Weekly Reports | Jan 31 2023
With uranium demand increasing, supply falling short, and new sanction threats against Russian supply being called for, 2023 should see another strong year for uranium pricing.
-Spot uranium market back in action
-Rosatom sparking renewed calls for sanctions
-Supply not keeping up with demand
By Greg Peel
After a slow start to the New Year, the spot uranium market reversed course last week with several transactions closing and investors returning to the uranium sector, industry consultant TradeTech reports.
TradeTech’s weekly spot price indicator rose by US$1.70 to US$50.50/lb. The indicator is up 4% in the last week, 3% since the beginning of the year, and 17% from one year ago.
Ongoing Sanction Threat
The nuclear fuel market is bifurcating, suggested Dustin Garrow, an expert with over 40 years of experience in the nuclear fuel cycle business including uranium production, marketing, and sales, at a webinar hosted by Canaccord Genuity last week.
Garrow cited 2022 as “the most consequential year in the history of nuclear power” as Russia’s invasion sparked concern among utilities which have supply chains heavily linked to Russian services (production, conversion, enrichment).
Western utilities are already self-sanctioning and when asked whether they “will go back to Russia if peace is declared tomorrow,” Garrow's contacts indicate this would not be the case.
That said, Garrow does not believe government-imposed sanctions on Russian supply are off the table. This would send shockwaves through the industry given Russia’s dominance in numerous parts of the nuclear fuel cycle and the immediate bottlenecks that would occur in Western supply (conversion in particular).
Suspicion that Russia’s state nuclear energy group Rosatom may have assisted in providing components to arm Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine has raised new concerns that the flow of Russian nuclear fuel to European or US utilities could be interrupted, notes TradeTech, either as a result of indirect sanctions, transportation logistics, banking and counterparty risks, and any number of other factors that may interfere with the timely delivery of material.
Ukraine has called on the EU to include Rosatom in sanctions. However, EU member state Hungary, which has a Russian-built nuclear power plant it plans to expand with assistance from Rosatom, said it would block any sanctions against Russia affecting nuclear energy.
New long-term contracts at higher price levels will be required to support new production and project expansions throughout the fuel cycle.
In 2021, we saw US utilities revisit the uranium term market, against a backdrop of decade low uranium supply. In 2022, this buying accelerated, following unrest in Kazakhstan and Russia’s invasion, which brought about security of supply concerns.
Dustin Garrow expects 2023 to be another strong year, citing significant uncovered requirements and contract levels which still remain below the replacement rate.
Many existing producers continue to face challenges in meeting production targets, Canaccord notes, both due to supply chain issues and logistics.
While we saw restart announcements last year, we still have not seen any meaningful progress on greenfield projects in recent history. In the long term, this greenfield development will be needed to meet growing demand but, without higher incentive pricing, Garrow believes it is unlikely we’ll see significant updates.
Trade Tech reports the true level of demand in the term uranium market is not fully captured by accessing formal Requests for Proposals as a significant number of off-market negotiations between utilities and prospective suppliers is taking place in the mid- and long-term uranium, conversion, and enrichment sectors.
TradeTech’s term price indicators sit at US$49.00/lb (mid) and US$53.00/lb (long).
Uranium companies listed on the ASX:
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