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CERN Physicist Warns About Uranium Shortage

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the switch-to-geraniums dept.

Earth 581

eldavojohn writes "Uranium mines provide us with 40,000 tons of uranium each year. Sounds like that ought to be enough for anyone, but it comes up about 25,000 tons short of what we consume yearly in our nuclear power plants. The difference is made up by stockpiles, reprocessed fuel and re-enriched uranium — which should be completely used up by 2013. And the problem with just opening more uranium mines is that nobody really knows where to go for the next big uranium lode. Dr. Michael Dittmar has been warning us for some time about the coming shortage (PDF) and has recently uploaded a four-part comprehensive report on the future of nuclear energy and how socioeconomic change is exacerbating the effect this coming shortage will have on our power consumption. Although not quite on par with zombie apocalypse, Dr. Dittmar's final conclusions paint a dire picture, stating that options like large-scale commercial fission breeder reactors are not an option by 2013 and 'no matter how far into the future we may look, nuclear fusion as an energy source is even less probable than large-scale breeder reactors, for the accumulated knowledge on this subject is already sufficient to say that commercial fusion power will never become a reality.'"

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581 comments

Alternative materials? (3, Interesting)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129240)

What about plutonium and other radioactive materials? (first post? hehehe)

Re:Alternative materials? (0, Offtopic)

NervousWreck (1399445) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129292)

I thought I was first but as I typed three people got in before me. BAH foiled.

Re:Alternative materials? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129316)

Any new reactor built should most definitely be a breeder reactor. Anyone who builds a Uranium based nuclear reactor this day and age is a fool.

Iran tried. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129748)

Iran tried to do just that.

But the US got all snarky and threatened to invade.

Did you know that the US breached regulations when they kept hidden the knowledge that many US nukes were given to other countries for their use in abrogation of the NPT but finessing it to "well, really it's still ours, but if war breaks out then there's no treaty and although that means they get the nukes to use, the treaty doesn't apply in war so it's still OK"?

But the US still develops nuclear power.

And we don't invade them for it.

Breeder technology would mean we would have to let Iran progress THEIR breeder technology.

This won't happen.

Re:Alternative materials? (4, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129336)

You'd have to re-enrich, which is the whole problem. We're not geared to do that on a large scale right now, and we won't be for a while.

Hopefully this will kick some asses into actually looking into re-enrichment. Most of the waste problems we have are due to our refusal to use the existing methods.

Re:Alternative materials? (2, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129566)

You'd have to re-enrich, which is the whole problem.

He talks about that. According to TFA, no one has come up with a practical, economic (at current price levels) re enrichment (breeder reactor) system. So, it's theoretically possible (along with a host of other things), but technically very difficult and likely not a good strategy to pin one's hopes on.

Re:Alternative materials? (4, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129660)

No, I know it's do-able, and I've actually been agitating in that direction for a long time. Re-enriching nuclear waste makes more sense (to me) than dumping tons of usable, highly radioactive, quarter-spent fuel in landfills that no one wants within a million miles of their house.

But the problem is mainly that re-enrichment is frowned upon because it creates tons of weapons-grade plutonium, so the only plants we have are clunky, inefficient, research plants. We'd have to redesign them for commercial use.

Re:Alternative materials? (3, Informative)

Useful Wheat (1488675) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129380)

The problem is that plutonium is a man-made material. We make it from uranium by bombarding it with high energy particles. So if you run out of uranium, you also run out of plutonium. This is of course dependant on us not discovering alchemy in the next 10 years. To be honest, that would be pretty awesome, if watching TV has taught me anything.

Re:Alternative materials? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129652)

This is of course dependant on us not discovering alchemy in the next 10 years. To be honest, that would be pretty awesome, if watching TV has taught me anything.

As long as you don't try to use human transmutation to bring back the dead.

Re:Alternative materials? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129658)

we're getting way ahead of ourselves. the world ends on 2012. we run out of uranium on 2013. we should worry about other things.

Re:Alternative materials? (2, Interesting)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129708)

Plutonium is man-made. It's more of a method for energy storage than an energy source.

Which is what makes Uranium nice since we can just dig it out of the ground. And I think that the claim that we don't know where to dig next is a little overblown. Uranium decays naturally into Radon gas which seeps up from the ground. That is, you can detect a Uranium deposit by gas chromatography and without digging.

I mention this (3, Insightful)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129254)

Everytime nuclear fission comes up as a possible viable alternative. Peak Uranium is as real as peak oil, and it's here now.

Re:I mention this (4, Insightful)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129280)

And oh yea, we should be investigating Thorium reactors. Thorium is plentiful in the Earth's crust. That's a better way to go than uranium.

Re:I mention this (4, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129428)

And oh yea, we should be investigating Thorium reactors.

That's fine, but our entire nuclear energy infrastructure is built around uranium. It's not like you can put different fuel in a reactor and just carry on with the plants online today.

This is going to be interesting.

Re:I mention this (5, Insightful)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129452)

Building an all-new infrastructure vs. not and running out of fuel.

It's an easy decision, and a painful one too.

Re:I mention this (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129506)

Not like our infrastructure is in good shape anyway; a lot of it is overdue for replacement. Might as well build new thorium plants as opposed to building new uranium plants.

Re:I mention this (1)

von_rick (944421) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129520)

At least you can keep the power generating units intact. They are after-all turbines coupled to generators. You can tear down and rebuilt the reactors with different fusion elements and port their energy to the turbines.

Re:I mention this (3, Funny)

omeomi (675045) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129362)

Am I the only one who's starting to think that as soon as we put all of our eggs in the solar energy basket, somebody will come along and say that we're almost out of sun?

Re:I mention this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129426)

We are almost out of sun. Only a few billion years left.

Re:I mention this (0, Redundant)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129432)

That is utter nonsense.

Re:I mention this (5, Funny)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129438)

Solar power IS nuclear power, we've just offshored the actual reactor. Some loss of energy occurs during transport, though.

If we run out of Sun, running my hairdryer is going to get really low on my list of priorities, really fast.

Re:I mention this (2, Funny)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129656)

Am I the only one who's starting to think that as soon as we put all of our eggs in the solar energy basket, somebody will come along and say that we're almost out of sun?

If it does happen, I would think it was the speculators who bought all those sunshine futures and stock piled sunshine with the hopes of it going up in price.

Re:I mention this (3, Insightful)

LSD-OBS (183415) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129378)

Seconded.

ATTENTION WORLD GOVERNMENTS:
Fund. Fucking. Thorium. Fuel. Cycle. Research.

PLEASE.

Re:I mention this (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129464)

Blah blah U233, blah blah, weapons grade, blah blah blah.

In terms of pure science, all this stuff is common sense, but you have to overcome the political angle as well.

Re:I mention this (1)

agentgonzo (1026204) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129512)

ATTENTION WORLD GOVERNMENTS:
Fund. Fucking. Thorium. Fuel. Cycle. Research.

They've already done the first two items on your list. Thorium should be next.

Re:I mention this (1)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129710)

ATTENTION WORLD GOVERNMENTS: Fund. Fucking. Thorium. Fuel. Cycle. Research.

They've already done the first two items on your list. Thorium should be next.

Yeah but, those are the two they can spell.
Third one is going to be hard for them.
Next stop, Tylium refineries and Unicorns.

Re:I mention this (2, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129522)

1 Where have not been any new Uranium mines opened in many years because of the low demand and price. In fact a lot of uranium mines have closed for that very reason.
2. We have not used much of the stockpiled Plutonium of which there is a a good amount.
3. We have a lot of un reprocessed nuclear fuel which contains a lot of usable fuel.
4. We are not using breeder reactors on a large scale which will greatly increase the supply of nuclear fuel.
Peak Uranium will happen but we also can use Thorium as a fuel and even peak Thorium might happen but with breeder reactors and fuel reprocessing we should have at least a century or two of nuclear fuel to get us to workable fusion and solar.
Personally I am a big fan of OTEC as well as nuclear. Wind I worry about the environmental impact of extracting that much energy out of the weather system. I know a lot of people dismiss that but then a lot of people used to think of Hydroelectric dams as the perfect clean source of energy but look at the impact they have.

Re:I mention this (3, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129786)

There's no uranium shortage. There's a U235 shortage. Sure, our infrastructure, such that it is, is based for the most part on U235 cores. It's not terribly difficult to use mixed oxide as a supplement in an existing reactor, once you have the Pu239 or U233; so, the existing reactors are not left out in the cold (I meant that as a pun). But considering the U.S. infrastructure is 30-40 years old, and we need to start building new(-er) reactors to supplement and replace those, it would be a good idea to design some of those to use the alternatives: U238 is available in fairly large quantities (Hell, we have it in south central Virginia) and Thorium 232 is available in larger quantities. Both yield fissionable fuels in "breeder" reactors.

so we'll know (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129258)

we're well and truly out of uranium when our harvesters are going all over the damned map looking for it and we have to start sending engineers to uranium spikes right?

Iran (0, Flamebait)

NervousWreck (1399445) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129266)

This adds another dimension to the whole Nuclear Iran foreign policy issue.

The problem with Fusion... (1, Troll)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129268)

... is that as soon as it becomes a reality, it becomes a commodity. More energy out than in? No business model there, it's all free!

Nobody wants to invest in a commodity. It's a cash sink. No profit in selling "free."

Re:The problem with Fusion... (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129386)

Too bad we're talking about FISSION.

Anyway, it's never FREE. Even if the process is better than break even, that doesn't mean FREE. Oil wells are better than break even, and you don't hear anyone talking about "free oil". The best you're ever going to get with energy is cheap, not free.

Re:The problem with Fusion... (2, Insightful)

agentgonzo (1026204) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129542)

When the first started building nuclear reactors in the 60s (is that correct? I wasn't around then) they imagined that they'd be able to produce so much electricity so cheaply that they wouldn't need to charge for it and electricity would be free.

Look how that panned out.

Re:The problem with Fusion... (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129602)

Exactly. I'd like to think we weren't so naive anymore. There is a cost to everything, and a downside to every type of energy generation.

Re:The problem with Fusion... (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129696)

That's because by the 80s we had unwarranted fear over nuclear and stopped building plants and have been shutting down existing ones.

Re:The problem with Fusion... (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129832)

That's a bit of an over-simplification. It's true that if we hadn't stopped developing nuclear energy tech, we might have more fuel sources and we'd surely have more prodcution capacity (though the latter would only have been short-term cheap / long-term expensive unless the former panned out as well).

Re:The problem with Fusion... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129768)

That was just a lie. They really wanted the reactors so they could make bombs.

The real problem is that nuclear R&D has been put on the back burner for four decades (after they had enough bombs to destroy the world a dozen times over). The first pebble bed reactor went into service in 1966 ... what exactly has happened since then?

Re:The problem with Fusion... (2, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129480)

... is that as soon as it becomes a reality, it becomes a commodity. More energy out than in? No business model there, it's all free!

Nobody wants to invest in a commodity. It's a cash sink. No profit in selling "free."

Actually, most of the things you buy on a routine basis are commodities, so obviously a lot of people believe in investing in them.

Also, I hate to burst your bubble, but fusion won't be "free".

Even after we learn how to build one that works, we'll still have the moderately colossal expense of building fusion plants.

And disposing of moderately radioactive fusion reactors at end-of-life. Mustn't forget that part.

Re:The problem with Fusion... (2, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129508)

Doc Smith thought of this in the Skylark Series. The hero discovers total liberation of mass-energy from matter, and assumes the rational thing is to sell the energy at prices so low it's practically free -- he'll still get filthy rich. The bad guys realize that if they get a *monopoly* on the process, they can sell the energy at just enough below current market prices to drive competition out of business.

If ultra-cheap fusion becomes technically feasible, the race will be to get working plants on line so you can knock out the competition. Profits, unless regulated by law, will inevitably ensue.

In any case, there is no such thing as unlimited energy. If energy were 1000x lower in price than it is today, we'd still be facing some form of an energy crisis, because we'd adjust our economy to use energy on vastly larger scales. The place to be in that scenario is distribution. The people who own the power distribution lines will do very well indeed.

Re:The problem with Fusion... (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129700)

Fortunately, you are mistaken.

"More energy out than in" is not a goal unique to fusion. It is the goal for fusion because it describes every viable power plant. A gadget that doesn't put out more energy than you put into it isn't a power plant.

The only reason this isn't a violation of thermodynamics is that when we say "more energy out than in", we're not counting the energy bound up in the fuel we put in. The long-term expense associated with energy from a given source is the availability of the fuel. (A bit more complex than that for wind, hydro, solar - there it's about plant upkeep since the fuel is free but fixed in quantity for a given plant setup.)

Bottom line, we're using coal, oil, natural gas, and even uranium at a rate based on econimic viability (subject to politics and manipulation). We can produce X amount of oil at $Y/unit. Add some sort of fusion fuel to the economy, and what happens depends on how much of that fuel you can produce at $Y/unit or below. Of course, $Y is going to trend upward as long as we keep using oil (and coal, and natural gas, etc.).

If, as many seem to believe, we can figure out sources of fusion fuel that produce more energy than we need at (or maybe even near) $Y/unit, then there will be an energy revolution; but the cost of those new fuels will never be 0, so even though we might be able to produce as much as we have demand for, it will still cost and the investors will indeed get paid off in the process.

The hurdles are technical (and to some extent political), not economic.

Zombie apocalypse (1)

The Master Magician (4982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129270)

Zombies don't require electricity, so that zombie apocalypse is the answer to all our problems!

Re:Zombie apocalypse (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129328)

Well, I have to say that roaming around sucking on the brains of the living sounds more exciting than existing as a severed head in a tank of liquid nitrogen waiting for my investments to mature.

Re:Zombie apocalypse (1)

The Master Magician (4982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129434)

We need to start allocating more towards our tech research so we can get to that Fusion Power upgrade before too many more turns elapse and the Indians declare war!

Re:Zombie apocalypse (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129456)

Plus, if you go into the tank, you're now a frozen TV dinner. You won't even get the chance to welcome your new zombie overlords.

Re:Zombie apocalypse (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129544)

Exactly. Crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle.

thorium (1)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129274)

arent the Indians using that now and its more plentiful

Re:thorium (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129376)

Lunar Uranium mines before 2013?

Re:thorium (1)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129636)

Problem is: we won't have enough energy to send miners to the moon by then, we "barely have enough" for us without this "project" of a "Lunaranium" mine

We should have thought about that years ago, now, we're f**ked!

Best quality, Best reputation , Best services,look (-1, Offtopic)

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Water on moon, why not uranium? (1)

Lillebo (1561251) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129314)

The moon is the answer for all our future resource-problems..

Re:Water on moon, why not uranium? (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129402)

You may find this [bautforum.com] informative.

Re:Water on moon, why not uranium? (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129444)

Yes, those 20 x 5 litre jugs are going to last the human race forever !

The folly of natural resource-based energy (1, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129332)

Peak Oil was really just the beginning. If nuclear energy were to take off, we would be out of uranium before the first year was over. This points to a deadly flaw in the use of natural resources as the basis for energy sources. If you have to mine it, drill it, or harvest it, you will always run the risk of running out of it.

This is why there are only a handful truly renewable resources. Solar, for as long as we really need to care about, is going to be around forever. Fusion, if effectively harnessed, could provide a very good power source without the pollution of fission and the only input is hydrogen (or even heavier elements). Gravititic potential energy is another largely untapped resource. While some forms of this like dams and tidal generators have been developed, there is literally an unlimited amount of energy in the form of space-time bending due to gravity.

We're so far behind the energy resource curve that it is only a matter of time before we end up in the dark.

Re:The folly of natural resource-based energy (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129460)

Well, technically, don't they use heavy isotopes?

Re:The folly of natural resource-based energy (5, Informative)

andy1307 (656570) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129586)

A lot of natural resources go into Solar panels. Resources that need to be mined.

Re:The folly of natural resource-based energy (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129772)

A lot of natural resources go into Solar panels. Resources that need to be mined.

True. But there are a few different solar technologies out there that rely in different mix of natural resources. It isn't like today's nuclear tech that relies on one natural resource for the whole thing.

But as time goes on, we'll see more and more research into other areas of technology for all energy sources, including fossil fuels. We can't fall into the traps of: we're doomed because there's just not enough of 'X' in the World or, on the other side, we have nothing to worry about because someday, somehow, some technology will come by and solve all of our problems and in the meantime, business as usual and there's no reason to plan.

Re:The folly of natural resource-based energy (1)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129630)

Even with solar being taken seriously, you'd be using up a lot of land (hopefuly not arable) to be able to provide enough to satisfy household + industrial need. Until we figure out a way to make solar more efficient, it will not be adopted in mass. Wind is crappy and unreliable. With both solar and wind you need storage capacity, which requires led and other metals to be mined as well.

If all the world's households would switch to solar today, there wouldn't be enough led to manufacture batteries for long-time storage - granted it's recyclable. When we are running out of led and zinc, what's next?

Re:The folly of natural resource-based energy (1)

ruiner13 (527499) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129638)

Solar, for as long as we really need to care about, is going to be around forever.

Speak for yourself, meatbag!

Re:The folly of natural resource-based energy (1)

jareds (100340) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129676)

Solar, for as long as we really need to care about, is going to be around forever. [...] Gravititic potential energy is another largely untapped resource. While some forms of this like dams and tidal generators have been developed, there is literally an unlimited amount of energy in the form of space-time bending due to gravity.

Gravitational potential energy on Earth is limited in roughly the same sense as solar energy. The universe of course has limited total energy resources...

Re:The folly of natural resource-based energy (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129678)

Gravititic potential energy is another largely untapped resource.

I always had a hunch you could tap into gravitation forces at high levels of free fall between two celestial objects using something like a flywheel storage system [wikipedia.org]

Of course it would be only useful for autonomous deep space voyages where solar energy is at a minimum and you're basically in a vacuum anyways with low power requirements and you are going to be orbit for a long time.

Otherwise for large energy needs you'd still need nuclear.

Nuclear Technicians (1)

Conchobair (1648793) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129364)

I think I speak for a great many nuclear technicians when I say:

D'oh!

Recycle the spent fuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129370)

I'd say recycle the spent fuel because it's hardly done.

Odd really, given how into recycling all those environmental freaks are . . .

Man up and build fast-breeder reactors. (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129388)

You can extract dramatically more energy from a supply of uranium by using them and the by-products have a shorter half-life. I'm sure that by now safe, redundant control system can be built to keep them safe. Just NIMBY (not in my backyard).

Re:Man up and build fast-breeder reactors. (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129712)

I'll take in my Backyard, I'll take it over ANY Coal fired plant.

As long they build a containment vessel and don't let Russian yahoos run it I am fine with it.

Supply equals demand (1)

zvonik (1424309) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129398)

  So supply equals demand and supports the current price. News at 11:00?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranium_mining_in_Utah [wikipedia.org]
"All of Utah’s numerous uranium mines closed prior to 2000, because of low uranium prices."

Use Thorium-based reactors instead (5, Interesting)

Dark Fire (14267) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129412)

Why not build Thorium-based reactors instead? The material is 100x more abundant. The USA has an ample natural supply. You get 10 times the energy because you don't have the 238 problem. There is almost no waste and the byproducts decay within a human lifetime. And you can't use them to make nuclear weapons.

Re:Use Thorium-based reactors instead (1, Insightful)

mellon (7048) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129474)

That last part is why. :'|

Re:Use Thorium-based reactors instead (3, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129724)

And you can't use them to make nuclear weapons.

That last part is why. :'|

And also ridiculously misinformed. From wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :

The thorium fuel cycle creates mainly Uranium-233 which can be used for making nuclear weapons, and since there are no neutrons from spontaneous fission of U-233, U-233 can be used easily in a gun-type nuclear bomb. Thorium can and has been used to power nuclear energy plants using both the modified traditional Generation III reactor design and prototype Generation IV reactor designs.

Citation here [harvard.edu] .

Re:Use Thorium-based reactors instead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129600)

Citation Please! /yes. please provide YOUR links

Re:Use Thorium-based reactors instead (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129688)

Try this video [blogspot.com] .

Re:Use Thorium-based reactors instead (1)

KnownIssues (1612961) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129758)

He probably assumed everyone could manage looking up thorium on Google and finding the Wikipedia article on it [wikipedia.org] . As for why not use it, I assume the reasons are complex, although from the Wikipedia article alone, I'd conclude a big reason is the stated lack of funding that ended the original research into it and the heavy investment we already have in uranium. It seems likely that newly developing countries might be in more of a position to invest in new thorium reactors. Of course, if we truly run out of uranium soon, we'd be forced to start investing in thorium reactors, if not other alternatives.

Re:Use Thorium-based reactors instead (5, Informative)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129728)

Just to silence the "citation please" trolls who can't use google:

Energy from Thorium [blogspot.com]
Nuclear Green [blogspot.com]

Disclaimer: the second link goes to my uncle's blog. My grandfather worked on the original liquid fluoride thorium reactor at ORNL, and my uncle has advocated the technology for quite some time.

Re:Use Thorium-based reactors instead (1)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129824)

Man, I should read before I post. My uncle wrote the article behind the 3rd link of the story. :)

Re:Use Thorium-based reactors instead (2, Informative)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129816)

Pretty much none of that is correct, unfortunately. Thorium is more abundant than uranium, but not by such a massive factor. There's no fissile isotope of thorium, so we'd have to start them on uranium. Current reactors will not breed in the thorium cycle, and it's questionable to what extend this is practical. The waste lasts for hundreds of years, reprocessing and fabrication for thorium fuel is not developed and U-233 (which the fissile isotope in the thorium cycle) certainly could be used to make a nuclear weapon.

Fast breeders on the U-Pu cycle are closer to practicality.

"for the accumulated knowledge on this subject is already sufficient to say that commercial fusion power will never become a reality.'"

The people working on ITER clearly don't agree.

You mean (gasp!) natural resources are limited? (0)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129436)

We can actually run out of stuff? Well, golly, who would have *guessed?*

This is almost as much of a "surprise" as the current economic collapse.

Question. Are journalists and politicians pre-lobotomized, or does it happen later? Just askin'.....

Re:You mean (gasp!) natural resources are limited? (2, Funny)

Xacid (560407) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129608)

I swear this is the same issue the guys in Battlestar Galactica seem to never grasp. "AWW FRAK, we're out of water/food/fuel again and now we need to risk our lives to get more RIGHT NOW!!!"

ta3o (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129446)

bleak future. In endlees Conflict

Get it out of your system (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129466)

Uranium mines provide us with 40,000 tons of uranium each year. Sounds like that ought to be enough for anyone,

Yeah, yeah, I know what that was building up to:

"40k ought to be enough for anyone", &c.

Crazy Alarmist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129472)

I came here hoping to find some posts pointing to information refuting these claims, but I haven't seen any yet. I'm hoping that this guy is crazy, but since the Slashdot crowd hasn't dogpiled on him yet, I'm going to have to guess that he isn't. Given how much energy is generated from nuclear reactors, this can be a big problem. Is this also one of the reasons why there haven't been many new reactors built recently?

Never say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129482)

>will never become a reality

never, sir...

Where there is money to be made, there is a waaaaayy~!

Iranium? (4, Funny)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129488)

Uranium is for infidels and suckers. Iranium is the future of nuclear development!

Energy diversity (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129492)

And this is why we need to diversify our energy production. There are other radioactive sources we can use as fuel. Thorium, plutonium, and other nuclear 'waste' can still be used as long as we build reactors for them. (Once the public gets its head out of its ass and stops this ZOMG nucular waste dirty bombs terrists nonsense. But what are the odds of that?)

also a helium-3 shortage (2, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129524)

Helium-3 is used for absolute-zero experiments and nuclear material detectors, both which have been increasing rapidly. Its is mainly produced as a byproduct of nuclear weapons product, which has been on the downswing. The net result are shortages and massive price increases.

Maybe the moon has some Uranium (1)

whitedsepdivine (1491991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129530)

Well scientist were able to find out that the moon had water on it. Maybe NASA can spend another billion dollars to figure out if there is any Uranium on the moon. Then another 100 billion to try to figure out how to get it back to the earth safely. (Or maybe wireless power from the moon!)

Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129532)

Eventually the sun will burn out anyways...

Non-issue (4, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129536)

Areva quotes their fuel costs as roughly 17% of total cost of nuclear power with half of that being the cost of the uranium ( rest being enrichment and fuel-rod fabrication )

This means that even if uranium costs were to double the cost of nuclear power would increase by less than 9%.

Conversely for the price of nuclear power do double from uranium costs alone the cost of uranium would have to increase 10 times. Long before that happens it would become economical to build fast breeder reactors and they only need a fraction of the fuel other reactors do.

Also at such high uranium prices it would start being economical to extract uranium from sea-water, effectively making uranium availability a non-issue for thousands of years.
 

this has been debunked (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129538)

being a high Energy physicist does not automatically make you an expert in nuclear power engineering or nuclear fuel resource analyst.

True but... (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129540)

1. This is a real issue. We are running out of Uraniumn (and yes, the price is going up and quite a few people have made a killing buying Uraninum mine stocks).

2. But no, we are not running out. There is plenty of Uraninum, we just need to mine it. We stopped mining it when the Russians began dissasembling their nukes. It was a lot cheaper to buy it from them (not to mention safer, as we ended up with the uranium instead of less reputable people).

3. All we have to do is start enriching, prospecting and mining again. It's not that big a deal, it justs costs us some extra cash.

"Explorations" had a good interview on this (1)

vsage3 (718267) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129562)

On an episode of "Explorations" about a year ago Michio Kaku had an interview with David Goodstein of Caltech. Unfortunately the archive was deleted but it was on May 27, 2008. Prof. Goodstein claimed that if we were to switch to all Nuclear power for our electricity needs, we would run out of Uranium in 20 years.

2012 (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129572)

Maybe this is what the Mayan calendar was really predicting, the shortage of all natural resources, oil, food, uranium, coal, gold, natural gas, water (aliens stealing it) etc.

Just sayin what everyone else is thinkin.

That means... (1)

TaleSpinner (96034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129580)

> the accumulated knowledge on this subject is already sufficient
> to say that commercial fusion power will never become a reality.

In the veriest fraction of a second that this idea becomes
Conventional Wisdom, the first commercially-viable fusion
reactor will start up without a hitch.

4. generation nuclear power plants (1)

jerryluc (1536513) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129618)

"100-300 times more energy yield from the same amount of nuclear fuel." - wikipedia [wikipedia.org] So in ca. 2030, when 4. generation nuclear power plants are commercial, we can use old nuclear fuel. And nuclear power will probably only get more and more efficient.

Research (4, Informative)

dachshund (300733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129622)

For those who didn't read (the rather dense) TFA, a big part of his objection is that we don't have a good, safe technology for breeder reactors, and that our existing reactor designs require Uranium which is something of a limited resource. I've seen estimates that we have maybe 70 years of the stuff around if we went totally nuclear, but those could be high or low -- who knows (and the cost will be astronomical when we start to run short of it). Breeder reactors can extend the fuel lifetime for thousands of years. Unfortunately, the existing breeder reactors that we do have tend to be very unsafe and expensive, using things like liquid sodium (catches fire when it contacts air) for coolant.

This brings me to my main point: the current state of nuclear reactor technology is not sustainable. Most Slashdot nuclear advocacy goes like this: (a) start building reactors now, (b) don't worry about fuel supplies, we'll just build breeder reactors. The problem is that the reactors we build in step (a) may be entirely incompatible with the breeder reactors, and we may not be able to build enough of the breeders in (b) safely to move to this technology in the near term.

Both of these problems can probably be solved with technological developments, which means spending a lot of money on nuclear research. It does not necessarily mean "go out and build reactors", "give subsidies to the nuclear industry", which seems to be the preferred policy action of many nuclear advocates. I think this needs to be understood.

FISSION, not fusion. (0)

Xacid (560407) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129644)

I'm sure someone's beat me to the semantics here but they're discussing fission with uranium, not fusion, which requires lighter elements (ex: hydrogen, helium, lithium) and their isotopes (ex: deuterium, tritium). Essentially saying the uranium reaction is like fusion is like saying the sun is a nuclear bomb. While conceptually it may "look" like such but it's nearly the reverse kind of process.

Well (2, Insightful)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129690)

Nuclear's a dying industry, and not for the reason commonly cited.

Fact is, it is ALREADY much more expensive to build new nuclear reactor capacity than it is to put up new windmills (which are in turn much more expensive than natural gas or coal)

I suspect that even when you factor in the cost of storage, as long as you use something like a compressed air cavern for storage, then wind is still cheaper.

I predict that less than 10 new nuclear fission plants for commercial power generation will ever be built in the United States over the rest of human history.

Dumb question time (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129752)

Feel free to point and laugh but I'm curious.

What about asteroids? Are they all composed of rock and such or do some of them have uranium deposits? Have any of our probes detected uranium somewhere in the belt?

I realize the inherent and monumental tasks involved in getting to an asteroid laden with uranium, moving it towards Earth then mining it, but I'm asking if uranium has been found anywhere else we could potentially get at.

As an aside, what about undersea mining? Any uranium deposits found in the ocean depths?

swords into plowshares (1)

wherrera (235520) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129782)

Use the weapons for electricity, of course

Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129804)

...but isn't salt the most abundent resource we have on Earth that we mine the hell out of? I remember reading/hearing somewhere that even at present mining capacity, the human race will likely die out before all the salt is mined. Any truth to this?

I've heard this before (1)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 4 years ago | (#30129810)

"No matter how far into the future we may look, nuclear fusion as an energy source is even less probable than large-scale breeder reactors, for the accumulated knowledge on this subject is already sufficient to say that commercial fusion power will never become a reality."

I have a feeling this will go up there with "it's impossible to build a heavier-than-air flying machine" and "there's a world market for about 6 computers".

OH NOES !!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30129814)

The immutable economic laws of supply and demand strike again !!!

Panic !!! Government subsidies !!! H1-B miners now !!!

(rollz eyez)

Pay mine engineers and miners more money and ... guess what? ... you'll have more unranium.

Buck, up, world corporate greed-meisters.

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