13 Dec (NucNet): The continued growth of nuclear energy will see demand for uranium continue to rise for the foreseeable future with supply more than adequate to meet projected requirements, according to the latest edition of ‘Uranium – Resources, Production and Demand’, also known as the Red Book.
According to the Red Book, published today by the Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the outlook for nuclear power has decreased since the last publication in 2016.
However, nuclear power is projected to grow in regulated electricity markets with increasing electricity demand and a growing need for low-carbon electricity generation.
“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,” the red Book concludes.
As of 1 January 2017, a total of 449 commercial nuclear reactors were connected to the grid globally, with a net generating capacity of 391 GW net requiring about 62,825 tonnes of uranium metal (tU) annually.
Taking into account changes in policies in several countries and revised nuclear programmes, world nuclear capacity is projected to grow to between 331 GW net in the low demand case and 568 GW net in the high demand 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%.
The world’s identified uranium resources are reported to be 6,142,200 tU, which can be recovered at a cost of $130 per kg or less. These are recoverable, reasonably assured and inferred resources and this represents an increase of 7.4% on the total reported in 2016.
According to the Red Book, global uranium mine production increased by 3% from 2015 to 2016. However, production has started to decline with 59,342 tU produced in 2017 and further reductions expected in 2018 as major producing countries, including Canada and Kazakhstan, limit total production in response to the sustained low price of uranium.
Kazakhstan’s growth in production continued, but at a much slower pace, and it remains the world’s largest producer reporting production of 23,806 tU in 2015 and 24,689 tU in 2016. Production in 2016 from Kazakhstan totalled more than the combined production reported in 2016 from both Canada and Australia, the second and third largest producers of uranium, respectively.
The Red Book says worldwide exploration and mine development expenditure as of 1 January 2017 totalled $663,678m, a large, 59% decrease over 2014 figures. Significant decreases were reported for Australia, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Namibia, Russia and the US. Kazahkstan reported an increase in expenditure from $34.7m to $60.9m from 2014 to 2015, but this was followed by a sharp decline to $23.9m in 2016.
The decline in exploration and development expenditure reflects an adjustment within the industry in response to oversupply, which began with the depressed uranium market in the middle of 2011.
Though some of these increases are due to new discoveries, most result from re-evaluations of previously identified uranium resources. Strong market conditions will be fundamental to attracting the required investment to the industry.
Australia still dominates the world’s uranium resources with about 55% of the total identified resources in two cost categories. Kazakhstan is second with approximately 25% in the same categories.
Details online: https://bit.ly/2RZ20si