Sustainability of nuclear power

Ethics, Nuclear Power, and Global Heating ,  Ethics of Nuclear Energy  Abu-Dayyeh (P.hD) Amman – H.K. of Jordan Ayoub101@hotmail.com E_case Society (President) www.energyjo.com  [Extract]   (used as post) 

4- Sustainability

Environmental Ethics is perceived as the practical dimension of ethics concerning environmental issues. It is also conceived by some as an “education for sustainability”, and “an important vehicle to transmit values, to change attitudes and to motivate commitment” (40). Therefore, sustainability is a crucial element in our moral decision over the choice of energy.

The new technologies in shale-gas extraction are expected to extend the life-time of gas reserves worldwide many folds the life span predicted for oil reserves, which are unlikely to last more than 40 years. On the other hand, uranium reserves of high concentrations (above 1000 ppm) mainly exist in Canada and Australia (41), as can be seen in Figure 2: [on original]

Therefore, considering the present consumption of uranium U3O8 per year, which stands at around 70,000 tonnes, the world reserves of around 3.5 million tonnes will not last more than 50 years. A report published in the International Journal of Green Energy in 2007 suggests that if a nuclear renaissance is expected soon, according to the myth of a nuclear renaissance which the nuclear lobbies and the IAEA are trying to promote, the uranium reserves will only be sufficient to keep the world’s nuclear reactors functioning for only 16.5 years (42). In another words, most of the reactors that are proposed now for future investment would practically be out of enriched fuel soon after they are commissioned.

The other choice out of this impasse would be to acquire fuel from reprocessing of depleted fuel and from the plutonium of nuclear warheads that has been neutralized after the cold-war. However, this industry is extremely complicated, risky and it’s environmental impact is highly controversial; two reprocessing plants had already been shut down after Fukushima, one in Japan; the Rokkasho Reprocessing Program; which economical feasibility has already been questioned by Sakurai Yoshiko and Inose Naoki. A governmental committee estimated the cost of reprocessing existing nuclear waste in Japan at 18.8 trillion yen (43); around 200 Billion US$; the second facility shut down was in the UK at Sellafield.

After the Japanese disaster at Fukushima on March 11, 2011 the maximum world capacity of fuel reprocessing at the present time has become around 20% of the total depleted fuel produced all around the world, thus causing a serious set-back; not only for providing a new source of fuel, but also to depositing depleted fuels at lower radioactive level and less segregating radioactive isotopes.

We can thus conclude that fission-fuel technology is not a sustainable source of energy for the future……

Even if the depletion of uranium is postponed much further, it remains an unsustainable source of energy per excellence, particularly if water, energy and CO2 emissions are taken into consideration as shown in Figure 3.

If we take the Olympic Uranium Project as an example we can see that more than 3402 KL of water is needed for each tonne of U3O8 mined, this number is more than doubled at the Beverley Mines. If we add the amount of water needed for all the by-products, such as enrichment of fuel, cooling the reactors, etc. we can say that huge amounts of water are consumed in the overall process. The poorer the grade of uranium ore is the more water is needed. The Australian Olympic and Beverly mines ore grade are around 640-1800 ppm, so we can postulate the much larger amount of clean water are needed for poorer quality, at 200 ppm or even less!

Each tonne also consumes more than 1700 GJ of energy and can emit more than 320 tonnes of CO2 for each tonne U3O8 produced. [table on original]

One Response to “Sustainability of nuclear power”

  1. Nuclear and Climate News to 3rd December – Australia and more | Nuclear Australia Says:

    […] ETHICS.  Some aspects of “nuclear ethics” are climate change, health and environment, sustainability, developing countries, economic feasibility,  – conclusion – nuclear power is not an […]

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