/ Obsession with wind turbines
There is not much 'opinion', if you go to REF and look up the outputs there for everyone can see(
However, I know some will read with Rose coloured specs).
Because its the 'thin end of the wedge' ;-)
Maybe it's because the wind turbines are the personification of the willingness of the big companies and the government to rail-road unpopular issues through and ignore those who are opposed to them...
When I stand on top of a hill and see a forest, it doesn't detract from the view in any way compared to a windfarm. Nor do I pay extra on my fuel bills for a "fuel generator" which patently doesn't.
From the hill behind my house I can see three windfarms (and counting!) One is at least fifteen miles away. Not many hill tracks are that obtrusive. Forests may be visible but because trees, even conifers, are to a certain extent natural they do not have the glaring alien industrialesed impact of a cluster of 200-300 ft tall windmills
Where do you propose the nuclear/coal/gas power stations go instead? And where would you like their emission to go?
If we want to run our gadgets, we need electricity. And if we want to do that cleanly we need to advance the technology that makes it greener. Wind turbines to me seem the least bad option. I'd certainly rather my view, and not my air, spoiled.
They get to me because they are a constant sign of the inability of successive governments to understand basic maths when applied to energy policy - i.e. we are building them all over the place, meanwhile not one nuclear power plant has been built for almost 2 decades, and most of the rest are due to be decommissioned before we have any chance of commissioning any more.
Along with solar-electric (feed in tarrif) they also piss me off because my money as a bill payer is going to subsidise them when it should be going to modern technology nuclear or coal with carbon capture and storage.
Wind only has a relatively minor role to play in providing the *electricity* needs of GB, and our electricity is currently only a minority of our total *energy* needs. As the cost of oil and gas continue their inexorable price rise at rates guaranteed to remain far higher than average inflation electrical generation is going to have to supply more of our energy requirements which relegates the ability of wind to make a serious dent in our needs even further down the tables.
Increase the wind generating capacity by 10x, and somehow overcome the massive storage requirements needed to stabilise delivery of the the base load in a wind-heavy generation mix (think every body of water you know becoming pumped storage) and we would still be facing rolling blackouts in a few years.
To late, to late will be the cry when the first world lifestyle has passed us by.
Didn't your money as a taxpayer (or your parents money) subsidize a grossly inefficient and dangerous nuclear industry, that only after many years became what it is (or was) today? Why shouldn't solar and wind, with their far superior environmental credentials, be afforded the same rights to state funded support while they develop?
As for the eyesore, the tracks, foundations, cables and turbines can be removed cheaply if we ever decide to abandon windfarms. How many other forms of energy generation can claim that?
Because Nuclear can actually deliver enough energy. Even at 100% efficient solar and wind cannot.
New nuclear doesn't need to be like old nuclear. I would argue that the commends you have towards the past nuclear is far from accurate, but regardless to apply those comments to a future nuclear industry is simply not fair - a new nuclear program must be run with forethought and openness on the costs. Compared to having rolling blackouts we can afford it. A lot has been learnt in the last 20 years, transmutation of waste is now a real possibility, Thorium cycle is a real possibility, and the need to generate plutonium for bombs no longer impinges on reactor design.
Solar and wind shouldn't be afforded the same state funded support because *they are fundamentally incapable of supplying anywhere near enough energy*. Nuclear is. If not nuclear then coal and CCS. We need to be building one or other of these, and we need to be building it 5 years ago.
Personally I think that a modern Thorium cycle reactor is the answer. Pitty the Greens in Germany insanely had their pilot plant taken apart. India and China offer hope.
I have to pay for their construction, pay more for my electricity and gas because of them and then I have to look at them.
The more you understand about them, how they fit into the grid (or don't) and the rigged financial system the angrier it makes you.
But don't you realise in the years that wind power has been developing from utterly pointless to merely incredibly inefficient the nuclear industry hasn't developed at all..... ;-)
Nuclear is not the universal panacea you make it out to be. Current world power consumption using fossil fuels is about 14 TW (trillion watts). Biggest nuclear reactors are about 1 GW (billion watts). So we would need about 14,000 of the biggest nuclears reactors to replace fossil fuels. A few years ago the world was building about four such reactors per year, and I think the number has probably dropped since the Japanese disaster. Also, there is only about enough discovered radioactive fuel for about 1,500 reactors. Nuclear also consumes a fair amount of other energy forms, needs massive amounts of water, and has horrendous waste management problems.
Solar energy is about 1 kW per square meter at Earth's distance from the Sun, i.e., about 100 W per square meter. So, we would need about 140,000 sq km of solar absorbers to replace fossil fuels entirely. That's less than about 400 km by 400 km, which is a small fraction of the desert areas of the world.
I meant to say 100 W per square meter *at about 10% efficiency*.
There are serious problems with large scale solar including the vast quantities of water required to keep the collectors clean, run the turbines (if it's that sort of plant), the ecological and macroscopic climate effects of such a drastic change in albedo, the crappy half-life of solar photo-voltaic panels compound by their huge manufacturing cost, the huge cost of building a planet spanning grid to take the power form where it's made to where it's needed, the massive losses of that grid, the difficulty of storing energy to regulate day/night. In many ways the water is a killer as pretty much any decent equatorial desert - the only place with the lack of population or ecology and the reliable sunlight - has no water. Whereas nuclear can be built on coasts which tend to be near people.
That being said I think that equatorial belt solar electric has real potential in the long run and could be a major source of investment and political will that stabilises large areas of the middle east. However getting that in place and getting the energy to the UK is going to take even longer than building new nukes. Solar power in the UK is however a crass joke at the expense of all bill payers.
There is no shortage of nuclear fuel if one includes Thorium or sea water uranium extraction - apparently there is enough there for us all for 1000 years. Might make a mess getting it all out mind. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/08/22/oceanic_uranium_mining_tech/
Ultimately more efficient lifestyles and technology, renewable where it makes sense, nuclear and CCS fossil fuel all have a role in a future energy landscape that is more sustainable and less harmful. And I hear in 50 years we'll have Nuclear Fusion.
All of this is however far from the OP's question. In the case of the UK wind and solar are basically a waste of money as far as our energy future is concerned and we are heading for real problems, real soon now. For us, here and now, nuclear is a viable solution, as is modern coal. Wind and solar are not. The Severn Barrage would be a viable source of power but at an environmental cost that is very large and more importantly very visible.
The thin end of the wedge passed us by in the 1830s, with the coming of the railway.
That's still not really my question. My point was that all the things I mentioned are of dubious benefit, receive in various ways subsidies and can be perceived as ugly. Why is it wind turbines that attract a disproportionate number of complaints?
Fair enough. It's why they get my goat more.
I suspect part of the problem is that a lot more people see them than any other new infrastructure being built; I live about 15 miles from a nuclear power plant and never think about it or see it; it's buried between giant chemical works and a steel plant in a heavily industrialised area. It's one of the least offensive buildings in the area, whereas turbines tend to go in places where they stand out like a sore thumb...
I also think a growing number of people realise that onshore turbine building is pissing in to the wind when it comes to common sense and the future security of our first world lifestyle...
Electricity demand is at its maximum in winter, when sometimes anticyclonic conditions prevail. There is very little wind, and weak sunshine. People need large amounts of electricity for heating, which must currently be supplied by fossil fuel or nuclear plants. Industrial plants are also large users of elctricity.
The least efficient way in which it is possible to run a coal or gas fired power station is to run it down when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, then suddenly ramp it up when it is the only possible means of generating electricity. Yet the renewable resources are not reliable, therefore any renewable source of power generation requires the existence of a fossil fuel / nuclear backup ready to supply electricity when it is most needed.
> That's still not really my question. My point was that all the things I mentioned are of dubious benefit, receive in various ways subsidies and can be perceived as ugly. Why is it wind turbines that attract a disproportionate number of complaints?
Disproportionate visual impact? A coal/gas/nuclear plant has a big visual impact on a small area, comparable wind output covers maybe a hundred square km and is visible over an evrn greater area.
Good point. It's a natural progression in the gradual urbanisation of nature, a process that will continue until the planet is a metropolis or we have destroyed ourselves. I don't think we can fight this inevitable process; we should just cherish the fact that we live in an age when we still have access to wild places, yet our living standards are high.
> Good point. It's a natural progression in the gradual urbanisation of nature, a process that will continue until the planet is a metropolis or we have destroyed ourselves. I don't think we can fight this inevitable process; we should just cherish the fact that we live in an age when we still have access to wild places, yet our living standards are high.
Agreed. I am comforted in the knowledge that i have some countryside to enjoy but I pity my children and children's children whom have to endure the relentless distruction of our wildlife, endangered species and forests.
When will it all end, will we have museums with like the eden project, nestled amongst high ride buildings?
I agree with much of what you say, but I am of the view that we need a clever mix of alternative energy sources to gradually replace fossil fuels. And, BTW, I do not think that energy is ultimately a major problem for mankind, because we are blessed with the massive energy source of the sun. The rest of mankind's problems do not have a stellar solution.
To address the OP, I think that the problems of wind energy - mainly that it is an eyesore (to human eyes)- are exaggerated. Virtually everything that Man has done on this planet has been a massive eyesore, compared with which wind turbines are very mild offenders. And they replace much more environmentally and aestheticially unfriendly alternatives.
Even if solar energy is currently small-fry, it generally makes economic sense in sunny locations. Although solar and wind energy may be borderline in the UK, it is unfair to label them as a "crass joke". They can be effective minor and local sources of energy for heating homes, for example, that do not rely on a grid.
Your first para exaggerates the problems of solar, such as "vast quantities of water to keep the collectors clean": dust can be dusted off. The changes in albedo of a small fraction of the world's desert areas would be minor compared with what is happening (with climate change) in the arctic areas. The half-life of solar panels, now, is a short-term consideration and there are numerous other ways to collect solar energy. Because the energy itself is essentially free, the economic arguments will dissipate. (Compare for example the astronomical costs of extracting petroleum, which have been overwhelmed by demand, historically.)
How would the cost of building a global grid for harnessing alternative energy compare with the current cost of the global military?
There are numerous problems with nuclear energy, and the really dangerous one that is afraid to find a voice is the link to nuclear weaponry. The whole world nuclear energy program was built on the back of (and was perhaps smokescreen for) the nuclear arms race. The nuclear energy program you hint at would have the whole world enthusiastically spinning their centrifuges with the temptation to spin them a bit more to produce weapons grade material.
More efficient lifestyles have not made a difference, to date, to global energy consumption. Drops in demand from "lifestyle" changes have been eclipsed by increased industrial production.
CCS is proving to be technologically and economically a very difficult challenge.
You say that fossil fuels are "more sustainable and less harmful". *Cheap* fossil fuels are not sustainable. Also, as far as climate change is concerned, the sceptics seem to have won (or rather have not really been seriously challenged), because there is *no* indication yet that mankind will not burn *all* of the planet's fossil fuel. So all the fossil carbon will go into the atmosphere with whatever harm that brings - less than what? Coal is particularly foul.
Solar and wind energy are already profitable in the right locations - so where is the waste of money? I know a farmer in Texas who is paid 120,000$ per year just for the rent of the small footprint on his land for three of four wind turbines.
Nuclear Fusion is the holy grail. Where do you hear that we will have it in 50 years. Please may I borrow your excellent crystal ball.
It would be nice to think that some equatorial belt solar plants would work, but I really struggle to make the numbers work - as I go into below. Please don't write nuclear off just yet - Thorium cycle plants have a lot of benefits, remove the potential for generation of weapons grade material. I agree with you that the old nuclear industry is tied to the weapons industry; I see our old plants as more a by-product of the need for fissile material for bombs. This most emphatically does not have to be the case for the future, especially with Thorium cycle plants.
I said that CCS fossil fuels are more sustainable and less harmful, not that they are sustainable and non-harmful. The UK is sitting on an awful lot of coal, and it would be better to burn it more cleanly and efficiently and with some carbon capture, than to burn it without, which is what we will do if we carry on down our current path. It is not the answer for the world, but for keeping our lights on it will do a lot.
The water use is not an over exaggeration - any form of power generation requires various resources to operate and solar is no different. There are examples of solar electric plants having to shut down because of exhaustion of local water supply - as well as vital cleaning it is the working fluid for the more efficient boiler systems. You can't just dust glass, it needs proper cleaning - typically with chemical detergents as well as water. Cleaning glass at existing plants is a full-time job ALA Forth Bridge painting.
A plant such as you propose would need to clean 400x400km squared of glass, which is 1.6e11 square meters - as a rough guide I estimate that to be 1000 times the area of all the domestic windows in the UK. In fact I suspect there may not be that much glass in the whole world at the moment. And you'd need three plants dotted round the equator at even spacings. That is one hell of a lot of glass. Glass is not cheap to make and does not last forever.
I am struggling to think of any kind of engineered system that becomes more cost efficient when decentralised (as wind and solar must be) - cost reduction always comes from centralisation and solar is pretty much the antithesis of this.
On costs and the military: the new BritNed interconnector cost £500M and runs for 260km. To connect this solar plant to the world you would need ~ 1000x the capacity over 40x the distance. So let's say 500M * 1000 * 40 = 20 trillion pounds, or about 40x the annual US military budget (by far the largest on the planet). I am being conservative in many of the estimates - running over land instead of sea carries a hell of a lot more costs, and you can't just pump 1000x the power through the same space. And you probably need 3 off these plants. And storage. So basically you are talking the global GDP for a year. As most of the GDP probably isn't real money it gets worse...
Albedo - if you remove 14TW from one local area of the planet's surface I think you are going to see massive - massive - climate change in that area. Bigger than in the arctic where the ice is returning fast right now. I am not aware of anyone actually modelling this so I have nothing to base it on other than intuition. And that says that things will go very caca, and that it will likely have wide reaching consequences beyond the immediate area.
Yes, wind and solar are great for people off the grid in fortuitous locations (e.g. wind power if you live on top of the pennines is great.) However lowland cities like London they simply fall far, far, far short of being useful. And over 50% of people in Britain now live in lowland cities. And that fraction is growing. So taking their money and paying many times over the market rate for solar and wind so people can feel good about things, whilst in reality we are headed for real trouble, is a crass joke.
Solar is no more or less free than any other energy source - uranium is almost free compared to what you pay for the energy that comes from it, but other costs dominate. To believe that it will be any different for solar is rather naive in my opinion.
Is the Texas farmer paid based on market rates for his turbines? The farmers round here love them because of various hookey accounting that pays them many times over market rates at the expense of all bill payers; money that could be better invested in another power source. I could make money from solar photovoltaic under the feed in tariffs. I have moral objections so I am not.
Fusion - the same crystal ball people have been using for the last 50 years... My take is that if ITER style fusion ever works, it will be costly and expensive. I am quietly hoping for a breakthrough from one of several alternative types (muon catalysed, inertial electrostatic, z-pinch.)
I'm not making a case for nuclear to replace everything. I'm saying why its more worthy of investment than subsidies for small scale 'green' initiatiives in the UK (where we are notably short of desert, or wind, or sun at the moment)- because the potential payback for the UK is huge. Your critiscism of nuclear is based on old technology - whats wrong with investing in new nuclear technology ? France manages to get 50% of energy from nuclear (selling some to us in the process)
It's good to see you've been trying to "make the numbers work"
CCS is often proposed as a solution to fossil fuels, but due to the geology in a lot of locations it is not commercially or physically viable.
Are you aware of the costs of decommissioning a nuclear power plant, and what do you propose to do with the large quantities of nuclear waste that are generated? I was just wondering how you have accounted for that when you say that uranium is "almost free"
Wind is much more preferable than energy from fracking gas and oil,which heavily poluutes groundwater.See Frack Off website.
This debate is all very interesting (& very handy from the point of view of those in authority)
but in case anyone hasn't noticed Nuclear power stations are not under construction by the thousand nor is the EU wide grid required to bring power from the Sahara.
Fusion power plants & CCS are also not being constructed but to be fair that's because they're currently imaginary.
In practice the only response to this massive crisis has been the construction of windfarms ( + a tiny bit of PV). So halt that & you halt everything!
Also, conveniently for them, sending a massive message to the govt that they can continue to do bugger all as "that's what the people want".
So, in practice, our choice is between Apocalypse ... and a slightly delayed apocalypse.
If you're on the way to the gas chamber & they offer a last breakfast, you take it, even if you don't like prison food on the off-chance that in that extra half-hour they might change the law.
And for a bit of balance: www.withouthotair.com
I am not saying that nuclear is free - far from it. As I said in the sentence you abortively quote "uranium is almost free compared to what you pay for the energy that comes from it" - I thought that I made it pretty clear that there are costs over and above the uranium itself.
My point is that the cost of the material - uranium - is tiny compared to the cost of the nuclear plants that use it. To expand there is a large cost associated with building, running and decommissioning the plants and storing the waste. One day there will be a cost associated with disposing of the waste.
I made this point to illustrate that saying "solar will be cheap because the energy source is free" is extremely short sighted.
In both cases the cost of the energy source is totally negligible in cost compared to infrastructure required to exploit it.
There is no magic bullet.
In the mean time we can build all the wind and solar we want in the UK and the lights are still going off.
As for the nuclear waste I would suggest that we build a new reprocessing industry to recycle the majority of the waste. The rest we store in a medium-term site (15-100 years) until a commercial transmutation plant is viable (a breeder reactor, accelerator driven or fast neutron driven in the cladding of a fusion plant) - see here on FBRs for example - http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/30/fast-breeder-reactors-nuclear-waste-nightmare
It's not cheap, but can we afford not to? The alternatives for the UK are:
1. More fossil plants
2. More nuclear plants
3. Atrophying our heavy industry and big business to somewhere like France that can and does keep the lights on - primarily with nuclear
In the UK, wind and solar are only going to push the crisis date back by 1-2 years. There is some argument that as we build more we push our other plants into a less efficient, more costly regime (big power plants really don't like changing their output on timescales less than days, the opposite of renewables) and that overall cost increases, potentially bringing us to our knees *sooner*.
Thanks for coming up with the numbers. Something that's sadly lacking from most of these debates, either on here or anywhere else.
One other point about nuclear waste is that, as I understand it, modern nuclear power stations produce a fraction (10%) of the waste that the current generation do. We are currently stuck with a problem of what to do with what we've got but a new generation of nuclear plants would not add to that problem by any great deal.
Re nuclear proliferation. The countries that need nuclear power the most tend to be those that already have or could have nucfear weapons anyway. Even if the widespread deployemnt of nuclear was limited to Europe, China, North America, and the Indian sub continent we would make a very substantial dent in the world's CO2 emissions without risking the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The elimination of nuclear power has become a sacred cow for the Green movement, it's time it was slaughtered.
No, not really! the main targets for CCS are oil/ gas reservoirs either those depleted or for EOR/EGR. In addition to which NPD has already released an atlas of offshore locations in the North Sea suitable for CO2 storage, with the Barents Sea publication coming soon.
Despite being such a high profile publication... It's available free directly from them; http://www.npd.no/Global/Norsk/3-Publikasjoner/Rapporter/PDF/CO2-ATLAS-lav.pdf
The geology issue is overall, a very minor problem, when compared with the expense of extracting CO2 from source points, the technology exists but is expensive and also energy inefficient, along side the other big issue of transporting the CO2 from its source to the intended sink.
Tidal could have a role to play in the UK as we have an unusually large quantity of coastline near where the energy is needed.
Off the top of my head, I believe the (seriously) proposed Severn Barrage could supply 12GW or about 30% of our currently electricity needs  which is not to be sniffed at, it's comparable to the Three Gorges Dam. I also suspect that it would snowball into one of the most highly contested developments ever. Tidal turbines are less likely to be less contentious because people can't see them or their impact on the environment. They also have to be highly distributed which is a real bummer from a costs/maintenance/centralisation economy perspective.
The power from tidal still varies periodically over timescales that are highly uneconomical to smooth out with either pumped storage or conventional fossil or nuclear plants. With a grid over large enough distances this can be predictably smoothed out but such a grid does not exist.
I still think that the answer lies as much in reducing our energy usage as it does in brining new supplies on line. For example about half the energy used in the UK is for heating, with about half of that being domestic. It is entirely possible to build houses in climates much colder than the UK that do not active heating. Moving to a world in which we don't need central heating would save the equivalent of more than our entire nations electrical generation capacity. In the mean time councils up and down the country continue to refuse planning permission for double glazing in listed buildings... This process of reduction is already happening in other areas - see the recent new reports about the drop in miles driven in the last quarter, apparently driven by rising oil prices. Perhaps this is going to continue to bite, and miles are going to continue dropping.
 Don't forget that the fraction of our energy needs supplied by electricity is going to go up as the price of petrol continues its inexorable inflation busting rise.
Also, here's a jolly graph
The UK is ideally located for tidal generation, not only do we have several good tidal flows but they are also out of phase with each other reducing the supply variability significantly.
It is a lovely graph. Good to hear about tidal in these discussions now. I still think it'd be nice for the areas that use the energy to create it, so Thames, Severn, Clyde and Forth tidal anyone? Large scale engineering projects like this need massive support and investment. At the moment there are too many critics of anything so they will never get done as political parties will lose votes. It needs the impetus of energy crisis to get done.
With regard to the alternatives, fossil fuel plants are currently being planned, mainly fast cycle gas plants due to the fast spin up times.
I am all for new nuclear plants but I think given the timescales associated with planning and construction it is unlikely these will be online before existing capacity is due to be taken offline. The most likely scenario here is that the plants will run on over their designed life time as has been the case with a lot of coal, gas and even nuclear plants already. Nuclear power is ideally suited to fulfilling base power loads, but cannot deal with fluctuations in load, unless combined with pumped storage. FBR reactors have some potential to utilise some of the nuclear waste, but there will still be a lot of waste which cannot be utilised, and a storage solution will still need to be found for that.
Wind and solar are not the solution, but they are PART of the solution, higher penetrations of of renewable energy require more advanced forecasting solutions in order to fully utilize available energy ( http://www.dis.anl.gov/pubs/65613.pdf ). Offshore wind has huge potential to meet demand, and a reduced visual and noise impact. Meeting future demand will require a diverse mix in order to address the most important issues: security of supply, competitiveness, and the environment/climate.
I also forgot to say that wind turbines break even after about 5 years, so I fail to see how they are inefficient as they have a life of about 25. It is also really easy to take them down if an alternative source of energy comes along.
Tidal stream distributed around the coast might be better but is a long way behind and would need a lot of subsidy to bring it to maturing which no one seems to like even though pretty much every type of power gen gets it at some point.
Totally agree about demand reduction of heating but the gov are pushing this with the Green Deal that continues to get little attention or support. This could help kick start the building sector and insulate people against fuel price rises but everyone seems happier to complain about wind/nuclear/shale gas/coal (delete as appropriate).
Storage is being looked at for both tidal and wind, which would get around the issue.
> Tidal stream distributed around the coast might be better but is a long way behind and would need a lot of subsidy to bring it to maturing
It's getting there: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-18100191
Tidal stream is getting there but it's at least a decade behind wind power, probably more.
Errm.. That's due to the subsidies, if you upped it to 10 times what is now they'd break even after 6 months, but you haven't magically made wind turbines ten times more efficient.
It is also really easy to take them down if an wealternative source of energy comes along.
There's a bit more to a wind turbine than the sticky up bit.
> Errm.. That's due to the subsidies
Perhaps I misread him but I took 'break even' to be in pure energy terms, ie it takes 5years* to generate the energy used to manufacture, erect and connect it.
*Whether that's correct or not I don't know.
I meant cost, which I took to include subsidies, as subsidies are given out to support the construction of wind turbines. I also know that there is more to wind turbines that the sticky uppy bit, but that is what people complain about.
"Nuclear power is ideally suited to fulfilling base power loads, but cannot deal with fluctuations in load, unless combined with pumped storage. FBR reactors have some potential to utilise some of the nuclear waste, but there will still be a lot of waste which cannot be utilised, and a storage solution will still need to be found for that."
Not true that nuclear can only do base load generation. French PWRs (which provide 85% of France's electricity) can change load quickly and several times a day. What they can't do is shut down/start up form scratch quickly.
HOwever, the UK's AGRs (advanced gas cooled reactors, a unique design to the UK that never caught on for a few reasons) only operate as base load stations. The technology is a bit less flexible than PWRs. This is partially why since construction of Sizewell B the UK has moved away from AGrs and toward PWRs. The new stations to be built (Hinkley C, Sizewell C and maybe more) are 3rd generation PWRs.
Re. FBRs, they could use up a lot of the waste but it's just not yet economical to do so as it's cheaper to mine new uranium. As uranium prices go up I imagine FBR technology will become more favourable. FBRs can also use a thorium cycle.
Theoretically all the high-level waste but be used up to generate power but that would be too expensive. Best option is a Finnish-style geological repository.
The GEC-Hitachi PRISM reactor looks interesting, though the "we just mix plutonium and uranium to make alloy fuel" seems a bit of an over simplification..
> The GEC-Hitachi PRISM reactor looks interesting, though the "we just mix plutonium and uranium to make alloy fuel" seems a bit of an over simplification..
I have a mental picture of some blokes in a foundry in India dressed in rags and using old sunglasses for eye protection chucking ingots of plutonium and Uranium into a big crucible...
sell them to poor countries as scrape or use power to brake them up.
There are several reasons for this, they tend to stick up above the landscape to a lesser degree than wind turbines. There may also be a problem with the colour(s) they are painted.
They are also of limited real use, if there isn't enough wind or if there is to much wind or if the wind blows at the correct speed but at the wrong time of day... all of these scenarios make the turbines useless.
One point potentialy in their favour; I have often wondered, would we be complaining if they were the same colour, shape & size of the quaint olde worlde windmills of old?
Because visible turbines would make the mental trick of pretending there's no such thing as climate change really hard.
Same reason they tend to speak of 'preserving wild places' as if remoteness is somehow going to save them.
> Because visible turbines would make the mental trick of pretending there's no such thing as climate change really hard.
> I'd say it's exactly the opposite. The government is happy to subsidise windfarms and change the planning laws to make them easier to build precisely so that politicians can pretend they are doing something effective about climate change while achieving little or nothng.
> sell them to poor countries as scrape or use power to brake them up.
Scraping a car doesn't use up much energy, once the engine and transmission are taken out it can be pressed into a cube in a jiff (simplifying slightly). The steel, aluminium etc is then recycled which uses up much less energy than producing the same metals from ore.
That might explain a govt enthusiasm for wind ( although as both a mature technology & substantially the cheapest option that really doesn't require explanation) but wouldn't answer the OPs question.
I gave my thoughts (sic) on the OP's question higher up. This comment was in reply to yours.
> And for a bit of balance: www.withouthotair.com
I am aware of www.withouthotair.com, but that is not the point, are you disputing the figures on REF which gained from the ROCS?
They are not opinion as I understand it, so why would I want to have to provide "balance". Do you have alternative output figures that show better figues ?
(N.b I work for a company that manufactures Wind Turbines and I am very interested in your answer)
The afforestation argument was fouight and largely one over a decade ago. No new plantations in the hills of England and Wales. I don't know what the policy is in Scotland, but haven't seen any sign of new plantations recently.
I'm always willing to have a rant about hill tracks, but most people seem to accept them.
Bad land management is a rather nebulous concept - no single visible manifestation that can be seen and hence opposed.
> Because visible turbines would make the mental trick of pretending there's no such thing as climate change really hard.
True, or not, if EVEN the UK stopped emissions completely tomorrow (and went into economic hibernation) , the big emmitters would not(see link) , and our 'saving of the planet contribution' would be pretty insignificant, particularly as we are at 9.38 Tons per capita, and China is still only at 4.91 at the moment. China's per capita WILL continue to rise and there is little sign that they will hold back their economy with the huge cost of carbon restraint measures, making what we can save even less significant.
There is a phrase you might be aware of that is quite apt:-
You are Pi**ing against the wind
> You are Pi**ing against the wind
Very true but as I said earlier "if they offer you a a last breakfast on the way to the gallows you say yes, even if you hate eggs" We are in "teaching the horse to sing territory" if wind-farms give us a few extra months or even weeks in which to implement a solution then we have to take that.
I like it.
However, let me put OUR contribution to C02 in context (and the extra time it would buy us by building turbines) like this .
I live near the Holy Loch, lots of missiles and Submarines.
IF there is a Nuclear weapons accident(or attack) I'm in immediate peril of my life, however, people living in Glasgow are also in peril a nonosecond later, as are those in Carlisle and even London in perhaps few seconds later. No weeks no months.
Am I therefore a 'prepper' do I have a personal Nuclear bunker, not a chance, I will spend my money better on my family and not on hopeless causes.
I don't know if you have kids or grandkids but if you do, what are your grandkids going to tell their grandkids about you if your wrong?
"Great, Great Grandad Jim C, wasn't going to make much difference so he didn't bother".
For every report one way there is a report to oppose it. Its just a case of comon sense, we can't keep growing the population & consuming resources at the present rate, we know that one day in the future those resources will run out.
Maybe this is one of those times that we have to go for it & hope the others follow, the alternative will just speed up the process.
Unless of course you have found a way of changing matter & creating energy from now where, in which case crack on.
> Errm.. That's due to the subsidies, if you upped it to 10 times what is now they'd break even after 6 months, but you haven't magically made wind turbines ten times more efficient.
> It is also really easy to take them down if an wealternative source of energy comes along.
Yup for Offshore Turbines there is the equivalent of a giant Electricity Pylon on the seabed for each of them, and onshore there are massive concrete foundations that will costs fortunes to remove (to say nothing of the access roads.
If you think this is a problem for grandkids you're seriously deluding yourself I'm afraid.
The IPCC report
was predicting uo to 6 deg warming by the end of the century & recent data ( sea ice & permafrost both vanishing much faster than predicted & the shift to higher carbon fuels) is making this look optimistic. Can humanity survive 6 deg ??
This is 3 times the rise a the end of the last glaciation .
The only comparable change seems to have caused the permian extincton which caused 90% of the planet's species to go extinct. You safely can bet that meant the death of 99% of even thiose species that did make it.
Basically I can't see how any child born now can expect to die of old age.
I do like the power of exaggeration and you have a gift for it.
Putting aside 95% of the replies on this thread, I think the original question is an interesting one. I don't know the answer and I don't think you'll ever get very close to one on this forum.
Just a few additional thoughts to throw in. For Landowners in UK these are potentially big money earners given the level of grants and subsidies and with the Gvnt is ticking all the EU boxes, it is no wonder they are going up so fast.
I am worried that by the end of this Windturbine era will future generation look back and consider it a BioEco fiasco! The Forestry Commission has a lot to answer for putting so much of Scotland under conifer but there is signs of change in todays management policies.
How many traditional power plants will/have been saved or decommissioned as a result of Windfarms? What is going to happen to the concrete bases, roads and service access when they become defunct? The least environmental impact will be to take down the structure and leave concrete plinths! How about landowners applying for planning to use them for countryside housing estates - some of the services are already in! The amount of carbon released from excavating the foundations (peat bogs concentrate huge amounts of carbon over XX years) is more that that the carbon saving of the turbine.
The largest Windfarm in USA recently went bankrupt. I heard Denmark has stopped all grants supporting them.
> If you think this is a problem for grandkids you're seriously deluding yourself I'm afraid.
> The only comparable change seems to have caused the permian extincton which caused 90% of the planet's species to go extinct. You safely can bet that meant the death of 99% of even thiose species that did make it.
> Basically I can't see how any child born now can expect to die of old age.
If that were true, do you really think that the worlds governments, (who still have a vested intetest in staying alive, no matter how despotic and avaricious they are), would be tinkering about with windfarm subsidies? They'd be chucking up 1950s spec Magnox reactors all over the shop.
Well my field isn't climate science I'm just going on the published info so perhaps I'm getting hold of the wrong end of a stick so please tell me where?
NB I have done some work on stability & feedback of systems & from that once the "tipping point" they are speaking of is reached then it really is too late for any human action to help.
Personally I feel that they have a small part to play in current and future power generation, and that gets obscured by the volume of the argument against.
As ever theres a lack of joined up thinking at planning level from the point of view of power generation.
Hardly the best source but ...
so that study predicts 100 million dead (10 million of them in the developed world) in the next 18 years which seems consistent with what I said earlier.
I'm always dubious about all this scaling up of factors to come up with 'x million dead' scenarios.
Nine and a half billion pints of beer sold in the uk each year, supping 50 pints in asession will probably kill you, therefore 190 million people a year will die in the uk from drinking beer, etc
In that case as we are all doomed anyway it would probably be better to give up trying to save the planet and distribute the cash so everyone could have a bit of fun before the world ends?
Sometimes it's best to admit it when you're beat.
What the F%^7 has happened to this country in one generation?
Confronted with the threat of Hitler my parents generation started a war that they seemed to think they couldn't win (fortunately they were wrong).
Now with a much bigger threat but a much easier solution (it's just votes & money the only way you risk your life is by not doing anything) it's "oh lets just have a beer & give up".
Useless , selfish ....
> What the F%^7 has happened to this country in one generation?
> Confronted with the threat of Hitler my parents generation started a war that they seemed to think they couldn't win (fortunately they were wrong).
The govt started the war. After WW1 it was the last thing the public wanted.
Goose-stepping stormtroopers, panzers and stukas are a tangible threat. Squiggles on a graph and endless media reporting and misreporting just doesn't register in the human psyche. If it wasn't for nuclear weapons no body would be worried about nuclear power, as they'd have nothing to relate the hazards to. Chernobyl would be a big fire in Russia that didn't really hurt anyone outside the immediate area. Climate change won't be real until Kent turns into Namibia with chavs. A 6 degree rise in global temperatures means the little red line in the thermometer going up a few mm and hopefully no need for a jumper for a couple more months. To the majority of the population it's not 'real'.
We always have been and always will be.
But if, as you say, we're all gonna die anyway, what's the point in fighting it? Like "On the beach" really.
On the other hand, if your prediction is a wild exaggeration, it might be worth trying a bit.... but that couldn't be it, could it?
I'm not sure that what I believe will effect the climate that much.
Maybe it's like every time you say "I don't believe in fairies", a fairy dies?
> Basically I can't see how any child born now can expect to die of old age.
Is that what you tell your kids when they go to bed at night?
> On the other hand, if your prediction is a wild exaggeration, it might be worth trying a bit.... but that couldn't be it, could it?
It's not my prediction the data is from the IPCC. Like I said Climate's not my field but I'm still waiting for someone to tell me which bit I've failed to understand. The graphs seem quite clear.
I seem to have assumed some degree of intelligence on the part of the reader. Ridiculous really when I look at the rest of this thread so I'll try rephrasing.
If C02 emissions continue to rise at the current rate then it is improbable that any child born in 2012 or later will die of old age.
So what exactly is this much easier solution? Or maybe you're keeping it a secret - nobody else has agreed what it is yet, so if you know then you stand to make a fortune.
I haven't seen any such predictions, outside loony web sites anyway. Of late predictions seem to be going the other way if anything. I think you must be extrapolating in a curious was. At worse the sea level could rise a bit which would flood a few regions, especially poor ones like Bangladesh which lack the means of building adequate seas defences, and some area could be hit by starvation, although this would stem more from political failure than climatic change, but no one is predicting the end of the world in a few generations, or none that I've seen.
Perhaps you could point us in the direction of these predictions?
Based on what?
I don't even see where you are getting your 6 degrees C rise by 2100 from, unless you are misrepresenting the IPCC.
While I agree with your concern, misrepresenting things does none of us any favours. The IPCC offer a range of scenarios with a range of *possible* temp rises eg 1.1 - 6.4 depending on the scenario.
> If C02 emissions continue to rise at the current rate then it is improbable that any child born in 2012 or later will die of old age.
eh? Where on Earth do you get that from? Saying that climate change will bring significant changes does not equate to your suggestion. I don't think it's helpful to create such fictions.
Bottom line, humans are wasteful and we need to change!
Dunno. I'm sure it's nothing to do with the vast subsidies that can be extracted by windfarms, even if the blades never turn, or the fact that a big shiny turbine is far more photogenic than a lump of Kingspan.
>Our houses are poorly built and insulation is a huge problem, why does the government not subsidise the building of passive houses and the converting of old properties? This would, long term, have an enormous impact on energy use.
Did I imagine the scheme where the government subsidised insulation in older properties?
I think it's a bit unfair on the Government to suggest they do nothing.
Any central heating boiler that's now installed has to be a condensing boiler. You can get your loft insulated for nothing, at least in Scotland you can. Energy saving light bulbs are now the norm due to Government legislation.
I wouldn't be surprised if there had been changes in building regulations to make new houses more energy efficient but I don't know that for sure.
> I think it's a bit unfair on the Government to suggest they do nothing.
> Any central heating boiler that's now installed has to be a condensing boiler.
That seems a subject of debate amongst plumbers round here. Apparently they're only more efficient under a certain return temperature that you won't get in a small house.
Not sure on that for England, but any discount is welcome.
Again another good measure, but a lot of properties have spots rather than bulbs, and the technology is still very expensive.
> I wouldn't be surprised if there had been changes in building regulations to make new houses more energy efficient but I don't know that for sure.
This is the real issue. We lag far behind europe on this. Also I've done a bit of internal insulation on the walls of our property, and that was incredibly expensive, no sign of subsidy there.
Theres also any incredible amount of energy waste from street lighting, that doesn't seem to be addressed.
Nuclear is by far the cleanest and safest solution to our electricity requirements with virtually no environmental impact. Oh, hold on...
You don't actually think Sellafield was ever about providing cheap, safe electricity do you?
I'm not saying we shouldn't have nuclear (we clearly should), but imagining that it has no impacts is as simplistic as being anti-windfarms.
I think it is a little more nuanced than that.
There has been very little *impact* from the nuclear industry (the old business about more radiation being released from coal burning than the nuclear industry for example) but there is *potential* for impact if things go wrong.
It is important that our nuclear future is not brought low by our nuclear past. I believe that there needs to be much more transparent, open and long term management relating to the nuclear waste - most of the problems with Sellafield stem from management and process failures and not fundamental scientific problems, and we can not afford for that to continue. It is also worth keeping in mind how a lot of the problem waste at Sellafield is a byproduct of both a weapons motivated nuclear program and power plants 2-3 generations behind what we will be building - both of which make it unrepresentative of the future.
Also, I don't thing being anti-windfarms is necessarily simplistic. It is only when considering many technical aspects that one can really appreciate how they can only ever play a minor role in a future power grid.
> I'm not saying we shouldn't have nuclear (we clearly should), but imagining that it has no impacts is as simplistic as being anti-windfarms.
Agreed. However the bulk of the cost is dealing with the 1950s expermental bomb stuff. The remaining Magnox reactors still in use today were primarily designed to produce plutonium for weapons with an 'electricity too cheap to meter' spin.
Likewise nuclear fuel reprocessing, the other big cost/hazard/polluter, is another weapons legacy. With the benefit of hindsight I can't imagine someone thinking 'Lets turn this used fuel rid into plutonium, depleted uranium and a shedload of hazardous waste we don't know what to do with', being a particularly good idea in the future.
> I think it is a little more nuanced than that.
You don't say...
Hmmm, you might want to check the accidents at Sellafield more closely - there was far more than just the 1957 fire! It isn't that long ago that certain sheep had to be slaughtered every year because of Chernobyl.
I agree, but it is how we learn from the past that partly determines what we do in the present/future.
I wouldn't be so dismissive of the problems of dealing with Pu from modern designs.
> Also, I don't thing being anti-windfarms is necessarily simplistic. It is only when considering many technical aspects that one can really appreciate how they can only ever play a minor role in a future power grid.
Well it depends on what you call minor. Germany has managed to increase its share of renewable electricity generation to 20-25% with wind playing a major part in that. In contrast the UK has managed about half that percentage.
1) I don't think that something in 1957 has any relevance on a future nuclear industry. Just up the road from where I live is a memorial to 95 men and boys killed in a pit disaster but that does not stop modern coal mining and is not even a consideration. Something like 200,000 to 300,000 people have been killed by coal mining. An estimated 50,000 people die in the UK each year due to air pollution from fossil fuels (some of this is burnt in transport not electricity generation but that can be shifted to renewable or nuclear generation and hydrogen/electric distribution - in fact this has to happen given ever rising oil demand and resource exhaustion)
Makes a few sheep seem quite time really. If you believe the predictions of sea levels rising and wiping out lowland areas as a result of fossil fuel induced global warming a hell of a lot more people are going to be displaced than were removed from the vicinity of Chernobyl - an area that is now a wildlife paradise as the benefits of the remove of people far outweighed the harmful effects of the radiation released.
2) Likewise Chernobyl has no relevance to anything to do with the nuclear industry in the west. This was a poor reactor design on which the operators disabled the safety systems and then turned it up to 11 to see what would happen. It was tantamount to building a nuclear bomb and then pressing the Big Red Button. This was as much to do with the regime at the time as the nuclear nature of the plant.
So nuclear has risks? Big deal - everything has risks. Coal has risks. 21 people were once killed by a Tsunami of sugar syrup (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Molasses_Disaster ). At the end of the day we live in a world of risk and danger, and with nuclear we understand the risks and dangers very well and can mitigate them. We understand some of the risks and dangers of coal, and we are utterly unable to mitigate many of them, and there are more that we really don't understand, but that have potentially devastating consequences.
>Well it depends on what you call minor. Germany has managed to increase its share of renewable electricity generation to 20-25% with wind playing a major part in that. In contrast the UK has managed about half that percentage.
25% is minor, 75% is major. The more you try and push over 25%-33% renewables the harder it gets as you cut in to more and more inflexible components of the base load that simply can not tolerate the variability of renewables. The real news there is that germany gets 75%-80% from fossil fuels (with some imported French nuclear...) Even if they succeed in their highly ambitious renewables plans they will still be emitting vast quantities of CO2.
And this is before we step back and recall that electricity is only ~33% of a first world nations energy usage and most of the rest is fossil fuel. So suddenly that German 25% renewables represents an 8% cut in CO2 emissions.
In the mean time France is happily getting 80% of its electricity from nuclear.
> 1) I don't think that something in 1957 has any relevance on a future nuclear industry.
Which is why I specifically said not the 1957 fire...the idea that these are just isolated one off incidents isn't exactly the case.
I agree with you about fossil fuel pollution problems, but then I am not making the argument that you are.
Oh come on, that is a poor argument! The fact is that we don't know the scale of the harm caused by the radiation.
OK, substitute 3 Mile Island or Fukushima. It is all very well saying it doesn't matter or it isn't relevant or it can't happen here...it has and does.
Which was exactly my point. Trivialising the risks of nuclear (and we haven't even talked about cost and timescale of decommissioning plus safe storage of materials) does no one any favours.
Germany has a target of 80% renewable by 2050 IIRC. I agree that it is difficult to see how that is achievable given their reliance on coal at the moment. There are plenty of strategies to cope with the intermittency of renewables, but none are simple or cheap.
As I said, you are really missing my point which is that the idea that renewables or nuclear is an easy solution is pretty bogus.
>> an area that is now a wildlife paradise as the benefits of the remove of people far outweighed the harmful effects of the radiation released.
No, we do know the effects of radiation. We can track it's spread, quantify it's risk of causing cancer, identify it's sources etc. In the specific case of Chernobyl there are many scientific studies into the effects of the radiation on the wildlife and it is surprisingly low, both in health and genetic heritage.
Related to this is a great chart from XKCD http://xkcd.com/radiation/ - the does from the 3 Mile Island business on someone living near by is about the same as *living in a house made of bricks for a year* or making a return flight from LA to New York. Wow, we'd better stop people flying. Just bandying about terms like "3 Mile Island" or "Fukushima" is pure fear mongering.
I can understand why people had a lot more fear back when nuclear was new and less well understood and people were living with the knowledge that they were weeks away from having their homeland glow in the dark at the height of the cold war, but I really don't understand it now.
3 Mile Island - nobody died from the radiation. In the mean time, perhaps 200,000,000 people have been sent to an early grave by fossil fuel air pollution.
I am not trivialising, I am making the case that the risks are often over stated and blown out of all proportion compared to the actual harm that happens. If people apportioned fear and action based on actual deaths, we would have a very different view of nuclear vs coal etc.
Future nuclear power is a very different beast to the one that we are cleaning up the mess from at the moment. There are perfectly viable ways of storing the minor fraction of the waste from new nuclear plants that is really problematic, and there is a good chance that we will be able to commercially transmute it into something much safer within the next few decades.
Even better would be if we move to a thorium cycle system where the waste storage and recoiling problems get more simple again.
It's hard to make that point in the face of our neighbours in France though, isn't it.
It's a lot like space flight - if we could do it 50 years ago, we can do it a whole hell of a lot more cheaply, safely and easily now. The lumbering state/defence/big industry groups just seem 100% incapable of achieving anything however. In space you have SpaceX working wonders, not so in nuclear.
I don't think you fully understand the scale of the risks.
A mining disaster will not wipe out a considerable portion of the country and cause birth defects for generations to come. Hiroshima might have had fewer problems had someone decided to drop a lump of coal on it.
Not saying that we shouldn't use nuclear fuel but trivialising the risks is foolhardy.
Still sounds like trivialising to me.
> If people apportioned fear and action based on actual deaths, we would have a very different view of nuclear vs coal etc.
I'm sorry but you can not compare the deaths of centuries use of coal by millions, and a laissez faire attitude to pollution, with the decades use of a few nuclear power plants. Not to mention the health risks from radiation for those who mine the stuff we use in them.
> Future nuclear power is a very different beast to the one that we are cleaning up the mess from at the moment. There are perfectly viable ways of storing the minor fraction of the waste from new nuclear plants that is really problematic, and there is a good chance that we will be able to commercially transmute it into something much safer within the next few decades.
> Even better would be if we move to a thorium cycle system where the waste storage and recoiling problems get more simple again.
Well I do agree with you here and would be interested to see such development. But don't make the mistake of thinking that nuclear is low risk.
> A mining disaster will not wipe out a considerable portion of the country and cause birth defects for generations to come. Hiroshima might have had fewer problems had someone decided to drop a lump of coal on it.
> Not saying that we shouldn't use nuclear fuel but trivialising the risks is foolhardy.
I clearly acknowledged that there are risks, and stated that we have to manage the risks, and that we must do a better job of doing so than in the past. That does not sound like "trivialising" to me.
The risks are not as great as people think. There are something like 400 past or present power reactors in the world, and many more research reactors. This represents something like 8,000 reactor years of opperation. In all that time the bogeymen are few and far between, and actual harmful consequences from those bogeymen are even fewer.
Chernobyl is the most valid bogeyman, but as I have said before it has absolutely no relevance to future nuclear power, it is akin to somebody sticking their fingers into a mains socket to see what happens - we know better now - we build much safer reactors. There are plenty of other aspects of technological living that cause large scale birth defects and all sorts of other problems, and they face far less fear mongering than modern nuclear.
Well the deaths from fossil fuels are continuing at an estimated 1,000,000 per year. Not historical. Now. That's just pollution, not accounting for potential climate shifts.
The deaths from nuclear?
Or is a death from nuclear power somehow worse than a death from lung disease?
Also, it's not a few nuclear plants, it's hundreds of them over decades - and the new ones are much, much better than the old ones.
I can see both sides of the argument.
Bringing Hiroshima, (why does everyone forget poor old Nagasaki?) into the argument is a red herring. It was a nuclear weapon specifically designed to cause mass destruction. That said, the casualties were overwhelmingly due to conventional,(blast and thermal burns), effects. Radiological effects were minor in comparison. If you'd been stood a mile or so away from ground zero at Hiroshima, (and survived the fireball and devastating shockwave), you'd have got the equivalent dose to a full body CT Scan, which people don't think twice about. Hiroshima and Nagasaki aren't desolate wastelands, and Godzilla and 40 foot spiders don't stalk the land.
Likewise a lot of the low dose effects are massively overplayed. The linear no threshold model is patently wrong, (this is the model used by Greenpeace et al in the 'Chernobyl killed 10 million kiddies' articles). This adds to the spiralling costs and decomissioning problems. You wouldn't expect the workshop down the road to spend 10 million quid on a bespoke guard on the circular saw to stop YTS Brian chopping his little finger off, but the nuclear industry has to do the equivalent. Consequently they obsess over trivial minor doses and lose sight of what's actually important to safety.
Now the bad news.
Every nuclear reactor ever built has been state-of-the-art, foolproof, 'we know all the hazards and we've designed them out' jobs. Take the next 3rd generation PWRs. Yes, they're much safer than the earlier BWRs, (Chernobyl, Fukushima). However because they're pressurised there's addition stresses on the cooling system, and we all know what happens when you lose cooling. Yes there's all sorts of redundancy, and you can fly a plane into it etc, etc. You're still reliant on the subcontractor's subcontractor welding it up right, and the executive whose million dollar bonus is riding on delivery milestones not thinking 'It'll be right' when he hears about a few blemishes found during QA of the pressure vessel. Also let's not think about that counterfeit chip made by chinese orphans and trained orangutans that's been introduced way down the supply chain and is now sat in your massively complex safety system. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently committed fool.
Also we have terrorism. Paddy and Shamus had a vested interest in fallout not landing on the Bogside, Mohammed and Jamal don't really give a shit as long as they get their 72 raisins and the dirty kuffir dogs get some payback. You can do a lot of damage if you plummet a hijacked Ryanair flight in the right place. It certainly won't be anything like the magnitude of Hiroshima, but it doesn't have to be. Statistically speaking it won't kill anything like the numbers of people that the National Coal Board did, but mass panic, fears of 3 headed babies and 40 foot spiders and mass evacuations will do untold damage.
If we decide to proceed with nuclear new build, which we have to if we want to keep the lights on, we have to be prepared for these scenarios. Nothing is 100 percent safe. From wiki:
"The EPR has a design maximum core damage frequency of 6.1 x 10-7 per plant per year"
(I love probabilistic safety assessments, I'm sure you can knock up a fault tree that gives you that level of accuracy..).
The BBC, ITV etc would translate that to "Happens less than once in a million years!" like they did for the "Once in a thousand years" tsunami that hit Fukushima.
Alternatively you could note that figure is 'per plant', and if you build 600 across Europe, (all perfectly built precisely to the the design spec), you're down to a 1 in 100,000 chance of one going bang in any given year. (If anyone from the media is reading this, that's not 'Won't happen for another 99,999 years). Factor in an order of magnitude increase to allow for dodgy welding, lack of maintenance, general numptiness and we're down to 1 in 10,000 per year. That's about 10 times less likely than the Fukushima tsunami. Note that's the probability of the tsunami. They wouldn't have had a meltdown if they had got power back, and they'd have done that easily if the tsunami hadn't floated the diesel tank for the backup generators into the gap between two hills where the access road to the site went. What are the odds of that?
40 ft spiders would be cool.
ps good post.
> Well it depends on what you call minor. Germany has managed to increase its share of renewable electricity generation to 20-25% with wind playing a major part in that. In contrast the UK has managed about half that percentage.
Indeed. I asked my Green German friend about this on a recent trip, and he said it will be hugely expensive, but Germany can possibly afford this( to be seen)
Not many other countries can afford this, not taking into account that Germany are not aiming to be a big manufacturer, as they cannot compete, so they will decrease their demand and let others do that but the others to be competitive , in steel for example cannot use renewables as the cost of the power required will make them uncompetitive, so big manufacturers( and polluters will not go renewables).
> Electricity demand is at its maximum in winter, when sometimes anticyclonic conditions prevail. There is very little wind, and weak sunshine. People need large amounts of electricity for heating, which must currently be supplied by fossil fuel or nuclear plants. Industrial plants are also large users of elctricity.
> The least efficient way in which it is possible to run a coal or gas fired power station is to run it down when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, then suddenly ramp it up when it is the only possible means of generating electricity. Yet the renewable resources are not reliable, therefore any renewable source of power generation requires the existence of a fossil fuel / nuclear backup ready to supply electricity when it is most needed.
Well summed up, but something I think most people in favour of "just doing something" don't realise. Taking that as given one might assume that UK energy policy has been drawn up by 5 year olds so how did we get to this point?
Something similar is happening in Oz. we now have an economy wide carbon tax, RET etc but a white paper released the other day saying we can become a top world exporter of gas. Apparently it's ok for us to export it but we can't use it to our benefit locally.
I find this attitude exasperating. There isn't going to be a neat solution to our energy crisis. It's going to be a patchwork of solutions: Reduced waste, smarter consumption, nuclear, gas, wind, tidal, solar, energy from waste, interconnections, storage and doubtless more niche fillers in. Nobody is going to like it, some bits will be more useful than others, some only marginally useful, some we'll develop the engineering and economic tools to better exploit over time. Even if we start now in earnest trying to wean ourselves off cheap fossil fuel we probably are pissing in the wind it probably is too late already. The thing is, what other choice do we have but to try?
That's a good question.
If there is a single compelling energy option from a cost point of view then why have a "patchwork" solution? I am not saying one exists but if it were to present itself or be developed that should be the logical choice.
Governments are in the position of on the one hand saying they are consumer/voter and growth friendly, and the other saying they want to raise power prices in order to provide an incentive for alternatives (although they'll give you smart meters to manage your costs :p). The contradictions are endless!
This represents a much greater performance than those implying a case of "Oh sh!t, the wind's blowing - turn on the coal!" jkarran seems to be closest to the future reality being based on a mix of technologies and redundancy in supply(and also the fact that few will be happy). Another thing that cannot be underestimated is the increased performance of 'smart' grids and HVDC interconnectors to other countries, allowing bi-directional flow of power, which will help smooth any bumps in generation due to the intermittency of renewables.
Does anyone know roughly how much coal/oil would have need to have been burnt to produce the same amount of power? (I know this was a peak output - but it would be nice to have some vague idea how much we are 'saving').
> eggs, baskets...
> You don't actually think Sellafield was ever about providing cheap, safe electricity do you?
No, Sellafield was about producing weapons grade plutonium, then uranium fuel reprocessing. Fact remains that there is no confirmed strategy in place for long term storage of high radiation wastes. If we are going to expand nuclear generation capacity, we need a cohesive and safe disposal plan for actinides etc. 'Put it in a pond and worry about it later' isn't really good enough.
> Does anyone know roughly how much coal/oil would have need to have been burnt to produce the same amount of power? (I know this was a peak output - but it would be nice to have some vague idea how much we are 'saving').
Coal/Gas are roughly 40% efficient chemical-electrical so you'd be burning them at a rate of 4.2GW/40% = roughly 10GW (chemical). About 1000Tons/Hour coal (35,000kJ/kg) or roughly 1800Ton/Hour of CO2.
4.2GW is more than Drax supplies.
Not sure that's right. I make it about 1,900 tonnes for 4.2GWh for coal:
From the US Energy Information Administration, it's about 1lb coal for 1kWh, so 4.2GWh we'd have 4,200,000 lb coal = 1,909,090kg = 1.9kTonnes.
I checked Drax's maximum burn rate after I typed that and it's ~1500T/h (3.9GW). I think the difference is in the efficiency estimate I used (high) and the coal energy density figure I used (again, high). I just plucked the numbers off wikipedia, I'm not surprised they differ from yours but they're in the same ballpark.
Yes, we still have to have redundancy in the system (and for some fossil back up that will mean lower efficiencies) but it is better than having coal running all the time!
I did another calculation based on total coal used in the UK for electricity in 2010, and the total amount of electricity generated with coal in 2010, and got 1600 tonnes, so yes, we're getting to the right sort of number.
Coal and gas power stations do tend to have quite different efficiencies. Coal stations are generally older, and efficiency is often of the order of 35%, whereas newer gas stations can be as high as 55%. One consequence of this is obviously the fact that CO2 emissions are higher from coal power stations compared with gas, on a unit-electricity basis.
So all the wind turbines we have now produce (on a good day) the equivalent of Drax? A saving of c20K tonnes of coal?
Nice to have some figures.
Really? Sorry, but as far as my understanding goes we can't do that or certainly not to any meaningful level of accuracy as the causes of cancer are often multiple factors that we poorly understand how they interact.
Again you spectacularly miss the point - it isn't about what dose was emitted (I fully concede that living in some granite areas is more likely to give you higher dose from radon than say living nr a nuclear plant), but about your assertion that nuclear's history has no relevance to the present or future. I doubt very much that the designers and operators of the plants that have had accidents thought that anything would go wrong.
I am afraid it very much feels like it - the fact that fossil fuels are dangerous in no way negates the risks from nuclear. Are you confident that we will be able to control high level waste over the time period necessary?
In terms of quantities of waste they are relatively low, but the potential harm is very high (and continues to be so for a very long time). Fast breeder tech or MOx fuel has been around for a long time without ever really reaching commercial (or in some cases technical) success. So has fusion...which is always decades away.
I completely agree.
Not really. I have written much the same defence of nuclear as you on here in the past, but I feel you go too far in trivialising the risk.
Me personally or EasyJet/Ryanair/BA/Iberia/Whizz/Norwegian etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.
I'm not sure how me stopping flying to Spain is going the help the UK's energy security?
> I'm not sure how me stopping flying to Spain is going the help the UK's energy security?
It won't but it will reduce your carbon footprint.
In fact the greenest way to go climbing in sunny places is to take the TGV to Grenoble etc. Because it's powered by nuclear generated electricity it's one of the greenest forms of mass transport in the world ;=).
> I'm not sure how me stopping flying to Spain is going the help the UK's energy security?
Can I just repost this from an earlier thread? I like the way you can go back and repeat the same arguments:
In reply to sjc:
> What a disheartening thread.
I think you are being a little too simplistic. If changes an individual can make would improve things then most would. The environmentalism needs to be on a world basis, not individual, your sacrifice will have no effect on the environment. If you can convince another 100,000 people; their sacrifice will have no effect either. It is 6 billion that need convinced and forced to change.
How do you affect 6 billion people? How about a new world religion! The true faith!! Sun worship as the greatest source of power in the galaxy, coupled with worship of mother earth and care for her for the future. The churches are sitting there waiting for you to preach from, they always were centres of communities, let them continue... Enough well meaning people like you would be happy preaching about the wrongs of not recycling, so why not take the pulpit?
Indeed both have risks and I would not argue otherwise.
However the risks can and must be weighed in comparison with each other. And people get a lot more worked up over a risk of the same magnitude if it has the label "nuclear" attached. We understand this stuff. We can contain it. We have done a reasonable job in the past despite it being mired with the weapons program and mismanagement.
The risks from CO2 are less well understood and are apparently growing and we have no way to contain it. There is a real chance that non-linear effects of CO2 and the climate could lead to runaway positive feedback in a globally catastrophic sense. The same is simply not true of nuclear.
It is not a trivial risk, but it is one that we do have the ability to measure and contain. An old power plant gets hit by the a double whammy of very strong tsunami and earthquake, has several partial meltdowns and - Nothing Explodes, Nobody Dies (from the nuclear component.)
Is that a more or less serious problem than 1,000,000 people dying annually from fossil fuel induced pollution?
If Fukushima is replaced it will be with reactors that would survive an even greater (and more deadly) calamity without killing people themselves. Build the flood defences several meters higher, install more robust power systems for the active safety systems, move to a reactor design that employs passive safety (e.g. pebble bed.)
Pretty soon people will be staying "What if it gets hit by a half ton asteroid" - at that point it really doesn't matter, does it.
Re the waste: Separate out the small quantities of high level waste and seal it in a geologically stable vault. We can do this, we know how. The only real impediments to this are not technical. You could argue that doing so is storing up problems for future generations, but so is the vast quantity of CO2 begin released in a continuous and wholly unconfined method.
There are arguments about the safety of long term values when you involve people over timescales of hundred to thousands of years. Unlike CO2, there are several technical projects well underway with clear roadmaps to being able to viably transmute the long lived waste products into short term waste that is not a problem for future generations. Some rely on fusion, some don't. Some generate significant amounts of power. Either way it is not the long term problem that people paint it as.
We have decades of old nuclear power (heavily poisoned by the desire for weapons grade material) behind us and frankly it's not been very bad - of all the things in that time that have killed people it's barely noticeable. This can be dramatically improved upon for future generations of power plant. 40 years of progress in the understanding of the systems, in the control technology, in the waste handling, in the design of passive safety measures.
We have a simple choice of either turning our backs on 80% of our energy usage (not just electricity but across the board) until such time as fusion pans out or we have to embrace nuclear and look at the risks objectively.
Maybe that 80% reduction in energy usage will be more likely.
Planes use oil.
Thats quite a good list of airlines that encourage excessive flying.
Unfortunately we all leave it to someone else to make the changes or laws to be brought in.
> Large scale engineering projects like this need massive support and investment.
Yet the Gov can still find spend huge sums on stupid pet projects like the Olympics and elections for Police Commissioners that no one wants!
The next frivolous waste of huge amounts money to come is the Commonwealth games.
I' m currently involved in supplying equipment for converting the coal crushing mills in Drax to Biomass ( wood pellet) the burners also need conversion.
However, the long term economy of Biomass conversions is doubtful , so it may be short lived.
> Does anyone know roughly how much coal/oil would have need to have been burnt to produce the same amount of power? (I know this was a peak output - but it would be nice to have some vague idea how much we are 'saving').
Are you saying that all of wind generated power on that day was actually used?
The grid system has a built in overcapacity ( 20% say)
Wind is not reliable, so even if it is available, why would anyone immediately ask the coal and Nuclear stations to produce less, which takes time, then if the wind drops again they would have to ramp up again, which takes time. (And is less efficient)
My guess is most of that generation of that day has not saved much co2 in reality.
Are there Any Power StationManagers on here that can tell us the inside story on the logic of this?
You are correct on your point about the displacement of CO2 burning fuels by wind. In the big picture this is what is important as it is the fuel releasing the CO2 and not the electricity. Unfortunately there are no figures available for fuel burnt by plant. It would be interesting to compare with wind. There will undoubtedly be a significant link, currently not accounted for by windies in their vastly overstated CO2 saving claims.
1kwh of wind can not replace 1kwh of thermal plant. Thermal plant (typically gas) will shut down electricity supply to the grid if there is too much power, however they can not shut down the turbines immediately. There are fatigue problems to overcome. So what you will see when you look at the electrical output figures is output drop from conventional plant, this does not mean CO2 emissions are dropped as the plant can only wind down at a certain rate. The energy is blown off in cooling towers until such a time as supply meets demand again. Next time you pass power plant cooling towers see if it's windy, if it is chances are they are operating.
The strategy being pursued is to replace coal by wind and gas. Wind has to work in tandem with another plant, realistically gas is the only option. Backup is a bit misleading as it is more than that (wind has a load factor of 0.3). Combined cycle gas (approx 60% efficient) is being touted as the solution however it is not as responsive as required. Open cycle gas is better for shutting down but 39% efficient so as you can see there is an incentive to use less efficient plant. Selection of plant is purely driven by profit so if the less efficient but more responsive plant can fill the slots available that's what will be used (gas is cheap).
There is an increased operational reserve required. This increases to really surprising amounts as wind strength increases. Here's an interesting link from national grids perspective. (worth bearing in mind they are primarily concerned with load balancing and not CO2 emissions)
Thanks for link, lots to get your teeth into..
Two things strike me on a first quick read.
The authors don't see much much place for carbon capture as far as their predictions extend. Depressing if this will be reflected in what will happen in China.
There doesn't seem to be any allowance made for the effect of climate change on wind generating capacity. I wonder whether there it not considered to be significant over the period of their predictions.
> Nuclear Fusion is the holy grail. Where do you hear that we will have it in 50 years. Please may I borrow your excellent crystal ball.
I'm going to a talk/lecture on this this week after work, I will post if they tell me not to bother with NN;CCS:Coal;Wind etc. if Fusion is just around the corner!
Thank for the link, I have heard a lot of this in talks at work provided by the National Grid guys, however, I don't recall much said about 'Wind cut out' which is much more detrimental than I had previously understood.
The more you read the more you weep when you listen to the pro Wind Lobby
( Previously even my own sister, but at least after many years she has had a rethink)
Many people ask me how I can work for a company that manufactures Offshore Wind Turbines and be against them. However, they are usually not aware that we also provide many of the other generation options. Some are just better than others. Few are as poor as Wind though. Sort out the storage problem though, and I could be a convert yet.
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