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Uranium from Seawater as an Unlimited Source of Renewable Energy

26 May 2019, 01:12 UTC
Uranium from Seawater as an Unlimited Source of  Renewable Energy
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Ocean view under golden skies (Credit Simeon Muller)Approximately 4% of the energy currently consumed by human civilization is provided by commercial nuclear power. Less than 28 tonnes of slightly enriched uranium is required to fuel a one gigawatt (1000 MWe) nuclear reactor per annum. But only 0.72% of natural uranium is comprised of the fissile uranium 235 needed to initiate nuclear fission. So fertile uranium 238 has to be enriched with uranium 235, up to 3 to 5%, in order to be utilized for power production in light water reactors. Up to 226 tonnes of uranium oxide would have to be mined in order to be processed into 196 tonnes of metallic uranium that would later be enriched into just 28 tonnes of useful nuclear fuel. So approximately 75,000 tonnes of uranium oxide is mined annually to provide just 4% of the world's total energy needs.The amount of recoverable-- terrestrial uranium-- on the Earth's surface depends on the price. At $40 per kilogram ($US), 646,900 tonnes are deemed to be recoverable. At $260, more than 7,641,600 tonnes is estimated to be recoverable. So at the current rate of use, terrestrial uranium supplies would only last about a century.The reprocessing of ...

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