The International Symposium on Uranium Production and Raw Materials for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle was organized by the IAEA in cooperation with OECD-NEA, World Nuclear Association, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and United Nations-Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The Symposium took place at the most opportune time when the uranium industry is poised for a take-off after nearly two decades of slump and extremely depressed markets for natural uranium, characterized by low prices and mine closures, all over the world. The demand of uranium has increased in recent years because of expansion of nuclear power programme all over the world. There has been a near tripling of the uranium price in the last three years, new exploration and mining activities have been initiated and the major uranium producers have increased their annual production. The Symposium was attended by nearly 200 participants from 30 countries and 4 international organizations, namely, OECD/NEA, NEI, WNA and UNECE as well as the IAEA. Some 100 technical papers were presented and an exhibition on uranium exploration, mining and production was organized.
The highlights of the Symposium were the keynote lecture titled “The Nuclear Renaissance – Opportunities and Challenges” by Mr. Gerald Grandey, President and CEO of Cameco Corporation (largest uranium producer in the world), “Invited Talks” by leading experts from the uranium industry and the panel discussion on “How to Fill the Gap” between uranium demand and supply.
The Symposium was opened by Mr. Y.A. Sokolov, DDG-NE, Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy (NE), IAEA. Mr. C. Ganguly, Head, Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Materials Section in the Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology in the Department of NE, in his address as the Scientific Secretary, summarized the activities of the Agency in the front-end of the uranium fuel cycle. He covered the Agency’s work in assessing uranium resources and preparation of the uranium Red Book in collaboration with OECD-NEA, promoting best practices in uranium, mining, milling and production and issues related to mine reclamation and environmental protection. The topics of the technical sessions were: Uranium supply and demand; Uranium geology and deposits; Uranium exploration; Uranium production; Wastes management; and Environment and regulation.
The consensus of this Symposium was that uranium sources, including both primary and secondary supplies, are adequate to meet the immediate projected demand of uranium to fuel the expanding nuclear power programme. However, the gap between uranium in the ground and yellow-cake (uranium concentrate) in the can has to be narrowed. Airborne and ground exploration based on new geophysical techniques could pave the way for discovering deep and more obscure uranium deposits that do not have a surface expression. New mines and mills are required to be opened. Expansion of In-Situ Leaching (ISL) activities, development of smaller but more efficient equipment to perform better in deep underground mining, radiometric ore scanning and sorting, high pressure filter for efficient solid/liquid separation are some of the technological pathways that are required to be followed to ensure timely delivery of uranium concentrate to the market place. Contact: C.Ganguly@iaea.org or J.Slezak@iaea.org