Demand for Uranium

Nuclear power is cleaner than fossil fuels, and uranium is everywhere. This article simply presents the current demand for Uranium and potential demand in the future in an amalgam of demand facts, because whether environmentalists like it or not, Uranium – and nuclear power, is going to drive the future (possibly literally).

In 1976 then Greenpeace President, Patrick Moore wrote, “Nuclear power plants are, next to nuclear warheads themselves, the most dangerous devices that man has ever created. Their construction and proliferation is the most irresponsible, in fact the most criminal, act ever to have taken place on this planet.”
By 2009, he had changed his stance, stating, “Recently, it’s hard to find a media person who’s against nuclear energy anymore. There’s been a big switch there [...] mainstream environmental groups are not making a big push against nuclear energy [...] A lot of people see that connection between nuclear energy and reducing greenhouse gases [and] that nuclear power is nearly 75 percent of the U.S.’s clean electricity and is the most important carbon-free technology. It’s clear to me that the big change that needs to be made is in clean electricity, which means reducing the use of fossil fuels and increasing nuclear energy, with a bit of wind power in the mix.”
This article simply presents the current demand for Uranium and potential demand in the future in an amalgam of demand facts, because whether environmentalists like it or not, Uranium – and nuclear power, is going to drive the future (possibly literally).
Nuclear energy provides 6% of the world’s total energy supply, including 15% of the world’s electricity. There are about 435 reactors with combined capacity of over 370 GWe. This requires 77,000 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate containing 65,500 tonnes of uranium from mines each year. Their capacity is growing and the reactors are being run more productively, with higher capacity factors, and reactor power levels than ever before.

For the United States, in 2008 there were 104 nuclear power plants representing about 20% of the nation’s energy supply. By comparison, France used nuclear energy for about 80% of its power needs and China had 11 reactors in 2008 and wants to have 100 reactors in operation or under construction by 2020. Will this happen, I have no idea. China is a bit opaque, but the possibility does exist and more importantly – persist.

With all of these reactors in operation or planned to be built, the current consumption of approximately 150M lbs dwarfs the current production of approximately 100M lbs. The difference is made up by deweaponizing Uranium, both from the US and Russia. The United States has, for the second time in history, disclosed how many nuclear warheads it has in its arsenal and while these 5,113 (US Nuclear Warhead Count) warheads account for a relatively minimal amount of uranium, yet provides the answer for the aforementioned production/consumption difference. 

The fact of the matter is that nuclear power is cleaner than fossil fuels, and uranium is everywhere. It is a permeable element that is found in the Earth’s crust and oceans. The demand for energy is only going to grow as the population grows and uranium is an inexpensive component for nuclear power plants. The greatest expense is building the plant, and the interest payments on the bonds and loans used to build them. Interestingly enough, more uranium is burned and released into the atmosphere (by burning coal) than nuclear waste is buried three miles in the ground from power plants. Nuclear energy plants are becoming more efficient and safer, cleaner and more reliable than the antiquated coal plants today. Let us reflect that no one died at Three Mile Island.

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  • Paxus Calta

    May 18, 2010

    Just a few sticking points.

    1) Nuclear makes no economic sense to combat climate change. See Amory Lovins "Forget Nuclear" at

    2) Banks think it is an unacceptable risk. See CitiCorps dismissal of new nuclear financing at

    3) Lot of brilliant folx have plans to deal with climate change that dont use nukes. One of my favorites is the google plan see

  • Sam Cass

    May 18, 2010

    Paxus, I think you're wrong. Nuclear is the future. It is the elemental power source for the universe and humans will eventually have to master it. Unfortunately, all of the other renewable sources like wind and solar will merely put a dent into our energy needs. The only clean, proven, scalable source of energy is nuclear. Look at what a fight it was just to put a few windmills in Nantucket Sound.

    Citi is hardly a bank that I would use to gauge trends. Other more forward looking institutions will step up to the plate. Bill Gates has pledged billions to move refrigerator sized nuclear reactors forward. The industry is advancing quickly and is our long-term solution.

  • found in space

    May 22, 2010

    sam, i am with you. the ranewable energy fad wouldn't provide enough energy to supply one city, let alone the greater demand. shane is right in the short fall of production. by bring up banks as an arguement against nuclear shows how oblivious most people are. a bank won't fund a nuclear plant but will fund BP to drill 1 mile below ths sea for oil with no failsafe in the event of a major breach? wait banks have a better idea CREDIT DEFAULT SWAPS. it is amazing how 'an inconvienent truth' and a war was set aside when the market went to hell. but to paxus, this is directly to you...what bank largenough to finance a nuclear plant is strictly us based? becauss if the us wont fund it or have anything to do with uranium i'll bet your last dollar china will fund it and require energy as payment. or india or japan or korea. stop thinking in the short term and locally (nationally for that matter) and think internationally long term. how many people die in coal mines?

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