(Bloomberg) -- Uranium prices topped $80 a pound for the first time in more than fifteen years on renewed demand for nuclear power and disrupted supplies.
Nymex futures tracking physical-market contracts for a raw form of uranium known as yellowcake hit $80.25 a pound on Monday. Prices have rallied sharply this year, hitting levels not seen since Japan’s Fukushima accident caused governments across the world to cut back on nuclear power.
Following the invasion of Ukraine, things couldn’t be more different, with countries looking to nuclear power as a source of low-carbon power that can diversify their mix from intermittent renewable energy and imported fossil fuels.
Some utilities in Europe are extending the lives of their reactors to cope with the loss of piped Russian gas, while the buildout of China’s nuclear fleet is continuing at pace. The revival of demand prospects has come at a time when key producers are facing supply disruptions.
That’s spurred interest among investors who are gaining exposure through both mining shares and uranium derivatives. While spot uranium is a thinly traded market, the term price — which is more important for power plants — has also been trending higher, according to BMO Capital Markets Ltd.
“Utility contracting continues to pick up,” Colin Hamilton, managing director for commodities research at BMO, wrote in a note. “There is very little uncommitted production available to meet uncovered utility requirements.”
Key miner Cameco Corp. lowered its production targets due to challenges at its operations in Canada, while a recent coup in Niger has disrupted shipments to European nuclear plants. There’s also been uneasiness within the industry since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine about the reliance on the enrichment facilities run by Russia’s Rosatom Corp.
Higher uranium prices may eventually prompt pricier producers to restart production, according to a report by Sprott Asset Management. This month Australian miner Boss Energy Ltd. announced the restart of a project that was mothballed more than a decade ago.
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