Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Nuclear (Fission) Power To The Rescue?

I am very interested in this article proposing that appropriate nuclear fission reactors (fast reactors) can provide all the energy we will foreseeably need.

I'm brushing up my rusty nuclear physics knowledge to see if it's plausible.

The abstract reads:

"Nuclear fission energy is as inexhaustible as those energies usually termed "renewable", such as hydro, wind, solar, and biomass. But, unlike the sum of these energies, nuclear fission energy has sufficient capacity to replace fossil fuels as they become scarce. Replacement of the current thermal variety of nuclear fission reactors with nuclear fission fast reactors, which are 100 times more fuel efficient, can dramatically extend nuclear fuel reserves. The contribution of uranium price to the cost of electricity generated by fast reactors, even if its price were the same as that of gold at US$14,000/kg, would be US$0.003/kWh of electricity generated. At that price, economically viable uranium reserves would be, for all practical purposes, inexhaustible. Uranium could power the world as far into the future as we are today from the dawn of civilization—more than 10,000 years ago. Fast reactors have distinct advantages in siting of plants, product transport and management of waste."

I have a bias in that I really want solar (thermal and electric) energy to succeed because Thailand has plenty of sun light. Also, we would be using the Sun as our nuclear (fusion) reactor situated 150,000,000 km away instead of a nuclear (fission) reactor a few tens to hundreds km away. However, if this fast reactor approach is feasible and safe enough, it deserves serious consideration for future energy production.

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