Geology and Ore 28, 2018

Uranium potential in Greenland

Uranium is almost entirely used for generating electricity. As of January, 2015, a total of 437 commercial nuclear reactors were connected to the grid worldwide, generating 377 GWe and requiring c. 56,600 tons of uranium annually. At the same time, 70 new reactors were under construction in 15 countries. The world nuclear power capacity in 2035 is projected to grow to 418 GWe in the low demand case and 683 GWe in the high demand case. Accordingly, world annual reactor-related uranium requirements are projected to rise to between 66,995 and 104,740 tons of uranium by 2035.

Introduction

Uranium supply has been adequate to meet the demand for decades with no supply shortages. Sufficient proven uranium resources also exist to support continued use of nuclear power including the maximum projected growth case in the foreseeable future. However, new mining projects have to be initiated in a timely manner to make up for mines that will be shut down due to resource exhaustion and to satisfy the expected increasing demand. The demand for uranium has been predicted to rise for several years as nuclear power is projected to grow considerably with a large number of new nuclear reactors in the pipeline. This re flects an increased demand for electricity combined with more focus on clean air and zero CO2 emission production. The East Asia region is projected to experience the largest increase in nuclear power plants, a movement that is already underway. However, the projections for the global demand for uranium are subject to great uncertainty, especially following the Fukushima Daiichi accident and the decisions of several countries to phase out nuclear power. As such, the projections for demand for uranium in the European Union vary from a minor increase to a large decrease.

Denmark, including Greenland, joined the European Economic Community in 1973 when uranium exploration was encouraged in member states to secure the community’s uranium resources. The government institutions, Geological Survey of Greenland and Risø National Laboratory, conducted exploration in Greenland until 1985, when the Danish government decided to exclude nuclear power from its energy supply policy. Soon after, Green land introduced a ban on uranium exploration. In 2013, the Greenland government lifted the ban, which created a renewed interest in assessing Greenland’s uranium resources.

In November 2016, a workshop on the ‘Assessment of the uranium potential in Greenland’ was arranged jointly by the Geological Survey of Denmark and Green land (GEUS) and the Ministry of Mineral Resources (MMR), Government of Green land with the purpose of: 1) presenting and discussing known uranium occurrences in Greenland and 2) estimating the probability for the existence of undiscovered and hidden uranium deposits. Three uranium deposit types were chosen for the assessment: intrusive, sandstone hosted and unconformity related. The main conclusion of the workshop was that the intrusive and unconformity-related de posits have the highest probability of having formed uranium deposits in Green land, and that South Greenland has the best potential for hidden deposits (Thrane et al. in press).

This edition of Geology and Ore provides an overview of: 1) surveys concerning uranium, 2) known uranium occurrences and 3) the main results from the workshop. A GEUS report documenting results from the workshop will be available at the end of 2017.

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