We should embrace nuclear power

Uranium is certainly not as plentiful as, say, iron or aluminum, but it's not rare either. The reason why radon gas in basements is a danger is because of the slow radioactive decay of relatively abundant uranium-238 dispersed throughout the Earth's crust. Most naturally occurring uranium is the isotope uranium-238. It makes up about 99.3% of the naturally occurring uranium on Earth. Uranium-235 makes up about 0.7%, with trace amounts of uranium-234 accounting for the rest.

What makes uranium-235 special is that it will undergo nuclear fission upon absorption of a "thermal" neutron, that is, a neutron that is in thermal equilibrium with its environment. This makes it optimal fuel for nuclear reactors, and can be used to make an atomic bomb (the Hiroshima bomb used uranium-235). Uranium-238, by contrast, only undergoes fission when it absorbs highly energetic, i.e. "fast", neutrons.

Enriched uranium

In order to extract uranium-235 from natural uranium, uranium needs to be "enriched". The enrichment process separates uranium-235 from uranium-238 by means of mass spectrometry in diffusion devices. The leftover uranium-238 following enrichment is called "depleted" uranium, and is sometimes used to produce highly penetrating ammunition (of high density) for military weapons. The Gatling gun in the U.S. Navy's Phalanx Close-In Weapons System for last ditch defense against incoming missiles is one example.

There is one other military use of uranium-238/depleted uranium, and unlike depleted uranium shells, this one maximally utilizes the nuclear properties of uranium-238. Uranium-238 can be used as a tamper, that is, an outer casing, for a thermonuclear bomb. The neutrons released by certain nuclear fusion reactions that give a thermonuclear bomb its destructive power are highly energetic. Unlike fission neutrons, these very fast fusion neutrons can easily induce fission in uranium-238. With the fissioning of the tamper from the flux of fusion neutrons, the destructive power of a thermonuclear bomb can be doubled by adding this tamper of uranium-238.

Nuclear power

If generating power from reactors is the goal, the enrichment process is both expensive and highly wasteful. Naturally occurring uranium can sustain a fission chain reaction in heavy water moderated reactors. Yet for some reason the historical preference is to use enriched uranium in power reactors.

The uranium-238 is not necessarily the nuclear power equivalent of waste slag though. Uranium-238 can be loaded into special reactors called breeder reactors. In these reactors, uranium-238 nuclei absorb a single fission neutron, and subsequently beta decay to plutonium-239. Like uranium-235, plutonium-239 will undergo fission upon absorption of thermal neutrons. Therefore, uranium-238, so long as we have reactors to turn it into plutonium-239, is potentially an immense energy source, as it thorium-232 which can similarly be turned into uranium-233.

If we use all of the uranium-235 up without breeding ample plutonium-239 and uranium-233 supplies though, we just might will have eaten our seed corn when it comes to nuclear energy.


The author, who wishes to remain anonymous, has a Ph.D. in Experimental High Energy Nuclear Physics.


We should embrace Nuclear Power – it’s the only sensible option, by Rhoda Wilson, The Expose, 21 February 2024:

The insane pseudo-environmentalists and the mad greens have campaigned strongly against nuclear power. In Germany they have been so successful that nuclear power plants have been closed down and the Germans are now obtaining their electricity by burning coal...

Other countries which have banned nuclear energy include Japan, Switzerland, Spain and Belgium. Many other countries have no nuclear power reactors including Austria, Australia, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Malaysia and Norway... Other countries, such as France, have for some time been increasing the amount of electricity they obtain from nuclear power...

China’s leaders are well aware that oil is running out fast and so China is now working hard to acquire enough uranium to run the thousands of nuclear plants it knows it will have to build (and has already started building)...

Even the Arabs are keen to use nuclear energy, though the Americans are opposed to their building nuclear power stations. The Arabs say that nuclear power is the energy of the future and (not unreasonably) that no one has the right to stop them using it. They recognise that their oil and gas supplies are fast running out and they want to sell what they’ve got left, rather than use it up themselves...

Both China and South Africa are building advanced power plants – to protect themselves from rising coal and natural gas prices and to meet new restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions – and the plants they are building seem extraordinarily safe...

... unless we are all prepared to go to bed when it gets dark, and to stay in bed when the weather gets cold, there really isn’t another sensible option...

Vernon Coleman’s book 'A Bigger Problem than Climate Change' explains the history of oil production (including the geopolitics) and explores the problems caused by the fact that the world is running out of oil. 

Book: Geodestinies: The Inevitable Control of Earth Resources over Nations and Individuals, by Walter Youngquist, 1997.

Immigration, Population Growth, and the Environment.

Population, Petroleum, and Systemic Collapse.

Blip: Humanity’s 300 Year Self-Terminating Experiment With Industrialism.