Tag Archives: Cameco

Cameco, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas explore small modular reactor development

Cameco, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF-A) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to explore several areas of cooperation to advance the commercialisation and deployment of BWRX-300 small modular reactors (SMRs) in Canada and around the world.

A recent study completed by Ontario Power Generation, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, and Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation, and Applied Research Corporation said very small modular reactors (vSMRs) could provide clean, economic and reliable power and heat to remote northern mines and surrounding communities in Canada.

“Nuclear power will play a massive role in the global shift to zero-carbon energy, generating a lot of momentum for emerging SMR and advanced reactor technologies,” Cameco President and CEO, Tim Gitzel, said. “Cameco intends to be a go-to fuel supplier for these innovative reactors. We’re looking forward to working with GEH and GNF to see what opportunities might exist around their novel SMR design.”

Cameco supplies uranium, uranium refining and conversion services to the nuclear industry worldwide and, it says, is a leading manufacturer of fuel assemblies and reactor components for CANDU reactors, a Canadian pressurised heavy-water reactor design used to generate electric power.

Jay Wileman, President & CEO, GEH, said: “We are excited to explore opportunities with Cameco to advance the commercialisation of the BWRX-300. As we work to bring the world’s first grid-scale SMR to Canada we will continue to identify strategic partners whose capabilities will support the deployment of this game-changing technology in Canada and worldwide.”

Lisa McBride, Canada SMR Country Leader for GEH, said: “BWR and CANDU fuel types are closely related as both use similar cladding materials as well as ceramic, uranium dioxide fuel pellets so this type of collaboration offers the potential to extract significant synergies between the two fuel designs and manufacturing processes, enabling the expansion of Canada’s local fuel supply chain capabilities.”

The BWRX-300 (pictured) is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH’s US NRC-certified ESBWR (Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor). Through dramatic and innovative design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MW when compared with other SMR designs.

By leveraging the existing ESBWR design certification, utilising the licensed and proven GNF2 fuel design, and incorporating proven components and supply chain expertise, GEH believes the BWRX-300 can become the lowest-risk, most cost-competitive and quickest to market SMR.

This MoU is not exclusive and does not preclude GEH or Cameco from pursuing similar arrangements with other companies in the nuclear energy sector, the companies said.

Denison Mines aims to bring ISR mining to Athabasca Basin uranium sector

The prefeasibility study on Denison Mines’ Wheeler River uranium project, in the Athabasca Basin of Canada, has brought with it a significant change in the mining process for the high-grade Phoenix deposit.

Denison is now considering the use of in-situ recovery (ISR) mining at Phoenix, a lower cost method than the previously considered jet bore system, which requires freeze wall protection and is used at Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine.

The PFS envisages co-developing both the Phoenix and Grypon deposits using two different mining methods. The former would use ISR, with the latter using conventional long-hole underground mining.

Taken together, the project is estimated to produce 7.8 MIb/y of U3O8 over a 14-year mine life, with a base case pre-tax net present value (8% discount rate) of C$1.31 billion ($1.01 billion), and initial pre-production capital expenditures of C$322.5 million.

This is based on a probable reserve of 109.4 MIb averaging 3.5% U3O8. Of this amount, 59.7 MIb comes from Phoenix, which has an average grade of 19.1% U3O8.

David Cates, President and CEO of Denison, said: “The selection of ISR mining for the high-grade Phoenix deposit is a defining moment for our company and a potentially transformational development for the future of uranium mining in the Athabasca Basin – bringing the world’s lowest cost uranium mining method to the jurisdiction hosting the world’s highest-grade uranium deposits.”

Denison said the selection of ISR mining at Phoenix came after considering 32 alternate mining methods to replace the high-cost jet bore mining system assumed for the Phoenix deposit in the 2016 preliminary economic assessment.

“The suitability of ISR mining for Phoenix has been confirmed by significant work completed in the field and laboratory – including drill hole injection, permeability, metallurgical leach, agitation, and column tests,” the company said.

Results demonstrated high rates of recovery in both extraction (+90%) and processing (98.5%) following a simplified flowsheet that precipitates uranium directly from the uranium bearing solution, without the added costs associated with ion exchange or solvent extraction circuits, Denison added.

“Given the unique geological setting of the Phoenix deposit, straddling the sub-Athabasca unconformity in permeable ground, the project development team has combined the use of existing and proven technologies from ISR mining, ground freezing, and horizontal directional drilling to create an innovative model for in-situ uranium extraction in the Athabasca Basin.

“While each of the technologies are well established, the combination of technologies results in a novel mining approach applicable only to deposits occurring in a similar geological setting to Phoenix – which now represents the first deposit identified for ISR mining in the Athabasca Basin.”

Wheeler River is a joint venture between Denison (63.3% and operator), Cameco (26.7%), and JCU (Canada) Exploration Company (10%).

The PFS assumes initial construction activities will commence in 2021 and that first production will be achieved from the Phoenix operation by mid-2024. Initial construction is expected to commence at Gryphon by 2026 and first production from Gryphon is expected to be achieved in 2030.