October 22, 2012

Newman Lifts Uranium Mining Ban In Queensland - Breaking News

Published on Monday October 22 2012 (AEST)

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has announced he is ending the state's decades-long ban on uranium mining. The State Government decision reverses the position Mr Newman's Liberal National Party took to the election in March. Uranium has not been mined in Queensland since the closure of the Mary Kathleen mine in the state's north-west in 1982. 

The Queensland Resources Council says Queensland holds about $18 billion worth of known uranium reserves, mostly in the state's north-west. Announcing the decision today, Mr Newman said the Federal Government's decision to press ahead with plans to sell uranium to India had sparked renewed interest in the sector.


The Uranium Mining Association immediately welcomed the surprise announcement.

PREMIER Campbell Newman has announced an end to the 30-year ban on uranium mining in Queensland, appointing a three-person committee to oversee its resumption. 
The announcement follows a State Cabinet meeting in Goondiwindi, where the government discussed a policy review of the uranium mining ban.
Mr Newman said they agreed to allow the recommencement of uranium mining, following "sustained public debate on uranium mining in Queensland and strong support for the uranium industry from the Federal Labor Government".
"The Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just been in India selling the benefits of Australian-produced uranium to India, prompting many in the community to ask about the industry's potential in Queensland," said the Premier.
"It's been 30-years since there was uranium mining in this State and in that time the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia have carved out successful uranium industries that deliver jobs and properity to their regions."

Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said with Queensland's known uranium deposits worth an estimated $10 billion, the industry had enormous potential to support economic growth, particularly in regional North Queensland.
Mr Cripps said the State Government would not consider nuclear energy production or nuclear waste disposal plants in Queensland as part of the recommencement of uranium mining.
Uranium mining has not occurred in Queensland since 1982 and has been effectively prohibited since the election of the Goss Labor Government in 1989.
Exploration for uranium has not been subject to the prohibition and there has been significant continuing interest from the industry in exploring for uranium in the State.

October 19, 2012

High Activity In Store For Uranium Market

Published on Friday October 19 2012 (AEST)


As the demand for nuclear energy increases across the globe, engineering consultancy and project management services company Amec expects the next few years to be a period of high activity and for the uranium and the nuclear power market. Amec principal process engineer Alan Drake says uranium prices, which are currently depressed, are set to recover, which should see an increase in the number of lower-grade ore deposits being targeted. 

To fully capitalise on the uranium market, says Drake, the uranium price would need to remain sustainable in the present and long term, coupled with a strong appetite for developing uranium production. “Ultimately, the price of uranium will determine the extent to which uranium mines are developed. “If we look at where uranium demand is currently and where it’s expected to be in the coming years – taking into account the number of nuclear power plants that are currently being built or planned – the exploration of lower-grade ore deposits is a definite option,” he says. 

 He notes that the price of uranium is going to be the driving force that gets many of these lower-grade deposits off the ground and the outlook is good for the medium and long term. Another factor fuelling the demand for the commodity is that some of the current large suppliers of uranium are not going to be around to supply this demand in the coming years. Drake cites as an example the highly enriched uranium down-blending agreement between the US and Russia, which entails about 25-million pounds of uranium a year and is set to expire in 2013. This will result in a uranium shortfall of 25-million pounds, which constitutes about 40% of the US’s requirements. Drake says that, owing to the lower-grade ore being mined, innovation in the treatment and processing of the ore needs to be considered. 

 Over the last two decades, there has not been a driving need to change the way uranium was processed, largely owing to the slowdown in demand over that period. Currently, however, there needs to be a different, if not better, way of processing the mineral, as increasing numbers of lower-grade deposits are being explored. “There is no doubting the fact that the standard processes work, but they haven’t been challenged to be more cost effective. “This opens up a number of avenues for companies to study the processing trends of uranium to yield large cost-saving benefits and accommodate these lower grade ore bodies,” he says.

While considering alternative process routes for a recent uranium project, Drake says that Amec metallurgists considered how nanofiltration and membrane technology could be employed. “Twenty years ago, membrane technology was an expensive, unexplored and untested option. “Today, however, membrane technology has become more cost effective and, although not yet a fully mature technology, it is now more common and much more can be done with it.

” Drake notes that AMEC has gone as far as initiating pilot plant testwork using the technology and demonstrating that it was indeed possible to replace solvent extraction with membrane technology. 


October 12, 2012

Areva Namibian Trekkopje Uranium Mine On Hold

Published on Friday October 12 2012 (AEST)  

Energy giant Areva said Thursday it is suspending work at a new Namibian uranium mine currently under construction due to low uranium prices. “Areva will postpone the launch of the Trekkopje mine until the project's economy improves,” the Namibian office of Areva said in a statement. 

The French company cited a decrease in uranium prices coupled with the scale of investments yet to be made on site as reasons for the move. “In October 2011, the decline in uranium prices resulting from the nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan forced a slowdown,” a statement said. 

The mine is situated in the Namib Desert, some 300 kilometres (190 miles) west of the capital Windhoek. Construction work already underway will be completed by the end of December 2012, while existing installations will be put under a $10 million a year structured care and maintenance programme. 

The objective is to “restart the project in the best possible conditions as soon as the overall market environment allows it,” Areva said. The decision could mean job losses, but the firm said it would offer “accompanying measures” to affected workers. “Areva is committed to stay in Namibia over the long term,” it said.

October 6, 2012

Confusion Over Japan Reactor Restart Approvals

Published on Saturday October 06 2012 (AEST)  

Japan's newly established Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) aims to have a new safety legal framework in place by July 2013 to enable the country's idled nuclear power reactors to restart. However, it is currently unclear who will ultimately be responsible for authorizing restarts. 

An initial set of criteria will be drafted by the NRA by March 2013. These criteria will then be open for public consultation after which they will be redrafted. The NRA aims to have these safety requirements written into law by July 2013. The NRA said that utilities will be able to apply for inspections prior to July 2013, although the NRA would not give its final conclusion on those inspections until after the legislation has been passed. However, there appears to be confusion as to who will ultimately be responsible for granting approval for reactors to restart. 

The authority has previously lain with the government, but this now looks likely to pass to the NRA. Permission was granted by prime minister Yoshihiko Noda in June for two reactors to resume operation. After a meeting with Edano and two other cabinet colleagues, Noda announced that the two units at Kansai Electric Power Company's (Kepco's) Ohi plant in Fukui prefecture had been given clearance to restart in order to prevent power shortages in the region. Both units were back at full power by the end of July. Last week, industry minister Yukio Edano said that reactors would be permitted to resume operation "if the Nuclear Regulation Authority has given the green light to safety and if local governments have shown their understanding.

" This suggested that once clearing safety checks by the NRA, utilities would need to seek permission from local governments for the restart of their reactors. The central government, Edano said, "is in no position to declare that they are safe." However, chairman of the NRA Shunichi Tanaka said on 3 October that the regulator's responsibility is purely to assess whether a reactor is safe to restart and not to give authorization for their restart. 

Permitting units to resume operation "is a major decision that must be made by somebody, and I believe that our safety assessment plays an important role in making that judgement," Tanaka was quoted a saying by The Japan Times. "But to reactivate the reactors, there are various issues to consider, including gaining permission from local residents and municipal officials, and that is beyond the bounds of our authority."