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27 Sep 2007

ASPO 6. In Praise of… #5. Michael Dittmar.

dThe nuclear lobby were out in force at ASPO 6. Seeing their chance to foist their poisonous technology onto an acquiescent public as the reality of peak oil starts to bite, and framing the resurgence of nuclear power as the only way of keeping the lights on, they found their most evangelical advocate in Pierre-Rene Bauquis, but others also weighed in, stating the nuclear is the only way to fill the energy gap. By mid-morning of the second day I had had enough.

When I saw, in the programme, a session entitled “The Nuclear Option”, I thought “oh no, here we go again, I can’t be doing with any more of this”, and so I skipped class and had very interesting chats with people in the lobby outside. Imagine my disappointment though, upon going back into the hall, to discover that I had missed a systematic and ruthless demolition of the nuclear case.

Dittmar had gone through, in precise detail, what an expansion of nuclear would require, and, as a leading nuclear physicist, had set out that it was a fantasy. His presentation will be available soon on the ASPO 6 website, I would very much recommend that you have a look through it.

When it came to questions, Bauquis was, of course, incensed. Dittmar had got his figures all wrong, his data was nonsense, he didn’t know what he was talking about. Dittmar very patiently reasserted that he knew his stuff, and could back up all his claims. While nuclear power will not go away, and while people such as Bauquis will continue to feed on peoples’ fears about energy security, Dittmar is to be congratulated for having set out so clearly why nuclear power is not, in any way, a solution to peak oil.

Heading Out, over at the Oil Drum, DID stay for Dittmar’s presentation, and seeing as I have given you absolutely no useful information about it, it might be worth finishing this post with his notes on it…

>Michael Dittmar then talked about Nuclear Energy and some of the issues that face that industry. There are currently some 439 plants, producing 371 GWe and in 2005 this was 15% of the world electric power generation. There are currently 30 reactors under construction. The age of the reactors, however, means that soon some of this fleet must be closed down which will lead for the need for some form of action.

>Breeder reactors, that were once held to be very promising, have not proven as successful as hoped. He had tried but was unable to find how long it took to double the fuel elements concerned, and there Is only one breeder operating, with two under construction. Ho noted documentation that said that the (current) world uranium reserve will be gone in the time range between 2030 and 2040, meaning that we must anticipate developing “speculative” resources. A 7 GWe reactor needs 180 tons of uranium/year. And the 371 GWe production from 439 reactors adds up to a need for 67,000 ton/year. With a 1 – 2% growth for 20 years, this will lead to a need for between 51 and 130,000 tons of uranium. The reserve is thus going to run out in less than 50 years. In regard to those who say that uranium can be recovered from seawater, he noted that:
A reactor uses 6 gm/sec which, at seawater concentrations will require processing 10,000 cu m/sec of water. To put that in context the Rhine river flows at 2,000 cu m/sec.

>He noted the flooding of the Cigar Lake mine and subsequent setbacks which was supposed to re-open in 2008 has led to the mine being set back to possibly 2011 , with the likelihood that this will lead to international shortages of fuel.

Categories: Energy

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William Lucas
28 Sep 2:59am

I read recently that no nuclear reactor has ever been retired and dismantled, and that the costs of doing so are likely to be horrendously expensive. And where to place the radioactive fill that will have had to be scraped up? Shudders!

Dick McDonald
28 Sep 5:06am

I think at lerast one or more reactors have been dicommissioned in tghe us (at leastg one to a green gfield state. Look up American Nuclear Society about 6 mo ago

Reproceds the fuel like the French, Japanese, British, and Russians and most of the “waste” probl;em goews away.

You are thinking in the 70’s get up tgo date information from ANS or the French or Japanese. Look up the Iris project.

Bernd Ohm
28 Sep 8:15am

Some research reactors have been dismantled or are being dismantled in Germany, with the costs of doing so reaching up to 500 million Euro. Currently, there is also one commercial 600 MW reactor being dismantled that was shut off in 1994, and cost estimates for this are around 700 million Euro. I’d say you can assume that the each standard 1000 MW reactor will easily cost over 1 billion Euro to make it somehow disappear – costs for the nuclear waste dump not included.

Matthias Zeeb
28 Sep 12:20pm

For those interested in Michael Dittmar’s presentation: it can be downloaded from his website at the ETH Institute for Particle Physics:

And to Rob, thanks for all the inspiration your work is giving to so many people!

Roy Tribaldos
25 Oct 11:00pm

Mr. Dittmar’s presentation is more than excellent because it is sincere and corageous in a media world that disinform us all even with the complicity of some scientists. Mr. Dittmar belongs to the few people that tell us the truth about the greatest crisis mankind will have ever had: the energy crisis.