Faced with the most serious energy crisis since the 1970s, the world is turning back to one of the biggest beneficiaries of the 1973 oil embargo: nuclear power. That’s good news, but we should take care. This solution to 2022’s energy security problems risks creating its own energy security headache down the road.
That’s because uranium’s supply chain is as susceptible to geopolitical manipulation as those for natural gas, cobalt, and rare earths. If developed countries want to count on atomic energy as a reliable source of zero-carbon power in the 2030s and 2040s, they’re going to need to start locking down the mineral resources now.
Nearly three-quarters of nuclear generation happens in Europe, North America, and developed parts of Asia. Rich nations and their allies, however, provide just 19% of the 75,000 metric tons of uranium oxide needed to fuel those reactors each year.
China, the former Soviet Union, Iran and Pakistan together accounted for 62% of mined production in 2021. India and traditionally non-aligned countries in Africa produce the remainder.