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Domestic and International Considerations Relating to the Development of the Front-End of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle in Australia
James ABBOTT (BA Hons, MERE)
Project submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of MSc (Energy and Resources), UCL Australia.
The Australian or South Australian Government should invest in uranium enrichment company URENCO, which is being privatised. A strategic investment would give Australia access to profits without the risk of developing a new technology, leaving the options open for Australia to construct a future uranium enrichment facility.
As one of the world’s largest producers of uranium, Australia’s current production only transforms uranium ore into yellowcake, which is then exported to other jurisdictions for manufacturing into nuclear fuel. Australia’s lack of vertical integration and the failure to capture significant “value-added” in an environment of growing uranium demand warrants further evaluation.
This research used a microeconomic cost-engineering model to determine whether Australia could profitably operate a conversion and enrichment plant, as well as an estimation of the transport advantage for Australia in supplying South/East Asia (in comparison to incumbent producers). A review of legal impediments to domestic development of the nuclear fuel cycle was also considered.
The economic analysis indicates the uranium conversion could not independently operate in Australia. A conversion and enrichment plant with joint operations would be marginally profitable in Australia.