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Uranium shortage poses threat
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mobbsey



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2005 9:24 pm    Post subject: Uranium shortage poses threat Reply with quote

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,9069-1735134,00.html

Uranium shortage poses threat

By Angela Jameson, Industrial Correspondent
The Times Online, August 15th 2005


A GLOBAL shortage of uranium could jeopardise plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain.

The dearth of uranium will be discussed at the World Nuclear Association?s
symposium in London next month and could prove to be a major stumbling block in the nuclear industry?s attempt to have old nuclear power stations replaced with modern reactors.

While Britain has no plans to begin building a new generation of nuclear
reactors, pressure has been growing to take a decision to restart a nuclear programme as a way of cutting carbon dioxide emissions that lead to climate change and reducing Britain?s reliance on imported gas.

However, a recent report by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada said that there was likely to be a 45,000-tonne shortage of uranium in the next decade, largely because of growing Chinese demand for the metal. Prices for uranium have almost tripled, to about $26/lb between March 2003 and May 2005, after being stable for years.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development?s Nuclear Agency?s ?red book? ? its statistical study of world uranium resources and demand ? the world consumed 67,000 tonnes of uranium in 2002. Only 36,000 tonnes of this was produced from primary sources, with the balance coming from secondary sources, in particular ex- military sources as nuclear weapons are decommissioned.

In 2001 the European Commission said that at the current level of uranium consumption, known uranium resources would last 42 years. With military and secondary sources, this life span could be stretched to 72 years. Yet this rate of usage assumes that nuclear power continues to provide only a fraction of the world?s energy supply. If capacity were increased six-fold, then the 72-year supply would last just 12 years.

Paul Mobbs, an environmental campaigner, said: ?It would be unwise to advocate adopting the nuclear option when we have no realistic idea of how long the uranium resources will last. We would very quickly shift from shortages of oil and coal to shortages of uranium.?

Philip Dewhurst, chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association, said:
?Increased demand for uranium is going to be a factor, but the industry
believes that nuclear power has served the UK very well and that we should look at the issue of replacing those generators that are due to be closed, whether the uranium supply is plentiful or not.?

China has said that it intends to build 40 new nuclear power stations by 2020. Last month, Canadian officials confirmed that China wants to buy Canadian uranium and to participate in joint mining ventures. Canada is the world?s largest uranium producer.

Uranium mining production peaked in 2001. Experts believe that it will take more than ten years to open new mines.

Despite a resurgence in interest in nuclear power around the world, the
Government has insisted that British Nuclear Fuels puts its Westinghouse
division, which builds new power stations, up for sale. The company said that the decision to sell Westinghouse was prompted by 15 serious expressions of interest in the past 18 months.
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Bandidoz
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 1:54 am    Post subject: Re: Uranium shortage poses threat Reply with quote

Quote:
we should look at the issue of replacing those generators that are due to be closed, whether the uranium supply is plentiful or not.?


Surely that is just completely insane?
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Bandidoz
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 2:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There was an article in the Sunday Times, August 14, 2005, called "Nuclear Bonanza", about the surge in interest of mining in Australia.

"Atomic power is back in fashion and mining firms are enjoying the benefits as the price of uranium soars."

"Uranium has already proved a good investment in recent years, with a shortfall in supply sending prices on the Nuexco exchange from a plateau of $10 a pound in 2002 to nearly $30.

The miners hope that this tripling of prices is just a taste of things to come. They believe that a surge of interest in nuclear power in America, Britian and China, as well as a host of other countries, could send prices much higher".

I find it interesting how the story touts a price increase, that looks exponential, is a good thing. So I take it that it's a seller's market already?
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mobbsey



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Problem is, fuel costs only amount to 3% to 5% of a nuclear plant's lifetime costs. Therefore tripling the price doesn't make much difference. The economics will always be dominated by the safety and disposal costs.

However, irrespective of costs, you can duck the Law on the Conservation of Matter and Energy -- if the uranium isn't there, you don't have a working plant.
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Totally_Baffled



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.uic.com.au/WNA-UraniumSustainability.pdf

http://www.uic.com.au/nip75.htm

Little update here from the WNA (july 2005 - world nuclear association) and UIC (Uranium informaton centre)

The second link suggests Uranium at several hundred dollars per pound would lead to a 10 fold increase in Uranium reserves.

The first link suggests that Uranium exploration is "immature" and that there isn't an issue with there not being enough Uranium to exploit(although production needs to catch up again after the military stocks are exhausted).

Perhaps we can at least keep the lights on for a while yet?

Im all for it , we have to take the strain off natural gas. Also, at least the major Uranium producers are stable countries (Australia, Canada, USA etc etc)

If we could get onto Thorium , even better, because Norway has
shedloads of it!! Very Happy

As for the waste, hasn't Australia offered to be a nuclear dumping ground!! (thanks guys!!). They used to take our convicts , now they can have our nuclear waste! Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Very Happy Laughing

TB
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mikepepler
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 7:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shame we shut down our fast breeder program. Remember natural Uranium is only something like 0.7% U235, and the rest is U238. But a fast breeder reactor turns U238 into Plutonium 239, which can be burned in suitably designed reactors, or existing ones as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. What's the chances some coutries will restart fast breeder research programs?
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mobbsey



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The second link suggests Uranium at several hundred dollars per pound would lead to a 10 fold increase in Uranium reserves.


The fact that there might be more uranium is irrelevant if the amount of energy it takes to produce that uranium is more than the energy you get for it. Currently, depending on whose figures you take, the threshold is around 2,000ppm to 5,000ppm U. Thorium is likely to be in the same range.

Therefore even some of our currently "proven" low grade ores are useless because mining and producing energy from them results in an energy deficit.


P.
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Blue Peter



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mobbsey wrote:
Quote:
The second link suggests Uranium at several hundred dollars per pound would lead to a 10 fold increase in Uranium reserves.


The fact that there might be more uranium is irrelevant if the amount of energy it takes to produce that uranium is more than the energy you get for it. Currently, depending on whose figures you take, the threshold is around 2,000ppm to 5,000ppm U. Thorium is likely to be in the same range.

Therefore even some of our currently "proven" low grade ores are useless because mining and producing energy from them results in an energy deficit.


P.


Since the nuclear debate has been promised us at the Labour Party conference, I would think that it's very important that points like this are brought out into the open, because surely it just about finishes off the debate?


Peter.
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mobbsey



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've just written something on this for the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee's inquiry into nuclear power. However, under the rules of the House I'm not allows to distribute it (unless I get their permission first) but it might get published in their final report --- better still I might actually get called to give evidence.
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Blue Peter



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 11:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mobbsey wrote:
I've just written something on this for the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee's inquiry into nuclear power. However, under the rules of the House I'm not allows to distribute it (unless I get their permission first) but it might get published in their final report --- better still I might actually get called to give evidence.


Excellent,


Peter.
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isenhand



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mobbsey wrote:
threshold is around 2,000ppm to 5,000ppm U. Thorium is likely to be in the same range.

P.


And I suppose that situation will get worse as the cost of oil goes up as the fuel cost for the transportation and mining will go up?

Smile
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fishertrop



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mikepepler wrote:
What's the chances some coutries will restart fast breeder research programs?


I'm a big fan of R&D.

I think the UK should have a ton of programmes like this.

They should also take the work that private (and not all that trustworthy) plant builders have done in the area of radical reactor design and see if they can improve it.

Personally I would rather the UK know everything there is to know about reactor design-and-build and never build any than (the far more likely...) know very little and give huge contracts to corporations that you'd frankly rather not deal with.
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DamianB
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

isenhand wrote:
And I suppose that situation will get worse as the cost of oil goes up as the fuel cost for the transportation and mining will go up?
Smile


No, not really. It's a question of EROEI. The only way it could change is if the machinery or mining techniques changed significantly.
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isenhand



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DamianB wrote:
isenhand wrote:
And I suppose that situation will get worse as the cost of oil goes up as the fuel cost for the transportation and mining will go up?
Smile


No, not really. It's a question of EROEI. The only way it could change is if the machinery or mining techniques changed significantly.



And won?t that be the case? I?m not an expert on mining but I suspect that it?s not an oil free enterprise. With PO and the cost of oil rising won?t that mean that the way mining is done at the moment might change? Not so much in the actual ?digging? but more in the tools used. For example, could it become more human intensive?

Smile
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2005 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

isenhand wrote:
For example, could it become more human intensive?

Smile


Paul would have a better idea of the orders of magnitude here but my gut feeling is that the calories of energy used to fuel the miners, make their pickaxes, spades and sledgehammers and the calories of energy used by farmers to grow their food wouldn't stack up. Mining a thousand tonnes of ore at 0.02% concentration would yield 200kg of material - how long would that last?
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