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Figure 7.1a Uranium resources versus cost expressed in nine categories: STK = reported stocks; RAR = reasonably assured resources; EAR-I = estimated additional resources; OKR = other known resources; UCS = unconventional resources; EAR-II = estimated additional resources; SR = speculative resources (OECD, 1996).

A general rule about prices of any commercial fuels seems to have evolved. The time for depletion of reserves has stayed between 15 to 30 years for nearly a century! (Coal reserves are an exception.) If enough fuel exists for 30 years, little incentive can be generated for exploration, but, if the amount falls below 15 years, the profit motive ensures that exploration restarts. The present and anticipated use of nuclear power provides little incentive to explore uranium. Allowing for a price increase of 0.5 cents per kWeh, it appears we could have a future for nuclear power for 50 years without a breeder reactor (based either on a uranium or a thorium cycle), and possibly for many more years (Wilson, 2000). After perhaps half a century it would be wise to be ready to use alternative fission fuel cycles. The use of a thorium-based fuel cycle in light water reactors might postpone the need for a plutonium breeder reactor using fast neutrons. These alternative reactors and nuclear fuel cycles are discussed in 7.4.2.3. All in all, a factor of 1000 increase in effective fuel supply seems not

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Figure 7.1b Uranium resources versus cost (OECD, Benedict) showing uranium resource cost models used for Conventional Resource (CR = STK + RAR + EAR-I + OKR), Known Resources (KR = CR + UCS), and Total Resources (TR = KR + EAR-II + SR) assumptions (OECD, 1996).

unreasonable. It would be impudent to project the existence of the human race beyond the 100000 years implied by these factors.

7.1.5 Are public concerns real?

The public has expressed a number of concerns related to nuclear energy. These concerns are addressed in Section 7.3. We note here several general features of the public concerns that seem relevant to us. Often a concern is expressed that can be shown to be technically unwarranted or exaggerated. Yet the concern persists even after the truth is accepted; perceptions persist. This situation indicates to us that the statements of the anti-nuclear-energy opposition, while based on these perceptions, may not be a real indicator of the concern. Nevertheless, right or wrong, perceptions have consequences, and hence must be taken very seriously.

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