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Nuking the Tar Sands

Can nuclear heat allow for low-cost commercial reclamation?

Fortnightly Magazine - September 2008

and for maximum distance between reactor and injection well?

Can sale of surplus electrical power benefit project economics?

Will favorable governmental policy and public opinion provide opportunity to deploy capital for this purpose?

Regulatory uncertainties do make it difficult to resolve these issues. For example:

The future cost of carbon;

The permanent sequestration of CO 2 and spent nuclear fuel; 4

Any modification to the March 13, 2007 one-year moratorium prohibiting preparation of final regulations;

Any amendment to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that explicitly limits U.S. imports of oil from unconventional source; 5

Access to resources on public land; and

Incentives to fast-track technology and commercial-scale development.

Until these uncertainties are resolved, applying nuclear power in North America’s petroleum industry will remain inherently high-risk. 6



1. Charles W. Forsberg, U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, presentation at the American Nuclear Society’s 2006 International Congress on Advances in Nuclear Power Plants, Reno Nevada, June 7, 2006.

2. Excludes costs of financing and escalation.

3. Task Force on Strategic Unconventional Fuels – September 2006.

4. For a current review of nuclear waste issues, see “ Is Yucca Enough ,” Public Utilities Fortnightly , July 2008, Greg Turk and Tom Sweet.

5. “Spurring Unconventional Oil,” Oil & Gas Journal , April 7, 2008. Volume 106, Issue 13.

6. For a current review of the contracting risk management, see “ Navigating Nuclear Risks ,” Public Utilities Fortnightly , July 2008, Tom Flaherty, Jim Hendrickson, and Marco Bruzzano.