Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Nuclear power is getting increased attention as a clean alternative to coal and gas powered electric generating plants. A 2001 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that a single 1,000 megawatt nuclear powerplant could displace the equivalent of about 2.1 million tons of carbon from a coal-fired powerplant, 1.6 million tons from an oil-fired plant and 1.0 million tons from a natural-gas plant.

Even some environmentalists are giving nuclear power a grudging second look. Judith Greenwald, director of innovative solutions for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change commented; "Nuclear power can contribute to solving the climate-change problem, if it can solve its own problems."

The problem that they are overlooking is that uranium production has already peaked and is in decline:

The shortfall in production has been covered by several secondary sources including excess inventories held by utilities, producers, other fuel cycle participants, reprocessed uranium and plutonium derived from used reactor fuel, and uranium derived from the dismantling of Russian nuclear weapons. As excess inventories and nuclear weapons are used up, it will be increasingly difficult to maintain supply for existing reactors.

The only way out is renewable sources of energy, but renewable sources are small scale, local, and independent of the net; the energy industry has to make a major adjustment in the way they view energy production in order to make the jump.


At 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The recent decline in uranium production is NOT due to limitation in overall ore supply, and is NOT analgous to the oil production peak!

The reason for the decline is simple. We decided to convert much of the uranium in our weapons stockpiles into reactor fuel, and this will provide half our nuclear fuel between 1990 and 2010. With reactor demand relatively flat, this meant that demand for ore fell in half. Ore production fell accordingly; it had to!

This drop in ore demand had other effects as well, such as a dramatic fall in ore price, and a resulting lack of incentive to explore for uranium, open mines, or even keep mines open in some cases.

Unlike oil, we have barely even begun to explore for uranium. Uranium ore supply will never be a factor limiting the growth of nuclear energy, as I discuss at the following link:


We will find enough relatively high grade uranium ore to last us for hundreds of years, even using present-day (once-through) reactors. After that, breeder reactors or uranium extracted from seawater can be used to provide an effectively infinite supply of uranium.

At 5:52 PM, Blogger Save-the-world said...

One might wonder why are our governments abandoning their nuclear deterrents in the first place? Specially at a time where there is an actual multiplication of criminal failed state threatening to have nuclear power.

In fact, according to the Energy watch group (a german institution), "in the short term, until about 2015, the long lead times of new and the decommissioning of aging reactors perform the barrier for fast extension, and after about 2020 severe uranium supply shortages become likely which, again will limit the extension of nuclear energy".

Even if it is possible to stop using most of our oil within 10 years, the gap in energy production won't be filled totally by uranium since there is just not enough reactors around.

The lack of investment will increase the problem and throw the economy in a black hole. There is no telling how we will get out of it.


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