Uranium Mining Life-Cycle Energy Cost vs. Uranium Resources

  • W. Eberhard Falck
Part of the Springer Geology book series (SPRINGERGEOL)


The long-term viability of nuclear energy systems depends on the availability of uranium and on the question, whether the overall energy balance of the fuel cycle is positive, taking into account the full life-cycle energy costs. The fundamental question is: how much (fractional) energy units do we need to invest in order to produce one energy unit in a useable form, i.e. heat or electricity? The individual process steps that lead from the undiscovered resource to yellow cake are well established for “conventional” resources, but the energy costs and associated greenhouse gas emissions are not very well known in quantitative terms. Resources estimates are usually made on the basis of economic costs of recovery, but from a global energy supply sustainability point of view, neither commercial nor national strategic considerations are really relevant. Comparison with historic data for gold and silver or oil and gas indicate that uranium reserves would increase by orders of magnitude, if the same level of investment into exploration was made. Oil and gas prices have shown that society can and will accommodate fuel price increases by one order of magnitude over the span of half a century. A comprehensive assessment of the full-life cycle energy costs of uranium mining, milling and subsequent decommissioning and remediation is required in order to help settle the debate on the net energy balance of nuclear energy systems that dominates both, the debate on resource availability and the sustainability of its exploitation. This paper illuminates some of the crucial issues.


Yellow Cake Fuel Cycle Uranium Mining Energy Conversion System Uranium Resource 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Eberhard Falck
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire REEDSUniversité de Versailles St. Quentin-en-YvelinesRambouilletFrance

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