Uranium Trade - Current Issues
(last updated 27 Aug 2014)
> see also:
(for Uranium Hexafluoride Transport, see here)
Blockade of train carrying uranium ore concentrate near Hamburg
Shortly after 7 AM this morning (Aug. 18), anti-nuclear activists chained themselves to the track in front of and behind a train carrying 50 sea containers with uranium ore concentrate ("Yellow Cake"). The train was waiting at the Hamburg-Süd shunting yard, while on its way from the Hamburg port to Areva's conversion plant in Malvési, France. The uranium ore concentrate originates from Kazakhstan, Namibia, and possibly Uzbekistan.
Police ended the blockade around 11:30 AM.
(umweltFAIRaendern.de Aug. 18, 2014)
German government discloses comprehensive nuclear material transport statistics
In reply to a parliamentary question, the German Federal Government has disclosed comprehensive data on hundreds of transports of nuclear material across Germany since 2012, including uranium ore concentrate ("Yellow Cake"), uranium hexafluoride (of natural isotope composition, enriched, depleted, and heels), UO2 pellets and fuel elements, among others.
Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Hubertus Zdebel, Caren Lay, Herbert Behrens, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion DIE LINKE. - Drucksache 18/1851 - Gefahren durch Atomtransporte in Deutschland, Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 18/2101, 10.07.2014 (1MB PDF - in German)
Uranium ore concentrate transport from Kazakhstan to France provokes protests during transit across Germany
On July 14, 2014, a transport of 17 sea containers containing uranium ore concentrate from Kazakhstan left the Hamburg port by rail. It's destination was Areva's Malvési conversion plant in southern France. The transport had arrived on the vessel Sheksna via the Kiel Canal. Four containers had to stay at the Hamburg port for the time being, since their licence had expired. Anti-nuclear groups along the transport route protested against the transport.
(BBU July 15, 2014; releases of various anti-nuclear groups)
Uranium ore concentrate spilled in transport accident near Paladin's Kayelekera mine (Malawi)
> View here (Feb. 17, 2014)
Truck with uranium damaged in accident (India)
> View here (Oct. 25, 2011)
Yellow cake containers damaged in severe weather during shipment from Canada to China
A cargo ship carrying Cameco's uranium concentrate (U3O8) left Vancouver on December 23, 2010 and encountered severe weather conditions en route to China. The ship continued to operate normally through the storm and there were no injuries to the crew.
On January 3, 2011 Cameco was notified that sea containers, loaded with drums filled with uranium concentrate, had shifted and two opened drums were outside of their sea container. All the uranium is safely sealed off in one of the ship's cargo holds, the crew is safe and the environment is protected. At the time, the ship was between Hawaii and Midway Islands.
On Cameco's recommendation, the ship is returning to British Columbia where a team from Cameco is positioned to assess, secure and remediate the cargo.
(Cameco Jan. 14, 2011)
The ship has anchored at Ladysmith, British Columbia, where a team from Cameco has commenced preliminary assessment work in preparation to enter the ship's hold.
(Cameco Jan. 16, 2011)
Cameco's assessment team was able to view a section of the cargo hold of the container ship MCP Altona . It now appears a number of the sea containers that held drums of uranium concentrate have been damaged and our team has confirmed there is some loose uranium in the hold.
(Cameco Jan. 18, 2011)
The Altona left Vancouver on Dec. 23, 2010, en route to Zhanjiang, China, carrying 770,000 pounds of uranium concentrate (296 t U) in roughly 840 drums.
(Vancouver Sun Jan. 18, 2011)
> View Photo Gallery: Cameco's uranium spill (Calgary Herald Jan. 19, 2011)
On February 24, 2011, Cameco announced that its remediation plan has now been approved by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Transport Canada and Port Metro Vancouver. Uranium recovery activities on the Altona will take place at the Port of Vancouver and will begin immediately. The company expects work on the Altona will continue over the coming weeks.
On March 22, 2011, Cameco announced that all of the sea containers have been safely removed from the Altona and are now back at the Key Lake mill in Saskatchewan.
Altona in limbo as lawsuits rage:
The MCP Altona has been anchored in Indian Arm near the Dollarton neighbourhood (off North Vancouver) since the spring, when federal officials gave it a clean bill of health following the mop-up of a load of uranium concentrate that spilled on-board.
The producers of the cargo, Saskatchewan's Cameco Corp., say the owners of the ship owe them $19 million or more for the losses Cameco suffered as a result of the accident. Cameco blames them for the spill, which took place when the Altona hit a winter storm in the central Pacific late last year.
The ship's immediate owners, a company called MS >MCP Altona< GmbH & Co KG, have since gone bankrupt, meaning Cameco has to wait for the ship to be sold before it has any chance of collecting. While the vessel waits for a buyer, and lawyers deal with the issues, the Altona will stay in the inlet.
(Vancouver Sun Sep. 26, 2011)
No money for Cameco after sale of ship that had uranium spill on its way to China:
Saskatchewan mining company Cameco will not get any money from the sale of a ship that once had a uranium spill at sea - and that it spent millions cleaning up.
Instead, according to a recent Federal Court decision, a German bank that held a mortgage on the shipping vessel MCP Altona will get most of the $4.6 million raised when it was sold.
Cameco says it won't appeal this decision, but hopes to get some money another way.
(CBC Feb. 7, 2013)
Yellowcake truck gets stuck in Kakadu National Park (Australia)
> View here (Jan. 5, 2011)
Cargo vessel carrying uranium collides with chemical tanker off Swedish and Danish coasts
On July 3, 2009, at 13:30 h, two ships collided in Drogden Rende on the Danish side of Öresund strait just north of the Öresund bridge. The hulls of both ships got heavy damage. Malta-registered cargo vessel "Kapitan Lus", loaded with aluminum and 182 t of "raw" uranium, was rammed in the side by the Norwegian chemical tanker "Sundstraum", carrying methanol. The uranium transport was on the way from St Petersburg in Russia to Le Havre in France; its uranium cargo is marked UN 2912 for "Radioactive material, low specific activity, not otherwise specified" [this code is used for uranium ore concentrate]. No persons were injured and no environmental releases occured. There was sunny weather with excellent visibility in the Öresund region and none of the vessels had reported any technical problems before the crash.
(Dagens Nyheter/The Swedish Wire/Politiken/Greenpeace Sweden, July 3, 2009)
The crew of the "Sundstraum" has declared that they had technical problems with the steering system.
(Dagens Nyheter July 4, 2009)
Railcar with Yellow Cake shipment for Malvési conversion plant overloaded (France)
> View here (Aug. 13, 2008)
Leaking Yellow Cake container arrives at Comurhex Malvési uranium conversion plant (France)
> View here (July 26, 2007)
Yellow Cake truck overturns in Andhra Pradesh
> View here (July 25, 2007)
Semitrailer hauling uranium oxide hits ditch after collision at highway intersection in Saskatchewan (Canada)
> View here (June 23, 2007)
Derailment of railway car carrying uranium ore concentrates (France)
> View here (September 23, 2001)
Fire on railway car carrying uranium ore concentrates (France)
> View here (June 8, 2000)
Two suspects arrested for uranium possession (South Africa)
South African police have launched an investigation into how two Mozambican men obtained a kilogramme of uranium which they tried to sell in Durban, a spokesman said Tuesday (Nov. 19).
The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) confirmed that the substance was uranium and is testing its isotopic identity and levels.
The material is likely to have come from a mine, possibly not within South Africa.
The results of the tests on the uranium are expected Thursday (Nov. 21).
(AFP Nov. 19, 2013)
Moldova officials say crime ring has weapons-grade enriched uranium
Investigators following up on a nuclear sting in eastern Europe suspect that a crime syndicate was trying to sell weapons-grade uranium to buyers in North Africa.
Officials in Moldova, a former Soviet republic, told The Associated Press that 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of highly enriched uranium remains in criminal hands and is probably in another country.
Though that is a fraction of what is needed for a bomb, the investigation has provided fresh evidence of a black market in nuclear material probably taken from poorly secured stockpiles in the former Soviet Union.
(AP Sep. 27, 2011)
Suspected theft of yellow cake from Areva's Trekkopje uranium mine
> View here
Brazilian police discover 450 kg of contraband uranium ore
Police in the north Brazilian state of Amapa have unearthed a cache with 450 kg of enriched uranium ore [?!], a dangerous mineral used for nuclear arms production.
The operation to seize radioactive material was a result of four-month work by investigators, who found a bag of pitchblende on Friday (Jan. 22) in a remote area of tropical rainforest.
(RIA Novosti Jan. 23, 2010)
Report: Iran seeking to smuggle raw uranium from Kazakhstan
> View here
Police seizes 170 kg of stolen uranium (Namibia)
> View here
Illegal uranium mining in Afghanistan unabated
> View here
Unauthorized mining at former Shinkolobwe uranium mine
> View here
> View Current Uranium Prices
> See also: DOE policy for managing excess uranium inventory
DOE to sell up to 2,705 tonnes of surplus uranium per year until 2021
"Today, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz issued a determination permitting the Department of Energy to make uranium transfers to fund accelerated cleanup activities at the Portsmouth or Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Sites and the down blending of highly enriched uranium into low-enriched uranium to support national security objectives. The Determination finds that the proposed transfers of uranium will not have an adverse material impact on the domestic uranium industries.
The determination covers the Department's sales or transfers of no more than 2,705 metric tons (MTU) of natural uranium (NU) or NU equivalent in a calendar year. The proposed transfers include up to 650 MTU per year by the National Nuclear Security Administration in support of highly enriched uranium down blending activities, with the remainder of up to 2,705 MTU per year supporting accelerated cleanup activities by the Office of Environmental Management. [...]"
(DOE May 15, 2014)
> View DOE release May 15, 2014
> Download Secretarial Determination , May 15, 2014 (55k PDF)
> Download 2014 Review of the Potential Impact of DOE Excess Uranium Inventory On the Commercial Markets , April 25, 2014 (1.2M PDF)
DOE's sales of surplus uranium violate fiscal law, GAO finds
> Download Excess Uranium
Inventories - Clarifying DOE's Disposition Options Could Help Avoid Further Legal Violations , GAO-11-846, United States Government Accountability Office, Sep. 26, 2011 (2.3MB PDF)
U.S. Energy Dept to sell surplus uranium
The U.S. Energy Department plans to sell 2,000 tonnes of surplus uranium annually 2011-2013, which could push spot prices lower over the next three years.
The department announced late on Wednesday (Mar. 2) the sales will take place every three months, with no more than 450 metric tons put on the market per quarter.
The uranium, which can be processed as fuel for nuclear power plants, will help cover the cost of cleaning up the Portsmouth uranium enrichment plant in Ohio.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu approved the transfers after he determined the sales would not hurt domestic uranium producers, the department said.
(Reuters Mar. 3, 2011)
> View DOE release Mar. 2, 2011 (includes links to Secretarial Determination and market impact analysis)
No sale of U.S. DOE uranium inventories in 2011
The U.S. Energy Department has canceled plans to put into the market during 2011 extra government-owned surplus uranium supplies, Energy Secretary Steven Chu told Congress on Thursday (Feb. 4), but the uranium transfers will continue for this year.
The department had planned to transfer next year up to 1,125 tonnes, or about 2.48 million lbs, of its surplus uranium a year to raise money to pay for the cleanup of the Portsmouth uranium enrichment plant in Ohio.
The uranium would have been transferred to USEC Inc.
However, Chu told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the department did not want to put too much uranium in the market because it would go against an earlier agreement with uranium producers.
Not only would business be taken away from domestic uranium producers, but the additional government supplies in the market could have depressed prices, making it difficult for producers to expand operations.
The department is continuing with its uranium transfers planned for this year to USEC to fund the cleanup of the Portsmouth plant, a department spokeswoman said.
Again, up 300 tonnes a quarter with a 1,125-tonne cap on total uranium transfers will be allowed this year, the spokeswoman said.
The Energy Department has 59,000 tonnes of inventories of natural uranium built up for military purposes during the Cold War and is releasing the stocks gradually over about 25 years.
(Reuters Feb. 4, 2010)
U.S. DOE plans to sell more uranium from inventories
On August 4, 2006, the U.S. Department of Energy presented to industry representatives its draft strategy for the proposed near- and long-term sale of its uranium inventory.
> View: U.S. DOE Nuclear Energy - Presentations
Korea, DPR ·
South Africa ·
Paraguay offers export of uranium to Argentina
European Union ·
Korea, Rep. ·
United Arab Emirates ·
United Kingdom ·
> See also here