The case for nuclear energy

Energy policy for the 21st Century.
Some facts.
Total energy usage UK, 2001 about 240 million tonnes of oil equivalent.
http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file11250.pdf
Energy density of oil is 42MJ per kilogram, so the energy consumption of the UK is around 10^13 J/year or 2.79E12 Kwh
This equates to a total average power consumption of 317.35Gw. Or 317351 MW.
This is probably used at an average efficiency of about 50%..heating is more efficient, car transport less, electricity generation somewhere between.. so for a wet finger estimate, to replace all fossil fuel by alternative power distributed by electrical means represents a total generation capacity of say 160GW.
The national grid has a current capacity of 77GW So it would require probably a x3 upgrade to cope with using it as the primary energy distribution network. Not trivial, but not beyond capital availability...this paper suggests that something in the region of £2-£10billiion would cover it. FAR less than the cost of a single windfarm.
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200304/ldselect/ldsctech/126/12608.htm
The national grid runs at about 97% efficiency at full load..obviously somewhat less at reduced power as losses tend to be partly fixed, as well as load dependent.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Grid_UK
With a population of about 58 million, in 2001
http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page844.asp
This represents an *average* power requirement (OUTPUT energy, not fuel used) per capita of 2.7kW.
The biggest wind farm under construction is around 3MW per turbine.
http://www.tfot.info/pod/126/worlds-largest-wind-farm.html
So to generate 160GW of power takes around 53,000 of these turbines.
The latest and greatest wind farm costs around $3billion (£1.5billion) for 90MW, therefore the total cost of going ‘all wind power’ would be £2.6 trillion pounds.
In per capita terms, at a capital cost of £16.67 per watt, that is a capital cost of £45k per person for total generation capacity requirements.
The average cost of (conventional) generating capacity is quoted here as $1000 per kilowatt http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/nuclearnow.html
Or £500 per kilowatt, or 50p per watt. Contrast that with £16.67 per watt for the latest greatest windmill project.
Estimated capital costs for nuclear power are somewhat higher – the above source cites $2000 per kilowatt for an AGR, or £1 a watt. A capital cost of a mere £2,700 per capita to build nuclear power stations for all the UK’s energy needs. 16 times better return on investment than offshore windmills. Even allowing for ‘pro nuclear’ bias in the paper cited, that has to represent an enormous differential in capital cost with respect to windmills. Decommissioning costs are estimated to be up to 15% of the above.
Fuel costs are a relatively insignificant part of the total cost of nuclear power as has been shown earlier – less than .1p per kWh currently. Running staffing, maintenance and capital depreciation plus decommissioning represent the largest part of the energy costs. For example over a 20 year period at say £1 per watt capital cost, a straight amortization makes the £1000 per kilowatt spread out over 175200 hours, less than 0.56p per unit (kWh) generated.
In addition Wind power is highly inflexible: when the wind blows you have more than you want, when it doesn’t you have none. Expecting that Scotland will be blowing while England is still, is a dangerous assumption, and would require even more grid investment to carry power from one part of the country to another.
Nuclear stations have a different problem: they do not like to cope with highly fluctuating demand.
That means storage for part of the diurnal cycle would be needed for a 100% nuclear electric scenario.
That takes us on to the next bit of analysis. Non fossil fuel transport.
Batteries are available that will satisfy all transport needs (lithium ion polymer and the like) – but currently at a high price. However there is nothing intrinsically difficult about making them - no more so than a typical lead acid battery at 1/10th the price per unit capacity.
Diesel energy density is about 38MJ/liter..and taking an average tank of – say – 50 liters, then we need a 1400Mj of battery for an ‘average’ car..388Kwh. However an electric only vehicle is likely to be around 90% efficient as compared with an average of 15-25% for a diesel car (not only is the diesel at best 30% efficient, but other losses – braking, idling and so on are present: regenerative braking and zero fuel consumption at idle apart from radio/aircon etc is likely to get a better comparable efficiency figure overall) So a similar battery needs to be around 75kWh for similar range – 400 miles. In practice for MOST needs we can go to around half this for reduced range. - about 35kWh. With this keyed in to off peak charging on an every night basis, the total transport needs of the country can absorb the electricity at times when the generating capacity exceeds immediate needs.
Given that the energy spilt between industrial (mainly heating/cooling) domestic( mainly heating) and transport (mainly heating the air!!) is broadly equal, we can look at a domestic energy storage situation: Again these are broad brush strokes, but serves to give an order of magnitude indication: if each individual has an energy rating of 2.7Kw, and about a third of that is domestic consumption, then we arrive at an average of 900W/person consumption in the home.
For a 4 person family, to run all day and only use off peak electricity, we need 16 hours of capacity: say 24 hours capacity 3.6Kwx24hours 86.4kWh..or a couple of car batteries as described above. In lead acid terms its 7200Ah at 12v..
Now I found a 200AH truck battery at £142.99 retail http://www.tayna.co.uk/catalog/305/0/Commercial-Vehicle-Battery-Varta-Commercial-Battery-Range-page1.html
And that equates to 36 of those to act as an energy store for a 4 person household. A shade over £5000. Given the ease with which a new house could be equipped not with a wet central heating system – at £5,000-£10,000 – but with an electrical one at far lower cost, this is not an excessive figure: indeed the need for stored hot water would be eliminated, as the PEAK power output of such a battery would be well in excess of 100KW...enough to fill a bath or run a couple of showers. One would probably wire the house as a DC house at 240v with a ‘smart’ charger that would charge when – say – the voltage rose above a certain level indicating low load on the national generating capacity. That plus inverters for legacy AC equipment would enable the house to run for several days in summer, and at least 8 hours in winter, with no other power source whatsoever.
Such distributed battery storage, with the cost borne by the user, would completely solve the daily peak to mean issues of the grid/power station complex. In addition if electric cars were harmonized to around 240V DC as well, that would represent an enormous pool of energy storage that could be used in emergencies. It is accepted that such an uptake of lead acid batteries would seriously strain the production capacity and actual lead resources but once in place,, lead batteries are very recyclable.
What about other alternative energies?– windmills are obviously ridiculously expensive..
Well solar power direct is certainly a potential contributor..this article
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2007/02/19/ccview19.xml
comes up with a capital cost requirement of around $1/watt (50p/watt) as the economic point. Which sits well with previously calculated figures of a nuclear power station at around £1/W..with a longer life span and less maintenance..(no need to scrub the algae off the roof panels with nuclear).. However such technology is a ways off yet, and would obviously operate at reduced efficiency in winter, when demand for fuel is at its highest.
This article http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/interviews/interview/759 /
says we can expect about 50W/sq meter *average* solar energy in the UK..with a typical conversion efficiency of 10% (and that’s bloody optimistic) we get just 5W per square meter average out of a solar panel.
So for our 160GW national needs, that’s 32G sq meters..
About 176 kilometres square, or 110 miles square roughly. About twice the land area currently devoted to agriculture..
Right. Might be easier to plant it with biofuel? Basically what this shows us is that we actually produce nearly as much heat as we get from the sun on land by burning fossil fuels..In our climate solar energy would be – if the price was right – cheaper probably than windmills, but to make any significant impact at all, the area required exceeds even windmills.
In fact there is not enough agricultural land area to grow our own food, let alone fuel, and the solar energy density makes wide scale solar power a complete non starter as far as any significant contribution goes.
Where does this leave us?
The first point is that at current population levels a ‘renewable’ energy policy is simply a non-starter. There is insufficient energy coming into the country as sunlight to meet our energy needs with any available 'renewable' technology.
Wind power which essentially uses the oceans as solar collectors, is around ten times as expensive as any other alternative. It’s only viable now as a result of massive subsidies.
The UK, and most of Northern Europe, has almost no alternatives between
- continued use of fossil fuels on a massive scale. - reducing population levels and lifestyles (and energy consumption) to something approaching pre-industrial levels. - go for a nuclear electric base solution, augmented by small scale production from other means. And switch to battery-electric vehicles in toto. - Nothing else is remotely viable when analysed in detail.
All of the current ‘energy conservation’ measures that are promoted by governments at best might reduce the total consumption by a few percent ..that figure of 2.7KW per person average power consumption makes replacing 10 x 60W bulbs that are on perhaps 20% of the time with 10 x 25W bulbs …90W average saving at best. In a 4 person house using an average of 10.8kW..and indeed the heating effect of the bulbs would be lost as well, so in reality probably only a saving of 30-50W against a total energy burn of 10kW..about 0.3%.
Better insulation MIGHT help – but whilst energy efficiency of houses has increased since 1970, per capita domestic heating energy has increased. Why? Because less people live in large families in flats and small houses., and more people live in larger spaces. And people travel more.
Reducing people’s standard of living more than slightly is simply politically unacceptable.
The final conclusion goes like this.
We cannot sustain the population we now have and anything approaching the standard of living we have come to expect, without generating more power than any renewable sources can actually generate, at any cost.
For reasons geopolitical, of resource depreciation, and of climate change, the continued use of fossil fuels has to be brought down – not by a few tenths of a percent, but by a huge percentage- more than 50% - in the next 100 years or so.
No viable alternative to nuclear power exists. Not for the scale required, and even that requires significant investment in electricity distribution and battery technology to become practicable.
However these are at least soluble problems. Using windmills and solar panels – at least in N Europe, does not even address the problem. Any more than government inspired initiatives for CFL light bulbs or upgrading insulation standards do anything more than provide political spin to reassure a nervous population that ‘something is being done’.
Personally I would of course prefer that nuclear fusion energy was NOT the only viable solution: perhaps by 2100 it will not be, but in the context of right here, right now, I can see no other alternative: Politically the EU is between a rock and a hard place: on one hand the clamour for climate change measures is deafening, but also the clamour against nuclear energy. This leaves governments with little alternative but to simply fudge the issues, come up with inadequate directives, and throw the hot potatoes a little further into the future.
You will also note that in the proposed viable future, oil/gas companies have ceased to exist as a significant force. This in itself should be enough to realise why any so called 'scientific' study hat is funded by oil companies should be viewede with some scepticism.
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<snipped off topic vapid and dubious propaganda>
Thise sort of discussing hves it advocate on d-i-y but is it not away of topic for cam.misc?
Besides since TonyBLiar has secured our borders so neat and putta lot backbone into our security, secrets serviced and the like and disburst ollah wese forenbuggas, I don't seeded needs any argument agains Newclean Power.
Maybe even betta we be now we buileded in London innit an Manchessa. Ands Burmingahms. Issa so safe.
Mebbey we builded em in ToryBLiar house ands inna fat buggah Philosopher dissatime eh? Innit?
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Weatherlawyer wrote:

Typical.
Facts are rejected as propaganda, and conclusions logically derived are vapi.

nothing is off topic for a .misc group.

Do you speak english?

No idea what you are on about. Still, nothing new there.
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wrote:

The only alternative, unless you want to use your washing machine et al on a windy day etc.
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a nuclear power plant in every town in every tinpot country on the planet
cant wait
rosie phutour
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.org wrote:

That, or no towns and no people.

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Ok, so /a/ wind turbine may only be working 15% of the time, but there is wind blowing /somewhere/ in the country all the time.
You might as well say that a gas turbine has to be powered down once every 90 days for maintenance, therefore relying on gas for power generation will give power outages four times a year.
-- JGH
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snipped-for-privacy@arcade.demon.co.uk wrote:

Irrelevant. The costs and the scale simply do not add up.
Windpower is an expensive waste of time, space and countryside. You need a windmill for at least every 1000 people. With redundancy one per 100 or so, and how many will be out of action needing fixing?
It probably takes as much messing around to fix 2-3 windmills as one large power station..

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It was interesting to read the analysis. Even intuitively one can figure out the proportions and scalings and what will add up and what won't.
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On Sat, 01 Dec 2007 18:43:02 +0000, The Natural Philosopher wrote:

There is also the argument that *no* power is obtained without some risk to the environment. Disrupting airflow by extracting power from it on a large scale *could* change whole weather systems, potentially making the whole planet uninhabitable. Similar potential risks (possibly even worse) come in utilising tidal power. Adding more and more energy extraction and improving its efficiency escalates the problem. Admittedly these risks are tiny at present, but they are real and need to be balanced against everything else.
--
Mick (Working in a M$-free zone!)
Web: http://www.nascom.info http://mixpix.batcave.net
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mick wrote:

Got it in one. Green ideals are unnattainable: this idea that we can somehow become disembodied godlike custodians of a natural system that we have no impact on, and yet still live in, is arrant nonsense. Every living thing affects the environment: Man as much as, or more than, most. WE just happen to have become consciously aware of it, thats all.
The question is what effect we choose to have: I don't have a positive answer to that, but I certainly am in favour of not making it uninhabitable for humans. The difference brteween teh three alternattives - fossil fuel, nuclear fuel, and almost no fuel, is one between making it globally uninhabitable for a million years, making a very small part - less than a few acres of it - uninhabitable for 50,000 years, or or making it all bareky inhabitable for a vastly reduced global population, and throwing away all chance of progress, for a hundred years..

My thinking is broadly along these lines:
Windmills fuck up the landscape, (seascape?)) and are immensely expensive and inneficient ways of producing very little power.
Utilising sunlight on land areas in ANY form is not going to work whether its solar or biofuel, in Northern Europe. NOT at the current population densities. We would have to devote just about every inch of land to food or power..the impact on the environment would be totally devastating.
Nuclear fission, for a hundred years has its problems, but they are by comparison small and containable for those 100 years. Maybe fusion will be working in 100 years. Or something even as yet undreamed of will come along, but it won't come along in a mediaeval greeny serf society. We will be lucky to even have cement, bricks, steel, antibiotics...
Ultimately there is only one - or perhaps two - problems with nuclear power. What to do with a bunch of concentrated radioactives - and by the way. spread thin enough a 100 years worth would barely lift the backrground radiation level perceptibly even if they were just tossed into the sea..and the issue of nuclear weapons that fast breeder reactors or uranium refining carried on far beyond what is needed for reactors might to to the nuclear balance of power. I am not really worried about Korean or Iranian missiles: the MAD scenario works just as well there..one launch from a geographically known site and that site is off the map for 100 years..that's why we spend money on Trident. And put up with GW Bush and his pals. The greater danger is a ship or a plane of no identifiable source going BANG somewhere off an populated area. But again if you don't know where its from, what point does it have in geopolitical power games? If such a thing happened, and the USA decided to nuke Northern pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistsan, who would stop them?
And if they didn't need the oil anymore, they probably would.
We have lived 62 years with nuclear weapons and one has never gone off in anger since Nagasaki: And the ones that did go off did not wreck the planet. Far more people have died worse deaths since then through other causes and means. Its not the end of the world.
However CO2 increase is wrecking the world, and IS killing a LOT of people.
*shrug* thats the choices as I see em.
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wrote:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/dec/02/renewableenergy.solarpower "Europe is considering plans to spend more than 5bn on a string of giant solar power stations along the Mediterranean desert shores of northern Africa and the Middle East.
More than a hundred of the generators, each fitted with thousands of huge mirrors, would generate electricity to be transmitted by undersea cable to Europe and then distributed across the continent to European Union member nations, including Britain.
Billions of watts of power could be generated this way, enough to provide Europe with a sixth of its electricity needs and to allow it to make significant cuts in its carbon emissions. At the same time, the stations would be used as desalination plants to provide desert countries with desperately needed supplies of fresh water."
how much does a nuclear plant cost to build?

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1) This is reported in the Observer/Guardian.
2) It doesn't say how much energy would be expected from the 5bn waste^H^H^H^H^Hinvestment. The other costs of 200bn are not directly connected to an amount either.
3) The locations could hardly be described as politically stable.
4) The production cost/unit makes it non-viable in Europe, and that's before the cost of transmission is taken into account.
5) The EU are experts at wasting our money on white elephant projects - e.g. Galileo.

In the region of 1.5-2bn. Less if built at existing sites and not using British contractors.
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Andy Hall wrote:

<snip>
Galileo is not a waste of money. The Americans can vary the accuracy of GPS or turn it off at will should they so choose, the dependence on it in shipping worries me already as 2nd Mates lose their skills with sextants. Many things American are no doubt praiseworthy but total reliance on their satellite navigation system ought to be a cause for concern, not celebration IMHO.
Paul
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It doesn't have a sound commercial basis with private investors not being able to form an agreement to fund and to run it. As a result, it is having to be bailed out with more than €5bn of (our) EU money.
In reality, it is a political project, a job creation scheme. Already it's been described as the Common Agricultural Policy of the skies.
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Our government just spent ten times that bailing out a second-division building society especially popular with voters in its core constituencies. Thanks, but I'd rather have my taxes spent on non-commercial big science and high-technology projects. What else are taxes for, if not to do things that have no commercial basis?
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That's true, and of course both should have been allowed to go to the wall.

A better idea would be not to collect the taxes in the first place. I have rather better uses for my money than the government seems to be able to manage
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An interesting comment in a d-i-y newsgroup. I can see why subscribers to such a newsgroup would relish a housing crash, as would have inevitably followed from a Northern Rock bankruptcy.
--
Roland Perry

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Well, I would

--
geoff

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It probably wouldn't. However, NR represents one of the last bastions of the building society movement, well past its sell-by date.
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