Home » Nuclear Power Boom Revives Dormant Uranium Mines

Nuclear Power Boom Revives Dormant Uranium Mines

Uranium producers in the US and other countries are reopening old mines to meet the growing appetite for nuclear fuel

by Victor Adetimilehin

Nuclear power is making a comeback as a key player in the global quest for a carbon-neutral future. With more countries embracing nuclear energy as a reliable and affordable source of electricity, the demand for uranium – the fuel that powers nuclear reactors – is soaring.

However, the supply of uranium is not keeping up with the demand. The world’s top producers, Kazakhstan, Canada, and Australia, have faced operational challenges and production cuts in recent years. The uranium market has also been depressed by the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, which led some countries to phase out or reduce their nuclear programs.

This supply-demand imbalance has created a golden opportunity for uranium miners in the US and other countries, who are reviving old mines that were once deemed unprofitable or unfeasible. These mines, which were mostly idled or abandoned in the past decade, are now being brought back to life with new technology, investment and optimism.

One of the most notable examples is the Arkansas Nuclear One power plant in the US, which is pictured on this page. The plant, which has been operating since 1974, is the only nuclear facility in Arkansas and provides about 30% of the state’s electricity. But the plant has been relying on imported uranium for its fuel, mostly from Canada and Kazakhstan.

That is about to change, thanks to a new project by Texas-based Uranium Energy Corp. (UEC), which is reopening a nearby mine that was shut down in 2012. The mine, which is located about 20 miles from the plant, has an estimated 10 million pounds of uranium reserves, enough to supply the plant for about 10 years.

UEC’s CEO, Amir Adnani, said the project is a win-win situation for both the company and the plant. “We are providing a secure and domestic source of uranium for a critical infrastructure that powers millions of homes and businesses in Arkansas,” he said. “We are also creating jobs and economic benefits for the local community and the state.”

UEC is not the only company that is betting on the uranium revival. Energy Fuels Inc., Ur-Energy Inc., Denison Mines Corp. and Fission Uranium Corp. are some of the other firms that are restarting or expanding their operations in the US, as well as in Australia and Canada.

These companies are also benefiting from the rising uranium prices, which have surged by more than 50% since the start of 2023, reaching over $100 per pound in January 2024. This is the highest level since 2015, and analysts expect the prices to remain strong or even increase further in the coming years.

The bullish outlook for uranium is driven by several factors, including the growing recognition of nuclear power’s role in combating climate change, the geopolitical tensions that threaten the security and stability of uranium supply chains, and the increasing investment and innovation in the nuclear sector.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the world will need more than 100,000 metric tons of uranium per year by 2040, which is nearly double the current level of mining and processing. The IAEA also projects that the number of nuclear reactors in operation will increase from 443 in 2020 to 511 in 2030, and to 592 in 2040.

The nuclear power boom is not only happening in traditional markets like the US, China, France and Russia, but also in emerging markets like India, Brazil, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, which are building their first nuclear plants. Moreover, there are new developments in the field of small modular reactors (SMRs), which are smaller, cheaper and safer than conventional reactors, and can be deployed in remote or off-grid areas.

All these trends point to a bright future for the uranium industry, which is poised to play a vital role in the global energy transition. As Adnani said, “We are witnessing the dawn of a new era for nuclear power and uranium mining. This is uranium’s third bull market, and it is just getting started.”

Source: Mining.com

You may also like

Leave a Comment

The African Miner is the vanguard of the mining industry, delivering world-class insight and news.

Latest Stories

© 2024 The African Miner. All Rights Reserved.