Asia-Pacific: the uranium boom

Paul Boughton

With a rising demand for nuclear power in Asia, research suggests that this will directly boost the price of uranium. Vicky Kendrick reports

The price of uranium is set to rise in Asia as the demand for nuclear power increases. This is according to a new report by GBI Research, which claims the price will soar once the environmental hazards are addressed.

The Australian Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics and Sciences (ABARES) claim that the price of uranium, which was approximately $62 per pound in 2011, will reach $81 per pound by 2016 on the back of a massive surge in demand.

The region is currently responsible for over half the global production of uranium at around 34,000 tons per year. The expansion of existing projects and implementation of new uranium mines will increase production particularly in Australia and China.

Environmental hazards, specifically, soil erosion and air pollution, need to be carefully managed to avoid damaging local ecosystems and the risk of radiation to workers due to airborne radioactive dust particles.  Special mining techniques including dust suppression, and remote handling techniques, are employed to limit worker radiation exposure and to ensure the safety of the environment and general public.

Locating uranium is more efficient and less destructive than other mineral resources because the radiation signature enables deposits to be identified and mapped from the air. The use of open cut mining in Asia will reduce poor ventilation and the natural radiation received from radon will be significantly lowered for the workers. [Page Break]

A rigorous environmental impact assessment has taken place for Western Australia's first uranium mine project, delaying Toro Energy in implementing the project to the beginning of 2013.
 
"Achieving WA State and Federal Environmental Approval of the Wiluna Uranium Project is the prime focus of the company, and is a precursor to the financing of the project. This remains Toro's number one focus," Greg Hall, Managing Director, said during the Australian Uranium Conference in August 2012.
 
Toro Energy's proposal will become Western Australia’s biggest uranium mine project, five years after a ban was lifted that constricted uranium mining in the area. Overall the proposed mine will become Australia's fifth operating uranium mine. Toro Energy forecasts a 1,200 tonne per year uranium oxide production from Wiluna. The projected lifespan of the min is up to 14 years.[Page Break]

Nuclear momentum

Nuclear energy has been gaining momentum as an energy source for nations seeking to reduce harmful carbon emissions, even after the Japanese accident in 2011.
 
"We still expect huge growth in China," claims Gary Dyck, Head of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Materials at the International Atomic Energy Agency, referring to the long-term impact of the Fukushima accident.
 
In East Asia nuclear capacity is forecast to grow by 125% - 185% by 2035, with the strongest growth in China, India, South Korea and Russia.[Page Break]
 
"Achieving WA State and Federal Environmental Approval of the Wiluna Uranium Project is the prime focus of the company, and is a precursor to the financing of the project. This remains Toro's number one focus," says Greg Hall, Managing Director (pictured). 

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