Home > Environment > The green fields of nuclear power (updated)

The green fields of nuclear power (updated)

May 24th, 2012

Despite Fukushima and the failure of the US “nuclear renaissance”, nuclear power still has plenty of fans in Australia. A question which opponents routinely ask is “where are the nuclear power plants going to go?”.

That’s obviously a difficult question, but there’s a subtly different, and even nastier, question behind it, namely “How should we decide where a nuclear power plant should go”. There are obviously all kinds of issues to be resolved. For example, should it be on the coast, and therefore potentially vulnerable to a tsunami? Should it be near or far from population centres?

If we in Australia made a decision to go for nuclear power, then decided to answer all these questions from scratch, it would take years, maybe a decade or more before we even picked a site (look how long we took over the much easier question of a site for the national capital). And, until we answered the siting question, any estimate of the costs of nuclear power would be a stab in the dark anyway. A plant located in the centre of the Nullarbor would be about as safe as you could get, but hopelessly uneconomic.

So, the obvious answer is; Look at what other developed countries have done when faced with the same problem. But it turns out there is a small difficulty. The answer, according to the US, Britain and every other developed country I’ve looked at, is “put your plant next to an existing one, so there won’t be any more trouble than you already have”.

Of course, it’s logically impossible that they always worked that way. But, as far as I can tell, the last time a new site was picked for a nuclear power plant in a developed country was in the 1970s, before Three Mile Island, let alone Chernobyl and Fukushima. Even supposing that experience were relevant, it’s lost in the mists of time – the decisionmakers involved are long since gone, and any records they left are probably buried in the archives.*

So, unless we can solve a problem that every other developed country in the world has chosen to duck for 30-odd years, we will never even get to the starting gate with nuclear power.

*Update It turns out to be fairly easy to retrieve material from the National Archives, for example, on the proposal, made in the late 60s and abandoned in the early 70s, to build a nuclear power station at Jervis Bay. Thanks to commenter Andrew for picking me up on this.

*Further update Contrary to the claim in the post, a Finnish company has announced a proposed site for a new reactor, though it is not clear that any proper approval process has been undertaken. I doubt that Finnish administrative processes will translate easily to Australia, but it looks like a counterexample to my claim.

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  1. Hermit
    June 2nd, 2012 at 18:06 | #1

    Solar boosting of existing thermal plant at least has the advantage of not needing new boilers, generators and power lines. Apart from Liddell I understand it is proposed for coal plant at Kogan Ck Qld and the Northern power station at Pt Augusta SA.

    From various sources I believe the CO2 mass multipliers are something 2.4 for black thermal coal, 2.7 for coking coal, 2.9 for LNG and 2.9-3.3 for brown coal. However a tonne of LNG gives 5x the thermal energy of brown coal (54 GJ vs 10 GJ) since it has more hydrogen atoms than carbon. Then for electricity calculations we also need the conversion efficiency, raw fuel costs, future CO2 prices, management and capital costs. No wonder there will be a period of major uncertainty.

  2. rog
  3. rog
    June 3rd, 2012 at 05:27 | #3

    The last two years the price tonne coal fob Newcastle ranged from $100 to $150.

    There are additional costs, monitoring and dealing with dust and pollutants (eg NO2) plus capital costs.

    I think that the main point of Liddell is that solar is doable, not just a feel good concept.

  4. John Bennetts
    June 3rd, 2012 at 23:01 | #4

    @BilB
    David Mills completed his work years back. A new, larger German-designed linear fresnell lense solar thermal plant has been added recently and is in the final stages of commissioning. They are alongside each other, on the same paddock.

    Neither has capacity to alter the ramp up time for the existing units – they simply add low pressure steam via a reheater stage in the boiler.

    By the way, Liddell is subcritical, as are all the other NSW power stations. If you want to see supercritical, there are one or two in Qld that are slightly closer to the sun.

  5. John Bennetts
    June 3rd, 2012 at 23:20 | #5

    @Sam
    Sam is dead wrong when he states that molten salt solar thermal plants don’t use water for cooling.

    They do, and because they operate at far lower temperatures than coal fired power stations, thermodynamics laws demand that more water is used for the same quantity of energy sent out.

    The molten salt is unstable above 400 degrees C, whereas coal fired generators run at 700 degrees or so. The thermal efficiency of the turbine is directly related to the steam condition, as any mechanical engineer could attest.

  6. Hermit
    June 4th, 2012 at 10:26 | #6

    If future gas prices look too high it seems less likely that ageing coal fired baseload stations will be replaced with combined cycle plant. If nuclear is still disallowed that will put the Federal government in the difficult position of either restricting gas exports via Gladstone or allowing new coal plant. To talk tough the Feds could insist the new coal plant is supercritical or uses gasification with the promise to be ‘carbon capture ready’ for some unstated time in the future. As with emissions intensive trade exposed industries there would likely be generous amounts of free permits (94.5% for EITEIs) as a transitional arrangement. The ploy being that the ‘transition’ would go on forever.

    Recent thinking on east Australian gas supply
    http://www.climatespectator.com.au/commentary/australias-csg-plans-begin-falter

  7. John Bennetts
    June 4th, 2012 at 11:37 | #7

    Hermit, there is no logical link between supercritical boilers and carbon capture and storage.

    The challenges are exactly the same, whether for new subcritical or supercritical boilers – the gas emerging from the boilers will consist of nitrogen and CO2, with a cocktail of sulfur and nitrogen oxides.

    Nowhere on the globe has CCS been demonstrated at commercial scale. Plans for CCS are somewhat akin to plans for personal aircraft – we have all read about somebody’s hopes for efficient aircraft which can be stored in our garages, but nobody in his right mind would plan a nation’s transport future on personal aircraft instead of motor cars.

    Unless and until CCS has been developed, engineered, constructed, operated, costed and verified, it is nothing more than a red herring. CCS dreaming is an excuse used by the fossil fuel industry to pretent that today’s pollution problems can safely be ignored, with a promise that they will be solved tomorrow, long after the profits have been ripped out of the coal mines and gas wells.

  8. BilB
    June 4th, 2012 at 13:17 | #8

    I did not know that, John Bennetts. Thanks for the update. It is promising that the expansion expense was seen to be worthwhile.

    On the personal flight argument, it is right to say that flight will never replace the road vehicle. However, Personal Air Vehicles have moved forward in quantum leaps in the past 2 years, and it is now safe to say that air travel is cheaper now than all but the most extreme of proposed future fuel efficient diesel vehicles, for people and small amounts of luggage. The latest achievements in electric powered flight are creating a whole new transport reality.

    And that is totally real and proven, which is so much more than most of what is said about CCS. I agree on that point.

  9. Hermit
    June 4th, 2012 at 14:02 | #9

    @John Bennetts
    I meant exclusive ‘or’ as in supercritical or alternatively IGCC with the latter having the possible CCS option. The Germans are now saying CCS must work for their brown coal plants since their gas bill will also prove worrisome. They also use the ruse that it is only a matter of time before it works at large scale e.g. here. They are stalling for time and Australia will be no different.

  10. John Bennetts
    June 4th, 2012 at 15:47 | #10

    @ Hermit:
    In my dreams I am an owner of a high precision German machine in the form of a Mercedes or BMW or Audi. The reason? Because they work so reliably, despite the cost. They are well engineered. They perform.

    At least, that’s the reputation they enjoy.

    When it comes to energy policy, things are the reverse.

    Perfectly good fission power stations are closed down and unreliable wind and solar are substituted. When these are found to be inadequate, the new plan involves splashing more cash around on constructing new brown coal power stations.

    These new power stations are being designed to NOT include the pollution control devices which the proponents agree are needed if they are to operate satisfactorily into the future.

    Isn’t building new coal power stations without CCS somewhat akin to charging down the autobahn with no brakes?

    On the other hand, the German-designed solar farm at Liddell is a truly magnificent example of neat design, well executed. I had a small part to play in the design and it is streets ahead of David Mills’s version which is only a few metres away. It is a thing of beauty.

  11. Happy Heyoka
    June 4th, 2012 at 17:47 | #11

    @John Bennets

    The molten salt is unstable above 400 degrees C, whereas coal fired generators run at 700 degrees or so.

    Yes, the potassium/sodium nitrate combo, while cheap decomposes at about ~380 C.
    There’s already several salt combinations that operate > 500 C, and a patent for one that operates at 700 C (Google ‘Halotechnics’).

    I would have thought that for a smaller facility the minimum temperature required to melt & move the salts would be a bigger design obstacle and you would just deal with the issues of sub-critical steam.

    Isn’t building new coal power stations without CCS somewhat akin to charging down the autobahn with no brakes

    I might be out of date but isn’t there still a billion odd dollars up for grabs for someone demonstrating a workable CCS system? It would be great if there was a break through but I always thought it was, thermodynamically, ‘robbing peter to pay paul’…

  12. BilB
    June 4th, 2012 at 21:27 | #12

    John Bennett,

    The new Liddell installation is quite interesting. I hope that the published figures are correct as they would mean a major advance in the technology. Some years ago the basic output figures for CSP were 50 megawatts per square kilometer, or 20 sq klm per gigawatt. That was achieved from about 350,000 sq metres of glass reflector on the 1 million sq metres. The Liddell installation purports to deliver 9 megawatts from 18,000 sq metres of glass in a more efficient flat array. So that would mean, optimisticaly from 500,000 square metres of glass per square kilometre for 200 megawatts per square kilometre. If that were what the figures meant then a 5 square kilometer section would deliver 1 gigawatt daytime capacity.

    I would love for that to be the way it was but it would mean a collector delivery of 400 to 500 watts per square metre of glass reflector. I think that we need some clearer definition of the performance of this installation, or maybe I am missinterpreting the published information.

  13. John Bennetts
    June 4th, 2012 at 22:02 | #13

    @ BilB:

    The german arrays are not good users of space, for various reasons. You are not likely to see more than 40% mirror on a site any time soon. David Mills’s system was superior in that regard, but used much greater mass of materials to achieve the same output.

    Novatec use light weight, elegant, precise structural elements, assembled by robot and able to be handled on site using small equipment or by hand.

    Regarding salt – there is no need to consider using thermal storage for ST plant which is coupled to coal fired boilers. The steam is used when it is available, otherwise coal is fired as normal. The unit behaves essentially the same way with 100% coal as with a proportion of solar thermal input – it just needs less fossil fuel.

    I’m no expert on this, but I have heard that in lieu of thermal storage, gas support is effective and relatively cheap, as well as being flexible.

    In summary, there are a number of proven ways to harvest heat from the sun and feed the resulting steam into conventional steam turbines via the boilers. There is no proven way to extract the carbon dioxide emissions from real world fossil fuelled generators and to store it, either as CCS or by any other process.

  14. rog
    June 4th, 2012 at 23:56 | #14

    We have two opposing forces at work, a need to reduce carbon output in the face of rising energy demand. Ernst & Young estimate that in 20 years peak power demand for the east coast will rise from 40,000MW to 60,000MW. There is no way this demand can be met by current facilities and the capex on new plants plus additional network will be enormous.

  15. rog
    June 5th, 2012 at 06:54 | #15

    A third force at work is politics, with Abbott promising to tear up the Clean Energy Future there seems to be no future to work to, other than market forces driving up energy prices and reducing supply.

  16. June 5th, 2012 at 09:39 | #16

    What is currently happening in Australia is that people are installing solar PV on their homes and businesses because it is cheaper than buying electricity from the grid. In South Australia we get about 3.5% of our electricity from it. Three and a half percent of our total electricity means we get over 10% of our electricity from it on hot summer days when demand is highest. This means meeting peak demand is no longer a problem in South Australia. It also enables us to permanently shut down one of our coal power plants, which we will do in a few weeks.

    In the rest of Australia solar is also expanding and helping to meet peak demand. No other peak generating capacity needs to be built and point of use PV will push down wholesale prices during the periods that where formally times of highest demand. It will also enable us to save our (meager) pumped storage capacity for the evening peak after the sun goes down, and will let us fill that pumped storage during the day as well as late at night.

    Australian power companies aren’t worried about not meeting demand. They’re worried that their generating capital will be under utilized and they’re worried about low wholesale electricity prices.

  17. Hermit
    June 5th, 2012 at 13:40 | #17

    @Ronald Brak
    I must beg to differ. When I last looked PV installed in SA was 127 MW with I’d guess average capacity under 15%. The Playford B coal station is rated at 240 MW with I’d guess average capacity well over 50%. Therefore the closure of Playford B cannot be ascribed to PV. It was old and worn out.

    Secondly you have the problem of air conditioning demand in the late afternoon when the sun declines but the temperature lingers on. Coincidentally that is also when wind is often becalmed. Then SA’s gas fired power stations have to throttle up or electricity has to come from interstate. Note the price of south eastern gas is set to increase due to depletion and the price of Qld/NSW/Vic coal fired electricity will increase due to carbon tax.

  18. John Quiggin
    June 5th, 2012 at 13:51 | #18

    Since we rarely get anything new on this topic, I’d like to thank John Bennett for the info on the Liddell plants and (IIRC) rog for raising the point, of which I was unaware.

  19. June 5th, 2012 at 14:29 | #19

    Thanks Hermit. I checked and I now realise I should have written ‘about 10%’, not ‘over 10%’. My appologies.

  20. Jim Birch
    June 5th, 2012 at 14:34 | #20

    … and the original question on whether an Australian reactor site is politically doable didn’t get much of a outing, except by inference.

  21. John Bennetts
    June 5th, 2012 at 15:49 | #21

    @ Jim Birch:
    From an engineering point of view, probably alongside existing generating plant in the Hunter Valley or Victoria.

    From a political PoV, on Commonwealth land somewhere, hence the previous Jervis Bay exercise – thus cutting out one layer of government.

    From an environmental PoV: Just about anywhere, because the actual safety risks are minuscule.

    From an emotive PoV: Nowhere, and certainly not in Joe Blow’s back yard.

    My preference would be for nuclear power plant to be installed on two sites simultaneously, in the Latrobe Valley and the Hunter Valley, but I agree that this would result in a huge and damaging public battle. I also understand the fears and concerns of those who disagree with my PoV. What is missing is effective discourse between those on all sides in this discussion.

    So, before Jim’s question can be answered, we need to make progress on the question of how, in this 21st century, in Australia, we can best build a community with shared understanding of and commitment to an environmentally sound, secure and not energy-poor long term future. Or is this question, like so many others, going to be determined by those with private interests and those with the loudest voices?

  22. frankis
    June 5th, 2012 at 16:56 | #22

    I wish I could have a smart modern nuclear plant in my backyard but that’s not going to happen. It won’t matter that much to me if our bright young nation can nonetheless just stop burning coal! Selling it to others? – sure, for the time being. Somebody will. Just stop burning the stuff and I’ll cope with renewables and conservation for 20 years of coal replacement, by which time the relevance of nuclear might be able to be talked about absent the present clamour of anti-nuke alarmism. Call me a sunnysideupper!

  23. June 5th, 2012 at 17:16 | #23

    John, what about from an economic view? How can nuclear compete with other sources of electricity in Australia, particularly when insurance costs are included?

  24. June 5th, 2012 at 17:18 | #24

    Er, that was a question for John Bennetts. Sorry for not including the last name. I really should remember to do that when there’s more than one John around.

  25. John Bennetts
    June 5th, 2012 at 17:51 | #25

    Ronald B:
    The American experience re insurance is perhaps the best to consider. They are reported to charge their fission power generators a fraction of a cent per kWh (0.1 cents, from memory). They have built a huge fund – so huge that various interests want either to ditch the loading or divert the surplus to other (eg renewables) programs.

    The German experience is reported to be similar – their insurance fund has been built up in the same way. A portion has been diverted to other energy programs.

    So, while I am not an expert, I have certainly found many well-written pieces which state that insurance within the fission power industry is self funded within existing models.

    I have also read that this has not been true in relation to the weapons programs and early research programs, which explains the US Government’s residual unfunded risk in those areas.

    So, in the absense of evidence to the contrary, I do not see that insurance is in any way a show stopper for fission power plants.

    Regarding economics generally, there are many studies of LCOE – Levellised Cost of Energy – which are specifically designed to calculate the real cost of energy on a whole of life basis for many different conventional and alternative energy technologies. Nuclear seems to come out best or second best, sometimes bested by non-CCS fossil fuels and sometimes by existing hydro, but never by solar.

    Again, I am no expert, but the information is out there.

    Unfortunately, many renewables studies do not adopt this approach, so it can be difficult to obtain an apples with apples comparison. If you like, I can come back with a list of several LCOE studies, but not today I’m off to watch (on TV, unfortunately) the first rugby test match ever to be played in Newcastle, NSW.

  26. June 5th, 2012 at 19:17 | #26

    Thanks for the offer of studies John B., but I’m more interested in examples of new nuclear plants recently built or being built in developed countries that could compete with Australian electricity prices because I can’t seem to find any. Flammanville is estimated to cost over $5,000 a kilowatt. Olkiluoto about $4,000 a kilowatt. Watts Bar is something like $4,500 a kilowatt to finish a mostly built reactor. I don’t have a total figure for Vogtle but apparently it’s a billion dollars over budget and 12 months behind schedule. And even if we can get a reactor built at a say $4,000 a kilowatt there’s about three cents a kilowatt-hour operating cost – add on your 1 cent a kilowatt-hour insurance which I doubt Lloyds of London will give us, 1 cent decomissioning fee, and half a cent waste disposal and operating costs along are higher than the average Australian wholesale electricity price including the carbon price. Considering that point of use solar PV in Australia is now cheaper than coal + distribution, I really can’t see nuclear competeing.

    And just to be clear, I’m not saying solar power will power all of Australia all of the time, I am saying the low cost of solar power and the lower than nulcear cost of other generating capacity makes it currently impossible to make money building a nuclear power plant in Australia.

  27. June 5th, 2012 at 19:39 | #27

    Just read a bit of interesting news about energy storage. Now that generous feed in tariffs are hard to find outside of Japan, Panasonic is starting mass production of a small 1.35 kilowatt-hour battery for small scale solar that that allows people to use more of their point of use solar power themselves and export less to the grid. I imagine these sorts of batteries will become common in Australia now there’s such a large gap between what consumers pay for grid electricity and what they can sell it for.

    http://panasonic.co.jp/corp/news/official.data/data.dir/en120604-4/en120604-4.html

  28. John Bennetts
    June 6th, 2012 at 00:28 | #28

    @ Ronald Brak:
    You conflate and confuse the capital and operating and other components which contribute to Levellised Cost Of Energy – LCOE.

    This is not about only the capital cost of generation facilities, but also the operating and fuel costs, the ultimate decommissioning and deconstruction costs, as well as financing and so forth.

    To view only the capital costs is to ignore all else.

    Regarding decommissioning and insurance, I did not say 1 cent each – I said a fraction of a cent, total.

    So, LCOE studies are out there and the majority of them determine that:
    1. PV and offshore wind and solar thermal and new hydro are currently behind
    2. (fossil fuels plus CCS) and nuclear, which are challenged on some sites by
    3. onshore wind and (new coal without CCS, an abomination which should be outlawed) and existing hydro.

    That some current fission builds are running behind program and above budget is correct, but that leaves the many non-OECD nation projects, some of which are very cost-competitive indeed.

    I retain an open mind regarding fission, especially Type IV, which has been trialled successfully for three decades and offers a very neat opportunity to convert our stockpiled spent fuels into electricity, thus removing the perceived problem of radioactive waste and simultaneously releasing the remaining 99+% of the energy in these fuels. We will not need to mine uranium for these reactors for thousands of years. Not needing to mine is a Good Thing.

    Imagine… all the energy that one energy hungry western style person will use throughout his/her lifetime can result in only a golfball sized waste problem, which is itself not sigificantly radioactive after 300 years and originates from today’s stored post-use so-called spent fuel rods, with no need to construct or operate mines.

    It’s easy to see why I would be very interested in this energy option as well as each of the renewable options.

    What I hope to avoid is burning ever more fossil fuels, for whatever purpose, whether for base load power or to support unreliable renewables or to power transport.

    But no, properly designed and fully funded fission is neither streets ahead of nor far behind the LCOE cost of renewables such as wind, solar or geothermal. It is, however, worthy of rational consideration and may well be the western world’s best chance in a world which is challenged by carbon dioxide pollution and climate change. This is not the time to eschew options of any type which, though unpalatable to some, may turn out to be our best bet in a changing world.

  29. John Quiggin
    June 6th, 2012 at 06:58 | #29

    @Jim Birch
    I think the answer is too clear-cut for debate. it’s not just politically infeasible in the sense that any particular location would face a lot of resistance. It’s administratively infeasible in the sense that no-one has any idea how to go about picking a site – I very much doubt that the Finnish process will translate anywhere else.

    So, whatever the feasibility of new plants at existing sites, the case for greenfield nuclear in developed countries is much weaker.

  30. Nick
    June 6th, 2012 at 07:49 | #30

    “You conflate and confuse the capital and operating and other components which contribute to Levellised Cost Of Energy – LCOE”

    No, what Ronald points out is that the assumptions for capital costs used in those LCOE studies, even their worst case scenarios, are far too low and unrealistic…they do not translate in practise.

    “I retain an open mind regarding fission, especially Type IV”

    John B, that’s nice, but now you’re conflating and confusing the issue.

    If LCOE of Type IV nuclear were even existent – which it is not – it would be three lane freeways behind solar and wind.

    Deal with what we have now, including the high labour costs and every other expense of building and operating a type II to III reactor in a first world country where a pot of beer costs $5.

  31. June 6th, 2012 at 10:11 | #31

    John Bennets, sorry I made a mistake with regards to what you said about insurance.

    In the US nuclear power plants pay one tenth of a cent per kilowatt hour for waste disposal. But the waste has not actually been disposed of. It piles up at nuclear plants. Something that seems like even less of a good idea given events in Japan. US nuclear plants very roughly pay about .025 of a cent per kilowatt-hour for insurance. (It’s not actually charged per kilowatt-hour, but that’s what it very roughly comes to.) Now after Fukushima, I really doubt that represents the market price of insurance. As our host has pointed out in the past, Japan would have needed to have an insurance rate of about 10 cents a kilowatt-hour on nuclear power to pay for the Fukushima disaster. Now maybe a modern reactor in Australia could get insurance for under 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, but I really doubt it would be less than one cent.

    John B., you did not say decomissioning, I did. Sorry if I wasn’t clear on that. The one cent a kilowatt-hour cost was a guess based on European costs. Looking at the US I see the Zion plant will apparently cost about a billion dollars over 10 years to decommission, which comes to roughly a third of a cent per kilowatt-hour the plant produced. If Zion hadn’t had a major accident it could have produced more kilowatt-hours before being shut down, but the chance of a nuclear reactor having to close down early, as a number have, adds to their cost. The decommissioning of the Haddam Neck plant in 1996 cost $1.2 billion. I don’t know how many kilowatt-hours it produced. Looking at Switzerland, I see they estimate the cost decommissioning their 5 nuclear plants at an average of $4.5 billion for each one.

    The half a cent per kilowatt-hour cost for waste disposal is a loose estimate based on a figure I have for British waste disposal. Sweden charges a third of a cent per kilowatt-hour for waste disposal.

    Looking at the operating costs of new nuclear plants rather than average operating costs, I see that the operating costs of new nuclear is supposed to be lower. Possibly 2 cents a kilowatt-hour. So looking at this optimistically, let’s say operating costs are 2 cents a kilowatt-hour, decommisioning and waste disposal is 1 cent a kilowatt-hour, and insurance is 2 cents a kilowatt-hour, that still comes to an operating cost of 5 cents a kilowatt-hour. This is still more than current wholesale prices in Australia and not much less than what they will be after the first of July And given the effect that wind and solar have on wholesale electricity prices, it might not be long before they drop below 5 cents a kilowatt-hour again. So even looking at costs optimistically, nuclear could still be a money loser in Australia even if the cost of the nuclear plant was zero dollars.

    John B., you mention that studies show that nuclear is cheaper than solar. I’m not terribly interested in these studies because currently Australians can call up a solar PV installation company and get solar electricity for less than the cost of our current coal and gas + distribution. Obviously the real world says that solar is cheaper than nuclear. And rather than a study, I’d like you to show me one new nuclear plant in the developed world, either recently built or being built, that would be competitive in Australia. But you can’t do that.

  32. Hermit
    June 6th, 2012 at 10:18 | #32

    I think discussion of capital cost is misleading unless we adjust for capacity factor. When I bought PV it was about $8/w. If I divide that by 0.16 (ie 16% average of nameplate output) I get $50/w. If nuclear costs $4.50/w but has 90% capacity factor the adjusted cost is $5/w.

    However it seems like that cost of capital for nuclear will be higher due to lenders and shareholders perception of risk, hence the US loan guarantee system. However the only default so far I believe has been Solyndra, a solar company. With the seemingly mothballed solar flagships at Moree and Chinchilla the Feds were going to put up ~40% of the capital for free. Thus all profits if any would go to the private owners, doubly assisted by the REC subsidy now called LGC I think.

    Like several other commenters I think Ceduna would be a good site for Australia’s first nuke. It could supply desalinated water and electricity for Olympic Dam mine. BHP seem to be having second thoughts about a gas pipe and air cooled gas power station at the mine so it may not go ahead otherwise. If Ceduna went glitch free then Hunter and Latrobe Valleys could follow.

  33. BilB
    June 6th, 2012 at 13:09 | #33

    Two way street, Hermit.

    You need also to include a utility factor. When 75% of the required energy comes from distributed consumer owned energy production (or conversion) systems requiring the nuclear reactors to ramp down during solar and high environmental energy input cycles, the economic viability severely changes. Nuclear plants that need to idle for 4 fifths of the day and possibly operate below capacity for the rest may not be economical against other plant that can operate in that way.

    This is the main issue for future grid suppliers, as you yourself have periodically alluded to, to be aware of. Energy utilities need agile energy producing infrastructure such as hydro and gas turbine facilities in the future, or they need systems that are a natural complement for solar facilities.

  34. BilB
    June 6th, 2012 at 13:11 | #34

    oops, 2 fifths

  35. rog
    June 6th, 2012 at 13:15 | #35

    Insurance for nuclear power seems to be ok as long as you don’t make a claim

    the pool said in August 2011 that it would not renew Tepco’s contract after it expired in mid January 2012. (Japanese nuclear utilities are required by law to secure JPY 120 billion in accident liability coverage.) Tepco is seeking coverage from private-sector insurers.

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf67.html

  36. rog
    June 6th, 2012 at 13:39 | #36

    It’s worthwhile reading the line put forward by World Nuclear and noting their omission of the fact that the claims against Tepco were sufficient ($100B) for the govt to step in and nationalist them

     It is commonly asserted that nuclear power stations are not covered by insurance, and that insurance companies don’t want to know about them either for first-party insurance of the plant itself or third-party liability for accidents. This is incorrect, and the misconception was addressed as follows in 2006 by a broker who had been responsible for a nuclear insurance pool: “it is wrong [to believe] that insurers will not touch nuclear power stations. In fact, wherever they are available to private sector insurers, Western-designed nuclear installations are sought-after business because of their high engineering and risk management standards. This has been the case for fifty years.” He elaborated: “My comment refers very much to the world scene and is not contentious. Apart from Three Mile Island, the claim experience has been very good. Chernobyl was not insured. Significantly, because Chernobyl was of a design that would not have been an acceptable risk at the time, notably the lack of a containment structure, the accident had no impact on premium rates for Western plants.

  37. rog
    June 7th, 2012 at 07:48 | #37

    Reporting of energy matters seems to be subject to selective bias. This report indicates that for the east coast Australia conventional generation is down and renewables are up

    Total east coast grid power generation fell by 1,689 GWh, with the decline also reflected in lower coal-fired generation (down 598 GWh) and lower hydro generation (down 578 GWh).

    Wind power however grew by 24% (300 GWh). In the March quarter wind contributed 3.1% of east coast generation, with the highest generation in South Australia of 942 GWh, 31% of the State’s grid generation.

    “In South Australia wind appears to be the new baseload.”

    http://www.energyquest.com.au/newsarticle-mobile.php?id=136

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