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AIPG Position Statement - Domestic Energy: Uranium

AIPG Position Statement - Domestic Energy: Uranium
(October 2009)

David A. Ryckman CPG-11246 – Chairman, Barton G. Stone CPG-11114, and
Richard D. Asti CPG-09044

Nuclear energy is carbon-free and has minimal environmental impact and close to zero carbon footprint. Of all emission free sources of electric power, nuclear currently (2008) provides 73.6% toward world demand.   In the United States approximately 20% of the electricity is generated by nuclear power.

Uranium: Supply and Demand

World population continues to grow (2.3% per annum, JAEA Symposium 2007), and such growth is anticipated for several more decades. Increased consumption by this population and the propensity of developing nations to embrace a capitalistic (consuming) form of economic structure makes it difficult to project increased demand. We can, however, quantify the amount of raw material (uranium) both produced and required to supply known or start-up reactors.

Tables 1 and 2 show juxtaposed Supply and Demand for uranium in tonnes* uranium metal (tU) with the top three producers and top three consumers highlighted. World demand for 2008 required 64,615 tU.

Table 1: World Production, 2007                            Table 2: Projected World Demand* 2009


Country

      tU
Produced

% of
Whole

Country

     tU Required

% of Whole

Canada

9,476

23

USA

18,867

29

Australia

8,611

21

France

10,569

16

Kazakhstan

6,637

16

Japan

8,388

13

Russia

3,413

8

Russia

3,537

5

Niger

3,153

8

Korea-South

3,444

5

Namibia

2,879

7

Germany

3,398

5

Uzbekistan

2,320

6

UK

2,059

3

US

1,654

3

China

2,010

3

all others

3,136

8

Ukraine

1,977

3

 

 

 

Canada

1,670

3

 

 

 

all others

8,755

13

Totals

41,279

100

Totals

 

65,405

98%

*To service current and start-up Nuclear Power Plants
Source: World Nuclear Association Market Report Data, May 2009.

From the totals in Tables 1 and 2 we see that demand is 37% greater than supply! (demand between 2008 and 2009 was virtually unchanged) We can also see that five countries account for 76% of the world’s supply of uranium while six countries (none of which is one of the top suppliers) consume 73% of world supply.

Uranium Reserves and Resources

The US has “reasonably assured resources” of uranium in the $50/lb U3O8 cost category of 343,000 tU (DOE/EIA, Uranium 2007 “Redbook”). World known and inferred resources equal 5.5 million tU. At 65,405 tU/year demand, known reserves can supply enough Uranium to last 80+ years.

The US produced 1,654 tU which accounted for 3% of world production yet consumed 18,918 tU in 104 reactors in 2008. This required importation of 90% of our uranium needs. With known reserves of 342,000 tU there must be some other reason for the failure of the US to supply it’s own needs. The obvious answer is price as foreign suppliers produce with lower costs than US producers. Another reason is the disarmament of the former Soviet Union as they contribute dismantled nuclear warheads to the overall supply. This supply is finite and is projected to end in 2013. One final reason that the US does not supply it’s own needs is that we can’t. Thirty years ago there were 26 operating Uranium mills in the continental US. Today there is one. Were an event to take place (war with Canada or Kazakhstan) which would impair the United States’ ability to import uranium, the nuclear industry would require domestic production to increase 11 fold to cover the shortfall. The only fully permitted and operational uranium mill in the United States is currently permitted to produce a maximum of 4,000 tonnes of U3O8 per year or 3,400 tU. Could traditional and alternative energy resources combined fulfill the needs of current US power requirements in this event?

Our Nuclear Legacy

The Nuclear industry suffers from an ingrained perception that it is inherently unsafe, both in terms of operating power plants themselves and dealing with the waste generated by spent fuel and infrastructure components. Nuclear power’s primary source of fuel supply, uranium mining, is also constricted by expensive regulatory controls. These controls are a result of uranium mining during the initial boom of Nuclear science itself and a fledgling Nuclear power industry. The World Nuclear Association addresses many of the common assertions about the Nuclear industry which are too many for the brevity of this recommendation. They may be found at: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf50.html

Recommendations

  • World demand for primary uranium will grow substantially over the next ten years. The US will have to invest in the infrastructure (mines, mills) of uranium so that we do not create an energy situation similar to that which we now experience with  oil; foreign dependence on supply.
  • Strong and effective licensing and environmental assessment process are  paramount to ensure the safety of workers and the public as well as to protect the environment. However, the public is not well-served by lengthy delays associated with environmental assessment appeals.
  • Between 1990 and 2005, global nuclear capacity grew by 0.8 percent (PRIS database IAEA) annually while electricity demand over that same period grew by 2.9 percent annually. Asia accounted for virtually all the growth in nuclear capacity (at 4% annual growth) while North America and Europe were flat (except for replacement of decommissioned reactors (PRIS database IAEA). Investment in and promotion of new US infrastructure necessary to attain self-sufficiency would help alleviate our part of this problem.
  • Nuclear is the lowest emission source of baseload power generation today. On a full life cycle basis, a nuclear power plant will produce 9 to 21 grams of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions per kilowatt hour of electricity produced – in the same range as a wind turbine (10 to 48 grams of CO2 per KWh) and many times less than fossil fuel baseload power sources (Spadaro et al., IAEA Bulletin 42/2/2000).
  • Additional geological storage sites for nuclear waste and alternative waste disposal including above ground are required for nuclear power use to grow. 

References

PRIS Database, 2009. International Atomic Energy Agency , [online] http://www.iaea.org/programmes/a2/

Spadaro, J.V., Langlois, L., and Hamilton, B. (2000) “Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Different Electricity Generating Chains”, IAEA Bulletin, 42 (2).

Uranium 2007 – Resources, Production and Demand “Redbook”, OECD Nuclear Energy Agency
and the International Atomic Energy Agency,
OECD, Paris, 2008.

Velikhov, Evgeny, 2007 “New condition for new Nuclear Energy in the World and in Russia” from International Symposium on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy (JAEA Symposium/JIIA Forum), Tokyo, 2007.

World Nuclear Association. 2009, “Market Report Data, May 2009”, WNA [online] available at http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf23.html

 

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