A leading academic predicts that global demand for mined uranium will rise at least fourfold over the next 30 years, driven by rising electricity demand and scaling back on fossil fuel dependence.
Addressing the first day of the Paydirt 2010 Australian Uranium Conference, Professor Barry Brook, who holds the Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change at the University of Adelaide, said that, should the contributing factors be as acute as predicted, the con- tinuing surge in demand for uranium would be extended by a further 20 years.
“Despite rapid advances in more-efficient Generation 4 reactors that can consume all the waste and depleted uranium from thermal reactors, the continuing growth in these thermal reactors would ensure a steady demand for mined uranium that would continue for many decades.”
He added that thermal reactors currently contributed about 380 GW of global electricity supplies, or 15% of total electricity production, which was due to grow by at least four times to about 1,5 TW by 2040.
In line with this growth scenario, global ura- nium consumption would rise from 69 000 t/y at present to about 285 000 t/y by 2040.
Brooke pointed out that nuclear power was rapidly approaching “a renaissance, even if it has not yet quite arrived”.
“While China is still building more coal-fired power stations, its recognition of the environmental damage they cause has already guaranteed that nuclear power will be a central platform of China’s energy future.
“There are at least 20 of the Generation 3 thermal reactors being built in China right now, and which will begin to come on line in the next two or three years,” said Brooke
He added that China’s electricity production, a key driver of Australia’s uranium indus- try, was scheduled to reach between 2 TW and 3 TW by 2050, with global needs in the region of 10 TW.
“Considering that total world electricity production currently stands at about 2 TW, you can see just how big a market we are talking about.
“The need for nuclear is going to be driven not only by environmental concerns and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels, but by the rising contribution of electricity for transport and the growth of electricity-consumptive technologies, such as desalination,” said Brooke.
Meanwhile, ASX-listed Resource Star has signed a joint venture agreement with Globe Metals & Mining to start exploration at the Livingstonia uranium project, in Malawi. Resource Star will sole-fund the exploration, up to feasibility study, and, in turn, will earn staged equity through achieving defined exploration and assessment hurdles. During phase one, Resource Star could earn a 20% interest in the project by completing a resource estimate and 1 000 m of drilling, while the company could earn 51% interest during phase two by spending $3,25-million on exploration.