America, Japan and China are racing to be the first nation to make nuclear energy completely renewable. The hurdle is making it economic to extract uranium from seawater, because the amount of uranium in seawater is truly inexhaustible.
And it seems America is in the lead. New technological breakthroughs from DOE’s Pacific Northwest (PNNL) and Oak Ridge (ORNL) national laboratories have made removing uranium from seawater within economic reach and the only question is – when will the source of uranium for our nuclear power plants change from mined ore to seawater extraction?
Nuclear fuel made with uranium extracted from seawater makes nuclear power completely renewable. It’s not just that the 4 billion tons of uranium in seawater now would fuel a thousand 1,000-MW nuclear power plants for a 100,000 years. It’s that uranium extracted from seawater is replenished continuously, so nuclear becomes as endless as solar, hydro and wind.
The world of energy, which is to say the course of the world economy, has been turned upside-down with the fracking revolution. Less glamorous than information technology, perhaps, but the extraction of the formerly inaccessible reserves embedded in shale is having a profound effect on the world’s political economy, and in particular on the United States’ pre-eminence, strategically and economically.
Nothing could better symbolize the change than the revelation that the United States is now calculated to have more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia. Ronald Bailey of Reason caught the news:
The Rystad Energy consultancy has just released its new calculations of global oil reserves and estimates that the U.S. may harbor as much 264 billion barrels of oil compared to Saudi Arabia's 212 billion barrels. Overall, world oil reserves exceed 2 trillion barrels. At current production rates, this is enough oil to supply the world for 70 years.
The Rystad analysts compare their estimates with those of the closely watched annual BP Statistical Review that conservatively calculates that the U.S. has 55 billion barrels of proved reserves and that world reserves stand at just under 1.7 trillion barrels.
It is not just the U.S. benefiting, of course:
ExxonMobil's 2016 annual Outlook for Energy report observes:
Technology is not just expanding our daily oil production; it also continues to increase the amount of oil and liquid fuels we can count on for the future.
In 1981, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that remaining global recoverable crude and condensate resources were 1 trillion barrels; today, the IEA estimates that it is 4.5 trillion barrels – enough to meet global oil demand beyond the 21st century. By 2040, the amount of resources yet to be produced will still be far higher than total production prior to 2040, even with a 20 percent rise in global oil demand.