Nuclear fuel industry ready to meet growth in capacity

10 September 2015

The world nuclear industry is ready to meet the uranium and fuel service requirements of a growing nuclear generation share over the coming decades, according to the latest edition of the World Nuclear Association's newly published Nuclear Fuel Report.

The biennial report and assessment of the supply and demand situation across the entire nuclear fuel cycle was unveiled at the association's annual Symposium in London today. The study uses both publicly available information and that provided by the World Nuclear Association's member companies.

Questionnaires sent to utilities and suppliers all over the world (both members and non-members of the association) are used to inform and supplement the association's reactor requirements model, which has been updated for this edition of the report. Hendrick de Baenst, co-chair of the working group responsible for the report, said it therefore represents the opinions of both customers and suppliers.

Three scenarios - upper, reference and lower - are considered for the period to 2035. De Baenst emphasized this approach as one of the report's strongest points. "We have looked at different scenarios which are plausible," he said. Fuel report working group co-chair Pierre Durante said the report represented a "common and shared view" of possible future markets.

The reference scenario foresees world nuclear capacity increasing from 379 GWe at mid-2015 to 404 GWe by 2020 and to 552 GWe by 2035, while the upper scenario sees 429 GWe in 2020 and 720 GWe in 2035. The projections of nuclear capacity in the upper and reference scenarios are slightly below their counterparts from the previous edition of the report, published in 2013, while the lower scenario remains generally static to 2035.

Known world resources of uranium are more than sufficient to satisfy reactor requirements to well beyond 2035, according to report. Depressed uranium prices have curtailed exploration activities and the opening of new mines, but production will rise again over the next 10 years in both the reference and upper scenarios.

Secondary supplies of uranium are playing a diminishing role in the world market but will continue to be important over the entire period to 2035, with underfeeding of enrichment plants expected to add significant quantities of uranium to the market in the period to 2025.

The uranium market should be adequately supplied from both primary and secondary sources in the period to 2025 provided all mines currently under development or planned enter service as expected. Beyond 2025, further production will be required to satisfy uranium demand under both the upper and reference scenarios.

Conversion and enrichment are sufficient to meet demand over the forecast period under both the lower and reference scenarios, while fabrication capacity is more than sufficient under all three scenarios.

Meeting the challenge

Nuclear energy is an essential element in any credible strategy to combat carbon emissions while contributing to security of energy supply, the report notes. Global nuclear generation capacity is set to grow from today's 379 GWe to 552 GWe by 2035 according to the report's reference scenario, but nuclear is facing increased competitive challenges from other modes of generation, especially in deregulated markets, while continuing to face regulatory and political hurdles.

De Baenst said that for the industry to reach the upper scenario for nuclear capacity outlined in the report, it would need governments, especially in OECD countries, to recognise the benefits of nuclear and the pace at which it can contribute to greenhouse gas abatement. He echoed comments made earlier in the day when World Nuclear Association director general Agneta Rising challenged the nuclear industry to achieve a 25% share of global electricity generation by 2050. "There has to be belief in the benefits of nuclear energy," De Baenst said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News