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E-M:/ Future of nuclear power

Enviro-Mich message from Rane Curl <ranecurl@engin.umich.edu>

One thing that should be pointed out that emphasizes the gravity of the challenge: the proposed panacea here (nuclear) is obviously unrealistic--by their numbers, we would have to bring a new 1000 MW nuke on stream /every three days/ for the next 24 years--that's beyond the Nuclear Energy Institute's wildest fantasies---especially since it's thought that it would take 10 years from a standing start to get ONE on line.

Not only that, but the potential supply of fuel for nuclear power appears to be limited. The following is from a discussion of this issue at http://www.fraw.org.uk/mobbsey/papers/oies_article.html

"At the current level of uranium consumption (67,000 tonnes per year) known uranium resources (2.8 million tonnes of uranium) would last 42 years, a fact highlighted by the European Commission in their Energy Green Paper [EC 2001]. The known and estimated resources plus secondary resources (such as the military inventory), a total of around 4.8 million tonnes, would last 72 years. Of course this assumes that nuclear continues to provide just a fraction of the world's energy supply. If capacity were increased six-fold then 72 years would reduce to 12 years. This is because nuclear energy, in terms of global energy supply, must increase by a factor of four to eight to make any significant difference to the use of fossil fuels around the globe. Consequently the expected lifetime of the uranium resource would fall by a similar factor.

"The actual lifetime of the uranium resource will depend upon the technologies adopted as part of any new nuclear capacity. New reactor designs are more thermally efficient (up to 45% to 50% rather than 30% to 35%) which could extend the lifetime of the uranium resource by a factor of 1.7. Introducing a number of fast breeder reactors, to increase the efficiency of uranium consumption, might increase the lifetime of the uranium resource by a factor of 2. Even so, taking these two factors together alongside a six-fold increase in capacity, the lifetime of the known and estimated uranium resource would still be less than 50 years."

--Rane L Curl

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