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While a small proportion of uranium is used in producing medical isotopes, uranium is predominantly used in the
generation of electricity or nuclear power. Nuclear power is expected to play a significant role in the global energy mix for at least the next 50 years and, by most forecasts, well past that. Providing, of course, that a sufficient supply of uranium is available to sustain the nominal growth rate for nuclear power of 1% to 3% a year that is projected by some analysts.
As of February 1, 2011, 443 nuclear reactors were
being operated globally for electricity generation. A
further 62 new nuclear plants were under construction in 14 countries. And, with more and more governments acknowledging that nuclear power can produce reasonably priced base-load electricity that is, in effect, free of greenhouse-gas emissions, the prospects for growth in nuclear energy production are expected to grow along with the demand for uranium. Uranium deposits are found throughout Africa and, currently, exploration is being carried out in around 30 countries on the continent; however, there are only a few mines in actual operation at the moment. Namibia and Niger are the largest producers of
uranium on the continent and ranked fourth and sixth,
respectively, in the world in 2009, while South Africa is
ranked the world’s eleventh-largest producer and Malawi
the fifteenth. This report examines uranium mining on the African continent, highlighting activities in major African producers.