When it comes to uranium resources, a distinction is made between safely recoverable reserves, which can be mined at costs of up to 80 dollars per kilogram, and those with extraction costs of up to 130 dollars per kilogram.
In addition to these main sources, experts cite the so-called speculative resources as a third category. In addition, there is uranium from stocks and, above all, from old nuclear weapons stocks. The latter is almost exclusively enriched uranium. This material has a higher proportion of the isotope uranium-235 than naturally occurring uranium.
This isotope is critical to the use of uranium for power generation with current nuclear reactors. It contains 235 core components, so-called nucleons, which are composed of 92 protons and 143 neutrons. In nature, uranium-235 only accounts for 0.7 percent. The main part with 99 percent is the isotope U-238 with 146 neutrons. How many calories in uranium?
There is also great potential in the extraction of uranium from seawater, which has already been proven several times as a technical possibility. The amount of uranium in seawater is currently estimated at several billion tons.
The energy value of one ton of uranium is between 0.4 and 0.7 petajoules and depends on the type of reactor used and the type of fuel cycle used.
In order to assess the potential of the reserves and resources of uranium, it should be noted that only uranium-235 is used in the current reactors, which makes up almost one percent of natural uranium. The plutonium produced in the reactor during the fission of U-235 can be reprocessed and used for further energy generation or it is transferred directly to a repository for radioactive substances. The so-called fast breeder technology offers a much more effective use of the uranium, since with them the remaining 99 percent of the nuclear energy of the uranium-238 isotope can be used for energy generation. This would increase the potential of natural uranium for energy generation by a factor of 60 or more.