the daily column

I don’t get the nuclear debate

Australia’s politicians are wrapped up at the moment with the idea of a nuclear reactor and expanded uranium mining. I’ve got my own views on it and all, uninformed as they are, but one thing I really don’t get, and it keeps coming up, so I’m asking for your wisdom here. They (media, politicians, etc.) always mention “Well, Oil prices are going up and up… so we should investigate Uranium as an alternative source of energy.”


I think I blink and miss something there, every time. What on earth does oil have to do with uranium?

p.s. if you were wondering where the sunday recipe was… I was too lazy and didn’t cook on Sunday. Next week, promise.

10 replies on “I don’t get the nuclear debate”

Dude, our politicians are just s tupid. There is nothing to really think about. They are not educated scientists and have no bloody idea what they are talking about. Neither do their freakin’ researchers who find out this sort of stuff for them before they start debating about it.

I bet their researchers all work together to make them look as dumb as possible…LOL

A large part of it is that they’re stupid, definitely. But when it comes down to it, energy is energy and even politicians are starting to accept that oil-dependent transport has a limited life. The current viable options for future transport all need significant input from the power grid, which means more power will be required in addition to what we already use. Nuclear isn’t really a long-term solution because we don’t have enough uranium for everyone in the world to suddenly start using it, but if it’s regulated it could serve us well for the next few decades until the next major breakthrough comes along.

Peter: Politicians are by no means stupid, but they do tend to appeal to the lowest common denominator and that can make it seem like they’re less intelligent than they are. Internet search tools make research a lot more straightforward these days, and I can’t imagine the researchers being to stupid without being out of a job very soon.

Nathan: that’s a good point. As to the next source of energy, I believe there’s the first stage of experiments with a fusion reactor in Europe these days, so I can imagine it won’t be too far off =) Also, this 40% is based on current explored amounts, but more searching will – somewhat inevitably, like oil searching – reveal more resources than there are now…

Er…the problem with nuclear power is that there’s only so much uranium here on Earth, and it is 1 of the rarest elements in the universe, let alone here. The supply of uranium would run out much quicker than fossil fuels have lasted and it must be seen as a stop gap solution at best…that and it’s really deadly if something bad were to happen.

Uranium through nuclear fission is incredibly efficient as a means of producing energy, especially when compared to fossil fuels – be they gas, coal or oil. On a gram by gram basis, uranium is far and away the better energy solution.

The thing at the moment is that we use “enriched” uranium, which has to have more U-295 than usual (I can’t remember the exact figures). Developments elsewhere have used the standard uranium (which is mostly the less reactive U-298), but those remain experimental reactors at the moment. Either way, uranium fission is by no means a stop gap measure – to say that suddenly it’ll run out because Australia starts using it is absurd. Our energy needs are above average for our size, but still piddifully small on a world scale.

Ideally, we’d use the source of energy that powers the world anyway – solar would be the best, and we have so much desert which could be so easily covered by vast arrays of solar panels. Except… it’s not cost effective, or effecient at conversion, and it’s not going to generate us any income. Which uranium is/will.

(i’ve done my research now).

Would Australia use up the world’s uranium supplies? Hell no, we’ve got plenty. Would six billion people who rely solely on nuclear power use it up? Yep, pretty quickly. We have an opportunity here to think ahead as a global entity and plan for a power source that won’t run out, rather than taking the quick solution. Uranium, just like oil and coal, is a limited resource and it’s going to run out eventually. Whatever form of energy we shift to needs to be renewable, or at least be absolutely guaranteed to last us until such renewable energy is available in abundance.

jack: smartass.

nathan: yeah most definitely, I’d agree. I seriously want to see most of the Australian desert covered in solar panels – that would really be a solution, I think. it’s not being used for anything else =)

I’m mostly amazed though at the fact that there’s so much hot air in the media at the moment.

Actually Karan, I’ve done research too since we did nuclear power as an assignment topic :P. Nuclear power is 1% efficient in terms of energy extraction versus 30 – 40% for coal and up to 60% for gas. The only reason nuclear power plants have more output is because of the POTENTIAL energy involved. Even the nuclear weapons we have now don’t hold a candle (no pun intended) to the amount of power that could be released.

Hydrogen/fusion should be the next big thing of course, that’s if we can make it work.

Australia has about 100,000 tonnes of uranium ore, not pure uranium so how much of that is actually useful is another thing. A typical 1000MW fission plant uses at most 100 tonnes a year. But if you multiply that by the amount of power the world needs right now, it’ll run out rather quickly. Even if not all the power is generated by nuclear power plants, then it’ll still run out quickly.

The main problem is not how we can get power to our homes, but rather how do we get to work without sticking a nuclear reactor in the boot of our cars.

haha, well I got snookered. Your stuff sounds more convincing than what I read… but I still don’t think nuclear power is necessarily a bad thing. and yeah, I’m sincerely hoping fusion works too.

Leave a Reply