Friday, 26 October, 2007

China to Tap Global Uranium for Nuclear Expansion

BEIJING - China plans to tap the global uranium market to feed the rapid expansion of its nuclear power sector, a top economic planner said on Thursday, although strong demand for the metal has pushed prices above historical levels.

Zhang Guobao, a deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said the country's plans to add one plant a year through 2020 were focused along the booming coast, although inland provinces have been clamouring for investment.

The country aims to spend US$50 billion to quadruple its installed generating capacity at nuclear power plants by 2020 to 40 gigawatts (GW), or 4 percent of China's total power generating capacity.

At present it has around 9 GW of nuclear power online, and only limited domestic uranium supplies, so is looking for fuel abroad for the expansion.

Another commission official said in April that China, the world's second-biggest energy consumer, was finding it difficult to secure uranium for the planned plants, but its firms have since done a deal with Australia and was looking at other mine opportunities, including one in Niger.

"Based on our forecast, there is no supply problem in the global market even if China's mid- and long-term demand is included," Zhang told Reuters on the sidelines of a nuclear standards meeting.

Spot U3O8-prices for uranium ore concentrate, or yellow cake, are strong on the back of renewed interest in nuclear energy, seen by proponents as countering high oil prices and aiding in global efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

They hit a record high of US$136 a pound at the end of June, up from just US$7 in 2000, but has since recoiled to US$90."The trading of uranium resources are no different from other energy products," he added.

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