Thursday, January 7, 2021

Uranium

Uranium is the fuel most widely used by nuclear power plants for nuclear fission. Uranium is a common metal found in rocks all over the world. Uranium occurs in combination with small amounts of other elements. There are economically recoverable uranium deposits in the western United States, Australia, Canada, Central Asia, Africa, and South America.
  
Owners and operators of U.S. nuclear power reactors purchased the equivalent of about 48 million pounds of uranium in 2019.

Canada, Kazakhstan, Australia, Russia and a few other countries now supply most of America’s nuclear fuel.

  • Dec 2020:  Congress approved $75 million in funding for the launch of a U.S. strategic uranium reserve.  In addition to direct buying of uranium from companies like Denison and Energy Fuels, the signing of the stimulus bill promises to pump as much as $11 billion in federal money into the nuclear power industry in general, including by modernizing power plants and researching new types of reactors. That's good news for the uranium producers.
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The uranium market has been in a funk ever since the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan. Fukushima is in the Tōhoku region of Japan, a couple of hundred kilometers north of Tokyo. It has been reeling not just from the earthquake and tsunami, but from the clean-up of the nuclear plant site. 
Japan used to get 40% of their energy from nuclear power, pre-Fukushima. Few Japanese nuclear plants have come back on-line in the interim, with LNG and coal providing the bridge fuel. 

The country with the highest % of power produced from nuclear power is France at > 70%
99 reactors in the USA provide 20% of the USA energy needs. Globally, nuclear power is a stable 10% of the global energy mix.




  • Sources and shares of total U.S. purchases of uranium in 2019 were
  • Canada21%
  • Kazakhstan18%
  • Australia18%
  • Russia15%
  • Uzbekistan9%
  • Namibia5%
  • Niger2%
  • U.S. and 12 other countries combined12%
Fun fact: You might recall the term yellow cake from the Uranium One scandal where it was alleged that Hillary Clinton brokered a deal for 20% of the US uranium reserves to Russia for a $145mm “donation” to the Clinton Foundation. The allegations have not been proven, I might add. Yellow cake, also called Urania, is “semi-processed” uranium (post mining, but before fuel fabrication or uranium enrichment).

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