Investments in nuclear energy have soared, along with demand for uranium, as a result of surging global energy prices and ambitious climate targets around the world.
As uranium is used in so many industries and fields—from nuclear energy to medicine to the military—its significance has once again become apparent as prices have risen as a result of high demand, limited supply and depleted stock.
According to the World Nuclear Association, around 10% of electricity worldwide is produced from uranium in nuclear reactors. This corresponds to an annual electricity production of over 2,500 terawatt-hours.
There are currently 412 reactors operating in 32 countries across the globe, with a total installed capacity of around 370 gigawatts (GW), according to the International Atomic Energy Agency's data. Twenty-five more reactors, with a total installed capacity of about 21 GW, have temporarily suspended their operations in Japan and India.
In 17 different nations throughout the world, 58 reactors with a combined installed power of nearly 60 GW are now under development.
Moreover, with more planned and proposed projects, nuclear energy capacity is expected to reach 444 GW by 2030 and 686 GW by 2040.
Although the rise in nuclear capacity will be led mainly by China and India, it is expected that nuclear capacity will grow steadily in the West as a result of plans to extend the operating life of existing reactors and new projects.
Demand for uranium in nuclear reactors is expected to climb by 28% to 83,840 tons by 2030 as governments ramp up nuclear power capacity to meet zero-carbon targets. It is also projected to nearly double from this year’s quantity of 65,650 tons to reach 130,000 tons by 2040.
- Production lags behind rising demand
Supply concerns intensified this year in an industry that is already experiencing difficulties with recent developments, such as the decrease in uranium stocks and the military coup on July 26 in Niger, one of the world's largest uranium suppliers.
Global uranium supply is lagging behind the increasing demand.
With 63,207 tons produced worldwide in 2016, 96% of the world's uranium needs were satisfied. But during the ensuing years, production progressively declined, reaching 47,731 tons in 2020—just 74% of the total demand.
Production reached 47,808 tons in 2021, covering 75% of the world market. Production increased marginally to 49,355 tons last year, covering 74% of global demand.
- Australia is home to largest uranium reserves
Out of the world’s total uranium reserves of approximately 6.08 million tons, Australia tops the list with 1.68 million tons, Kazakhstan follows with 815,200 tons and Canada with 588,500 tons.
Russia ranks fourth with 480,900 tons, and the African country of Namibia follows in fifth place with 470,100 tons.
South Africa, Niger, Brazil and China are among the other countries that hold sizable uranium reserves.
- Kazakhstan leads in uranium mining
The quantity of uranium produced worldwide last year totaled 49,355 tons.
Kazakhstan is considered to be the largest supplier of uranium in the world. With a production rate of 21,227 tons last year, the nation alone satisfied 43% of the world's uranium needs.
With a production of 7,351 tons, Canada accounted for 15% of the overall supply, while Namibia—which possesses the greatest uranium reserves in Africa—met 11% with 5,613 tons.
Despite possessing the biggest uranium deposits globally, Australia's production of 4,553 tons only covered 9% of the world's total supply.
Uzbekistan, Russia, Niger, China, India, South Africa, Ukraine, the US, Pakistan, Brazil and Iran were among the other countries that produced uranium last year.
The US, with the largest nuclear fleet of 93 reactors, produced only 75 tons of uranium last year.
France, which derives around 63% of its electricity from nuclear energy, has failed to produce uranium since 2015, when output totaled 2 tons.
By Firdevs Yuksel