Uranium producers reporting for 2011 and India and Japan have reactor startup delays for months

1. World Nuclear news – Paladin Energy and Uranium One both had record years for uranium production in 2011. Denison and Rio Tinto had problems.

Uranium One, the year’s attributable production totalled a record 10.7 million pounds U3O8 (4116 tU), up 45% on 2010 figures, with record full-year sales of 9.9 million pounds U3O8 (3808 tU) up 43% on the previous year. The majority of Uranium One’s production comes from its Kazakh ventures, although 2011 also saw the company’s first report of output from the Honeymoon in-situ leach (ISL) operation in Australia, contributing 210,000 pounds U3O8 (81 tU) to the total.

Paladin Energy (9 page quarterly report for period ending Dec 31, 2011

Record production at both Langer Heinrich and Kayelekera mines with major step-changing break throughs achieved in overall performance at both sites:
– production of 1.82Mlb U3O8 – an increase of 24% above previous record quarter and 47% over last quarter.

– demonstrated production and performance benefits achieved from plant upgrades and Stage 3 production ramp-up.
* Langer Heinrich delivered 1,192,785lb U3O8 40.5% above last quarter:
– achieved 92% of Stage 3 design capacity for the quarter.
– crushed 630,400t of ore, an increase of 26% from the previous quarter.
* Kayelekera delivered a record of 632,000lb U3O8, a 60% increase over the past quarter in spite of 12 days lost in October due to the acid plant being offline

Toronto-based Denison’s final 2011 production figures of 1 million pounds U3O8 (385 tU) from its White Mesa mill in Utah were lower than the company had expected because of difficult operating conditions with ore from the Daneros mine. The company said it expects to recover the shortfall in 2012, when it anticipates production from the mill to rise to 1.4 million pounds U3O8 (589 tU) from its US operations.

Severe weather conditions in Australia during the first half of 2011 affected Rio Tinto’s uranium production for the year, with total attributable production at Energy Resources of Australia’s Ranger mine down 35% on the previous year at 3.81 million pounds U3O8 (1466 tU). The end of the year saw Rio Tinto’s production figures falling at Rossing, with lower grades, milling and extraction rates coupled with a two-week maintenance shutdown during the final quarter bringing the Namibian mine’s output to 3.25 million pounds U3O8 (1250 tU) for the year, 41% down on 2010.

2. Protest and doubts of the safety of nuclear energy have put a six-month delay on the start-up of two new reactors at Kudankulam, the Russian constructor has said.

The reactor units were very nearly complete at the end of last year, but final commissioning checks have had to be postponed due to a surge of popular protest around Kudankulam in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Local people blockaded the site and brought a halt to commissioning around the last week of July 2011.

3. Japan still has a very slow process for restarting reactors.

While reviews of initial stress test results for Japanese reactors are progressing, it could still be several months before the first restart approval comes.

In March 2011, the Japanese government said that all reactors would be subjected to stress tests to be conducted in two phases before approval for restart could be given. The initial step of the stress tests has been completed at some reactors, no decision has yet been made on restarting any units. Step two of the tests will involve a comprehensive safety assessment of all reactors and will be conducted to enhance the reliability of regular safety checks.

In addition to national government approval to restart, utilities must also get permission from local authorities. However, public opposition to reactor restarts remains high in some areas. If no reactor restart approvals are given, all of Japan’s units could be out of operation by the middle of this year.

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