Australian uranium policy moves on

30 April 2007

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) has finally abandoned its 'no new mines' policy on uranium dating from 1982. The party's national conference has voted to stop blocking licenses for new uranium mines.

The ALP is in opposition at the federal level, yet controls Australian states and therefore can set the mining policies at that level. Now, each state's government could make its own decision on new uranium mine license applications without the constraint of a national party policy.

Australia holds around 30% of the world's known uranium reserves, and the price of the mineral has climbed consistently since the start of 2004. Uranium exploration expenditure in Australia is now running at around A$100 million ($83 million) per year, up tenfold in three years, and this development is expected to boost investment further by promising reduced political risk.

The Labor premiers of Queensland and Western Australia, Peter Beattie and Alan Carpenter respectively, have both indicated that their personal negative policies on uranium mining would remain, but South Australian premier Mike Rann is keen to encourage new mines.

However, the ALP conference was upstaged by an announcement from prime minister John Howard that his Liberal coalition government would proceed to open the way for nuclear power in Australia by setting up a nuclear regulatory regime and applying to join the Generation-IV International Forum developing advanced reactor designs for deployment about 2025.  

It would also take steps to remove any impediments to uranium mining. "Policies or political platforms that seek to constrain the development of a safe and reliable Australian uranium industry - and which rule out the possibility of climate-friendly nuclear energy - are not really serious about addressing climate change in a practical way that does not strangle the Australian economy."

Further information

WNA's Australia's uranium and who buys it information paper

WNN: Australian uranium debate
WNN: "Nuclear power is part of Australia's future"