Australia should increase uranium mining and export, according to the draft report of Prime Minister John Howard's expert taskforce considering nuclear power and related matters.
However, the report contained a disappointment for those that hoped Australia might one day host facilities for further parts of the nuclear fuel cycle. It concluded that, although conversion and enrichment of domestic uranium would add significantly to its export value and impediments to that should be removed, the commercial prospect would not be attractive.
Regarding nuclear power, this would be 20-50% more expensive than coal-fired power and (with renewables) it would only be competitive if "low to moderate" costs of about A$ 15-40 (US$ 12-30)per tonne of carbon dioxide are imposed on emissions.
"Nuclear power is the least-cost low-emission technology that can provide base-load power" and has low life cycle impacts environmentally the report said.
It would be possible that the first nuclear plants could be running in 15 years, and looking beyond that, 25 reactors at coastal sites could conceivably supply one third of Australia's (then doubled) electricity demand by 2050. Certainly "the challenge to contain and reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be considerably eased by investment in nuclear plants"because "emission reductions from nuclear power could reach 8 to 18% of national emissions in 2050."
The report also concluded that radioactive waste issues would be manageable for the country and that weapons proliferation would not be exacerbated. "Nuclear power today is a mature, safe and clean means of generating base-load electricity."
Uranium Mining,Processing and Nuclear Energy Review (UMPNER) Draft Report