The House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy is currently conducting an inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia.
The inquiry terms of reference ask the committee to examine circumstances and prerequisites necessary for any future government’s consideration of nuclear energy generation.
The discussion is important because Australia has the world’s largest supply of uranium.
In 2017, of the world’s estimated uranium resources (6,142,600 tonnes), 30% were in Australia (1,673,000 tonnes).
That needs to be remembered because although there never has been a strong appetite for nuclear power in Australia (and it diminished further after the Fukushima Disaster in 2011) many countries do and have a well established nuclear power industry and would gladly take Australian uranium for their reactors.
Australia’s uranium has been mined since 1954, and three mines (Ranger, NT) Olympic Dam, SA and Beverly, WA) are currently operating.
Mining uranium was banned in Queensland in 1989 by the incoming Labor government.
It was repealed by the Newman government in 2012, and then banned again in 2015 by the Palaszczuk government.
Mary Kathleen was one of the largest producers of uranium as yellowcake and sales supplied material primarily intended for USA and UK weapons programs and some electricity production until its contracts ran out.
The development of civil nuclear power stimulated a second wave of exploration activity in the late 1960s.
Mary Kathleen began recommissioning its mine and mill in 1974 and its second production phase was 1976 to the end of 1982.
Today the largest prospective Queensland mine is Paladin’s Valhalla, 40 km north of Mount Isa, with an estimated 8Mlbpa idled capacity.
The Queensland Resource Council is calling on the inquiry to reopen the industry here on economic grounds. And for export only, it is a call the North West Star supports.
Source: The North West Star