Positive Energy

Friday, May 25, 2007

12. The Supply of Nuclear Fuel

Do you agree or disagree with the Government's views on the supply of nuclear fuel? What are your reasons? Are there any significant considerations that you believe are missing? If so, what are they?

Disagree. The UK government has not adequately considered several factors that significantly increase the availability of fission fuel. First, thorium can be used to produce heat from fission. Second, fast reactors can extract more than one hundred times as much energy from a unit of ore than today's thermal reactors. Third, the spent fuel stored in the UK represents a large fuel source just sitting there waiting to be used. Fourth, the ocean contains an inexhaustible supply of dissolved uranium. The UK government insists on discussing the fuel problem as something that represents difficulties and restrictions, but the truth is that the UK government has an embarrassment of riches in this area.

Mining companies are investigating the extraction of uranium from the ash produced by coal fired electricity plants. Burning the coal concentrates the uranium in the ash, making it feasible to extract. Further savings result from the fact that exploration and mining are not required. This is one more example of the many novel means being used to obtain uranium.

Further, researchers in Japan have recently demonstrated that uranium can be extracted from sea water using simple plastic filters. Enough uranium is washed into the oceans every year to power the entire planet. Fission fuel in an inexhaustible resource. The cost of extracting uranium from sea water is already low enough to show that the mining of low grade ore on land will not be necessary.


The negative attitude of the UK government seems to indicate that they are looking for every excuse possible to avoid using nuclear power. I don't understand why they are so determined to follow this suicidal path. If they want to succeed as a nation, i.e. if they want to adopt nuclear power, they must reframe these discussions in a much more positive light, emphasizing the ways to be successful.


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