Uranium Week: Falling Behind

Weekly Reports | Jun 16 2020

While last week was another of little activity in uranium markets, attention turned to progress on global decarbonisation and nuclear power’s role therein.

-No virus impact on reactors
-Nuclear build plans slowing
-US electricity could be 90% carbon-free by 2035

By Greg Peel

While the effects of the pandemic on global energy demand are still being measured and forecasted, notes uranium industry consultant TradeTech, nuclear plant performance reports indicate operators are successfully managing their way through.

The International Atomic Energy Agency finds no country has yet reported an enforced shutdown of a reactor. The IAEA has been compiling data on trends in nuclear power and the general energy market throughout the period.

Light Green

One feature of the global lockdowns has been a subsequent significant reduction in emissions, not gone unnoticed by residents of normally smog-ridden cities nor by the local wildlife. Oh were that to be a permanent reduction, but of course all will soon be back to normal. In the meantime, the global push towards decarbonisation is falling behind.

The International Energy Agency has reported that only 6 out of 46 technologies and sectors are on track to achieve the goals set under the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change. The agency’s latest report has found nuclear power is now off-track, as the number of plants brought on line in 2019 amounted to just half of that of new capacity added in 2018.

At this rate, total nuclear capacity will reach only 455GW by 2040, far short of the 601GW required by the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario.

If You Build It

Yet nuclear power continues to feature in studies looking toward a carbon-reduced future. A report last week from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California concludes the US can achieve 90% carbon-free electricity generation by 2035 at no additional cost to consumers. The study points to a steady decline in the cost of wind turbines, solar panels and battery storage.

The scenario includes retaining existing US hydro and nuclear capacity, net of planned plant retirements, and much of the existing natural gas-fired capacity combined with battery storage. Under the scenario, all coal-fired plants are retired, no new fossil fuel-fired plants are built (which includes gas), and nuclear and hydro account for around 20% of electricity generation.

Under this scenario, energy costs to the consumer would be lowered and nearly half a million jobs will be created.

Ah but what of the coal mine workers? I hear the Australian government think.


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