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Investors race to lock down uranium supplies for advanced nuclear

Global M&A activity in uranium mining
Data: Pitchbook; Table: Alice Feng/Axios

Investment and merger activity in the uranium mining sector exploded in 2022, triggered by renewed concerns around energy security.

Why it matters: Investors are rushing to secure critical raw materials — especially for a new generation of advanced reactors.

What's happening: Global investment in uranium mining leaped past $1 billion last year, a 5x jump from 2021, per PitchBook data.

State of play: Deep Yellow acquired Vimy Resources for about $492 million in August.

  • Uranium Energy Corporation bought UEX for around $182 million, also in August.
  • Encore Energy and Uranium Energy Corporation purchased several projects last year.

Driving the news: The flurry of activity traces to Russia's invasion of Ukraine last February.

  • Russia was a top producer and processor of uranium. International sanctions upended that supply chain.
  • Similar sanctions on Russian natural gas exports, meanwhile, sent energy prices to the stratosphere, particularly in Europe — stoking renewed interest in nuclear energy generation.

Meanwhile: The Department of Energy and Congress took steps to spur investment in U.S. uranium production and nuclear energy.

  • Nuclear is an unusually capital-intensive sector with long timelines. The federal funding and incentives were crucial to last year's deal-making.

Be smart: Russia's invasion was especially vexing for startups developing new nuclear reactors.

  • TerraPower announced last month that it would have to delay its project timeline by at least two years due to the new supply chain challenges.
  • With sanctions in place, investors and companies are rushing to build alternative sources of supply — with support from the DOE.

Bottom line: "Private capital for nuclear is being driven by bipartisan support for different policies to enable different next-generation technologies and current technologies," Niko McMurray, managing director of public policy at ClearPath, a D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for nuclear energy, tells Axios.

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