Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.BrExit Looks Set to Win EU Referendum, Final Opinion Polls Give LEAVE Lead Over REMAIN - Nadeem_Walayat
2.BrExit Morning - New Dawn for Britain, Independence Day! - Nadeem_Walayat
3.LEAVE Wins EU Referendum - Sterling and FTSE Hit Hard, Pollsters, Bookies and Markets All WRONG! - Nadeem_Walayat
4.BrExit to Save Europe from Climate Change Refugee Migration Apocalypse - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Trading BrExit - Stocks, Bonds, Sterling, Opinion Polls, Bookmaker Odds and My Forecast - Nadeem_Walayat
6.EU Referendum Latest Opinion Polls Show LEAVE Halting REMAINs Surge - Nadeem_Walayat
7.Gold And Silver – Insanity Is World “Norm.” Keep Stacking! - Michael_Noonan
8.Trading BrExit - British Pound Plunges, FTSE Stock Futures Slump on LEAVE Shock Referendum Win - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Gold And Silver: Security, And BREXIT - Michael_Noonan
10.BrExit Vote - "The Trend is Set" -- And What You Should Pay Attention to Next - EWI
Free Silver
Last 7 days
Michael 'Little Finger' Gove Slays Boris 'Baratheon' Johnson in Game of Thrones for Next Tory PM - 30th June 16
Gold, Silver, Bonds and Stocks Path Towards Inflation - 30th June 16
Stock Market SPX Rally Nearing its End as DB Gets Slammed - 30th June 16
Brexit & The Precipice - 30th June 16
Gold and Silver Precious Metals Bull Market Update - 30th June 16
14 Signs the World Is on the Verge of Generational Chaos - 30th June 16
BrExit Stock Market Upwards Crash as FTSE Recovers 100% of Friday Plunge - 30th June 16
Stock Market Rally Runs Out of Steam - 29th June 16
Rapid Growth:The Financial Trends Of Online Gaming - 29th June 16
FTSE and Sterling Brexit Trading, Deconstruction of the EU Referendum Result - 29th June 16
Stock Market Bounce May be Over - 28th June 16
Stock Market Meltdown Likely to Drive Gold Towards $1,500 - 28th June 16
Brexit Victory over the EU Globalists - 28th June 16
Brexit Psyop: Greenspan Falsely Blames the Brits for the Crash and Chaos to Follow - 28th June 16
Greenspan Calls Brexit a ‘Terrible Outcome’ as Euro Area Tested - 27th June 16
Stock Market SPX Below Mid-Cycle Support - 27th June 16
Best Holidays for Summer 2016 - 27th June 16
Another Stocks Bear Market? - 27th June 16
BBC EU Referendum Result Highlights - YouGov, Markets, Bookmakers, Pollsters ALL WRONG! - 26th June 16
Investors Map Post-Brexit Strategies Amid Global Market Upheaval - 26th June 16
Gold Price Weekly COT Update - 26th June 16
First the UK, then Scotland ... then Texas? - 26th June 16
Stocks Bear Market Resumes or Just More Noise - 26th June 16
Gold And Silver: Security, And BREXIT - 25th June 16
Dow, Euro & Brexit Recap - 25th June 16
Resistance Holding Gold Stocks after Brexit - 25th June 16
Venezuela vs. Ecuador (Chavismo vs. Chavismo Dollarized) - 25th June 16
Gold, Silver And PM Stocks Summer Doldrums Risk - 24th June 16
Here’s Why China “Economic Hard-Landing” Worries Are Overblown - 24th June 16
Jubilee Jolt: Markets Crash, Gold Skyrockets as Britain Takes Brexit - 24th June 16
BrExit Morning - New Dawn for Britain, Independence Day! - 24th June 16
LEAVE Wins EU Referendum - Sterling and FTSE Hit Hard, Pollsters, Bookies and Markets All WRONG! - 24th June 16
Trading BrExit - British Pound Plunges, FTSE Stock Futures Slump on LEAVE Shock Referendum Win - 24th June 16
EU Referendum Shock Results Putting BrExit LEAVE in the Lead Hitting Sterling Hard - 24th June 16
Final Opinion Poll Gives REMAIN 52% Lead, Bookmakers, Markets and Pollsters ALL Back REMAIN Win - 23rd June 16
Does BREXIT Matter? Outlook for Sterling - 23rd June 16
Keep Calm and Vote BrExit - Last Chance to Break Free of EU Superstate - 23rd June 16
Here’s the Foreign Policy Trump and Clinton Really Want - 23rd June 16
Details Behind Semiconductor Stocks Leadership - 23rd June 16
Trading BrExit - Stocks, Bonds, Sterling, Opinion Polls, Bookmaker Odds and My Forecast - 23rd June 16

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Market Volaility

Peak Uranium - And Other Threats To Nuclear Power

Commodities / Uranium Apr 14, 2011 - 10:18 AM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop

Commodities

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleWe have nearly all heard about Peak Oil despite doubts on very basic elements like how we define “oil” compared with oil condensed from natural gas, but the possibility of there simply not being enough uranium to keep present and planned reactor fleets going is new.


The case for Peak Uranium is made by several nuclear experts, such as Dr Michael Dittmar of CERN http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/24414/

In brief, Dittmar argues that the most worrying problem is the belief that uranium is plentiful. It is in fact quite a rare mineral, with a crustal abundance about 4 parts per million, ranking it far less abundant than many minerals and metals we consume in large quantities. The world’s 440-odd nuclear plants (Japan having lost several, making it difficult to give an exact number in operation) ate through about 68,000 tons of uranium in 2010, but uranium mining industry supplied only 55,000 tons. The rest came from secondary sources including mining stocks, reactor building company stocks, reprocessed “spent” fuel, recycled atomic warheads, and military uranium sources, among others.

As Dittmar says:

“....without access to military stocks, the civilian western uranium stocks will be exhausted by 2013”, writing before the late 2010 agreement by Obama and Medvedev to further extend the “Megatons to Megawatts” programme.

Dismantling mainly Russian surplus atomic warheads will therefore continue, but with considerable and calculated lack of clarity on how long bomb stocks and security considerations will allow this, and the exact tonnages that will be made available.

This lack of clarity has many reasons including the technical details of what types of highly enriched uranium and other materials, including plutonium, recovered from the atomic weapons and supplied by Russia's TENEX http://www.tenex.ru/en/press/events/?id=311 , then “down blended” with weakly enriched uranium, and other materials. The reactor fuel priduced is similar to MOX fuel, also produced by “down blending”, of spent reactor fuel contaminated by highly active and very dangerous long-lived radionuclides, especially plutonium, and notably used in one of the stricken Fukushima reactors.

NOT ENOUGH FUEL

In fact this source of “cut down” fuel, produced from atom bomb warheads is completely unable to cover more than around 9 percent of current total civil reactor fuel needs (about 68 000 tons in 2010), despite brave claims that it covers “at least 15 percent” of world needs and “45 percent of US needs”. Through simple scarcity, and shown every day by uranium sector buy-outs and financial operations, the world's reactor operating companies are forced to look absolutely everywhere for more uranium.

In addition they are also forced to think of ways how they might no longer depend on uranium as the main fuel for nuclear reactors in a rapidly approaching future.

Obviously this would require the design, development, financing and building of an entirely “new generation” of electricity generating reactors and the extremely expensive replacement of the world's exisiting reactors.

What we find is that countries relying on imported uranium such as Japan, the UK, Germany, France and in fact the bulk of other “old nuclear” countries, and the emerging economy giants China and India, already face recurring uranium shortages.

This shortage is already acute, and may become very large by as soon as 2013.

RUBE GOLDBERG AND HEATH ROBINSON SOLUTIONS

The simple and basic shortage of uranium of course immediately challenges the supposed “silver bullet” image of nuclear power ensuring high levels of energy security in a troubled world, that is claimed by the nuclear lobby and promoted by many governments. What in reality we find is that the fundamentals of uranium supply and demand are decidedly not “nuclear friendly”.

The Achilles heel of uranium shortage has mothered a host of imaginative, but unworkable solutions, or claimed solutions to the problem. New technologies such as fast-fission breeder reactors generating more plutonium fuel than they consume, nuclear fusion machines (also heavily criticized by Michael Dittmar), thorium reactors which are particularly promoted by India, and underground 'build and forget' reactors are among the many quick fix solutions on offer.

A large number of nuclear experts are pessimistic about fast breeders. In the words of Dittmar:   “Their huge construction costs, their poor safety records and their inefficient performance give little reason to believe that they will ever become commercially significant,”. To this we can add that the environmental, human health, and weapons proliferation implications of building up massive national stockpiles of plutonium would be extreme, in the event of the so-called “plutonium economy” ever coming about.

To be sure the USA and Russia have good reason to continue “recycling” atomic weapons and recovering reactor fuel from them. According to the USA's specially created and tightly controlled entity charged with “recycling warheads” from Russia to feed US civil reactors – the USEC – this nuclear material replaced 'about 45 percent' of US uranium fuel needs in 2009, but many independent observers doubt this claim.  http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article24378.html

SWORDS TO PLOUGSHARES

Megatons to Megawatts is periodically given large media attention because of the nice image of old and surplus atom bomb warheads of Russia and the USA, dating from the Cold War are being turned into fuel, but this immediately underlines one especially dangerous fact.

The difference between “nuclear civil” and “nuclear military” is very slight, and always has been.

Well may the UN's IAEA atomic agency proclaim that it seeks to increase and enhance the use of peaceful nuclear power, while also acting as the “nuclear proliferation cop”, but nuclear electricity inevitably produces the basic materials for making nuclear weapons. As we are painfully reminded today with the Fukushima disaster, categorized at 7 on the IAEA's INES scale of nuclear accidents – the same as Chernobyl – civil nuclear power is above all dangerous and polluting when accidents occur, as they inevitably do.

By mid-April the Fukushima disaster has been estimated as spewing about 15 times more radiation into the environment than the total from the Hiroshima atom bomb of 1945, that is about one-tenth as much as the final and total radiation release from the Chernobyl disaster, which probably killed more than 150 000 pesons.

The consequences of the Fukushima disaster for human health, farm animals, fish, and food crops in the affected areas will of course be disastrous, as they were at Chernobyl.

The vaunted promise of atomic energy's promoters – that it turns swords to ploughshares – is once again refuted by the real world, as civil nuclear power turns atom bombs into a vast defragmented array of cancerous radiation products.

Together with the Achilles heel of not enough fuel, even for the world's present reactor fleet, this underscores the very strong case for abandoning nuclear power, seeking alternatives, and using less electricity 

By Andrew McKillop

Contact: xtran9@gmail.com

Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2011 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2016 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Comments

Dr. Max Ward
14 Apr 11, 20:16
Chinas solution to 'Peak Uranium'

I'm a retired scientist. (power generation industry)

Considering Chinas Thorium plans, the "strong case for abandoning nuclear power" is fast evaporating!

In Feb 2011, China announced that it plans to mass-produce and export thousands of transportable Thorium LFTR units which will gradually replace coal-fired boilers in existing electricity plants worldwide. This announcement will drastically change the whole 'renewable energy' and 'carbon price' debate.

Quoting the Vs20 group.. "These reactors cannot melt-down; have no moving parts; No pressure vessel; they self-regulate and need no staff on-site.

These small power plants will also solve the final hurdles for a massive adoption of Electric Vehicles.

1. Abundant 'carbon free' electricity. (A fifth the price of coal-fired)

2. Local generation of the enormous amount of electricity required by millions of electric vehicles. Few realize how many 'megawatt hours' are in a tank of petrol!

3. Local generation also solves the problem of our reliance on a massive National Grid. And that our existing grid is NOT remotely capable of powering electric vehicles! And the fact that a single ice-storm can black-out 50 million people!

The world has been waiting 50 years for someone with enough money to perfect these reactors. India, Japan, Russia & USA are now all defensively stepping up their LFTR research!

It is ironic that many Senators in the USA have died of old age while trying to lobby for Thorium funding. One little announcement from China and everything changes! China sees this as a way to boost it's sagging export revenue and will invest billions of dollars in this lucrative market.

There is a good article on "zero-carbon-electricity" at www vs2020.com


Tony Wildish
15 Apr 11, 10:12
Peak uranium? A misleading argument that doesn't add up

Dr Dittmar would do well to take a look at http://theenergycollective.com/charlesbarton/35111/will-we-run-out-uranium.

4ppm may well be the average distribution, but there are significant deposits at far higher density. Uranium is also recoverable from seawater at near-competitive prices.

Even 4 ppm is hardly that rare. It's on a par with tin, and about 1000 times more abundant than gold.

The market for uranium doesn't change that fast. New reactors don't come online every day, the mining industry typically has a few years notice of the change in demand. That's enough time for them to open up capacity, and there's no point in digging it up until it's needed.

Finally, are we really expected to believe that, worldwide, all of the people who have constructed these expensive reactors have forgotten to think about fuel for them? Does that really sound plausible? I think not.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife