Peak uranium


Peak uranium

Peak uranium is the point in time that the maximum global uranium production rate is reached. After that peak, the rate of production enters a terminal decline. While Uranium is used in nuclear weapons, its primary use is for energy generation via nuclear fission of Uranium-235 isotope in a nuclear power reactor.cite web
url=http://www.api.org/classroom/curricula/nonrenew-resources.cfm
title=Key Characteristics of Nonrenewable Resources
publisher=API
author=
date=2006-08-24
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-18
] Uranium is a finite resource, and therefore considered non-renewable, [cite web
url=http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/non-renewable/nonrenewable.html
title=Non-renewable ernergy
publisher=DOE
author=
date=
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-09
] though some argue that if the fuel cycle can be closed, uranium could become equivalent to other renewables.Cite journal
volume = 51
issue = 1
pages = 75–76
last = Cohen
first = Bernard L.
title = Breeder reactors: A renewable energy source
journal = American Journal of Physics
accessdate = 2007-08-03
date = 1983-01 |format = PDF
url = http://sustainablenuclear.org/PADs/pad11983cohen.pdf
doi = 10.1119/1.13440
] The technologies to completely eliminate the waste in the nuclear fuel cycle do not yet exist. [cite web
url=http://www.anl.gov/Media_Center/News/2005/testimony050616.html
title=Statement of Dr. Phillip J. Finck, Before the House Committee on Science, Energy Subcommittee Hearing on Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing
date=2005-06-16
publisher=Argonne National Laboratory
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-14
]

Hubbert's Peak and Uranium

The peak uranium concept follows from M. King Hubbert's peak theory, most commonly associated with Peak oil. Hubbert saw oil as a resource which would soon run out, and believed Uranium had much more promise as an energy source.cite web
url=http://www.hubbertpeak.com/hubbert/1956/1956.pdf
title=Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels 'Drilling and Production Practice'
author=M. King Hubbert
publisher=API
page=36
date=1956-06
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-18
format=PDF
] Hubbert believed that breeder reactors and nuclear reprocessing, which were new technologies at the time, would allow Uranium to be a power source for a very long time. The technologies Hubbert envisioned are not economically feasible or widely deployed to date.cite web
url=http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2005_09/Fetter-VonHippel.asp
title=Is U.S. Reprocessing Worth The Risk?
publisher=Arms Control Association
author=Steve Fetter and Frank N. von Hippel
date=2005-09
language=English
accessdate=2004-04-23
] As a result, the vast majority of uranium is now used in a "once-through" cycle. As for any finite resource, the Hubbert peak theory still applies.

According to the Hubbert Peak Theory, Hubbert's peaks are the points where production of a resource, has reached its maximum, and from then on, the rate of resource production enters a terminal decline. After a Hubbert's peak, the supply of a resource no longer fulfills the previous demand. As a result of the law of supply and demand, at this point the market shifts from a buyer's market [cite web
url=http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/buyers-market.html
title=Buyers' market definition
author=
publisher=businessdictionary.com
language=English
date=
accessdate=2008-04-28
] to a seller's market. [cite web
url=http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/seller-s-market.html
title=Seller's market definition
author=
publisher=businessdictionary.com
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-28
]

Many countries have hit peak uranium and are not able to supply their own uranium demands any longer and have to import uranium from other countries or abandon nuclear power. Thirteen countries have hit peak and exhausted their uranium resources.cite web
url=http://www.lbst.de/publications/studies__e/2006/EWG-paper_1-06_Uranium-Resources-Nuclear-Energy_03DEC2006.pdf
title=Uranium Resources and Nuclear Energy
publisher=Energy Watch Group
date=2006-12
language=English
accessdate=2004-04-23
format=PDF
] cite web
url=http://www.neutron.kth.se/courses/reactor_physics/NEA-redbook2003.pdf
title=Uranium Resources 2003: Resources, Production and Demand
publisher=OECD World Nuclear Agency and International Atomic Energy Agency
author=
date=2008-03
page=p. 29
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-23
format=PDF
]

Breeder reactors and nuclear reprocessing

Two technologies, nuclear reprocessing and breeding could delay peak uranium if enough facilities were built to provide enough nuclear fuel to bridge the gap between the demand and the primary source of uranium.

Nuclear reprocessing, sometimes called recycling, is one method of mitigating the eventual peak of Uranium production. It involves the recovery of fissile material from spent fuel. Although reprocessing of nuclear fuel is done in few countries, ( France, United Kingdom, Japan), the United States President banned reprocessing in the late 1970s due to the high costs and the proliferation of plutonium. In 2005, U.S. legislators proposed a program to reprocess the spent fuel that has accumulated at power plants. At present prices, such a program is significantly more expensive than disposing spent fuel and mining fresh uranium.

At higher uranium prices breeder reactors may be economically justified since uranium is bred into plutonium, another fissile fuel. Many nations have ongoing breeder research programs. China, India, and Japan plan large scale utilization of breeder reactors during the coming decades. 300 reactor-years experience has been gained in operating them.cite web
url=http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf98.html
title=Fast Neutron Reactors
publisher=World Nuclear Association
date=2008-02
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-13
] However, as of June 2008 there are only two running commercial breeders.

The rate at which uranium can be bred and the rate at which fuel can be reprocessed is not enough to meet the growing gap between the rate that uranium can be mined, and the demand for uranium. There are only two large-scale commercial reprocessing plants: in La Hague, France and Sellafield, England--together capable of reprocessing 2,800 tonnes of uranium waste annually. [cite web
url=http://www.euronuclear.org/info/encyclopedia/r/reprocessing-plants-ww.htm
title=Reprocessing plants, world-wide
publisher=European Nuclear Society
author=
date=
language=English
dateaccessed=2008-07-29
]

Uranium demand

s (TW), 1965-2005.
(Green-Oil; Black-Coal; Red-Gas; Purple- Nuclear; Blue-Hydro) cite web
publisher=Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy
url=http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/international/iealf/table18.xls
title=World Consumption of Primary Energy by Energy Type and Selected Country Groups, 1980-2004
author=
format=XLS
date=July 31, 2006
language=English
accessdate=2007-01-20
] ]

The world demand for uranium in 1996 was over convert|68|kilotonne|lk=on|e6lb|lk=on per year. [cite web
url=http://www.uic.com.au/news296.htm
title=UIC Newsletter # 2
publisher=Australian Uranium Association
author=
date=1996-02
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-12
] And that number is expected to increase to convert|80|kilotonne|e6lb to convert|100|kilotonne|e6lb per year by 2025 due to the number of new nuclear power plants coming on line.cite web
url=http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/News/2006/uranium_resources.html
title=Global Uranium Resources to Meet Projected Demand Latest Edition of "Red Book" Predicts Consistent Supply Up to 2025
publisher=IAEA
date=2006-06-02
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-18
]

According to Cameco Corporation, the demand for uranium is directly linked to the amount of electricity generated by nuclear power plants. Reactor capacity is growing slowly, reactors are being run more productively, with higher capacity factors, and reactor power levels. Improved reactor performance translates into greater uranium consumption. [cite web
url=http://www.cameco.com/uranium_101/markets/#three
title=Uranium 101 - Markets
publisher=Cameco Corporation
author=
date=2007-04-09
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-01
]

Nuclear power stations of 1000 megawatt electrical generation capacity (1000 MWe or 1 gigawatt electrical = 1GWe) require around convert|200|t|e3lb of uranium per year.cite web
url=http://www.hubbertpeak.com/nuclear/WhyNuclearNotSustainable.htm
title=Why nuclear power is not a sustainable source of low carbon energy
publisher=Hubbert Peak
author=John Busby
date=2005-10-31
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-18
] For example, the United States has 103 operating reactors with an average generation capacity of 950 MWe demanded over convert|22|kilotonne|e6lb of uranium in 2005. As population and industrialization increases, more nuclear power plants will be built. As the number of nuclear power plants increase, so does the demand for uranium.

Another factor to consider is population growth. Electricity consumption is determined in part by economic and population growthAccording to data from the CIA's 2007 World Factbook, the world human population currently is more than 6.6 Billion (July 2007 est.) and it is increasing by 1.167% per year. This means a growth of about 211,000 persons every day. [cite web
url=https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/xx.html#People
title=The World Factbook
date=2007
publisher=CIA
language=English
] According to the UN, by 2050 it is estimated that the earth's human population will be 9.07 billion. [cite web
url=http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/worldageing19502050/
title=World Population Ageing: 1950-2050
date=2002
publisher=UN
language=English
] That's 37% increase from today. 62% of the people will live in Africa, Southern Asia and Eastern Asia. [cite web
url=http://www.worldmapper.org/display.php?selected=11
title=Map No. 11 - Population 2050
date=2005
publisher=Worldmapper.org
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-18
] The largest energy-consuming class in the history of earth is being produced in world’s most populated countries, China and India. Both plan massive nuclear energy expansion programs. This is being repeated in dozens of lesser developed countries, from Turkey and Indonesia to Vietnam and Venezuela to meet the needs of their burgeoning middle classes.

As countries get more industrialized and their economy grows, so does the demand for electricity. Nearly 2 billion people across the planet have no electricity. The World Nuclear Association (WNA) believes nuclear energy could reduce the fossil fuel burden of generating the new demand for electricity. The WNA forecasts a 40-percent jump in worldwide electricity demand over the next five years. [cite web
url=http://www.miningmx.com/energy/175903.htm
title=Uranium price tipped to reach $100/lb
publisher=MiningMX.com
author=David McKay
date=2006-04-26
language=English
accessdate=2008-03-15
] As countries get more industrialized, the higher their Human Development Index (HDI). The higher the HDI, the higher the electric consumption. [cite web
url=http://hdrstats.undp.org/indicators/208.html
title=Energy and the environment - Electricity consumption per capita (kilowatt-hours)
]

As more fossil fuels are used to supply the growing energy needs of an increasing population, the more greenhouse gases are produced. Some proponents of nuclear power believe that building more nuclear power plants can reduce greenhouse emissions.

As world oil is expected to peak early this century, alternatives for gasoline and diesel for powering transportation are being sought. One of the promising solutions are hybrid and electric vehicles. Some experts believe that these vehicles will require 160 new power plants. Others believe none. The true figure lies somewhere between. [cite web
url=http://www.pnl.gov/news/release.asp?id=204
title=Mileage from megawatts: Study finds enough electric capacity to "fill up" plug-in vehicles across much of the nation
publisher=Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
author=Susan Bauer
date=2006-12-11
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-28
] [cite web
url=http://www.ornl.gov/info/press_releases/get_press_release.cfm?ReleaseNumber=mr20080312-02
title=ORNL study shows hybrid effect on power distribution
publisher=ORNL
author=Larisa M. Brass
date=2008-03-12
language=English
accessdate=2008-03-15
]

As countries are not able to supply their own needs economically from their own mines have resorted to importing better grades of uranium from elsewhere. For example, owners of U.S. nuclear power reactors bought convert|67|e6lb|kilotonne of uranium in 2006. Out of that 84%, or convert|56|e6lb|kilotonne, were imported from foreign suppliers, according to the Energy Department.cite web
url=http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSN0146993820080202
title=U.S. nuclear power plants to get more Russia uranium
publisher=Reuters
author=Tom Doggett
date=2008-02-01
language=English
]

Uranium supply

Uranium occurs naturally in many rocks, and even in seawater. However, like other metals, it is seldom sufficiently concentrated to be economically recoverable.cite web
url=http://www.uic.com.au/uran.htm
title=What is uranium?
publisher=Australian Uranium Association
date=2006-06
language=English
] Like any resource, uranium can't be mined at any desired concentration. No matter the technology, at some point it is too costly to mine lower grade ores. One life cycle study argues that below 0.01–0.02% (100-200 ppm) in ore, the energy required to extract and process the ore to supply the fuel, operate reactors and dispose properly comes close to the energy gained by burning the uranium in the reactor. Mining companies consider concentrations in greater than 0.075% (750 ppm) as ore, or rock economical to mine. [cite web
url=http://www.axtonuranium.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16&Itemid=35
title=About Uranium
publisher=Axton
date=
language=English
accessdate=2008-06-21
]

Uranium mining declined with the last open pit mine shutting down in 1992 (Shirley Basin, Wyoming. United States production occurred in the following states (in descending order): New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Washington, and South Dakota. The collapse of uranium prices caused all conventional mining to cease by 1992. "In-situ" recovery or ISR has continued primarily in Wyoming and adjacent Nebraska as well has recently restarted in Texas.

* Canada 1959, 2001?The first phase of Canadian uranium production peaked at more than convert|12|kilotonne|e6lb in 1959. [cite web
url=http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf49.html
title=Canada's Uranium Production & Nuclear Power
publisher=World Nuclear Association
author=
date=2003-03
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-24
] The 1970s saw renewed interest in exploration and resulted in major discoveries in northern Saskatchewan's Athabasca Basin. Production peaked its uranium production a second time at convert|12522|t|e6lb in 2001. Experts believe that it will take more than ten years to open new mines.cite web
url=http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/industrials/article555314.ece
title=Uranium shortage poses threat
publisher=The Times
author=Uranium shortage poses threat
date=2005-08=15
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-25
]

World peak uranium

Pessimistic predictions for peak uranium

All the following sources predict peak uranium (when uranium demand exceeds supply):

* 1980 Robert VanceRobert Vance [cite web
url=http://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/2006/vancebio.htm
title=Biography of Robert Vance
publisher=World Nuclear Association
date=2006
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-09
] , while looking back at 40 years of Uranium production through all of the Red Books, found that peak global production was achieved in 1980 at convert|69683|t|e6lb from 22 countries. In 2003, uranium production totaled convert|35600|t|e6lb from 19 countries.

* 1981 Michael Meacher
Michael Meacher, the former environment minister of the UK 1997-2003, and UK Member of Parliament, reports that peak uranium happened in 1981. He also predicts a major shortage of uranium sooner than 2013 accompanied with hoarding and its value pushed up to the levels of precious metals. [cite web
url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2006/jun/07/guardiansocietysupplement2
title=On the road to ruin
publisher=The Guardian
author=Michael Meacher
date=2006-06-07
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-09
]

* 1991 European Nuclear SocietyThe European Nuclear Society maintains that "global uranium mining has decreased since 1991, but development in the individual countries varies considerably." [cite web
url=http://www.euronuclear.org/info/encyclopedia/u/uranium-mining-global.htm
title=Uranium mining, global
publisher=European Nuclear Society Glossary of nuclear terms - Uranium mining, global
author=Winfried Koelzer
date=2007-11
language=English
]

* 2009 Rohit Ogra and Edward MooreLehman Brothers Holdings analysts Rohit Ogra and Edward Moore predict uranium will hit a peak in 2009. However, they see it as a temporary peak because supplies of uranium won't exceed demand until 2012.cite web
url=http://www.moneyweb.co.za/mw/view/mw/en/page1329?oid=140197
title=Mining
publisher=Money Web
author=
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-03
]

* 2015 World Nuclear AssociationAccording to the WNA in 2005, the uranium primary production will expand for 10 years. Then many existing mines will close due to resource depletion. This is expected to result in a leveling and downward trend in production capability. The WNA projects that global primary production will peak in 2015 at convert|71512|t|e6lb of uranium per year, before declining to convert|70474|t|e6lb per year by 2019. [cite web
url=http://www.firsturanium.com/cws/projects/firsturanium/uranium_industry.jsp
title=Uranium - The Future
publisher=First Uranium
author=
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-31
]

* 2034 van Leeuwen
Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, an independent analyst with Ceedata Consulting, contends that supplies of the high-grade uranium ore required to fuel nuclear power generation will, at current levels of consumption, last to about 2034. [cite web
url=http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefing_papers/pdf/energyfactsheet4.pdf
title=Secure energy: options for a safer world - ENERGY SECURITY AND URANIUM RESERVES
author=Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen
date=2006-7
publisher=Oxford Research Group
language=English
format=PDF
] Afterwards, the cost of energy to extract the uranium will exceed the price the electric power provided.

* 2035 Energy Watch GroupThe Energy Watch Group has calculated that, even with steep uranium prices, uranium production will have reached its peak by 2035 and that it will only be possible to satisfy the fuel demand of nuclear plants until then. [cite web
url=http://www.sonnenseite.com/index.php?pageID=80&news:oid=n6541&template=news_detail.html&fontsize=2&flash=true
title=Energy Watch Group warns: Depleting uranium reserves dash hopes for atomic energy supply
date=2006-06-12
publisher=Sonnenseite
language=English
]

Optimistic predictions for peak uranium

All the following references claim that the supply is far more than demand. Therefore, they do not predict peak uranium.

* M. King HubbertIn his 1956 landmark paper, M. King Hubbert wrote "There is promise, however, provided mankind can solve its international problems and not destroy itself with nuclear weapons, and provided world population (which is now expanding at such a rate as to double in less than a century) can somehow be brought under control, that we may at last have found an energy supply adequate for our needs for at least the next few centuries of the "foreseeable future.""cite web
url=http://www.hubbertpeak.com/hubbert/1956/1956.pdf
title=Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels 'Drilling and Production Practice'
author=M. King Hubbert
publisher=American Petroleum Institute
page=36
date=1956-06
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-18
format=PDF
] Hubbert's study assumed that breeder reactors would replace light water reactors and that uranium would be bred into plutonium (and possibly thorium would be bred into uranium). He also assumed that economic means of reprocessing would be discovered. For political, economic and nuclear proliferation reasons, the plutonium economy never materialized. Without it, uranium is used up in a once-through process and will peak and run out much sooner. [cite web
url=http://www.peakoil.org.au/peakuranium.htm
title=Is there enough Uranium to run a nuclear industry big enough to take over from fossil fuels?
publisher=Peak oil.en peakoil.org.au
author=Dave Kimble
date=
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-21
] However, at present, it is generally found to be cheaper to mine new uranium out of the ground than to use reprocessed uranium, and therefore the use of reprocessed uranium is limited to only a few nations.

* OECDThe OECD estimates that with 2002 world nuclear electricity generating rates, with LWR, once-through fuel cycle, there are enough conventional resources to last 85 years using known resources and 270 years using known and as of yet undiscovered resources. With breeders, this is extended to 8,500 years. [cite web
url=http://www.neutron.kth.se/courses/reactor_physics/NEA-redbook2003.pdf
title=Uranium Resources 2003: Resources, Production and Demand
publisher=OECD World Nuclear Agency and International Atomic Energy Agency
author=
page=p. 65
date=2008-03
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-23
format=PDF
]

If one is willing to pay $300/KgU uranium, there is a vast quantity available in the ocean. [cite web
url=http://www.neutron.kth.se/courses/reactor_physics/NEA-redbook2003.pdf
title=Uranium Resources 2003: Resources, Production and Demand
publisher=OECD World Nuclear Agency and International Atomic Energy Agency
author=
page=p. 22
date=2008-03
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-23
format=PDF
]

* Kenneth S. DeffeyesClarifyme|date=May 2008
Deffeyes estimates that if one can accept ore one tenth as rich then the supply of available uranium increased 300 times. ["World Uranium Resources", by Kenneth S. Deffeyes and Ian D. MacGregor, "Scientific American", January, 1980, page 66, argues that the supply of uranium is very large.] [cite web
url=http://www.osti.gov/energycitations/product.biblio.jsp?osti_id=6665051
title=Citation for World uranium resources
author=Deffeyes, K.S.; MacGregor, I.D.
date=1980-01-01
publisher=Scientific American
volume=242
number=1
page=pp. 50-60
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-26
] Deffeyes' 1980 article addresses the log-normal distribution of Uranium and does not address issues like EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested), or peak uranium.

* Huber and MillsHuber and Mills believe the energy supply is infinite and the problem is merely how we go about extracting the energy. [cite web
url=http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bottomless-Well-Twilight-Virtue-Energy/dp/046503117X
title=The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy
publisher=Basic Books
author=Peter W. Huber and Mark P. Mills
date=2005
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-26
] Huber and Mills do not provide an estimate when uranium demand will exceed the supply.

* Bernard CohenIn 1983, physicist Bernard Cohen proposed that uranium is effectively inexhaustible, and could therefore be considered a renewable source of energy. He claims that fast breeder reactors, fueled by naturally-replenished uranium extracted from seawater, could supply energy at least as long as the sun's expected remaining lifespan of five billion years. - whilst uranium is a finite resource mineral resource within the earth, the hydrogen in the sun is finite too - thus, if the resource of nuclear fuel can last over such time scales, as Cohen contents, then nuclear energy is every bit as sustainable as solar power or any other source of energy, in terms of sustainability over the finite realistic time scale of life surviving on this planet.

His paper assumes extraction of uranium from seawater at the rate of convert|16|kilotonne|e6lb per year of uranium and that the cost of electricity will rise no more than 1% due to fuel costs. The current demand for uranium is already near convert|70|kilotonne|e6lb per year. Cohen's paper does not give a date when demand of uranium exceeds the supply of uranium. However, since he calculates using breeder technology uranium would be used at least 60 times more efficiently than today.

Possible effects and consequences of Peak uranium

As peak uranium happens, uranium shifts from a buyer's market to a seller's market. Prices increase in this market environment. Some economists predict that higher uranium prices will spur demand of substitutes for uranium - other energy sources that can be used to produce electricity such as renewable energy such as wind, solar power, geothermal, hydro/microhydro, biofuels, biomass and fossil fuel sources, such as coal, oil or gas. However, this substitution can only be temporary, as coal, oil and natural gas are finite resources as well.

Uranium price

thumb|right|350px|Monthly uranium spot price in US$, 1998-2007.">cite web
url=http://www.uranium.info/prices/monthly.html
title=NUEXCO Exchange Value (Monthly Uranium Spot)
]
The uranium spot price has ramped up from a low in Jan 2001 at $6.40 came to a peak in June 2007 at $135 per pound of U3O8. The uranium prices have dropped since. Currently (April 2008) the uranium spot is in the mid $60 range. [cite web
url=http://www.uxc.com/review/uxc_Prices.aspx
title=UxC Nuclear Fuel Price Indicators
]

In 2007, shrinking weapons stockpiles, a large mine closure and new demand due to more reactors coming online was driving uranium prices upwards. Miners and Utilities are bitterly divided on uranium prices.cite web
url=http://www.stockinterview.com/News/06082007/nuclear-fuel-conference-uranium-price.html
title=Utilities, Miners Bitterly Divided on Uranium Price Rise
publisher=StockInterview
date=2007-06-08
author=James Finch and Julie Ickes
language=English
]

As prices go up, production responds from existing mines, and production from newer, harder to develop or lower quality uranium ores begins. Currently, much of the new production is coming from Kazakhstan. Production expansion is expected in Canada and in the United States. However, the number of projects waiting in the wings to be brought online now are far less than there were in the 1970s. There have been some encouraging signs that production from existing or planned mines is responding or will respond to higher prices. The supply of uranium has recently become very inelastic. As the demand increases, the prices respond dramatically.cite web
url=http://www.uxc.com/cover-stories/uxw_18-39-cover.html
title=The Supply Elasticity of Uranium
publisher=The Ux Consulting Company, LLC.
date=2004-09-27
volume=18
issue=39
language=English
accessdate=2008-04-29
] However, after peak uranium, the rate at which uranium is produced is decreasing. Prices are likely to soar.

Number of Contracts

Unlike other metals such as gold, silver, copper or nickel, uranium is not widely traded on an organized commodity exchange such as the London Metal Exchange. It is traded on the NYMEX but on very low volume. [url=http://www.nymex.com/UX_csf.aspx] Instead, it is traded in most cases through contracts negotiated directly between a buyer and a seller. [cite web
url=http://www.cameco.com/uranium_101/markets/
title=Uranimum 101: Markets
publisher=Cameco
language=English
] The structure of uranium supply contracts varies widely. The prices are either fixed or base on referenced to economic indices such as GDP, inflation or currency exchange. Contracts traditionally are based on the uranium spot price and rules by which the price can escalate. Delivery quantities, schedules, and prices vary from contract to contract and often from delivery to delivery within the term of a contract.

Since the number of companies mining uranium is small, the number of available contracts is also small. Supplies are running short due to flooding of two of the world's largest mines and a dwindling amount of uranium salvaged from nuclear warheads being removed from service. [cite web
url=http://money.cnn.com/2007/04/19/markets/uranium/index.htm
title=What's behind the red-hot uranium boom
publisher=CNN
author=Steve Hargreaves
date=2007-04-19
language=English
] While demand for the metal has been steady for years, the price of uranium is expected to surge as a host of new nuclear plants come online.

Hedge Funds

Several hedge funds are investing in processed uranium, helping drive up the price. There are at least four hedge funds, including two publicly traded firms -- Uranium Participation Corp. [ticker: U.TO] and Nufcor Uranium Ltd. [ticker: NUURF.PK] -- actively purchasing uranium. [cite web
url=http://www.banknet360.com/news/NewsAbstract.do?na_id=7786&service_id=1&bi_id=
title=Hedge Funds Drive Up Uranium Prices
publisher=Banknet 360
author=Mike Gibb
date=2007-03-05
language=English
]

Mining

For uranium exploration companies that constantly have to drum up new exploration funds, a rising uranium price entices institutions and investors to bet on their next project.

Mining companies are returning to abandoned uranium mines with new promises of hundreds of jobs and millions in royalties. Some locals want them back. Others say the risk is too great. They'll try to stop those companies "until there's a cure for cancer." [cite web
url=http://www.gallupindependent.com/2007/july/071607zp_toohottohandle.html
title=Too hot to handle?
publisher=The Gallup Independent
author=Zsombor Peter
date=2007-07-16
language=English
]

Uranium occurs at concentrations of 50 to 200 parts per million in phosphate-laden earth or phosphate rock. As uranium prices increase, there has been interest in some countries in extraction of uranium from phosphate rock, which is normally used as the basis of phosphate fertilizers.

Electric Utilities

Since many utilities have extensive stockpiles and can plan many months in advance, they take a wait-and-see approach on higher uranium costs. In the past year, this strategy has backfired due to the number of planned reactors or new reactors coming online. [cite web
url=http://seekingalpha.com/article/32304-u-s-utilities-quietly-worry-about-uranium-supply
title=U.S. Utilities Quietly Worry about Uranium Supply
date=2007-04-15
language=English
] Those trying to find uranium in a rising cost climate are forced to face the reality of a seller’s market. Sellers remain reluctant to sell significant quantities. By waiting longer, sellers expect to get a higher price for the material they hold. Utilities on the other hand, are very eager to lock up long-term uranium contracts.

According to the NEA, the nature of nuclear generating costs allows for significant increases in the costs of uranium before the costs of generating electricity significantly increase. A 100% increase in uranium costs would only result in a 5% increase in electric cost. This is because uranium has to be converted to gas, enriched, converted back to yellow cake and fabricated into fuel elements. The cost of the finished fuel assemblies are dominated by the processing costs, not the cost of the raw materials. [cite web
url=http://www.uic.com.au/nip08.htm
title=The Economics of Nuclear Power
date=2007-12
publisher=Australian Uranium Association - Uranium Information Centre
language=English
] Furthermore, the cost of electricity from a nuclear power plant is dominated by the high capital and operating costs, not the cost of the fuel. Nevertheless, any increase in the price of uranium is eventually passed on to the consumer either directly or through a fuel surcharge.

ubstitutes

An alternative to uranium is thorium which is three times more common than uranium. Fast breeder reactors are not needed. Compared to conventional uranium reactors, thorium reactors using the thorium fuel cycle may produce some 40 times the amount of energy per unit of mass.cite web
url=http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf62.html
title=Thorium
publisher=World Nuclear Association
date=2008-03
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-14
]

If nuclear power prices rise too quickly, or too high, power companies are likely to look for substitutes in non-renewable energy: Coal, oil, and gas:

*Gas consumption is relatively clean, but does produce more CO2 emissions.
*Oil consumption would adversely affect the air quality, increase oil imports and CO2 emissions.
*Coal consumption will result in decreased air quality, increase in water consumption near coal-fired plants and CO2 emissions.

Also renewable energy, such as hydro, bio-energy, solar thermal electricity, geothermal, wind, tidal may also be considered as substitutes:

*Renewables can make a clean, safe substitute for electricity made the nuclear fission of uranium although some would argue that renewables cannot provide a sufficient baseload. [cite web
url=http://www.wind-watch.org/faq-electricity.php
title=FAQ -- The Grid
publisher=National Wind Watch
language=English
] However, there are reliable and refutable sources that say that the baseload argument is a myth. [cite journal
quotes =
author = Cristina L. Archer and Mark Z. Jacobson
date = 2007-11
year = 2007
month = November
title =Supplying Baseload Power and Reducing Transmission Requirements by Interconnecting Wind Farms
journal =
volume = 46
issue =
pages = pp 1701–1717
publisher = Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
location =
issn =
pmid =
doi = 10.1175/2007JAMC158.1
bibcode =
oclc =
id =
url = http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/aj07_jam.pdf
language = English
format = pdf
accessdate = 2007-02-20
laysummary =
laysource =
laydate =
quote =
] [cite web
url=http://www.energyscience.org.au/BP16%20BaseLoad.pdf
title=The Baseload Fallacy
publisher=Energy Science
author=Mark Diesendorf
language=English
format=PDF
] [cite web
url=http://www.newmatilda.com/2008/01/29/baseload-myth
title=The Baseload Myth
publisher=The New Matilda
date=2008-01-29
author=Mark Byrne
language=English
]
*Some renewable electricity sources (e.g. hydro, bioenergy, solar thermal electricity and geothermal ) have identical variability to coal-fired power stations and so they are base-load. They can be integrated without any additional back-up, as can efficient energy use.
*Other renewable electricity sources have variability, but that variability can be reduced or eliminated with geographic location. For example while the wind might blow at one wind turbine, it might not at another one.

Historical understanding of world uranium supply limits

*1789 - The German scientist Martin Heinrich Klaproth isolated uranium in a sample of pitchblende.
*1896 - Antoine Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium underwent radioactive decay.
*1939 - Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann discover nuclear fission.
*1943 - Alvin M. Weinberg et al. were aware of the serious limitations on nuclear energy if only U-235 were used as a nuclear power plant fuel.cite book
url=http://books.google.com/books?id=3_2ILEQQqpIC
title=Nuclear War I and Other Major Nuclear Disasters of the 20th Century
author=Samuel Upton Newtan
page=173
date=2007
language=English
accessdate=2009-04-13
] They understood that breeding was required to usher in the age of nearly endless energy. Breeding turns fertile U-238 into fissionable Pu-239 (or fertile Th-232 into fissionable U-233).
*1956 - M. King Hubbert declares world fissionable reserves adequate for at least the next few centuries assuming breeding and reprocessing will be developed into economical processes.
*1975 - The US Department of the Interior, Geological Survey, distributed the press release "Known US Uranium Reserves Won't Meet Demand".

ee also

References

External references

Books

*Herring, J.: Uranium and thorium resource assessment, Encyclopedia of Energy, Boston University, Boston, USA, 2004, ISBN 0-12-176480-X.

Articles

*Deffeyes, Kenneth S., MacGregor, Ian D. "Uranium Distribution in Mined Deposits and in the Earth’s Crust" Final Report, GJBX—1(79), Dept of Geological and Geophysical Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.
*Deffeyes, K., MacGregor, I.: "World Uranium resources" Scientific American, Vol 242, No 1, January 1980, pp. 66-76.

External links

*cite web
url=http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf23.html
title=World Uranium Mining
publisher=World Nuclear Association
date=2007-07
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-17

*cite web
url=http://www.energywatchgroup.org/fileadmin/global/pdf/EWG_Uraniumreport_12-2006.pdf
format=PDF
title=Uranium resources and nuclear energy
publisher=Energy Watch Group
date=2006-12
language=English
accessdate=2008-08-24

*cite web
url=http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf49.html
title=Canada's Uranium Production & Nuclear Power
publisher=World Nuclear Association
date=2008-04
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-17

*cite web
url=http://www.anl.gov/Special_Reports/NuclEconSumAug04.pdf
title=The Economic Future of Nuclear Power
publisher=University of Chicago
author=George S. Tolley and Donald W. Jones
date=2004
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-09
format=PDF

*cite web
url=http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/
title=The Future of Nuclear Energy
publisher=Massachusetts Institute of Technology
author=
date=
isbn=ISBN 0-615-12420-8
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-09

* cite web |url=http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/chinainstitute/nav03.cfm?nav03=59974&nav02=59973&nav01=57272
title=China Nuclear Ambitions Pose Uranium Supply Questions
publisher=University of Alberta
author=
date=2007-04-19
language=English
accessdate=2008-05-09

*

*cite web
url=http://www.uic.com.au/ne8.PDF
title=Uranium Supply - Australia And Canada
publisher=Nuclear Electricity 7th edition, ch 8
date=(2002)
language=English
format=PDF

* cite web
url=http://www.uic.com.au/nip01.htm
title=Australia's Uranium and Nuclear Power Prospects - Briefing Paper 1
publisher=UIC
date=2008-01
language=English

* cite web
url=http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/04/10/bloomberg/bxnuke.php
title=Japan seeks uranium supplies from Russia and Kazakhstan
publisher=International Herald Tribune
author=Megumi Yamanaka
date=2007-04-11
language=English

* cite web
url=http://www.uic.com.au/nip75.htm
title=Supply of Uranium, UIC Nuclear Issues Briefing Paper # 75
publisher=UIC
date=2007-03
language=English

* cite web
url=http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jun2006/2006-06-06-03.asp
title=Global Nuclear Expansion Based on Plentiful Uranium Supply
publisher=Environment News Service
date=2006-06-06
language=English

* cite web
url=http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/Pub1104_scr.pdf
title=Analysis of Uranium Supply to 2050
publisher=International Atomic Energy Association
date=2001
language=English
format=PDF

* cite web
url=http://www.ccnr.org/AECL_plute.html
title=What is reprocessing?
publisher=Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility
author=Gordon Edwards
date=1978
language=English

* cite web
url=http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/readings/keeny.html
title=Nuclear Reaction - Why do Americans fear Nuclear Power?
publisher=Public Broadcasting Service
author=Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr.
date=
language=English


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