In 2012, global uranium production increased by 9 % as compared with the 2011 figure, totalling approximately 58 500 tonnes of uranium (exceeding the WNA forecast of 52 000 tU). As in 2011, the top three uranium-producing countries were Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia.
Kazakhstan remained the world’s largest uranium producer in 2012, accounting for around 36 % of total uranium production worldwide. Kazakh uranium production reached 20 900 tU in 2012, According to Kazatomprom’s preliminary year-end results, which is a 7 % increase over the 2011 results (19 450 tU). Of total production in 2012, 11 900 tU went to Kazatomprom, whose exports amounted to 9 260 tU in 2012.
Preliminary year-end results published by WNA put Australia’s production in 2012 at around 7 000 tU, a 19 % increase over the 2011 figure. Higher-grade ore was still extracted at the bottom of the Ranger mine in the second half of 2012, following which open-pit mining ceased, after 14 years of exploration (1997-2011) and around 67 000 tonnes of uranium oxide produced for export worldwide. Work on backfilling the pit has already begun. Canada’s production level remained almost the same in 2012.
Natural uranium production
|Region / Country||Production 2012 (tU)||Production 2011 (tU)||Share in 2012 (%)||Share in 2011 (%)||Change (%) 2012/2011|
|Kazakhstan||20 900||19 541||36||36||7|
|Canada||9 000||9 145||15||17||-2|
|Australia||7 116||5 983||12||11||19|
|Niger||4 654||4 351||8||8||7|
|Namibia||4 504||3 258||8||6||38|
|Russia||2 885||2 993||5||6||-4|
|Uzbekistan||2 423||2 500||4||5||-3|
|Total||58 466||53 494||100||100||9|
Source: nuclear data from industry and WNA. (Totals may not add up due to rounding).
Last year, world reactor requirements for natural uranium were estimated at around 68 000 tU, approximately 8 % higher than in 2011. As predicted after the Fukushima accident, the nuclear fuel industry proceeded with caution, seeking assurances of market stability. Nonetheless, world civil nuclear power generation capacity increased, albeit at a slower than previously anticipated pace after the post-Fukushima drop in 2011, totalling about 374 GWe (back to its 2010 level).
In 2012, demand for natural uranium in the EU represented approximately one third of global uranium requirements. EU utilities purchased a total of 18 639 tU in 127 deliveries under long-term and spot contracts, 807 tU or 4.5% more than in 2011.
Natural uranium supplies to the EU continued to come from diverse sources. In general, the origins of natural uranium supplied to EU utilities have remained unchanged since 2011 (except for Ukraine, which made no deliveries in 2012). However, the relative shares of the four big uranium-producing regions (the CIS, North America, Africa and Australia) have shifted substantially.
Russia and Canada were the top two countries delivering natural uranium to the EU in 2012, providing 44 % of the total. Uranium originating in Russia (including purchases of natural uranium contained in EUP) represented the largest proportion, with 5 102 tU or 27 % of total deliveries, which was 13 % up on 2011. It was followed by uranium of Canadian origin, with a 17 % share or 3 212 tU, a year–on-year decline of 3 %. In third place, uranium mined in Niger amounted to 2 376 tU or 13 %, a strong 38 % increase over 2011. Australia and Kazakhstan accounted for 12 % each in 2012, an increase of 28 % and a 15 % decrease, respectively.
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