A new review of world uranium resources, production and demand
In the past several years, the world uranium market has been marked by persistent uncertainty affecting both uranium producers and consumers worldwide. With world nuclear capacity expanding and uranium production satisfying less than 60% of demand, uranium stockpiles continue to be depleted at a high rate. Despite this trend, however, new information indicates that the uranium market continues to be oversupplied, in large part due to low-priced uranium being released from government stockpiles in the United States and the Russian Federation.
This is one of the major findings of the just-published report Uranium 1999: Resources, Production and Demand (also known as the "Red Book"), jointly prepared by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This world report, the foremost reference on uranium, is based on official information from 49 countries and includes compilations of statistics on resources, exploration, production and demand as of the beginning of 1999.
As of 1 January 1999, the world known conventional resources recoverable at $130 per kilogram of Uranium (kgU) or less amounted to some 3.95 million tU (tonnes of uranium). Total reasonably assured resources (RAR) recoverable at $80/kgU or less were about 3.0 million tU. Total known conventional resources recoverable at $40/kgU or less were reported to be 1.25 million tU.
World uranium production decreased to 35 000 tU in 1998, down 5% from 1997. In the OECD countries, production declined by 11% from 1997 to 1998. Increases in production from 1996 to 1998 in a few countries did not compensate for reductions in other countries such as Canada, France, Hungary and the United States.
While the overall production capability has not changed significantly, the industry continues to improve its economic efficiency, with new, large, low-cost producers replacing smaller, higher-cost companies. A projection of world uranium production capability through 2015 is provided in the report based on plans of 22 producing countries. For the first time, a large proportion of the production capability is reported as based upon resources recoverable at $40/kgU or less. In fact, nearly 65% of the 974 000 tU of cumulative existing, committed, planned and projected capability through 2015 is based on resources recoverable in that price range.
In 1998, world annual requirements related to nuclear power plants were estimated at about 59 600 tonnes of natural uranium equivalent. Such requirements are projected to amount to between 54 400 and 79 800 tonnes by 2015. This broad range, which varies between a decrease of over 11%, and an increase of 33%, is an indication of the uncertainty regarding the future role that nuclear power may play in contributing to electricity supply.
The report provides substantial new information from all of the major uranium producing centres in Africa, Australia, Eastern Europe, North America and the New Independent States. It also contains an international expert analysis of industry statistics and worldwide projections of nuclear energy growth, as well as of uranium requirements and uranium supply.
Uranium 1999: Resources, Production and Demand
Ms. Cynthia Gannon-Picot