Tuesday, March 15, 2011

our energy debt

Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen explains one reason for why nuclear power is so popular:
One of the unique properties of the nuclear energy system is the possibility it offers to man to postpone material and energy investments to the future. The massive amounts of radioactive materials, including the clean-up and dismantling waste, have to be isolated from the biosphere forever, in order to keep the countries with nuclear power and their neighbour countries habitable for man.
His extensive report has some very interesting graphs:

This one shows the energy pay-back for nuclear power, i.e. how long it has to operate in order to "pay" for its total energy use. Because the Uranium concentration of the ore is absolutely critical in this context it is drawn as a function of that. As you can see, when the concentration moves towards 0.03-0.02% U3O8 the whole thing is rather pointless, notwithstanding all other problems.

Also regarding CO2 emissions the results are not very positive. Lifetime emissions of CO2 from nuclear power are approaching those of a gas-fired electricity generator, and also here, if ore grades are leaner the emissions increase dramatically.

These picture and his report reconfirms the view that nuclear power is only profitable because of exploitation of:
current society, that subsidize nuclear power tremendously all from footing all the research, the risk, the security and the infrastructure needed
other places for uranium production and the people living in those places
other resources for the construction and management of the stations and the people living in the places where those resources are extracted
future generations

In a way, nuclear power is the the highlight of our corrupt society, and just an extrapolation of how society deals with environment and the rights of future generation.

I can also recommend this posting by Alexis Rowell

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