The cost of uranium production in the world
The cost of a kilogram of enriched oxide-uranium of U3O8 grew from 22 USD/kg in 2003 to a peak of 220 USD/kg in middle of 2007. Later the cost decreased, and now fluctuates between 90 USD/kg and 130 USD/kg with some upward trend (see Fig. 1). It should be noted that in Fig. 1 shows conditional prices, because there is no open world market for uranium, as opposed to, for example, gold
Figure 1 – Uranium prices, USD/kg
The development of uranium ores is cost-effective when the price of uranium is around 80 USD/kg. Currently, the price of uranium does not allow to establish effective development of its deposits, therefore, there are forecasts that the price of uranium is likely to rise to 75-90 USD/kg by 2013-2014.
By 2030, large and accessible deposits will be fully developed with a production cost of up to 80 USD/kg and hard-to-reach deposits with a production cost of more than 130 USD/kg U will start to be developed.
Long-term contract prices for uranium are projected at the level of 143 USD/kg in 2015 and 163 USD/kg in 2020.
The content of uranium in various fields of the world and the cost of production
It should be noted that some of the countries shown in Fig. 2, deliberately did not report the valuation and the value of the resource base for reasons of commercial confidentiality.
Figure 2 – List of countries with the largest resources of uranium found out for certain and indicating its estimated cost price
The cost price of production of uranium from ores characterizes the effectiveness of hydrometallurgical methods. In table 2, the cost of uranium production is conditionally divided into 4 levels. To characterize the cost of extraction of uranium from low-enriched or difficult-to-extract ores, another level can be introduced that will denote a value of more than 260 USD/kg U.
Ukraine, as follows from Fig. 2, is on the list of 14 countries with the largest proven resources of uranium, whose reserves in January 2013 are 269,800 tons (2.69% of the world). Including 42678 tons with a production cost of less than 80 USD/kg, 84,799 tons - from 80 to 130 USD/kg and 141377 - from 130 to 260 USD/kg.
Uranium reserves with a cost price of less than 80 USD/kg are decreasing, and in the future Ukraine expects the following volumes of uranium with significantly higher prime cost:
the estimated uranium resources are 8400 tons with a production cost of 80 to 130 USD/kg and 22500 tons - from 130 to 260 USD/kg.
the estimated uranium resources are 120,000 tons with a production cost of 130 to 260 USD/kg.
The uranium content in the tailings dumps of low enriched of Pridneprovsky Chemical Plant in Dneprodzerzhinsk.
As a rule, the degree of extraction of uranium from ore is quite significant: 95 – 98 % (RF); 93 – 94 % (Ukraine); 72 – 88 % (Australia). This means that a fairly large amount of uranium is sent to the dumps of uranium production, the production cost of which is sufficiently high by the hydrometallurgical method, that is > 260 USD/kg U. Thus, in Ukraine average uranium content in dumps can reach values of 0.006 % or less.
Samples of tailings material of the Pridneprovsky Chemical Plant of Dneprodzerzhinsk, which were obtained from the Institute of Geochemistry of the Environment of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (IGOS NASU) for estimating the residual amount of uranium content in dumps, were investigated in the laboratory of radiation research and environmental protection of the NSC KIPT NANU (RIiOOS). In the given lot of samples of material of the dumps, the uranium content is a sufficiently large value of 0.06-0.07 %, which corresponds to uranium content in sandstones located in the Dnieper-Bug metallogenic zone with uranium content in ore from 0.02 % to 0.06 % in metallic U.
To attract "dump" uranium to the uranium balance of Ukraine, it is necessary to find methods for its economically profitable extraction. To implement this, it is advisable to use the well-proven method of uranium extraction from tailing material with supercritical carbon dioxide (SFE-ÑÎ2).
The cost of SFE-ÑÎ2 of uranium from tailings dumps of Pridneprovsky Chemical Plant in Dneprodzerzhinsk.
The materials and reagents, their quantity and the sequence of steps of the SFE-ÑÎ2 process of uranium complexes from the tailings dumps of the Pridneprovsky Chemical Plant of Dneprodzerzhinsk are determined.
The cost of production of 1 kg of the uranium complex by the SFE-CO2 method can be from 344.32 UAH (13.77 USD) to 457.08 UAH (18.28 USD). In terms of net uranium, the prime cost is determined by the values from 1324.31 UAH (59.97 USD) to 1758 UAH (70.32 USD).