www.nuclearfaq.ca 
Go to CNF homepage
[Home] [NEW] [Contents] [Statistics] [Graphics] [Links] [More Info] [Editorials] [Author Info] [Feedback]
G.   Uranium
[A. CANDU Technology] [B. The Industry] [C. Cost/Benefit] [D. Safety/Liability] [E. Waste] [F. Security/Non-Proliferation] [G. Uranium] [H. Research Reactors] [I. Other R&D] [J. Further Info]

INDEX to Section G

G.1 How much uranium does Canada produce?
G.2 How is uranium ore processed into CANDU fuel?
G.3 In what minerals do uranium and thorium occur?
G.4 How much longer will the world's uranium reserves last?

Return to Main Index
Search this
website:

Go to CNF homepage
[Home] [NEW] [Contents] [Statistics] [Graphics] [Links] [More Info] [Editorials] [Author Info] [Feedback]
G.1     How much uranium does Canada produce?
[A. CANDU Technology] [B. The Industry] [C. Cost/Benefit] [D. Safety/Liability] [E. Waste] [F. Security/Non-Proliferation] [G. Uranium] [H. Research Reactors] [I. Other R&D] [J. Further Info]

Canada is the world's leading uranium producer, accounting for 21% of global production and 8% of global reserves. Australia and Kazakhstan are the next largest producers, each accounting for about 19% of global production, and 23% and 15% of global reserves, respectively.

All uranium now produced in Canada comes from three mines, all in the province of Saskatchewan (see map). These mines are listed below, with comparisons to other world producers. Note the unusually high grade of the Canadian ore, particularly that found at McArthur River and Cigar Lake (requiring special robotic procedures for extraction).

The two major uranium producers in Canada are Cameco and Cogema Resources.

About 85% of Canada's production is exported for nuclear energy production in the U.S., Japan, and Western Europe, bringing in about Cdn$500 million annually. Canadian policy forbids the export of uranium or nuclear technology for use in nuclear weapons or other military applications. This includes the use of Canadian-origin uranium in the form of depleted uranium.

 

WESTERN WORLD'S TOP PRODUCING URANIUM MINES

 
Mine Proven
Reserves
Average
Ore Grade
Annual
Production
  (tonnes U3O8) (% U3O8) (tonnes U3O8)
   
McArthur River (Canada) 151,160 21.7 7,528
Ranger (Australia) 43,966 0.15 5,300
Olympic Dam (Australia) 284,700 0.06 4,100
Rossing (Namibia) 37,900 0.30 2,370
McClean Lake (Canada) 2,950 0.67 1,426
Rabbit Lake (Canada) 7,950 0.98 1,613

(WORLD AVERAGE ORE GRADE: 0.15%)

Data updated 2009-07-01.

In addition, Canada has three projects under development: Cigar Lake (19% U3O8, 160,000 tonnes proven reserves), Midwest (5.5% U3O8, 18,900 tonnes proven reserves), and Dawn Lake (1.69% U3O8, 5,800 tonnes proven reserves). Cigar Lake is expected to produce 8,000 tonnes/yr starting after 2011, and Midwest is expected to produce 2,600 tonnes/yr starting after 2011. With these two mines operating it is predicted that Canada will be be producing half the world's uranium ore supply.

A number of other significant deposits are being explored.


References:

R. Steane, "Uranium Update", CNS Bulletin, 18,1, pp.28-31, Winter 1997.

World Nuclear Association

J.Chadwick, "McArthur River Uranium", Mining Magazine, October 1997.

B. Rosner & C. Edwards, "The Transport System for High Grade McArthur River Uranium Ore", The Uranium Institute [now the World Nuclear Association], 23rd Annual International Symposium, 1998.

B.W. Jamieson & S.F. Frost, "The McArthur River Project: High Grade Uranium Mining", The Uranium Institute [now the World Nuclear Association], 22nd Annual International Symposium, 1997.

 www.nuclearfaq.ca 
Return to Main Index     Go to Top of this Section
Search this
website:

Go to CNF homepage
[Home] [NEW] [Contents] [Statistics] [Graphics] [Links] [More Info] [Editorials] [Author Info] [Feedback]
G.2     How is uranium ore processed into CANDU fuel?
[A. CANDU Technology] [B. The Industry] [C. Cost/Benefit] [D. Safety/Liability] [E. Waste] [F. Security/Non-Proliferation] [G. Uranium] [H. Research Reactors] [I. Other R&D] [J. Further Info]

Uranium ore is extracted through either open-pit or underground mining, which in Canada occurs entirely in northern Saskatchewan (the two major uranium producers in Canada are Cameco and Cogema Resources). The uranium ore is then milled to separate it from the rest of the ore minerals, and oxidize it into a form known as "Yellowcake" (U3O8). This raw material is then shipped to a refinery (in Canada, at Blind River, Ontario) where it is reduced to "uranium trioxide", UO3, and then to a conversion facility (in Canada, at Port Hope, Ontario) where it is prepared for the uranium market.

For the uranium enrichment market (non-CANDU reactors around the world), the UO3 is converted into uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) and then exported (Canada has no uranium enrichment facilities).

For the CANDU market, the UO3 is further reduced to uranium dioxide (UO2). This black powder is then pressed into cylindrical form and sintered, creating a ceramic UO2 fuel pellet, a little over a centimetre in both diameter and length. At CANDU-fuel manufacturing plants like Cameco Fuel Manufacturing Inc in Port Hope, Ontario, and General Electric Canada in Peterborough, Ontario, these pellets are inserted into metal tubes (Zircaloy) about half-a-metre in length. These tubes are then capped and welded shut, and thirty-seven of them are assembled into a standard CANDU fuel bundle, weighing approximately 20 kg.


Further Reading...


Images...

 www.nuclearfaq.ca 
Return to Main Index     Go to Top of this Section
Search this
website:

Go to CNF homepage
[Home] [NEW] [Contents] [Statistics] [Graphics] [Links] [More Info] [Editorials] [Author Info] [Feedback]
G.3     In what minerals do uranium and thorium occur?
[A. CANDU Technology] [B. The Industry] [C. Cost/Benefit] [D. Safety/Liability] [E. Waste] [F. Security/Non-Proliferation] [G. Uranium] [H. Research Reactors] [I. Other R&D] [J. Further Info]

The following table lists the major minerals that contain uranium or thorium. In most cases links to specimen photos are included. Information and photos come from the WebMineral website (incl. its French version) by David Barthelmy.

Mineral name & synonym, if any
Links to photos
Chemical formula
Molec. weight
% U
Locality found
Geological environment,
name origin, etc.
Uraninite Gummite, Braggerite
1 2
UO2 270.03 88.15 (many worldwide) Granite and syenite pegmatites. Colloform crusts in high temperature hydrothermal veins. In quartz-pebble conglomerates.
Ianthinite
 
(UO2)5(UO3)10(H2O) 304.04 78.29 Kasolo, Belgian Congo Sedimentary uranium deposits; From the Greek ianthinos, "violet."
Becquerelite
1
Ca(UO2)6O4(OH)68(H2O) 1,970.41 72.48 Kasolo, Belgian Congo Sedimentary uranium deposits; Named for French physical chemist
Rutherfordine
1
UO2CO3 330.04 72.12 Uraguru Mountains, Tanganyika Territory, East Africa Secondary alteration product from uraninite; Named for physicist Ernest Rutherford
Jachymovite   (UO2)8(SO4)(OH)14 13(H2O) 2,728.59 69.79 Jachymov, Czech Republic Named after historical mining area
Joliotite   (UO2)(CO3)2(H2O) 366.07 65.02 Menzenschwald, Schwarzwald ("Black Forest") Germany Occurs as crusts on "limonite" and barite at uranium deposits; Named in 1976 for J. Frederic Joliot (1900-1958), French physicist, and I. Joliot-Curie
Autunite Lime Uranite
1 2 3
Ca(UO2)2 (PO4)210-12(H2O) 1,526.31 62.38 (many worldwide) Named after its locality at Autun, France.
Curite
1 2 3
Pb2U5O174(H2O) 1,948.60 61.08 Congo Named after the French physicist, P. Curie.
Chadwickite   (UO2)H(AsO3) 393.96 60.42 Wittichen in the Black Forest, Aufschluss, Germany. From granite in dump material at the Sophia mine, central Black Forest; Named after Sir James Chadwick (1891-1974), English physicist Cavendish Laboratory, University
Renardite
1
Pb(UO2)4(PO4)2(OH)47(H2O) 1,671.39 56.97 Kaslo mine, Shinkolobwe, Shaba, Zare and France (Lachaux, Puy de Dme) among others Secondary mineral, quite rare; named for Alphonse Francois Renard (1842-1903), mineralogist, University of Ghent, Belgium
Boltwoodite Nenadkevite
1 2 3 4
HK(UO2)(SiO4)1.5(H2O) 429.24 55.45 Rssing U-mine, Namibia ??
Sklodowskite Chinkolobwite
1
(H2O)2Mg(UO2)2 (SiO4)24(H2O) 858.63 55.44 Kasolo, Katanga, Congo Named after Polish-French physical chemist, Marie Curie-Sklodowska
Cuprosklodowskite Jachymovite
1 2
Cu[(UO2)(SiO2OH)]26(H2O) 861.84 55.24 Congo Named after its compostion and affinity with Sklodowskite
Sabugalite
1
HAl(UO2)4(PO4)416(H2O) 1,776.23 53.60 Sabugal in Portugal, and France (Chabannes, Haute-Vienne) Named after locality of Sabugal in Portugal
Carnotite
1 2 3 4
K2 (UO2) 2V2O83(H2O) 902.18 52.77 South-western U.S. Named after the French chemist, M. A. Carnot (1839-1920).
Tyuyamunite
1 2 3
Ca(UO2) 2V2O85-8(H2O) 918.10 51.85 Found in the Tyuya-Muyun (Tuja Mujun) hill, a northern spur of the Alai Mountains, Ferghana, in Turkestan. Named from its locality.
Francevillite
1 2 3
(Ba,Pb)(UO2) 2V2O85(H2O) 978.77 48.64 Africa Named after locality, near Franceville, Africa.
Torbernite Copper Uranite
1 2
Cu(UO2)2 (PO4)28-12(H2O) 991.71 48.00   Named after the Swedish chemist, Tornbern Bergmann (1735-1784); good specimens highly valued
Novacekite
1
Mg(UO2)2 (AsO4)212(H2O) 1,058.38 44.98 Brazil Rare mineral highly prized
Zeunerite
1
Cu(UO2)2 (AsO4)216(H2O) 1,061.59 44.84 Schneeberg ("Snow Hill"), Saxony - Germany Rare mineral; named after the German physicist, G. A. Zeuner (1828-1907).
Curienite
1
Pb(UO2)2V2O85(H2O) 1,067.21 44.61 Congo Named after the French physicist, P. Curie.
Uranophane Uranotile
1 2
Ca(UO2)2SiO3 (OH)25(H2O) 586.36 40.59 Oberpfalz, Bavaria. Alteration procduct of gummite; From uran and phanos - "to appear."
Parsonite
1
Pb2(UO2)(PO4)22(H2O) 910.40 26.15 France (Grury, Sane-et-Loire, Lachaux, Puy-de-Dme)  
Betafite Samiresite
1 2
(Ca,Na,U)2 (Ti,Nb,Ta)2O6(OH) 297.19 16.02 originally Betafo, Malagasy Republic, but common worldwide, incl. Ontario Named after its locality
Euxenite
1 2 3
(Y,Ca,Ce)(Nb,Ta,Ti)2O6, with U or Th replacing Ce in some locales (392.28 w/o U/Th) (var.) (many worldwide) Pegmatites; U and Th sometimes substitute for Ce. This is especially true of minerals in the Grenville Province and other localities of similar geological setting in the US. This causes most euxenite to be radioactive; From the Greek for "friendly to strangers, hospitable," in allusion to the rare elements that it contains.
       
% Th
   
Thorianite
1 2 3
ThO2 264.04 87.88 Sri Lanka Pegmatites and alluvial deposits; Named for its chemical composition containing thorium.
Thorogummite Mackintoshite
1
Th(SiO4)0.9(OH)0.4 321.72 72.13 Llano Co., Texas, USA. Named after gummite and the element thorium.
Thorite Orangite
1 2
Th(SiO4) 324.12 71.59 Island of Lovo, Norway Augite-syenite rocks; From the presence of the element Thorium
Thorbastnasite Thorbastnaesite   Th(Ca,Ce)(CO3)2F23(H2O) 509.19 45.57 ?? ??
Thorosteenstrupine   (Ca,Th,Mn)3Si4O11F6(H2O) 712.88 29.29    
Thorutite   (Th,U,Ca)Ti2 (O,OH)6 390.82 23.75 Somewhere in Russia In microcline veins cutting a nephelene syenite; Named for the composition (Thorium, rutile).
Thornasite   (Na,K)ThSi11(O,F,OH)258(H2O) 984.99 23.56 DeMix quarry, Mt. St. Hillaire, Quebec Named for its composition (Thorium, Na, Si).
Monazite
1 2
(Ce,La,Nd,Th)PO4 240.21 4.83 Mars Hill, Madison County, North Carolina; Kerala, India; Brazil Granitic pegmatites; From the Greek monazeis - "to be alone" in allusion to its isolated crystals and their rarity when first found.

 www.nuclearfaq.ca 
Return to Main Index     Go to Top of
this Section
Search this
website:

Go to CNF
homepage
[Home] [NEW] [Contents] [Statistics] [Graphics] [Links] [More Info] [Editorials] [Author Info] [Feedback]
G.4     How much longer will the world's uranium reserves last?
[A. CANDU Technology] [B. The Industry] [C. Cost/Benefit] [D. Safety/Liability] [E. Waste] [F. Security/Non-Proliferation] [G. Uranium] [H. Research Reactors] [I. Other R&D] [J. Further Info]

Since uranium is ubiquitous and plentiful in the earth's crust, its availability is determined almost entirely by the willingness to find it. Thus, while today's low uranium cost equates to about 50 years of assured resources (3.5 Mt) using conventional reactors at the current usage rate, a doubling of the market price increases this time roughly ten-fold. In all, conventional estimated resources (today's assured resources plus that not yet economical to mine) account for about 200 years' supply (13.2 Mt) at the current consumption rate. This does not include advanced uranium-extraction scenarios (phosphate deposits accounting for 22 Mt, seawater accounting for up to 4000 Mt) that require up to six times the current market price.

Current reactor technology is a meaningless yardstick in such scenarios, however, due to its relatively inefficient use of resources. Reactor development has always assumed the need for advanced fuel cycles, even after the discovery of significant uranium deposits around the world allowed a levelling off of the development curve. As low-cost uranium resources dwindle, more fuel-efficient reactors will find a market.

The realm of current technology does permit a significant extension of resources, particularly if high-converter technology like CANDU is exploited to its fullest potential. A 40% improvement in fuel usage is achieved just by replacing an LWR with a CANDU reactor. Alternatively, recycling spent LWR reactor fuel in a CANDU reactor extracts 50% more energy from the original uranium supply. This can be achieved either by extracting the left-over fissile material (uranium and plutonium) from the LWR fuel, or by simply re-engineering the spent fuel to fit into a CANDU reactor without reprocessing (i.e., the DUPIC fuel cycle). See related FAQ for more details.

Even more available than uranium in the earth's crust is thorium (roughly three times the abundance), which can be used in conventional reactors to breed uranium fuel (U-233). Once-through thorium fuel cycles in CANDU, for example, can achieve near-breeder status and almost render uranium availability an irrelevant issue.

Finally, the ultimate in efficient resource usage is the Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR), a technology that creates more fissile fuel than it consumes. Uranium resources can be extended by a factor of 60 - 100 with the widespread use of breeder technology, although the economics will probably first lead to a hybrid arrangement where FBRs synergistically feed high-converter thermal reactors like CANDU.


Reference...

 www.nuclearfaq.ca 
   
Search this
website:

 

[Home] [NEW] [Contents] [Statistics] [Graphics] [Links] [More Info] [Editorials] [Author Info] [Feedback]
End of Section G
[A. CANDU Technology] [B. The Industry] [C. Cost/Benefit] [D. Safety/Liability] [E. Waste] [F. Security/Non-Proliferation] [G. Uranium] [H. Research Reactors] [I. Other R&D] [J. Further Info]

©2011 Jeremy Whitlock.   Disclaimer applies.