Australia’s uranium reserves are the world’s largest, with around one-third of global resources. Australia is also the world’s third largest producer behind Kazakhstan and Canada.
Australia generated $564 million in export earnings from uranium in FY2021-22 with potential for further growth as recent global energy trends reinforce the benefits of nuclear generation, including energy security, low emissions and reliable supply.
Australia’s uranium can only be used for peaceful purposes under bilateral agreements with customer countries.
Uranium for nuclear technology extends beyond energy production to the production of medicines for life saving diagnosis and treatment.
Australia’s uranium industry will continue to supply fuel for affordable, base-load, zero emissions electricity to people around the world.
The MCA Uranium Forum provides a national and international perspective on global nuclear fuel activities. The forum is focused on ensuring the Australian uranium industry is globally recognised as a safe, responsible, transparent and successful supplier of fuel for clean electricity generation.
The MCA will also continue to advocate for the lifting of the nuclear energy ban in Australia. Nuclear energy was banned less than two decades ago in Australia, a decision that has cost the nation significant global investment and scientific collaboration on new nuclear technologies.
The good news is the nuclear ban can be reversed with a single amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Nuclear energy is a safe, readily deployable, zero emissions power source and should be included in Australia’s energy mix. It provides around 10 per cent of the world’s power, safely providing zero emission electricity to billions of people in more than 30 countries.
Advanced nuclear technologies like small modular reactors (SMRs) are ideally suited for Australia where they can work with intermittent power sources like wind and solar and provide zero emission 24/7 power in regional and remote areas. Australia, with its educated workforce, established uranium, nuclear research and university sectors and strong non-proliferation credentials, would be a partner of choice for private venture capital-funded new nuclear power.
Regulation within Australia
In Australia, uranium mining is currently allowed only in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia with exploration allowed in New South Wales. The Northern Territory is required to give effect to the advice of the Commonwealth Government before approving mines. Additional laws are in place to manage radiation protection.
Uranium mining is a prescribed nuclear action under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Before any uranium mine can be developed in Australia, it must be assessed and approved by the federal and state or territory governments. A typical assessment and approval process takes at least three years from referral to ministerial approval.
All mining activity, including uranium mining, has an environmental impact which is moderated through environment assessment and approval processes, mining conditions and performance monitoring and reporting. The environmental performance of the uranium industry is scrutinised comprehensively with detailed reporting requirements.
Australia works with other countries under “nuclear non-proliferation” arrangements to ensure uranium is only used for peaceful purposes. The Australian uranium industry strongly supports efforts to uphold and strengthen these arrangements. Australian uranium can only be sold to countries with which Australia has a nuclear cooperation agreement, and has safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including an Additional Protocol. Australian legislation covering the regulation of uranium is managed by the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO). Under our nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries, our uranium is measured through the nuclear fuel cycle. ASNO is responsible for checking where Australian uranium is used overseas. This information is reported to the government and Parliament once a year. Australia now has 24 nuclear cooperation agreements in force, allowing exports to 42 countries.