China starts 14th nuclear reactor and Canadian Uranium Producers Optimistic

1. The second unit at China’s Ling Ao II nuclear power plant entered commercial operation on 7 August, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co (CGNPC) announced. The 1080 MWe Chinese-designed CPR-1000 pressurised water reactor (PWR) achieved first criticality on 25 February and was connected to the grid on 3 May. CGNPC said that the unit entered into commercial operation following 168 hours of successful test operation. It becomes China’s 14th operating nuclear power reactor.

17 other CPR-1000s already under construction. Work is planned to begin on at least five more during 2011.

2. Mid-year reports from two Canada-based uranium producers share an air of quiet optimism despite feeling the effects of events in Japan.

The first half of the year saw Denison produce 679,000 pounds U3O8 (261 tonnes U). Even before the events of 11 March, Denison had revised its uranium production forecast for 2011 downwards to 1.2 million pounds U3O8 (462 tU). This figure remains unchanged despite revisions to Denison’s ore processing plans for the remainder of the year subsequent to its acquisition of uranium exploration and development company White Canyon, including the Daneros mine in Utah.

Cameco’s first-half uranium production totalled 10.5 million pounds U3O8 (4039 tU), 4% down on the same period in 2010 due to planned variations in mill production at Rabbit Lake. The company reports that uranium production is on track for the year at both McArthur River and Key Lake in Canada, although sulphuric acid supply problems had a small impact on production from its interests in Kazakhstan.

Work at Cameco’s major Canadian development site, Cigar Lake, is continuing, with the company expecting to reach the main mine workings on the 480-metre level by the end of the year. Initial production is planned for mid-2013.

Cameco anticipates a slight decrease of about 3% in total world uranium demand over the next decade. Annual global uranium consumption over the period, estimated at about 225 million pounds U3O8 per year (86,545 tU) is lower than in its previous estimates, although continuing to grow at about 3% per year. The company has cut its estimate of new reactors coming on line by 2020 to 85 from the 90 predicted in previous estimates.

Nevertheless, Cameco expects annual global consumption to continue to exceed annual global mine production “by a significant margin” over the next decade, and says it is well placed to help meet the challenge.

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