“Uranium 2016: Resources, Production and Demand”, known as the Red Book, jointly published by the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency, says global uranium resources are more than adequate to meet projected requirements for the foreseeable future, regardless of the role played by nuclear energy. This is the 26th edition of the Red Book, and provides analysis and information from 49 producing and consuming countries.
The study says identified resources, including reasonably assured resources and inferred resources, are sufficient for over 135 years. Global uranium mine production has decreased by 4% since 2013, but production is still above 2011 levels. Kazakhstan, the world’s leading producer, continues to increase production, but at a slower pace. The Red Book says the challenge in the coming years is likely to be less one of adequacy of resources than adequacy of production capacity development due to poor uranium market conditions.
Although uranium is a valuable commodity, declining market prices in recent years, driven by uncertainties concerning evolutions in the use of nuclear power, have led to the postponement of mine development plans in a number of countries and to some questions being raised about future uranium supply. Despite recent declines in electricity demand in some developed countries, global demand is expected to continue to grow in the next several decades to meet the needs of a growing population, particularly in developing countries.
Since NPPs produces competitively priced, baseload electricity that is essentially free of greenhouse gas emissions, and the deployment of nuclear power improves energy security, it is projected to remain “an important component of energy supply”. However, the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident eroded public confidence in nuclear power in some countries and prospects for growth in nuclear generating capacity are being reduced and are facing an uncertain future.
In addition, the Red Book says, the abundance of low-cost natural gas in North America and the “risk-averse investment climate” have reduced the competitiveness of NPPs in liberalised electricity markets. Government and market policies that recognise the benefits of low-carbon electricity production and the security of energy supply provided NPPs could help alleviate these competitive pressures. Nuclear power nonetheless is projected to grow considerably in regulated electricity markets with increasing electricity demand and a growing need for clean air electricity generation.