Mapping the flow: from “uranium in the ground” to “uranium in the can”
Nuclear is a capital-intensive energy option. Nearly all the investment is upfront—during the construction of the reactors. Although some cost will also be incurred during final closure and decommissioning, the operational and fuel costs remain comparatively low. However, the supply of uranium from mine to reactor is of critical importance. As reactors have lifetimes of 40 to 60 years or beyond, foresight on fuel availability is vital.
We need accurate and reliable information on uranium resources to de-risk nuclear power from fuel-supply bottlenecks. The uranium supply to nuclear reactors needs to arrive in a timely manner after going through a series of tightly synchronized steps from mining, processing, conversion, enrichment to fuel fabrication.
The United Nations Framework Classification for Fossil Energy and Mineral Reserves and Resources 2009 (UNFC-2009) is a universal scheme to report uranium resources alongside other energy resources such as oil, gas and coal. It provides stakeholders at different levels with a powerful tool to carefully track the availability of resources from around the world.
Resources are not just seen as material identified in the ground. UNFC-2009 offers a unique graded presentation of data, reporting on how advanced a resource is in the production pipeline. Thus, the focus of reporting shifts from “uranium in the ground” to “uranium in the can”—a highly valuable perspective for resource managers, energy analysts and planners alike.
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Opinions expressed in this section are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of UNECE, of the bodies established under its international legal agreements/conventions, or of the secretariat.