Latest ASPO Newsletter Out  

Posted by Big Gav

The ASPO's latest newsletter is out. This one includes The Australian's peak oil article and the usual assortment of peak oil related snippets, including a paper on mitigating the the effects of peak oil from some people at the US Department of Energy (which is pretty much contrary to their usual statements). No new updates to the depletion model have been done.

One snippet discussed the prospect of Indonesia following Ecuador and Gabon's lead and leaving OPEC - once a country has no excess capacity it has no reason to try to limit production - which means OPEC itself may be redundant in the near future (just as the Texas Railroad Commission basically abandoned production controls in the US after their Hubbert's peak in the early 1970's). As the newsletter says, OPEC could "spare itself a lot of political odium by closing its doors".

The most interesting part was their analysis of uranium depletion and why uranium isn't a solution to the global warming problems caused by fossil fuel use (which Monkeygrinder has already posted on). The article was originally published on Online Opinion, which I haven't come across before (although I have seen them mentioned on Crikey recently).

However the emerging economies of China and India are setting the pace for growth and rising energy demand, so to meet their aspirations the initial requirement for the building of 20,000 nuclear power stations is likely to be insufficient. In reality there is little chance of fuelling the current modest building program of new stations as secondary sources of uranium are expected to be exhausted by 2012, creating a shortfall in supply unable to be filled by additional mining, so the first desired characteristic of sustainability is unattainable.

Then the claim for the carbon-free status of nuclear power proves to be false. Carbon dioxide is released in every component of the nuclear fuel cycle except the actual fission in the reactor. Fossil fuels are involved in the mining, milling and enrichment of the ore, in the fuel can preparation, in the construction of the station and in its decommissioning and demolition, in the handling of the spent waste and its re-processing and in digging the hole in the rock for its deposition.

The lower the ore grade, the more energy is consumed in the fuel processing, so that the amount of the carbon dioxide released in the fuel cycle depends on the ore grade. Only Canada and Australia have ores of a sufficiently high grade to avoid excessive carbon releases and to provide an adequate energy gain. At ore grades below 0.01 per cent for “soft” ores and 0.02 per cent for “hard” ores more CO2 than an equivalent gas-fired station is released and more energy is absorbed in the cycle than is gained in it. Ores of a grade approaching the “crossover” point such as those in India of 0.03 per cent, if used, risk going into negative energy gain if there are a few “hiccups” in the cycle.

The article doesn't see nuclear power as a long term solution to anything, but it does emphasise that the world's quality deposits of uranium are in Australia and Canada, and that these will be used to fuel what growth in the industry does occur.

Meanwhile XStrata is putting the hard word on WMC shareholders and ERA is muttering about opening up Jabiluka.


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