The Nuclear Fuel Report: Global Scenarios for Demand and Supply Availability 2015-2035

The Nuclear Fuel Report: Global Scenarios for Demand and Supply Availability 2015-2035

The 17th edition of the World Nuclear Association's biennial report on the outlook for nuclear power and nuclear fuels. It has become the definitive reference source of the world industry and is priced at £600. 

Nuclear power currently contributes about 11% of world electricity supply and is projected by the International Energy Agency to grow steadily in the next 20 years. Nuclear is an essential element in any credible strategy to combat carbon emissions, while also contributing to energy security of supply. (Chapter 1).

In both established and potential markets, nuclear power faces an increased competitive challenge from other modes of generation especially in deregulated markets, while continuing to face regulatory and political hurdles. Electricity demand growth is low in most of the countries where nuclear power is well-established, but remains strong in many developing countries and it is in these countries that the great majority of nuclear capacity growth is to be expected. (Chapter 2).

Until the Fukushima accident in Japan in March 2011, the outlook for nuclear power around the world was improving. Despite the setback that Fukushima represents, many countries are putting more emphasis on satisfying environmental and security of supply objectives in their energy strategies, which should favour increased nuclear power. The prospects for new reactor build continue to be strong in China, India and Korea as well as in a number of countries in the EU and the Middle East (Chapter 2).

Three scenarios for world nuclear generating capacity up to 2035 have been prepared, referred to as the Reference, Upper and Lower Scenarios. At mid-2015, world nuclear capacity was 379 GWe. In the Reference Scenario this is expected to rise to 404 GWe by 2020 and to 552 GWe by 2035. In the Upper Scenario, the equivalent figures are 429 GWe in 2020 and 720 GWe in 2035. In the Lower Scenario, nuclear generating capacity effectively stagnates in the period to 2030 and then drops away with many reactor closures in the period to 2035 (Chapter 2).

Within the global picture, there are some significant changes at the country level. (Chapter 2).

The World Nuclear Association’s reactor requirements model has been updated for this report, with a reassessment of the various factors affecting nuclear fuel demand, such as enrichment levels, cycle lengths and fuel burnups. Questionnaires sent to nuclear utilities throughout the world provided useful information to both inform and supplement the model (Chapter 3).

By comparison with the 2013 fuel report, both the Upper and Reference Scenario uranium requirements are lower in the period to 2030, but the Lower Scenario is overall little changed (Chapter 5).

World known resources of uranium are more than adequate to satisfy reactor requirements to well beyond 2035. World uranium production has stopped rising, falling to 56,250 tU in 2014. The currently depressed uranium prices have curtailed exploration activities and the opening of new mines; in some cases, existing mines have stopped production (Chapter 5).

Three scenarios for uranium production to 2035 have been developed by evaluating current and future mine production capabilities. Based on this report’s methodology, production will rise over the next ten years in both Reference and Upper Scenarios.(Chapter 5)

Secondary supplies of uranium are gradually playing a diminishing role in the world market, but will continue to be important over the entire period to 2035. Underfeeding of enrichment plants is expected to add significant quantities of uranium to the market in the period to 2025.(Chapter 5).

Combining all primary and secondary sources suggests that the uranium market should be adequately supplied in the period to 2025, provided that all mines currently under development and also most of the planned and prospective mines enter service as planned. Beyond 2025, further uranium production will be required if the Reference and Upper Scenarios for demand are to be satisfied (Chapter 5).

The uranium conversion sector is characterized by a small number of companies producing UO2 for those reactors fuelled with natural uranium and UF6 for those using enriched uranium. The market has an adequate supply base but a smooth increase of capacity utilisation will be required to meet demand growth and new investment will be required from 2022 in the Upper Scenario (Chapter 6).

Excess global enrichment capacity has resulted in the postponement of some new projects until after 2020 and the use of existing capacity for underfeeding. (Chapter 7).

Current fuel fabrication capacities are more than sufficient to cover anticipated demand for both first cores and reloads, but new investments will be required in the early 2030s if the Upper Scenario is to be realised (Chapter 8).

The report concludes that rapid uranium demand growth in a number of countries, above all in China, coupled with a limited contribution of secondary supplies will result in the need for additional mined uranium within the period of the scenarios. Some mine development is proceeding despite the current depressed condition of the uranium mining industry. In the Reference and Upper Scenarios, additional mine supplies will be needed soon after 2025 and will require the development of ‘supply pipeline’ projects. Additional conversion and enrichment capacity is also likely to be needed in these scenarios (Chapter 9).

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