Uranium supply set to cover demand for years to come

GLOBAL supplies of uranium are expected to meet world demand for the foreseeable future, regardless of the role nuclear energy ultimately plays in meeting future electricity demand and global climate objectives, analysis by the Nuclear Energy Association has found.
Uranium supply set to cover demand for years to come Uranium supply set to cover demand for years to come Uranium supply set to cover demand for years to come Uranium supply set to cover demand for years to come Uranium supply set to cover demand for years to come

The NEA expects global supplies of uranium to meet world demand for the foreseeable future

Staff reporter

However, the intergovernmental agency warned the significant investment and technical expertise required to bring idled uranium production capacity and resources  back into the supply chain in a timely manner, including from mines currently under care and maintenance, was fraught with risk.

The NEA reported the findings in the latest edition of ‘Uranium 2018: Resources, Production and Demand', also known as the ‘Red Book', a world reference jointly prepared every two years by the NEA and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

According to the Red Book, the world's identified uranium resources stand at 6.14 million tonnes of insitu uranium, for uranium oxide recoverable at cost below US$130/kg.

Installed nuclear capacity is projected to shift from about 391 gigawatts net at the beginning of 2017, to between about 331GWe (low case) and 568 GWe (high case) by 2035. The low case represents a decrease of about 15% from 2016 nuclear generating capacity, while the high case represents an increase of about 45%.

By 2025, the high case scenario projection sees an increase of 10%, indicating  significant expansion activities are already afoot in several countries.

The high case projection to 2025 has declined by 15% compared with projections made in 2016, as policies concerning climate change mitigation are still unclear and financing is uncertain. The NEA has reduced its expectations of nuclear capacity additions in several countries, including Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, China, the Czech Republic, Korea, Turkey, Ukraine, the UK and the US.

This was the result of fewer construction launches in China in recent years, falling to 2.3GW in 2016 and only 0.6GW in 2017. The high case global projection to 2035 has also decreased by about 17% compared with the last 2016 publication of the Red Book.

The NEA found North America's uranium output totaled 15,018t in 2016, which was 24% of world production. Brazil's output had been in a tailspin, falling to 44t in 2015 from 55t in 2014, and no production reported for 2016.

Primary uranium production in 2016 within the European Union (EU) was from the Czech Republic. Total EU production amounted to 190t in 2016, including minor amounts from France, Germany and Hungary from mine remediation activities.

Output from non-EU countries in Europe in 2016 amounted to 3813t, which was lower compared to 2014, although production in Russia increased by 14t. The Ukraine's output decreased by 146t.

In 2016, uranium production in Russia amounted to 3005t, of which 1873t were produced using the conventional underground mining method and 1132t was produced using the in situ leach method.

Increases in production in the Middle East, Central and South Asia continued into 2016 with a total of 29,177t produced. This was driven mainly by Kazakhstan, where production increased from 22,781t in 2014 to 23,806t in 2015, and 24,689t in 2016.

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

China continued to be the only producing country in East Asia, with 1550t produced in 2014, 1600t in 2015 and 1650t in 2016.

Australia is the only producing country in the Pacific region. Production increased steadily from 5000t in 2014 to 5636t in 2015 and 6313t in 2016, according to the NEA.