Worldwide demand for uranium is expected to increase considerably up to 2030, resulting in a substantial need for additional supplies of nuclear fuel, according to a report released by the World Nuclear Association.
The 2013 edition of the World Nuclear Association’s (WNA’s) biennial report on The Global Nuclear Fuel Market – Supply and Demand 2013-2030, released in London at the WNA’s Annual Symposium, projects nuclear capacity to grow up to 2030 at a faster rate than at any time since 1990.
In the WNA’s ‘reference scenario’, world nuclear generating capacity will increase from the current level of 370 GWe (including all Japanese reactors except Fukushima Daiichi 1-4) to 433 GWe by 2020 and to 574 GWe by 2030. The annual average rate of growth over the whole period is 2.6%, sufficient to maintain the nuclear share of world electricity at close to the current 12% level to 2030. In the more optimistic upper scenario, the equivalent figures are 466 GWe in 2020 and 700 GWe in 2030. In the relatively pessimistic lower scenario, nuclear generating capacity effectively stagnates in the period to 2020 and then drops away to 341 GWe in 2030.
Uranium demand would reach 119,000 tonnes by 2030 in the upper scenario, an increase of 43% from today’s level of 62,000 tU, and about 97,000 tU (a 22% increase) in the reference scenario. Provided that all uranium mines currently under development enter service as planned, the report finds that the uranium market should be adequately supplied to 2025, after which time new mines will be required.
The WNA has revised its nuclear capacity projections downwards since the 2011 edition of The Global Nuclear Fuel Market. The lower projections result from the fact that utilities aiming to commission new nuclear power plants have recently been faced with an increased level of challenges. These challenges reflect not only the post-Fukushima calls for the industry to demonstrate a higher degree of safety but, probably of more pressing concern in North America and Europe, the need to cope with stronger competition from alternative generating technologies at a time of more modest growth in expected power demand. Meanwhile, the overall outlook for the energy sector is especially uncertain due to the lack of clear policy direction on the decarbonisation of energy supply.
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