• Global demand for uranium rises due to renewed interest in nuclear power
  • Japan considers restarting Fukushima plant, as China and India expand nuclear capacities
  • Uranium mining adopts eco-friendly tech like ISL and compact reactors


The resurgence of interest in nuclear power has ignited a global demand for uranium, leading to the opening of new mines.

This increased focus is closely connected to recent global efforts to address climate change.

During the COP28 U.N. climate conference in Dubai last year, over 20 nations, including the United States, committed to tripling their nuclear energy capacity by 2050 in a bid to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Moreover, in late February of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation aimed at expediting the development of next-generation nuclear power plants, with a similar bill awaiting consideration in the Senate.

Geopolitical considerations are also driving the quest for new uranium sources.

Efforts by the U.S. and other nations to lessen their dependence on major uranium suppliers like Kazakhstan and Russia are propelling this trend.

The International Atomic Energy Agency projects that by 2040, global demand for uranium could soar to as high as 100,000 metric tons annually, nearly doubling current mining activities to meet future demands.

A recent headline in The Wall Street Journal pretty much captured the current sentiment: “Uranium Is Finally Running Hot, and Miners Can’t Keep Up.”

“Everyone is convinced there is going to be a much larger demand for uranium going forward,” added Matthew Wald at the American Nuclear Society.


A worldwide push towards nuclear energy

Following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Japan made the decision to shut down all 54 of its nuclear reactors.

That decision is proving costly because Japan, lacking in natural resources, now spends more money on importing coal, LNG, and other energy sources—amounting to about 27 trillion yen (US$172 billion) in 2023 — more than it earns from exporting cars.

Consequently, there is mounting pressure within Japan now to potentially restart the world’s largest nuclear plant, situated in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima.

Japan is not alone in reassessing its stance on nuclear power; other countries, notably China and India, are also ramping up their nuclear energy capacities.

China, in particular, has 36 nuclear reactors in development and is poised to surpass France and the US as the world’s leading nuclear power source by the end of the decade.

According to the chairman of China National Nuclear Corp, Beijing is able to approve as many as 10 new reactors a year.

At least 15 other countries are also constructing new reactors.

India aims to triple its nuclear capacity by the early 2030s; and even oil-rich Saudi Arabia is exploring plans to expand its civilian nuclear program in collaboration with the US.


Uranium miners embrace new technologies

Meanwhile, uranium mining companies are embracing innovative new technologies to minimise their environmental footprint.

In-situ leaching (ISL) is one such technology that is touted for its environmentally friendly approach to uranium extraction.

In simple terms, ISL is a method of mining where we leave the uranium in the ground and dissolve it with a special liquid. We then pump this liquid up to the surface and extract the uranium from it.

This method causes very little disturbance to the land and doesn’t produce waste rock. However, it only works if the ground is porous and the liquids used don’t contaminate the groundwater.

In addition to ISL, companies like Oklo Inc (owned by Sam Altman) are garnering attention for their development of compact nuclear reactors.

Compact nuclear reactors are smaller versions of traditional nuclear reactors that can fit into smaller spaces. They generate electricity using nuclear energy, but are designed to be more flexible and easier to install than conventional reactors.

Oklo plans to sell these directly to customers like the US Air Force as well as big tech companies.

Oklo (NYSE:OKLO)’s shares went public on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month through a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) led by Altman.

“Fundamentally today in the world, the two limiting commodities you see everywhere are intelligence, which we’re trying to work on with AI, and energy,” Altman said.


Is nuclear energy really clean?

Despite concerns surrounding nuclear power, its cleanliness and safety record position it as a viable complement to other renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

Nuclear energy is basically considered clean because it produces zero carbon emissions.

Unlike nuclear weapons, which aim to create massive explosions, nuclear power plants use controlled nuclear fission to generate energy.

Additionally, nuclear power plants require less land than renewable energy sources like wind and solar, making them more efficient in terms of space usage.

Despite past accidents, nuclear power is statistically one of the safest ways to generate electricity, with only a few major incidents recorded over decades of operation worldwide.

“Nuclear power plants operate with stringent safety measures and multiple layers of protection, making the risk of accidents exceptionally low compared to other industrial activities,” said nuclear engineer, Dr. Emmanuel Farhi.

Energy analyst, Dr. Kirsty Gogan agreed, adding: “Nuclear power’s reliability and low carbon footprint make it an essential complement to intermittent renewables like wind and solar, ensuring a stable and sustainable energy supply.”


Aussie uranium miners prepare for surge

With uranium ETFs seeing historic inflows of money, the market is now starting to reflect the industry’s booming fundamentals.

Goldman Sachs has raised its price targets for uranium stocks, anticipating a substantial increase of 40% in global uranium demand by 2040.

Furthermore, the recent ban on Russian uranium imports has further tightened the global uranium supply, potentially driving prices even higher.

On the ASX, a number of miners have also outlined plans and even put dates on when they think they will be supplying uranium to customers.

At the moment, only BHP (ASX:BHP), as a by-product of its Olympic Dam copper mine, is actually selling uranium but that list is poised to grow.

There is no guarantee they will all get up, and less of a guarantee they will succeed and meet expectations set out in their studies.

But ASX listed uranium companies — including and dominated by predominately TSX listed NexGen Energy — are planning to add up to 60Mlb of annual supply to the market in the coming years.

Read the rundown by Stockhead’s Josh Chiat on the ASX uranium companies expecting to pull pounds from the ground in the next few years:

Which ASX uranium stocks are in the development pipeline?


Here are the uranium stocks on the ASX

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