Windmills to save us from the imminent Uranium Shortage
“Time is running out!” “Ten to 15 years left to save the world!” “Disaster threatens!” “Ecosystems on the brink of extinction!”...3C rise in the world's temperature, leading to a global drop in cereal crops, putting 400 million more people at risk of hunger, and up to three billion at risk of flooding, without access to fresh water supplies. The outcome would be the destruction of half the world's nature reserves and a fifth of its coastal wetlands. Goodbye Norfolk, so long the Western Isles, pity about the Thames Estuary...
As The Times has been reporting this week, a block has been imposed on a number of wind farm developments, because the MoD is worried that they may interfere with its radar systems.
What sort of crazy logic is that? Which is the most dangerous threat to this country - the launch of a Cold War-style attack on Britain by the Russians, with the MiGs gaining a few seconds advantage from turbine clutter on our radar screens, or the imminent disappearance of the polar icecap and the engulfing of the East Coast by the North Sea? The world's scientists say it is the latter. The MoD's boffins say it is the former. And on their say-so we await, in suspended animation, as the icebergs melt....
Worst offenders are organisations such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage or the many environmental lobby groups that routinely object to applications which, they claim, pose a threat to a passing eagle or the lesser-spotted whimbrel...
I do not claim that wind farms on their own are the answer to global warming. But they are certainly part of it. However inefficient and unreliable, they are currently the only show in town, the only known supplier of renewable energy on any scale that is available here and now, rather than in 15 or 20 years' time. Nuclear energy? Of course, but on its own it can never fulfil the world's needs. Read David Fleming's pamphlet The Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy and worry about what happens when the world's endowment of uranium ore begins to run low some time after 2010, leading to an ever greater reliance on fossil fuels.....
Now Magnus is normally a sound sort of bloke, but it is as though he didn't put enough water with it last night when he scribed this panegyric to the windmills. But in amongst the guff was the surprising claim that we are running out of Uranium ore in the next ten years; I wonder if readers with their ears close to the mining industry could correct me on this but my understanding was that there was lots of it around:
It is estimated that 4.7 million tonnes of uranium ore reserves are economically viable, while 35 million tonnes are classed as mineral resources (reasonable prospects for eventual economic extraction). An additional 4.6 billion tonnes of uranium are estimated to be in sea water (Japanese scientists in the 1980s showed that extraction of uranium from sea water using ion exchangers was feasible)
UPDATE:World Electricity - consumption - 16.33 trillion kWh (16,330,000,000,000)
A nuclear 1000 megawatt power reactor, (after its initial fuel loading of uranium), has an annual requirement of around 27 tonnes of fuel.
Assuming the plant works flat out for 250 days a year
(16,330,000,000,000/ (1000*1000*24*250))*27= 73 485
75,000 tonnes of Uranium a year needed to produce all the world's electricity.
4.7 million tonnes at least easily available - I think that works out at over 45,000 years worth.
( Please point out to me if I have got a decimal point in the wrong place.)