27 June 2018
For the foreseeable future, most new nuclear power technologies will still run, wholly or partially, on uranium, so it is important that this vital resource is mined, produced and managed sustainably, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano said this week. It is also essential to take full account of environmental concerns, “both to ensure public acceptance today and to avoid troubling legacy issues in the future”, he added.
Amano was addressing delegates at the IAEA International Symposium on Uranium Raw Material for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle – URAM 2018 on 25 June. The event, the fourth in a series that began in 2005, considered the availability of uranium to meet growing future demand and ways in which production can be stepped up in good time to meet that demand.
There are now 451 nuclear power reactors in operation in 30 countries. Another 58 reactors are under construction, mostly in Asia. Some 30 countries are considering introducing nuclear power, Amano noted.
“In my opinion, it will be difficult for the world to meet the twin challenges of securing sufficient energy and limiting the average global temperature increase to 2 degrees centigrade, in the coming decades without making more use of nuclear power,” he said. “IAEA projections show that nuclear power’s global potential up to 2050 remains high, but its expansion is expected to slow in the coming years,” he added.
Promising work is under way on new generations of nuclear power reactors that require less uranium, including some types of small, medium-sized or modular reactors, and some countries are interested in the thorium fuel cycle, he said. “However, for the foreseeable future, most new nuclear power technologies will still run, wholly or partially, on uranium,” he added.
Sustainable nuclear power requires a sustainable nuclear fuel cycle, which starts with secure supplies of uranium, he said.
The IAEA supports Member States with all aspects of the uranium production cycle, from exploration, mining and processing, to mine closure and site remediation. It publishes best-practice guidelines for the various stages of uranium production, offers training and expert peer review services, and produces a number of databases. It also recently published a geological map of world uranium deposits, which Amano described as the most comprehensive compilation of relevant information published to date.
He said he encouraged all Member States to make full use of IAEA peer review services, including Uranium Production Site Appraisal Team missions.
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