The Minerals Council of Australia welcomes the progress made by Cameco Australia, Vimy Resources and Toro Energy in moving their projects through the WA EPA environmental review process and achieving objective assessments of their uranium projects.

It is pleasing to see independent, science-based analysis of uranium projects and their environmental impact.  These reviews come after the comprehensive report in May of the South Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission which outlined how South Australia could safely increase its participation in nuclear industries.

It is significant that scientifically-based assessments of Vimy Resources’ Mulga Rocks project and Toro Energy’s Wiluna Stage II project have seen both recommended for approval by the WA EPA.

In a third project - Cameco Australia’s Yeelirrie project – the EPA flagged a concern around subterranean fauna completely unrelated to the production and handling of uranium per se or radiation management.  It found that eight of the nine key environmental factors at Yeelirrie can be managed to meet the EPA’s objectives. 

On one factor, subterranean fauna, the EPA was not satisfied with what was proposed. EPA Chairman Tom Hatton confirmed that the EPA’s recommendation ‘… had nothing to do with uranium or radiation’.  Cameco Australia believes that with further sampling and research, subterranean fauna can be appropriately managed at Yeelirrie and they will work with government agencies and stakeholders to find a way forward.

The EPA’s findings on these three uranium projects show that the bans on uranium mining in Queensland, NSW and Victoria are out-dated and simply not justified.  Uranium can be mined, transported and exported in an environmentally safe manner.

The recent Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission in South Australia recommended the SA government pursue the simplification of state and federal mining approval requirements to deliver a single assessment and approvals process.  All state governments should support and implement this recommendation.

The environmental reviews of these three uranium projects in Western Australia are evidence that not only is this urgently required, but that it is long past time for the remaining states to normalise their uranium policies. Further, the restrictions on transportation to and through ports outside of South Australia and the Northern Territory should be removed so that uranium exports have the most competitive access to markets under the appropriate best practice transportation safety governance.

The IEA projects that by 2040 nuclear energy will expand by 86 per cent in its base case scenario, and over 150 per cent in its carbon constrained scenario.

The SA Royal Commission validated the call to support an increased role in nuclear fuel cycle industries as part of global efforts to generate more electricity with fewer emissions.  There are still over a billion people without access to electricity today, and projections that by mid-century the global population will expand by a further two billion people.

Australia’s uranium sector, with a third of the world’s resources and just 10 per cent of global production, can do more.  With a focus on streamlining the approval process for no environmental cost and the removal of uranium mining prohibitions in states where they are still in place, Australia can ready the next wave of uranium projects in preparation for the market.  The future prize is more export revenue and well-paid jobs for Australia - many in remote communities, and more low emissions sustainable energy for our trading partners.

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