Friday, March 10, 2006

Revisiting the Uranium Supply

One of the more frustrating aspects of blogging about nuclear energy issues is the fact that we seem to have to keep answering the same questions over and over again. A good example is the following passage from a story that appeared today over at Oh My News International:

[German energy expert Dr. Hermann] Scheer was in Australia last week to argue against the "nuclear solution" to climate change. Uranium is, like fossil fuels, a finite resource. It's an obvious point to make, but one which is being overlooked in the giddy rush to secure new energy sources.

The world's uranium, Scheer warned, will be depleted almost as fast as fossil fuels and nuclear power is an expensive, dangerous and shortsighted alternative to polluting coal and gas fired power.

"Uranium will be depleted in fifty years, and even earlier if a large number of new nuclear power stations come online. If Australia does not expand uranium mining beyond its current, restricted three mines policy, nuclear fuel will run out in as little as 30 years," Scheer said.
In response, I give you my colleague Clifton W. Farrell, who wrote the following last Summer:
Forecasts of new nuclear generation expect approximately 40-60 new reactors worldwide by 2020. This will increase uranium demand to approximately 195 million pounds in 2010 and 240 million pounds by 2020. For an assumed price of $30/lb U3O8, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) estimated world uranium resources in 2003 to be 3,537,000 metric tons, an amount adequate to fuel conventional reactors for approximately 50 years. The IAEA further estimated all conventional uranium resources to be 14.4 million metric tons, an amount which would cover over 200 years'’ supply at current rates of consumption.

Importantly, these forecasts do not include non-conventional sources of uranium, such as those contained in phosphates or in seawater, which are currently not economic to extract but represent a near limitless supply of uranium to meet increased demand. Clearly, there are very adequate uranium (and thorium) resources to fuel the world's expanding nuclear fleet.
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2 comments:

Jim Hopf said...

My thoughts on uranium supply are contained in the following essay.

http://www.americanenergyindependence.com/uranium.html

Feel free to use this essay, or any part thereof, in discussions on this topic.

Jim Hopf

Robert Schwartz said...

It would be nice if you were to post an authoritative FAQ on nuclear power issues.