Uranium Week: Nuclear Energy In Need Of Innovation

Weekly Reports | Jan 19 2021

As the weekly uranium spot price continues to be range bound, two separate reports highlight the need for innovative mining techniques and advanced technology in the uranium sector. 

- Red book highlights innovative technology needed to meet uranium demand
- Kazakhstan has a -15% drop in output in 2020
- Uranium spot price remains range bound

By Mark Woodruff

Welcome back to readers for the first edition of Uranium Week for 2021. Any relevant industry news that has occurred since the last update just prior to Christmas on December 22 will be covered.

The latest edition of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) joint report on uranium resources, production and demand was published on 23 December. The report, also known as the Red Book, shows that global uranium resources have increased, but less than in previous years.

It notes that sufficient uranium resources exist to support the long-term, sustainable use of nuclear energy for low-carbon electricity generation. There would also be sufficient resources for other uses, such as industrial heat applications and hydrogen production. However, the impact of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic on the industry, and recent reductions in uranium production and exploration, could affect available supplies.

The biennial report suggests that timely investment in innovative mining and processing techniques would help assure that uranium resources are brought to market when they are needed. It notes a high case demand scenario would consume 87% of all currently known resources that would be capable of being mined at a cost of less than US$30/lb.

Worldwide exploration further decreased as did mine development expenditures. This forms part of a downward trend over several years, which “could signal market issues in the longer term”.

The report also notes global uranium mine production decreased by -10.8% over the 2017-2018 period, due to production cuts resulting from poor market conditions. Production then increased slightly in 2019. It also noted planned uranium production cuts in early 2020 were deepened by the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, and effects may be felt through 2021 and beyond.

An analysis of uranium demand, shows that nuclear capacity “is expected to rise for the foreseeable future as global energy demand is projected to increase due to the growing need for a clean energy transition.”

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