US Bans Russian Uranium Imports: What It Means for the Future of Nuclear Power

June 17, 2024 - By: Baystreet Staff


USA News Group – The future of electrification is entering what appears to be a massive storm, with electricity demand skyrocketing and expected to surge even more thanks to an energy transition towards more electric vehicles (EVs) and artificial intelligence (AI) data centers. While tech developers in EVs and AI battle over critical minerals, another important factor will be the way we power the grid, with renewed calls to return to nuclear power. Now countries around the world are reviving left-for-dead uranium mines, all while the US government recently banned the importation of Russian uranium, further deepening challenges of supply. Working behind the scenes, several miners are diligently developing new and ongoing uranium resources, including from Panther Minerals Inc. (CSE: PURR) (OTCPK: GLIOF), Uranium Energy Corp. (NYSE-A: UEC), Cameco Corporation (NYSE: CCJ), (TSX: CCO), Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE-A: UUUU) (TSX: EFR), and Denison Mines Corp. (NYSE-A: DNN) (TSX: DML).

Coming off of another successful financing that restocked the cupboards for more development, Panther Minerals Inc. (CSE: PURR) (OTCPK: GLIOF) continues to make progress on its district scale uranium exploration and development in Alaska, to further aid in strengthening US domestic uranium supplies. At the heart of their efforts is its flagship Boulder Creek asset, which was acquired with a historical estimate (non 43-101 compliant) 1M lbs of U3O8 at 0.27%, and over $3.5M already spent on exploration.

Shortly after acquiring the asset in mid-April, Panther Minerals wasted no time in significantly expanding the footprint of the Boulder Creek Uranium Property, by staking 140 State of Alaska mining claims, bringing the total footprint of the asset to 22,400 acres or 9,065 hectares (90.65km2). By acquiring this additional land position, Panther’s staking campaign aimed to duplicate the area that was previously held by Triex Mineral Corp, who in 2006 flew a total of 1,155 line-km of airborne radiometric surveying over the area covered by the newly-staked claims.

Known as the Fireweed Prospect, the uranium discovery made by Triex, the newly acquired claims include four samples were taken that included a sample returning 0.82% U3O8 (6,950 ppm U). Triex returned in 2007 to the Fireweed Showing and completed 22 line-km of ground magnetic susceptibility and radiometric surveying, rock and soil sampling survey and prospecting. In its Q1 2007 fiscal report, Triex reported 21 rock samples from three main areas, producing data that confirmed the 0.82% U3O8 value obtained from the previous sample collection.

“We are excited to provide additional information relating to the Fireweed prospect on our Boulder Creek project” said Rob Birmingham, President and CEO of Panther Minerals. “Through our recent property expansion, adding in this portion of the project was crucial, as the previous discovery of mineralization offers a significant opportunity to add value to Panther.”

After the announcement of the US Senate’s passing of a bipartisan bill to ban Russian imports, Uranium Energy Corp. (NYSE-A: UEC) was openly supportive of the move. Recognized as one of the fastest growing US uranium companies, UEC is building on the momentum of the bill and positive global uranium market fundamentals as it advances the restart of uranium production in Wyoming this August, followed by resuming the company’s operations in South Texas next year.

"We thank both chambers of Congress for passing this bipartisan bill that demonstrates the U.S. commitment to nuclear energy, the carbon free energy source that powers one in every five homes in America,” said Amir Adnani, President and CEO of Uranium Energy Corp. “This new law, in conjunction with the recently passed Nuclear Fuel Security Act, creates a firm foundation for long-term growth of the U.S. uranium industry to supply the fuel that powers American households, data centers, and industrial base with clean baseload power."

Recently, UEC announced further advancement at its Burke Hollow In-Situ Recovery (ISR) Project in South Texas, including a new S-K 1300 technical report summary that showed an increase in the project’s Measured and Indicated (M&I) resources from 2,324,000 lbs U3O8 to 6,155,000 lbs and Inferred resources of 4,883,000 lbs U3O8. Combining UEC’s South Texas and Wyoming Hub & Spoke platforms brings the company’s total to 79,156,000 lbs U3O8 of M&I resources and 25,002,000 lbs of Inferred resources.

Another one of the largest global providers of uranium fuel, Cameco Corporation (NYSE: CCJ), (TSX: CCO) recently completed a previously announced private placement consisting of $500 million. This came shortly after Cameco shared its solid outlook and Q1 2024 results, which already included a strong cash position. Now according to CEO Timothy Gitzel, projected demand from data centers powering tech like generative AI will likely boost prospects for nuclear energy.

"Gone are the days of rolling out new technology without worrying about future potential runway environmental impacts,” said Gitzel as reported by Reuters. Companies driving the technology forward are doing so while keeping carbon footprint and 24/7 reliability top of mind ... nuclear is the clear winner."

In the recent Q1 2024 report, Cameco highlighted that full-cycle support for nuclear energy and the required uranium fuel for it continues to grow. Increased public support, positive policy decisions, and market-based solutions are bolstering positive fundamentals and a durable long-term demand story for nuclear.

"We are a responsible, commercial supplier with a strong balance sheet, long-lived, tier-one assets, and a proven operating track record,” said Gitzel in the report. “We are invested across the nuclear fuel cycle and believe we have the right strategy to achieve our vision of ‘energizing a clean-air world’ and do so in a manner that reflects our values."

Back in May, uranium producer Energy Fuels Inc. (NYSE-A: UUUU) (TSX: EFR) announced its own Q1 2024 results, which included continued successful ramp-up of its uranium operations, along with other minerals it is targeting. In the quarter, Energy Fuels sold 300,000 lbs of U3O8 at a weighted average price of $84.38 per pound, for a total of $25.31 million, and a gross profit of $14.25 million, driving the company’s revenue.

"During the quarter, we made profitable uranium sales into our portfolio of long-term utility contracts, and we completed two opportunistic spot sales averaging nearly $103 per pound of U3O8, enabled by our significant uranium inventories backed by our near-term low-cost uranium production capacity,” said Mark S. Chalmers, President and CEO of Energy Fuels. “From these sales, we maintained high gross margins, averaging roughly 56%, contributed to in large part by our low-cost alternate feed material and other historic uranium production which we have maintained in inventory pending increased uranium prices such as we see today.”

Across 2024, Energy Fuels expects to produce approximately 150,000-500,000 lbs U3O8 from newly mined conventional ore, stockpiled ore, and recycled alternate feed materials. This all depends on the timing of production ramp ups at its Pinyon Plain, La Sal and Pandora mines, while increasing to higher levels of production in 2025 and beyond.

Up in Canada earlier this month, Denison Mines Corp. (NYSE-A: DNN) (TSX: DML) announced it had completed the inaugural ISR field test program at its 25.17%-owned Midwest Uranium Project. In its most recent Q1 2024 financial report, Denison also highlighted awarding a $16-million contract to Wood Canada Limited for the completion of detailed design engineering for the ISR project planned for the uranium deposit on Denison’s flagship Phoenix ISR Project. As well, earlier this year Denison announced the planned restart of its McClean Lake Mining Operations, which is expected to commence in 2025.

“As Denison has avoided entering low-priced uranium supply contracts in recent years and has held its physical uranium investment to support future project financing efforts for Phoenix, we are now in an enviable spot with significant uncommitted uranium production and physical holdings potentially available to the market at time of expected scarcity,” said David Cates, President and CEO of Denison. “Taken together with continued geopolitical instability and the expected emergence of significant additional demand from new nuclear builds, it is an ideal time for our Company to be readying to build a low-cost Saskatchewan-based uranium mine.”

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