Global uranium supply “more than adequate” for foreseeable future, says Red Book
Regardless of the role that nuclear energy plays in meeting future electricity demand, the global uranium resource base is more than adequate to meet projected requirements for the foreseeable future, a new publication by the Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency study says.
‘Yellow cake’ uranium
The report entitled Uranium 2016: Resources, Production and Demand, known as the “Red Book”, says identified resources, including reasonably assured resources and inferred resources, are sufficient for over 135 years. It says global uranium mine production has decreased by 4% since 2013.
However, production is still above 2011 levels, and Kazakhstan, the world’s leading producer, continues to increase production, but at a slower pace.
The Red Book says the challenge in the coming years is likely to be less one of adequacy of resources than adequacy of production capacity development due to poor uranium market conditions.
Although a valuable commodity, declining market prices for uranium in recent years, driven by uncertainties concerning evolutions in the use of nuclear power, have led to the postponement of mine development plans in a number of countries and to some questions being raised about future uranium supply.
Despite recent declines in electricity demand in some developed countries, global demand is expected to continue to grow in the next several decades to meet the needs of a growing population, particularly in developing countries, the Red Book says.
Since nuclear power plant operation produces competitively priced, baseload electricity that is essentially free of greenhouse gas emissions, and the deployment of nuclear power improves the security of energy supply, it is projected to remain “an important component of energy supply”.
However, the Fukushima-Daiichi accident in 2011 has eroded public confidence in nuclear power in some countries and prospects for growth in nuclear generating capacity are being reduced and are subject to even greater uncertainty than usual.
In addition, the Red Book says, the abundance of low-cost natural gas in North America and the “risk-averse investment climate” have reduced the competitiveness of nuclear power plants in liberalised electricity markets.
Government and market policies that recognise the benefits of low-carbon electricity production and the security of energy supply provided by nuclear power plants could help alleviate these competitive pressures. Nuclear power nonetheless is projected to grow considerably in regulated electricity markets with increasing electricity demand and a growing need for clean air electricity generation.
This 26th edition of the Red Book provides analysis and information from 49 producing and consuming countries.
For further information, please consult the Red Book.