Scientific journal
European Journal of Natural History
ISSN 2073-4972

STATE AND TRENDS OF THE URANIUM SECTOR IN THE WORLD FUEL-ENERGY COMPLEX

Surzhikova O.A., Nikulina I.E.
The paper present statistical material and analysis of one of the natural fossil power resources – uranium. A situation of uranium stocks in various regions and countries, dynamics of its extraction, consumption, export, import and average annual prices have been analyzed for the past several years. In addition trends of the world uranium sector for the nearest future have been considered.
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Uranium is a strategic type of raw stock and the most important energy carrier.

It is mainly used in the atomic power engineering that at the moment is producing about 17% of the world capacities of electricity, while nuclear sources cover 7% of the world energy resources [1].

World resources of natural uranium according to [2] make up 17 million tons, 21% of which are profitably mineable total reserves with the basic price of USD 80 per kg maximum (including 2,6 million tons of confirmed reserves).

Table 1. Confirmed reserves of uranium, dated of 01.01.2005. (thousand tons) [2]

 

Europe and Asia (incl. Russia)

Asia

Africa

America

Oceania and Australia

Total

Reserves (t.t.)

212,0

570,34

560,91

613,4

714

2670,74

World quantity (%)

7,9

21,4

21,0

23

26,7

100

According to [3] dated 01.01.2005 the world reserves of uranium make up over 14,8 million tons. A part of them is total reserves (profitably mineable) make up slightly over a quarter, probable reserves - 68%, and a reminder, 6,3 %, is the below-balance reserves, the waste cost price of which is USD 80-130 per kg.

About 80% of reserves are in seven countries. The largest reserves of uranium are in Australia (26,7%), Kazakhstan (14,2%), Canada (12,9%).

The share of Australia makes up over a quarter of the reserves, and 97 % of them are characterized by an extraction cost price of USD 40 per kg maximum. 67 % reserves of Kazakhstan, 84 % of Canada, 77 % of Niger and 100 % of Uzbekistan are of the same category. This type reserves in Russia make up 46 % [3].

Brazil, Uzbekistan, Namibia and Niger have got a significant total stock of 9,5%.

During 2003 to 2005 a small stock and probable addition of uranium took place. Its total reserves increased by 7,6 % (basically at the expense of increase in the confirmed reserves - 7.5 %). Volume of probable reserves - by 2,7 %, addition of below-balance reserves made up 1% [3].

This addition was mainly provided by Niger and Australia, while reserves in the rest of the countries are of the same level, or are decreasing as a result of the deposits´ spent [2].

Rise in the world reserves during the mentioned period took place not so much due to exploration work, as a result of recalculation of reserves with the reduction of uranium cutoff grade made tanks to a sharp increase in its price.

Uranium concentrates from the extracted ores are produced in 18 countries with the capacity of over 40 thousand tons converting to uranium (table 2) [2,4].

Table 2. Dynamics of uranium concentrates´ production (t), converting to uranium

 

1995

1996

1997

1998

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Europe (incl. Russia)

4991

4668

4477

4057

4460

4524

4565

4615

4668

Asia

4159

3549

3493

3973

4923

5658

6095

6760

7475

Africa

7031

7777

7974

8186

6059

7268

6562

7062

7248

America

13029

14237

14234

12831

13586

12796

11555

12743

12803

Oceania and Australia

3712

4974

5520

4885

7652

6854

7633

8982

9516

Total

32922

35205

35698

33932

36680

37100

36410

40162

41610

In 2005 the biggest capacity of uranium production was in Canada (27,9%), Australia (22,8%), Kazakhstan (10%). These countries together with Russia, Niger, Namibia and Uzbekistan (where extraction capacity is over 2 thousand tons) provided 89% of the world production.

A basic part of uranium is extracted on a Canadian deposit - McArthur River, brought in operation in 2000. An underground pit of the deposit is the largest on the world - its annual capacity is 7,2 thousand tons of uranium. The second biggest metal extraction deposit is an Australian deposit - Ranger, with 0,5 thousand tons, the third biggest deposit is one more Australian deposit, a complex copper-gold-uranium object - Olympic Dam, with 3,69 thousand tons [5].

An Australian company BHP Billiton is working on a feasibility study of the project on enlarging of Olympic Dam. This project requires from 7 to 10 milliard dollars. As a result of its implementation an annual production of uranium will be tripled and make up 12,7 thousand tons [5].

Plants producing uranium hexafluoride from natural resources are operating in six countries and over a third of the total production capacity is in Russia (24 thousand tons), France (14,4 thousand tons), the USA (14,0 thousand tons), Canada (10,5 thousand tons), Great Britain (6 thousand tons), China (0,4 thousand tons). A total world capacity makes up 69,53 thousand tons of uranium hexafluoride per year [6].

Further processing of natural uranium hexafluoride and secondary raw materials are realized by isotope-separation plants in a limited number of countries: the USA (34%), Russia (28%), France (20%), Great Britain, the Netherlands, China, Germany and Japan (total capacities - 18%). [6].

At the moment 440 nuclear power plants are operating in the world that annually consume over 60 thousand tons of uranium (table 3) [2,4].

The largest consumption of uranium falls to the share of the USA США (32,45%), France (15,29%) and Japan (11,99%). Germany consumes 5,4%, Russia 5%, South Korea 4,4%, Great Britain 3,5%. [7].

Exporting data are illustrated in table4 [2,4].

Table 3. Annual consumption of uranium for nuclear power engineering (thousand tons)

 

1995

1996

1997

1998

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Europe (incl. Russia)

29,34

30,08

32,01

29,88

29,95

29,89

28,35

28,44

29,03

Asia

11,46

12,15

11,08

11,88

11,83

12,11

12,99

13,02

13,97

Africa

0,28

0,29

0,3

0,31

0,36

0,36

0,36

0,36

0,36

America

20,33

21

24,46

20,73

22,81

22,98

24

24,72

24,88

Total

61,41

63,52

64,84

62,81

64,96

65,43

65,7

66,53

68,23

Table 4. Dynamics of export of natural uranium from the countries, leading manufacturers (tons)

 

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

Australia

3727

5424

6916

5553

6426

7436

7834

6476

8151

8181

Canada

16404

16326

11127

9984

7146

10966

10029

11543

11741

9719

Namibia

2007

2452

2905

2762

2689

2714

2231

2346

2039

3039

Niger

2970

3160

3497

3731

2918

2895

2923

3077

3154

3269

USA

3783

4424

6534

5798

3272

5222

4512

5919

5072

5081

NIS

12100

17600

12200

11600

9400

 

 

 

 

 

Russia

 

 

 

 

 

 

2780

3900

3444

2336

SAR

1424

1436

1100

962

981

878

885

808

769

769

Total

42415

50822

44279

40390

32832

30101

31194

34060

34370

32394

Major exporters of uranium are Canada, Australia, SAR, the USA and Russia [2,4].

Table 5. Dynamics of import of natural uranium to countries of EU and the USA (tons)

 

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2004

2005

EU

16250

15814

15625

15588

16857

15909

13784

16900

14600

17600

USA

15884

17469

16538

16810

18297

17273

17953

17887

19910

21056

Total

32134

33283

32163

32398

35154

33182

31737

34787

34510

38656

Under the conditions of high prices on oil and severe air pollution control advantages of nuclear power engineering have recently becoming more obvious and a demand for uranium products has a growth trend.

Uranium market has been scarce for a number of years. In 2004 a supply deficit was 14,7%. From year to year a market deficit of uranium products has been covered from the commercial stocks that are quite difficult to estimate.

By analyst calculations uranium stocks accumulated from all available resources are enough to satisfy needs of nuclear power engineering of the world up to 2010. [8].

This means that owners of nuclear power plants will soon face a real deficit of uranium.

As a result price growth has been increasing: 2004 - wholesale price was increase by 74%, its maximum was USD 45,5 per kilo. By November 2005 the price made USD 73 per kilo of uranium concentrate.

Among raw products, prices on which are controlled by Reuters/JefferiesCBR Index, in 2005 a uranium price was the second highest after a sugar price [90].

Thus, a new relationship between uranium products´ manufacturers and their consumers has been developed. The market has been transformed from "the consumers´ market" to "the sellers´ market".

As a result of recent changes in the market conditions manufacturing companies has become more active in investing in expansion of uranium production and projects providing stock addition.

References:

  1. Avtonomov A.B. World Power Engineering: status, scales, trends, stability of development, ecology problems, price dynamics of fuel-energy reserves// Electric power stations. - 2003. - №5. - p. 55-64.
  2. World mineral resources. - M.: «Mineral», 2001.-V.1.-476p.
  3. http://www.mineral.ru/Chapters/News/23737.%20html
  4. World mineral resources .- M.: «Mineral», 2005.-V.-304p.
  5. http://www.mineral.ru./Chapters/News/23739.%20html
  6. http://www.wise-uranium.org/. 4.05.2005].
  7. http://www.world-nuclear.org/. 29.09.2005].
  8. Survey of world markets.//Production and practical journal of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Ukraine «Delovoy Vestnik».-2005.-№8.-P.9-13. http://www.ucci.org.ua/.
  9. http://www.mineral.ru./Chapters/News/22109.%20html