Optimism over the future of the uranium sector has been based on the number of nuclear power plants currently under construction. As these plants come online uranium demand is expected to increase – but that won’t start to transpire for a few years. Fortunately, there is another reason to be optimistic. Right now we are seeing an increase in the nuclear power plants whose lifespans are being extended.
In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it was expected that many aging nuclear plants would be shut down. But, what we are now seeing is many nuclear plants are undergoing upgrades in the hopes for an extended lifespan. With these plants already in operation – the approval of a longer lifespan could provide an immediate boost to the positive sentiment for uranium demand.
This week, according to World Nuclear News, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team concluded that workers at unit 1 of the Qinshan nuclear power plant in China’s Zhejiang province have made significant progress in long-term operational safety, putting the plant one step closer to being allowed to operate beyond its original 30-year design life. The unit’s current operating license expires in 2021. The plant applied last year to renew its license for a further 20 years.
Also this week, Rosatom said it plans to carry out work to extend the operating period of unit 2 of the Metsamor nuclear power plant in Armenia in 2018 and 2019. Rosatom and the Armenian government signed an agreement in December 2014 on extending the operations of Metsamor 2 by ten years to 2026, and in February 2015 the two sides agreed on Russia’s provision of a loan to finance the project. Work on the VVER-440 unit will include modernisation of its cooling towers, turbine unit, control and safety systems, and other equipment.