Uranium Supply and the Nuclear Renaissance
by Richard Kimura
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One small pellet of enriched uranium, about the size of a fat pencil eraser, contains about the same energy as 3 cords of wood, or 3 barrels of fuel oil. Uranium is key to a successful nuclear renaissance, on which much as been written. Global warming has caused many environmentalists to throw their support behind nuclear energy, an energy source free of greenhouse emissions present in "fossil fuels' such as coal and oil.
Uranium is key to a successful nuclear renaissance, on which much as been written. Global warming has caused many environmentalists to throw their support behind nuclear energy, an energy source free of greenhouse emissions present in "fossil fuels' such as coal and oil. The nuclear industry greatly improved its safety record since the Three Mile Island accident decades ago. It has also improved reactor on-line efficiency to over 90%, important for both grid stability and investor return on investment. With coal and oil prices tripling, nuclear energy by many accounts has become the cheapest source of electricity in the United States. New reactors being considered in the U. S. with the application of combined construction and operating licenses, and China alone has plans to build over 30 new nuclear reactors.
Uranium demand has also increased as a result of increased demand for reactors. Uranium fuels the nuclear reactor. It is mined from the ground and refined into "yellowcake", or uranium oxide. The uranium oxide is converted into uranium hexafluoride gas and enriched up to 5% in U-235 for reactors in the U.S. Total world uranium usage is increasing, and mine supply struggles to keep up. Between 2003 and 2006 world uranium prices have increased from $7/lb in 2002 to nearly $70/lb near the end of 2006.
Uranium has also become an interesting investment area. Uranium blue chip stocks, such as Cameco, and uranium explorers such as JNR Resources have also done well riding the uranium wave higher. Problems have occurred with Cameco's Cigar Lake mine recently, which filled with water after the collapse of a freeze barrier. Although work is underway to repair the breach, it has caused prices to increase more quickly. Demand for uranium has continued to outpace supply and complications such as this coupled with Chinese and Indian demand indicated that the fundamental trends of new demand are soundly in place. Enriched uranium recovery is also much more important as enriched uranium at 3% U-235 enrichment is now over $1000/lb.
So, uranium is in an exciting position as global growth continues, and nations seek to provide power to support their economic expansions. Uranium recovery is of great importance to developing nations, and the investors in the U.S. should seriously look into securing a long-term supply in order to not only profit from the boom but also ensuring a supply of reasonably priced uranium.
About Richard Kimura:
Rich Kimura is a project engineering manager, freelance writer, and entrepreneur. He has numerous technical papers, 1 patent and 2 pending, and 24 years experience in industry. He started many home businesses and has Crown Financial training. For more unique perspectives on personal finances, relationships, and spirituality, visit Cirrovista at http://www.cirrovista.com
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