The rising price of oil and gas and unstable energy supplies are prompting a number of nations to take a second look at nuclear energy. A new study published Thursday says there is plenty of uranium to fuel nuclear reactors in the future.
The report published by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says known amounts of uranium to fuel nuclear power plants have actually increased in recent years and there are enough supplies to meet demands for the next 85 years, or longer. Nuclear power is used to produce electricity.
A number or uranium producing countries, including Niger, Brazil, Australia and Namibia, have reported sharp increases in known supplies of uranium. In fact, says Luis Echavarri, head of the OECD's nuclear energy agency, there is likely enough uranium to fuel nuclear power plants for the next 150 years.
"In other words, if any country wants to launch a new nuclear energy program - because of security of [other energy] supply concerns or climate change concerns - the uranium resources are not a limiting factor," said Luis Echavarri.
Nuclear energy is looking increasingly attractive these days given the soaring prices of oil and gas - and the fact that these supplies often come from politically unstable countries. Nuclear energy is also considered a clean energy - in the sense that it does not produce earth-warming greenhouse gasses. Environmental groups, however, are concerned about long-term storage problems and other risks of producing nuclear energy and waste.
A number of industrialized countries have opted to extend the life of their existing nuclear reactors. Others, including the United States, France, Finland, Japan and Korea, have plans to build new ones. So do emerging giants like India and China. Beijing plans on building up to 35 new nuclear power plants in the next two decades.
"There are a number of countries which are seriously considering increasing their nuclear power plants," he said. "but on the other hand, you have to take into account that to build new nuclear power plants takes time - this is not for tomorrow."
According to Echavarri, only two countries - Iran and North Korea - pose concerns when it comes to whether their nuclear programs are for peaceful purposes or for military ones. He also dismisses worries that another Chernobyl-style explosion might take place - at least not among the OECD's member nations. That is one reason, he says, why countries continue to operate and build new plants.