About This Item

Share This Item

The AAPG/Datapages Combined Publications Database

AAPG Bulletin


Volume: 63 (1979)

Issue: 9. (September)

First Page: 1599

Last Page: 1599

Title: Nuclear Power and Geology of Uranium: ABSTRACT

Author(s): Richard H. De Voto

Article Type: Meeting abstract


Nuclear and coal-fueled power plants are the only economically viable large-scale sources of new electrical energy available to man in the next several decades. Even without the ERA-required "best-available technology" of stack-gas scrubbers for coal-fired power plants, the total cost to produce electricity from nuclear power plants is clearly less expensive than from coal-fired power plants at most locations in the United States. Current "economic equivalency" of electrical-generating costs between coal and nuclear would support a nuclear fuel cost of approximately $100/lb of U3O8 (the 1979 price is $43/lb of U3O8).

The present domestic worldwide supply-demand relations indicate a continued strong need for successful uranium exploration and development programs through the next several decades. The economic realities would cause the price of uranium to rise to permit the development of low-grade uranium resources (100 to 500 ppm U3O8) competitively with coal should the discoveries of higher grade uranium resources be insufficient to fulfill the increased demand.

Historically (1950s to 1978), the bulk of the world's uranium has been produced from: (1) lower Proterozoic uraninite placer deposits in quartz-pebble conglomerates of braided-river systems, (2) epigenetic uranium deposits in sandstones located at or near groundwater oxidation-reduction interfaces, commonly in close association with organic material in fluvial sandstones, and (3) hydrothermal vein uranium deposits. These three distinctly different geologic environments continue to be important exploration targets in the search for new uranium deposits.

Exploration for economic uranium deposits has expanded to many geologic environments which have generally been overlooked in the past. Most notable among these are: (1) granitic uranium deposits (commonly anatectic), (2) alkalic igneous-hydrothermal uraniferous environments, (3) altered acidic or alkalic volcanic ash, ash flow, or volcaniclastic environments, (4) metamorphic-hosted uranium deposits, variously interpreted as a metamorphic-hydrothermal or unconformity-related environment, (5) calcrete uranium deposits in evaporative, desert groundwater environments, and (6) unconformity-related environments. Significant uranium deposits have been discovered in each of these geologic environments in the 1970s.

The expanded search for economically viable uranium resources and the improved market and technology factors have caused exploration and development efforts to advance far in recent years. Low-grade uranium resources that have been long known and ignored, such as uraniferous, black, organic-rich shales and marine phosphorites are currently being developed for uranium production. In-situ solution-mining activities have permitted economic exploration of uranium deposits that heretofore have been uneconomic because of their small size, low grade, or depth. Exploration drilling and development activities are expanding to greater depths.

End_of_Article - Last_Page 1599------------

Copyright 1997 American Association of Petroleum Geologists