13 May 2011 - Resources Minister Ferguson predicts strong growth in uranium sector

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson says a doubling of production by the Australian uranium industry is possible in response to expected strong growth in demand from the world nuclear electricity industry.

Speaking at an industry forum in Sydney, Minister Ferguson said the uranium and nuclear energy sectors would emerge stronger, safer and more resilient from the difficulties surrounding the nuclear emergency at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

Regarding those States where uranium mining is prohibited, Mr Ferguson said continuing world demand for Australia's abundant uranium resource put those state policies under pressure.

"There are identified deposits in Queensland and industry has expressed its interest in potentially developing these. I expect therefore that this is a policy issue that the Queensland Government will continue to confront," the Minister said.

"Uranium exploration and mining have long been banned in New South Wales and Victoria. This limits our knowledge of potential deposits in these states.

"The issue of uranium exploration and mining is something I believe the incoming governments in both New South Wales and Victoria will need to consider," he said.

Mr Ferguson said he believed with planned expansion of existing mines and with proposed new mines Australia would develop the production capacity to meet demand from a near-doubling of the world reactor fleet.

He noted that Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd had put forward a number of proposals to strengthen safety in the nuclear power industry, looking at:  

  • Exploring the possibility of countries operating nuclear power plants concluding bilateral safety agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
  • Through this expanding the IAEA’s safeguards role to include safety auditing;
  • Establishing an independent panel of international experts under the IAEA to analyse and provide advice to augment international cooperation on emergency response and consequence management; and finally
  • Encouraging industry to do more to share compliance techniques.

The Minister's speech is available at http://minister.ret.gov.au/MediaCentre/Speeches/Pages/AustockUraniumConferenceValueandOpportunitiesinUranium.aspx