|1/9/2016 by mdc|
|Dr. Conca reports that in the wake of the COP21 climate meeting in Paris, which subtly endorsed nuclear power, and the aggressive move by China to build a nuclear plant a month, the supplies of uranium are once again in the spotlight.|
The price of uranium for fuel in nuclear reactors has had a complicated history over the last forty years (see figure below). After the 2011 Tohoku tsunami and Fukushima reactor accidents, uranium prices dropped about 60%, bottoming out near $30/lb in mid-2014. By late 2013, all of Japanese nuclear facilities were completely shut down.
Other countries also closed nuclear power plants, including Germany and Switzerland. However, reliance on brown coal, natural gas from Russia, and large-scale wind and solar systems, have neither met the climate needs of Germany, nor provided reasonable and stable electricity costs in Japan. But uranium prices are recovering and the outlook for the uranium market has brightened for several reasons:
- Japan restarted nuclear reactors at the Sendai power plant a few months ago, and about 40 of the Japan 54 nuclear plants will likely be restarted.
- China current and planned construction of nuclear power plants is a good indicator of future uranium demand. Mainland China has 26 nuclear power reactors in operation and 25 under construction, according to the World Nuclear Association, with almost 100 more planned by 2030.
- India is also in the midst of a major expansion of nuclear-power generation. The installed capacity is now at 5.7 GW, but that is set to grow to 10 GW in just the next four years, which puts pressure on global uranium demand.
- In the United States, about 90% of our existing reactors will soon be re-licensed for another 20 years, many for another 40 years, keeping the United States the biggest producer of nuclear power for at least ten more years until China completes their 100 new units.