The future of Yellowcake: a global assessment of uranium resources and mining

Sci Total Environ. 2014 Feb 15;472:590-607. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.11.070. Epub 2013 Dec 6.

Abstract

Uranium (U) mining remains controversial in many parts of the world, especially in a post-Fukushima context, and often in areas with significant U resources. Although nuclear proponents point to the relatively low carbon intensity of nuclear power compared to fossil fuels, opponents argue that this will be eroded in the future as ore grades decline and energy and greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) intensity increases as a result. Invariably both sides fail to make use of the increasingly available data reported by some U mines through sustainability reporting - allowing a comprehensive assessment of recent trends in the energy and GGE intensity of U production, as well as combining this with reported mineral resources to allow more comprehensive modelling of future energy and GGEs intensity. In this study, detailed data sets are compiled on reported U resources by deposit type, as well as mine production, energy and GGE intensity. Some important aspects included are the relationship between ore grade, deposit type and recovery, which are crucial in future projections of U mining. Overall, the paper demonstrates that there are extensive U resources known to meet potential short to medium term demand, although the future of U mining remains uncertain due to the doubt about the future of nuclear power as well as a range of complex social, environmental, economic and some site-specific technical issues.

Keywords: Energy intensity; Greenhouse gas emissions; Mine rehabilitation; Nuclear power; Uranium mining; Uranium resources.

MeSH terms

  • Energy-Generating Resources*
  • Mining*
  • Nuclear Power Plants
  • Radioactive Pollutants / analysis*
  • Uranium / analysis*

Substances

  • Radioactive Pollutants
  • Uranium