#CBC: “Cameco job loss linked to Fukushima disaster, nuclear consultant says – Saskatchewan”

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In 2011, a tsunami disabled the cooling of three nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan, setting off a disaster. Now, more than six years later, 845 Saskatchewan jobs are absorbing the economic shockwave, an expert says.

Uranium giant Cameco announced Wednesday that it plans to shut down production at two of its sites in Saskatchewan — McArthur River and Key Lake — in January. It predicts 845 jobs will be affected.

Business-wise, the move is a savvy one, says Nicolas Carter, executive vice-president of uranium for the American nuclear consulting firm UXC.

‘Over-supply situation’

After the Fukushima incident, and the subsequent phasing out of Germany’s nuclear program, the demand for uranium has suffered, Carter said.

“Overall demands just trended downward, with the exception of some promising areas such as China and India, but all-in-all demand has been pretty flat.”

Nick Carter

Nicolas Carter thinks the Fukishima disaster was responsible for starting a downward trend in uranium prices, which has now resulted in the potential loss of 845 Saskatchewan jobs. (Submitted by Nicolas Carter)

Indeed, at the end of October the raw uranium, or U3O8, spot price was $19.95 per pound, according to UXC.

When the cores began to melt in the Fukushima reactors, the price was over $60 per pound, Carter said.

“The market is sitting in an over-supply situation,” he said.

“Probably 15 million pounds or so, on an annual basis.”

Companies like Cameco reducing production should bring balance to the market and the price of uranium should rise, he said.

The bigger question in the long term, he said, is whether the uranium market will see any further reduction in demand.

“That’s been an issue, especially here in the U.S. We had cheap shale gas, renewable energies, and especially in deregulated markets it’s been much harder for nuclear energy to compete.”

Shutdown predicted to last 10 months

The 845 jobs represents roughly 20 per cent of the company’s workforce, according to Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel. To soften the blow for direct employees of Cameco — more than half of the 845 — the company will top up their benefits, he said.

“We regret the impact on employees,” said Gitzel during a conference call Thursday.

Today it makes the most sense to leaves those pounds in the ground.
– Tim Gitzel, CEO, Cameco

​Gitzel reiterated that the shutdown of the McArthur River mine will be temporary as it’s the “best mine in the world.”

“Today it makes the most sense to leaves those pounds in the ground,” he said.

“We just look at this market and we say it’s got a long way to go before it’s adequately pricing uranium,” chimed in Grant Isaac, the company’s CFO.

“We don’t think that’s where it needs to be to pull those pounds out of our portfolio.”

The company has predicted the shutdown will last ten months, though that timeline is not certain, said Gitzel.

Note: “Previously Published on: 9 November 2017 | 4:29 pm, as ‘Cameco job loss linked to Fukushima disaster, nuclear consultant says – Saskatchewan’ on CBC RADIO-CANADA. Here is a source link for the Article’s Image(s) and Content”.

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