In a deal that otherwise went unnoticed in the U.S., the U.S. and Russia have agreed to a uranium trade deal worth ~ 5-6 billion dollars. The irony of Russians supplying American nuclear facilities at the same time as Iran is interesting to say the least.It appears that 1 in 5 American nuclear facilities will be running on Russian uranium. According to RIA Novosti:
"The adoption of the amendments will allow Russian and American companies directly, without intermediaries, to conclude contracts for the delivery to the U.S. low-enriched uranium from Russia at market prices, albeit only from 2011.
Experts predict that with the agreement expiring in 2013 direct supplies of enriched uranium may take as much as 20% of the American market.
Washington is interested in expanding cooperation with Moscow in civil nuclear power. According to the U.S. Nuclear Energy Institute, the American market will have a uranium shortage in 2011-15. Under the new agreement with Russia, which provides for incremental liberalization of the U.S. market for Russian companies supplying uranium, nuclear fuel imports will start gradually increasing from 2011. In 2014, supplies should rise ten-fold compared with 2013.
A high-ranking source in Russia's Federal Nuclear Power Agency (Rosatom) said yesterday: "This agreement benefits us. We are interested in gaining free access to the American market to utilize capacities of our four uranium-enrichment plants."
At the moment Russia has 40% of the world's uranium enrichment capacity, which is not fully utilized. According to the source, Russia's nuclear cooperation with the U.S. will entail not so much the uranium mined and enriched in Russia, as services for enriching nuclear fuel for American plants."
Like oil there appears to be a "Peak Uranium" effect with gradually diminishing supplies, increasing demand, and increasing cost. As noted in this article on "The Oil Drum":
"Any forecast of the development of nuclear power in the next 25 years has to concentrate on two aspects, the supply of uranium and the addition of new reactor capacity. At least within this time horizon, neither nuclear breeding reactors nor thorium reactors will play a significant role because of the long lead times for their development and market penetration. This assessment results in the conclusion that in the short term, until about 2015, the long lead times of new and the decommissioning of ageing reactors perform the barrier for fast extension, and after about 2020 severe uranium supply shortages become likely which, again will limit the extension of nuclear energy."
No free lunches even radioactive ones.