Uranium: Unsustainable Solution To Climate Crisis


Sometime ago... a mouse hair's breadth on the scale of climate history... we posted on the topic of whether nuclear power was a sustainable solution to the climate crisis. Short answer: no...not for the centuries it must suffice. Most recognize that building or upgrading nuclear generators is a hugely expensive proposition [think on how many wind farms could be built for the money]. Many know that it takes 10+ years to design, site, and build a nuclear generation plant, and that liability insurance is only affordable if the government underwrites it (unlike any renewable source of electricity). There's always the elephant-in-the-closet issue of rad-waste management. Hold that mayhem, though, because we think plans for using nuclear power to meet the climate challenge will be tested more strongly by other matters. One key vulnerability is cooling water consumption, which would put nuclear power on a collision course with the realities of Roasted World. Assuming nuclear power is to be officiously expanded to replace and add to carbon intensive electricity sources, we'll need very large new supplies of uranium, from friendly suppliers. As discussed in our earlier post, uranium ore mining and the several processing steps to enrich uranium for fuel rod manufacture are quite energy intensive and messy steps: creating substantial carbon dioxide burdens that must be added to the debit side of the climate mitigation equation. That's a given regardless of who's fueling the reactors. But, the most critical issue now before policy makers may be the size of world uranium reserves. A recent study by MIT focuses on this subject; and; the reserves are not looking very sustainable. "Limited supplies of uranium fuel for nuclear power plants may thwart the renewed and growing interest in nuclear energy in the United States and other nations, according to an industry expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology." On the other planet, the sustainable nuclear reality one, there is this headline: "Industry's global 'renaissance' is real, energy analysts say." Which is backed up by this statement, from the world nuclear association (WNA). Image credit: Photographyjam, Australian uranium mine tailings. Looking like chocolate covered sperm, the uranium pit mines ask swimmingly, "which planet do we really live on?"