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Thread: Energy independence through Nuclear Power?

  1. #1 Energy independence through Nuclear Power? 
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    I was wondering if anyone here knows much about the economics of fissionable material. I have read several competing statements in the past about how much of the feedstock for nuclear power plants we have in the USA. I did a little research the other day and what I could come up with was this:

    If I am reading these tables right, we currently import >80% of the uranium we use (mostly from Australia and Canada).
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pages/sec9_7.pdf
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/uia/table12.html

    Reserves:
    2003 est. of domestic reserves: ore: 428million tons, refined: 890million pounds.
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/uia/table12.html

    52,708,000 lbs were used domestically in 2002

    Therefore at the current rate of consumption at the current price we would have about 17 years worth of domestic fuel left.

    I realize of course that reserves fluctuate. They are highly price dependent, as demand goes up reserves will go up somewhat.

    My point is that unless we build “fast breeder” “Superpheonix” type reactors, nuclear energy does not look like a very promising solution to the problem of our energy dependence.

    I would appreciate anyone’s help on this topic as I am by no means an expert on it. :wink:


    Terrapin
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    Forum Isotope (In)Sanity's Avatar
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    I'm wondering if they couldn't convert some of their breeder reactors used for military purposes into something that could be used for commercial use.

    Then again they may only produce plutonium.


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    As I understand it (and I am not sure I do): All of our foreign energy dependence problems would be solved if we went the plutonium/breeder route. I have very major concerns about going in this direction (as opposed to only concerns about conventional nuclear power). Do you know of good sources of info on these topics?
    Terrapin
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    This is pretty interesting stuff, from a historic standpoint.

    http://www.atomictourist.com/ebr.htm
    and related
    http://www.atomicheritage.org/ebr1.htm

    and this one covers a lot of this conversation.
    Nuclear Waste and Breeder Reactors - Myth and Promise

    and taken from this page

    http://starfire.ne.uiuc.edu/ne201/co...eder_reactors/

    Though the supply of uranium-235 for nuclear fission is large and could last thousands of years, it is ultimately limited. Since light water reactors require enriched fuel, the production of new U-235 fuel rods could become expensive. It is possible to use the plentiful, nonfissile uranium-238 isotope as a reactor fuel by "breeding" fissile plutonium-239 from it by bombardment with neutrons. Breeder reactors "produce more fuel than they consume" because they can create more Pu-239 than is used. This seeming paradox involving the conservation of mass-energy is not magic, since U-238 is steadily converted into the fuel and undesirable byproducts. In a series of nuclear reactions, the frequency of which is dependent on the energy cross-sections of the impacting neutrons, U-238 is changed into Pu-239 with the release of radiation. Some U-235, the conventional fuel of LWR, is needed in the breeder core to initiate the process. The use of breeder reactors could extend the availibility of nuclear fission resources another 100,000 years. Breeders have other advantages as well, but they are not free of disadvantages. This lecture-discussion will cover the physics of breeders and their current applications. The following lecture-discussion examines specific examples of advanced breeder reactors, many of which have resulted from scientists striving to relieve problems with both the old breeder design and potential dangers regarding the fuel cycle.
    From what I'm reading on some other articles it just costs too much to use breeder reactors to produce fuel, something about the post processing of the generated fuel.
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  6. #5  
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    Thanks IS- I'll check 'em out.
    Terrapin
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  7. #6  
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    One would almost think a breeder reactor would be considered almost a perpetual motion machine, it produces more fuel then it consumes.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by (In)Sanity
    One would almost think a breeder reactor would be considered almost a perpetual motion machine, it produces more fuel then it consumes.
    They would be the obvious ultimate solution if plutonium were just not so poisonous.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terrapin
    Quote Originally Posted by (In)Sanity
    One would almost think a breeder reactor would be considered almost a perpetual motion machine, it produces more fuel then it consumes.
    They would be the obvious ultimate solution if plutonium were just not so poisonous.

    Well clearly we need to do something, and soon. We only have so much fossil fuel left in this world. We also need to come up with a better way to heat homes, as right now the only really good methods are wood, coal and oil. Wood being the only renewable resource. Electric heat is a bit inefficient so far.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by (In)Sanity
    Quote Originally Posted by Terrapin
    Quote Originally Posted by (In)Sanity
    One would almost think a breeder reactor would be considered almost a perpetual motion machine, it produces more fuel then it consumes.
    They would be the obvious ultimate solution if plutonium were just not so poisonous.

    Well clearly we need to do something, and soon. We only have so much fossil fuel left in this world. We also need to come up with a better way to heat homes, as right now the only really good methods are wood, coal and oil. Wood being the only renewable resource. Electric heat is a bit inefficient so far.
    Hmmm... If energy is abundant, and can be delivered almost in infinite amounts at low costs, I doubt people will mind using the less efficient electrical energy, versus the more effective wood/coal/oil.
    If we can do this, it will put an end to the supply of 'natural gas' to households, and we can put more glassfiber in the ground .

    Still, I insist that we should put our efforts mainly in cold fusion. It does not utilise substances that take millions of years to stop radiating.

    Mr U
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  11. #10  
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    Still, I insist that we should put our efforts mainly in cold fusion. It does not utilise substances that take millions of years to stop radiating.
    The big question is does cold fusion really work, or is it just a theory that'll never happen? I would be curious to see any research work that's being done in this area that has proof of concept.

    The universe has been powering itself for billions of years, energy is clearly very abundant, we simply need to figure out how to harness it.
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  12. #11 Breeder reactors 
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    The prob. w/ Breeder reactors is that weapons grade plutonium is generated as waste. We really do not need more weapons grade plutonium to keep track of. It does not take much to generate a big explosion when super critical states of plutonium occure. Especially were the center of plutonium core contained Lithium duterium salt compound. Then we're talking Hydrogen bomb applications. Large amounts of weapons grade plutonium just means for a higher probability that a terrorist group may get their hands on sufficient quantities to make a ....!
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