Saturday, November 28, 2009

 

How Much Extractable Uranium?

With all the talk about a “nuclear renaissance,” you’d think there were no worries about fuel. But in fact, all non-renewable resources are subject to the same constraints. A New Scientist article, “Nuclear fuel: are we heading for a uranium crunch?” takes up the question of whether we could really fuel a new crop of reactors (assuming we have enough money to build them).

First, just as with oil, there is no question that the absolute amount of uranium left to be extracted is large, but again, just as with oil, the problem is whether it can be extracted economically.

Second, will there be enough investment in new mines to extract the needed amount of uranium?

Third, uranium resources might be overestimated. Because oil-producing countries have no doubt overestimated their reserves, it follows that, for various reasons, the amount of economically extractable uranium is also overestimated.

Owing to the challenge of financing and the lack of cheap primary energy (fossil fuels), it is certain there will be no nuclear renaissance. It is very likely that we will not get as far as experiencing a uranium shortage.



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