Nuclear Reactors 1097 - Uranium Prices Have Little Affect On The Economics Of Nuclear Power Generation

     Uranium has been one of the best-preforming asset classes in 2022. This information was supplied by HANetf’s Sprott Uranium Miners UCITS ETF (URNM). The uranium spot price has increased by twenty one percent during the year through October 31st.
     October was a particularly strong month for uranium oxide (U3O8). It is used to make fuel for nuclear power plant reactors. The spot price of U3O8 increased about eight percent in October. Broader commodity markets gained only one and two thirds of a percent.
      Jacob White is a senior analyst for URNM. He said, “We believe that strong demand for uranium conversion and enrichment, coupled with a shift away from Russian suppliers, supports a further increase in the U3O8 uranium spot price.”
     Most of the demand for uranium comes from the nuclear power generation industry. Many nuclear power plants operate on an eighteen month or twenty four month refueling cycle. Nearly all owners of nuclear power plants contract for fuel well in advance of their refueling outages.
     The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that four hundred and thirty-seven nuclear power plant reactors were operational across the globe at the end of 2021. Their total net capacity was more than three hundred and eighty-nine gigawatts. The agency said that fifty-six additional power reactors were under construction at that time.
     In a Sprott report released on November 11th, White expressed his optimism for uranium based in part on a forecast by the International Energy Agency (IEA). White wrote that the agency “expects nuclear energy generation to grow 53% from 2021 to 2050 based on current stated government policies in place, 84% based on announced government targets, and 109% on its net zero emissions by 2050 scenario.”
     The underlying fundamentals may be strong for U3O8 spot, conversion and enriched uranium prices. However, the effect that this will have on nuclear power plant profitability may be negligible. The World Nuclear Association (WNA) reports that fuel costs are a minor part of total generating costs for nuclear power plants. The association said that “Nuclear power plants are expensive to build but relatively cheap to run.”
     In a report by the WNA that was published several years ago, it said that the economics of nuclear plants are heavily influenced by their capital costs. These include the cost of site preparations, construction, manufacture, commissioning and financing of nuclear power plants. As most people know, the construction of a nuclear power plant takes thousands of workers, huge amounts of steel and concrete, thousands of components and many interrelated systems to provide electricity, cooling, ventilation, information, control and communication.
     Financing costs change materially for nuclear projects in relation to time to complete the plant construction. With the interest rate and/or mode of financing employed, it is not uncommon for capital costs to account for more than sixty percent of the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from a nuclear facility. While uranium demand many continue to rise, it is unlikely to significantly affect the overall economics of most nuclear power plants.

Geiger Readings for Nov 25, 2022

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office = 87 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 130 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 130 nanosieverts per hour

Avocado from Central Market = 92 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 87 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 62 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Fusion 106 - U.S. Launches A Massive Program To Develop Commercial Nuclear Fusion - Part 2 of 2 Parts

Part 2 of 2 Parts (Please read Part 1 first)
     The DoE has just announced up to fifty million dollars to launch a new milestone-based fusion development program. Dr. Hsu was asked to elaborate on this new program and explain how it will help to bring fusion towards technical and commercial viability.
     Dr. Hsu answered that the fusion development program will enable the DoE to partner with privately funded fusion companies to realize preliminary designs for a fusion pilot plant (FPP). Critically, this partnership harnesses the five billion dollars of private capital invested into the predominantly U.S. fusion companies. The recent National Academies report Bringing Fusion to the U.S. Grid defines a FPP as producing net electricity > 50 megawatts for more than three hours continuously. A timely path to one full-power year of operation is a target in the report.
     There are two program Tiers. The upper Tier calls for delivering a FPP preliminary design by the late 2020s. The lower Tier asks for a preliminary design by the early 2030s. Construction and initial operations of a FPP are beyond the scope of this program. The DoE would look to continue public-private partnerships to demonstration activities. These activities will be supported by the new DoE Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations and/or the Loan Programs Office.
     Dr. Hsu was asked what action is needed to ensure that the U.S. becomes a key exporter of fusion technologies. He replied that new public and private investments were needed as well as an energy-development focus for fusion. Also need will be new programs that align public- and private-sector fusion research, development and demonstration to enable a FPP in the 2030s. All of the non-technical issues listed above must also be addressed.
      Dr. Hsu was asked why the recent launch of the Bold Decadal Vision for Fusion Energy was so significant. He answered that it was significant because to receive recognition by the U.S. Government leadership it is time to move beyond a science-oriented fusion program and to harness the energy market pull for fusion. It was significant for the U.S. Government leadership to declare that we wish to bring nuclear fusion energy to technical and commercial viability on an aggressive decadal timescale. Finally, it was significant to recognize that nuclear fusion has a golden opportunity to build in energy justice to start to redress past harms to communities and to facilitate public acceptance.
     Dr. Hsu was asked how important international collaboration was in promoting fusion. He replied that international collaboration and coordination are very important. Nuclear fusion energy has long been a worldwide scientific endeavor. New scientific developments must continue to be shared by fusion scientific research at international facilities including ITER. As attention turns to enabling a FPP on an aggressive timescale, targeted opportunities with our international partners must be encouraged. These include shared test facilities, coordination on regulatory and non-proliferation frameworks and developing robust supply chains including fuel supplies.
     The U.S. is not the only country that would like to lead the nuclear fusion revolution. China, Japan, Korea, France and England are also pouring millions into nuclear fusion research. In addition, at least a dozen private companies are pursuing nuclear fusion with millions of dollars of private and public funding. Hopefully, all this effort and funding will meet with success in the 2030s.