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More uranium: when and from wherte? (comment)
Steve Kidd, Nuclear Engineering International
With uranium prices at their current level, can we expect to see significant increases in production? If so, where will it come from – and when?
The world uranium market continues to fascinate. Prices on the spot market have now exceeded $40 per pound after spending many years rooted at around the $10 level. Although many other metals and minerals are also experiencing rapid price escalation, the uranium situation has attracted an enormous amount of attention from people who previously had no interest whatsoever in either uranium or nuclear.
...Existing producers, with costs assumedly below the $10 marker (or they would surely not have produced before, unless they had long-term contracts at above this level) have every incentive to stretch production to the maximum, as each pound of uranium must be earning a fantastic profit. So what is wrong?
The answer is important as anti-nuclear people have begun to pick up on escalating uranium prices and some predictions of shortages to claim that there isn’t enough uranium to sustain an upsurge in nuclear power and/or that it will be necessary to exploit increasingly poor grades in future, implying higher costs and carbon emissions from the fuel cycle. To them, uranium is really no different to oil, where the ‘peak oil’ proponents are now rubbing their hands that it is, at last, apparently beginning to run out.
The first point to make is that there is no shortage of uranium resources in the world. As my article in the November 2005 edition of NEI ("Will there be enough uranium to fuel nuclear growth?" – see link below) makes clear, uranium is abundant geologically and there is now a significant upturn in exploration underway, following the price hike. In any case, proven reserves are more than sufficient to fuel a significant expansion in nuclear power – beyond that, further economic resources will undoubtedly be discovered, while new reactor types are almost certain to economise significantly on the quantity of uranium required.
...The essential message is that it simply takes time to develop new mines.
Steve Kidd is Head of Strategy & Research at the World Nuclear Association, where he has worked since 1995 (when it was the Uranium Institute). Any views expressed are not necessarily those of the World Nuclear Association and/or its members.
(18 April 2006)
Going nuclear: a green makes the case
Patrick Moore, Washington Post
In the early 1970s when I helped found Greenpeace, I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust, as did most of my compatriots. That's the conviction that inspired Greenpeace's first voyage up the spectacular rocky northwest coast to protest the testing of U.S. hydrogen bombs in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change.
Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, is chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. He and Christine Todd Whitman are co-chairs of a new industry-funded initiative, the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, which supports increased use of nuclear energy.
(16 April 2006)
Hotly contested by David Roberts of Gristmill, who calls Moore a "notorious crank and industry shill." (SourceWatch entry on Patrick Moore).
Two things are immediately clear. Patrick Moore is not what most people would call a "green." Secondly, the claim that any one technology can "save our planet" from climate change is absurd on the face of it; almost all commentators suggest a portfolio of changes. -BA
Anything into oil
Brad Lemley, Discover Magazine via Free Republic
Turkey guts, junked car parts, and even raw sewage go in one end of this plant, and black gold comes out the other end
The thermal conversion plant turns turkey offal into low-sulfur oil that is carted off by three tanker trucks daily.
The smell is a mélange of midsummer corpse with fried-liver overtones and a distinct fecal note. It comes from the worst stuff in the world—turkey slaughterhouse waste. Rotting heads, gnarled feet, slimy intestines, and lungs swollen with putrid gases have been trucked here from a local Butterball packager and dumped into an 80-foot-long hopper with a sickening glorp. In about 20 minutes, the awful mess disappears into the workings of the thermal conversion process plant in Carthage, Missouri.
Two hours later a much cleaner truck—an oil carrier—pulls up to the other end of the plant, and the driver attaches a hose to the truck's intake valve. One hundred fifty barrels of fuel oil, worth $12,600 wholesale, gush into the truck, headed for an oil company that will blend it with heavier fossil-fuel oils to upgrade the stock. Three tanker trucks arrive here on peak production days, loading up with 500 barrels of oil made from 270 tons of turkey guts and 20 tons of pig fat. Most of what cannot be converted into fuel oil becomes high-grade fertilizer; the rest is water clean enough to discharge into a municipal wastewater system.
For Brian Appel—and, maybe, for an energy-hungry world—it's a dream come true, better than turning straw into gold. The thermal conversion process can take material more plentiful and troublesome than straw—slaughterhouse waste, municipal sewage, old tires, mixed plastics, virtually all the wretched detritus of modern life—and make it something the world needs much more than gold: high-quality oil.
Appel, chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies, has prodded, pushed, and sometimes bulldozed his way toward this goal for nearly a decade, and his joy is almost palpable.
The complete article is posted.
Growing demand for non-food crops
Mark Kinver, BBC News
In the 19th Century, the only "biofuel" that powered farm machinery was the hay and grain that fed the horses that pulled the plough to turn the soil.
But the arrival of the industrial revolution, the advances in our knowledge of chemistry, and the utilisation of oil, revolutionised our lives.
Since then, societies around the globe have not looked back. Coal and oil have fuelled economic growth for more than 200 years.
But today, political leaders of all persuasions are having to think the unthinkable and look beyond the age of oil.
The upward trend in the cost of oil, fears over security of supplies, and the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels are forcing the rethink.
It appears as if many nations are taking a leaf out of the history books and looking to home-grown solutions for an answer: non-food crops.
(18 April 2006)
UK coal producer pushes for price increases of 40%
Christine Buckley, UK Times
BRITAIN’S biggest coal producer wants to increase the prices that it charges to power generators by 40 per cent, putting more pressure on energy costs, The Times has learnt.
UK Coal is negotiating key contracts with electricity generators and wants big increases to reflect the soaring world coal price.
It says that Britain needs coal to meet a large proportion of its power needs, at least for the next ten years. The company also says that generators cannot import all of their coal because the rail infrastructure will not cope and that even with a 40 per cent increase, it can beat import prices.
High gas prices and problems with nuclear energy output also have meant that the country has become increasingly reliant on coal for power generation. In the past five months 50 per cent of Britain’s electricity generation has come from coal.
(18 April 2006)
Russia to control Armenia's gas
Gazprom's attempts to hike prices has met resistance
Russia's Gazprom is to take control of Armenian pipelines and a power station in exchange for setting gas prices at half of European levels until 2009.
The move is part of wider plans by the Russian monopoly to seize access to gas supplies among former Soviet republics.
Russia said it would raise gas prices to $110 per 1,000 cubic metres, almost double what is it now, but far cheaper than European rates.
Armenia relies on Russia for gas but wants to import gas from elsewhere.
(7 April 2006)
Related from Washington Post: Russia's Gas Crunch.
Transmaterial, transtudio and seeing the big picture - links
Big Gav, Peak Energy (Australia)
Regular readers are probably getting tired of the high proportion of borderline politcal ranting and tinfoil theories lately, so for a change of pace I'll try to stick to energy and viridian topics.
(18 April 2006)
Links, excerpts and commentary, as fresh as today's headlines.