More nuclear and more uranium more likely

02 September 2007

The World Nuclear Association's Market Report for 2007 does not substantially revise its growth scenarios for nuclear power, but authors said the higher scenarios have grown more likely.

The 13th such biennial report from the WNA, entitled The Global Nuclear Fuel Market, Supply and Demand 2007-2030, puts forward three scenarios for nuclear power generation, before calculating uranium supply and demand requirements.

Under the Reference Scenario, steady growth of around 1.5% per year takes nuclear capacity from 368 GWe at the end of 2006 to 377 GWe by 2010, 454 GWe by 2020 and 529 GWe by 2030.

The Upper Scenario represents a 'substantial revival' - 382 GWe in 2010; 520 GWe in 2020; and 720 GWe in 2030.
That would gradually bring nuclear power's share of global electricity to 18%, from 16% today. The Lower Scenario, however, sees a rise to 373 GWe by 2010 followed by stagnation and a fall to 282 GWe in 2030.

The report's drafting group, which represents 12 nuclear fuel, generation and technology companies, noted that the scenario predictions are not significantly revised from 2005's report, because the 'good news' about the future of nuclear power was largely included in that report. In addition, the authors now consider "the upper case is probably more likely than two years ago and the lower scenario less so."

On uranium supply, the report said that known reserves of uranium were "more than adequate to supply reactor requirements to well beyond 2030," but that a strong rise in production would come. Compared with 40,000 tonnes of uranium now, output could be expected to rise to between 64,000 tonnes and 82,000 tonnes by 2030, taking figures from the Lower and Upper Scenarios respectively. The reference rates of production are 60,000 tonnes of uranium in 2010 and 68,000 tonnes in 2015. Beyond 2015, the report said, it becomes difficult to predict which prospective new mines are likely to enter production. In the period 2010-15 the strong build-up of new uranium production could even lead to a surplus.

One factor necessitating a rise in production from mines would be the 2013 cessation of the HEU Agreement whereby high-enriched uranium (HEU) from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons has been down-blended for use in power generation. More of this kind of activity is expected after 2013 using both Russian and US stockpiles.

As the price of uranium was rising over the previous three years, nuclear fuel buyers were choosing to purchase less of the metal and more of the enrichment service required to bring it to the levels required for use in a power reactor. This has boosted the enrichment sector and led to its scenarios to be generally higher, but not as high as previously speculated.

Further information

World Nuclear Association

WNA's Aspects of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle information papers