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Uranium Oxide Spot Prices Almost Double in 2006

Uranium spot prices almost doubled during 2006, jumping from US$37.50/pound for U3O8 in January to $72/pound in December, according to pricing data collected by the Ux Consulting Company.

The $72/pound figure is ten times the $7.10 price of uranium oxide at the end of 2000, unadjusted for inflation. In constant 2006 dollars, uranium oxide spot prices have risen 8.7 times from their close in 2000.

The price rise is linked to the increased demand for nuclear power generation projects.

According to an update on the uranium market from the World Nuclear Association (WNA) in May 2006, spot prices apply to marginal trading from day to day and in 2005 represented about 34% of supply. Most trade is 3-7 year term contracts with producers selling direct to utilities, but with the price often related to the spot price.

Production from world uranium mines now supplies only about 55% of the requirements of power utilities, according to the WNA, with mine production supplemented principally by ex-military material.

However, world mine production will need to expand significantly in the coming years to meet the growing demand, even with increased efficiencies.

...factors increasing fuel demand are offset by a trend for increased efficiencies, so demand is dampened—over the 20 years from 1970 there was a 25% reduction in uranium demand per kWh output in Europe due to such improvements, which continue.


Bill Young

Some people may think that the dramatic price rise indicates we are running out of reasonably price uranium. This is not so.

Uranium mining has been suppressed by low market prices for many years. Governments, predominantly US and Russia, have been releasing excess stockpiles of Uranium for several years which has discouraged exploration and mine development.

Australia, holder of the world's largest reserves, has limited the country to 3 working mines for domestic political reasons. They are revisiting that policy.

Canada is actively expanding production but has recently been significantly delayed on its richest lode by a mine flood.

Australia and Canada are the world's dominant uranium suppliers.

Paul Dietz

Also, even at $72/lb, the cost of natural uranium oxide is still a small fraction of the total cost of nuclear power.


People had better get used to the prospect of going nuclear ( or more nuclear than we are now ). You can only go so far on fossils, wind, bio and conservation.

It is probably the best way to replace coal for base load production (if you care abut CO2 induced global warming) that is.

It is possible that we will have a breakthrough in bio or solar, but we had better take out insurance in case we don't. And that insurance is nuclear.

Even if the west does not, the rest of the world will, India, China etc., and we should hope they do.

After all, global warming is - well - global while nuclear is local ( large but local ).

So we better get on with it and make sure all reactor designs are as safe as possible and we have somewhere to put the waste.

It is likely that public opinion, poisoned by the greens will prevent the spread of Nuclear power in the west, but we should hope that the rest of the world gets on with it.

It won't be a picnic, but it will be better than the collapse of civilisation due to fuel shortages or climate catastrophe.

Besides, the French and Belgians seem to be doing pretty well out of it.


So, we trade renewable and sustainable for meltdowns and 1000s years of radioactive waste. I don't think so.


We don't trade renewables, we pick up their shortcomings. There's no way in hell you'll ever get enough electricity off of renewables to sustain the world, so we just need a way of storing the radioactive waste because it is one of our few options that we have for a growing global population.


A "glowing" global population...I will buy that. Renewables can be stored with pumped hydro at more than 70% efficiency for the base load.


Pumped hydro? I'm not sure I understand the reference. Are you referring to a plan similar to Ontario Hydro's compensation reservoir associated with Adam Beck #2 or the similar project of the Lewiston Reservoir Pump/Generating Station associated with Robert Moses Dam? If so I suggest you might reconsider. The number of places suitable for construction of a major reservoir near enough to a water source to make that practical as a reserve storage method as well as close enough to a major metro area to keep the efficiencies in place so that your reserve isn’t eaten by transmission loss are few and far between. Nor is this a cheap option either financially or politically. It took a Supreme Court ruling to get Lewiston built and was a major political and legal mess for years.
If, however, you have some other reference in mind please feel free to elucidate, I never mind being given new information. Do note though, that no matter what the scheme, it will probably take forever to be done since the approval process for any new power plant is ten years plus, and that assumes that no major NIMBY opposition occurs.
Base line power is incredibly hard to produce because it depends on rock solid power generation and that requires new plants that are almost always opposed.



nevertheless I have been unable to data to find any reliable estimate on how large uranium resources are. Whether they can last for twenty, one hundred or five hundred years.


If you think the u235 is going to run out, you could always breed Pu239 from u238, but that is a bit of a slippery slope ....
The French nearly did it with SuperPhenix, but stopped at the last moment.

The Chinese may not stop.


Google "pumped hydro" saves a long explanation.

Bill Young

As of the first of the year

Power reactors under construction/planned/proposed:

China: 5/13/50
India: 9/4/20
US: 0/2/21

Uranium reasonably assured reserves at $130/Kg (about the current price)is 4.7 million tons U.

Current U consumption (~442 reactors) is $68 thousand tons U. Thus at current rate, current reserves is 69 years.

All other things equal, the consumption rate will, of course, go up as more reactors come on line.

If recycling of fuel is more widely adopted, the consumption of new Uranium goes down. Recycling is usually referred to as fuel reprocessing and has not been done in the US since the 70's.

Plutonium is already created in the existing power reactors. You don't need a breeder. Plutonium is created from U-238 and 97% of the Uranium in a ordinary power reactor is U-238. Much of the Plutonium created is burned before the fuel bundles are removed.

When the fuel bundles are removed from a power reactor, the Plutonium which has not been burned is not suitable for nuclear weaponry even if it is chemically separated from the rest of the fuel. It contains too much Pu-240 which will mess up the operation of a weapon.

Excellent source for nuclear data: (If you go to cross check my numbers, they list one reactor in the US under construction-that is not accurate. There is a reactor undergoing an extensive multiyear rebuild, but it is not new.)


The last esimate put the total proven uranium deposits at about 400 years worth even at MUCH higher usage then present. And that with once through method.

Reprocessing expands that by 20-30 fold.

Now if we cant invent something else or find more fuel in 12000 years..

And thats uranium.. thorium is VASTLY bigger supply...

And then thereare other materials we can use...

And somewhere along the line we can get off this rock and mine other planets.. ad invent fusion power or something better.

Or build a milliobn suare mile solar station in orbit around the sun.. close in. Or .. turn into pure energy and go annoy mortals all over the universe....

Or we could all die tomarrow from pandemic explosive bowel disease.

Grabs a coin..who wants tails?!

Roger Pham

The solar energy covering only about 0.5% of desert land world-wide is enough to replace all human electricity demand, if produced by concentrated solar thermal or concentrated PV processes at ~30% efficiency.

High-voltage DC (HVDC) powerline can transmit long-distance with a loss of only 3% every 625 miles. The entire continental USA and Europe can receiver desert solar electricity at under 10% transmission loss.

Why gamble with the perils of nuclear energy?

Paul Dietz

So, we trade renewable and sustainable for meltdowns and 1000s years of radioactive waste.

Meltdowns in a properly designed reactor are very infrequent and not catastrophic even if they do occur. Consider that TMI was a partial meltdown, but released something like 1 million times less radioactivity than Chernobyl.

As for waste: stick it in dry casks and let it cool for centuries. Thanks to the miracle of nonzero interest rates, the present value of watching it and then dealing with it in the far future (using the advanced technology of the time, or, pessimistically, just burying it like we plan to do now) is quite low.

The most polluting part of the nuclear fuel cycle is uranium mining, due to the mobilization of decay products like radium and radon. But if we mine the uranium dissolved in the oceans (which contain about 4 billion tons of uranium, and that Japanese researchers claim can be extracted at a cost roughly twice the current market price) then all those decay products have already been mobilized by nature, so there's no extra anthropogenic pollution. The availability of this resource would also guarantee that reprocessing was not needed for centuries, even with a much larger nuclear industry.

Bill Young


The last time I checked the numbers, PV solar cost about $5000/kilowatt which operates at about 25% of capacity. The new build nuclear in the US is projected to cost about $1500-2200/kilowatt which will operate at about 90% of capacity. That makes the solar about 8 times the capital cost of nuclear.

Thermal solar is supposed to be a little better on capital cost than PV but I don't have a good number for it. Solar has a small cost advantage on continuing operation because it does not have any fuel consumption and the continuing security and regulatory costs are lower.

Solar, although considerably more expensive than wind power, has an advantage to the grid operator of predictability. Grid instability is a problem with wind when the installed capacity gets much over 5% of the total. Solar could probably go to 30% of capacity without causing a problem.


If we have 200 years of coal for IGCC and the world has 400 year of uranium for nuclear reactors then conserve those resources for later and use as much renewable as possible now. Solar thermal electric, like at Kramer Junction, can be produced at the cost of NG turbines and does not create CO2. With all the wind, wave, tidal, geothermal, solar, hydro and pumped hydro that we could have, we would not need a lot of coal and nuclear and would have more of those resources for the future.


There are two things to add to our thoughts about uranium.
One, uranium does not jump out of the ground in its pure form and stroll to the power plant on its little radioactive legs. It takes energy to mine, process and transport it. At present average ore purity and industry processing methods the nuclear power cycle produces about a third the CO2 per kilowatt hour of natural gas fueled electricity.
Two, uranium ore purity is falling. As with any mined resource, people go for the high quality, easy to extract stuff first. As uranium ore quality declines, the Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROEI) declines, and the life cycle CO2 emissions rise. Long before we reach the end of the total uranium ore supply, EROEI will be 1:1 and it will be futile to mine it. The faster the worldwide nuclear industry expands, the faster uranium ore will reach 1:1 EROEI. Long before we hit that point we will be looking at dramatically higher fossil fuel costs (and therefore uranium costs) and will have to make pragmatic choices about the diminishing returns from nuclear power.
Below purities of ~0.01% for "soft" sandstone ores or ~0.02% for "hard" granitic ores, a nuclear plant produces more CO2/kWh than a natural gas plant. Check out the work of Jan van Leeuwen and Philip Smith for the details.


All the more reason to use renewables. People seem to think we will use them when we run out of fossil fuels...WRONG! Use them now so you do not run out as soon..that should be obvious.


Yawn... nuke plants are on the way no matter what you think.



van Leeuwen and Smith are simply wrong. The energy required for mining, milling and processing of uranium to fuel pellets is miniscule compared to the energy yield of the fuel, even once-through. Low-grade ores are not significantly more energy-intensive (as they will use different techniques eg. in-situ leaching). Total energy input is maybe 2% of output. (See for example the ExternE study conducted by the EU).

Taking this energy input as CO2 emitting leads to a life-cycle CO2 output per MWhr for nuclear that is similar to wind. Of course, using nuclear for refinement processing (as in France) would mean that the CO2 emissions of this phase are negligible.

By all means we should go for renewables, up to the 20% or so of supply that they can provide without destabilising the grid. Maybe up to 40% if very significant and costly infrastructure changes are made. Fill the baseload with nuclear.


The Uranium Information Centre (UIC) has good information about present conventional uranium reserves, as well as different ore grades in the reserves. The bottom line is there's nowhere close to a 400 year supply, the R/P ratio is more like 80, and that's at current relatively low usage levels. If we tried to replace coal with uranium the figure would drop much lower. Reprocessing doesn't extend the supply 20-30x, it extends it about 25% and reduces the amount of high-level waste. Only breeding plutonium (reactor-grade, not weapons grade) would give us a factor of 50x, because we'd be able to use all the unfissonable uranium. Using Thorium, perhaps another 4x on top of that. So, yes, 1000+ years but only with breeder technology.

Mind you, that's only with conventional and proven reserves. It's fair to say more uranium remains to be discovered, and there are proposals for harvesting it from diffuse sources. But given current knowledge, it seems likely we need to adopt breeder technology if nukes are to go the distance.

Re. the study cited about fossil usage in mining and refining reactor fuel, that is extremely flawed and comes from people trying to make an anti-nuclear case. As an example, they assume that the electricity needed to run enrichment processes comes from the current (heavily coal-based) mix of power sources. The circular reasoning involved in that assumption should be obvious. They also use worst-case, outdated assumptions about the methods used to mine and enrich fuel, as well as for facility lifespan.

IMO it is not a choice of renewables versus nukes - both will be needed, with nukes taking up the slack once we've done all we can with renewables. The calculation of 0.5% of desert area for solar to run the world doesn't ring true. For electricity alone (no transport energy at all) at current levels an area 1/5 the size of Nevada would be needed just for the USA alone, with currently known efficiencies and taking into account the low capacity factor of solar. Perhaps conservation could cut that in half, on the other hand shifting more transport energy demand to the grid (which we inevitably must do) will double the need.

The main problem with going completely renewable is that there is no scalable solution to banking excess power. Solutions such as pumped hydro and/or compressed-air storage rely on site-specific characteristics and won't scale. As with most developed renewable we have (hydro) we should use all we can consistent with the ecology, but it won't be enough. Most people doing home solar rely on the grid as their "bank", which works great as long as 80% of grid power is still coming from conventional sources such as nukes. Going beyond that is going to get increasingly difficult without a magic bullet for energy storage.

Jim Hopf

As Doug said, the Leeuwen & Smith study is deeply flawed and has been thoroughly debunked. This study was clearly agenda driven. The net CO2 emissions from nuclear, including all parts of the production cycle, are ~5% of coal, ~2% of gas, and are similar to those of renewable sources. This is shown by several studies, one example of which is at:

Long term uranium supply is simply not an issue. Even with a once-through fuel cycle, and assuming substantial growth in nuclear use, uranium supplies will last for centuries. We have barely started looking for uranium (since we found all that we needed for the next several decades, after only a brief effort). We are now starting to look again (finally) and new uranium discoveries are announced almost every week. The average cost for discovering uranium (per unit of energy delivered) is ~300 times smaller than that for oil or gas. Also keep in mind that a given amount (mass) of uranium contains almost a million times as much energy as an equivalent mass of fossil fuel. Finally, the cost of raw uranium ore is only a few percent of the total cost of nuclear electricity. Thus, the price of ore could go up more than an order of magnitude w/o rendering nuclear power uneconomical.

For the above reasons, it is likely that the currently-discovered uranium reserves are no more than a few percent of the recoverable reserves that will eventually be found. And there is no reason to believe that a large fraction of the yet-to-be-discovered ore will not be of high grade. Thus, the net energy inputs (and CO2 emissions) for nuclear will NOT be going up, as significant declines in ore grade are not anticipated for the foreseeable future (if ever). Nuclear fission will be replaced by more desirable sources (in about a century or so) long before declining uranium supplies ever become an issue.

I speak about this in more detail at:

and an expert in the field has this to say:


Um balderdash. America alone had a reserve of some 58000 tons of purified uranium and only uses 2000 tons of it a year and that in once through process. AND that even tho america has only refined a tiny fraction of the urannium it has.

Was it soo hard to just look at refined stockpile vs useage per year vs current in field reseves and buy a fricken clue? I guess it was.


There's no reason to say we should only use neclear or only wind and solar. We should develop all of these technologies because they are all usefull. Unlike fossil fuels they contribute very little CO2 and their power sources are not going to be depleted any time soon. Some have advantages over others at different locations and economic settings. Its too bad we didn't push ahead faster with all of these over the last 30 years but even still they have made significant improvements.

bill w

look guys, this is *very* simple. the reserve estimates for uranium that get thrown around are at the current price or thereabouts, however, at $25,000/kg with reprocessing such as the french have now used for 30 years, the price/kwh increases a whopping 1 cent. TO, I might add, roughly 3 cents/kwh, or STILL 4 cents/kwh below unreliable and grid-crashing wind. At $50,000/kg of yellowcake, nuclear is STILL second only to coal for price/kwh. Since in pretty much all industries, the costs to produce a thing are ALL represented in the price of the finished product, that means that the eroei of nuclear is REALLY FANTASTIC today even in the worst of cases.

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