How much fossil fuel energy does it take to produce and operate one 1000 megawatt nuclear reactor; to mine and mill the uranium, neutralize the tailings, convert uranium to U hexafluoride, enrich uranium from natural U238 to U235, fabricate the fuel elements, produce the products to construct the reactor, build the reactor infrastructure, decommission and dismantle the reactor, clean up the site, dispose of the radioactive waste, build the vehicles, transport the high and medium level waste to long term storage and guard the waste for 240,000 years?
Helen Caldicott, J. W. Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith are three of few scientists who have analyzed the balance between the amount of fossil fuel energy needed to produce the nuclear energy fuel cycle for one 1000 megawatt nuclear reactor. It may be impossible for most laymen to consider a petrojoule of energy (1 million billion joules) and the several hundreds of petrojoules of fossil fuels needed for the nuclear fuel cycle, but it is not impossible to accept the obvious concept that it takes more fossil fuel expenditures for one reactor than the reactor can produce in it’s lifetime.
Dr. Caldicott reports that it takes 162 tons of natural uranium each year from the most productive ore, in sandstone and shales, for one nuclear plant. If the uranium is from granite ore, 40 million tons must be mined or 80 million tons after providing for chemical treatment of the ore. “The extraction of uranium from this granite rock would consume over 30 times the energy generated from the uranium.” Uranium is in short supply. If all electricity worldwide were to be generated from nuclear power, all the uranium would last 9 years. In the same case, uranium from high-grade ores would last 3 years.
In addition to the truth of negative energy from nuclear power after using fossil fuels to produce it, the monetary costs have not been honestly reported. What is the cost to the public of the $13 billion in subsidies in the 2005 Energy Bill? What is the cost of the stranded investments paid by customers of nuclear energy when a plant lasts only 28 of the promised 40 years life, and then they pay again to rebuild such plants as San Onofre I and II? What does the Price-Anderson insurance to protect companies from loss cost the taxpayers? How much do taxpayers pay for Homeland Security, which has done little or nothing to secure the existing 103 nuclear plants? What are the medical costs for the hundreds of individuals who have contracted cancer, leukemia and injured DNA from the operation and accidents at nuclear plants, especially Three Mile Island, Simi Valley, and Idaho Lab SI-1?
The scientists are telling us that to cope with global warming, reduce nuclear injuries, reduce our energy costs, and to meet our future energy needs, we must forgo building nuclear plants and go directly and at once to conservation and alternative, renewable energies such as cogeneration, wind, solar, small hydro, geothermal, biofuels and tidal and wave power. It may be too late to make the necessary transitions if we continue on the nuclear path!
Another Mother Fund for Peace: “Nuclear Facilities and Radiation Monitoring in California.”
Helen Caldicott: “Nuclear Power is Not the Answer”
J. W. Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith: “Nuclear Power – the Energy Balance” “Can Nuclear Power Provide Energy for the Future?”