by Greg Klein | October 6, 2015
The world’s largest producer of nuclear energy relied increasingly on Kazakhstan for uranium last year, as purchases from domestic suppliers plunged 65%. According to figures supplied by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on October 5, Kazakhstan sold the U.S. about 12 million pounds U3O8 last year, 23% of the 53.3 million pounds purchased. Imports from Kazakhstan nearly doubled over 2013.
American supply fell to 3.3 million pounds from the 2013 total of 9.5 million pounds. While domestic purchases languished at 6% of the total, imports from Australia and Canada followed Kazakhstan closely with 19.7% and 18.3% respectively.
Purchases don’t necessarily reflect production, however. American mine output increased to 4.23 million pounds uranium in 2014 from 3.95 million the previous year, according to the World Nuclear Association.
“Average Kazakh uranium prices have been lower than other major supplying countries’ prices for the past two years,” the EIA noted. “Uranium from Kazakhstan was $44.47 per pound in 2014, compared with the overall weighted-average price of $46.65 per pound for the 41.3 million pounds of uranium purchased from producers outside Kazakhstan in 2014.”
That country overtook Canada as the world’s leading uranium producer in 2009. Since 2007 its uranium production has more than tripled, while Canadian production has been relatively constant and Australian output dropped 42%, the EIA stated.
Australia’s 19.7% of the U.S. total represented a slight drop to 10.5 million pounds U3O8 from the previous year’s 10.7 million pounds. Australia’s 2014 weighted-average price came to $48.03.
Running a close third, Canada’s 18.3% marked an increase to 9.8 million pounds from 7.8 million pounds in 2013. Canada’s 2014 weighted-average price was $45.87.
World Nuclear Association data from 2013 credits Kazakhstan with 41% of world production, followed by Canada with 16% and Australia with 9%.
The U.S. holds top place for global nuclear energy, producing about 30% of the world total, according to the WNA. In 2014, 100 reactors generated over 19% of the country’s electricity. The U.S. now has 99 reactors in operation and another five under construction.