MELBOURNE, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Chinese demand for uranium is expected to nearly double to 9,800 tonnes per year by 2020 from the end of 2015, although a near-term supply glut will keep prices depressed, said the head of a unit of state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).
China is in the middle of a nuclear reactor building programme and aims to have 58 gigawatts (GW) of capacity in full commercial operation by the end of 2020, up from 30.7 GW at the end of July.
But Wang Ying, chief executive of CNNC International, told the IMARC mining conference in Melbourne, that only around 53 GW of capacity would likely be online by the turn of the decade as not enough construction of nuclear plants had already begun.
Uranium last traded at $18.75 per pound, down from $67 before Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.
“I think perhaps we have a bottom of around $20 per pound at present. But unfortunately today because of excess supply and storage, I don’t think it will be more than $40 by the end of this decade,” she said on Monday.
Prices could recover as more nuclear capacity comes online by 2025, she added.
Global stockpiles of uranium stand at around 1,427.5 million pounds or some 550,000 tonnes she said, around 6-7 years of supply. That includes stockpiles of nearly 300 million pounds at China’s utilities. It also includes China’s government stockpiles, which stand at more than 10,000 tonnes, she said, citing data by U.S. based consultancy Trade Tech.
Meanwhile, she said uranium needed to supply growing global nuclear generating capacity is seen at 80,383 tonnes in 2020, rising to 90,780 tonnes in 2025 and 106,301 tonnes in 2030.
Estimated total production of uranium is seen at 75,000 tonnes by 2020 and around 85,000 in 2025. (Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Joseph Radford)