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Uranium: what the explosion in prices means for the nuclear industry

3 11 0
24.09.2021

It is a year since Horizon Nuclear Power, a company owned by Hitachi, confirmed it was pulling out of building the £20 billion Wylfa nuclear power plant on Anglesey in north Wales. The Japanese industrial conglomerate cited the failure to reach a funding deal with the UK government over escalating costs, and the government is still in negotiations with other players to try and take the project forward.

Hitachi’s share price duly went up 10%, reflecting investors’ negative sentiment towards building complex, highly regulated large nuclear power plants. With governments reluctant to subsidise nuclear power because of the high costs, particularly since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, the market has undervalued the potential of this technology to tackle the climate emergency by providing abundant and reliable low-carbon electricity.

Uranium prices long reflected this reality. The primary fuel for nuclear plants were sliding for much of the 2010s, with no signs of a major turnaround. Yet since mid-August, prices have surged by around 60% as investors and speculators scramble to snap up the commodity. The price is around US$48 per pound (453g), having been as cheap as US$28.99 on August 16. So what lies behind this rally, and what does it mean for nuclear power?

Uranium price

The demand for uranium is limited to nuclear power production and medical equipment. Annual global demand is 150 million pounds, with nuclear power plants looking to secure contracts roughly two years ahead of........

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