Sunday, June 04, 2006

Debunking the "Not Enough Uranium" Myth

On a regular basis we see an objection to nuclear power that says "There's not enough uranium, we're going to run out in 20 (or 50, or whatever) years"

This is absolute nonense. Here are the facts:

  • There are huge deposits of uranium lying undiscovered in the world. The only reason we don't know about them is because nobody has bothered exploring for decades, because demand was flat and prices were rock bottom. There is easily more available energy in the uranium than the total of all oil and gas every burned in the world.
  • Based on recent upticks in price, there is already an exploration boom.
  • Increases in uranium have very little impact on the price of nuclear energy, because so little of it is used. You could triple or quadruple again the price of uranium and it would add only 10% to cost of fuel. With oil or other fossil fuels, a triple in fuel price translates almost directly to electricity cost.
  • In fact, that is what makes nuclear such an attractive power source for many nations: once built, they are almost immune to fuel costs. Many reactors buy enough fuel for 10 years and simply store it on site. They can then ignore price changes.
  • Reactors are already improving their fuel efficiency. Remember that current reactors get the equivalent of 3 miles per gallon. New reactors could easily double or triple their efficiency. 20 years from now, reactors will double or triple their efficiency again. In 40 years the new reactors won't need new fuel at all because they'll be burning the waste left over from the current reactors, getting 5 times more energy from that waste than was obtained originally.
  • Remember that the people who fund the reactors, who are investing BILLIONS of dollars, wouldn't do so if they felt for even a moment that they were going to run out of fuel. They know it's a non-issue.

    The uranium shortage thing is myth. Let's focus on real issues.


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