27 Sep 2007
ASPO 6. In Praise of… #5. Michael Dittmar.
The 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.