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Canada is the world’s second largest uranium producer in the world, next only to Kazakhstan, according to the World Nuclear Association. And we export about 85 per cent of what we mine.
But the uranium sector went into a downturn in recent years, especially after Japan’s post-tsunami nuclear reactor meltdown caused that country to shut down reactors, with ripple effects in other countries. However, with new reactors being built, especially in Asia, and the expected restart of more Japanese reactors in the next few years, some analysts are calling for demand, and spot prices, to increase.
Even with decreased global demand, the value of Canadian-origin uranium exports in 2013 amounted to about $1-billion, according to government figures. Exports are mainly to the United States, Europe and Asia.
Tim Gitzel, president and chief executive officer of Saskatoon-based Cameco Corp., oversees the largest high-grade uranium mines in the country: McArthur River and Cigar Lake, both in Saskatchewan.
Mr. Gitzel sees two major growth opportunities: China and India.
“China has the largest number of nuclear power plants under construction in the world,” Mr. Gitzel says. Twenty-five reactors are under construction, and 26 are already in use.
Furthermore, according to the World Nuclear Association, China is looking to have more than a three-fold increase in nuclear capacity by 2020-21. Uranium is typically used in nuclear reactors to produce electricity, and a small portion is used for producing medical isotopes.
India, which is the world’s second-fastest-growing market for nuclear fuel, signed its first long-term contract with Cameco earlier this year. The deal, unveiled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is worth $350-million and involves Cameco supplying 3,220 metric tonnes to power India’s reactors over the next five years.
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