Cameco and Nuclear Power Generation

By Charles Kubach
8 Nov., 2014

AREVA, a French Nuclear Company, involved in many facets of nuclear power from mining ore, to processing ore, designing reactors and processing nuclear waste, has begun processing uranium ore from Canadian Miner, Cameco, in its McClean Lake mill facility. AREVA is a minority owner of Cameco (37%). Cameco mines uranium ore, which is about 0.1% uranium, and concentrates it on site to yellow cake, which has about 75% uranium content.

The McClean Lake uranium mill facility will be the largest in the world, after all phases of construction are completed, currently estimated sometime in 2018. They are expected to process 1,000,000 pounds per year of uranium concentrate (yellow cake) from Cameco's Cigar Lake mine. At the completion of the expansion construction in 2018 AREVA's facility is expected to have the capacity for processing 18,000,000 pounds of uranium concentrate by 2018.

The yellow cake, a low grade form containing approximately 75% uranium which in turn only has about 0.7% U235. This low grade natural form of uranium must be further enriched to 5% - 7% U235 U2O (Uranium Oxide), which can then be used as fuel in reactors in nuclear power plants. The enriched Uranium Oxide is made into pellets, which are then inserted into the tubes and become fuel rods actually used in power plants. The uranium pellets resemble a ceramic in appearance and physical makeup.

A typical 1,000 Mega Watt nuclear reactor requires 27 tons of enriched uranium per year to operate. AREVA is also involved in processing the waste, spent nuclear fuel rods, so they are a total Nuclear Power Fuel company, it would appear.

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