Australia's uranium industry on the up

Australia's uranium industry is heating up with global demand for uranium putting pressure on the supply and providing opportunities for Australian exporters.

This presents exciting possibilities for Australia's uranium industry because of the use of nuclear power around the world, according to federal minister for energy and resources Gary Gray, speaking at the Australian Uranium Association's (AUA) annual conference in Canberra.

While nuclear power may be controversial, especially in light of the recent Fukushima disaster, it is utilised to a great extent around the world to produce energy . According to Mr Gray, this year the world's 435 nuclear generators need 20 per cent more uranium that could be partially sourced from Australian mines.

"This year these power generators will need more than 66,000 tonnes of uranium but current global mine production is at only 55,000 tonnes," said Mr Gray.

"The shortfall is largely being met from secondary sources, such as re-processing highly enriched weapons-grade uranium from the former Soviet Republic."

Australia doesn't have any of its own nuclear generating facilities, as many Australians are against the use of nuclear energy in the country. Opponents of the idea cite coal and gas resources as well as vast renewable energy potential as reasons why going nuclear is not necessary. Various governments have also taken a stand against the prospect of introducing nuclear into the electricity generation mix.

However, despite Australia's current nuclear-free position, the country still does happen to have the world's largest uranium reserves. The nation has 33 per cent of the world's reasonably recoverable uranium resources, which have been mined since 1954. Currently, various mines are operating in the Northern Territory and South Australia, employing around 1,200 people and providing a large export industry for the country.

In fact, Australia has more than one million more tonnes of mineable uranium than Kazakhstan - the second most uranium-rich nation in the world.

Demand isn't set to slow down, either. A total of 66 nuclear power generators are currently under construction around the world, two-thirds of which are being built in Asia. Others are being planned and proposed for the future, especially in China and India where high electricity prices and inadequate infrastructure in some areas mean certain populations currently have no access to electricity at all.

Mr Gray also stated that by 2034, demand for power in China will grow to more than the current level of the US and Japan combined.

Posted by Charlie Moore