Could Nuclear Power Be the Answer to the Energy Crisis?  

Posted by Big Gav

TreeHugger asks Could Nuclear Power Be the Answer to the Energy Crisis ?. Peter Schwarz of GBN - in this Wired article - seems to think so.

Some of the world's most thoughtful greens have discovered the logic of nuclear power, including Gaia theorist James Lovelock, Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore, and Britain's Bishop Hugh Montefiore, a longtime board member of Friends of the Earth (see "Green vs. Green," page 82). Western Europe is quietly backing away from planned nuclear phaseouts. Finland has ordered a big reactor specifically to meet the terms of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. China's new nuke plants - 26 by 2025 - are part of a desperate effort at smog control.

The Financial Review's recent article on peak oil also picked on nuclear energy as a winner (sparking the recent surge in uranium miner stock prices).

The depletion picture for uranium is unclear though (to me at least) - on the one hand, Professor David Goodstein of Caltech thinks this isn't a viable long term solution:

The other kind of nuclear power is the conventional fission kind that we already use and that's a very well established technology. People are afraid of it. They don't like it. There's reason to be afraid of it. We have to do it with intelligence and care. Nevertheless, when the oil source is running out, the need for it likely to become a compelling reason to return to it. However, you have to be careful. You have to look at it quantitatively. That is, in order to make enough nuclear energy to replace all of fossil fuel we burn today, you would have to build ten thousand of the largest nuclear plants possible. Ten thousand, that's not impossible but it is certainly a daunting task. Even if you did that, the known uranium reserves would last at that burn rate for only one or two decades.

On the other hand, some commentators in the financial press here have been saying (when discussing the merits of WMC's uranium based defence against Xstrata's takeover offer) that uranium is actually pretty common - the shortage of supply is due purely to the lack of demand over the last decade thanks to cheaply available ex-Russian weapons material supplying a lot of what was required.

It may be that this is true, but that if you increase demand enough uranium depletes just like any other resource (unless you believe in viable breeder reactors of course). I wonder if there is a Hubbert style analysis of uranium depletion out there ?

1 comments

I saw a reference to a possible Uranium peak some years ago but I haven't found it since then. I think Deffeyes latest book may shed some light on the subject when it is released. Meanwhile, here is the viridian take on Nuke energy, commenting on Lovelocks original article:

http://www.viridiandesign.org/notes/401-450/00415_doom_is_nigh.html

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