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Uranium supply expected to meet demand for years to come

Uranium

Analysis by the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has found that regardless of the role nuclear energy will play in meeting future electricity demand and global climate objectives, global supplies of Uranium are projected to meet world demand for the foreseeable future.

The NEA reported its findings in the study, Uranium 2018: Resources, Production and Demand. The bi-annual report is jointly prepared by the NEA and the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Also known as the Red Book, it identified the world’s Uranium resources as standing at 6.14 million tonnes of insitu uranium, for uranium oxide recoverable at cost below $130 per kg.

The report stated: “Despite recent declines in electricity demand in some developed countries, global uranium demand is expected to continue to increase in the next several decades to meet large population needs, particularly in developing countries. Since nuclear power plants produce competitively priced, low-carbon baseload electricity, and the deployment of nuclear power enhances the security of energy supply, it is projected to remain an important component of energy supply. 

“However, the Fukushima Daiichi accident has eroded public confidence in nuclear power in some countries, and prospects for growth in nuclear generating capacity are thus being reduced and are subject to even greater uncertainty than usual. In addition, the abundance of low-cost natural gas in North America and the risk-averse investment climate have reduced the competitiveness of nuclear power plants in liberalised electricity markets. Government and market policies that recognise the benefits of low-carbon electricity production and the security of energy supply provided by nuclear power plants could help alleviate these competitive pressures. Nuclear power nonetheless is projected to grow in regulated electricity markets with increasing electricity demand and a rising need for clean air electricity generation.”

The NEA found that, the wake of recent significant reductions in uranium production, the coming challenges are likely to be those associated with constrained investment capabilities, as a result of depressed market conditions that will push the industry to optimise its activities still further. 

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Uranium bounces back

The report concluded: “The currently defined resource base is more than adequate to meet high case uranium demand through 2035, but doing so will depend upon timely investments to turn resources into refined uranium ready for nuclear fuel production. Challenges remain in the global uranium market with high levels of oversupply and inventories, resulting in continuing pricing pressures. Other concerns in mine development include geopolitical factors, technical challenges and legal and regulatory frameworks.

Kazakhstan is the world’s largest uranium-producing country, contributing 40% of the world’s total mine supply in 2016.

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) was established in 1958. Current NEA membership consists of 33 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

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