Canadian nuclear power is fueled by uranium, which is readily found in rocks and even seawater. Canada is one of the world leaders in uranium reserves – that is, the amount of metal in known deposits of uranium ore. Actual amounts of accessible uranium might be higher still.
Source: World Nuclear Association.
According to the intergovernmental Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), annual worldwide uranium requirements for nuclear reactors stood at 63,875 tonnes in 2010. This is expected to rise to between 96,000 and 136,000 tonnes by 2035. Under the NEA’s projections, the known uranium reserves can meet demand through 2035 and beyond. The findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “Red Book” corroborate this projection.
However, these projections deal with known reserves – and new deposits of uranium are being found. Furthermore, the IAEA also notes that the development and deployment of advanced reactors and fuel-cycle technologies could extend the sustainable use of uranium reserves to thousands of years. For example, uranium from the spent fuel of light-water reactors can be recycled in Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactors. This recycling not only improves the efficiency of uranium fuel use, but also decreases the amount of nuclear waste and generates cost savings. Such reactors are not used in Canada yet, but are operational in China.
Canada accounts for about 16.7% of the world’s uranium output, second only to Kazakhstan. The energy content in Canada’s uranium reserves is about four times greater than the energy contained in all known Canadian conventional oil reserves (not including the oil sands).