The world's endowment of uranium ore is now so depleted that the
nuclear industry will never, from its own resources, be able to
generate the energy it needs to clear up its own backlog of waste.
||It is essential that the waste should be made safe and placed in
permanent storage. High-level wastes, in their temporary storage
facilities, have to be managed and kept cool to prevent fire and
leaks which would otherwise contaminate large areas.
||Shortages of uranium - and the lack of realistic alternatives -
leading to interruptions in supply, can be expected to start in the middle years of the decade 2010-2019, and to deepen thereafter.
||The task of disposing finally of the waste could not, therefore, now
be completed using only energy generated by the nuclear industry,
even if the whole of the industry's output were to be devoted to it.
In order to deal with its waste, the industry will need to be a major
net user of energy, almost all of it from fossil fuels.
||Every stage in the nuclear process, except fission, produces carbon
dioxide. As the richest ores are used up, emissions will rise.
||Uranium enrichment uses large volumes of uranium hexafluoride,
a halogenated compound (HC). Other HCs are also used in the
nuclear life-cycle. HCs are greenhouse gases with global warming
potentials ranging up to 10,000 times that of carbon dioxide.
||An independent audit should now review these findings. The
quality of available data is poor, and totally inadequate in relation
to the importance of the nuclear question. The audit should set
out an energy-budget which establishes how much energy will be
needed to make all nuclear waste safe, and where it will come
from. It should also supply a briefing on the consequences of the
worldwide waste backlog being abandoned untreated.
||There is no single solution to the coming energy gap. What is
needed is a speedy programme of Lean Energy, comprising: (1)
energy conservation and efficiency; (2) structural change in
patterns of energy-use and land-use; and (3) renewable energy; all
within (4) a framework for managing the energy descent, such as
Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs).