Questioning nuclear power's ability to forestall global warming

April 21, 2008
Uranium Mill
In a new study, scientists question the sustainability of nuclear power because of anticipated declines in high-grade uranium ore. Above is Australia's Ranger uranium mill. Credit: Gavin M. Mudd

Rising energy and environmental costs may prevent nuclear power from being a sustainable alternative energy source in the fight against global warming, according to a study in the April 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology.

In the article, Gavin M. Mudd and Mark Diesendorf investigate the “eco-efficiency” of mining and milling uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power plants. Advocates of nuclear power claim it has the potential to mitigate global warming. Detractors, however, link it to dangers such as proliferation of nuclear weapons and problems such as permanent disposal of nuclear waste.

The study points out that supplies of high-grade uranium ore are declining, which may boost nuclear fuel's environmental and economic costs, including increases in energy use, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, newly discovered uranium deposits may be more difficult to extract in the future — a further drain on economic and environmental resources.

“The extent of economically recoverable uranium, although somewhat uncertain, is clearly linked to exploration effort, technology and economics but is inextricably linked to environmental costs, such as energy, water, and chemicals consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and broader social issues,” the authors say.

“These issues are critical to understand in the current debate over nuclear power, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change, especially with respect to ascribing sustainability to such activities as uranium milling and mining.”

Source: ACS

Explore further: 'Dustbin' ship takes nuclear waste to Australia from France

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2 / 5 (4) Apr 21, 2008
Guess these guys never heard of Thorium.
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2008
I also guess they have never heard of reactors that burn U238 instead of a mixture of U235 and U238. If you look at our likely supplies of enriched uranium we are headed for serious shortfalls in the short term (well, worse shortfalls. We already have supply shortages). If you look at reactors that can burn pure U238 then we have at least 1000 years of economically extractable fuel left. It all depends on the reactor type you are choosing to investigate. And of course, what types you choose to ignore in order to give your article the correct political spin.
2 / 5 (4) Apr 21, 2008
Whether they're mining for U238 or U235 there will be environmental consequences. And I'm sure they've heard of thorium and are well aware that there are numerous technical hurdles before thorium becomes a viable nuclear option.
5 / 5 (3) Apr 21, 2008
Oh course there are consequences. However, if you use uranium efficiently in breeder reactors instead of the way they use it now in light water reactors a little uranium goes many magnitudes further than it does at present.

Basically, the environutjobs are going to put down as unworkable ANY technology that could get us out of the conundrum that they've invented with "global warming". The reason they're doing that is that they want the world to be top-down run by creeps like themselves who know best what the rest of us should be doing.

Sadly, what they think that we should be doing, all six billion of us, is starving in some opium dream of a pre-industrial nirvana that they have.
5 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2008
I think nuclear power is the best answer for now, besides hopefully after next 50 years fusion juice will finally flow!
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 22, 2008
You guys are great. This is why internet messageboards and news boards are superior to newspapers; it's like immediate editorials.

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