World nuclear fuel markets are likely to suffer very little noticeable impact from events at Fukushima, according to the latest edition of the World Nuclear Association (WNA) biennial supply and demand report.
According to the WNA report, Global Nuclear Fuel Market: Supply and Demand 2011-2030, it is still too early to assess the full impact of the Fukushima accident on the world nuclear fuel market. However, it is possible to make some “reasonable deductions,” the report notes. Despite the permanent closure of reactors in Japan and Germany and slowdowns in some programs in response to Fukushima, the WNA report notes that the global situation for energy supply and demand remains effectively unchanged. Developments in the USA, China, India and Russia will remain particularly crucial in determining nuclear's overall role in global electricity supply, while prospects for nuclear new build remain strong in China, India, South Korea and the UK.
Revised scenarios for nuclear generating capacity in individual countries and areas have been incorporated into the report, feeding into three scenarios for world nuclear capacity up to 2030. The scenarios are based on differing underlying economic and political trends but are all described as plausible.
The reference scenario, which includes an assumption that most countries will continue with their pre-Fukushima nuclear plans, sees nuclear capacity growing at an average 2.3% per year from its current 364 GWe to 411 GWe by 2015, reaching 471 GWe by 2020 and 614 GWe by 2030. The upper scenario sees 416 GWe by 2015, 518 GWe by 2020 and 790 GWe by 2030. Under both scenarios, the figures are slightly lower than in the previous edition of the report published in 2009.
The model used by the WNA to forecast reactor requirements has also been updated with reassessments of factors affecting nuclear fuel demand. Capacity factors, enrichment levels and burnups are all trending upwards, and uranium requirements are affected accordingly. World uranium requirements, currently estimated at 63,800 tU, are expected to grow at a similar rate to nuclear capacity under the reference scenario, reaching 107,600 tU in 2030. This is little changed from the equivalent scenario in the previous report, although total requirements under the upper scenario, reaching 136,900 tU per year by the end of the period, are significantly down on the previous forecast.
Known uranium resources are more than adequate to satisfy reactor requirements to 2030 and beyond, the report notes, but the role of secondary uranium supplies (inventories, stockpile drawdowns and recycled materials) will remain important over the period. Nevertheless, beyond 2020, there is likely to be a substantial need for new primary sources of uranium supply, the report concludes, likening the magnitude of the build-up needed to meet both the reference and upper demand scenarios to the huge historic production expansions of the 1950s and the late 1970s.