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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1087


Senator JONES —Has the Minister for Resources and Energy seen an article published in the Melbourne Herald on 16 March, and similar articles in several other newspapers, claiming that Japan has revised downwards its forward projection of nuclear energy capacity? What effect, if any, will this have on Australian uranium suppliers?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I am aware of the article referred to, which has been repeated in a number of newspapers in recent days, which asserts that Japan's projected nuclear energy capacity for the year 2000 has been revised downward from 90 million kilowatts to 53 million kilowatts by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission. In the article a number of resulting implications have been drawn about falling demand potential for Australian uranium. I am not aware, however, of any previous nuclear energy plan in Japan which targeted a 90 million kilowatt capacity for the turn of the century. Australian thinking at both industry and governmental level on the likely future size of the Japanese uranium market has been based on much lower, although still substantial, official forecasts. For example, the official Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry `Long Term Energy Supply and Demand Outlook' published in November 1983 contained a projection of 62 million kilowatts for the year 2000. This figure was also used in MITI's `Nuclear Energy Vision' published in Japan in July last year. More recently, in November 1986, the Japanese Institute of Energy Economics published forecasts of 51 million kilowatts for the year 2000 and 69 million kilowatts for the year 2010. It appears that the reported new forecast of 53 million kilowatts is more a case of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission bringing its official forecasts into line with current reality than a formal decision not to proceed with some proposed construction of nuclear generating plant by the turn of the century. This being the case, the implication in the newspaper articles that Australian uranium suppliers are unlikely to increase their sales to Japan is well astray of the truth. As the articles note, nuclear energy is already Japan's largest source of electricity and its slice of the power supply will continue to grow.

Let me mention finally, even though I can see Senator Lewis getting twitchy because the answer it not entertaining enough for him-mercifully, Question Time does not exist for his edification-that in fact a capacity of 53 million kilowatts by the year 2000 would be more than double the existing Japanese capacity of about 24 1/2 million kilowatts. It is clear that an expansion of this magnitude would greatly increase Japanese demand for uranium, opening up significant new export opportunities for Australian uranium suppliers, in terms of both overall sales and market share.