Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Uranium Here, Uranium There

 jerry-grandey-president-and-ceo-cameco Speaking here is Cameco CEO Jerry Grandey:

“In my view, uranium is not going to be a constraint, it's just a question of getting deposits that have been identified through the pipeline of permitting and licensing.”

Uranium is not a infinite resource and will one day be exhausted. When that will happen has been a topic of discussion, but I’d never really seen a clearer explanation that concern about it might be overstated than is offered by Grandey:

However, while some critics point to the production shortfall and say that the nuclear industry is just not sustainable, “the reality is that uranium is quite an abundant element”, he added.

Exploration ground to a halt because of oversupply left over from the sixties and seventies, which means that no-one has been looking seriously for uranium until about five years ago.

However, since exploration started up again, a number of additional deposits have been discovered, and studies show the world has at least 160 years' worth of uranium supply, Grandey said.

And that’s based on what’s known now. As the universe of nuclear energy expands, so will companies like Cameco be motivated to see how much uranium is out there. Which is what Cameco and others are doing.

The whole article, about Grandey’s appearance at the Canada India forum – speaking of where Canadian-mined uranium might find some new customers (most of India’s current fleet is based on Candu designs) – is very interesting. Take a read.

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Looking at various campaigns around the country, I sometimes see an attack that goes something like this:

As governor/Senator/Representative, I will work toward energy independence from foreign oil with the expansion of nuclear power, the use of alternative fuels and ensure that we can drill for oil safely.

This is usually said against a candidate who goes all in for renewable energy, but it seems a false opposition. It’s really not an either/or proposition and the way energy policy works, it will most certainly prove out as false. The New York candidates spotlighted in the post below get this about right. Any energy source that helps with climate change and energy security is welcome. Pretending there is a superior stance to be found in choosing between them is the problem. There just isn’t.

Jerry Grandey

5 comments:

Philip said...

You wrote:

"Any energy source that helps with climate change and energy security is welcome. Pretending there is a superior stance to be found in choosing between them is the problem. There just isn’t."

The problem is that the "renewables" that many get behind are false solutions. Wind energy and solar are incapable of offering 24/7 baseline that we need in order for civilization to work. It's physically impossible.

Any energy source that -purports- to helps with climate change and energy security but -really does not- is not welcome at all. It is a waste of time and treasure.

I personally believe that wind and solar can not possibly ever live up to the promise that most of there adherents claim. Not even close.

Nuclear must be the large majority of the equation.

donb said...

Mark Flanagan wrote:
Uranium is not a infinite resource and will one day be exhausted.

This is true only if we assume that we don't move beyond present-day reactors that run mostly on U235. However, using technology that has already been demonstrated, we can use the U238 that makes up the vast majority of natural uranium. This alone stretches out the supply by a factor of over 100. With this great increase in efficiency of use, uranium sources such as even sea water become economic, and this source self-replenishes due to natural erosion of rock. With the ability to use dilute source economically, we probably have enough energy around to last until the sun becomes a red giant and swallows the earth.

However, since exploration started up again, a number of additional deposits have been discovered, and studies show the world has at least 160 years' worth of uranium supply, Grandey said.

Not bad given that we are using only a tiny amount of the energy available in the uranium. What we don't use now is a gift of energy for thousands of years to future generations. And when that runs out, there will still be vast amounts around. And this is just uranium. Thorium is yet another fuel, even more abundant than uranium.

Karen Street said...

The amount of greenhouse reductions needed to keep atmospheric levels of GHG below 450 ppm requires complete decarbonization of electricity by 2030. Even if Senator Alexander gets his wish, 100 new US nuclear reactors by 2030, more is needed. While nuclear appears to be the most attractive solution in terms of price, ability to supply baseload, etc, we don't want untrained people building and operating the plants—building 50 this year is not going to happen. Hence the need for less attractive solutions.

The success of the various industries—nuclear, wind, solar—in producing cheap, low-GHG electricity in 2030 will help determine the relative success of these industries in 2050. At this point, we need more than just nuclear to supply decarbonized electricity.

Philip said...

"we don't want untrained people building and operating the plants—building 50 this year is not going to happen. Hence the need for less attractive solutions."

Respectfully, this is popycock. Building an industrial facility is not rocket science. There's nothing magical about building nuclear power stations. There's no reason that we can't build 100 of them this year if we had the political will. Fueling them and training the workers will be the challenge.

"The success of the various industries—nuclear, wind, solar—in producing cheap, low-GHG electricity in 2030 will help determine the relative success of these industries in 2050. At this point, we need more than just nuclear to supply decarbonized electricity."

How much failure of wind, solar, and tidal will it take before we give up on them as the boondoggles that they are? When do we "pull the plug" on these too-good-to-be-true technologies? What or who determines the threshold?

It is an unfortunate tendency of human nature for us to believe that we can get "something for nothing". We need to be more realistic.

Anonymous said...

"The success of the various industries—nuclear, wind, solar—in producing cheap, low-GHG electricity in 2030 will help determine the relative success of these industries in 2050. At this point, we need more than just nuclear to supply decarbonized electricity."

Trouble is, the "success" of these technologies is not determined by the technology, its state of development, or its implementation. It is determined by the laws of nature, and we can't do anything about those. It gets dark at night and the skies aren't always clear and sunny. That is an inherent limit on solar generation. The wind doesn't always blow, and when it does it isn't always at the optimum speed. That is an inherent limit on wind generation. Nuclear generation goes on night and day, wind blowing or not. I just don't see how we're going to get significant carbon emission reduction in baseload electricity generation without more widespread use of nuclear sources.