There is enough uranium known to exist to fuel the world's fleet of nuclear reactors at current consumption rates for at least a century, according to the latest edition of the world reference on uranium published today.
Uranium 2007: Resources, Production and Demand, also known as the Red Book, estimates the identified amount of conventional uranium resources which can be mined for less than USD 130/kg* to be about 5.5 million tonnes, up from the 4.7 million tonnes reported in 2005. Undiscovered resources, i.e. uranium deposits that can be expected to be found based on the geological characteristics of already discovered resources, have also risen to 10.5 million tonnes. This is an increase of 0.5 million tonnes compared to the previous edition of the report. The increases are due to both new discoveries and re-evaluations of known resources, encouraged by higher prices.
Based on the 2006 nuclear electricity generation rate and current technology, the identified resource base will remain sufficient for 100 years. However, total world uranium resources are dynamic and related to commodity prices. The uranium industry has reacted to recent increases in the price of uranium by launching major new investments in exploration, which can be expected to lead to further additions to the uranium resource base. Worldwide exploration expenditures in 2006 totalled over USD 774 million, an increase of over 250% compared to 2004. Expenditures in 2007, for which data are not yet final, are expected to match those in 2006.
At the end of 2006, world uranium production (39 603 tonnes) provided about 60% of world reactor requirements (66 500 tonnes) for the 435 commercial nuclear reactors in operation. The gap between production and requirements was made up by secondary sources drawn from government and commercial inventories (such as the dismantling of over 12 000 nuclear warheads and the re-enrichment of uranium tails). Most secondary resources are now in decline and the gap will increasingly need to be closed by new production. Given the long lead time typically required to bring new resources into production, uranium supply shortfalls could develop if production facilities are not implemented in a timely manner.
World nuclear energy capacity is expected to grow from 372 GWe in 2007 to between 509 GWe (+38%) and 663 GWe (+80%) by 2030. To fuel this expansion, annual uranium requirements are anticipated to rise to between 94 000 tonnes and 122 000 tonnes, based on the type of reactors in use today. The currently identified resources are adequate to meet this expansion. Deployment of advanced reactor and fuel cycle technologies could increase the long-term availability of nuclear energy from a century to thousands of years.
Uranium 2007: Resources, Production and Demand, jointly prepared by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is based on official information from 40 countries and one country report prepared by the IAEA Secretariat. The 2007 edition includes statistics on uranium resources, exploration, production and demand as well as projected requirements up to 2030.
*On 26 May 2008, the spot price for uranium was USD 156/kg.
Uranium 2007: Resources, Production and Demand
A Joint Report by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency
and the International Atomic Energy Agency
OECD, Paris, 2008 – ISBN 978-92-64-04766-2
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