The global uranium enrichment market is expected to witness growth in the vague application of enriched uranium in electricity generation to meet the growing demand in the manufacturing and household industries of emerging economies of India and China. Increasing military expenditure for the development of nuclear weapons owing to the implementation of modernization programs by governments of Israel, the U.S., Russia, Japan, and China is likely to augment the uranium enrichment market. The enriched uranium grades have applications as fuel in heavy and light water reactors as well as for the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear marine propulsion ships. The aforementioned applications are likely to fuel the demand for enriched nuclear material over the forecast period.
Enriched uranium is referred to as a type of uranium in which the percentage composition of U-235 isotope has been increased through isotope separation technology. The isotope separation process is complex and thus gaseous diffusion is referred to as first-generation while the gas centrifuge is referred to as the second generation is commercially employed for the enrichment process. In 2011, gaseous diffusion technology was declared as an obsolete technology in the face of ending the life of nuclear diffusion plants and thus is steadily being replaced by later generations of technology. The second-generation technology is based on centrifuge techniques involves gas centrifuge and zippe centrifuge. Low energy consumption in second-generation technology is expected to increase its importance over the first generation in the near future. U.K. based nuclear l company, Urenco, used centrifuge techniques for uranium enrichment for producing nuclear fuel.
The government of Pakistan incorporated zippe centrifuge technology for the development of nuclear weapons at the domestic level. Apart from the aforementioned technologies continuous development in techniques requiring, reduced energy input, low-cost ad tail assays is expected to open new market avenues. In 2011, Global laser Enrichment, a subsidiary of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy obtained a permit to build a commercial nuclear plant based on laser technology by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In 2012, GEH received the license for building and operating isotopes separation through Laser Excitation plant for uranium enrichment. The commencement of a new plant is expected to have a positive impact on the market for enriched radioactive material. Plasma separation, aerodynamic processes, and electromagnetic isotope separation are known technologies for uranium enrichment.
Asia Pacific is expected to be a potential market in vague of the abundant presence of uranium reserves in Australia. Abundance of uranium reserves in Australia is likely to pave the way for enrichment suppliers to locate their facilities in the vicinity. In 2012, a joint venture between Kazatomprom and AREVA commenced its operations aimed at producing and processing of enriched uranium. Russia is expected to be a lucrative market for the vague presence of radioactive reserves coupled with increasing expenditure on the development of technology to process radioactive minerals. In 2014, Urals Integrated Electrochemical Plant announced plans for the investment in nuclear enrichment technologies aimed at smooth processing and effective utilization of radioactive minerals. The Urals company is also planning to invest in research and development for tenth generation technologies for nuclear enrichment.
Canada is likely to be a potential industry in light of the high potential of uranium reserves coupled with unexplored regions in Canada under permafrost. Cameco owns and operates the reserves of McArthur River Mine and Cigar Lake Mine which is likely to commence the production by 2017. This commencement is expected to have a positive impact on the market for enriched radioactive material. North Africa is likely to be a potent market for enriched radioactive mineral on account of the presence of radioactive reserves in Niger. In 2014, France based Areva nuclear company signed an agreement with the government of Niger for commencing extraction and processing of radioactive mineral by 2015. Aforementioned agreement is likely to open new market prospects for enriched nuclear material in the near future.
Key players in the uranium enrichment market include Urenco Group, Nucleoelectrica Argentina, Energy Resources of Australia, Areva, Nukem Technologies, National Thermal Power Corporation, and Constellation Energy Nuclear Group. In 2015, the governments of between Iran and the U.S. are likely to sign a two-phase nuclear deal for allowing Tehran to increase its uranium enrichment in face of 10 years of restriction by foreign powers. This deal is expected to have a positive impact on the enriched uranium industry over the forecast period.
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