Jeffrey LewisIAEA/OECD Red Book

According to the IAEA website, the IAEA and OECD will release Uranium 2009: Resources, Production and Demand — the “Red Book” — tomorrow with a press conference.

The Red Book is an essential resource if you want a handy estimate of, well, uranium resources, production and demand.  Josh and I have  used it several  posts, especially regarding Iran’s Bandar Abbas Uranium Production Facility (The BUP) and the Fuel Manufacturing Plant.

It is worth noting that, useful as it may be, the Red Book is not perfect.

An analysis by Michael Dittmar concludes that wide fluctuations in estimates reported to the IAEA  should caution us with regard to self-reporting when self interest is involved.  Dittmar looked at 10 countries, but his analysis of Niger captures the general tone:

As a last example we analyze the situation in Niger, a former french colony which became independent in 1960. It is one of the poorest countries in the world with an electricity production of roughly 0.234 billion kWh (2005), corresponding to an almost negligible 18 kWh per year and per person. Yet, the 3032 tons of uranium extracted in 2008 allowed to fuel almost 20 GWe nuclear power plants in France and Western Europe, which produced roughly 140 billion kWh during that year. Between 2003 and 2006 about 13000 tons of uranium have been extracted from the mines operated dominantly by AREVA, a french transnational nuclear company.

In 2003, the RAR resources were reported as 89800 tons in the < 40 dollars/kg and 12447 tons in the 40-130 dollars/kg category. These numbers changed by incredible amounts to 172866 tons and 7600 tons respectively in 2005. Another drastic change is reported in the 2007 Red Book and the corresponding RAR numbers are now given as 21300 tons and 222180 tons respectively.

Obviously, neither the 13000 tons of uranium extracted during these 4 years are accounted for, nor does anybody of the Red Book authors seem to be surprised about the incredibly large jumps for the <40 dollars/kg and 40-130 dollars/kg RAR categories.

These numbers must thus contain some fantasy factor, which can perhaps be explained with the misinformation hypothesis. This is further supported by AREVA’s problems with the real owners, often called “Tuareg rebells”, who ask for a larger share in the profits.

The Red Book is still an essential resource, but caveat emptor.