The Endless Uranium Supply fallacy.
The industry is represented by its World Nuclear Association which contradicts the IAEA and promotes the idea there will never be a shortage of Uranium [WNA, 2014]. In a muddled set of arguments, deeply buried in their Library, they deride those who predict any limit as followers of the ‘Limits to Growth’ fallacy. Of course, the limit to CO2 in the atmosphere just turned up.
To show how large the Uranium limit may be they cite the vast quantities in seawater. With 1t of U-235 in 400 billion tonnes of seawater it is not a real resource, unlike the fusion fuel Deuterium, at 1t in 58,000t of water, which is extracted today from rainwater.
Future technologies could extract Uranium from ever poorer ores, but at a diminishing return on effort. They say that discovery of good ores will grow exponentially with price and 10 times more will be found for every price doubling. This extrapolates to 2000 times more at 10 times the price, so this model quickly makes no sense. Did the USA somehow miss the presence of 11 billion tonnes?
The reality, which will certainly last to 2050 and beyond, comes from the IAEA data. The 2014 edition of the Red Book was issued in September. The total has decreased a little but confidence in resources around existing mines has increased. We are now mining from 7.6Mt declared Found, have a pretty good idea about another 7.6Mt RAR, and guess that there is at least another 7.6Mt out there. The WNA have no grounds to say that gigantic deposits will be found before 2050. Owners need an assured fuel supply for the 50-60 working life of their reactors, so ignoring Open cycle limits on a strong programme would be a gamble by 2035.
The WNA is not equipped to match the NREL assessment of renewables. THE Chart below shows their casual attempt at projecting nuclear futures this century. The WNA Outlook ‘Low Boundary’ case uses up all IAEA resources around 2100, with modest impact on coal by 2050. Their ‘High Boundary’, like our Coal target, uses up all assured resources around 2050.
The Closed cycle changes everything. Only 1t is burned per GWy-e and 99% of everything else is recycled, so mined natural Uranium is only needed at 1t per GWy-e, not 190t. Mining will be a loser and drop by 90% from today’s level, but could run for thousands of years.
WNA: World Nuclear Association, 2014: ‘Information Library: Supply of Uranium, Appendix 1’:
Could a rapid nuclear growth by Arab states enable them to capture a large fraction of mined Uranium, replacing their oil with a new and larger energy stockpile?
Will nuclear power, like everything else, just grow in unpredicted ways with unexpected consequences?
Can the world adjust to the loss of most of its coal mining AND most of its Uranium mining?
Why has the nuclear industry chosen to dismiss the problems of Uranium supply?