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Enrichment

In 2017, the demand for enrichment services was evaluated at around 50 000 tSW. According to the WNA’s latest estimates, world enrichment requirements are expected to rise over the 2017-2030 period, albeit at a rhythm slower than indicated in the 2015 WNA Fuel report, reaching around 73 000 tSW by 2035. The increase is mainly driven by the new nuclear build prospects in Asian and Middle Eastern countries, particularly in China and India.

The current commercial enrichment nameplate capacity of approximately 60 000 tSW is considered to be sufficient to cover demand until 2020. Projected primary supplier capacities will be more than sufficient to meet enrichment demand at least through 2025. Secondary SWU supply sources (inventories of previously-produced EUP, enriched uranium obtained from downblending HEU or SWU saved through use of MOX and ERU will also be available to meet world enrichment requirements beyond this date.

Large commercial enrichment plants are in operation in France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, the USA and Russia, with smaller plants elsewhere. Due to the current oversupply imbalance in the market, enrichers have slowed down the pace of any planned expansions of existing capacity and even resorted to reducing existing capacity by not replacing centrifuges reaching the end of their lifetimes. China is one of the few enrichers expanding its capacity considerably, in an attempt to meet its growing domestic enrichment requirements while also pursuing export sales. With surplus capacity, some plants operate at low tails assays (underfeeding) to produce natural uranium for sale. Should the market demand recover in the medium term, the industry estimates that existing suppliers could rapidly expand their capabilities to cover any supply gap.

 

Operating commercial uranium enrichment facilities with approximate 2017 capacity

Company Nameplate capacity in
(tSW)
Share of global capacity(%)
TVEL/Tenex (Russia) 28 416 45
Urenco (UK/Germany/Netherlands/United States) 18 758 32.3
AREVA-GBII (France) 7 500 12.7
CNNC (China) 5 210 9.8
Others* (CNEA, INB, JNFL) 188 0.3
World total 60 072 100

Source: WNA, The Nuclear Fuel Report — Global Scenarios for Demand and Supply Availability 2017-2035.
(*) CNEA, Argentina; INB, Brazil; JNFL, Japan.


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