Flambée des cours, situation géopolitique… l’uranium en crise ?


While countries intend to triple global nuclear capacity by 2050 and the price of uranium is soaring, the new report from the European supply agency Euratom (ESA) gives recommendations to guarantee the continuity of supply of uranium at European level.

On December 2, 2023 during COP28 in Dubai, France signed a declaration, alongside 21 other countries, including the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and Japan, calling for triple global nuclear production capacities by 2050 compared to 2020. While nuclear production represented 9.2% of the global electricity mix in 2022, but 21.5% of the European Union, the question of uranium supply is particularly strategic for Europe. This is one of the major questions explored by the latest annual report from the European supply agency Euratom (ESA), published on January 29, 2024.

This question will interest sector experts as uranium prices have soared since September 2023. If the reference price – that of uranium oxide (U3O8) – was rather stable, around 50 dollars per pound (around 450 grams) in the first months of 2023, it reached 106 dollars per pound between January 16 and 22, 2024. This is its highest level since 2007, when the price reached 140 dollars.

The resurgence of geopolitical tensions in the crosshairs

The renewed global interest in nuclear power, combined with the war in Ukraine launched in February 2022 and the coup d’état in Niger in July 2023, are actively contributing to this increase in prices. And for good reason, Niger and Russia are among the leading European suppliers en uranium. According to the ESA report, European supplies mainly come from four countries. At the top of this podium for the year 2022 are Kazakhstan (26.8%), Niger (25.4%) and Canada (22%). Russia (16.9%) follows, far ahead of Uzbekistan (3.8%), Australia (2.8%), South Africa and Namibia (2.2%). The new geopolitical situation therefore invites companies to vary their supplies. In particular, uranium deliveries from Russia fell by 16% between 2021 and 2022. They were offset by the increase in imports from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Canada in particular.

Guarantee the continuity of uranium supply

In addition to electricity production, millions of Europeans rely each year on diagnostics and therapies using ionizing radiation. In this sense, “ supply disruptions would have disastrous consequences for populations, hospitals and industry », Recalls the ESA.

In front of “ an increased risk linked to Russian supplies and linked to the new geopolitical situation », the ESA calls on the nuclear industry and electricity operators to better anticipate and “ strive to guarantee a regular and sufficient supply, whatever the structure of the supply market “. In this regard, the agency calls for concluding “ multi-year contracts from various supply sources “. In line with this recommendation, 98% of uranium deliveries to the EU were made under multi-year contracts in 2022.

The agency further recommends that Member States adopting nuclear energy production set conditions to ensure the security of supply chains. She also calls on these manufacturers to equip themselves with “ an appropriate level of stocks » and to have “ alternative routes and means of transport ».

The ESA states: “ Ideal security of supply involves at least two alternative suppliers for each stage of the fuel cycle and, if possible, at least one European service provider “. Thus, the agency invites in the medium term to undertake investments in the EU and in its partner countries “ reliable and low risk » to develop the prospecting and exploitation of new deposits, “ respecting sustainability aspects ».


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