Bambrough believes "we have just started a long term uranium bull market that will end in a "uranium mania" as utilities and countries drive uranium prices to unbelievable highs as they compete to secure supplies." Many nations and utility companies are already competing for low supplies of above ground-inventories and newly-mined uranium. In an article published a year ago, Sprott asserted that "the fundamentals for uranium going forward are superlative both on the demand and supply sides of the equation. ...It has become apparent to us that we are in the nascent stage of a nuclear renaissance."Back in June, my colleague Clifton Farrell wrote:
The dearth of uranium exploration and of new discoveries has left only a handful of deposits internationally "that show real promise at current prices," according to Sprott analysts. The good news is that uranium is more abundant on this planet than hydrocarbons. "The world is very unlikely ever to run out of uranium, as it will oil, natural gas, and even coal," declared Sprott, adding that some predict the looming uranium shortage may be so severe that the price of uranium could reach $110 within the next five years.
Forecasts of new nuclear generation expect approximately 40-60 new reactors worldwide by 2020. This will increase uranium demand to approximately 195 million pounds in 2010 and 240 million pounds by 2020. For an assumed price of $30/lb U3O8, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimated world uranium resources in 2003 to be 3,537,000 metric tons, an amount adequate to fuel conventional reactors for approximately 50 years. The IAEA further estimated all conventional uranium resources to be 14.4 million metric tons, an amount which would cover over 200 years' supply at current rates of consumption.And that doesn't even begin to address the issue of reprocessing of used nuclear fuel -- something that's already done overseas, but that the U.S. has eschewed so far for economic reasons. Here's Joseph Somsel:
Importantly, these forecasts do not include non-conventional sources of uranium, such as those contained in phosphates or in seawater, which are currently not economic to extract but represent a near limitless supply of uranium to meet increased demand. Clearly, there are very adequate uranium (and thorium) resources to fuel the world's expanding nuclear fleet.
Reprocessing spent nuclear fuel is an established technology, dating back to the Manhattan Project. France, Russia, Japan, and Great Britain all do it. In the classic process, one chops up the fuel rods, dissolves them in nitric acid and separates the uranium/plutonium in one liquid stream, the fission products in another, and the actinides in a third (the zirconium cladding “husks” don’t dissolve.) The uranium is still relatively enriched in uranium-235 compared to natural, so is “blended up” to reactor fuel standards. The plutonium is mixed with uranium to become what’s known as “mixed oxide fuel” or MOX. MOX is every bit as good as reactor fuel as what our plants run on today, albeit a bit more hassle for the utilities to handle.Duke Power is already using MOX fuel at the Catawba Nuclear Power Plant. For more on recycling, check out The Energy Blog. And thanks to Peak Oil Optimist for a pointer.
Technorati tags: Nuclear Energy, Energy, Economics, Uranium, Mining, Duke Power