A study is being undertaken on value adding to Australia's current level of Australian production by a mine or mines to upgrade the mine export product.

In answer to a question from Mineweb Jim Graham of Denver-based ConverDyn said his understanding was that an evaluation was being made to advance processing and that this may see new processing facilities at mine sites to minimise transport and other costs.

Graham was a keynote speaker at the AusIMM International Uranium Conference in Adelaide.

For some time there has been talk of taking Australian uranium processing a step further, but the talks known to involve officials of the South Australian Government and perhaps Olympic Dam's owner BHP Billiton have been under wraps.

One senior mining executive at the conference told Mineweb that the proposed upgrading would undoubtedly be to go the step beyond yellowcake, the production of uranium hexachloride.

While this may be most logical for South Australia's Olympic Dam, which holds more than one third of world uranium resources, there are two other established mines in Australia - Energy Resources of Australia Ltd's long-running Ranger mine in the Northern Territory and Heathgate Resources' in situ recovery mine at Beverley in SA.

Graham -- who spent several years working on uranium mines and processing operations in Australia and North America - is chief executive of ConverDyn which is associated with both Honeywell International and General Atomics in the U.S. and is a specialist company in the nuclear fuel cycle.

By coincidence General Atomics is the owner of Heathgate Resources which is now developing a second ISR mine close to Beverley, at Four Mile which is owned 75% by Heathgate and 25% by Australian-listed Alliance Resources Ltd.  Four Mile will utilise the Beverley plant.

Graham said there were now 339 operating nuclear power plants in the world, and the dominant countries were the U. S. (104), France (48), Japan and Russia.

There are currently 39 reactors under construction around the world, and reports show that as many as 100 were now in blueprint. The assessment of some parties was that to keep pace with global energy demands there may need to be 32 new reactors built annually through to 2050.

At this stage nuclear power provides 16% of global power requirements that are dominated by coal and gas.

His presentation indicated that many countries will be facing huge challenges with energy issues, particularly those devoid of any major energy self sufficiency such as Italy.

Graham's assessment was that on global terms nuclear power was going to cost $US1.72 per kilowatt hour, coal $US2.37, gas $US6.75 and oil $US9.63.

He said the awakening to nuclear power has been spurred by issues that concern all people in the world - global energy demand, global warming and climate change, a need for base load power, energy security, energy economics, fuel diversification, long-term fuel supplies and safety.

Nuclear power is clearly needed to meet the challenge of finding a resolution to these pertinent issues.

He said responsibility must be taken to ensure the expansions (of nuclear facilities) are thoughtful and responsible to our environment. Safety and best practice are the ultimate goal.