Desperate uranium miners switch to survival mode despite nuclear rebound

Mon Oct 3, 2016 5:48am EDT
 
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By Geert De Clercq

LONDON (Reuters) - The nuclear industry is gradually recovering from its post-Fukushima slump, but excess capacity keeps uranium prices at record lows, forcing mining companies to mothball mines, slice costs and cut debt as they struggle to survive.

In the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster, Japan closed its nuclear reactors, which accounted for some ten percent of the more than 400 reactors operating globally.

Several other countries including Germany announced plans to exit nuclear, and in the past three years several nuclear reactors in the United States were closed as they could no longer compete with cheap shale gas.

Five years later, only three of Japan's 42 reactors are back in operation but new reactors brought online in China and other countries have partly made up for the Japanese closures.

In the next few years, eight Westinghouse reactors are expected to open in the United States and China, four Areva reactors in Finland, France and China, and four Kepco-built reactors in United Arab Emirates.

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) says it is feasible that global nuclear electricity production, at around 2,441 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2015, may return to 2011 levels this year and to pre-Fukushima levels in two-three years. In 2010, the last full year before Fukushima, nuclear generation came to 2,630 TWh.

Long-term perspectives have picked up too.

China plans to build at least 60 nuclear plants in the coming decade, South Africa last month kicked off a major nuclear tender, and Thursday's signature of the Hinkley Point contract between French utility EDF and the UK government opens the way for up to 12 new reactors in Britain.   Continued...

 
The Tamgak open air uranium mine is seen at Areva's Somair uranium mining facility in Arlit, Niger, September 25, 2013.  REUTERS/Joe Penney/File Photo