The world’s uranium miners will have to double their production by 2015 if they are to meet demand, Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) CEO Rob Adam said on Monday.
Speaking at the launch of a new South African energy forum, in Pretoria, he said that it was either that, or the world would have to enrich uranium to a far higher level.
“What we have to do by about 2015, is either mine at double the level of what we are currently mining, or enrich at about 70% to 80% more than current levels,” he said, in answer to a question from Mining Weekly Online. “There are some trade offs.”
He said that countries could either have a lot of enrichment capacity or a lot of mining capacity or a mix of both of them.
“There is currently a gap in the amount of uranium being mined and the amount of uranium being consumed,” stated Adam. “The difference is made up of the down blending of military stocks, largely in Russia, and the reprocessing of spent fuel into mixed oxides fuel.”
Enrichment investment provides shield from price volatility
Adam went on to say that the uranium price had surged over the past few months, but that it could drop significantly, making investment decisions difficult.
“You see the uranium price going sky-high at the moment, and as soon as you see something going sky high, you get the feeling that it can plummet,” he said. “You make investments but you become a little nervous.”
However, he said that enriching the nuclear fuel safeguarded companies from price volatility.
“What you do by investing in enrichment is you hedge that,” stated Adam.
Speaking about Necsa’s plans for South African uranium enrichment, he said that government would probably form partnerships with yellowcake miners, and possibly international partners beneficiating together.
“We would look to having partners across the whole value chain,” Adam added.
Uranium a strategic mineral to South Africa – DME
Meanwhile, Department of Minerals and Energy director general Sandile Nogxina said that the government had identified uranium as a strategic mineral for the country’s future nuclear ambitions.
“We will not be treating it like any other mineral mined here,” he said.
South Africa was planning on building a number of conventional nuclear power stations, and already had one, called Koeberg.
The country would also be home to a pilot pebble bed modular reactor plant, which was smaller than a conventional nuclear power plant.