Australia’s uranium industry holds enormous opportunity for jobs and export revenue growth as governments around the world continue to adopt policies to deal with climate constraints.  However, such opportunities will only be realisable if Australia undergoes policy reform making Australia a more attractive uranium investment destination, and a more competitive supplier.

These findings are contained in a new report by leading economists Professor Sinclair Davidson and Dr Ashton de Silva.  The report, commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), is titled ‘Realising Australia’s Uranium Potential’ and provides an economic analysis of the uranium industry contribution to the Australian economy, as well as its potential in the years ahead under various assumptions and scenarios.

The upshot is that Australia’s uranium industry could expand from its current state of around 3000 direct and indirect jobs and $600 million per annum value, to over $9 billion per annum value with over 20,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2040.

Professor Davidson and Dr de Silva show that expansion potential in Australia’s uranium sector is substantial and based on two key variables: growth in nuclear power generation worldwide, and growth in Australia’s share of global uranium production. 

How much nuclear power grows worldwide will be determined by factors almost entirely outside of Australia.  However, their modelling was based on scenarios developed by the International Energy Agency (IEA) highlighting that the more countries execute policies to mitigate climate change, the more nuclear power will grow.

More importantly, Professor Davidson and Dr de Silva show that the most significant variable is largely within Australian control; and that is the share of global production.  Despite having almost a third of the world’s uranium, Australia produces just 10 per cent of global production.  With vision, policy reform, and state and federal commitments to increase competitiveness and investment attractiveness, Australia could target a share of global production closer to its resource endowment.

The economists show that in the process, Australia could reap substantial benefit in jobs and export revenue; particularly if government policies around the world continue to encourage emissions reduction in energy production.  Such scenarios could see Australian uranium fuelling as much as 5 per cent of the world’s electricity generation with zero emissions coming out of nuclear reactors.  This would be an outstanding contribution to global low emissions electricity generation.

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