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Energy Shift

70 Years of Global Uranium Production by Country

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uranium production by country

uranium production by country

70 Years of Global Uranium Production by Country

Uranium was discovered just over 200 years ago in 1789, and today, it’s among the world’s most important energy minerals.

Throughout history, several events have left their imprints on global uranium production, from the invention of nuclear energy to the stockpiling of weapons during the Cold War.

The above infographic visualizes over 70 years of uranium production by country using data from the Nuclear Energy Agency.

The Pre-nuclear Power Era

The first commercial nuclear power plant came online in 1956. Before that, uranium production was mainly dedicated to satisfying military requirements.

In the 1940s, most of the world’s uranium came from the Shinkolobwe Mine in the Belgian Congo. During this time, Shinkolobwe and Canada’s Eldorado Mine also supplied uranium for the Manhattan Project and the world’s first atomic bomb.

However, the end of World War II marked the beginning of two events that changed the uranium industry—the Cold War and the advent of nuclear energy.

Peak Uranium

Between 1960 and 1980, global uranium production increased by 53% to reach an all-time high of 69,692 tonnes. Here’s a breakdown of the top uranium producers in 1980:

Country1980 Production (tonnes U)% of Total
U.S. 🇺🇸16,81124%
USSR15,70023%
Canada 🇨🇦 7,15010%
South Africa 🇿🇦 6,1469%
East Germany 🇩🇪 5,2458%
Niger 🇳🇪 4,1206%
Namibia 🇳🇦 4,0426%
France 🇫🇷 2,6344%
Czechoslovakia 🇨🇿2,4824%
Australia 🇦🇺 1,5612%
Other 🌎 3,8015%
Total69,692100%

Several factors drove this rise in production, including the heat of the Cold War and the rising demand for nuclear power. For example, the U.S. had 5,543 nuclear warheads in 1957. 10 years later, it had over 31,000, and the USSR eventually surpassed this with a peak stockpile of around 40,000 warheads by 1986.

Additionally, the increasing number of reactors worldwide also propelled uranium production to new highs. In 1960, 15 reactors were operating globally. By 1980, this number increased to 245. What’s more, after the Oil Crisis in 1973, nuclear power emerged as a viable alternative to fossil fuels, and the price of uranium tripled between 1973 and 1975. Although the increase in uranium production was less dramatic, high prices made mining more profitable.

However, several nuclear accidents in the world such as the Three Mile Island reactor meltdown in the U.S. in 1979 and the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 brought a stop to the rapid growth of nuclear power. Furthermore, following the end of the Cold War, military stockpiles of uranium were used as “secondary supply”, reducing the need for mine production to some extent. As a result, uranium production declined sharply after 1987.

The Current State of Uranium Mining

Uranium producers have changed considerably over time. Since the economic viability of uranium deposits often depends on the market price, many countries have dropped out due to lower uranium prices, while others have entered the mix.

Here are the top 10 uranium-producing countries based on 2019 production:

Country2019 Production (tonnes U)% of Total
Kazakhstan 🇰🇿 22,80842%
Canada 🇨🇦 6,94413%
Australia 🇦🇺 6,61312%
Namibia 🇳🇦 5,1039%
Uzbekistan 🇺🇿 3,5006%
Niger 🇳🇪 3,0536%
Russia 🇷🇺 2,9005%
China 🇨🇳 1,6003%
Ukraine 🇺🇦 7501%
India 🇮🇳 4001%
Other 🌎 5531%
Total54,224100%

Kazakhstan has been the world’s leading uranium producer since 2009. In 2019, Kazakhstan mined more uranium than Canada, Australia, and Namibia combined, making up 42% of global production. It’s also worth noting that Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and Ukraine—four countries that were formerly part of the USSR—made it into the top 10 list.

Canada was the world’s second-largest producer of uranium despite production cuts at the country’s biggest uranium mines. Australia ranked third with just three uranium-producing mines including Olympic Dam, the world’s largest known uranium deposit.

Overall, the top 10 countries accounted for 99% of global uranium production, and the majority of this came from the top three. However, global production has been on a downward trend since 2016, with a slight bump in 2019.

The Future of Uranium Production: Up or Down?

The uranium market is at an inflection point, with tightening supply and rising demand.

As of 2020, mine production covered only 74% of world reactor requirements, and analysts expect the market deficit to continue through 2022. Although secondary sources have historically filled the gap between demand and supply, recent developments in the uranium market have driven prices to six-year highs, which could also affect uranium production.

In addition, the shift towards clean energy could provide a boost to uranium demand, especially because of the advantages of nuclear power. With countries like China embracing nuclear energy and others planning for complete phase-outs, nuclear’s evolving role in the global energy mix will likely shape the future of uranium production.

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Energy Shift

Visualizing Nuclear Power Production by Country

Nuclear power accounted for 10% of global electricity generated in 2020. Here’s a look at the largest nuclear power producers.

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Nuclear Power Production by Country

Nearly 450 reactors around the world supply various nations with nuclear power, combining for about 10% of the world’s electricity, or about 4% of the global energy mix.

But while some countries are turning to nuclear as a clean energy source, nuclear energy generation overall has seen a slowdown since its peak in the 1990s.

The above infographic breaks down nuclear electricity generation by country in 2020 using data from the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS).

Ranked: The Top 15 Countries for Nuclear Power

Just 15 countries account for more than 91% of global nuclear power production. Here’s how much energy these countries produced in 2020:

RankCountryNumber of Operating ReactorsNuclear Electricity Supplied
[GWh]
% share
#1U.S. 🇺🇸96789,91930.9%
#2China 🇨🇳50344,74813.5%
#3France 🇫🇷58338,67113.3%
#4Russia 🇷🇺39201,8217.9%
#5South Korea 🇰🇷24152,5836.0%
#6Canada 🇨🇦1992,1663.6%
#7Ukraine 🇺🇦1571,5502.8%
#8Germany 🇩🇪660,9182.4%
#9Spain 🇪🇸755,8252.2%
#10Sweden 🇸🇪747,3621.9%
#11U.K. 🇬🇧1545,6681.8%
#12Japan 🇯🇵3343,0991.7%
#13India 🇮🇳2240,3741.6%
#14Belgium 🇧🇪732,7931.3%
#15Czechia 🇨🇿628,3721.1%
Rest of the World 🌎44207,3408.1%
Total4482,553,208100.0%

In the U.S., nuclear power produces over 50% of the country’s clean electricity. Additionally, 88 of the country’s 96 operating reactors in 2020 received approvals for a 20-year life extension.

China, the world’s second-largest nuclear power producer, is investing further in nuclear energy in a bid to achieve its climate goals. The plan, which includes building 150 new reactors by 2035, could cost as much as $440 billion.

On the other hand, European opinions on nuclear energy are mixed. Germany is the eighth-largest on the list but plans to shutter its last operating reactor in 2022 as part of its nuclear phase-out. France, meanwhile, plans to expand its nuclear capacity.

Which Countries Rely Most on Nuclear Energy?

Although total electricity generation is useful for a high-level global comparison, it’s important to remember that there are some smaller countries not featured above where nuclear is still an important part of the electricity mix.

Here’s a breakdown based on the share of nuclear energy in a country’s electricity mix:

RankCountryNuclear Share of Electricity Mix
#1France 🇫🇷70.6%
#2Slovakia 🇸🇰53.1%
#3Ukraine 🇺🇦51.2%
#4Hungary 🇭🇺48.0%
#5Bulgaria 🇧🇬40.8%
#6Belgium 🇧🇪39.1%
#7Slovenia 🇸🇮37.8%
#8Czechia 🇨🇿37.3%
#9Armenia 🇦🇲34.5%
#10Finland 🇫🇮33.9%
#11Switzerland 🇨🇭32.9%
#12Sweden 🇸🇪29.8%
#13South Korea 🇰🇷29.6%
#14Spain 🇪🇸22.2%
#15Russia 🇷🇺20.6%
#16Romania 🇷🇴19.9%
#17United States 🇺🇸19.7%
#18Canada 🇨🇦14.6%
#19United Kingdom 🇬🇧14.5%
#20Germany 🇩🇪11.3%

European countries dominate the leaderboard with 14 of the top 15 spots, including France, where nuclear power is the country’s largest source of electricity.

It’s interesting to note that only a few of these countries are top producers of nuclear in absolute terms. For example, in Slovakia, nuclear makes up 53.6% of the electricity mix—however, the country’s four reactors make up less than 1% of total global operating capacity.

On the flipside, the U.S. ranks 17th by share of nuclear power in its mix, despite producing 31% of global nuclear electricity in 2020. This discrepancy is largely due to size and population. European countries are much smaller and produce less electricity overall than larger countries like the U.S. and China.

The Future of Nuclear Power

The nuclear power landscape is constantly changing.

There were over 50 additional nuclear reactors under construction in 2020, and hundreds more are planned primarily in Asia.

As countries turn away from fossil fuels and embrace carbon-free energy sources, nuclear energy might see a resurgence in the global energy mix despite the phase-outs planned in several countries around he globe.

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Energy Shift

How Energy Prices Performed in 2021

Energy commodities surged in 2021 as demand picked up and supply remained constricted, but which fuels flew highest?

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Energy price performance 2021

How Energy Prices Performed in 2021

A year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world started to reopen and generate insatiable energy demand. Supply shortages and the clean energy transition further fueled the rise of all energy commodities.

Even in a year where markets and commodities performed strongly, energy prices stood out. The energy component of the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) rose by 59% in 2021, returning more than double any other component in the index.

Let’s take a look at how energy commodities performed in 2021, as tracked by Trading Economics and TradingView.

How Much Did Energy Prices Climb in 2021?

After dipping into negative prices in April of 2020, WTI crude oil had a strong bounce back.

Many of crude oil’s derivative products also increased in price by double digits, resulting in higher gas prices at the pump. The U.S. average retail price for gasoline increased by 45.8% to close at $3.28/gal, while wholesale prices of RBOB gasoline also climbed by 57.8%.

Asset2021 Returns
TTF Gas290.6%
UK Gas215.9%
Ethanol101.7%
Coal93.1%
Lumber59.4%
RBOB Gasoline57.8%
WTI Crude Oil56.4%
Heating Oil53.1%
Brent Crude Oil50.7%
Natural Gas46.9%
Naphtha46.5%
Uranium U30840.3%
Propane33.6%
Methanol3.2%

Natural gas prices in Europe and the UK saw the biggest price increases in 2021, jumping more than 200%.

They were followed by ethanol, a biofuel that oil refiners are required to blend with their products. This requirement, along with the price rises in corn and sugar (ethanol’s primary raw materials around the world), made this hot commodity even more expensive.

Rising Natural Gas Prices Fuel Tension and Unrest

While the U.S. saw increases in its gasoline prices as well, these were mild compared to surges in Europe and elsewhere.

With close to 43% of Europe’s total gas imports coming from Russia, no additional supply was provided during the cold winter months. This was compounded as Germany’s approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has remained in limbo.

So far, 2022 has been a continuation of these trends. For example, liquified petroleum gas (LPG) prices have nearly doubled due to unrest in Kazakhstan. The Kazakhstan government’s decision to lift price controls on LPG (the primary fuel for Kazakh cars) saw prices surge and led to days of protests and Russian intervention.

Coal Stays Strong Despite the Clean Energy Transition

Despite 2021’s emphasis on the clean energy transition, coal prices nearly doubled as the world was unable to shake off its dependence on the fossil fuel.

Even pledges from the COP26 climate change conference, such as China’s to reduce coal consumption after 2025, are not yet having an impact on prices. That’s because the country is still planning to add up to 150 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity before then.

On the other hand, uranium couldn’t keep up with the price rises of fossil fuels. Although the energy metal had a breakout year as one of the recently renewed hopes for cleaner energy, the outlook for nuclear energy adoption and development is still mixed.

While China is expected to invest as much as $440B into new nuclear power plants over the next 10 years, Germany shut down half of its remaining plants in 2021.

After the surge of energy prices in 2021, nations will need to carefully manage their clean energy transitions to avoid further unsustainable price rises.

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