Uranium has been in a five-year long price slump with several factors having impacted the decline:
The 2011 Fukushima disaster forced Japan to idle its reactors. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, only three reactors of the 42 commercially operable are currently in use in Japan. As Japan represents one third of global nuclear capacity, this blow was tremendous for uranium. Further, Germany also announced a plan to phase out its nuclear reactors. In 2011, Germany had 17 reactors in operation. That number is down to 8 today and new closures are planned. Additionally, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty lowered demand for uranium as military demand sharply fell.
The decline in nuclear weapon stockpiles not only lowered demand for uranium, but also increased supply as countries sold their surplus uranium on the open market. The Department of Energy continues to sell more than 5 million pounds of uranium per year. With such news, it isn’t a surprise that the price of uranium has fallen 65% since March 2011 and almost 85% since its peak in June 2007. From a long-term perspective, the index has lost almost 90% since the Fukushima disaster.
However, President Trump recently tweeted that the U.S. needs to expand its nuclear capability. The tweet had additional positive effect on the Global X Uranium ETF (NYSEARCA: URA). Since Trump’s election, the index has been HOT.
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
With geopolitics as our backdrop, let’s look at some Uranium & Nuclear DYK:
- Uranium was discovered in 1789 by Martin Klaproth, a German chemist, who isolated an oxide of uranium while analyzing pitchblende samples from the Joachimsal silver mines in the former Kingdom of Bohemia located in the present day Czech Republic.
- It took until 1938 to discover that uranium could be split to release energy, that is fission. This was accomplished by Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman.
- Henri Antoine Becquerel discovered that uranium was radioactive in 1896.
- One ton of natural uranium can produce more than 40 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. This is equivalent to burning 16,000 tons of coal or 80,000 barrels of oil.
- Uranium was isolated in 1841 by French chemist Eugène Péligot.
- Uranium was named after the planet Uranus, discovered only eight years earlier in 1781.
- One pound of uranium will make a ball only 1.3 inches in diameter. Make an “OK” sign with your forefinger and thumb to see how big that ball would be.
- Top holdings of the Uranium ETF (URA) include: Cameco (CCJ), Uranium Energy Corp (UEC), Dennison Mines (DNN), UR-Energy (URG), & Centrus Energy (LEU).
- Uranium miners see positive catalysts in the long-term coming from emerging markets as their need for electricity is expected to increase significantly.
- The World Energy Outlook sees nuclear energy production almost doubling by 2040.
- Nuclear power is the single largest contributor to carbon-free power in the United States, accounting for 60% of the “clean” energy generated in America.
- Nuclear power plants are the most efficient “clean” energy source, running at 90% of capacity — far above solar, wind, and hydroelectric power plants.
- This radioactive metal is unique in that one of its isotopes, uranium-235, is the only naturally occurring isotope capable of sustaining a nuclear fission reaction.
- Uranium is the element that made the discovery of radioactivity possible.
- Uranium’s Atomic Symbol (on the Periodic Table of Elements): U
- The universe’s uranium formed 6.6 billion years ago in supernovae, according to the World Nuclear Association.
- Uranium is 48th among the most abundant elements found in natural crustal rock, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and is 40 times more abundant than silver.
- U-235 is “fissile,” meaning that its nucleus can be split by thermal neutrons.
- According to the World Nuclear Association, most enriched uranium for nuclear power plants is made up of between 3 percent and 5 percent U-235.
- Depleted uranium is what’s left over after enriched uranium is spent at a power plant. It’s about 40 percent less radioactive than natural uranium.
- Only 1.38 percent of the uranium in the “Little Boy” bomb that destroyed Hiroshima underwent fission, according to the Atomic Heritage Foundation. The bomb contained about 140 pounds (64 kg) of uranium total.
- The half-life of uranium-238 is 4.5 billion years. It decays into radium-226, which in turn decays into radon-222. Radon-222 becomes polonium-210, which finally decays into a stable nuclide, lead.
- Marie Curie, who worked with uranium to discover several even more radioactive elements (polonium and radium), likely succumbed to the radiation exposure involved in her work. She died in 1934 of aplastic anemia, a red blood cell deficiency probably caused by radiation damage to her bone marrow.
- Pure uranium is a silvery metal that quickly oxidizes in air.
- Uranium is sometimes used to color glass, which glows greenish-yellow under black light — but not because of radioactivity (the glass is only the tiniest bit radioactive). According to Collectors Weekly, the fluorescence is due to the UV light exciting the uranyl compound in the glass, causing it to give off photons as it settles back down.
- Yellowcake is solid uranium oxide. This is the form in which uranium is commonly sold before it is enriched.
- Uranium has been in use as far back as ancient Rome and during the Middle Ages when its orange-red to lemon-yellow shades were used as coloring agents in ceramic glazes and glass.
- The first atomic bomb used in World War II, dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, contained a uranium core. Today nuclear bombs are usually made from other materials such as plutonium.
- Over 33% of the world’s uranium is mined in Kazakhstan. Other uranium mining countries include Canada, Australia, Namibia, Niger, and Russia.
- It takes 3 tonnes of uranium to get 1 gram of radium.
- The element plutonium is made from uranium through a nuclear process.
- Uranium occurs naturally in low concentrations in soil, rock and water, and is commercially extracted from uranium-bearing minerals such as uraninite.
- Uranium mined from the earth is stored, handled, and sold as uranium oxide concentrate (U3O8).
- Did you know that every human has about .0001 mg uranium inside their body?
- Uranium can never be found in the purest form because, being radioactive it disintegrates into other elements like Lead (Pb).
- Alpha, beta and gamma are the three crystallographic modifications of the metal uranium.
- In the Earth’s crust, Uranium is found naturally in numerous minerals such as Torbernite, Pitchblende, Carnotite,Autunite and Uranophane. It is also found in lignite, monazite sands and phosphate rocks.
- Because uranium is radioactive and always decaying, radium is always found with uranium ores.
- Uranium is slightly paramagnetic.
- Finely divided uranium powder is pyrophoric, meaning it will ignite spontaneously at room temperature.
- The Oklo Fossil Reactors of Gabon, West Africa, contain 15 ancient inactive natural nuclear fission reactors. The natural ore fissioned back at a prehistoric time when 3% of the natural uranium existed as uranium-235, which was a high enough percentage to support a sustained nuclear fission chain reaction.
Lightning Network tipping jar: