Week 1 - Exploration, Extraction and Milling

Do you think the market for uranium produced in South Australia will expand or contract in the future? Why?


  1. Whether the the market for uranium produced in South Australia will expand or contract in the future is largely in the hands of this Royal Commision. There can be little doubt that relevant, already published evidence shows that the already accepted health and economic risks of underground uranium mining at Olympic Dam, are less than the risks and known of electricity generation at Leigh Creek. Hence the South Australian electricity generation market should increase from its [zero] base.

    Just how far and fast it may expand will depend on the Australian electricity market, but on published evidence, South Australian nuclear power stations could and should be safer and more economic than established and foreseeable fossil fuel base stations in South East Australia. The political and economic consequences of such a reversal are likely to result in special pleading in and by other states, particularly as people are drawn from them, and around the world, to South Australia. I hope to be one of the first, even before the Royal Commissions findings are published.

  2. Because climate change is such a dire problem and pollution and deaths caused by fossil fuels increasing, the market will expand to fill the need of countries, such as China, which are building new nuclear power stations to replace fossil fuels and act as baseload support for wind and solar. Once IFRs are built waste stockpiles will be consumed as fuel but eventually, more uranium will need to be mined and shipped worldwide.

    1. Christine,

      You are perfectly correct but the Commission should know that the scale is 200 +1000Mw reactors in China alone. Then there is India and other developing countries. In fact there will be a uranium supply shortage with 3-4 years.


      1. There is no shortage of uranium. The fuel cost is relatively low, and capital cost large. Australia has some 6,000 years of resources for the entire globe, and its not even looking for it. There are probably 70 uranium explorers with substantive resources in & out of Australia.

  3. Supply of uranium worldwide at the moment is surplus to demand, resulting in the current relatively low price. There does not appear to be any reason that the market for this commodity will be different to any other. Demand will surely grow as the relative price of fossil fuels – notably coal and gas – increases in the long term with lesser supply consistent with extraction and use of the best sources. The east coast gas market in Australia will be a good example soon of supply and demand, since our major gas provinces (Cooper Basin and Bass Strait) are in their declining phases. There will be a growing demand for SA uranium, but other sources will open up as price lifts. It’s not that rare. So we should be value adding as much as possible, since processing is a major barrier to entry. Lots of companies and countries can enter the yellowcake supply chain, but few have the technology, educated workforce and stable political system for processing. All we need in SA is the political gumption to make it happen. If it can be combined in a “nuclear processing centre of excellence”, where we also process waste (high and low level) for long term storage (much further away in the remote inland to community acceptance reasons only), we could become a front runner with a substantial competitive advantage. Good work NFCRC.

  4. What do personal opinions about market expansion or contraction have to do with the RC’s recommendations? The market for SA uranium will depend on price competition with other producers around the world – of which there are a few – and not the RC. The RC can only consider the supply and demand for uranium and decide whether to recommend increased mining and processing. Ask an energy economist or stockbroker for an informed opinion.

    The RC should of course consult BHP Billiton and find out why that company shelved plans to expand the Roxby Downs copper-uranium mine. If there was a demand for either of those metals that SA could have economically supplied, the expansion would have gone ahead.

    It’s not helped by the rapid uptake of renewables and their cost advantage over fossil and nuclear fuels. Recently it was reported that Denmark’s offshore wind farms (the most expensive form of wind)generate energy much more cheaply than gas or nuclear – see RenewEconomy and Energy Post. The projected cost of Hinkley Point C nuclear PS under construction in the UK plus the unfair bid preferences to be given to it, plus the massive decommissioning costs of existing nuclear plants there don’t help the prospects of nuclear power. For these reasons the market for SA uranium doesn’t look good to me. But I could be wrong.

  5. Human health and birth defects will increasingly make people hostile to nuclear.
    It is expensive in all regards, in plant, in ongoing maintenance costs, in environmental impact, in fuelling the interest in war. We already have depleted uranium issues in communities which have been targeted for war. It looks as though USA / AU are hostile to China, Russia, Syria, Iran, Indonesia, so if those relationships are attenuated by people desperate to sell uranium for weapons to get a return on investment then the radiation load of the planet is unlikely to sustain healthy life anywhere.

    Private prisons is another industry where it is perverse or sociopathic to try and generate a growth market. It would be interesting if companies who have already participated in generation the radiation problems around the world got into harness to reduce and resolve those issues rather than waving them away as someone else’s problem. If you can harness radiation in the environment and take it out of circulation by using it then you could have an interesting technology for bioremediation.

    It is not the uranium which will have a growth market but the strategies for reducing radiation and damage which are likely to be interesting into the future as existing leaks continue. Waste dumps are a liability not a solution. Ways to denature the problem will be increasingly vital. Ways to contain or reduce damage for all of those nations buying into nuclear as a quick fix will help to reduce the radiation load. Data on environmental loads and impact on species from the base of the food chain upwards will be valuable. Species which concentrate or collect radiation may have to be a part of the way it is taken out of the environment but would need to be separately fostered or farmed to help them survive as a healthy species into the future. Can you reliably create those kinds of safe environments for whole ecologies? Can you make those pervasive?

    Asbestos is now solely a remediation ‘product’ or service.
    Thalidomide is solely a health issue.
    Environmental radiation is already a market for remediation.

    This proposal for nuclear industries is just a nice way of saying you want to have a nuclear dump in SA. That is not a constructive path for the region in any way. Particularly while all of the approaches to containing waste are flawed and the need to contain has an unresolved halflife. Shipping waste around the world and finding soft targets for dumping it will not reduce the pervasive load on the planet. It just reduces safe food sources. If you want to have a growth market take an honest look at the implications of nations shifting to nuclear on everyone’s access to safe food and water.
    Like the plastic gyres it is a pervasive debt which we need to find a way to undo.
    Unlike the plastic the radiation has a proactive universal and generational impact which cannot be reversed so the need for fast innovative denaturing solutions is critical if we want to continue to have a living planet. Start now!

    1. Uranium and other isotopes are all around us now. Granites contain anomalous concentrations. The issue is:
      a. Safe use
      b. Anticipation of threats, whether terrorism, natural disasters – a non-threat to AustraliA
      C. Commercial sense, i.e. not subsidised on the basis of dubious rationalisations, whether global warming or ‘downstream’ industry benefits.

      If this is a reason for developing nuclear, then let’s do a dummy pass and allow that opportunity to go to Korea or India. Any project needs to be justified on its own merits, and all externalities priced into insurance; not socialised so that the taxpayer pays the price.