Questioning nuclear power's ability to forestall global warming

Apr 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: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Computer power clicks with geochemistry

Jan 28, 2014

Sandia National Laboratories is developing computer models that show how radioactive waste interacts with soil and sediments, shedding light on waste disposal and how to keep contamination away from drinking ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Modernmystic
2 / 5 (4) Apr 21, 2008
Guess these guys never heard of Thorium.
gopher65
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.
barakn
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.
plaasjaapie
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.
superhuman
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!
Rametarin
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.

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...