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The Forum > Article Comments > Uranium mining - Faustian bargain or economic bonanza? > Comments

Uranium mining - Faustian bargain or economic bonanza? : Comments

By Chris Harries, published 7/8/2006

The lure of a financial bonanza may seem worth it, but nuclear energy as a non-renewable resource will only serve to entrench our addiction to high-energy consumption.

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Well we all know what time of the day Chris Harries wrote his first line:
"With both John Howard and Kim Beazley egging on a uranium debate, letís have one."
It was breakfast.
Chris, you are too late with the egg timer. The debate is over, John one, Kim one, the public, nil.
Posted by GlenWriter, Monday, 7 August 2006 10:38:50 AM
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Good article but two points to note :
1..Uranium reserves will increase dramatically now that it is wortwhile spending money on exploration. Virtually nothing took place over the last 25 years.Spot price is now US$47.25 as against underUS$10 for years.
2..Electricity price hardly moves with an increase in the U price [contributes only about 5%to cost compared to oil or coal representing over 55%]because the capital cost of building a nuclear power plant is so much greater.
To me nuclear is the way to go because the greenhouse gas emissions are virtually zero, the latest designs are inherently safer and they can be guaranteed to provide continuous base load electricity.And the waste produced is miniscule in quantity. Wind ,hydro ,solar etc can help but they have visual,environmental and cost disadvantages.
Posted by ICEBERG, Monday, 7 August 2006 11:02:53 AM
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I don't support the mining of uranium or nuclear energy. However, if the mining of uranium comes down to economics, we would be far better of to stick with the 3 mines policy. Restricting supply as demand increases (supposedly) will mean higher prices for our uranium in the future. OPEC sets limits on the amount of oil produced daily which keeps the price high. Flooding the market with uranium just because it is available will lower the price.
Posted by rossco, Monday, 7 August 2006 12:27:25 PM
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ICEBERG,
Why would reserves increase?
Do you find more needles in a haystack just because you look night and day all year. The more you look, the moer the cost.

If the building of a nuclear power plant is so much greater it is also a lot greater in maintenance. Waste emissions are radioactive for thousands of years.

Calculate the maintenance costs for thousands of years or do we just calculate for our own generation.

We have to calculate the maintenance until the radioactivity is nil, maybe to the year 200,006 if you let the geni out of the bottle or it will kill every living thing.
Posted by GlenWriter, Monday, 7 August 2006 1:23:40 PM
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I agree that the temptation to mine uranium will be irresistible. Other reasons might include electrification of transport as oil depletes and watching other countries do well from using Australian uranium. However I think there are two caveats;
1) recognising it as a one-off
2) decisive action on waste
Barring a technical breakthrough (eg fusion, fast breeders) we will eventually have to transition to a solar economy. If everybody is entitled to enjoy the trappings of the middle class that almost certainly means a much lower world population. A half century of nuclear will enable us to cut coal use and massively invest in squeaky clean but low yield technologies. The fact that so much nuclear waste has been stored above ground is inexcusable. In relative terms the annual volume of waste is small and the area for deep dry rock disposal is large. Make terrorism targets just peanuts. Just do it properly and maintain the right long term outlook.
Posted by Taswegian, Monday, 7 August 2006 2:51:52 PM
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What a lot of nonsense that article was! Uranium is a more limited resource that will run out in 40 years? In fact the amount of energy available in terrestrial Uranium is enormously greater than that in known oil reserves. Perhaps the author is referring to the supply of U235 from current commercial mines. To squander this resource for electrical generation would indeed be criminal because it could deny us the vast energy locked up in U238 and Th232. This is because U235 is the only fissile material which occurs on Earth in significant quantities. It can supply neutrons (n) in large numbers to drive the following reactions:

U238 (fairly useless) + n -> Pu239 (excellent fissile material!)
Th232 (fairly useless) + n -> U233 (excellent fissile material!)

Disputur
Posted by Disputur, Monday, 7 August 2006 3:22:54 PM
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