Thursday, August 23, 2012
So the news that extracting this uranium has become significantly cheaper is a difference of practice more than principle.
"Estimates indicate that the oceans are a mother lode of uranium, with far more uranium dissolved in seawater than in all the known terrestrial deposits that can be mined," said Robin D. Rogers, Ph.D., who organized the symposium and presented his own technology. "The difficulty has always been that the concentration is just very, very low, making the cost of extraction high. But we are gaining on that challenge."
,,,,DOE-funded technology now can extract about twice as much uranium from seawater as the first approaches, developed in Japan in the late 1990s.
That improvement reduces production costs down to around $300 per pound of uranium, from a cost of $560 per pound using the Japanese technology. However, extraction from seawater remains about five times more expensive than uranium mined from the ground.
Schneider explained, however, that the current goal is not to make seawater extraction as economical as terrestrial mining. Instead, scientists are trying to establish uranium from the ocean can act as a sort of "economic backstop" that will ensure there will be enough uranium to sustain nuclear power through the 21st century and beyond.
....energy companies want assurance that reasonably priced uranium fuel will be available on a century-long time frame.This growth of technology making everything cheaper is precisely what Julian Simon forecast (& Paul Ehrlich & the "environmentalists" didn't. It is what is driving the shale gas revolution and what would certainly get Britain out of our self induced recession if the government wanted.
"This uncertainty around whether there's enough terrestrial uranium is impacting the decision-making in the industry, because it's hard to make long-term research and development or deployment decisions in the face of big uncertainties about the resource," said Schneider. "So if we can tap into uranium from seawater, we can remove that uncertainty."
His research group is testing waste shrimp shells from the seafood industry to make a biodegradable absorbent material.
It almost doesn't matter whether the cost of this extraction ever drops below that of conventional mining. After all the costs of mining are also subject to technological improvement so it is not a race with a stationary target.
What matters is that we know this can be done. Whether uranium costs $300 a pound or $50 is insignificant compared to the value of electricity it produces.
An other argument used by the anti-nuclearists is that their power is secure because these nasty foreigners might refuse to sell it to us. Well since no nasty foreigner can keep the sea away from Britain we will obviously be seeing a public retraction of that argument by Ed Davy & his ministry Well we will if he isn't a lying fascist parasite.
When it comes to renewability - windmills may last about 25 years and use up a lot of rare earth materials so they are not fully "renewable". Hydro dams inevitably silt up, though it may take a few centuries so they are not fully renewable. Nuclear power can run for 5,000,000,000 years (200 million times more actually). It, alone, can honestly be called "renewable"
Clearly Scottish Renewables, the government funded lobbyists of government and propagandists for windmills are going to have to change their name. Well they will if honesty is any slightest consideration. Any bets?
Another point which strikes me is that with waste shells becoming of importance to this process, it may well be that there would be a serendipitous benefit to both sides if the floating island concept of Marshall Savage was developed. One side effect of the OTEC generator used to power the Aquarius project is fertile deep seawater which can be used to grow almost unlimited amounts of seafood, including of the shelled variety. This means virtually unlimited amounts of shell going a-begging.
And somewhat facetiously - considering that all these radioactives come from the sea, if the waste were ground small and dumped back in it the net long term radiation would be marginally reduced. Facetiously because (A) the actinidess that make up radioactive waste are actually very valuable and (B) there would be a short term (ie decades) tiny increase as short term radioactives burned out.