Peak uranium is the point in time that the maximum global uranium production rate is reached. After that peak, the rate of production enters a terminal decline. While uranium is used in nuclear weapons, its primary use is for energy generation via nuclear fission of the uranium-235 isotope in a nuclear power reactor. Each kilogram of uranium-235 fissioned releases the energy equivalent of millions of times its mass in chemical reactants, as much energy as 2700 tons of coal, but uranium-235 is only 0.7% of the mass of natural uranium. Uranium is a finite resource, and therefore considered non-renewable. However, the current reserves of uranium have the potential to provide power for humanity for billions of years, until the death of our sun, so nuclear power can be termed sustainable energy.
M. King Hubbert created his peak theory in 1956 for a variety of finite resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. He and others since have argued that if the nuclear fuel cycle can be closed, uranium could become equivalent to other renewables. Breeding and nuclear reprocessing potentially would allow the extraction of the largest amount of energy from natural uranium. However, only a small amount of uranium is currently being bred into plutonium and only a small amount of fissile uranium and plutonium is being recovered from nuclear waste worldwide. Furthermore, the technologies to completely eliminate the waste in the nuclear fuel cycle do not yet exist. Since the nuclear fuel cycle is effectively not closed, Hubbert peak theory applies. The rate of discovery and the rate of production which initially increase must reach a maximum and decline. The rate at which uranium can be bred and the rate at which fuel can be reprocessed cannot indefinitely suffice to meet the growing gap between demand and the rate that uranium can be mined.
Pessimistic predictions of future high-grade uranium production operate on the thesis that either the peak has already occurred in the 1980s or that a second peak may occur sometime around 2035.
Optimistic predictions claim that the supply is far more than demand and do not predict peak uranium. Also, they do not report changes in the production rate of uranium. Peak uranium is not about running out of uranium, but the peaking and subsequent decline of the production rate of uranium.
Uranium depletion is the result of extracting and consuming uranium, a non-renewable resource. The availability of high-grade uranium ore will deplete over time meaning the fuel will become more environmentally and economically expensive to extract.
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... Peak uranium is the point in time that the maximum global uranium production rate is reached ... After that peak, the rate of production enters a terminal decline ... While uranium is used in nuclear weapons, its primary use is for energy generation via nuclear fission of the uranium-235 isotope in a nuclear power reactor ...
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