Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Uranium mining experts have faith, despite the gloomy situation for the nuclear industry

One of the major risks for the uranium industry is the rapid advancement of the renewable power sector, particularly in battery technology.

“We have been waiting for the Japanese nuclear power fleet to be turned back on. We had an expectation for the past two summers that it would be turned back on and that hasn’t come to pass, and that remains the biggest question for uranium prices..”

Australia is well placed to cash in on uranium boom, say mining experts The Age, August 6, 2015 Peter Ker If uranium demand were to ever boom like iron ore, Australia would make a packet. But renewables and community attitudes threaten that. If uranium demand were ever to boom in the way iron ore has over the past decade, Australia would be well placed to cash in.

With the world’s largest known uranium resource and enough mining to be the world’s third biggest producer of the nuclear fuel, Australia is already a significant player in the global uranium industry.

But that industry remains relatively small compared with the likes of gold, copper and coal, and it has endured a severe downturn over the past four years………..

dead-horse

dramatically reduced demand for uranium and prices have been badly depressed ever since. The benchmark price has spent the past couple of years between $US25 a pound and $US40 a pound, and uranium was fetching $US35 a pound last week.

The weak prices have forced many marginal mines around the world to close which, combined with older mines reaching the end of their working lives, has reduced the number of operating uranium mines in Australian in recent years.

Uranium is now being produced at just three Australian sites: BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine in South Australia, the Rio Tinto-dominated Ranger lease in the Northern Territory, and the Four Mile mine in South Australia, run by Quasar and Alliance Resources.

Mining at Ranger has stopped and the company is gradually working through the remaining stockpiles, while Olympic Dam is focused on copper and treats uranium as a byproduct.

Two others in South Australia (Russian miner Uranium One’s Honeymoon mine and US company General Atomics’ Beverley mine) closed down during 2013 and 2014 because weak uranium prices made them unviable.

But weak prices do not only hurt the mines that are already in production; they also deter companies from pushing ahead with the next generation of uranium mines, as at Ranger last month when plans for a underground expansion were abandoned.

Other Australian uranium deposits, such as the ones Toro Energy is developing in Western Australia, seem unlikely to be mined unless uranium prices significantly recover.

“The continued weak uranium prices are having an impact on future supply potential over the long term. In the current low-price environment it is difficult to justify the economics of projects, which is leading to deferrals or even cancellations,” said Tim Gitzel​, chief executive of the world’s second largest uranium producer Cameco​.

Optimists say the lack of new mines will eventually create a shortage of uranium and stimulate the next uranium price boom, which Vimy Resources’ managing director Mike Young believes will be like “iron ore on steroids”.

For that to happen, Japan would need to restart some, if not all of its nuclear reactors, and China’s plan to triple nuclear power capacity by 2020 would need to come to fruition……..

One of the major risks for the uranium industry is the rapid advancement of the renewable power sector, particularly in battery technology.

Sources such as wind and solar – previously seen as unpredictable and incapable of supplying large amounts of consistent power – are looking increasingly viable with the help of battery storage, which allows energy from those sources to be used long after the sun has set and the wind has dropped.

UBS analyst Dan Morgan says battery technology could improve the viability of renewable energy, but in the meantime the biggest challenge is community attitudes.

“If battery technology works it could solve some of those questions around renewables but I don’t think batteries are the biggest risk to uranium. I think the biggest risk going forward is community opposition to nuclear plants and that is especially so in light of Fukushima,” he said.

“The other problem with nuclear power is it has a large upfront capital cost, which means that it is pretty hard to get a nuclear plant financed. So I think that is also a challenge for uranium.”

Japan is expected to restart a nuclear reactor near its southern-most tip this month and, if uranium is ever to have its day, that restart could prove to be a turning point.

“We have been waiting for the Japanese nuclear power fleet to be turned back on. We had an expectation for the past two summers that it would be turned back on and that hasn’t come to pass, and that remains the biggest question for uranium prices in the short term,” Mr Morgan said.http://www.theage.com.au/national/australia-is-well-placed-to-cash-in-on-uranium-boom-say-mining-experts-20150805-gis6rw.html#ixzz3i4n7Kf39

August 7, 2015 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, uranium

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