Uranium Report 2011
Critical Mass – a point or situation at which change occurs – support for the measure has reached critical mass.
By Richard (Rick) Mills Ahead of the herd
As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information
Our future energy course is being charted today because of the ramifications of peak oil, because cars pollute too much, because of climate change and because we wish to end our dependence on foreign supplied energy.
Many countries have energy independence and global warming as two of the key policy issues of their current administrations. For instance US President Obama made a pledge to eliminate oil imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within a decade and to slash his country’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 30 per cent by the year 2020.
If any country were to try and implement such a program they would have to do two things:
Wean their country off using fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) to produce energy Develop alternative clean energy sources within their country to avoid energy imports The Fuel of the Future
The electricity needed for any country to successfully replace fossil fuels, both for transportation and everyday use, will have to come from nuclear generation.
There is simply no other logical alternative:
Coal and natural gas plants emit carbon dioxide emissions and natural gas needs an incredible amount of investment in pipelines and supporting infrastructure
Operating a 1,000-MW coal plant, for one year, produces 30,000 truckloads of ash that contains large amounts of carcinogens and toxins. Every second, up the smokestack, goes 600 pounds of carbon dioxide and ten pounds of sulfur dioxide
Extensive use of hydrogen is not practical due to its volatile nature and lack of infrastructure
Solar, wind and geothermal are all niche suppliers and are untried on a large scale. Geothermal seems to be limited to a few parts of any country and all three alternative means of generating electricity need massive investment in power transmission lines to get the power to where it’s needed. All three of these technologies are extremely important and each will successfully contribute, in a small way, to energy independence. But none are, today, capable of supplying base load power
A 1,000-MW solar plant would cover 129 to 259 square kilometers and use a thousand times the material needed to construct a nuclear plant of the same capacity.
To equal the output of South Korea’s Yongwangs six one-thousand-megawatt nuclear reactors, wind generators would require an 245 kilometers wide extending from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Solar would require roughly 52 square kilometers of collector area.
High emissions, a negative energy return and severe environmental costs are associated with ethanol and make its use impractical
Hydro – going to clean eco-friendly energy isn’t accomplished by damming what free-flowing rivers are left
“The potential scope for renewables contributing to the electricity supply is very much less because the sources, particularly solar and wind, are diffuse, intermittent and unreliable.” World Nuclear Association
As the world’s population and standard of living continues to climb, demand for more – and cleaner energy – grows alongside the pressures we continue to put on our environment.
“As a zero-carbon energy source, nuclear power must be part of our energy mix as we work toward energy independence and meeting the challenge of global warming.” Nobel physicist Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy – May 6, 2009
“The principal motivation to reconsider the nuclear option is that nuclear power, as an alternative to fossil fuel resources, does not impair air quality and does not release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.” John Deutch, professor MIT
Today, there is an almost global wide move to develop higher levels of nuclear energy production. This is because nuclear energy works, it’s safe and recognition is slowly dawning it’s going to be impossible to meet the global, growing demand for energy and cut carbon dioxide emissions without nuclear energy.
Reasons to Use Nuclear Energy:
One pound of yellowcake (U3O8 – the final product of the uranium milling process) has the energy equivalence of 35 barrels of oil. One 7 gram uranium fuel pellet has an energy to electricity equivalent of 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 564 liters of oil or 1,780 pounds of coal
Nuclear power’s life-cycle emissions range from 2 to 59 gram-equivalents of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour. Only hydropower’s range ranked lower at 2 to 48 grams of carbon dioxide-equivalents per kilowatt-hour. Wind came in at 7 to 124 grams and solar photovoltaic at 13 to 731 grams. Emissions from natural gas fired plants ranged from 389 to 511 grams. Coal produces 790 to 1,182 grams of carbon dioxide equivalents per kilowatt hour. International Energy Agency
Nuclear energy is the only proven technology that can deliver baseload electricity on a large scale, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless-of-the-weather, without producing carbon dioxide emissions. Nuclear power plants emit no carbon pollution-no carbon monoxide, no sulfur oxides and no nitrogen oxides to the atmosphere.
Natural gas accounts for 80% of the cost to produce power from an NG power plant. Uranium accounts for 5%-10% of the price of nuclear energy
Power production cost results when comparing nuclear/gas, nuclear/coal or nuclear/hydro – only coal is cheaper
Nuclear energy is reliable. Nuclear power plants do not depend on weather conditions to produce electricity nor do they need costly electricity storage options
One ton of uranium produces more energy than several million tons of coal and oil. Fuel transportation costs are less and there is less impact on our environment from mining or fracking shale gas
Nuclear power plants require very little space and can be situated close to where their power output is needed “Through the release of atomic energy, our generation has brought into the world the most revolutionary force since prehistoric man’s discovery of fire.” Albert Einstein
Supply and Demand
Today, there are some 441 nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries. These 441 reactors, with combined capacity of over 376 Gigawatts (One GWe equals one billion watts or one thousand megawatts), require 69,000 tonnes of uranium oxide (U3O8).
There are 59 power reactors currently being constructed. In all there are 493 new power reactors planned or proposed with 84 new reactors scheduled to be commissioned by 2017.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, in its 2009 report, anticipates at least 807 GWe in new net capacity to be in place by 2030.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects electricity generation from nuclear power to increase from about 2.7 trillion kilowatt hours in 2006 to 3.8 trillion kilowatt hours in 2030. U.S.
Each GWe of increased capacity will require about 195 tU per year of extra mine production – three times this for the first fuel load. Let’s also consider the fact that no one builds a $ 4 to $ 6-billion dollar reactor just to watch it go idle. They will order one or perhaps several year’s worth of fuel supply to guarantee it doesn’t.
By the year 2020, China will have at least 60 nuclear reactors using 20,000 tonnes of fuel per year.
India and France recently signed a multibillion dollar agreement to build two Nuclear power plants in India – Areva SA, will build two pressurized reactors of 1,650 megawatts each. These are the first two in the proposed construction of a total of 20 such nuclear plants in India. India’s need for uranium is predicted to increase 10-fold by 2020.
The Russians are planning to build a large number of nuclear reactors so they can use nuclear power domestically and increase their exports of natural gas to Europe.
“We believe there is not enough uranium production, either current or planned, to satisfy reactor needs, initial core requirements and inventories for new reactors.” Adam Schatzker, analyst RBC Capital Markets
In 2008, mines supplied 51,600 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate containing 43,853 tU, which means mining supplied roughly 75% of nuclear utility power requirements.
Spot Market and Megatons to Megawatts
The 25% mine supply deficit used to be made up from stockpiled uranium held by nuclear power utilities and the Megatons to Megawatts program.
Utility stockpiles are pretty much depleted and nuclear power utilities are expected to be back in the market, after a long absence, to sign long term contracts for uranium supply starting in early 2011.
China has given top priority to nuclear energy in its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) and they have already been a very strong buyer of uranium on the open spot market. China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation entered into a 10-year agreement to buy uranium at a price that was well above the spot price at the time of the announcement – China is building its strategic working inventory for future nuclear requirements.
Japanese and Indian utility purchases will also increasingly impact the spot market and many countries in Europe are reconsidering their current nuclear policy and extending the life of existing nuclear reactor fleets. New capacity is also being built or considered in both Taiwan and South Korea.
“It appears that the character of the spot market has changed markedly over the past few months from one that was heavily oversupplied with weak demand to one that is in high