It was written by John Quiggin, a Professor no less, and he has challenged people to provide an alternative analysis and timeline regarding a possible implementation of nuclear energy in Australia. I'm going to widen the scope since this issue will be facing us all in the near future. Now who am I to oppose the views presented by John? A nobody!!! zero certifications, no accolades, nothing.
I will kick off by making a few assertions :
- Reality will dictate what we [need to] do, economics and politics have to adapt
- The energy demand will go up
- Stress on water will go up
- We are going to have a mass transition of fossil fuelled transportation to electrified transportation, putting more stress on energy generation and shifting the burden
- The absolute necessity of seriously mitigating [carbon] emissions to stave of the Anthropocene Mass Extinction
And a nice quote from someone who tried to remind me of something "Reality always bats last". I think this paradigm has to and will change eventually.
John Quiggin is a professor at the university of Queensland and I have to admit that some very good and impressive work is being done at this University and I especially applaud them for an on-going series of videos they make available to the general public : UQx Denial101x Making Sense of Climate Science Denial. I absolutely recommend watching these video's, they are put together very well and contain a wealth of knowledge.
Now let's hold the feet of this issue to the fire shall we? Nuclear energy has to be put into the context of worldly energy consumption.
The US Energy Information Administration annually produces International Energy Outlooks. Now these are pretty interesting because they gives u a yardstick on what we could expect in regards to energy consumption in the future. The extrapolations might come true, they might not come true, but in order to secure the future we have to make projections, not to be caught off guard.
"Total world energy use rises from 524 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2010 to 630 quadrillion Btu in 2020 and to 820 quadrillion Btu in 2040 (figure 1)"
In 2009 the EIA predicted that energy consumption in 2020 would be 596 Quadrillion Btu, this has risen to 630 Quadrillion Btu in 2013. A rise of 34 Quadrillion Btu predicted at the same time in the future over a four year timespan. So far my second assertion is holding up.
let's wave a magic wand and suppose that everything we do has been electrified in 2040, we do not burn anything anymore. The EIA predicts that we would need 820 Quadrillion Btu to satiate the demand.
Since the EIA is an American administration I suppose that they use the short-scale quadrillion, which is 1.000.000.000.000.000 This gives me the stupefying number of 820.000.000.000.000.000 Btu of energy required by 2040. And it is even possible that it will be far more than that. But i'll settle for 820 Quadrillion Btu. How much TWh would this be?
- 820 Quadrillion Btu = 240.318 TWh (I cheated by using a conversion tool.)
Let's have a look at the average production per unit
- A nuclear power plant @ 862 MW / 90% generates 6.8 TWh in a year
- A coal-fired power plant @ 750 MW / 60% generates 3.94 TWh in a year
- A wind turbine @ 5 MW / 35% generates 0.01534 TWh in a year
Now these are three serious contenders and the one force we want to do away with. Let's quantify the number units required to satiate a 240.318 TWh demand.
- Nuclear : 35.000 reactors
- Coal : 61.000 generators (factor 9x of currently existing capacity)
- Wind : 15.600.000 wind turbines
- Solar : 200.000 - 550 MW plants OR 1.787.490.000.000 individual solar panels / 1.8 Trillion.
How about 2/3rds of 240.318 TWh :
- Nuclear : 23.500 reactors
- Coal : 40.000 generators
- Wind : 10.400.000 wind turbines
- Solar : 133.500 - 550 MW plants
How about EOL time?
- Nuclear : 50~60 years
- Wind : 20~25 years
- Solar : 20~25 years
Yes that's right... over a period of fifty years you need to produce at least twice the amount required. 3.6 trillion solar panels or 30 million wind turbines.
You'll get the picture, at least I suppose you do.
Stuff like Hydro, Gas-fired, Wave and Geothermal have been left out of the equation. Hydro is already pretty much maxed out. Geothermal has some potential but it doesn't amount to much in terms of deployability and Gas-fired will be one of the bridging technologies. Electricity/Heat to gas conversion systems are a waste of time, batteries won't make a difference and the hydrogen idea neither. These amount to nothing.
Let's take a look at the clock, is time running out? It seems so... This is what reality looks like :
We have to supplant the grey, green and orange. Why? It's very simple :
- We don't want the average temperature to rise more than two degrees or we will be certain that we will precipitate a mass extinction event.
- We will run out resources within decades.
- Coal 100 years
- Gas 60 years
- Oil 40 years
Let's look at it from a different perspective "Topaz" (the 550 MW form) claims to "remove" the emissions [?] created by 73.000 cars. Now there are over a billion cars in the world, I'll settle for a billion. In order to "mitigate" all the emissions from all cars we would need 13698 of them... I don't exactly get what these people try to prove with this, but there's no logic in it, at least there's no way of verifying what they mean with 73.000 cars...
This is what a 550 MW solar farm looks like btw, imagine the sheer volume of concrete, steel, aluminium and highly purified silicon required to build it... Let's remember, these solar and wind farms don't get "magicked" into place.
Nuclear has a clear head start over "other renewables". Renewables are being held to a ridiculously low standard, the amount of jobs, the amount of transportation, mining, purification, production that goes on in this sector is stupefying but it doesn't deliver. Now these processes are true for any energy industry, however the scale in which these processes are done is what matters. Installing a trillion eight solar panels is a far more energy intensive process than building 35.000 682 MW nuclear reactors.
What's the nuclear promise? Mind you this is taking it through from a mixed fuel cycle in contrast to a solid fuel cycle. The currently widely championed Molten Salt Reactor approach guarantees 90+% fuel efficiency. This helps us secure at least a couple of thousand years worth of nuclear energy.
Even though there might be some hurdles that need to be overcome, I'm pretty sure that we have no other choice. We can't go all-in, we simply lack the materials and feedstock required. We are in a very tight spot indeed, our resources are literally running out. The only sustainable way to fuel the future is nuclear fusion. Either we find a way to make it happen, or we have to accept the fact that we need extra-terrestrial activities to maintain a human civilisation for the next 500 years or so.
Why would I address this from a worldly standpoint and not simply an Australian one? The world doesn't care about borders. Australia could go 100% renewable, it would only be shifting the burden. If China, India, Europe or America don't drop their coal-fired capacity significantly, we're in big trouble, regardless of what happens in Australia. Australia on the other hand could easily set an example. As a well-stocked, reasonably educated country you could easily transition from a coal-fired economy to a nuclear powered economy. This requires will-power and a well thought out plan. It has been proven in the past that if a country commits its resources, efforts and people to solving a big problem, they can. Simply look at the Manhattan project, the Apollo missions, The way France completely decarbonized their energy industry. A blank cheque could easily be given for a project of a magnitude that would save humanity and the Earth's biosphere. It is a matter of surviving as a society, it is ultimately a matter of existence.
Let's paint a picture, let's magic the lignite and coal away and make Australia [but dare I say it : the world] a nuclear country [disclaimer : these are fables and myths, stories of a kind I cannot possibly substantiate, but there seems to be a lot of that going on nowadays] :
- At some point the message will be clear, we cannot go on, we're on a path that leads nowhere. The basic truth of math rears its head everywhere.
- 2018 The political acknowledgement of the need of nuclear energy.
- 2019 Current global affairs necessitate the implementation of nuclear energy
- 2020 Start of the "new nuclear generation" education
- 2022 Collaborating with other nuclear agencies to set up a framework for quick deployment of nuclear energy. (AP-1000's & MSR's) and provisions in place for future MSR and/or Fusion deployment.
- 2024 Implementation safety framework
- 2024 Start building first AP-1000's = Bridging capacity 1.1GW each
- 2026 Start building the first MSR's
- 2030 Delivery of first AP-1000's in countries that have adopted this approach
- 2031 Deployment of first MSR's in countries that have adopted this approach
The thing about nuclear power plant construction, this is mainly done by civil engineers, building specialists in concrete, welding, construction, iron workers, etc. Nuclear Engineers and Physicists arrive late in the game. There's enough expertise in this world to set up a framework by which we can build this new energy infrastructure.
Let's be honest with each other, even though it might be a hard thing to do in the current context, we have a herculean task ahead of us. If we cannot settle this debate, we'll be in great trouble even before the 2030's are over. You and I will probably agree on that.
I hope you can accept my brutal honesty and my lack of etiquette, the time of reverence is behind us. We first have to acknowledge the reality of things and then necessity requires of us to join forces and solve this final conundrum of humanity. I want my children to grow up in a stable, beautiful and prosperous place, here on Earth.
Do we hate this planet?
Copyright : Spencer Platt, Getty Images
Source : wiki
Or do we love it?