Oil peaked, but uranium can last us 'tens of thousands of years'

New Scientist relays an announcement by the German Energy Watch Group of a study showing that oil has peaked and that production will now decrease by 7% annually, halving by 2030. They also predicted "significant falls in gas, coal and uranium production".

This short 2004 article by James Hopf argues that the price of uranium contributes a radically lower share to nuclear power generation costs than is the case for coal or oil. According to Hopf, the cost of uranium ore could easily increase to $1000 per kilogram while contributing negligibly to the overall cost of nuclear power production. He quotes the 2004 price as $40/kg, and though it has bubbled considerably since then, the peak was $300 per kilogram in June, with the current price around $190.

The point Hopf makes is that uranium is abundant in sources such as granite, and even in seawater, so although extracting uranium from these sources may be costly, technologies such as breeder reactors make the acceptable cost threshold very high indeed - perhaps as high as $50,000 or $100,000 per kilogram in today's dollars.

Combine that with the fact that the ecological footprint of nuclear power generation is much lower than that of any of the "sustainable" technologies, and I think we have a pretty good - and green - solution to our energy needs indeed.

And not just that - with peak oil supposedly already having occurred, and with China and India rising, I don't see how there is even any choice: the power will have to be generated somehow, and after a relatively short while, the only remaining viable "somehow" will be nuclear power. Other "sustainable" methods cannot cope unless we dedicate the surface of the Moon to solar farms and somehow connect it to Earth by cable.


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