Amid heightened international interest in nuclear energy, countries are paying closer attention to a finite resource that helps to make nuclear power possible: uranium. A report released today finds that new discoveries and re-evaluations of known conventional uranium resources will be adequate to supply nuclear energy needs for at least 100 years at present consumption level. Growing demand and higher prices have spurred greater investment in exploration and led to larger identified conventional uranium resources over the past two years.
These are among the many findings in Uranium 2007: Resources, Production and Demand, the world´s most comprehensive publication on uranium. Colloquially known as the Red Book, it tracks present uranium supply and demand and assesses market dynamics to 2030 and beyond.
Supply and Demand
The uranium market has demonstrated recent strength, with major new investments and expenditures for exploration increasing more than 254% over the two-year period from 2004-2006. Over $774 million was spent globally on exploration in 2006. While global production dipped by 6% from 2005-2006, significant production increases were noted in Kazakhstan and the US.
The demand picture is increasingly complex, with significant nuclear power builds underway in China, India, Korea, Japan and the Russian Federation, and phase-out programmes underway in several European countries. Yet the report notes that new builds along with plant life extensions should increase global installed nuclear capacity in the coming decades, thereby increasing demand for uranium. Projections for 2030 indicate a range of expected growth in demand from a low estimate of 38% to a high case of roughly 80%.
In contrast to some other energy resources such as oil, the geographical distribution of uranium resources remain quite varied. Currently uranium is mined in 20 countries, with Iran being the latest entrant. Canada and Australia currently account for 44% of global uranium production, and other top uranium producers are Kazakhstan (13%), Niger (9%), Russian Federation (8%), Namibia (8%), Uzbekistan (6%), and the United States (5%).
Since 1965, the IAEA and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA) have utilized information provided from member countries and states to publish a joint report on major aspects of uranium production, demand, and trade. The 22nd edition, released this June, reflects information as of 1 January 2007. The report´s contents are made possible through official data obtained by questionnaires sent to relevant IAEA and OECD/NEA member countries, which number 40 in total.