Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How long will uranium last?

Ten countries responsible for 94% of the world's uranium supplies.
And then there are the oceans.

Scientific American recently posted a very interesting online article about future uranium supplies for nuclear reactors. I wrote a blog article about this subject last year on New Papyrus ( Fueling our Nuclear Future).

But to quote from the SciAm article "If the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has accurately estimated the planet's economically accessible uranium resources, reactors could run more than 200 years at current rates of consumption."

The article further states "Using more enrichment work could reduce the uranium needs of LWRs by as much as 30 percent per metric ton of LEU. And separating plutonium and uranium from spent LEU and using them to make fresh fuel could reduce requirements by another 30 percent. Taking both steps would cut the uranium requirements of an LWR in half."

And finally the article states "...the extraction of uranium from seawater would make available 4.5 billion metric tons of uranium—a 60,000-year supply at present rates. Second, fuel-recycling fast-breeder reactors, which generate more fuel than they consume, would use less than 1 percent of the uranium needed for current LWRs. Breeder reactors could match today's nuclear output for 30,000 years using only the NEA-estimated supplies."

Links and References

1. How long will the worlds uranium supplies last?
Scientific American

2. Fueling our Nuclear Future
New Papyrus

3. Supply of Uranium
World Nuclear Association


Jason Ribeiro said...

I haven't read the SciAm article yet but I'm well familiar with this subject. We've only scratched the surface of fissionable material resources. Breeding, recycling, greater thermal efficiency, thorium are all relatively unexploited in terms of the potential. There is no other fuel source on earth that is as versatile, concentrated, and pollution free. It's time we stop looking at nuclear with skepticism and recognize it as the gift from nature that it is.

Marcel F. Williams said...

The SciAm article isn't very long but its very informative.

SciAm is currently featuring several online articles concerning all aspects nuclear power generation.

snilon said...

Nature gives us many things... disease, destruction...why do you feel that uranium is a gift? It could be just another opportunity for disaster. Then again, nature does give us the sun and the wind. Are they gifts too?

Just because we can. doesn't mean we should.

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