What are the reserves of natural uranium?

Specialists make an evaluation between
global consumption at the time (they can also forecast future consumption) and proven reserves under specific economic conditions (e.g. a reference price of US$130 per kilo of uranium).
There are currently 5,902,900 tonnes of reasonably assured resources worldwide. Comparing this figure with annual global demand, which is close to 62,000 tonnes, shows that there are sufficient reserves to last for about another hundred years.  
The biggest reserves are to be found in Australia (29%), Kazakhstan and Russia. These three countries account for 50% of reserves, being followed by Canada, Niger, Namibia and other countries.
Due consideration also needs to be given to estimated additional resources which have higher extraction prices (US$260 per kilo of uranium) and are not economically attractive at this stage. These estimated additional resources amount to 7,635,000,000 tonnes, so enough to cover a further 135 years.

Source: World Nuclear Association

Are there other supply sources?

Secondary sources are used to meet global demand (61,980 tonnes), which exceeds production.
The first of these to be used are stockpiles built up when supply was greater than demand,
followed by fissile material recovered through reprocessing spent fuel. To recap, the 95% uranium and 1% plutonium in spent fuel can be recovered through reprocessing and then reintroduced into new fuel assemblies.
There are also raw materials from decommissioned Russian and US military arsenals.

What has happened to the waste from reprocessing?

Between 2000 and 2007, 387 containers (of 500 kg each) of vitrified high level radioactive waste issued from reprocessing spent fuel of Belgian power plants were returned to Belgium from La Hague. These containers are now stored in silos in a special building at the Belgoprocess site in Dessel. All vitrified high-level radioactive waste has been returned.
Between 2010 and 2013, 431 long-life compacted-intermediate-level-waste containers (of 700 kg each) were returned to Belgium. This waste consists of metal elements resulting from the shearing of fuel assemblies. All waste of this type has already been returned and is stored in another Belgoprocess facility.
Several dozen vitrified-intermediate-level-waste containers are yet to be returned to Belgoprocess in Dessel.

Why was reprocessing stopped?

In 1993, the Belgian federal government of the time imposed a moratorium on reprocessing spent fuel from the Doel and Tihange reactors. This moratorium was imposed so that the government could decide which option would be most effective for managing spent fuel. Synatom and ONDRAF/NIRAS are waiting for clear guidelines from the authorities

What position have European countries taken regarding reprocessing?

The EU framework established by a Euratom directive in 2011 stipulates that every country in the European Union is responsible for managing its radioactive waste and spent fuel. This directive also specifies that waste resulting from reprocessing must be permanently stored in the country where it was produced.
Half of EU Member States have nuclear reactors on their soil. France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, for example, reprocess spent fuel assemblies.
Other countries, like Finland and Sweden, have decided against reprocessing.

Do changes in Belgian energy policy affect Synatom's activities?

Any decision affecting the active life of a Belgian nuclear reactor affects all the various aspects of Synatom's activities.
To illustrate this, let's have a look at a reactor's active life.
Firstly, in the long run Synatom will have to adjust its supply contracts as well as its conversion and enrichment contracts, affecting the three stages at the front end of the fuel cycle.
At the back end of the cycle, it will have to readjust its various infrastructure or equipment supply schedules (e.g. storage containers).
These changes will also have to be taken into account when establishing provisions for both decommissioning and spent fuel management. The same is true for the shared contribution.

How can we be sure that the provisions for both decommissioning and waste management will be sufficient?

Pursuant to the 2003 Act, a Nuclear provisions committee was set up in Belgium. It is authorised to make recommendations on and control the existence, adequacy and availability of provisions.
Among other things, the committee controls:

  • the data that the nuclear provisioning company, Synatom, supplies it with on the adequacy of provisions;
  • the proper application of methods for establishing provisions;
  • the conditions under which funds are lent or financial investments made.