Uranium Prices: China Confirms Rapid Nuclear Power Expansion Underway

While the short-term demand outlook for uranium remains pressured after the Fukushima nuclear disaster dented demand for nuclear power, China is moving ahead, as promised with a huge nuclear power expansion.

Last Thursday, the China Nuclear Energy Association said that the country had 20 nuclear reactors under construction at the end of March, with a total capacity of 23.11 gigawatts (GW). With 36 reactors in full commercial operation at the end of March with a total capacity of 34.72 GW, the country will almost double is nuclear power use once these new plants come online – which is anticipated to be 2020. Also, the country also wants to have another 30 GW of nuclear reactors under construction by the end of 2020, according to the association’s chairman Zhang Huazhu, speaking at the group’s annual assembly in Beijing – according to multiple media reports.

Zhang warned that reaching this aggressive expansion target would not be easy, with the fall-out of the Fukushima Disaster still making it difficult to press ahead with nuclear plant new builds. However; Zhang added that the plants under construction have new safety features and a bigger generation capacity. While nuclear plant construction stalled in the aftermath of Fukushima – China used this as an opportunity to build at a lower cost.

While China’s nuclear power expansions have long been touted as a reason to believe in more upside for uranium, this new demand was seen as away on the horizon. Now, the reality is setting in that in just a few years China’s demand for uranium will skyrocket, and it will continue to grow in the following years. The country is preparing for this by signing new uranium supply agreements. In the meantime, with supply cutbacks already working through the supply chain and stabilizing uranium prices after they fell to a 17-year low, we are not too far off what could be the start of the commodity’s next bull run.

Leia Toovey has a B.Sc. in geology from Simon Fraser University, and her degree had a focus on resource economics. Out of school, she started working in the booming mining industry of Vancouver, Canada, covering junior mining stocks and commodities including potash, copper, nickel, oil and gold. Then she moved to New York and worked as a commodities analyst covering a breadth of commodities, from the Baltic Dry Index through the softs. As a geologist she has a greater understanding of the exploration and extraction side of commodities, and how changes in technology and the depletion of resources impact pricing. At Economic Calendar she covers a variety of commodities, providing daily technical and fundamental analysis and assessing major market developments.