PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Australian government has finalised two agreements to expand its global uranium exports with India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which are investing in nuclear programmes.
The Australia-India nuclear cooperation agreement would permit Australian companies to start commercial uranium exports to India, which Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said was an important milestone in Australia’s relationship with the Asian country.
“This agreement provides the framework for substantial new trade in energy between Australia and India. The supply of Australian uranium will help India meet its rapidly growing electricity demand,” she added.
The administrative arrangements have been signed and uranium exports can begin immediately.
India is considered the second-fastest growing market for nuclear and is forecast to have about 100 GW of capacity in 2050, making it the third largest market for nuclear after China and the US. According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), India has six nuclear reactors under construction (4 300 MW), 22 planned reactors (21 300 MW) and 35 proposed reactors (40 000 MW).
The federal government has also finalised Australia’s nuclear cooperation agreement with the UAE, paving the way for Australia to supply uranium for use in UAE’s developing nuclear power programme.
The UAE currently has no nuclear reactors operable, but is planning to expand its nuclear significantly. The WNA reports that the UAE has four reactors under construction (5 600 MW) and that it has proposed to build another 10 reactors (14 400 MW).
Bishop said that these agreements set out strict conditions for the peaceful use, safeguarding and security of Australian uranium.
The Australian resources sector has welcomed the signing of the agreements, with the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) saying that the uranium industry was looking forward to building relationships with customers and stakeholders in India and the UAE.
The MCA’s executive director for uranium, Daniel Zavattiero said that the agreements were timely, as they came just days after the release of the International Energy Agency's (IEA’s) latest World Energy Outlook 2015 detailing its projections on nuclear energy growth in India.
According to the IEA's base case scenario, nuclear power generation in India is expected to grow by almost 700% from 2013 to 2040, while the UAE's nuclear programme is targeting delivering electricity to the grid in 2017, and producing nearly a quarter of the country's electricity by 2020.
Australia now has 24 nuclear cooperation agreements in force, allowing exports to 42 countries and Taiwan.
Australia has three operating uranium mines – Ranger, in the Northern Territory; Olympic Dam, in South Australia; and Beverley with Four Mile, in South Australia. Other mines were shut down pending higher uranium prices.
The country produced 5 001 t of uranium in 2014, which is about 9% of global output.