Nuclear power

Nuclear power

This section on nuclear power only scratches the surface. There are many designs being developed that are not covered here.

Nuclear power accounted for 17 per cent of global electricity generation in 1993​ and was 10 per cent by 2013.


How much Uranium is there?

There have been many claims about the apparently enormous supplies of uranium available, often including assumed undiscovered reserves and potential supplies from sources such as granite or seawater. In reality, these are highly dubious options and, if realised at all, are many decades away. Claims of hundreds or even thousands of years of available uranium are based on these implausible sources.

Another difference that is often overlooked (usually deliberately) is the ore class. Some ores are "soft" (sandstones and calcretes) while others are "hard" (quartz pebble conglomerates); the harder the ore, the more energy and money is required to extract the uranium and the more carbon dioxide that is released in the process. Closely linked with the ore class is the ore grade, the amount of uranium found within the ore. This varies from about 10% down with 0.01% being the practical lower limit. The grade is not evenly spread though - the vast majority of the World's uranium ore lies between 0.5% and 0.02%.

The average grade found today is 0.15% 

The amount of uranium reserves depends greatly on the market price of that uranium. As its value rises, reserves which were unprofitable before become economically viable. But this is not an infinite progression.

The "Red Book" (published by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency) is the accepted source of information on uranium reserves. The 2006 publication suggest that there is about 70 years' supply at the current price. The price will, of course, rise which would bring more uranium into the reserves although much of that will be low grade and therefore difficult and more polluting to mine. But, if the world takes a step towards greater nuclear use, that would bring the length of time down. The Red Book says that including "prognosticated and speculative" resources, current output could be maintained for 270 years. However, again, these extra resources if they exist would probably be low grade

There is a further problem in uranium supply. In 2006 the world consumed 67,000 Mg of uranium. But only 40,000 Mg (60%) of this came from uranium mines. The remaining 37,000 Mg was supplied by mixing up highly enriched uranium from military stocks with depleted uranium. The military stocks are primarily from the former Soviet Union's arsenal but this is due to end in 2013 and is unlikely to be continued. After 2013, uranium mining will have to increase to cover this loss and there are grave doubts of whether it can do this. Source


Source: Geoscience Australia  Download map   For closer look at any page  Ctrl +

Cost of nuclear power