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Uranium Week: Taking A Breather

Weekly Reports | Dec 10 2019

After a solid run, the uranium spot price eased back slightly last week but activity remains robust.

-Price slips, volumes solid
-Working Group tid-bits leaking out
-Milestone reached in Florida

By Greg Peel

The spot uranium market took a breather last week in terms of price, but not in terms of volume. Industry consultant TradeTech reports seven transactions totalling 750,000lbs U3O8 equivalent.

After a recent surge, TradeTech’s weekly spot price indicator ticked back -US10c to US$26.00/lb.

No transactions were reported in term markets but new demand emerged. TradeTech’s term price indicators remain at US$29.50/lb (mid) and US$33.00/lb (long).

While it is as yet unknown whether the White House has even forwarded the long-awaited report by President Trump’s Working Group on the US nuclear fuel cycle to the president himself, what with trade and NATO and all, anonymous sources have apparently told Bloomberg the recommendations will include the purchase of uranium mined in the US by the US Department of Defense.

We recall that US uranium miners last year petitioned the White House to mandate US nuclear power generators, which are already uncompetitive in the current US electricity market even at historically low uranium prices, to buy 25% of the their uranium from US-based miners rather than cheaper foreign imports, given US-mined uranium is currently uncompetitive at historically low prices.

The response was to set up the Working Group to assess the whole nuclear fuel cycle from mine to power point.

Taking Bat & Ball

Another point of uncertainty for the uranium market recently has been the possible extension of waivers on US sanctions imposed on companies operating in Iran’s nuclear industry. Those waivers are up for reappraisal in January but two weeks ago the waiver relating to Iran’s Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant was terminated.

Iran is not supposed to be enriching uranium, as that implies potential use in weapons.

In response, Russian fuel manufacturer TVEL has announced it will cease work at the site. TVEL noted that Iran's decision to feed UF6 into two gas centrifuge cascades located in the same room as those meant to be re-engineered for medical isotope production would make it "technologically impossible" for TVEL to be further engaged in work at the facility.

Supporting the Aged

While the fate of the US nuclear power industry may somewhat rest in the president’s hands, a milestone was reached last week when the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved Florida Power & Light’s application for an additional 20 years of life for two of its reactors. It is the first time the NRC has approved a reactor life extension to 80 years from 60.

When the reactors were commissioned in 1972-73, they were licenced for 40 year of operation.

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