I was fortunate to be able attend and present at the 10th China Nuclear Energy Congress in Beijing in late May 2014. The conference attracted more than 2000 delegates from around the world – all interested to know what lies ahead for the nuclear energy and uranium sectors. I was also privileged to sit on a panel to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the nuclear fuel cycle. My observations are summarized as follows:
•The industry remains fully committed to the development of nuclear power plants, and this initiative is being led by China with its almost 30 reactors under construction.
Valuable lessons have been learnt from the Fukushima accident. Safety and design changes to existing and new nuclear power plants have been developed that will, as much as possible, avoid a similar outcome from an accident in the future. Presentations indicated that reactors have both active and passive systems and that the newer designs can survive a direct hit by a large commercial airliner or major seismic event.
There are a number of emerging nuclear power countries. More than 45 countries are actively considering embarking upon nuclear power programs. These countries range from sophisticated economies to developing nations. The front-runners after Iran are UAE, Turkey, Vietnam, Belarus, Poland and possibly Jordan.
The uranium supplier market is severely depressed at present and the 10-year historical low prices are not sustainable. There were mixed views on the timing of the recovery of the uranium price. Some indicated early 2015 with others suggesting the end of the decade. There was, however, universal agreement that there will be a significant increase in the price of uranium but no one really knows when!
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