Uranium is an element widely present in nature – it is approximately 40 times more common than silver.
About half of all uranium is produced by in-situ leaching, while 46% is produced in traditional underground or open pit mines. The rest, approximately 6%, is obtained as a by-product of other mining operations. Primary production covered approximately 85-90% of the uranium requirement of the world’s nuclear power plants. The remaining 10-15% was obtained from various inventories and the reprocessing of spent fuel.
The largest producers of uranium (based on the statistics for 2015) are Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Niger, and Russia. Together, these countries are responsible for approximately 80% of the world’s total production volume. Uranium is usually produced by large international companies with operations in several countries. The nine largest companies cover approximately 86% of all production, with nine mines producing roughly half of all uranium.
Environmental protection and monitoring of mining operations, as well as occupational and radiation safety requirements, are defined on the basis of the legislation and regulations valid in the country where the operations take place. The requirements set for the operations are further specified by licenses concerning the construction, operation, and environmental practices of the facilities. Proper practices require that the original licensing process of a production facility also pays attention to decommissioning operations, funds for waste management, the closure of the mine and the ore enrichment plant, and landscaping should be gathered during production operations.
Certification of quality, environmental, and occupational health and safety management systems is widely applied; large operators in particular have certified the management systems of their production facilities. Responsible companies follow the same standards and the principles of safety and social responsibility at all their locations, which in turn promotes the development of legislation and procedures of new mining countries.
Well-planned fuel procurement
TVO has high-level expertise regarding all phases of the fuel procurement process. TVO procures its fuel through a decentralized supply chain, entering into negotiations and making procurement contracts with each separate supplier at the various stages of the fuel production chain. There are several suppliers for each stage of the chain, and the procurement operations are regularly subjected to competitive bidding. Read more about the manufacture of the fuel and the related production chain .
Furthermore, the composition of the fuel and the manner in which it is used are designed by TVO itself. This is not very common, as most operators procure their fuel from a single supplier on a turnkey basis. The policy chosen by TVO clearly strengthens the company’s position as Finland’s leading supplier of nuclear power. Procurement operations are based on long-term contracts with leading suppliers. These companies have mining operations in many countries. If required, TVO purchases additional batches and services from the market, the developments of which are followed actively. The majority of the uranium procured by TVO comes from Kazakhstan, Canada, and Australia, and the fuel elements ordered by the company are constructed and assembled in Germany or Sweden.
TVO subjects fuel suppliers to strict evaluation
TVO employs a supplier evaluation method and only procures uranium and nuclear fuel refining services from suppliers who have passed the evaluation process. A systematic evaluation process precedes the closure of each supply contract. In addition to the requirements set for the products, the process also considers the reliability and responsibility of the supplier.
TVO’s supplier evaluation also includes active monitoring and evaluations at fixed intervals. Remote monitoring in Finland and excursions to production sites both provide TVO with an opportunity to examine the suppliers’ practices and, when necessary, to demand that changes are made. The purpose of supplier evaluation is to ensure that suppliers pay appropriate attention to environmental issues, the wellbeing of personnel, and quality management. Special issues concerning mines are also considered, such as the impact of operations on local people.