August 24, 2011

Uranium Energy Corp CEO Makes The Case For Nuclear

Published on Wednesday August 24 2011 (AEST)

The global Uranium mining sector has been plunged into some disarray by the Japanese nuclear disaster at Fukushima resulting from the uranium reactors being hit by the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami and where the repercussions are likely to continue for many years to come. However, the CEO of the USA's newest uranium producer, Uranium Energy Corp (UEC) reckons the world has already gone too far along the nuclear energy path for uranium demand not to seriously exceed supply, possibly as soon as in the second half of the current decade.

Amir Adnani, CEO of Corpus Christi, Texas-based UEC still sees a big bull market in uranium ahead "Politicians are coming to value nuclear power as an increasingly critical tool in our efforts to minimize carbon and greenhouse gas emissions worldwide," said Mr. Adnani. "Of course, more reliance on nuclear power means more need for new uranium supply"
Although the tragedy in Japan temporarily affected uranium share prices, it drew attention to the array of safety features incorporated in western-designed reactors.  "In the US alone, nuclear power plants have shown tremendous improvements in their safety records and operating capacity factors," adds Mr. Adnani.  "Safe, green and made in America:  US nuclear plants have undergone exhaustive studies and have been declared safe in any number of contingencies.  Now the US will learn from Japan to make its plants even more safe."
Even the Fukushima reactors, which were very much old nuclear technology, effectively survived an enormously powerful  force 9 earthquake with the major meltdown problems being primarily caused by the associated tsunami knocking out the power supply and thus cutting off the plant's cooling systems.  This is a hopefully unique occurrence, and one certainly nuclear regulators around the world will be extremely aware of and  will enforce standards to prevent this combination of safety failures occurring anywhere else.

Adnani sees an incredible business opportunity in revitalizing sites across America that formerly produced uranium.  "There was a thriving uranium market in the US during the 1950s through the mid-1980s," he says.  "Then came the uranium bust, and as a result, there is a significant shortage of uranium for the 104 nuclear power plants safely operating in the US.   American power plants consume about 55 million pounds of the metal every year to generate 20% of America's electricity, yet the US produces only 3.5 million pounds, and US production has been falling.  We rely on imports for about 70% of our oil but foreign countries supply 95% of our uranium.  And some of those suppliers are no more stable than certain OPEC members."

Adnani believes that the uranium sector is facing a severe supply crunch. "Today, primary uranium production only supplies  about two-thirds of reactor requirements.  The balance is made up for by secondary supplies like the US-Russian HEU Agreement which supplies 13% of worlds or 45% of U.S. annual uranium needs. This agreement expires in 2013, while current forecasts call for greater than 100% increase in uranium demand by 2030," he said.
There is, though, still some major growth in potential new uranium production ahead, and some in countries like Canada and Australia, and perhaps Namibia and Kazakhstan which don't really fall into Adnani's categorisation of unstable suppliers.  Fukushima did knock uranium prices back and will most certainly have led to more difficulty in getting some new projects to fruition.  

Some of the world's anticipated new nuclear power plants will be delayed or cancelled altogether as a direct result of the Japanese disaster, but one suspects over time the overt worries will gradually dissipate as they did after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl in the past, but it will take quite a long time and some nuclear capacity will probably have been lost forever - but that doesn't necessarily detract from Adnani's premise which is, in part, a call for the U.S. to become more self-sufficient in uranium output - even just to meet existing demand.
Currently the uranium price is sitting at around the $50 a pound mark and probably no sharp move up or down is very likely until the reactor supplies from the nuclear warhead decommissioning agreement come to an end in 2013.  From then, assuming supplies from this source cease completely, prices could definitely come under pressure.  If the majority of the nuclear power plant building programmes around the world continue, and new mining projects are delayed or cancelled altogether because of the weaker prices currently prevailing, we could be in for a very major supply squeeze - but that is still a few years ahead and the short term outlook probably remains clouded for the uranium mining sector.

August 10, 2011

China’s Nuclear Power Plans Unfazed By Fukushima Disaster

Published on Wednesday August 10 2011 (AEST)

In the wake of the Fukushima meltdowns, some nations are looking to move away from nuclear power. But not China, which is proceeding with plans to build 36 reactors over the next decade. Now some experts are questioning whether China can safely operate a host of nuclear plants.
by david biello

Giant rings of prefabricated concrete and steel lower into place at the Sanmen Nuclear Power Station in Zhejiang, China. Inside the rising containment building, a 340-ton chunk of forged steel forms the nuclear reactor’s vessel, which arrived from South Korea late last month. Inside that vessel, if all goes well, uranium fuel rods clad in zirconium alloy will by 2013 begin to fission, heating water to create the steam that will spin a turbine and produce electricity without the heavy greenhouse gas emissions of burning coal.

Workers swarm over the scaffolding of the buildings surrounding this core at the world’s newest nuclear power plant — the first to use a new type of nuclear reactor, the so-called AP 1000 from Westinghouse, though a similar reactor at Haiyang in Shandong Province is not far behind. And those two reactors represent only a fraction of the 20 nuclear power plants — and 36 nuclear reactors — China plans to build in the next decade. Already, Sanmen’s second AP 1000 reactor is under construction and scheduled to be completed in 2014.

In the wake of the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, many nuclear nations have reassessed their fission future.

Japan has cast aside plans to build more nuclear power plants, Germany plans to abandon nuclear power by 2022, and Italy will no longer restart a long moribund nuclear industry. Even nuclear stalwarts such as France — which gets 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors — have begun to analyze what eliminating nuclear might mean as part of a broader energy strategy for 2050, although the French government remains supportive of fission’s role in the energy mix.

But for the world to have any hope of constraining greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power may have to play a role. The Japanese Environment Ministry notes that shuttering the 18 nuclear power plants in the country would boost CO2 emissions by as much as 210 million metric tons — a rise of nearly 17 percent from current levels. The International Energy Agency suggests that 30 new nuclear reactors must be built each year between now and 2050 to cut CO2 emissions in half.

As a result of such climate change concerns, as well as the need for more power in developing nations, more than 60 reactors are under construction around the world today in countries like India, Russia. and South Korea. Even the U.S. is currently building one new reactor — the second unit at Watts Bar in Tennessee.

But no other country comes close to China, with 26 reactors now under construction — nearly half of all the nuclear reactors being built worldwide, according to the World Nuclear Association. That percentage only looks set to increase as other nations call off nuclear plans. China has also become the world’s living laboratory for new nuclear reactor designs. The country has or is building “evolutionary” pressurized water reactors from France, heavy water reactors from Canada, pebble-bed reactors tested in South Africa, and even experimental reactors that use molten salt for cooling and, potentially, thorium for fuel.

August 4, 2011

Lynas Corps Rare Earths Mine Opens In WA

Published on Thursday August 04 2011 (AEST)

A mine that will tap into the richest known deposit of rare earths in the world has been officially opened in Western Australia's Goldfields region by Premier Colin Barnett.
The Mt Weld mine, about 35km south of Laverton, is a $100 million Lynas Corporation project developed over the past 10 years.

The ore will be concentrated at Mount Weld before export to Lynas' advanced materials processing plant in Kuantan, Malaysia, and then sold globally.

Mr Barnett opened the mine on Thursday, saying it was the first significant rare earth mine opened outside of China for many years and added important new capacity to WA's already diverse resources sector.

"As well as directly employing up to 90 people at its full capacity, the mine is expected to contribute at least $17 million in annual royalty payments to the state," he said in a statement.

Rare earths is the term used for 15 metallic elements found within a "cocktail" of elements that need to be separated for commercial use.

They are used in advanced materials, batteries and electronic devices such as computers, high definition televisions, mobile phones and audio devices.

They are also used in advanced electricity generation and control technologies, including hybrid car technologies.

The Mt Weld mine is expected to be in production for 20 years.

China currently supplies about 95 per cent of the global rare earths market, but limits its supply to the rest of the world.

Based on estimates, Lynas could be supplying about eight per cent of the world market in 2012 and about 14 per cent in 2013.

August 3, 2011

Uranium Spot Prices Increase As Investors Re-Enter Market

Published on Wednesday August 03 2011 (AEST)

Uranium spot prices rose 1.5 percent, snapping several months of price declines, as Japan’s Fukushima crisis brought new investors into the market, boosting demand, Ux Consulting Co. said.
Uranium-oxide concentrate for immediate delivery was at $52.25 a pound in the seven days through yesterday compared with $51.50 the previous week, Ux said in an e-mailed report today. That’s based on the most competitive offer tracked by the Roswell, Georgia-based company.

The spot price for the nuclear fuel has declined 21 percent since the week before a March 11 earthquake and tsunami damaged Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi power station. The decline in prices is now attracting investors, Ux said.

“The spot market has rebounded somewhat as new buyers have appeared to take advantage of lower prices, clearing some material from the market,” Ux said. “While deals have taken place, they are generally for relatively small quantities, so it appears that neither buyers nor sellers are willing to commit large amounts at these price levels.”

Nuclear-power utilities buy the bulk of their uranium from mining companies, with the contracts mostly extending beyond 12 months. The market for immediate delivery, or spot market, allows trading for delivery within a year and includes buying and selling by financial investors.

Uranium prices, which rose to a record $136 a pound in 2007 before falling to about $40, started to rebound last year as China increased the use of nuclear power to curb emissions from burning coal. Even after Fukushima, the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl 25 years ago, nations such as China and India have recommitted to a nuclear energy future, which could bolster prices of the nuclear fuel in the longer term.

“Spot uranium market activity has remained at moderate levels over the past several weeks despite a number of participants being on travel or holiday,” Ux said. “To a large extent, the market appears to be stuck in a summer season, post- Fukushima funk. There has not been a lot of positive news to energize demand.”

August 1, 2011

New South Wales Considers Uranium Mining Return

Published on Monday August 01 2011 (AEST)

The decades-old ban on uranium exploration and mining in NSW could be overturned, with the state government reportedly in talks with industry leaders.
In May, federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson called for the Victorian and NSW governments to rethink their long-term bans on uranium mining and exploration.

The NSW Minister for Resources and Energy, Chris Hartcher, then met the chief executive of the Australian Uranium Association, Michael Angwin, in mid-June to discuss overturning the ban, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday.

Mr Angwin has since written to Mr Hartcher "formally asking him ... to permit uranium exploration and mining to take place in NSW", an association spokesman told the newspaper.

The association spokesman said that while the NSW ban made it difficult to estimate the size of deposits, he believed it was "a significant potential royalty source".

A spokeswoman for the NSW government said it believed Mr Ferguson's comments "deserved consideration" and that the matter remained "under consideration by the minister".

Uranium exploration and mining are prohibited in NSW under the Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities (Prohibitions) Act of 1986.


'No Plans' to lift NSW Uranium Ban

Posted August 01, 2011 09:14:07
The New South Wales Government is adamant it has no plans to overturn a state ban on uranium mining and exploration.