How does China get uranium

Knowledge pool

No nuclear fission without uranium. Uranium is the only naturally occurring heavy metal that enables a nuclear fission chain reaction. But how much uranium is there anyway? According to the German Atomic Forum, uranium will still be sufficient for 200 years. The World Association of Reactor Operators contradicts this: Even if no new nuclear power plants were built, the global reserves would last for 80 years. Nuclear power critics even assume less.

The reason for the extremely different numbers is the price for the extraction, but also the inclusion of suspected uranium deposits: According to the International Energy Agency and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, uranium, which can be extracted for a kilo price of less than 80 dollars, is only available until around 2020 to disposal. With an extraction price of 80 to 130 dollars, the known uranium deposits will last until 2076. If one assumes an even higher extraction price and includes possible future discoveries, it will be around 100 years more.

Only the Nuclear Energy Organization (NEA) of the OECD stands out clearly. She relies on the fast breeder. Thus, according to the NEA in its "Nuclear Energy Outlook 2008", the uranium deposits currently secured could be "sufficient to supply a significantly expanded global nuclear energy program with fuel for thousands of years."

Already in short supply worldwide

One thing is certain: since the early 1990s, uranium production has no longer been able to meet the needs of what are now 443 nuclear power plants. In 2011, the production volume is expected to be around 50,000 tons of uranium, but 69,000 tons are required. If all 62 nuclear reactors currently under construction go into operation, the discrepancy will become even greater. In addition, over 150 further nuclear power plants are being planned worldwide. So far, the gap between consumption and demand has been balanced by civil and military reserves. But these supplies are also running out. The shortage is also reflected in the price: from 2003 to 2007 alone, the price of uranium rose by 1,300 percent. China's announcement that it intends to increase its nuclear power capacities sixfold is one of the price drivers: In addition to the 13 existing plants, there are 27 that are already being built. 50 more are being planned. Newly developed nuclear power plants around the world will increase uranium consumption enormously.

The Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology explains that the exploding uranium price has so far hardly had any effect on electricity costs with the fact that the pure fuel costs for nuclear power only make up about five percent of the price. Further price increases are expected in the next few years. According to the ministry, the range of uranium would be “practically unlimited” if new generations of reactors were developed, nuclear fuel would be saved, breeder technology would be used and reprocessing would be taken into account. However, Germany gave up breeder technology a long time ago, as did reprocessing. In both cases, security considerations played a major role, but so did the considerable resistance of the population.

Import article uranium

Like the other Western European countries and the USA, Germany is almost completely dependent on uranium imports. Until the beginning of the 1990s, uranium was mined in Germany in the SDAG bismuth. Today only small amounts of uranium are extracted during the decommissioning process. The situation is similar in France, for example, which has the world's second highest consumption of uranium - with over 10,000 tons per year, around three times as much as Germany. The USA is one of the producing countries, but the country with the most nuclear power plants in the world uses far more uranium than it owns. In 2008, almost 1,500 tons were mined in the USA, but almost 19,000 tons were consumed in the same period.

Uranium is now mainly mined in Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Namibia, Russia, Niger, Uzbekistan, the USA, Ukraine, China and South Africa. In African countries in particular, uranium mining causes major problems due to radioactive contamination of mine workers and the environment. The government does not disclose where the uranium used in German nuclear power plants comes from. The Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology simply explains on its website: "Nuclear energy is practically indigenous energy because uranium is refined in Germany." There is also security of supply, "since the uranium reserves are predominantly in politically stable regions (e.g. Canada, Australia, South Africa). "