Global Uranium Supplies are Vulnerable to Russia’s Influence

Rosatom says the amendment creates "predictable rules" (Image: Rosatom)

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By Alfred Stewart

Global demand for uranium to fuel nuclear reactors is shown in the table below from the World Nuclear Association. As can be seen, the world requires 62,496 tonnes of uranium per year for electricity generation. Nuclear power accounts for an essential part of the grid in the Western World. France generates 70% of its electricity and the US just under 20% of electric generation from nuclear power. Importantly, this is stable base load energy which is online 24/7.

The World Nuclear Association’s Country Profiles, linked to below, provide more detail of what is tabulated here.

COUNTRY

(Click name for
Country Profile)

NUCLEAR ELECTRICITY GENERATION

2020

REACTORS OPERABLE

February 2022

REACTORS UNDER CONSTRUCTION

February 2022

REACTORS PLANNED

February 2022

REACTORS PROPOSED

February 2022

URANIUM REQUIRED

2021

TWh

% e

No.

MWe net

No.

MWe gross

No.

MWe gross

No.

MWe gross

tonnes U

Argentina
10.0
7.5
3
1641
1
29
1
1150
2
1350
167
Armenia
2.6
34.5
1
415
0
0
0
0
1
1060
50
Bangladesh
0
0
0
0
2
2400
0
0
2
2400
0
Belarus
0.3
1.0
1
1110
1
1194
0
0
2
2400
179
Belgium
32.8
39.1
7
5942
0
0
0
0
0
0
790
Brazil †
13.2
2.1
2
1884
1
1405
0
0
4
4000
340
Bulgaria
15.9
40.8
2
2006
0
0
1
1000
2
2000
322
Canada
92.2
14.6
19
13,624
0
0
0
0
2
1500
1492
China
344.7
4.9
53
50,769
19
20,930
34
38,110
168
196,860
9563
Czech Republic
28.4
37.3
6
3934
0
0
1
1200
3
3600
706
Egypt
0
0
0
0
0
0
4
4800
0
0
0
Finland
22.4
33.9
4
2794
1
1720
1
1170
0
0
421
France
338.7
70.6
56
61,370
1
1650
0
0
0
0
8233
Germany
60.9
11.3
3
4055
0
0
0
0
0
0
521
Hungary
15.2
48.0
4
1902
0
0
2
2400
0
0
320
India
40.4
3.3
23
6885
8
6700
12
8400
28
32,000
977
Iran
5.8
1.7
1
915
1
1057
1
1057
5
2760
153
Japan †
43.0
5.1
33
31,679
2
2756
1
1385
8
11,562
1396
Jordan
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
1000
0
Kazakhstan
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
600
0
Korea RO (South)
152.6
29.6
24
23,150
4
5600
0
0
2
2800
4270
Lithuania
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
2700
0
Mexico
10.9
4.9
2
1552
0
0
0
0
3
3000
226
Netherlands
3.9
3.3
1
482
0
0
0
0
0
0
69
Pakistan
9.6
7.1
5
2242
1
1100
1
1170
0
0
787
Poland
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
6
6000
0
Romania
10.6
19.9
2
1300
0
0
2
1440
1
720
185
Russia ‡
201.8
20.6
37
27,653
3
2810
27
23,725
21
20,100
5925
Saudi Arabia
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
16
17,000
0
Slovakia
14.4
53.1
4
1837
2
942
0
0
1
1200
359
Slovenia
6.0
37.8
1
688
0
0
0
0
1
1000
127
South Africa
11.6
5.9
2
1860
0
0
0
0
8
9600
277
Spain
55.8
22.2
7
7121
0
0
0
0
0
0
1221
Sweden
47.4
29.8
6
6882
0
0
0
0
0
0
914
Switzerland
23.0
32.9
4
2960
0
0
0
0
0
0
412
Thailand
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
2000
0
Turkey
0
0
0
0
3
3600
1
1200
8
9500
0
Ukraine †
71.5
51.2
15
13,107
2
1900
0
0
2
2,400
1876
UAE
1.6
1.1
2
2690
2
2800
0
0
0
0
907
United Kingdom
45.9
14.5
11
6848
2
3440
2
3340
2
2300
1259
USA
789.9
19.7
93
95,523
2
2500
3
2550
18
8000
17,587
Uzbekistan 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2400 2 2400 0
WORLD*
2553
c 10.3**
437
389,679
58
64,533
96
96,497
325
353,812
62,496
TWh
% e
No.
MWe
No.
MWe
No.
MWe
No.
MWe
tonnes U
NUCLEAR ELECTRICITY GENERATION
OPERABLE
UNDER CONSTRUCTION
PLANNED
PROPOSED
URANIUM REQUIRED

Source: World Nuclear Association

The source of uranium supply in the world has shifted dramatically in the last twenty years. Part of the shift has been due to economics. In Situ leaching extraction has proven to be a lower cost source of uranium and it has displaced conventional uranium mining over the last twenty years, going from 16% of global supply in 2000 to 58% of global supply in 2020. But this supply is not secure. Most of it comes from Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic which is presently in political turmoil to the point where Russia deployed troops to help the Putin allied Kazakhstan government suppress public protests about energy prices

The major Kazakhstan uranium mining company is Kazatomprom a state-controlled entity. Another significant producer is Uranium One. This was a Canadian public company launched on the TSX and a major uranium producer in Kazakhstan through joint venture with Kazatomprom and a direct producer of uranium from Africa. Who owns Uranium One? It was taken over by Russia’s state atomic energy company Rosatom in 2009-2010. In summary, directly and indirectly Russia has control or significant influence of over half of the world’s uranium supply.

Uranium requires enrichment to be used in most nuclear reactors (but not Canada’s CANDU reactors which do not require enriched uranium). Where does the uranium from Kazakhstan get enriched? In part, Russia through Rosatom provides this service.  The United States gets 17% of its refined uranium from Russia.

Source: World Nuclear News

This may have seemed like a good idea when the West was trying to accommodate Russia in the world economy but given the invasion of Ukraine this now now puts the West in a position that its supply of this vital energy source is controlled by Russia.

Uranium Producers of America President and Executive Vice President of Uranium Energy Corp Scott Melbye issued the following statement on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine highlights the danger of relying on the Kremlin and its allies for strategically critical energy supplies and minerals. Nearly half of the uranium needed to fuel U.S. reactors is purchased from Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. Despite ample U.S. uranium resources and the capacity to produce them at the highest environmental, safety, and health standards, U.S. production has almost completely halted. The Uranium Producers of America have repeatedly warned policymakers of the consequences of this overreliance as the predatory market tactics of these state-owned competitors have eroded the domestic uranium supply chain.”

Because of this issue, Western uranium suppliers such as Cameco, and uranium ETFs such as the Sprott Physical Uranium Trust have “caught a bid’ and the spot uranium price is trending higher.


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