China to import 8 500 t/y of uranium by 2020, eyeing acquisitions

15th September 2010 By: Matthew Hill

MONTREAL (miningweekly.com) – China will need to source over 8 500 t/y of uranium from other countries by 2020, and is looking to buy shares in uranium producers, China National Nuclear Corp vice-president Lu Huaxiang said on Tuesday.

China's current uranium demand was 1 700 t/y, and this would increase tenfold over the next decade, he told Mining Weekly Online through an interpreter.

"There is 9 GW of installed nuclear generating capacity. That will grow to 70 GW in the next ten years, so there will be a ten times increase in uranium to about 17 000 t/y in China," Huaxiang said.

The country was able to meet the uranium requirements of its current nuclear fleet from domestic supplies, but would need to look abroad to meet future demand.

"If you look to the future, we will surely need to purchase uranium from sources outside China. We will likely source over 50% of our requirements from outside China," Huaxiang said on the sidelines of the World Energy Congress being held in Montreal.

China had increased the number of reactors it would build over the next ten years, Huaxiang said earlier in a speech. Previous estimates had pegged nuclear generation at 60 000 GW by 2020.

The country was cooperating with a number of exploration companies, as well as producers, and was eyeing the acquisition of stakes in such firms.

"We are considering acquiring shares of companies outside China. It is an option we are looking at," noted Huaxiang.

Asked where China was most likely to pursue uranium acquisitions, he said: "The number-one choice is countries that have large uranium resources, such as Kazakhstan, Australia, Canada and African countries such as Niger.

"We have some very good relationships with companies in those countries."

China had already acquired stakes in Australian uranium companies, as well as those operating in Kazakhstan.

Earlier this year, Canada's Cameco signed an agreement with China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation, a subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corp, to supply it with 23-million pounds of uranium concentrate up to 2020.

China National Nuclear Corp is the country's biggest nuclear power generator.

Uranium spot prices have climbed to $48/lb.

Over 20 nuclear plants were under construction in China, and more than 20 were in the planning phase, Westinghouse Electric Company Americas president Jim Ferland said on Tuesday.

In North America, 22 new nuclear power plants had been announced, he said.

"To a large extent, the nuclear renaissance is starting."