Japan, which has taken all but one of its 54 nuclear reactors offline in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, has not indicated that it is planning a permanent shift away from atomic power, the head of Cameco Corp. said on Monday.
Cameco, a top global uranium producer, has offered to buy excess material from Japanese utilities, but they are not selling, said chief executive officer Tim Gitzel, speaking at the Reuters Mining and Steel Summit from Saskatoon.
While a few companies have asked to defer deliveries, none has moved to reduce inventories or cancel contracts, he added, noting that plans to develop mines remain on track.
“We’re partners with some of the Japanese utilities in some mining projects,” Mr. Gitzel said. “We’ve talked to them about whether they’re staying in the game and indeed they are staying in. They’re continuing to invest in exploration.
“I think that’s positive news for the Japanese fleet going forward,” he added.
On Monday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc. (Tepco), shut down its last operating nuclear reactor for planned maintenance, leaving just one reactor online in all of Japan to supply the nation’s creaking power sector.
Tepco holds a 5-per-cent stake in Cameco’s Cigar Lake project in Saskatchewan, while Idemitsu Kosan Co. Ltd. has an 8-per-cent stake in the uranium mine, set to start up in late 2013.
Japan’s final operating reactor is scheduled to shut down in May. Stress test results are currently being reviewed by the country’s nuclear regulator; then the Prime Minister will need to green-light restarts based on public and political support.
While the timeline remains unclear, Cameco is confident that Japan will bring at least a portion of its fleet back online in the near future.
“I think over the next months we’ll start to see some reactors come back on [in Japan]” said Mr. Gitzel. “It will be a slow process, but eventually they’ll bring those back on.”