Oncethrough using uranium from the oceans

The oceans' uranium, if completely extracted and used in once-through reactors, corresponds to a total energy of

4.5billion tons per planet „ t

= 28 million GW-years per planet.

162 tons uranium per GW-year

How fast could uranium be extracted from the oceans? The oceans circulate slowly: half of the water is in the Pacific Ocean, and deep Pacific waters circulate to the surface on the great ocean conveyor only every 1600 years. Let's imagine that 10% of the uranium is extracted over such a 1600-year period. That's an extraction rate of 280 000 tons per year. In once-through reactors, this would deliver power at a rate of

2.8 million GW-years / 1600 years = 1750 GW,

Figure 24.4. Three Mile Island nuclear power plant.
Figure 24.5. Dounreay Nuclear Power Development Establishment, whose primary purpose was the development of fast breeder reactor technology. Photo by John Mullen.

Mined Ocean River

Once-through °.55kWh/d

Fast breeder

33 kWh/d

420 kWh/d

7 kWh/d

5 kWh/d which, shared between 6 billion people, is 7kWh per day per person. (There's currently 369 GW of nuclear reactors, so this figure corresponds to a 4-fold increase in nuclear power over today's levels.) I conclude that ocean extraction of uranium would turn today's once-through reactors into a "sustainable" option - assuming that the uranium reactors can cover the energy cost of the ocean extraction process.

Figure 24.6. "Sustainable" power from uranium. For comparison, world nuclear power production today is 1.2 kWh/d per person. British nuclear power production used to be 4 kWh/d per person and is declining.

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