The Uranium Market
The Uranium Market
As the primary fuel source for nuclear power generation, the uranium market plays a vital role in the global energy landscape. The market recently has experienced significant fluctuations due to supply-demand dynamics, geopolitical influences and changes in public sentiment towards nuclear power.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict in 2022 exacerbated a global energy crisis. Energy prices, particularly natural gas, hit historical highs following Russia's invasion, despite some stabilization. Russia, contributing 20%, 10%, and 5% of global exports of natural gas, crude oil, and coal respectively1, has significantly influenced Europe's markets. However, with record EU electricity and gas prices in 2022, a global shift is underway to decrease reliance on Russia. This is important for energy security and affordability, as energy costs directly impact households and indirectly affect the global economy, prompting a worldwide push for secure energy systems, with nuclear playing a crucial role.
As a result, the uranium market is surging as governments worldwide have started legislating pro-nuclear energy policies to reflect the changing public sentiment and necessity of nuclear power generation in achieving net zero climate goals. Nuclear power, and the need for uranium fuel, is now recognised as crucial in the energy transition.
Favourable market thematics are also a product of increasing demand from emerging economies, advancements in reactor technology, and recognition of nuclear power as a low-carbon energy source. The growing interest in small modular reactors (SMRs) is proving to also be a key market driver.
The demand for clean, reliable, and low-carbon energy sources has prompted governments worldwide to reconsider nuclear energy as part of their energy portfolios. Additionally, the urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change has led to a growing recognition of nuclear power's role in achieving decarbonization goals.
Nuclear Power and the Energy Transition
As the world grapples with the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change, nuclear power is being recognized as a valuable and necessary component of the solution. Nuclear power can provide a stable source of energy during the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. In addition, its energy density (the amount of energy it contains per unit of mass) makes it significantly more powerful than other energy fuels2.
Energy Density (MJ/kg)
Liquefied Natural Gas
Uranium-235 (enriched to 3.5%)
- Nuclear power is a low-carbon energy source that does not produce greenhouse gas emissions during electricity generation, cementing its crucial role in decarbonizing the electricity sector.
- Nuclear power plants provide baseload power, meaning they can operate continuously and reliably, providing a stable supply of electricity. This is in contrast to intermittent renewable energy sources like solar and wind, which depend on weather conditions.
- It can contribute to energy security by diversifying energy sources. By reducing dependence on fossil fuels and imported energy, countries can enhance their energy independence and mitigate risks associated with price volatility and geopolitical tensions.
- Ongoing research and development in nuclear power technologies, such as small modular reactors (SMRs) and advanced reactor designs, offer improvements in safety, waste management, and efficiency, making nuclear more attractive as part of the energy transition.
Nuclear power can provide a stable source of energy during the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. It can bridge the gap until renewable technologies are further developed, scaled up, and integrated into the grid.
In June 2023, uranium spot prices hit a new 52-week high of US$56 per pound, marking over 100% growth from $25 per pound in June 2019. Forecasts suggest even higher prices, with the Bank of America setting a 2023 target of US$70 per pound3. A major driver of this price growth has been the introduction of physical uranium investment trusts into the spot market. SPROTT, a Canadian asset manager, launched its Physical Uranium Trust in August 2021, holding 61.75 million pounds of U308, valued at US$3.45 billion as of June 7. Similarly, Zuri Invest AG launched its physical uranium investment trust in June
2023, and experts anticipate 8-10 large scale physical uranium trusts by the end of 20234. These funds' entry into the uranium spot market is expected to push U308 spot prices higher as they compete against global utilities needing uranium for their reactors.