Uranium Week: Soft Month

Weekly Reports | Apr 04 2017

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By Greg Peel

The Japanese nuclear industry was on the winning side for once last week, with two court rulings going in favour of idled reactors.

The Osaka High Court dismissed an injunction that had left Kansai Electric’s Takahama units 3 and 4 unable to operate despite having been cleared for restart by the regulator. The reactors are now expected to restart within a month or so.

Meanwhile a district court has dismissed an injunction request from local residents to shut down Shikoku Electric’s Ikata unit 3, which was restarted last August to bring the number of operating Japanese reactors to five (notwithstanding scheduled maintenance shutdowns).

The news out of Japan was nevertheless not all good last week. Nuclear reactor construction firm Westinghouse Electric Co, which is a division of Toshiba, has filed for bankruptcy with fiscal year losses totalling potentially in excess of US$9bn. Increasing costs of construction in the US have been blamed. Toshiba will nevertheless continue to build reactors outside of the US.

Uranium industry consultant TradeTech reports the month of March saw a pick-up in demand interest from utilities looking for medium and longer term delivery contracts, but such demand interest did not translate into the spot market. Indeed, last week saw only two spot market transactions recorded for a total of 200,000lbs U3O8 equivalent.

With utilities largely absent, spot trading has been the domain of intermediaries and speculators of late, and low volumes have led to price volatility. TradeTech’s weekly spot price indicator ended March at US$23.25/lb, down -US75c from a week earlier and -US50c from end-February. In the year to date, spot transactions have actually increased in number by 15% over the same period last year to 68, but volumes are down -1.2%.

The spot price fell -7% over the month of March but remains +15% higher for the year. The month saw a total of 21 transactions representing around 2mlbs U3O8 equivalent.
 

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