Latest Data Shows Long-Term Security of Uranium Supply

  • Date: 21/07/10

According to Uranium 2009: Resources, Production and Demand just published by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), uranium resources, production and demand are all on the rise. Exploration efforts have increased recently in line with the expected expansion of nuclear energy in the coming years. Total identified resources have grown but so too have costs of production.

Worldwide exploration and mine development expenditures have more than doubled since the publication of the previous edition, Uranium 2007: Resources, Production and Demand. These expenditures have increased despite declining uranium market prices since mid-2007.

The uranium resources presented in this edition, reflecting the situation as of 1 January 2009, show that total identified resources amounted to 6 306 300 tU, an increase of about 15% compared to 2007, including those reported in the high-cost category (<USD 260/kgU or <USD 100/lbU3O8), reintroduced for the first time since the 1980s. This high-cost category was used in the 2009 edition in response to the generally increased market prices for uranium in recent years, despite the decline since mid-2007, expectations of increasing demand as new nuclear power plants are being planned and built, and increased mining costs. Although total identified resources have increased overall, there has been a significant reduction in lower-cost resources owing to increased mining costs. At 2008 rates of consumption, total identified resources are sufficient for over 100 years of supply.

The recognition by an increasing number of governments that nuclear power can produce competitively priced, baseload electricity that is essentially free of greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with the role that nuclear can play in enhancing security of energy supply, increases the prospects for growth in nuclear generating capacity, although the magnitude of that growth remains to be determined.

According to capacity projections developed in this edition, by the year 2035, world nuclear capacity is projected to grow to between 500 and 785 GWe net. Accordingly, world reactor-related uranium requirements are also projected to rise. As observed in the past, increased investment in exploration has resulted in important discoveries and the identification of new resources. It is foreseen that, if market conditions improve further, additional exploration will be stimulated leading to the identification of additional resources of economic interest.

Even in the high-growth scenario to 2035, less than half of the identified resources described in this edition would be consumed. The challenge remains to develop mines in a timely and environmentally sustainable fashion as uranium demand increases. A strong market will be required for these resources to be developed within the time frame required to meet future uranium demand.

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