Cameco Corporation (stock ticker: CCJ) is the world’s largest publicly traded uranium company. Headquartered in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, it owns uranium mines in Canada, United States, and Kazakhstan, and not-yet developed uranium deposits in Australia. They have been traditionally focused on uranium production, fuel refinement and manufacturing, but more recently have been expanding into uranium enrichment.
CCJ's Role in Drawdown
The IEA estimates (p. 198) that getting to net zero emissions by 2050 would mean expanding nuclear power generation capacity from the 2020 baseline level of 415 GW to 515 GW by 2030, and to 812 GW by 2050. CCJ produced a total of 4,754 tonnes of uranium in 2019, accounting for about 9% of global production. According to our rough calculations, this is enough to produce 27.5 GW of nuclear energy. To maintain their 9% market share of global uranium production, CCJ would have to produce 8,005 tonnes of uranium by 2030, and 12,622 tonnes by 2050.
To achieve this type of growth, CCJ would need a rate of annual growth of about 2.18% between now and 2030, and 2.3% between 2030 and 2050. Unfortunately, CCJ’s uranium production has declined over recent years, falling by 3.62% annually between 2017 and 2020. This reduction was because of production suspension at one of its largest mines in Canada and slowdown in production due to COVID-19. Since the prospect of their production rebounding is unclear, hitting the target necessary to maintain its market share in the energy mix that IEA envisions for 2030 and 2050 will be difficult.
CCJ: What We Like
Cameco has been reducing GHG emissions consistently over the last four years:
Direct emissions (scope 1) has fallen year-on-year by 10.07% between 2017 and 2019
Indirect emissions (scope 2) has declined by 13.9% each year in the same period
In addition to curbing GHG emissions, Cameco predominantly uses mining techniques that produce much less waste compared to the open pit mining method. In particular, the in situ recovery, used at Cameco’s mine in Kazakhstan, is a process by which deep uranium deposits are mined from aboveground by pumping mining solutions underground to dissolve the uranium and collect it using a system of wells. This process limits rock and mineral waste to a minimum.
In the last decade, particularly following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, Cameco has been reviewing (p. 1) its mining and processing operations to assess risks arising from earthquakes, floods, fire, and extreme weather.