nuclear weapons. The global uranium market in the broadest sense consists of uranium resources and reserves, demand for uranium, and uranium production. The United States has the greatest number of nuclear reactors in the world at present, and therefore the greatest demand for nuclear fuel. However, in 2010 the U.S. domestic uranium mining industry only produced 1,660 metric tonnes (tU) of the 18,376 tU needed to operate the 104 nuclear power plants across the nation, amounting to a domestic deficit of approximately 16,716 tU (~90 percent deficit) (WNA, 2011d). Although this deficit is filled at present by uranium imports and by dilution (downblending) of uranium recovered from nuclear warheads (see below). However, with the cessation of the downblending program in 2013, and increased demands for fuel for the more than 60 new nuclear reactors under construction worldwide, additional demand will be placed on the uranium market (WNA, 2011d).
Demand for uranium is driven by the electric power industry’s need for fuel for nuclear power generation facilities; in 2009, 435 commercial nuclear reactors were connected to the worldwide electric grid in the 30 countries with nuclear power generation, and another 63 reactors are under construction (WNA, 2011c). In 2011, these reactors will require 81,134 short tons of U3O8 concentrate (yellowcake), equivalent to 68,971 tU, to generate 375 Gigawatts (GWe) of net generation capacity. The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) project demand out to 2035, with both low- and high-demand scenarios. The low-demand projection is for 511 GWe, a 37 percent increase compared with 2008 demand. The high-demand scenario projects a nuclear power generation demand for 782 GWe, a 110 percent increase (NEA/IAEA, 2010).
In 2011, the United States will require 18,376 tU of U3O8 concentrate (20,256 short tons) to fuel the nation’s 104 operating nuclear reactors (WNA, 2011c), accounting for 20 percent of U.S. electricity generation (USEIA, 2011c). As of December 2009, the United States had one reactor under construction, 11 planned, and 19 proposed, equivalent to approximately 40 GWe of new capacity (WNA, 2011a). Projections by the NEA/IAEA show a range from modest (low-demand scenario) to dramatic (high-demand scenario) increased demands by U.S. nuclear power generation facilities for U3O8 fuel (NEA/IAEA, 2010) (Figure 3.16).
In the United States, reserves of uranium are defined by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (USEIA) as “estimated quantities of uranium in known mineral deposits of such size, grade, and configuration