A climate change academic from the University of Adelaide has predicted the global demand for mined uranium will rise at least four times in the next 30 years.
Speaking at the Paydirt 2010 Australian Uranium Conference today, Professor Barry Brook said rising electricity demands and reduced fossil fuel use would guarantee uranium demand for “at least the next 50 years.”
“Thermal reactors currently contribute about 380 GW, or 15%, of total global electricity production, which is due to grow at least four times to about 1550 GW by 2040,” he said.
“Under this growth scenario, global uranium consumption will rise from 69,000 tonnes annually at present, to about 285,000 tonnes annually by 2040.
“Nuclear power is rapidly approaching a renaissance, even if it has not quite arrived yet.
China has recognised the environmental damage caused by coal-fired power stations and has already guaranteed that nuclear power will be a central platform of its energy future.
“There are at least 20 ‘Generation 3’ thermal reactors being built in China right now, which will begin to come online in the next two or three years.”
According to Brook, China’s electricity production was scheduled to reach 2000 to 3000 GW by 2050, with global needs at around 10 TW.
“Considering that total world electricity production currently stands at about 2000 GW, you can see the size of the market we are talking about,” he said.
“The need for nuclear is going to be driven not only by environmental concerns and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels, but by the rising contribution of electricity for transport and the growth of electricity-consumptive technologies such as desalination.
“Some 38 countries today are using nuclear and at some point in the future I believe Australia will be joining them.”
Brook is the Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change at the University of Adelaide.
This forecast follows Worley Parsons chief executive John Grill’s calls last week for an open discussion on the role of nuclear energy in Australia’s future.
“Nuclear energy should be a contender and it shouldn’t be ruled out by uninformed opinions, relating to things that might have happened 30 to 40 years ago,” he said.