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              nuclear power efficiency and reliability

Uranium resources and major players
Regarding the world uranium production output, Canada is currently in the lead with 25 percent followed by Australia. Kazakhstan seems to be the world's third miner and these three countries account for more than half of the global uranium production. Some other mining nations, not as reliable, would be the United States, the Russian Federation (with Putin being quite eager to double the number of plants in the immediate future), Namibia and Portugal.

Although uranium prices have been quite unstable in the last years, the overall price trend of the decade has been rising with a pound of uranium being sold from $ 5-10 in 2001 to $ 40-50 today after a peak at $140 back in 2007 following the oil prices rise. Global recession in combination with the current low uranium spot market prices is slowing down mine development in a number of countries which might lead to a shortage. It seems that there could be a supply gap due to a number of plants expected to be relicensed and newer plants would cause demand to increase significantly. In such case South Korea, China, India and Japan would obviously be more than willing to be part of this rising new energy market. ²

Nuclear energy advantages

As the gas price fluctuates wildly (from $3 to $6, even up to $12 per MBtu) tending to increase with demand over the years and coal becomes fairly unpopular due to rising environmental concerns, (although it maintains stable values -$1.29/MBtu), nuclear power starts again to be considered as the least worse choice. ³

Some of the most important advantages of nuclear power are the abundance of uranium fuel and its low price. Greenhouse gas emissions too are insignificant. Furthermore there is one million times more energy available in an atom than in typical fuels and the amount of waste is also greatly reduced. That would mean there would be less material streams flowing into and out of nuclear reactors. As Mc Kay says: ' "Small is beautiful," but the fact that the nuclear waste stream is small doesn't mean that it's not a problem; it's just a "beautifully small" problem'.

As far as reserves are concerned, taking into account today's energy demand, and world supplies being roughly 27 million tons of uranium including phosphates, it seems that even if living standards increased substantially around the world, nuclear power could manage to support humankind for some centuries to come. Especially after introducing 'fast breeder reactors', a still fairly immature technology, the energy output would be multiplied by 60 through the use of the depleted U 235 as well as the U238 uranium isotope and waste would be reduced to a minimum value. 4

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² J. C.K. Daly, Copenhagen summit to boost Uranium appeal. Fossil fuels, alternative energy, metals, oil prices and geopolitics,, (Dec. 01, 2009).

³ F. L. Toth, H.-H. Rogner, Oil and nuclear power: Past, present, and future., 2004, p. 3,

4 D. Mac Kay, Sustainable Energy - without the hot air. UIT Cambridge, 2009, p 163 ISBN 978-0-9544529-3-3,


    Building Environmental Performance