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Against the backdrop of rising global uranium consumption fueled by in part by growing developing market demand (founded on the pragmatic approach of delivering relatively eco-friendly power on an adequate scale) and projected by the World Nuclear Association to reach 91,537 tons by 2020 and 106,128 tons by 2030 (increases of 33 and 55 percent respectively from last year), Vladimir Shkolnik, chief executive of Kazatomprom (fully-owned by the domestic sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna) announced at the beginning of the month an expected 10 percent increase in uranium production this year.”  Per Reuters Kazakhstan (the world’s leading producer with an expected market share of 30%) holds more than 15 percent of global uranium reserves and says that it could raise production to more than 25,000 tons (from a planned 19,600 post-increase) by 2015–placing it only behind Australia in terms of known reserves.  Meanwhile, in the past year swap prices have risen from $41.50 to $73.00 and per underlying dynamics such as Russia’s wont to let the HEU accord expire and a 20% increase (at least half of which will come from China) in the number of reactors built worldwide, “prices could increase significantly” per market leader Cameco, especially if oil prices indeed climb as some anticipate.  Moreover, per Felix Zulauf, head of Zulauf Asset Management in the latest Barron’s roundtable, the upward price pressure could be somewhat secular rather than cyclical in nature: “uranium production is growing, but slowly.  Annual production . . . meets only 60% of demand; the rest is met from utility stockpiles or decommissioned nuclear weapons.  Production will increase over time, but it could take 10 years or more until it is sufficient to meet demand.”  The recent price ramp-up has obviously attracted attention: analysts note that for the first time in almost four years, the spot and term prices trade at parity and that in January alone, the spot price increased US$10.50/lb, the largest monthly increase since June of 2007, while the term price jumped US$8/lb, its largest single move since June 2008.

JGW

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