[ExI] Uranium supplies
max at maxmore.com
Fri Nov 27 18:32:37 UTC 2009
Eugene Leitl wrote:
>The problem is that they're covering all aspects (finds, estimates
>of finds, ore quality over time, EROEI, current fuel reserves,
>reprocessing, required capacity growth) so it is difficult to show
>something they overlooked. I keep looking, but the detractor's story
>keeps getting weaker and weaker, and theirs stronger.
I'll take a good look at their material. Thanks for the reference.
They may be right -- I hadn't heard of serious concerns about
uranium. From my first look, they make some compelling points about
short-term availability of uranium. But so far I don't buy their
analysis as a real and enduring peak.
What exactly is the conclusion that you came to? "Peak uranium"
doesn't say much. How many years from now do you think uranium
supplies will peak? Does that depend at all on whether new
technologies and extraction methods are devised? Does it depend on
the price of uranium? Answers to those questions would make it
clearer what exactly you are convinced of.
>It is very difficult to argue with numbers
I really can't accept that you believe this, Eugene. You know very
well that numbers don't just appear in a perfect genesis. They are
arrived at by people, with their flaws and flawed methods. *Of
course* you can argue with numbers. In fact, it's crucial to do so:
Where did they come from? What methods were used to come up with
them? What assumptions lie beneath the numbers and the methods by
which they were arrived at? And so on.
Even if uranium supplies will peak in a few decades, we should be
building more nuclear plants right now -- *especially* you regard
global warming as a real and crucial problem.
-- How much supply is possible just using the richest deposits?
"Reactor requirements are fairly steady at about 60,000 tonnes per
year. Thus there is about 50 years supply of uranium known at this
stage to be available." "It is now clear that uranium is not scarce
and it is known that it averages almost two parts per million of the
Earth's crust. There are substantial resources that are not yet fully
proven. These so-called speculative resources are likely to be of the
order of 10 million tonnes, about three times the known reserves.
While prices remain low, there is no incentive for exploration
activities to identify new deposits. Experience with other
commodities has shown that increased demand has led to increased
prices, and a subsequent increase in exploration and discovery."
-- How much supply using lower grades? (It seems that there is a
300-fold increase in the amount of uranium recoverable for each
tenfold decrease in ore grade.)
-- How much supply if there were a large program to use fast
breeders? (No, I not talking about Mormons.) Breeder fuel cycles
could extend uranium and thorium supplies by at least one hundred
times (some say 400) what is available from using U235.
-- The Oil Drum analysis (so far as I've examined it so far) seems to
make no allowance for the probability that the stagnant demand for
uranium hasn't spurred new discoveries or extraction methods. A major
boost in demand would very likely spur increased supply -- just as it
has done for oil, despite proven reserves not having changed much over decades.
As the Oil Drum says: "The overall fraction of nuclear energy to
electric energy has gone down from 18% in 1993 to less than 14% in
2008... The number of produced TWhe of electric energy from
world-wide nuclear power plants is now lower than in 2005, and it has
decreased by about 2% from a maximum of 2658 TWhe in 2006 to 2601
TWhe in 2008."
One commentator on the Oil Drum piece says: "A large amount of
uranium over the past twenty years has come from weapons
decommissioning, particularly from former Soviet States. This
availability has kept uranium prices low and discouraged exploration
I'll keep investigating the topic. I would be disappointed if nuclear
turns out not to be a good, major long-term energy source, but if
that's the best-supported conclusion I'll back other energy sources
Max More, Ph.D.
Extropy Institute Founder
max at maxmore.com
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