15 Countries with the Largest Uranium Reserves in the World
In this piece, we will take a look at the fifteen countries with the largest uranium reserves in the world. For more countries, head on over to 5 Countries With the Largest Uranium Reserves in the World.
The growth in the awareness of global warming and the risks of greenhouse gas emissions has spurred a shift towards renewable energy. Leading the charge is solar power, as harnessing the Sun's energy does not lead to harmful emissions that are generated from traditional power generation sources such as coal or oil fired power plants.
However, while wind and solar power both sound attractive on paper, in reality, the picture is different. In fact, a study by Stanford University believes that even if companies were to shift to 100% renewable energy, this shift will not automatically lead to 100% carbon free energy. Stanford states that solar panels actually end up overstating carbon emissions reduction estimates since they generate peak power in the afternoon - when most firms' generators are sitting idle. However, at night, companies source their electricity from the grid, which then ends up in greenhouse gas emissions. According to the university, if gas emissions are calculated annually, then a 100% shift to solar would reduce a firm's greenhouse footprint by 119%; however, if emissions are calculated hourly, the emissions are reduced by 66% only.
A policy paper from the Brookings Institute lays bare the fallacy of relying on solar and wind power for an emissions free future. It points out that since wind and solar power plants operate at peak capacity for only a fraction of the time, they have to be backed up by traditional coal or gas fired power plants. In fact, Brookings points out that due to this crucial drawback, it takes six solar plants and four wind power plants to generate enough power as a single coal fired plant. Puts things into perspective, doesn't it?
However, not all is lost in the quest for an emissions free future. As Brookings also shares, nuclear power provides a net benefit of four cents per kilowatt hour - the amount saved after the costs of setting up and operating a plant are factored into analysis. On the other hand, both wind and solar provide negative net benefits. A nuclear power plant also has the benefit of being able to run 90% of the time, since it is not reliant on peak wind or sunlight. The argument for nuclear is also bolstered by the Oxford University Press. According to OUP, nuclear is humanity's best option to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, as it shares that France is the best example of this since the French baseload electricity is almost entirely generated by nuclear. Baseload electricity is the minimum power that must be supplied to the grid, which makes solar and wind power unsuitable for power generation.
Nuclear energy also made an appearance at the World Economic Forum at Davos held this month. At the event, Oscar winning film director Oliver Stone promoted his new documentary Nuclear Now! Mr. Stone criticized the climate movement for overstating the dangers of nuclear energy and commented that:
And what they did was so destructive, because by now we would have 10,000 nuclear reactors built around the world and we would have set an example like France set for us, but no one ...followed France, or Sweden for that matter.'
A key argument by environmental activists against nuclear energy is the hazardous waste generated. The world's nuclear power plants run on fission, which involves splitting up uranium to generate heat. This also leads to radioactive byproducts, and the spent uranium (high level waste) has to be stored underground for decades to ensure that it is suitable for contact with the biosphere. However, nuclear fusion, which involves 'fusing' hydrogen atoms does not produce any waste, and important steps such as the Department of Energy's (DoE) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) being able to achieve a net energy positive fusion reaction in 2022 are underway for this crucial technology.
We used data from a joint report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency to sift out the countries with the world's largest uranium resources. However, this isn't all there is to the nuclear sector. For instance, here's a list of the world's largest nuclear energy companies, and here's one about the most advanced countries in nuclear energy.
15 Countries with the Largest Uranium Reserves in the World
Uranium Reserves as of 2019 in tonnes: 114,000
Denmark is a Northern European country that is one of the most prosperous nations in the world with a GDP per capita of $69,273. The country is rich in natural resources, and it is also one of the world's largest exporters of crude oil. All of Denmark's uranium reserves are located in Greenland, and the mining firm Energy Transition Minerals Ltd (ASX:ETM.AX) is responsible for uranium exploration in the area. Greenland's main uranium deposits are in Kvanefjeld, thought to be the sixth largest uranium deposit in the world.
14. Czech Republic
Uranium Reserves as of 2019 in tonnes: 119,200
The Czech Republic is a landlocked Central European country. Its uranium reserves stood at 119,200 tonnes as of 2019. These are assured reserves, and the speculative and inferred uranium reserves are much higher and stand at roughly 240,000 tonnes. The Czech Republic also has a long history of uranium mining, with the first activities taking place in 1858 for the glass and ink industry. State owned enterprise DIAMO is responsible for the bulk of the mining in the area.
13. Republic of Uzbekistan
Uranium Reserves as of 2019 in tonnes: 132,300
The Republic of Uzbekistan is a Central Asian country with a GDP per capita of $9,478. The country is rich in natural resources and products such as gold and oil make up most of its exports. It is also a dominant player in global uranium production, as it was the world's fifth largest uranium producer in 2021. Uzbekistan's largest uranium mining company is the Navoi Mining and Metallurgy Combinat (NMMC), and most of its uranium is located in the Central Kyzylkum area.
Uranium Reserves as of 2019 in tonnes: 143,500
Mongolia is an East Asian country that is also the largest landlocked country in the world without any border with a sea. Nearly all of its exports are of raw materials and commodities. Mongolia's uranium reserves are estimated to sit at 143,500 tons, and most deposits are located in four regions. However, no uranium is currently mined in Mongolia, and its deposits are owned by French and Japanese firms alongside the government.
Uranium Reserves as of 2019 in tonnes: 186,900
Ukraine is the second largest European country in terms of landmass and one that also houses Europe's largest nuclear power plant. It also generates a large chunk of its electricity through nuclear power, which stood at 70 tWh in 2020. Ukraine's largest uranium mining company is the Vostochny Integrated Mining and Concentrating Plant (VostGOK), which is owned by the country's Fuel and Energy ministry.
10. Republic of India
Uranium Reserves as of 2019 in tonnes: 195,900
The Republic of India is the second largest country in the world in terms of population and the third largest in terms of nominal GDP. India is also a nuclear power as it possesses the atomic bomb, and the country has 22 nuclear reactors with an installed capacity of 6,780 Megawatts. India's uranium reserves stand at 195,900 tonnes, and exploration and mining are carried out primarily by the government with little involvement from the private sector.
9. People's Republic of China
Uranium Reserves as of 2019 in tonnes: 269,700
The People's Republic of China, or simply China or Mainland China, is the world's most populous nation and the largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity. It is also the world's largest energy consumer and user, having produced 117 quadrillion BTUs of energy in 2018 and 6,523 terawatt-hours in 2019. Additionally, China is the world's second largest nuclear power producer after the United States. It operated 55 reactors with a capacity of 52,170 Megawatts in 2021. The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) - both state owned, are responsible for producing uranium in the country.
8. Federative Republic of Brazil
Uranium Reserves as of 2019 in tonnes: 276,800
The Federative Republic of Brazil is a South and Latin American country that is the most prosperous in the region and has a high GDP per capita of $18,396. Brazil leads the world when it comes to renewable power, but the bulk of this comes from hydroelectric power. The country has two nuclear reactors as of 2021, with a capacity of 1,884 Megawatts. The Brazilian government is the only player in the uranium mining industry, and it operates in the sector through Industrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB).
7. Republic of the Niger
Uranium Reserves as of 2019 in tonnes: 439,400
The Republic of the Niger is a West African landlocked country that is also one of the poorest nations in the world. Its GDP per capita stood at $1,213 in 2018. The country relies primarily on mining for its exports, with coal forming a big chunk of its foreign exchange earnings. Additionally, the Republic of the Niger is also a major uranium mining player, and was the sixth largest uranium producer in 2021 after having outputted 2,248 tonnes. It has four uranium production companies, Somair, Cominak, Somina, and Imouraren, with the government holding more than 30% of ownership in all.
6. Republic of South Africa (RSA)
Uranium Reserves as of 2019 in tonnes: 447,700
The Republic of South Africa (RSA) is one of the most prosperous nations in Africa, and the only country on the continent with a nuclear power plant. South Africa's nuclear power plant has two reactors capable of producing 1,854 Megawatts of electricity. The private sector is heavily involved in South African uranium mining, with players such as AngloGold Ashanti Limited (NYSE:AU), Harmony Gold Mining (NYSE:HMY), and Sibanye Stillwater Limited (NYSE:SBSW) either playing an important role or having had a significant presence in the sector.
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Disclosure: None. 15 Countries with the Largest Uranium Reserves in the World is originally published on Insider Monkey.