May 31, 2012

Japan Nuclear Power Firms Rise On Possible Nuke Restart

Published on Thursday May 31 2012 (AEST)  

 Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, keen to restart idled nuclear reactors to avoid a summer power crunch, said on Wednesday it was necessary to start those whose safety has been confirmed, adding he was winning understanding from local authorities. 

Nuclear power supplied nearly 30 percent of Japan's electricity needs before last year's earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima plant - the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years. But all of the country's 50 reactors have since been taken offline for checks.

 The government has been struggling to win support from local authorities for the restarts, although their permission is not legally required. Noda, talking after a meeting with key ministers to discuss resuming operations at two of Kansai Electric Power Co's reactors in western Japan, said he would make a final decision once local authorities have made up their minds. 

 A group of regional governors, long concerned about whether it was safe to resume power generation at Kansai Electric's No. 3 and No. 4 reactors in Ohi, western Japan, signalled their agreement to the restarts as a "limited" step. 

The governor of the host prefecture of Fukui and the mayor of the town of Ohi where the reactors are located have yet to give final approval, although Ohi's local assembly has signed off on resuming operations. "If we get a decision by local authorities, then we will discuss among the four key ministers and I will make the final decision," Noda told reporters.




May 30, 2012

Long-Term Uranium Contract Price Moves Higher

Published on Wednesday May 30 2012 (AEST)  

For the first time since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March of last year, the long-term uranium price is showing signs of life. According to trade publication Ux Consulting, the term price rose to US$61.50 a pound this week, up 2.5% from US$60.00. 

Ux’s long-term price covers material that will be delivered more than two years in the future. While there have been some minor upticks in the spot price since Fukushima, this is the first time that the term price went up since January of 2011, when the outlook for uranium was much stronger than it is today. Active buyers are ignoring the spot market right now and are focusing on deliveries into the future, industry publication TradeTech said. 

Versant Partners analyst Rob Chang wrote that the likely catalyst for the price uptick came from the Japanese town of Ohi, where the local government recently voted 11-1 to restart the town’s two nuclear reactors. “Many view the restart of some of Japan’s 50 idled nuclear reactors as a major positive catalyst for uranium,” he wrote in a note. Mr. Chang also pointed out that while the spot price is watched closely, the long-term price is the important one for uranium suppliers and buyers, as the vast majority of material is sold in long-term contracts.


May 29, 2012

The Czech Republic To Generate 50% Nuclear Power by 2030

Published on Tuesday May 29 2012 (AEST)  

The Czech Republic plans to generate 50 percent of its electricity output by nuclear reactors in 2030, Hospodarske Noviny reported, citing a report commissioned by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The plan is counting on the completion of two new reactors at CEZ AS (CEZ)’s Temelin nuclear power station as well as one new unit at the Dukovany station, the newspaper said, citing the report, which will serve as a basis for the government’s updated national energy strategy plan. Renewable energy sources probably won’t make up more than 15 percent of the country’s power output, according to the report.




May 24, 2012

Namibia The Fifth Biggest Uranium Producer Globally

Published on Thursday May 24 2012 (AEST) 

NAMIBIA had to make way for Niger as the world’s fourth biggest uranium producer in 2011, as local production dropped by nearly 38 per cent compared to 2010. 

Namibia now holds the spot as the fifth biggest uranium producer globally with total production in 2011 coming in at 3 258 tonnes, or about six per cent of the world’s total production, according to the World Nuclear Association’s  latest rankings.


Niger produced 4 351 tonnes. Kazakhstan remained in the top position with 19 451 tonnes, followed by Canada with 9 145 and Australia with 5 983 tonnes of uranium. Speaking at the Mining Conference 2012 of the Chamber of Mines of Namibia yesterday, economist Robin Sherbourne said the new figures reflected a “very tough year” for local uranium industry. He said the lower production was probably due to Rössing Uranium working its way through lower grades of uranium. 

The World Nuclear Association said eight companies delivered 85 per cent of global uranium production last year. Included in these are Rio Tinto, majority shareholder of Rössing Uranium, and Paladin Energy, owner of Langer Heinrich. Rio Tinto produced eight per cent of total global output, while Paladin contributed four per cent. Rössing was the eighth largest uranium producing mine in the world with an output of 1 822 tonnes in 2011.

Langer Heinrich, with 1 419 tonnes, was the 13th biggest uranium mine in the world. Of the nine new major uranium mines the World Nuclear Association expects to come on line within the next few years, four are from Namibia. They are Husab (2014), Valencia and Omahola (both in 2015), and Trekkopje (2017). 

Namibia, with 284 000 tonnes, has the sixth biggest known recoverable uranium resources in the world, the association said. This represents five per cent of the world’s total known recoverable uranium resources. .


May 12, 2012

Germany's Power Grid “On The Brink” Without Nuclear

Published on Saturday May 12 2012 (AEST)  
Germany’s Federal Network Agency Report Shows Power Grid “On The Brink” – Thanks To Renewable Energies 

 By P Gosselin on 11. Mai 2012 

The German Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency) is the authority of the German federal government overseeing electricity, gas, telecommunications, post and railway networks. You know there’s a real problem when the agency itself issues a press release warning that the national power grid is in serious trouble and that something needs to be done urgently. 

Steffen Hentrich of the Liberal Institute writes on how Germany’s once impeccably stable world-class power grid has been transformed and is today just one step away from being a developing-world laughing stock. 

This has all been accomplished in just a few short years – thanks to the country’s reckless and uncontrolled rush to renewable energies, wind and sun, all spurred on by a blind environmental movement and hysteria with respect to nuclear power. In a press release íssued a few days ago the German Federal Network Agency reported that the burdens of the unsteady, forced feed-in of renewable energies poses a risk to the power supply in Germany unless the grid is expanded quickly. In Point No. 1 on page 10 in the summary of its Report on the Status of the Grid-Related Energy Supply in Winter 2011/12, they write: 1. 

The situation for the power grid in the Winter of 2011/12 was very precarious.” Moreover, the report writes: “No. 5 Reserve capacity in Germany and Austria was strained on multiple occasions” and that overall (No. 6) “the power plant situation has adversely developed.” and that “regulatory measures are required in order to ban the shutdown of conventional power plants”. The report adds that the grid disruptions occurring last winter can be avoided, but only with great efforts. Earlier the problem had been restricted to North Germany. But since the shutdown of nuclear power plants in the south (5000 MW), the problems of grid instability have spread nationwide. 

There’s an urgent need for reserve capacity. Another huge problem is that the system is now characterised by great unpredictability, especially when it comes to supply by sun and wind. The report also sates that the current gas network is inadequate to balance out fluctuations. Steffen Hentrich writes: This does not only show how the replacement of conventional energy capacity through renewable energy is an illusion, but also how expensive the forced energy transition to renewables will be for citizens. The transformation of the energy supply, as it is now being conducted, cannot be supported by the arguments of environmental protectioi, supply reliability and economics, even when the reports of state officials allow us to see that none of these targets sells by itself.” 

The latest German report reveals a grid that is headed for disarray – and quickly. Welcome to the energy of the future. 


May 10, 2012

Uranium Recovered Water Waste Set To Become Uranium Resource In USA

Published on Thursday May 10 2012 (AEST)  
Uranium pellets, a nuclear fuel product for atomic power plants, are seen on a production line at Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan's eastern town of Ust-Kamenogorsk in this August 11, 2006 file photo.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has decided to allow uranium captured in water treatment filters to be processed by uranium recovery operations - without the need for any licence amendment.

In official guidance, the NRC noted that the ion exchange resins used in certain water filters is often the same as those used in uranium recovery activities. In this case they count as 'equivalent feed' and do not require any special licence amendment for those facilities to process.

This could potentially greatly reduce the costs for small community waterworks. Under Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations there is a limit of 30 micrograms of uranium per litre permitted in drinking water. The EPA estimates some municipal water treatment systems can spend up to 50% of their operating costs on transport, treatment and disposal of uranium bearing resins. Uranium is a naturally occurring source of radiation and exists in all water bodies in varying concentrations.

"This is a win-win situation, benefitting our national interest by recovering valuable uranium while helping community water systems purify drinking water," said Mark Satorius, director of the NRC's Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management Programs.

 "The ability to reuse the resins provides an economic benefit to the treatment facilities by reducing operating costs and the amount of resin requiring disposal." The processed resins could be disposed of either in mill tailing impoundments or low level waste facilities, or put back into service as water treatment filters.

The same guidance also applies to 'equivalent feed' filters from mine dewatering operations and even filters from other uranium recovery operations, as long as the processing facility remains within the scope of its existing safety and environmental reviews.



May 8, 2012

Uranium On The Move

Published on Tuesday May 08 2012 (AEST)  
Japan shut down its last operating commercial reactor over the weekend. To put this event into context, before the Fukushima disaster Japan boasted 54 operating commercial reactors providing around one third of the country's electricity needs. The shut-down marks the first time Japan will be without any nuclear power since 1966. 

The Tomari 3 plant has not been shut down for good, rather for regular maintenance as is required by the Japanese government every thirteen months. However, every reactor in Japan shut down for maintenance since Fukushima remains out of service for the time being as the government ponders public perception and remains unsure over the country's nuclear future. Some 17 reactors were directly damaged by the earthquake/tsunami. Japan's nuclear blackout is not, nevertheless, considered permanent. Whether or not the government is allowing time to pass and wounds to heal post-tsunami before moving to restart reactors is not particularly clear, but many an analyst is of the belief the deflated Japanese economy simply cannot afford to replace its nuclear capacity with that of more expensive and dirtier fossil fuels. A swing towards more LNG imports is believed to be very likely, but no combination of LNG, oil and coal alone is considered commercially viable an alternative to at least some nuclear power generation. 

Analysts are as yet unsure as to just when Tokyo will be forced to take the potentially unpopular step of restarting any undamaged reactors. With Japan currently out of the equation, the world's largest uranium producer, Canada's Cameco, has suggested at its quarterly earnings result that the near-term uranium outlook remains subdued, although the company has been seeing an increase in interest from long-term customers looking for supply over five years. 

Demand is spread evenly across the US and Europe, with China and India adding to the mix and even one Japanese utility sniffing around, thus adding weight to analyst expectations noted above. Cameco's Cigar Lake project will ultimately be the biggest uranium project on the planet ahead of any significant expansion at BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam, and is currently 70% complete ahead of expected first production in 2013 and full capacity in 2017. 

The start-up is timely given it roughly coincides with the expiry of the Highly Enriched Uranium agreement between Russia and US which sees nuclear warheads dismantled as a source of uranium for peaceful purposes. Cigar Lake would have been up and running a lot sooner were it not for a significant flooding event several years ago. Which brings us to Energy Resources of Australia . Last week ERA began long awaited exploration drilling with the hope of proving up the Ranger Deeps underground resource base. A commercial decision on Ranger Deeps is a life or death call for ERA given last year's flooding of the open pit mine. 

The growing demand for uranium on term contracts as noted by Cameco has been reported by industry consultant TradeTech for several weeks now. With uranium pricing remaining not much above Fukushima fallout levels, it is apparent utilities across the globe are now reemerging to secure supply contracts into the future. Such demand interest has begun to impact on spot pricing. 

The spot uranium market remains thin, with TradeTech reporting 17 transactions totalling 3.2mlbs of U3O8 equivalent over the month of April, down from March's 22 transactions for 4.2mlbs. Interest in the term market has nevertheless encouraged spot sellers to back of their offer prices, such that TradeTech's indicative spot price for end-April was up US40c from end-March to US$51.50/lb. 

Last week's activity resulted in four transactions totalling 475,000lbs of U3O8 equivalent, and while buyers are playing somewhat of a cat and mouse game with sellers, each transaction was settled at a successively higher price over the week. TradeTech has lifted its weekly spot price indicator by US50c to US$52.00/lb. The buyers mostly represented speculative interest. With term market interest building but yet to provide a significant number of transactions TradeTech's term price indicators remain at US$54/lb (medium) and US$ (long).


May 2, 2012

Cameco Beats Analysts' Estimates As Uranium Sales Rise

Published on Wednesday May 02 2012 (AEST)  

Cameco Corp. (CCO), the world’s largest uranium producer, reported first-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates as sales of the nuclear-reactor fuel rose. 

 Net income increased to C$132 million ($133.6 million), or 33 cents a share, from C$91 million, or 23 cents, a year earlier, the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based company said today in a statement.

Profit excluding one-time items was 31 cents a share, topping the 25-cent average of 10 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Sales increased to C$563 million from C$461 million. Uranium sales rose to 8.1 million pounds from 6.1 million a year earlier, topping the 6.6 million estimated by Edward Sterck, a London-based analyst at Bank of Montreal.

The average cost of uranium sales fell to C$31.97 a pound from C$32.21 a year earlier. “Our full-year expectations for uranium sales volumes have been biased toward the end of the year,” Sterck said in an interview before the results were released.

“Higher-than- expected sales could indicate the company sold more into the spot market.” Increased uranium sales may help offset lower prices following last year’s tsunami and meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant.

Cameco was unchanged at C$21.86 yesterday in Toronto. The shares have gained 19 percent this year.

May 1, 2012

New Mount Isa Mayor On Uranium Push

Published on Tuesday May 01 2012 (AEST)  

Mount Isa Mayor Tony McGrady has says he will be talking to the Queensland Government "at every opportunity" about developing a uranium industry in the state's north-west. 

Mr McGrady, a former Labor state government minister, has long been a supporter of the sector and pushed for the former Bligh government to overturn bans on uranium mining in Queensland. He says he is not a uranium "lobbyist", but he is advising two uranium companies. "I am on the advisory board of two uranium mining companies," he said. "I haven't decided what I am going to do, but what I can say is that I will be [a] full-time mayor. 

"At the same time I will also be promoting the uranium industry, or the mining of uranium, because to me it is all part of the business development of north-west Queensland. "At every opportunity - the same as I will be taking up the matter of trying to develop the Legend project [a proposed phosphate project] and any other economic development proposal I can see for my area. 

"This is what local government is about, doing the best you can for the people you represent. "Whatever I can do to promote this industry I certainly will." Meanwhile, Mr McGrady says he is seeking advice on whether he can retain a director's position on the Townsville Port Authority. He says he would like to remain on the Townsville Port board because most of Mount Isa's minerals are exported through the facility. "The previous government had a policy whereby any person who was on local council could not sit on the board of a government-owned corporation," he said. "Quite honestly, every tonne of product that comes out of Mount Isa goes through the port of Townsville. "I think it would be in the interests of this community if I were to retain this position, though I am not quite sure of the legalities of it." 

The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) says there is nothing legally wrong with Mr McGrady keeping his role with two uranium companies. LGAQ spokesman Greg Hallam says it is a matter for Mr McGrady about whether he continues those jobs. "The Local Government Act is very clear - Mr McGrady is able to continue in those roles, there is nothing to stop him doing that," he said. "But he would not be able to vote on any matter before the council concerning those two companies. 

"The most important thing is it's lawful but there is nothing illegal about that."