Smashing Atoms: The History of Uranium and Nuclear Power
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Smashing Atoms: The History of Uranium and Nuclear Power

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The following content is sponsored by the Sprott Physical Uranium Trust

uranium and nuclear power infographic

The History of Uranium and Nuclear Power

Uranium has been around for millennia, but we only recently began to understand its unique properties.

Today, the radioactive metal fuels hundreds of nuclear reactors, enabling carbon-free energy generation across the globe. But how did uranium and nuclear power come to be?

The above infographic from the Sprott Physical Uranium Trust outlines the history of nuclear energy and highlights the role of uranium in producing clean energy.

From Discovery to Fission: Uncovering Uranium

Just like all matter, the history of uranium and nuclear energy can be traced back to the atom.

Martin Klaproth, a German chemist, first discovered uranium in 1789 by extracting it from a mineral called “pitchblende”. He named uranium after the then newly discovered planet, Uranus. But the history of nuclear power really began in 1895 when German engineer Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-rays and radiation, kicking off a series of experiments and discoveries—including that of radioactivity.

In 1905, Albert Einstein set the stage for nuclear power with his famous theory relating mass and energy, E = mc2. Roughly 35 years later, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman confirmed his theory by firing neutrons into uranium atoms, which yielded elements lighter than uranium. According to Einstein’s theory, the mass lost during the reaction changed into energy. This demonstrated that fission—the splitting of one atom into lighter elements—had occurred.

“Nuclear energy is incomparably greater than the molecular energy which we use today.”

—Winston Churchill, 1955.

Following the discovery of fission, scientists worked to develop a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. In 1939, a team of French scientists led by Frédéric Joliot-Curie demonstrated that fission can cause a chain reaction and filed the first patent on nuclear reactors.

Later in 1942, a group of scientists led by Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard set off the first nuclear chain reaction through the Chicago Pile-1. Interestingly, they built this makeshift reactor using graphite bricks on an abandoned squash court in the University of Chicago.

These experiments proved that uranium could produce energy through fission. However, the first peaceful use of nuclear fission did not come until 1951, when Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-1) in Idaho generated the first electricity sourced from nuclear power.

The Power of the Atom: Nuclear Power and Clean Energy

Nuclear reactors harness uranium’s properties to generate energy without any greenhouse gas emissions. While uranium’s radioactivity makes it unique, it has three other properties that stand out:

  • Material Density: Uranium has a density of 19.1g/cm3, making it one of the densest metals on Earth. For reference, it is nearly as heavy (and dense) as gold.
  • Abundance: At 2.8 parts per million, uranium is approximately 700 times more abundant than gold, and 37 times more abundant than silver.
  • Energy Density: Uranium is extremely energy-dense. A one-inch tall uranium pellet contains the same amount of energy as 120 gallons of oil.

Thanks to its high energy density, the use of uranium fuel makes nuclear power more efficient than other energy sources. This includes renewables like wind and solar, which typically require much more land (and more units) to generate the same amount of electricity as a single nuclear reactor.

But nuclear power offers more than just a smaller land footprint. It’s also one of the cleanest and most reliable energy sources available today, poised to play a major role in the energy transition.

The Future of Uranium and Nuclear Power

Although nuclear power is often left out of the clean energy conversation, the ongoing energy crisis has brought it back into focus.

Several countries are going nuclear in a bid to reduce reliance on fossil fuels while building reliable energy grids. For example, nuclear power is expected to play a prominent role in the UK’s plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Furthermore, Japan recently approved restarts at three of its nuclear reactors after initially phasing out nuclear power following the Fukushima accident.

The resurgence of nuclear power, in addition to reactors that are already under construction, will likely lead to higher demand for uranium—especially as the world embraces clean energy.

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The History of Cannabis Prohibition in the U.S.

Cannabis is federally illegal in the U.S., but it wasn’t always that way. Here’s a look at the timeline of cannabis prohibition in the U.S.

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The History of Cannabis Prohibition in the U.S.

The legal status of cannabis in the U.S. isn’t always clear. At the federal level, it is an illegal Schedule I drug. However, individual states have the ability to determine their own laws around cannabis sales and usage.

But cannabis was not always illegal at the top level. It was only in the last 100 years that cannabis faced a prohibition similar to the alcohol prohibition of the early 1920s.

In this infographic from Tenacious Labs, we explore the fascinating history of cannabis prohibition in the U.S. dating all the way back to the 1900s.

The Early History of Cannabis Legality

The earliest laws surrounding the cannabis plant in the U.S. were drafted before the country was even founded. In 1619, a law was passed in the colony of Virginia which required every single farm to grow cannabis and produce hemp, an important commodity at the time.

Over time, marijuana from the cannabis plant started to be used for medicinal purposes. Early recreational use was first introduced by Mexican immigrants in the early 1900s.

Flash forward to the 1930s, when the country was struggling financially during the Great Depression. To encourage economic growth, alcohol prohibition was lifted, and those who had supported teetotalling began to target marijuana instead. At the time, cannabis was consumed largely in black and Mexican communities, and racist attitudes began to shape an association between crime, lewd behavior, immorality, and marijuana.

Legal Changes

The 1930s marked the beginning of America’s war against marijuana. Here’s a glance at some of the most famous laws around cannabis prohibition:

  • The Marihuana Tax Act (1937)
  • The Boggs Act (1952)
  • The Narcotics Control Act (1956)
  • The Controlled Substances Act (1971)

In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act was enforced, prohibiting marijuana federally but still allowing medical use. Prior to that, 29 states had already outlawed marijuana on their own.

But by the 1950s, a counterculture movement had begun, with young people using marijuana recreationally much more than previous generations.

Eventually, the Boggs Act (1952) and Narcotics Control Act (1956) were put in place to combat the counterculture. These laws set mandatory sentences for drug-related offenses, including marijuana. A first-offense marijuana possession conviction could result in a minimum sentence of 2-10 years with a fine of up to $20,000.

In 1970, cannabis was classified as a Schedule I drug—the same category as heroin—under the Controlled Substances Act. However, the 70s also saw an opposing shift, with a number of states beginning to decriminalize marijuana.

ℹ️ Decriminalization means that although possessing marijuana remains illegal, one is not subject to prosecution or jail time for possessing certain amounts.

After decriminalization, commercial businesses began to capitalize and started to market marijuana-related products. Some products were marketed towards children, which, in tandem with the intensive hippie culture from the 70s, sparked a war against marijuana led by parents and supported by president Ronald Reagan.

The Modern Era

During the 1990s, five states passed laws to allow the medical usage of marijuana—between 2010 and 2020, 16 states passed medical marijuana laws.

StateLegal Status
AlabamaMedical
AlaskaAdult use
ArizonaAdult use
ArkansasMedical
CaliforniaAdult use
ColoradoAdult use
ConnecticutAdult Use
DelawareMedical
FloridaMedical
GeorgiaMedical (Limited)
HawaiiMedical
IdahoIllegal
IllinoisAdult use
IndianaMedical (Limited)
IowaMedical (Limited)
KansasIllegal
KentuckyIllegal
LouisianaMedical
MaineAdult use
MarylandMedical
MassachusettsAdult use
MichiganAdult use
MinnesotaMedical
MississippiMedical (Limited)
MissouriMedical
MontanaAdult use
NebraskaIllegal
NevadaAdult use
New HampshireMedical
New JerseyAdult use
New MexicoAdult use
New YorkAdult use
North CarolinaMedical (Limited)
North DakotaMedical
OhioMedical
OklahomaMedical
OregonAdult use
PennsylvaniaMedical
Rhode IslandMedical
South CarolinaMedical (Limited)
South DakotaMedical
TennesseeMedical (Limited)
TexasMedical (Limited)
UtahMedical (Limited)
VermontAdult use
VirginiaAdult use
WashingtonAdult use
Washington, DCAdult use
West VirginiaMedical
WisconsinIllegal
WyomingIllegal

In 2021, a total of 18 states have fully legalized cannabis, while another 26 have allowed marijuana usage for medicinal purposes in some capacity. Furthermore, the MORE Act—a bill to legalize marijuana federally—was reintroduced in the House of Representatives in May 2021.

If passed, the MORE Act (the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act) would essentially remove cannabis from its classification as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. It would also work towards the expungement of criminals who were charged with crimes related to marijuana.

While the U.S. government has gone back and forth with cannabis legalization over the years, it appears that in the 21st century, the path only leads one way: towards federal legalization.

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Ocean Economy: The Next Wave of Sustainable Innovation

This graphic explores how the $1.5 trillion ocean economy can help fight against some of the toughest challenges facing the world today.

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Ocean Economy: The Next Wave of Sustainable Innovation

Roughly 21–37% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are attributable to our current food system, which includes conventional agriculture and land use according to the latest IPCC report.

With the global population rising and more mouths to feed, now is the time to reconsider how we can tap into our global resources to build a more sustainable food system.

This infographic from Billy Goat Brands (CSE: GOAT) (“GOAT”) explores how the ocean economy—also referred to as the blue economy—plays a vital role in our fight against climate change and other environmental challenges facing the world today.

What is the Ocean Economy?

The ocean economy is described as the sustainable use of the ocean and its resources for economic development and ocean ecosystem health.

The global economic output of the ocean economy is $1.5 trillion each year. Here is an example of some of the activities and sectors that make up the ocean economy today:

ActivityRelated Sectors
Harvesting of living marine resourcesFisheries
Aquaculture
Harvesting of non-living marine resources 
Marine biology
Mining
Oil & Gas
Transport and trade
Tourism
Maritime transport
Shipping and shipbuilding
Coastal development
Renewable energy
Renewables (wind, wave, tidal energy)
Indirect economic activities
Carbon sequestration
Coastal protection
Waste disposal
Biodiversity

Financing ocean-related economic activities will ensure the future sustainability of this vital resource, and help combat threats that pose a risk to humanity, such as overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction.

However, some experts say that there is insufficient private and public investment in sustainable ocean economy activities.

The Investment Opportunity

Investors have a unique opportunity to drive change through companies innovating in the ocean economy and be part of the solution.

  • The ocean could provide six times more food than it does today.
  • Seafood continues to be the fastest growing sector by 2030 with only 60% of fish available for consumption.
  • The ocean economy provides a smaller carbon footprint compared to conventional agriculture.

The potential for economic growth will only continue to grow, presenting investors and institutions with a chance to add value at this crucial stage of development while making a real and tangible impact.

In fact, investing $1 in key ocean activities can yield at least $5 in global benefits—a number that will continue to rise over the next 30 years according to a World Resources Institute report.

The report also states that investing between $2 trillion and $3.7 trillion globally across four crucial areas could generate between $8.2 trillion and $22.8 trillion in returns by 2050. These four areas are:

  1. Restoring mangrove habitats
  2. Scaling up offshore wind production
  3. Decarbonizing international shipping
  4. Increasing the production of sustainably sourced ocean-based proteins

An Ocean of Possibilities on the Horizon

Plant-based alternatives will play an important role in alleviating the pressure on ocean resources, and technological innovation has been pivotal in creating imitation products for the consumer market.

GOAT provides diversified exposure to expansion-stage companies that contribute to the ocean economy through innovative food technologies, functional foods and plant-based alternatives.

“We believe that plant-based seafood alternatives should be available for everyone, everywhere. That’s why we spent years creating a seamless experience that’s nearly indistinguishable from their animal-based counterparts.”
—Mike Woodruff, CEO Sophie’s Kitchen

Sophie’s Kitchen is one of GOAT’s investee companies and a leading California-based manufacturer and distributor of disruptive plant-based seafood alternatives.

Go to billygoatbrands.com to learn more about investing in the ocean economy today.

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