Kazakhstan Has Long Been Among The World’s Largest Producers Of Uranium

Uranium and Nuclear Power in Kazakhstan. Overview

Highly reactive in energy-creating processes, uranium is far more common than silver and gold, and may prove to be far more practical than any ‘precious’ mineral in meeting the long-term needs of our planet’s human population. For our usage herein, ‘Uranium reserves’ are reserves of ‘recoverable’ uranium, regardless of isotope, on the basis of a fixed market price. Nuclear power capacity is said to have rose to about 372.5 gigawatts worldwide in 2012, with 437 active nuclear power reactors across 31 countries. Although countries like Japan and Germany have worked to shut down all of their reactors completely out of public outcry over safety and environmental concerns, others, like India, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, have contrarily opened new nuclear reactors to help satisfy their energy demands. Considering that nuclear power plants are typically fueled by uranium, countries that have high reserves of uranium will be able to benefit from the ever-increasing share of the nuclear energy sector within the global energy market. So, then, we are left to ask: just which countries have the highest reserves of uranium? To help answer this, the Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Commodities, BGR), has presented statistics indicating the top countries based on uranium reserves in 2013. From this data, we have compiled a list of the top 10 countries based on reserves of feasibly recoverable uranium. The list only includes uranium reserves that are recoverable at a cost of under $80 US dollars per kilogram. These recoverable totals are then indicated in denominations of 1,000 metric tons.

Australia Immense Uranium Reservers

In 2015 Australia produced 6689 tonnes of Uranium. It is the world’s third-ranking producer, behind Kazakhstan and Canada. Australia’s uranium has been mined since 1954, and three mines are currently operating, Ranger, Olympic Dam, and Four Mile. While Australia has the largest reserves opposition to uranium mining has been substantial in Australia. Which has significantly constrained exports as it has been a major part of Australian political landscape due to the environmental impacts.

Uranium in Canada

Canada was the world’s largest uranium producer for many years, accounting for 22% of world output at the time, but in 2009 was overtaken by Kazakhstan. For the record, the McArthur River Mine in Canada is said to be the most productive uranium-producing mine in the world. As statistics prove, Canada produced nearly 9,331 tonnes of uranium in 2013. Most of the country’s reserves are found in the Athabasca Basin of Northern Saskatchewan, with Canada’s deposits known to have been graded 10 to 100 times greater than the average grade of deposits mined in different parts of the world.

Kazakhstan’s National Mining Company

The second country with the most uranium reserves in 2013 was Kazakhstan with 200 thousand tons. It must be noted here that Kazakhstan has long been among the world’s largest producers of uranium. In 2009, for instance, it produced nearly 28% of the global total. In 2013, statistics show that it produced 22,451 tonnes of uranium, which accounted for about 38% of the world’s total production in 2013. However, much of its uranium was exported by Kazatomprom – the state-owned company that manages all of the country’s major uranium activities: mining, exploration, imports, and exports included. The company holds strategic alliances with major energy-consuming countries like China, Japan, and Russia, and holds a significant share in the international nuclear giant Westinghouse Electric Company.

Brazil’s Nuclear Reactors

The third country from the top of the list is Brazil, with 155 thousand metric tons of uranium reserves. Brazil is known to have two nuclear reactors, which combine to generate about 3% of its electricity nationally. A third nuclear reactor is under construction at the present, with four more expected to be constructed in the 2020s. This marked increase in the country’s utilization of its large uranium reserves is thought by many to be an excellent prospect for ongoing economic development within the South American nation.

Other Countries with Radioactive Riches

Coming in on number four in the list of countries with the most uranium reserves in 2013 is South Africa, with 113 thousand tons of recoverable uranium. With energy production on the rise in the country, South Africa has two nuclear reactors that produce 5 percent of the country’s electricity. A state-owned power utility company, Eskom, owns South Africa’s Koeberg Nuclear Plant. The country’s most important mining sites are found at the Dominion Reefs project at Haartebeesfontein, Ezulwini near Dominion Reefs, and the central Karoo Basin, which is owned by UraMin, Inc. UraMin operates across much of the African continent, and is a subsidiary of the French nuclear energy company Areva.

Mongolia and China have also made it to the list, with 108 and 94 thousand tons of recoverable uranium reserves each, respectively. Ukraine stands on number 7 on this list with 43 thousand tons, while Tanzania boasts 38 thousand tons of known, recoverable uranium reserves. The Mkuju River site in Tanzania is believed by many experts to contain the lion’s share of the country’s uranium deposits, and some have hinted that much more could be discovered there. There is indeed a large deal of speculation suggesting that Tanzania could extract large quantities of the radioactive material consistently in order to boost its economic output. Coming in with 39 and 42 thousand tons of uranium reserves respectively are the United States and Uzbekistan.

Could Uranium Power Our Future?

As we have seen from the BGR’s statistics, uranium availability is not like many other natural resources. Instead of being fairly specific to certain regions of the world, it appears to be more erratically dispersed globally than, say, fossil fuels. Luckily for many of the developing countries with large uranium stores, they may have hit the mineral jackpot when it comes to prospects for nuclear energy development. Indeed, apart from the ‘recoverable’ reserves listed, the world may have much more uranium to proffer yet still. As new means of more efficient uranium recovery are developed, and new areas are explored for uranium ore, uranium-powered reactors may prove to be a massive contributor to world energy.

As the long-term availability of fossil fuels and the long-term effects of their consumption on climate change become increasingly pertinent issues to troubleshoot, uranium may very well prove to be a possible means to wean ourselves off of energy sourced from the burning of fossil fuels and other hydrocarbons. Nuclear energy, however, does not come without its risks, as the storage of used supplies and the impending danger of reactor meltdown is never far from peoples’ minds. Indeed, finding safe and feasible means to extract, process, dispose of, and turn uranium into electrical power for a population that is stretching the earth’s resources to their limits may be among the next great frontiers of humanity.

Largest Uranium Reserves In The World

Rank Country Uranium Reserves (metric tons)
1 Australia 1,706,100
2 Kazakhstan 679,300
3 Russian Fed 505,900
4 Canada 493,900
5 Niger 404,900
6 Namibia 382,800
7 South Africa 338,100
8 Brazil 276,100
9 USA 207,400
10 China 199,100
11 Mongolia 141,500
12 Ukraine 117,700
13 Uzbekistan 91,300
14 Botswana 68,800
15 Tanzania 58,500
16 Jordan 33,800
This page was last modified on March 21, 2017.