Saturday, June 16, 2007

I cannot believe that both the Greens, Labor and the Australian environmental movement can not show that there are alternatives to both nuclear and fossil fuel power which will not produce CO2 or send our economy bankrupt and would enable it to function and which can be used in many countries of the world including China. Solar thermal power is the simple but effective technique of concentrating sunlight with mirrors to create heat and then using the heat to raise steam to drive turbines and generators, just like a conventional power station. Solar heat can be stored in melted salts and in the splitting of ammonia and then recombining it and this turns out to be a very easy and cheap way so that generation of electricity will continue at night and on cloudy days and no additional fossil fuel burning is required. This storage method allows for variable output for peak, medium and base power production on demand.
Far from being inefficient, and a negative for the economy solar thermal power (CSP) has huge potential to supply the world with a major way to produce clean electricity, jobs and wealth. It has been calculated that, if it was covered with CSP plants, an area of hot desert measuring 254 km x 254 km—which is less than 1% of the area of deserts around the world—would generate as much electricity as the world currently consumes. If used in Australia alone and area 50KM square in desert areas would supply all of Australia’s energy requirements. And it is feasible and economic to transmit solar electricity over long distances using highly-efficient 'HVDC' transmission lines. 90% of the world's population could be supplied from this source.
US venture capitalist Vinod Khosla of Sun Microsystems says that CSP is poised for explosive growth because of its low costs. In part this has been brought about by the use of simple cheap flat mirrors and the ammonia storage method developed by Australian scientist Dr David Mills. The 'TRANS-CSP' report, commissioned by the German government, calculates that CSP is likely to become one of the cheapest sources of electricity in Europe, including the cost of transmission. Information about CSP can be found at www.trec-uk.org.uk and www.trec.net.au

7 comments:

Michael Stuart said...

While I admire your support of solar technology, please don't use it as a blunt weapon to attack nuclear power.

With the vast majority of our energy coming from carbon-emitting sources, why don't we focus our efforts on addressing the more immediate problem of climate change before throwing barbs around, shall we?

"Enviros" like you who oppose nuclear power should consider the unintended consequences of your actions:

If you actually do succeed in instigating a fist fight between multiple technologies that could abate global warming, you might inadvertently derail any chance at actually addressing the problem through a combined approach.

When it comes to climate change, Nuclear isn't competing with Solar. They're on the same team!

GerryWolff said...

Nuclear power is, by a wide margin, the worst of all methods for generating electricity. A summary of its many problems may be seen at http://www.mng.org.uk/gh/no_nukes.htm . A much fuller account is in Helen Caldicott's book, "Nuclear power is not the answer" (ISBN-13 978-1-59558-067-2).

If renewable sources of electricity could not meet our needs, then nuclear power is an option. But there is now abundant evidence that there are more than enough clean and safe sources of electricity to meet our needs and there is absolutely no need for nuclear power.

The evidence is contained in several reports that have now been published showing how we can decarbonise the word's economy without using nuclear power. Summaries and download links are at http://www.mng.org.uk/gh/scenarios.htm .

A relatively brief analysis for the UK, with a spreadsheet, may be found at http://www.mng.org.uk/gh/energy.htm .

Anonymous said...

Michael,
Nuclear is a high-priced subsidy sink with huge back end costs. It's the worst energy buy on the market over the next 40 years. The only reason we're hearing about nuclear is that if the big international nuclear companies can't build a new generation of n-plants quickly, looming retirements of existing N-plants will extinguish the industry. Thus, the current nuclear charm offensive is all about a desperate bid to re-entrench a bad industry for another 40 years and more Chernobyls and Three Mile Islands. It's not about the best outcome for the environment, society or the economy. It's just that simple....

RobertP said...

Michael,

I think it was Lester Brown who said about nuclear power that if it is appropriate for the USA to use it to combat global warming, then why shouldn't it be deployed in every other country?

Which then poses the question - why is the USA so concerned to stop countries like Iran and N. Korea from developing nuclear power? Could the answer be that nuclear power plants are not safe in some way and shouldn't be allowed to fall into the 'wrong hands'. As you come from the USA, perhaps you could tell us why your administration considers nuclear power to be unsafe?

Secondly please post on here with a comment on how the waste streams of CSP and nuclear compare from an ecological perspective.

Also could you comment on how long uranium will last compared to solar radiation. To the nearest 1000 years will do..

enviro said...

Michael
We in Australia have a prime minister who is hell bent on taking us down the nuclear path to the exclusion of any alternative source of power that is absolutely clean and green. This has been due to the notion backed up by industry and business fossilized in the past that the two main sources of future power in Australia will be coal and nuclear and renewables will be insignificant sources. Actually the opposite will be true with nuclear and coal becoming minimal or almost nonexistent. If you have looked at the references I and many others have supplied in the many letters, replies and blogs and understood them and I feel you haven’t, you would have come to the realization that there is indisputable solid well understood scientific evidence almost schoolboy stuff, that says we have abundant energy in the form of wind, tidal, solar thermal, and geothermal all provided by our only safe nuclear reactor the sun freely delivered at a rate which will last for another 5 billion years or so and is enough to supply all the world many many times over at any instant of time. Great advances have been seen in the renewable industry and a gigawatt solar thermal plant is being built using the cheap flat mirror system together with the ammonia storage system which turns out to be easy to do and is based on well understood science and mature technology. There are many storage systems but the ammonia one is closed loop and is cheap and efficient and probably supreme in that it has much greater flexibility enabling base medium or peak power on demand. Not only that, this system beats other storage systems in that energy received and locked up chemically during summer can be released during winter or at any distant future time which is not intrinsically possible with the other systems. As economies of scale kick in prices in the not too distant future will plummet and this is where the crunch will come in for the nuclear and fossil fuel industry. So we are now at the crossroads and we have an opportunity never ever provided before; the world can go down the entirely unsafe nuclear path which is from the fact that we live in a world that is entrenched in crazy ideologies and if continued will almost certainly destroy us long before global warming does, or we can use renewables that will not only tackle global warming and provide greatly reduced costs of energy enabling states to survive, in doing so will also reduce nuclear proliferation steering us away from almost certain destruction as well!

Michael Stuart said...

If you really are interested in an intelligent discussion about the pros and cons of our various energy options, then I will be happy to participate.

Since I am an expert on nuclear energy matters, I suppose I should start by answering some questions.

Nuclear power should be deployed in many countries, but I would be hesitant to say *every* country. Nuclear plants require maintenance and expertise, just like refineries, chemical plants, and biological engineering facilities. My country is not opposed to any of these technologies, but you have to remember that the technology itself is neutral. My country would most likely oppose large scale chemical and biological engineering facilities in rogue states just as much as a nuclear facility. Does this mean that *all* chemical and biological engineering facilities should be closed and banned? Of course not.

Last I checked, the US "administration" was very much in favor of nuclear. This also holds true in places like Finland, France, Japan, South Africa, and a growing list of countries who desperately need alternative energy supplies and have decided to use nuclear technology to meet them. This doesn't mean that solar and wind is off the table. There's plenty of room there.

If CSP and nuclear were direct competitors, I could see great value in a comparison of waste streams. However, over 20 years of public subsidy in California has shown that CSP is not a direct competitor. Maybe one day, but not now. If you disagree, then show me just one example of 1000 MW of baseload CSP electricity (that's *continuous* output 24/7, not theoretical capacity, which is meaningless) anywhere in the world, and then we can start comparing apples to apples.

Furthermore, "waste" is actually the best thing going for nuclear energy. It generates such a miniscule amount for such an enormous amount of electricity. If all of the electricity an average person uses in his/her lifetime were generated by nuclear, then the waste would equal about the size of a golf ball! And the best news of all is that 95% of the this so-called waste can be recycled, which is already being done in France.

How long will it last? With no recycling, we can probably expect existing uranium reserves to last most of this century. With recycling, we're talking well over 100 years. With recycling and fast reactor technology, we can expect about 1000 years of fuel.

No offense intended, but the question is silly! Why would we want to settle for nuclear technology for more than 100 years? It's not a perfect source of energy, though it's certainly far better than the fossil fuels it replaces. We should be using nuclear only as a temporary measure until we can develop even better technologies to meet our energy needs.

Yes. I did say that, but don't dishonor the spirit of what I'm saying by quoting me out of context.

GerryWolff said...

The case against nuclear power is overwhelming. The many problems with this technology are summarised on http://www.mng.org.uk/gh/no_nukes.htm .

CSP is free of these problems and is now being taken up in many places around the world. Information about CSP plants around the world - planned, under construction and in operation - can be seen on Google Earth via this link: http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/resources.htm#CSP_GE .