Growing concern about global warming, driven by the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, prompted governments around the world to recognise nuclear power as a viable production option for competitively priced, clean baseload electricity.
As approximately 60 countries embark on the road to nuclear power, which involves 15 years of planning before construction even begins, one of their most basic concerns is uranium supply well into the future.
The latest edition of Uranium 2009: Resources, Production and Demand, commonly known as the "Red Book", indicates that at 2008 rates of consumption, total identified uranium resources are sufficient for over 100 years. The Red Book reflects the situation up to 1 January 2009.
And as world nuclear electricity generating capacity is projected to grow, reactor-related uranium requirements are also projected to rise.
Regardless of the role that nuclear energy ultimately plays in meeting rising electricity demand, the uranium resource base is adequate to meet these needs. Even with the highest anticipated demand for uranium, less than half of the identified resources described in this edition of the Red Book would be consumed by 2035.
Red Books are published every two years by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the IAEA.
The uranium resource figures officially presented in Red Books describe only a part of the known resources and are not an inventory of the total amount of recoverable uranium contained in uranium deposits.
Examples where uranium resources are already known, but not reported, include the Russian Federation, the USA and Australia. There are many reasons why resources are not reported; one is that they have not been fully evaluated economically and so do not meet the reporting parameters.
With favourable market conditions, additional discoveries can be expected, as was the case during past periods of heightened exploration activity.
Uranium resources are thus adequate to meet the expected development in demand. But the resources in the ground need to be mined. And before these reserves can be manufactured into fuel, the long process of exploration, licensing and finally mining must begin.