Uranium Is Not Future Energy Source[Part-2]

More recently Mr. Brian Wang of  Next Big Future has presented some opposing issues against my article Uranium Is Not Future Energy Source. He has provided some critical issues against this article. More interestingly, he has provided some cool links supporting Uranium as future energy source like Japan has a project in development for large scale recovery of uranium from seawater and Sparton Resources is running projects to obtain uranium from coal ash. It seems his mainly focusing towards presenting the evidences of abundance  of uranium ores and efforts to make uranium extraction cost efficient. He hasn’t analyzed any other cases involving radioactive waste management and environmental impacts, which makes medantory cases for being a future energy source. He is mainly focused to empower his argument “since uranium is abundant, hence it is future energy source.” Here I would like to add some more logical but baffling complications involved with Uranium as a future energy source. I would like to continue Uranium Debate by discussing these serious issues and providing some counterpoints to Uranium as a future energy source. Now data says that coal, petrol and other fossil fuels would be lasted more 50 to 70 years[approx.] and we need an alternative energy source{it could be either exotic or conventional as suggested solar energy, wind energy tidal energy and many others. Since we can utilize fossil fuel to the last  of this century and it doesn’t mean fossil fuel is a future energy source. So here is a question What are the basic ingredients to be a future energy source. I would like to make some basic premiss of  being a future energy source:

  • Future energy source should be abundant and must last at least for 700 years.
  • It should have least environmental impacts.
  • It should meet with increasing needs of energy and should be least pollutant.
  • Future energy source should have least harmful wastes and which could easily be disposed.

B.W. writes “This is low energy because you are letting ocean currents move the seawater through the seaweed or ionized polymer that would trap uranium. Then after a few months you haul up the polymer or seaweed and get your uranium. this would not require milling.

Here is a paper which suggests that it is unlikely to extract uranium from sea water as it is having very low production  and not cost efficient.

The uranium concentration in seawater is 3 μg/l with an estimated 5 × 109 tonnes of uranium in the oceans, in solution as the tricarbonato complex. Any extraction process will encounter the problems attendant on this high dilution, the only feasible methods currently being ion exchange on chelating resins or sorption onto inorganic materials.

Poly(amidoxime)/poly(hydroxamic acid) chelating resin has been produced with high uranium sorption from neutral solutions containing the metal as the tricarbonato complex, and the results of a study of the behaviour of this resin towards seawater are given. High chemical and biochemical stability and fast sorption kinetics are properties of the resin which can sorb 68 per cent of the uranium present using a 24 s resin to seawater contact time. Poly(amidoxime)/poly(hydroxamic acid) fibre, prepared by the oximation of poly(acrylonitrile) fibre, is able to sorb 12.5 per cent of uranium in seawater with a 2 s contact time and has the advantage of being in a form capable of weaving into a chelating cloth. Sorbing 1.8 mg uranium per gramme fibre per 10 days, the cloth can be produced as an endless belt, for a continuous process for uranium extraction. A theoretical model indicates that uranium production could be possible at 6 tonnes per annum.

It is clear that 6 tonnes of uranium production doesn’t make a significant consensus. Though I admit that there is copious amount of  Uranium in nature but my contention is that it acquires technologies which are not technically feasible with current technologies or so costly.

Nuclear wastes

The second major problem which is involved with Uranium as a future energy source are nuclear wastes. Go through this link. In this article B.W. commented that we are going to become type I civilization in Kardashev scale which would manipulate 10^16 watts.

Here is another research paper

The high priority assigned by the Federal government to the early development and commercial deployment of the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR) is attributed by some to the supposition that, without the breeder, a supply-price squeeze on uranium will soon materialize. The present paper examines this supposition by considering the technology and economics of uranium utilization in nonbreeder reactors, in the context of available information about uranium resources at various prices and projections of the growth of nuclear power through 2020. Reactor characteristics, cost sensitivities, and estimates of uranium resources used here are based largely on publications of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The results show that existing reactor technologies — light-water reactors (LWRs), high temperature gas reactors (HTGRs), or a mix of these — could meet even the most enthusiastic projections of the expansion of nuclear generation through 2020 from presently known domestic uranium supplies, exploitable at $50 per pound of U_3O_8 or less. The increment in electricity costs that arises from increasing uranium prices in the absence of commercial breeder reactors is about 1 mill/kwhe in 2000 and about 2 mills/kwhe in 2020 in the worst case (very high growth, no HTGRs), and signficantly less in more plausible cases. In the prospective of the probable costs of the alternatives, these increments are modest; for example, the breeder’s greater insensitivity to the cost of uranium ore could easily be cancelled out if capital costs for the LMFBR prove higher than early estimates.

I’ll present more issues in my upcoming articles  with keen  analytical observing eyes.


About bruceleeeowe
An engineering student and independent researcher. I'm researching and studying quantum physics(field theories). Also searching for alien life.

18 Responses to Uranium Is Not Future Energy Source[Part-2]

  1. Jeff says:

    The waste disposal problem is purely a politically created problem. It was created by President Carters decision to Ban Recycling of Radioactive waste. So actually only the US has a nuclear waste problem as Russia, Japan, France, etc all recycle their waste products.
    If you recycle the waste the resulting unusable waste is <1/20th the original volume, decays away to background ~200-300years (we have houses older than that in North America), and extents the fuel supply by orders of magnitude.

    • bruceleeeowe says:

      Jeff, I don’t think it is purely a politicaly created problem. It is not big enough now but if you consider the scenario when every nation’s economy will be based on nuclear fission it would pose serious threats to environment and then probably we won’t have solution to mountainous radioactive waste, since planet would only be powered by nuclear fission{in majority}. Recycling waste from a reactor would severely be different than of millions of reactors.

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  3. wergh says:

    Nice job, Bruce. This article let me tend to think a little about such very aspect. I’m agree with you. Planetary nuclear reactor network would be more threat than a energy source. Coal and other fossil fuels are too costly if we include indirect cost like anti pollution movement and why not include it,it is caused by fossil fuels. There are many impacts which can’t be even recovered like extinct species. I am totally agree with you. Good job again.

  4. Morien says:

    I’m disagree with you. There are no reasons for such things.

    • bruceleeeowe says:

      Though Thorium have nuclear wastes solution to some extent but major problem with Thorium oxide fuel is that it has to be reprocessed which is even more difficult than uranium oxide and that’s why it is not cost efficient.

  5. Paul D. says:

    The abstract cited does not support the claim that uranium extraction from seawater would be unaffordable. The estimates from Japan put uranium extraction costs using their braided adsorbers at as low as $100/lb. That cost is low enough to be acceptable for conventional reactors using once-through fuel cycles (no reprocessing).

  6. Morien says:

    @Paul: I’m agree with you. Paper cited doesn’t support claim that extraction of uranium is unaffordable instead it supports the claim that it is unlikely to extract uranium from seawater since productivity is very low.

  7. Morien says:

    @Paul: Once through fuel cycles can’t be used since it would need disposal of spent fuel which would create challenging problems.

  8. wergh says:

    Morien :
    @Paul: Once through fuel cycles can’t be used since it would need disposal of spent fuel which would create challenging problems.

    Agree with you.

  9. Jeff says:

    It is a purely politically created problem. Here let me run the numbers to get a ballpark estimate. The US has 104 commercial reactors provided ~20% of US electricity last year. 104×5 = 520 reactors to supply all US Electricity lets double the number for future growth ~1000 reactor 100 years from now. The US has ~1/20th of the worlds population. Assuming every person on the planet reaches the equivalent energy usage of America 1000 reactors X 20 = 20,000 reactors assume earths population doubles is the next hundred years 40,000 reactors worst case scenario. Assume each reactor needs to have its nuclear material recycled every 5 years. That means 8000 reactors a year to recycle. Make 10 recycling centers per continent 6 habitable continents = 60 recycling centers. Each recycling center needs to recycle 133 reactors a year very doable with modern industrial processes. All these assumptions assume no major improvement in reactor design or efficiency.
    As I said strictly a politically created problem.
    Note: Large improvements will likely occur over the next 100 years with deep burn reactors, thorium reactors, or subcritical reactors with neutron assist sources so supply should not be a big problem.

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  11. Mark Louis says:

    try out some more math. for given 700years, the population will become approximately 30billion. more than 2.5times of your estimation. now reactors required: 40000*2.5=100000+ . now what do you think Jeff? and these numbers are just for current rate of energy consumption. while it has been estimated future energy demand will increase considerably. Now I think you don’t like to play with numbers.
    mark louis.

    • Jeff says:

      I stand by my numbers if we have 100,000 reactor it is still doable. It comes out to recycling the fuel of less one reactor per day per recycling center. 133×2.5=~333reactors per recycling plant. There are thousands years of uranium and thorium if they are converted to fissile fuel assuming current or near current reactor technology. Reactor technology is likely to improve over the next several thousand years if still being used. Of course if cheap, clean, and safe fusion such as Polywell Fusion or Dense Focus Fusion is successfully developed they would quickly replace fission reactors.

  12. Mark Louis says:

    You know recycling is just one day process? It is expected that energy demand is increasing it will increase by 77 percent in near two or three decades. Now considering 700 years, it is obvious that energy demand will increase considerably in near future. I suggest you to do more study and then you should try to suggest it. Where to plant nuclear reactor? These can’t be planted in populated cities. assuming 30billions of population, it becomes a very big problem.

    • 30 Billion??? says:

      that number is unrealistic. No way we are going to over 10 billion people. Unsustainable. This world is already crowded enough. we will see a population reduction before that

  13. the name the of game says:

    The reason why we are still using oil is because of money. If they discovered a source of unlimited energy that could be used for everything, it would be simply supressed. What ever makes the big boys money will be the next energy source. Thats what happens when you live in a world like this, all you get is deceit and power hungry humans..

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