Professor Mike Sandiford of the University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Sciences questions whether Australia has enough uranium to supply the growing global nuclear power industry, as an alternative to fossil fuels.
BHP is set to develop Australia’s first and biggest uranium mine in more than 20 years, in Western Australia. The plans have been submitted after the Liberal West Australian Government's removal of the longstanding ban on uranium mines.
“Australia has by far the largest reserves of uranium of any country in the world. It is not the biggest supplier but this new mine will make it amongst the biggest suppliers and expand the reserves that we have to meet the growing demand for uranium,” Professor Sandiford says.
“There is a concern however that our uranium supply might not meet the demand provided by growth of nuclear reactors around the world.”
Professor Sandiford says there is an urgent need to generate new stationary energy supplies to replace fossil fuels.
"Nuclear energy is having a resurgence. More and more countries are looking at meeting growing demand for stationary energy by building reactors.”
“The consequences of rising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are severe. We need to look at all alternative possibilities, for which nuclear is one of them. However it will be no good converting our stationary energy supply to nuclear if we couldn’t supply the uranium.”
Professor Sandiford adds that there is also an urgent need to understand how to deal with the waste. He says there is hope that future technologies could more efficiently burn some of the waste.
“It could turn from waste to resource but at the moment it’s accumulating at a rapid rate, at the cost of future generations.”
“I think we should develop technologies to secure it and there is a great deal of opportunity in Australia to do so.”
“Other parts around the world provide equally stable geological environments to provide a home for all the waste, which should go back in the earth from which all the uranium came.”