Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Does this make a better case for space exploration?

So, we know that apart from waste disposal, nuclear energy is the way to go: low "carbon footprint", reliable, relatively cheap, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Turns out there's this teensy-weensy problemette:

Perhaps the most worrying problem is the misconception that uranium is plentiful. The world's nuclear plants today eat through some 65,000 tons of uranium each year. Of this, the mining industry supplies about 40,000 tons. The rest comes from secondary sources such as civilian and military stockpiles, reprocessed fuel and re-enriched uranium. "But without access to the military stocks, the civilian western uranium stocks will be exhausted by 2013, concludes Dittmar. It's not clear how the shortfall can be made up since nobody seems to know where the mining industry can look for more.

Fuck. This is a bit different from the oil situation, because we know where there is lots more oil, it's just not economically feasible to dig it out ... yet! But if we don't know where the uranium is, then we have a much more immediate problem.

So, ironically, it turns out there might be a use for all those old nuclear weapons after all:

There is one tantalising ray of sunlight in this nuclear nightmare: the possibility that severe energy shortages will force governments to release military stockpiles of weapons grade uranium and plutonium for civilian use. Could it be possible that the coming nuclear energy crisis could rid the world of most of its nuclear weapons?

But once they're gone, then what? Well, as per the title of this post: we know that whirling around in space are vast lumps of various minerals and metals. Maybe we need to start thinking about a space mining program.

Or maybe we just need to start accepting that we will need other means of fuel, like coal and oil. And that they are here to stay.


Anonymous said...

Or we can use fast breeder reactors, or uranium / plutonium salt reactors to extend reserves of fuel well into the later stages of the century

Steve Tierney said...

You can use Thorium too. I expect other alternatives to arise as the technology expands.

Oldrightie said...

Already ongoing, Obbie!

Anonymous said...

There's also methane hydrate under the sea. Not commercially extracable yet but estimated reserves of about 100,000 to 300 million trillion cu. ft. of methane. That'll do I think.

Coal too. The NCB, as was, estimated there was 300 years worth under the UK. Problem is its very expensive opening a mine thats shut.

Of course, if we could extract the energy from all the hot air created by the Greens, we'd have an inexhaustible supply of energy.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we need to start thinking about a space mining program." Good idea now where is Arthur Scargill when he is needed?

Anonymous said...


How's that coming?

microdave said...

Interesting, I haven't heard of this before. You have to wonder why the Greens haven't latched onto it, and used it as yet another campaigning tool...

I wonder what the Al Gore's of the world will say when it gets to the choice of turning the clock back to pre-industrial revolution times, or chucking some more CO2 into the atmosphere?

Joe Public said...

You mean we can laugh at the French?

Tomrat said...

Or we could light our own farts for power.

Then again solar power, fusor technology and who knows what will be available by then; long as we can keep the grimy bastard politicians hands off picking winners or killing newcomers before they take off.

Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...

Burning politicians, criminals, civil servants, quangos, traffic wardens, food nazis, ignorant eco-nazis, council employees, chavs etc in power stations.

There's a huge amount of energy in a human body. Have you seen and felt the heat when you burn a whole pig?