Uranium output met only 60% of world requirements: OECD agency

Monday, June 9, 2008

World uranium production at the end of 2006 was 39,603 tonnes, meeting only 60% of world nuclear reactor requirements, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's Nuclear Energy Agency said in a biannual report released Tuesday.

World reactor requirements were 66,500 tonnes of uranium for the 435 commercial nuclear reactors in operation. The gap between uranium production and reactor requirements was made up through secondary sources, such as government and commercial inventories, dismantled nuclear weapons and the re-enrichment of uranium waste products, the Paris-based agency said in its study, "Uranium 2007: Resources, Production and Demand."

The study -- more commonly known as the Red Book and produced in cooperation with the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency -- said most secondary sources now are in decline and that, increasingly, new primary output will be needed to close the gap between uranium supply and reactor requirements.

The Red Book estimates the identified amount of conventional uranium resources that can be mined for less than US$130/kg--or about the current spot price of $60/lb U308--to be about 5.5 million tonnes, up from 4.7 million tonnes reported in 2005.

There is enough uranium known to exist to fuel the world's fleet of nuclear reactors at current consumption rates for at least a century, the study said, but long lead times to bring new mines into
production means supply shortfalls could develop if production facilities are not implemented in a timely manner, it added.

World nuclear energy capacity is expected to grow in a range between 38% and 80% by 2030 or from 372 gigawatts-electric in 2007 to between 509 GWe and 663 GWe by 2030. To fuel this expansion, annual uranium requirements are anticipated to rise to between 94,000 and 122,000 tonnes, based on the type of reactors in use today. Currently identified world resources of uranium are adequate to meet this expansion, the agency said in the study.

The study also said that deployment of advanced reactor and fuel-cycle technologies could boost the long-term availability of nuclear energy from a century to thousands of years.

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