Global Uranium Resources to Meet Projected Demand
A sulfuric acid plant at the Ranger uranium mine in Australia leaches uranium from crushed ore. (Photo credit: Energy Resources of Australia, Ltd).
Global uranium resources are more than adequate to meet projected requirements, according to the latest edition of a world reference guide on uranium resources published just recently.
Uranium 2005: Resources, Production and Demand - also called the "Red Book" - estimates the total identified amount of conventional uranium stock, which can be mined for less than USD 130 per kg, to be about 4.7 million tonnes. Based on the 2004 nuclear electricity generation rate of demand the amount is sufficient for 85 years, the study states. Fast reactor technology would lengthen this period to over 2500 years.
However, world uranium resources in total are considered to be much higher. Based on geological evidence and knowledge of uranium in phosphates the study considers more than 35 million tonnes is available for exploitation.
The spot price of uranium has also increased fivefold since 2001, fuelling major new initiatives and investment in exploration. Worldwide exploration expenditures in 2004 totalled over US$ 130 million, an increase of almost 40% compared to 2002, and close to US$ 200 million in 2005. This can be expected to lead to further additions to the uranium resource base. A significant number of new mining projects have also been announced that could substantially boost the world´s uranium production capacity.
In the longer term, continuing advances in nuclear technology will allow a substantially better utilisation of the uranium resources. Reactor designs are being developed and tested that are capable of extracting more than 30 times the energy from the uranium than today´s reactors.
By 2025, world nuclear energy capacity is expected to grow to between 450 GWe (+22%) and 530 GWe (+44%) from the present generating capacity of about 370 GWe. This will raise annual uranium requirements to between 80 000 tonnes and 100 000 tonnes. The currently identified resources are adequate to meet this expansion.
Uranium 2005: Resources, Production and Demand is jointly prepared by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the IAEA. It is the recognised world reference on uranium and is based on official information received from 43 countries. This 21st edition presents the results of a thorough review of world uranium supplies and demand as of 1st January 2005 and provides statistics on uranium resources, exploration, production and demand as well as projected requirements up to 2025. It provides substantial new information from all major uranium production centres in Africa, Australia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and North America. This edition also focuses on recent price and production increases that could signal major changes in the industry.
The 2005 edition was presented 1 June 2006 at the OECD-NEA in Paris, France at a press conference jointly hosted by Mr. Luis E. Echávarri, OECD-NEA Director-General, and Mr. Yuri Sokolov, IAEA Deputy Director-General for Nuclear Energy. The guide will be available - for ordering or for download as electronic book - from the OECD-NEA web site.