Nuclear Energy Generation Through Uranium: Overview and Advantages

Nuclear Energy Generation Through Uranium: Overview and Advantages

Question: Uranium is a cleaner fuel but it is not freely traded. Discuss why nuclear energy generated by uranium has a lot of advantages and the manner of its generation.

- Uranium is a cleaner fuel, yet it is not freely traded.

- Currently, fossil fuels constitute 67% of total electricity generated across the globe

- World Bank has estimated that 41.2% of the electricity of the world is generated from coal, 21.9% is from natural gas and 3.9% from oil.

- Hydropower comprises 15.6% whereas nuclear power constitutes 11.7% and other renewable resources cover slightly more than 4% of total electricity generation of the world

Value of Nuclear Energy Generation

- There is massive disparity in per capita electricity consumption between developing and developed world
Around 15% of the globe has no access to electricity

- Growing population and the rising income of developing world will lead to increase in global electricity demand

- In the near future, renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, wind and biomass will not be able to produce adequate electricity to meet the demands of the world

- Therefore, nuclear power is a easy alternative to meet demands of global energy

- It also eliminates emission of CO2 and is cleaner than fossil fuels

- Nuclear reactor uses uranium for fuel.


- Naturally mined uranium has three forms:

- 99.3% of U-238

- Lower than 0.01% of U-234

- 0.7% of U-235

- U-235 is a unstable form and it decays to get stability through which there is release of energy

- Within the nuclear reactor, process of releasing energy is initiated through firing of free neutrons on the nucleus

- More abundant U-238 is used as a fuel in breeder reactors

- U-235 is used as a main source of nuclear energy

About Enrichment

- Coal is ready to use following mining, but uranium has to go a further step to become a suitable fuel

- For starting nuclear reactor, proportion of U-235 should be more than its natural level of 0.7%

- Process of increasing proportion of uranium which is fissionable in a sample is referred to as enrichment

- Typical reactor fuel should be around 3.5 to 5 percent of U-235

- According to WNA, uranium production figures in 2014 were such that 40% of the total production of the world comes from Kazakhstan

- Around 16% were from Canada while 9% comes from Australia

- These three nations along with Niger, Russia and Namibia account for 85% of international production of uranium

- Unlike other minerals in the market, uranium is not freely traded

- A voluntary association of 46 nations referred to as the Nuclear Supplier’s Group follows guidelines for supply of uranium and technology for creating the nuclear reactors

- NSG guidelines are there for importing nations to agree to certain safeguard conditions allowing inspection of nuclear facilities by IAEA
NSG was formed after India tested nuclear weapons in the 1970s

Facts and Stats

- According to World Nuclear Association, in June 2015 there were 437 operational reactors in 30 nations

- These reactors jointly generate 2411 billion kWh of electricity

- Within 18 other countries, reactors are being constructed, planned or approved

- Around 3/4th or 76.9% of the total electricity generated in France is from nuclear reactors

- Nuclear power equals 50% of the electricity generated in Ukraine, Hungary and Slovakia
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