The world’s largest uranium producer, Kazatomprom, has increased its 2024 production target by about 10% on the back of growing demand for nuclear energy amid global energy concerns, in a move that points to a reversal of some of the more aggressive curbs seen in recent years as the industry seeks to run down inventory.
The Kazakhstan-based company now expects to generate between 25,000 and 25,500 tonnes in 2024 (65-66 million pounds of uranium oxide), representing an increase of 2,000-3,000 tonnes from levels targeted for 2023.
According to BMO analyst Alexander Pearce, the increase represents the first real easing of supply curtailments since implemented in 2017. It can also be viewed as a mark of confidence in further improvement in underlying uranium fundamentals, he said on Friday in a note to investors.
“We believe the fundamental shift in the supply-demand balance is still underway, with an illusion of endless secondary supply, creating ongoing opportunities for Kazatomprom as a primary supplier that maintains a disciplined approach,” the company said.
The uranium miner said that a key factor contributing to the improved uranium market conditions and the bullish outlook over the past years has been the international debate around the social and environmental impacts of energy infrastructure.
“Those discussions have become even more pronounced as of late amid the growing focus on energy security and diversification in relation to the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” Kazatomprom said.
The uranium giant, which accounts for about a third of global uranium supply, reiterated its 2022 operational guidance of 10,900-11,500 tonnes (or 28.3-29.9 million pounds of uranium oxide).
Uranium producers have been encouraged by a surge in yellowcake prices over the past year, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine boosting demand in recent months.
China has said it plans to build 150 new reactors between 2020 and 2035 and Japan also aims to boost nuclear capacity as does South Korea.
In Europe, the UK plans to build one new nuclear plant every year to cover about 25% of electricity demand with nuclear power sources. France, which already relies on nuclear reactors for about 70% of its electricity, has committed to install 14 new plants, while the European Union has proposed counting nuclear plants as a green investment.