Uranium mining : A tool to evaluate and compare new suppliers

Detta är en Kandidat-uppsats från KTH/Hållbar produktionsutveckling (ML)

Författare: Gustav Svenningsson; [2021]

Nyckelord: ;

Sammanfattning: Nuclear power plants produce electricity by energy produced by nuclear reactions in thenuclear core. The nuclear fuel that enables the reactions has uranium as its primary material.Uranium is processed in four steps before being put into the nuclear core and these four stepsare uranium mining, conversion, enrichment and manufacturing. The first step in the life cycle,uranium mining, is primarily done by the mining methods: in-situ leaching, open pit miningand underground mining. To strive for a more environmentally friendly mining process thesethree methods need to be understood and evaluated to estimate their impact. With today’ssustainable development goals, companies running nuclear power plants needs to evaluateand compare uranium mining suppliers’ regarding their social, economic and environmentalimpact. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis is to create a tool that evaluates and comparesuranium mining companies and methods regarding their environmental impact. This is doneby a literature study and a single semi-structured interview. In order to create the tool, an understanding of how uranium mining methods impact theenvironment differentiates from each other must be created. The thesis therefore includesthe different technologies and environmental impact each method has and what the futureholds for each method. When mining uranium, its orebody will slowly decline resulting thatthe ore grade will decline as well. As a result, the production becomes more energy intensified.In the future, with declining ore grades and more energy being needed, it will either requireenergy efficient technology or that the mining process is in a country with sustainable energyconsumption or source so electric technologies can be used. The thesis’s result presents a tool that consists of different templates: “The company”, “Openpit”, “Underground mining” and “In situ leaching”. Firstly, since the technology andenvironmental impact from each mining method varies from mine to mine due to equipment,location, waste management etc., it results in that some mines are better adapted in someareas and lesser so in others. Therefore, the tool this thesis creates gives a broader pictureand understanding of each site being evaluated from an environmental perspective. Secondly, the tool evaluates both the company and the mining method used at the mining sitebecause both contributes to the environmental impact in different ways. Finally, the tool isbuilt as a point system so after all questions in the template used is answered the company ormining site receives a score. This score allows different mining methods or companies to becompared to each other. For a company or organization looking for a potential new supplier,the tool will enable them to both compare and evaluate suppliers from an environmentalperspective and later ease their decision-making process.

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