David Kirkpatrick

November 17, 2009

Nuclear power may not be the answer

Filed under: Business, Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:11 pm

And the reason might really surprise you — we’re running out of uranium. There’s a lot of talk about building new nuke plants — an idea I like — to help wean the west off of OPEC, et. al. What may come as a shock to many is uranium, the power source for nuclear plants, is going to offer just as many headaches in terms of shortages and being beholden parts of the world with reserves as petroleum provides right now.

Looks like it’s time to redouble the alternative power efforts if we want energy relatively free of the whims of geopolitics.

From the link:

Perhaps the most worrying problem is the misconception that uranium is plentiful. The world’s nuclear plants today eat through some 65,000 tons of uranium each year. Of this, the mining industry supplies about 40,000 tons. The rest comes from secondary sources such as civilian and military stockpiles, reprocessed fuel and re-enriched uranium. “But without access to the military stocks, the civilian western uranium stocks will be exhausted by 2013, concludes Dittmar.

It’s not clear how the shortfall can be made up since nobody seems to know where the mining industry can look for more.

2 Comments »

  1. Breeder reactors can use thorium-232 instead of uranium. They also produce more fissile material than they use. 1.01:1 to 1.2:1 currently, but designs are available for up to 1.8:1 ratios.

    Comment by jonolan — November 17, 2009 @ 2:51 pm

  2. Good to know on thorium-232, thanks for the comment.

    The comments on the linked page in the post — an MIT blog — also pointed out the source for “peak uranium” may be biased against nuclear usage of any sort and is something of an outlier in discussing the world’s uranium supply.

    Comment by davidkirkpatrick — November 17, 2009 @ 3:06 pm


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