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Tuesday, 1 May 1984
Page: 1438

(Question No. 702)

Senator Bolkus asked the Minister for Resources and Energy, upon notice, on 7 March 1984:

(1) Is the Minister for Resources and Energy aware of a recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency on the state of the uranium industry, reported in the Australian Financial Review on 28 February 1984.

(2) Does the report state that a continued fall in production combined with existing huge stockpiles of uranium mean that new supplies are unlikely to be needed at least until the turn of the century.

(3) Does the report cast doubt on the viability of the planned Olympic Dam project.

(4) Has the Federal Government made an economic assessment of the proposed uranium mine at Roxby Downs in South Australia; if so, can the Minister provide information indicating the viability or otherwise of the Olympic Dam project in South Australia; if not, will the Government initiate an assessment of the economic viability of the project in view of this recent report.

Senator Walsh —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) If Senator Bolkus is referring to the joint publication by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency titled 'Uranium-Resources, Production and Demand', yes.

(2) No. The joint report by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and International Atomic Energy Agency states that: 'A comparison between short term production capability and reactor requirements indicates that the production from existing and committed facilities could continue to cover reactor requirements until the end of this decade.' The report also examines the level of stockpiles held by utilities and states that: 'the need for new production facilities could be delayed if utilities draw down their stocks, or even slightly advanced if a high forward coverage is maintained.'

(3) No.

(4) No. The question of the commercial feasibility of development of the Olympic Dam project at Roxby Downs is one for the joint venturers. It will depend on their assessment of the future market for copper, as well as uranium. The Government has decided that if a commercial decision to proceed with the development of the Olympic Dam project were to be made by the joint venturers, the Government would permit the export of uranium produced from that mine, subject to the safeguards arrangements applied generally to uranium exports at the time of export.