World Events Cause Hafnium Price to Soar

My customers know that the prices of metals fluctuate constantly, but recently I hear the same question again and again; why are alloys containing Hafnium so expensive?

Hafnium is usually added to an alloy in small amounts to improve the corrosion resistance of the alloy, especially if it will be exposed to cyclic temperature conditions.

To understand why Hafnium has become so expensive, you need to know how it is made. Hafnium is a byproduct of nuclear grade zirconium metal production. The nuclear disaster that happened at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in 2011 has caused a chain of events that have driven up the cost of Hafnium.

After the meltdown at three of Fukushima’s nuclear reactors, the Japanese government closed all of the nuclear plants in Japan. Other countries, including France and Germany decided to reduce their number of nuclear power plants. This resulted in absolutely no demand for nuclear grade zirconium metal. If there’s no demand for the nuclear grade zirconium, then there is no byproduct Hafnium.

Currently there are just two accepted producers of Hafnium in the entire world – Teledyne Wah Chang in the United States and Areva in France – who have been working off stockpiles of Hafnium feed. That source, however, has dried up.  Now, Hafnium is only being sold to their largest commercial customers.

Bottom line; it’s a matter of supply and demand.

Last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that Japan plans to restart some nuclear plants as early as May of this year.  If that does indeed happen, it might bring down the price of Hafnium.

Unfortunately, in the meantime, until world events turn in our favor, there’s no getting around the high price.  There is no substitute for Hafnium.

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