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Dear Guardian – Finding Uranium Is The Easy Bit

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The Guardian is all of a fluster because some Chinese companies have been looking for uranium in Saudi Arabia. This is obviously the precursor to the building of a bomb. Which is to forget that most important distinction, that between dirt and ore.

There are only the 92 natural elements, a few of them existing in such trivial amounts that we can leave them aside here. Everything is therefore made of the other 85 to 90. So, we can go out into your back garden and find some amount of pretty much everything. There will be helium there, there will be radon, tin, iron, etc etc and yes, there will be uranium.

It is also true that we don’t mine your back garden for uranium pleasing as it would be to cause such pain and grief to those who work at The Guardian. The reason why is that the mining world makes an important distinction, that between dirt and ore. Ore is when there’s enough of the one element in there to make it worth digging the place up to extract it. Dirt is when it’s the usual sort of mixture that ain’t worth processing.

To give an example it is usually estimated that the North Sea contains some $5 trillion in gold. It would also cost some $20 trillion to extract it. The North Sea is therefore dirt as anyone who has ever gone bathing at Scarborough already knows.

At which point:

Revealed: Saudi Arabia may have enough uranium ore to produce nuclear fuel

At one level, of course it does. Uranium is commonly found in many a rock and the Saudis definitely have enough uranium within their borders to build a few bombs, an entire nuclear industry, if they so wish. What they’ve not got as yet is any ore:

Saudi Arabia likely has enough mineable uranium ore reserves to pave the way for the domestic production of nuclear fuel, according to confidential documents seen by the Guardian.

Shrug, so’s Conrwall got enough uranium. It’s all about 10 ppm U. We could mine that, Would cost a fortune because it’s not ore of course but it’s possible.

These are “inferred deposits”, estimated from initial surveys. Further exploration would be needed to confirm uranium reserves and calculate the cost of extraction.

They’ve found some U. What they don’t know is whether it’s ore. Because that’s something you only know after you’ve calculated the cost of extraction.

The Saudis, on this report, are about as close as we all are to the Kernow Kaboom. Please, no one let them know that seawater is 0.0016ppm uranium. They’ll be worrying about Rockall having the bomb next.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. There’s also the point that even if they had a vast amount of uranium ore it would still take a vast amount of effort to extract the specific isotopes of uranium required to make a Little Boy / Hiroshima-style atomic bomb.

    Natural uranium is made weapons-grade through isotopic enrichment. Initially only about 0.7% of it is fissile U-235, with the rest being almost entirely uranium-238 (U-238). They are separated by their differing masses. Highly enriched uranium is considered weapons-grade when it has been enriched to about 90% U-235

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weapons-grade_nuclear_material

    Which is kinda why the US only ever dropped one uranium bomb, because although the design was relatively simple, the amount of effort required to go from natural uranium to weapons grade uranium is substantial and time-consuming.

  2. This is Rockall. We have tooken it because it is in the area of the British rocket testing range.
    Rocket testing range? I’ve never heard so much rubbish in all my…
    KABLOOIE!

  3. If the Saudis actually wished to produce a bomb, it’d certainly make good sense for them to produce the uranium locally instead of buying it in the market place. I understand they have plenty of phosphates, which usually contain some uranium.

    The question of course is do they want that bomb. I can’t see that it’s worth their bother at present, given all the sanctions and pressure and fuss they’d have to go through. You’ll have noted that the South Koreans have not started a bomb project yet, though they really need one to deal with Jongo.

    They find the American alliance more beneficial. So do the Taiwanese and the Japs.

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