Wednesday 5th August 2020

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Standpoint on uranium

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Over the last year, five of 104 U.S. reactors have been taken offline for various reasons. The country now plans four new reactors, two of them at South Carolina’s Summer plant. Another two at the Vogtle project in Georgia received $6.5 billion in federal loan guarantees last week.

Energy expert Thomas Drolet looks at nuclear power from a global point of view

An expert on nuclear power as well as other types
of energy, Thomas Drolet has a career spanning
over 40 years.

The entire U.S. energy industry “is watching their progress with great interest,” Drolet points out. “My opinion is that if they pull off building and operating those reactors reasonably close to schedule and not too much over their initial cost estimates, then nuclear power has a good-ish future in the USA. But if they fail on cost and schedule grounds in a noteworthy manner, I think the future of nuclear power in the States will be set back a lot.”

A Canadian-born Florida resident, he says it’s “tragic” that the U.S. talks of independence of oil supply but “no one really seems to care much that of the 55 million pounds of U3O8 that the U.S. currently uses per year, we’re producing four to five million. That doesn’t sound like independent thinking whatsoever.”

Moreover the U.S. lost some of its own production to Russia with last year’s takeover of TSX-listed Uranium One by ARMZ. “How much American supply should the U.S. hand over to countries not always friendly to us?” Drolet asks. “I would argue a limited amount.”

Canada’s Athabasca Basin from a global perspective

A Canada-EU agreement in principle signed last October could eventually allow greater European ownership of this country’s uranium mines, currently restricted to 49% foreign ownership. Exploration has no such restrictions.

The country is opening up to foreign ownership “because Canada has such a horrendous supply capacity in the Athabasca Basin—horrendous. There’s potential in other parts of Canada too, but there’s so much in the Athabasca that frankly we could supply the whole world if it were fully developed.”

Canada has such a horrendous supply capacity in the Athabasca Basin—horrendous. There’s potential in other parts of Canada too, but there’s so much in the Athabasca that frankly we could supply the whole world if it were fully developed.—Thomas Drolet

Apart from existing miners, “Fission Uranium [TSXV:FCU] is probably further along than any of the other juniors.” But the company—or anyone who acquires it—“will have to worry about actually building the mine and getting it milled. They’re not exactly close to a mill so they’d have some major capex requirements.”

Drolet joined Lakeland Resources’ (TSXV:LK) advisory board after “a fair amount of due diligence,” he says. “I most of all liked the fact that they have a really good team. In particular I think CEO Jonathan Armes is a very strong, straight-shooter type of person and the others on the advisory committee are a good group of real strong, experienced people. They’re backed by a couple of major shareholders…. They’re loyal investors and I love the sound of that. In so many of the juniors you don’t have that loyalty and largesse of backers.”

“Finally I thought Gibbon’s Creek was a very good property. First of all there was work done on it before. They’ve found the highest radon readings ever in the Athabasca Basin—and if that isn’t an indication of uranium I don’t know what is, for God’s sake. It only comes from uranium decay. They have big boulders on the site. The combination of all that—the team, the loyalty of the backers, the property up on the northern rim—those are the reasons I liked them.”

Drolet’s job is to advise Lakeland “on the way the world of uranium demand is going, the rationale for why it’s happening and, should they ever require it, an introduction to investor partners, be they other utilities or other countries who have uranium requirements for their own reactors.”

Nuclear compared to other types of energy

Having devoted about half of his career to energy sources other than nuclear, Drolet says that “most of us in the utility world believe in a balance of supply of fuels and power systems. None of us want to rely on one source of fuel.”

That said, he places special importance on reliable, continuous supplies of energy. “We have so few baseload power systems. There’s just nuclear, hydroelectric as long as the water flows, and geothermal. That’s it. Even coal and natural gas are not baseload. They’re daytime peakers. They’re designed to operate only 70% of the time. I believe not only in my head but my heart that nuclear should have a sustainable place in the world.”

Read part one of the interview.

Disclaimer: Lakeland Resources Inc is a client of OnPage Media Corp, the publisher of The principals of OnPage Media may hold shares in Lakeland Resources.

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