Energy Outlook 2014: New Nuclear on the Radar

Nuclear Outlook Technology Review

Nuclear Outlook Technology Review

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The global energy outlook is shifting on two fronts: More shale oil & gas production is on tap, and some modest developments on the nuclear front are coming.

• Japan will most likely re-start many of their nuclear reactors with improved safety factors over the next few years because Japan has no realistic alternatives. They will remain the third-largest user of uranium in the world.

• The current status of U.S. reactors include 100 reactors in full operation, 5 under construction, 25 in the planning/permitting stage, and 32 in permanent shut-down or retirement.

• China has 20 operating nuclear power plants (only 1% of their total power produced), another 28 under construction, and has brought 3 nuclear plants on-line in 2013. An additional 50 nuclear plants are in the various stages of planning and permitting.

• 2013 U.S. uranium production increased by 16% over that of 2012, the highest production since 1997. At present, 83% of U.S. nuclear fuel demand is met by foreign sources, such as Canada, Australia, and Kazakhstan.

• Uranium spot prices will likely remain around $35/lb for yellowcake (U3O8). However, upward cost pressure is growing because of future demands from China, Japan, and new construction.

• China is considering the use of thorium technology in their nuclear-reactor designs to reduce their growing need for uranium. Thorium is under serious study to replace uranium in reactors via Thor Energy and a consortium involving Westinghouse and others. __ Forbes h/t Nextbigfuture

More on prospective thorium reactor development in China, India, and the US.

China begins pouring concrete for a demo pebble bed high temperature gas cooled reactor.

Japan’s latest entry into the race to develop thorium molten salt mini-reactors via NBF

General Atomics’ gas cooled high temperature small modular reactor is another hot entry into the race to build new-generation reactors capable of burning spent and depleted advanced design uranium fuels. (via NextBigFuture)

North American oil & gas production is continuing to increase, shifting the global geopolitics of energy as it improves. For example: “The North American energy revolution and rapid industrialisation in Asia have effectively reversed the flow of energy round the globe. For most of the 20th century, the primary flow was from East to West. Now the main flow is from West to East.“. Source

Meanwhile, other countries are beginning to move into shale exploration and production:

Argentina has 200 shale wells scheduled for this year, followed by China with 60 and Australia with 25 wells slated to be drilled. Russia and Saudi Arabia both anticipate 20 shale wells. In Poland, oil companies are expected to drill 12 wells this year, according to Wood Mackenzie. __ FuelFix

This year’s losers are likely to include the intermittent unreliables — big wind and big solar — as more governments are forced to cut wasteful subsidies for the expensive and ultimately destructive technologies.

As more nations develop their own shale oil & gas resources, current suppliers from Russia to the Middle East are likely to feel the pinch of reduced export income. Russia may have choked Ukrainian access to its rich Eastern shale deposits, but Putin cannot stop China from developing its shale wealth.

Some African and Middle Eastern oil producers will likewise see less demand for oil, as other sources of energy are developed elsewhere.

It is difficult to predict how all of this will affect global oil prices, particularly as lingering effects from the 2008 – 2009 global recession still hang over the economic landscape like a toxic cloud. In the US, for example, without the shale energy revolution the US would likely still be in recession. In China, continued ghost-bubble stimulus is required to prevent collapse in several industries. Exporting nations such as Russia, Brazil, India, etc. experience slumps along with downward fluctuations in commodities prices.

The only type of peak oil we are likely to see in the near to intermediate future is “political peak oil.” In other words, energy shortages that come from bad political decisions by government leaders and bureaucrats — such as Obama’s EPA. Watch them closely.

In the deep background, several potentially disruptive energy technologies continue in development. We do not need for all of them to succeed.

More: Russia’s global energy intentions . . .

… it’s absolutely in Russia’s best interests to cause havoc and unrest at every opportunity for one end and one end only…

To keep energy prices higher, so the oligarchs who report to the Kremlin can continue to line their pockets.

Everything else is just noise.

What Russia is doing is neither new, nor unpredictable.

… “There’s a huge divide between the mega rich and the poor. Oligarchs and government operatives in the Russian bloc thrive on chaos. As a nuclear superpower, Russia will always possess a bigger bark than bite, impeding global progress in the Middle East and Asia, where Russia holds significant interests. Russia and the former Soviet Republics have never recovered from the collapse of the USSR. There are questions about rule of law, distribution of equity and transparency of markets. Until those are resolved, the region, minus the Baltics, will face significant problems for years, if not decades, to come. _Russia Tries to Corner the Market

What has motivated Putin and his inner circle throughout the Ukraine crisis is the fear of a Europeanized Ukraine on their border. They have had no real concern about military bases in Crimea or non-existent threats to ethnic Russians. They are simply worried about their own skins and the personal wealth they have accumulated outside of Russia. They send their wives and children abroad. Their children study in the best and most expensive schools and universities in the west. __ Oligarchy Strikes Back

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not about grabbing Ukraine’s energy wealth. It was all about holding Ukraine back from becoming less dependent upon neo-imperial Russia. Putin and his new gang of oligarchs want to have it all, and to lord it over everyone they can. But the world is changing, outside their grasp. They are very vulnerable to the price of energy. Good news for the world is bad news for Russia.

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4 Responses to Energy Outlook 2014: New Nuclear on the Radar

  1. bob sykes says:

    Whenever discussing the Ukraine, remember that the crisis began with a US/EU supported coup d’etat that overthrew the legitimate, freely and democratically elected government of Yanukovych and his party. A junta now sits in Kiev. It has little support in the East and Crimea, which voted heavily for Yanukovych (60 to 90%), and might have only a bare majority support in the West.

    Russia has merely exploited an unexpected opportunity that would not have existed had not the US/EU intervened in Ukraine to achieve their own economic goal, which was the integration of Ukraine into the EU and NATO. Plainly, the US/EU shot themselves in the head.

    The bad guys fought the bad guys, and the bad guys won. Who woulda thunk it?

    • alfin2101 says:

      Yes, there are no good guys on the front lines. Sometimes, that truism becomes a red herring.

      Your narrative of events in Ukraine is nice, neat, easy to remember. Easy to believe. Strong belief in things one did not witness, however, is not recommended. Arguing over beliefs in things one did not witness is particularly discouraged.

      I suggest this: Russia has been preparing for the Crimea coup for years, as well as what comes after. How far Russia moves into East Ukraine will depend upon many things happening inside and outside Russia’s putative borders. This thing is far from over.

  2. Sam says:

    They have no interest in Ukraine other than money? What if China took over the governments of Mexico and Canada and started military exercises there. Would the US only have interest in their money? If Quebec rebelled against this and had an election that separated them from the rest of Canada would the US support them? You know the answer to this.

    Why do you hate the Russians so much? If you don’t you give the appearance of hating them.

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