[] On Behalf Of John Clark
Sent: Saturday, November 16, 2013 10:44 AM
Subject: Re: Nuclear power


On Fri, Nov 15, 2013 at 4:19 PM, Russell Standish <>


> For all the arguments pro and con nuclear fission, including an
impassioned speech by a 16 year old last night to a UN Youth Voice
competition, what never seems to be discussed is the elephant in the
room of how much uranium resources we have.IIUC, if all fossil fuel

power plants were replaced by conventional fission reactors, we'd burn
through our uranium supplies in about 50 years flat. 


>> I don't know where you got that figure, I suspect that long ago in a
galaxy far far away some tree hugger pulled it out of his ass and then
repeated it so often on the internet that people started treating it as
fact. At any rate if we're running out it's hard to figure out why today
Uranium prices are the lowest they've been in 8 years. 

Perhaps you should read: The End of Cheap Uranium, by Dr Michael Dittmar, of
the Institute of Particle Physics (at CERN),

Historic data from many countries demonstrate that on average no more than
50-70% of the uranium in a deposit could be mined. An analysis of more
recent data from Canada and Australia leads to a mining model with an
average deposit extraction lifetime of 10± 2 years. This simple model
provides an accurate description of the extractable amount of uranium forthe
recent mining operations. Using this model for all larger existing and
planned uranium mines up to 2030, a global uranium mining peak of at most
58± 4 ktons around the year 2015 is obtained. Thereafter we predict that
uranium mine production will decline to at most 54± 5 ktons by 2025 and,with
the decline steepening, to at most 41± 5 ktons around 2030. This amount will
not be sufficient to fuel the existing and planned nuclear power plants
during the next 10-20 years. In fact, we find that it will be difficult to
avoid supply shortages even under a slow 1%/year worldwide nuclear energy
phase-out scenario up to 2025. We thus suggest that a worldwide nuclear
energy phase-out is in order. If such a slow global phase-out is not
voluntarily effected, the end of the present cheap uranium supply situation
will be unavoidable. The result will be that some countries will simply be
unable to afford sufficient uranium fuel at that point, which implies
involuntary and perhaps chaotic nuclear phase-outs in those countries
involving brownouts, blackouts, and worse 

Read the entire report it:

Can you successfully dispute his findings? Or is it easier to ignore the



> So fission reactors do not solve the problem. Of course there is fast
breeder technology, but everbody is so shit scared about all the plutonium
that would then appear on the market, making it incredibly easy for rogue
states to construct nuclear weapons


Uranium fast breeder scare the shit out of me too and for the same reason, I
don't like Plutonium. But I do like Thorium reactors, in particular  Liquid
Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) . I think LFTR's are  what fusion wanted to
be but never achieved, despite tens of billions of dollars poured into it a
fusion reactor has never produced one watt more power than was put into it.
Certainly LFTR's are better than conventional nuclear fission. Consider the

*Thorium is much more common than Uranium, almost twice as common as Tin in
fact. And Thorium is easier to extract from its ore than Uranium.

*A Thorium reactor burns up all the Thorium in it, 100%,  so at current
usage that element could supply our energy needs for many billions of years;
A conventional light water reactor only burns .7% of the Uranium in it.
We'll run out of Thorium in the Earth's crust about the same time that the
sun will run out of Hydrogen.

* To burn the remaining 99.3% of Uranium you'd have to use a exotic fast
neutron breeder reactor, Thorium reactors use slow neutrons and so are
inherently more stable because you have much more time to react if something
goes wrong. Also breeders produce massive amounts of Plutonium which is a
bad thing if you're worried about people making bombs. Thorium produces an
insignificant amount of Plutonium.

* Thorium does produce Uranium 233 and theoretically you could make a bomb
out of that, but it would be contaminated with Uranium 232 which is a
powerful gamma ray emitter which would make it suicidal to work with unless
extraordinary precautions were taken, and even then the unexploded bomb
would be so radioactive it would give away its presents if you tried to hide
it, destroy its electronic firing circuits and degrade its chemical
explosives. For these reasons even after 70 years no nation has a Uranium
233 bomb in its weapons inventory.

*A Thorium reactor only produces about 1% as much waste as a conventional
reactor and the stuff it does make is not as nasty, after about 5 years 87%
of it would be safe and the remaining 13% in 300 years; a conventional
reactor would take 100,000 years. 

*A Thorium reactor has an inherent safety feature, the fuel is in liquid
form (Thorium dissolved in un-corrosive molten Fluoride salts) so if for
whatever reason things get too hot the liquid expands and so the fuel gets
less dense and the reaction slows down.

*There is yet another fail safe device. At the bottom of the reactor is
something called a "freeze plug", fans blow on it to freeze it solid, if
things get too hot the plug melts and the liquid drains out into a holding
tank and the reaction stops; also if all electronic controls die due to a
loss of electrical power the fans will stop the plug will melt and the
reaction will stop.

*Thorium reactors work at much higher temperatures than conventional
reactors so you have better energy efficiency; in fact they are so hot the
waste heat could be used to desalinate sea water or generate hydrogen fuel
from water.

* Although the liquid Fluoride salt is very hot it is not under pressure so
that makes the plumbing of the thing much easier, and even if you did get a
leak it would not be the utter disaster it would be in a conventional
reactor; that is also why the containment building in common light water
reactors need to be so much larger than the reactor itself. With Thorium
nothing is under pressure and there is no danger of a disastrous phase
change so the expensive containment building can be made much more compact. 

Of all the proposed GenIV reactor types LFTR is the one that seems most
doable to me. But do we need any at all? If solar PV continues to scale out
at the rate it has been scaling out for the last thirty years in twenty to
thirty years it will dominate the energy landscape and be the cost leader.
As for the intermittency argument, often mentioned as some kind of
unsolvable problem, it will, is and can be solved in various ways, including
by adding energy storage capacity to the grid.


 John K Clark  




that I don't see that happening
any time soon either.



Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
Principal, High Performance Coders
Visiting Professor of Mathematics
University of New South Wales

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