nuclear potential.

Addressing the first day of the Paydirt 2015 South Australian Resources and Energy Investment Conference at the Adelaide Convention Centre today, Toro’s managing director, Dr Vanessa Guthrie said Australia was in a great position to deliver clean energy but that a mature debate was required.

She said the differing policy settings in Australian states were confusing and had worked to constrain the under-developed uranium industry.

Guthrie said that while Australia had a strong uranium production history with three mines currently in operation, policy confusion between states had choked the impetus to optimise Australia’s position as a safe, low risk, long-term and reliable uranium supplier to a global nuclear energy market increasingly hungry for yellowcake supply.

Her comments come in the wake of the Queensland government’s decision to reinstate a uranium mining ban in the state.

Guthrie said the move was in stark contrast to other states such was WA which removed its ban on uranium mining in 2008 and which is actively supporting the emergence of a new industry sector.

She also commended the decision made earlier this year by the SA Government to initiate a Royal Commission into the nuclear fuel cycle and associated new industry opportunities.

“This is the sort of forward, pragmatic thinking the uranium industry needs in Australia if we are to deliver expectations of billion dollar plus a year uranium exports before the next decade,” Guthrie said.

According to Guthrie, there are currently 437 operable nuclear reactors globally requiring 78,000 tonnes annual consumption of uranium concentrate.

This demand will balloon with some 70 new reactors already under construction, 179 ordered, and a further 308 proposed.

“Taking into account normal reactor retirements, the nuclear energy space will potentially be hosting 920 operable reactors by just 2030 – and that will generate a doubling of U3O8 demand within that 15 year period,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie said it was imperative that Australia stabilises its uranium policy platform so that the country is considered as the “go to” supply source globally.

The lagging price of the commodity since the Fukushima tragedy in 2011 has worked to hamstring investment, and drove nuclear sentiment to an all-time low.

After falling below $US29 per pound last May, the spot price for uranium has since recovered to reach $US39.25 this week.

Guthrie said price will recover, and when it does it will bode well for the company’s Wiluna project, which has all the government approvals it needs to start mining.

Wiluna will be WA’s first uranium mine but the product will be shipped from Port Adelaide and/or Darwin which both have over 30 years’ experience of uranium handling .

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