A respected and peer-reviewed journal, Science of the Total Environment, has published a new article by Michael Dittmar, a lecturer at the Institute of Particle Physics at ETH Zurich, a leading technology and natural sciences university, presenting evidence that global supplies of uranium are peaking within the next two years and that availability of uranium will become tight, and insufficient to fuel existing and already planned nuclear power plants, during the next 10–20 years.
Dittmar’s previous papers predicting “peak uranium”, akin to the concept of peak oil, have been controversial within the industry. However, his latest paper presents updated data and arguments. Certainly he continues to present his arguments and reaches the conclusion that “it will be difficult to avoid supply shortages even under a slow 1%/year worldwide nuclear energy phase-out scenario up to 2025”.
Dittmar argues for a somewhat more rapid worldwide nuclear energy phase-out and states that “If such a slow global phase-out is not voluntarily effected, the end of the present cheap uranium supply situation will be unavoidable. The result will be that some countries will simply be unable to afford sufficient uranium fuel at that point, which implies involuntary and perhaps chaotic nuclear phase-outs in those countries involving brownouts, blackouts, and worse.”
GallonDaily suggests that the result of a tightening uranium supply may well be increased pressure for reprocessing of used fuel and unused nuclear weapons. Locating new facilities for such activities could well be one of the most heated battlegrounds of the next decade.
An abstract (free) of Dittmar’s paper, The End of Cheap Uranium, and a link to the full article (fee) is available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969713004579