Nuclear Resources

Increased use of nuclear power presents the possibility of additional carbon-free energy use and its consequent benefit for the environment. However, there are significant concerns about nuclear waste and other environmental impacts, the security of the fuel and the waste, and the possibility of their diversion for weapon production.

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1971 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 ■ Coal Oil ■ Gas

FIGURE 1.7 World energy-related CO2 emissions by fuel. (Data and forecast from IEA, World Energy Outlook, IEA, Paris, 2004. With permission.)

1971 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020 2030 ■ Coal Oil ■ Gas

FIGURE 1.7 World energy-related CO2 emissions by fuel. (Data and forecast from IEA, World Energy Outlook, IEA, Paris, 2004. With permission.)

According to the IAEA (2005) nuclear fission provided 16% of the electricity in the world in 2004, with a worldwide capacity of 368 GW. An additional 20 GW of nuclear power capacity was under construction during the same year. The IAEA also estimates that the worldwide nuclear power capacity will increase at an average rate of 0.5%-2.2% until 2030 (IAEA 2005). At present, uranium is used as the fissile material for nuclear power production. Thorium could also be used for nuclear fission; however, to date nobody has developed a commercial nuclear power plant based on thorium. Terrestrial deposits of both uranium and thorium are limited and concentrated in a few countries of the world. Estimates from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other sources show that the recoverable assured uranium reserves in the world are about 2.3 million tonnes to as much as 3.2 million tons (UNDP 2004). If additional estimated resources (not yet discovered) are also included, then the total resources become 5.1 million tons (UNDP 2004). Additionally, there are nonconventional uranium resources, such as sea water which contains about 3 parts per billion uranium and some phosphate deposits (more than half of them in Morocco) which contain about 100 parts per million uranium. These resources are potentially huge; however, their cost effective recovery is not certain.

Generating 1 TWh of electricity from nuclear fission requires approximately 22 tonnes of uranium (UNDP 2004). Based on the 2004 world capacity of 368 GW and an average annual growth rate of 2%, the present known uranium reserves of 2.3-3.2 million tonnes will last until 2030-2037. If all of the estimated (discovered and undiscovered) reserves of 5.1 million tonnes are considered, they will be used up by 2050. This estimate does not consider regeneration of spent fuel. At present, nuclear fuel regeneration is not allowed in the United States. However, that law could be changed in the future. Development of breeder reactors could increase the time period much further. Nuclear fusion could potentially provide a virtually inexhaustible energy supply; however, it is not expected to be commercially available in the foreseeable future.

Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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