Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Materials
Uranium Production Cycle
Uranium: Resources, Production and Demand (The Red Book)
Uranium resources are an integral part of the nuclear fuel cycle. To increase the capability of interested Member States for planning and policy making on uranium production, the IAEA works together with the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) to collect and provide information on uranium resources, production and demand.
The cooperation results in a publication entitled Uranium - Resources, Production and Demand, commonly known as the Red Book. It has been published since mid-1960's and is now being published at two-year intervals. Click here to see the summary of the latest Red Book.
For further information on the Red Book, please contact Ms. A. Hanly, Uranium Resource Specialist.
Red Book topics
Publication of the Red Book is one of the main activities of the joint IAEA/NEA Uranium Group. Members of the Uranium Group are nominated by governments and include experts from government agencies, and industrial and research organisations with interests in uranium geology and resources, mining and processing. Based on a questionnaire defined by the group and sent by the IAEA to Member States (162 as of February 2014) the Red Book covers the following topics:(i) Estimates of uranium resources in several categories of assurance based on existence and economic attractiveness;
(ii) Production capability;
(iii) Nuclear capacity; and
(iv) Related reactor requirements.
Who can benefit from the book?
The report has become widely recognized in the international nuclear community as a primary reference document on world uranium supply. It has been found useful by government policy makers, professionals in the uranium exploration and mining industry and other professionals that are interested in uranium resource, production and demand aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle.
The book can be downloaded online from the OECD Online Bookshop.
The Red Book 2014 is the 25th edition of this periodic assessment and provides analyses and information from 45 countries. The major findings in the publication show the following:
- Uranium resources rose slightly from 2011 to a total of 7.6 million tU ensuring an adequate uranium supply for the long term. These figures, which reflect the situation as of 1 January 2013, mean that total identified resources are sufficient for over 150 years of supply based on current reactor requirements.
- Although overall resources have increased, the costs of production have also increased, leading to reductions in lower cost category resources. Market prices will determine how and when at least some of this supply is brought to market. Currently the largest identified resource base is in the USD 80-130/kgU category.
- Global uranium mine production increased by 7.6% between 2010 and 2012, which is a lower rate of growth compared to the last reporting period, but increases were again mainly the result of rising production in Kazakhstan, currently the world’s leading producer. Ten countries account for about 97% of world production.
- Demand for uranium is expected to continue to rise for the foreseeable future. Although the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident has affected nuclear power projects and policies in some countries, nuclear power remains a key part of the global energy mix. Several governments have plans for new nuclear power plant construction, with the strongest expansion expected in China, India, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation. The speed and magnitude of growth in generating capacity elsewhere is still to be determined.
- By the year 2035, world nuclear electricity generating capacity is projected to grow from 372 GWe net (at the end of 2013) to between 399 GWe net in the low demand case and 678 GWe net in the high demand case, increases of 7% and 82% respectively. Accordingly, world annual reactor-related uranium requirements are projected to rise from 59 170 tonnes of uranium metal (tU) at the end of 2013 to between 72 205 tU and 122 150 tU by 2035. The currently defined uranium resource base is more than adequate to meet high-case requirements through 2035 and well into the foreseeable future.
- Although ample resources are available, meeting projected demand will require timely investments in uranium production facilities. This is because of the long lead times (typically in the order of ten years or more in most producing countries) required to develop production facilities that can turn resources into refined uranium ready for nuclear fuel production.
- With uranium production ready to expand to new countries, efforts are being made to develop transparent and well-regulated operations similar to those used elsewhere to minimise potential environmental and local health impacts. Although not the primary focus of the Red Book, activity updates on the environmental aspects of the uranium production cycle are included in the national reports in this edition.