Uranium Reserves

Uranium Requirements vs SupplyIt is often pointed out by the nuclear industry and their supporters that Uranium is quite common. It is present in about 3 parts per million in rock and soil on average and about 3 part per billion in sea water. This fact is totally irrelevant. What is important is how much it costs to extract the uranium both in terms of money and energy. More importantly it is how this compares with alternative sources of energy.

Present Supply

At present only 60% of the uranium needed for the nuclear power industry is mined. The remainder comes from existing stock and downgrading of weapons grade uranium in Russia. The contract for downgraded uranium ends in 2013 and this will result in a shortage of uranium unless there is a large increase in the discovery and development of uranium mines.

Future Supply

The IAEA Red Book is the standard reference for uranium supplies but there is some question over its reliability (The Future of Nuclear Energy: Facts and Fiction Chapter III: How (un)reliable are the Red Book Uranium Resource Data? http://arxiv.org/abs/0909.1421).

In Canada  30% of a town’s doctors threatened to resign if a uranium mining project went ahead (http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/North+Shore+doctors+threaten+resign+over+uranium+mine/2306289/story.html). There is also widespread opposition to developing new mines in Australia. Therefore any increase in supply is likely to take place in countries such as Namibia and Kazakhstan.

 

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