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Momentum continues to build in nuclear and uranium markets

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By Colin Hay - 
Momentum continues nuclear uranium markets Asia US Australia

A growing push from local politicians and business leaders for a change to Australia’s nuclear energy policy has gained outside support from a new international report on nuclear’s importance to global energy plans.

The World Nuclear Association has found that nuclear energy supplied around 10% of the world’s electricity in 2022 and around one quarter of all low-carbon clean electricity.

The World Nuclear Performance Report 2023 also highlighted nuclear’s contribution to clean energy.

Asian nuclear generation growth

The report noted that Asian nuclear generation rose by 5%, with nuclear generation in the region more than doubling over the last decade.

Sama Bilbao y León, director general of World Nuclear Association, says nuclear energy is a significant requirement if the world is to meet its clean energy targets.

“While growth in nuclear generation in Asia is strong, elsewhere it is not growing fast enough to address the challenges of ensuring energy security, tackling climate change, and providing access to clean energy for all.”

“An increasing number of governments are recognising the value of nuclear generation, but now we must put policies into action, or government and industry commitments will remain as just good intentions.”

US uranium production insights

The US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest monthly energy review has reported that the nation’s uranium concentrate (U3O8) was nearly 10 times higher than the previous year, partly as a result of higher uranium prices.

However, it also noted that local U3O8 production remained near historic lows despite operations resuming at the White Mesa Mill, the United States’ only operating conventional uranium mill.

“Using different processes, five facilities in the United States produced U3O8 in 2022. Despite only reporting production in the last three months of 2022, White Mesa accounted for 84% of the U3O8 produced last year,” the report said.

“The rest was produced at four in situ recovery facilities. White Mesa operates on a campaign basis; it only produces U3O8 as when mill feed, contract requirements, or market conditions warrant. It can also process other minerals, including rare earths. In 2021, White Mesa focused on ramping up rare earth carbonate production and didn’t produce any U3O8.”

DOE’s vision for domestic uranium

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced it wants to increase domestic uranium production to reduce the nation’s reliance on uranium imports.

At the end of 2022, the DOE awarded the first U3O8 supply contracts for its new national reserve policy, including one to White Mesa’s operator, Energy Fuels.

The EIA said that currently the uranium material used in US nuclear power reactors is largely imported because it’s more abundant and cheaper to produce in other countries.

In 2022, 95% of the uranium purchased by US nuclear power plant operators originated in other countries.