Nuclear Power in Australia

Australia has large energy resources with significant petroleum, natural gas and coal reserves. Energy consumption is dominated by coal, which fuels most of the country’s power generation. Petroleum accounts for a large share of energy consumption, but due to declining output, the country is facing a growing dependence on petroleum imports. Over the past two decades, Australia has steadily consumed increasing amounts of natural gas, which is likely to continue over the medium term. Australia is a major energy exporter, with exports amounting to 69% of production in 2008. Australia is the world’s fourth largest coal producer. Rapidly rising living standards consume much of the energy produced and the continent faces increasing fears of drought.

Australia has no nuclear power plants. However, Australia has 23% of the world’s uranium deposits and is the world’s third largest producer of uranium after Kazakhstan and Canada. At the same time Australia’s extensive, low-cost coal and natural gas reserves have historically been used as strong arguments for avoiding nuclear power.

The Australian government lifted a ban on the mining of uranium at the end of 2009.

In February 2010 the Prime Minister of Australia announced that the country will not develop nuclear power plants for civil purposes.

Australia has operated a research reactor since 1956.

Following various studies, in November 2006 a report considering nuclear power was released. It found nuclear power expensive and only competitive if carbon costs are included but stated that the first nuclear plants could be running in 15 years, and looking beyond that, 25 reactors at coastal sites could supply one third of Australia’s electricity demand by 2050, which will be twice the present level.

In 2007 the government proposed the development of nuclear power but was defeated by the opposition.

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