FUEL RESOURCES AND SUPPLY

There are sufficient high-grade uranium reserves to service the present fleet of reactors for at least 60 years based on the present fuel strategies and a demand of 65,000 tonnes per year (Energy Visions 2030 for Finland, 2003). Since the price of uranium has been dropping from the early 1980s, the emphasis of the mining industry has been to concentrate on the high-grade resources. There are considerable additional reserves anticipated from undiscovered conventional deposits and even more from less conventional sources such as seawater (Table 5.2).

Low-cost uranium resources are distributed worldwide as shown in Figure 5.1. In terms of production, the largest producer is Canada, generating about one-third of the total world supply. The next largest is Australia, about one-sixth, and other significant contributions come from Nigeria, Namibia and Russia.

Current production is around half of demand with the remainder coming from uranium stockpiles for the civil nuclear programmes in the US and Russia. There are considerably

Table 5.2. Uranium resources

Reserves

Amount (M tonnes)

Total fuel provision time (years) based on current fleets’ usage and fuel cycle strategies

Present known high-grade reserves

4

At least 60 years

Undiscovered conventional deposits

11

~ 250

Unconventional deposits, e. g. sea water

22

image033

Figure 5.1. Country distribution of high-grade uranium reserves. Source: Energy Visions 2030 for

Finland (2003).

more supplies available from highly enriched uranium and plutonium from dismantled weapons.

Regarding the efficient utilisation of fuel, a fast breeder reactor fuel cycle would use the uranium 50 times more efficiently, compared with other fuel cycles.

A thorium cycle would result in further fuel resource; thorium fuel is four times more abundant than uranium.

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