A well-kept secret is that the United States is the world’s largest generator of nuclear power by far: double the second-ranked country, and triple the third-ranked country. However, most of our uranium (>90%) must be imported.
So far, this hasn’t been a significant problem for us, but it could soon become a problem as more nuclear plants are built around the world, as world supplies become more constrained, and as prices of uranium rise.
To learn more about Colorado Uranium, view our RockTalk Newsletter.
Free download: Uranium Fact Sheet – Colorado Geological Survey
Uranium ore vein – Sunday Mine – Uravan District. Photo by J. Burnell – Colorado Geological Survey
Uranium occurs in nature in the form of water soluble oxides. To better understand issues regarding naturally occurring levels of uranium in groundwater, visit the Colorado Geological Survey’s page on Water Quality.
The production of uranium in the United States, and the world, has not kept up with the demand, and the demand is increasing. Worldwide, 439 reactors—with a combined capacity of approximately 370 Gigawatts of electricity—require 66,500 tons of uranium. In 2005, 41,600 tons were supplied by mines—less than 2⁄3 of the required supply. The remainder was made up by the down-blending of weapons-grade material or was removed from existing stockpiles. The stockpiles are now largely depleted. This situation has increased the price of uranium dramatically. The cost of uranium in 2007 was eight times what it was in 2003.
Looking at future demand, the World Nuclear Association lists an additional 222 reactors proposed around the world, 93 already planned or ordered, and 34 being built. This will nearly double the demand for uranium. Nations planning to enter the group of nuclear power generators include Bangladesh, Belarus, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. The U.S. demand for 2008 will be approximately 19,000 tons, while the production in the U.S. was only 1700 tons in 2006, according to the World Nuclear Association. It’s no secret why there has been renewed interest in Colorado’s uranium resources.