5 June 2006

Nuclear site for Goulburn

| johnboy
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The Canberra Times has a story about the possibility of a real nuclear reactor for Goulburn.

A nine year old Cabinet submission is a long bow but is there anything that can’t be dumped in Goulburn?

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Considering the big Merino is probably 90% asbestos I’d say it would survive the holocaust.

OH MY GOD what about the giant merino? Surely if anything is to be protected from the threat of a nuclear holocaust it is the beloved giant merino.

what’s the efficiency of those household turbines?

I’m guessing you’d be lucky to get 50%.

If someone cracks room temperature superconductors then the whole game changes, both for home generation and transmission.

More importantly they’d provide effective energy storage so there’d be no need for baseload generation at all and a handfull of solar cells and windfarms probably would be adequate for energy needs.

But until then the cold hard reality is that bigger turbines produce exponentially more power than small ones, and that makes a centralised power grid more efficient.

One decentralised system that I’ve looked at that might work in the medium-term is the idea of small natural gas turbine generators (~ the size of a washing machine) that generate electricity and hot water for the home – compare some time the cost per joule of electricity and gas on your home accounts.

I’ve always thought that it’s thermodynamically silly to generate electricity from heat, then pipe that electricity to homes where we use a lot of it to heat up water / air! A majority of the energy released from burning coal goes straight out the cooling towers.

Absent Diane4:44 pm 06 Jun 06

sweet… or should I SAY savoury!!!

Absent Diane4:43 pm 06 Jun 06

sweet… or should I savoury!!!

Yea, like my anchovie powered moped.

Absent Diane4:39 pm 06 Jun 06

Awesome!!!is it kind of related to my theory if it stinks don’t eat it… use it to power things??

By the way AD they kind of do that already at the tip where they tap methane off rotting stuff and run a 24 cylinder converted diesel engine. Methane is heaps worse as a greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide that it is turned into.

The Combined Heat and Power (CHAPS) designed in the dept Engineering here for Bruce Hall is a pretty handy solution. It uses parabolic mirrors to concentrate the sun onto a small number of solar cells so only 6.8m^2 of solar cell are needed for 300m^2 of mirror area generating 32kW. Water also runs through the tubes that the cells are mounted on which gets bloody hot. This is used for building heating and hot water. We need more of this stuff.

It doesn’t matter id the source is renewable or not, if a turbine is used to make the power a big turbine is better than a little one.

photo-voltaic cells are great (but lots of nasty chemicals to make them) in a distributed environment, but most other forms (including large scale solar power) still involve spinning bundles of wire around magnets to generate current, and bigger is better.

Absent Diane3:57 pm 06 Jun 06

what about regiments of highly trained wheels running on giant hamsters and using the methane that comes out of the hamsters as they are squished to power things.

Ummm… I only like illegal immigrants when both chicks are hot.

What we need is a whole set of treadmills with generators in them installed at the illegal immigrant detention centres…

That’s true about a centralised grid being more efficient when you’re talking about coal, oil and gas turbines, johnboy. It breaks down slightly when you deal with renewables.

Wind and solar are at the mercy of the weather, so decentralising them as much as possible would be a workable model, for mine.

The reason we have a centralised grid isn’t a conspiracy, it’s because big turbines are more efficient than small ones.

Electricity produced goes up by the square of the speed the turbine spins at which is why, even with transmission losses, it’s better to have a big power station than lots of little generators.

Ways of generating power without turbines are coming along (solar cells being the most prominent example) and in california householders can already get paid for electricity they put into the grid.

it’ll come here too.

as for methanol it can be made by fermentation distillation or by a process using steam and natural gas. (wikipedia has more)

Hydrogen enthusiasts should note that the cheapest way to get hydrogen is a dirty process using coal, not electrolyzing water.

Allow me to clarify my earlier statement, re “vested interest”. I mean that there are power companies, oil companies, mining companies etc. that will howl blue murder, but I didn’t mean them so much as people.

Assuming that someone in power (a kind of amalgam of Menzies and Bob Brown) stands up and decides that enough is enough, and that for the good of the country, our power grid must be decentralised; how do we do it?

The government puts solar panels and wind turbines on everyone’s roof?

(“Damn the Nanny-State!” cries Maelinar)

The government subsidises the installation of the panels/turbines?

(“What about the battlers?” cries areaman)

The government does nothing, but encourages people to go onto the system, because while it’s more expensive it’s good for the planet and the country.

(“Huzzah! Let the market decide!” cries johnboy. No-one goes on to the new system, and our power generation systems falls in a huge heap. Everyone blames our fearless leader and Australian society boils like the frog of the addage.)


Mossey – definitely the best solution. Will it happen. Not a fucking chance. There is way too much vested interest in maintaining the status quo, so a decentralised power grid just won’t happen. Far too much inertia.

The smart approach would be to have every node/house play an active part in maintaining grid voltage rather than rely on dam gates being opened and coal fires being stoked every morning so that we can microwave our weetbix and watch Kochie. Each node could have small solar power generation and storage and inbuilt intelligent systems to run non-critical stuff like water heating and fridges in response to grid conditions. It would be a lot more reliable than the centralised system but implementing it would require some big changes and money.

Alternatively, Thumper’s approach would probably win more support.

Les – I’m not picking holes to be contrary. I just think we’re in more strife than we realise. A “technology will solve everything” attitude is very comforting, but most unrealistic.

The problem is that we *should* have started thinking about viable solutions to fossil fuels back in the 1970’s when the Yanks’ oil production peaked and the west became beholden to OPEC’s oil policy.

As usual, mankind proved itself unable to think in the long term; and we find ourselves in our current dilemma.

We may be able to dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in with renewable energy, but we may not. Nukes, unpaletable as they are, may be part of a greater solution.

At least people in power are starting to at least discuss alternatives.

Okay okay, point as many holes in my logic as you will, but I’ll continue to be optimistic (not blindly so!) about developing alternative solutions to our looming energy crisis. Don’t forget that if we continue to rely on fossil fuels that we will end up relegated to the dark ages eventually, regardless of whether or not it is a still night! (johnboy)

Of course relying on wind and solar alone would not provide enough secure, reliable power to meet current demands. My point was to illustrate that renewable energy has the potential to supply enough power for a large user base. There would of course need to be wholesale changes made to the grid and supplementary sources installed to cover the complete gamut of power needs, but at least we would be lowering preventable greenhouse emissions.

There is probably a lot to be said about how society has developed (and continues to develop) a dependence on electricity as well. Viva la révolution industrielle!

I reckon the rapid rise in the number of lowered WRXs with sub-woofers is responsible for the increased techtonic activity. Either that or childhood obesity.

Absent Diane11:59 am 06 Jun 06

media coverage is greater and we are more populated…. but I don’t think we have made any substantial jumps in population since the 80’s, but even if you take these two factors out, I am sure the size and regularity of these events are greater and closer than in any other recent time.

Wasn’t the quake that lead to the tsunami second or third biggest on record… leading to the second most amount of deaths from a natural disaster (the first was something like a flood in china back in the 18th century or something)… also the two or three hurricanes that hit florida last year were amongst the most powerful on record… plus you have all those big quakes happening in the middle east since the late 90’s… media and population aside.. the numbers still seem to stack up…

then again I may be full of sh#t!!

Where does the methanol come from? Is it fermented (if so, where do we get the sugars) or is there an anabolic process I haven’t heard of?

I think fuel cells are likely to be methanol based. Nearly the same amount of power and much easier to handle the fuel.

Also easier to make the fuel without pouring electricity into water.

Les – wind is a great way to produce power for applications you don’t need reliability for (desalination, industrial processes producing a product that can be cheaply stored, etc) but sadly, it’s worse than useless for a baseload.

Wind power is not a magic bullet. You can build it as part of a well-managed and heavily centralised power grid – but sadly our power grid is neither.

Yea, fuel cells are not viable for mass storage yet but a lot of work is being done on it.

Anyone keen to run a hydrogen pipeline across the Pacific? Transact likes digging trenches.

Problem is that existing fuel cells use a whopping amount of energy to produce (not to mention producing some profoundly toxic by-products) and have a pretty limited useful life.

Also – no one has managed to find a workable method of storing large amounts of hydrogen. It’s tricky stuff to deal with.

A decentralised power grid is a nice thought though.

Geothermal is actually looking quite promising as a shallow (3-5km) source has been found in SA with potential to supply most of Australia and produce hydrogen exports: http://renewableenergyaccess.com/rea/news/story?id=44861

With development of better storage systems such as fuel cells we should be able to get away from our reliance on a base load power sources and decentralise power generation with many small nodes of solar and wind power.

I reckon it’d be cool to have a dirty big solar chimney out in the middle of the desert. A couple of square kms of glass tapering up to a 1km high chimney with turbines at the top.

The solar thermal article was written by a guy in my building. They recently got a big grant so it is looking good for them.

“Wind and solar combined would be enough to cover the power demands of most urban areas.

Except for still nights when we can kiss civilisation goodbye.

“A farm of 20 such turbines would produce enough power to cater for one-third of Canberra.”

Only when the wind is blowing, Les.

Wind power certainly seems to have a negative stigma amongst the general public. I can only assume that this is fed by poor knowledge, so allow me to give a quick lesson:

Wind power can supply bulk electricity to cover the baseload of a sizeable city. In fact it would only take 5 of the current “5M” turbines to produce enough power to cover Queanbeyans entire electricity needs. A farm of 20 such turbines would produce enough power to cater for one-third of Canberra.

Wind and solar combined would be enough to cover the power demands of most urban areas.

VY is dead right – one of the problems with this debate, as with many others such as wind power, is that there are some entrenched positions, and advocates push particular “facts” and cloud the primary issues.

Some of the articles I’ve read from the nuclear lobby leave me cold – there’s some bloke who lives on Canberra’s northside, I can’t remember his name, who regularly writes letters and articles in the CT, and if he’s any representative of the nuclear industry, I think we’re in deep doo-doo.

The same goes with the other side, bearing in mind that some of the opposition is, or is likely to be, fermented by vested interests.

I have three main questions:

1. Who will pay for the nuclear power plants – will they be PPPs like Sydney’s cross-city tunnel?

2. If there is any profit, where will it go?

3. Who will pay for the cost of disposing of the waste, and ultimately dismantling the station at the end of it’s life?

My reason for thinking along these lines is that the nuclear industry will undoubtedly want to socialise all the costs and privatise all the profits. Wasn’t that the plan with the fast train from Canberra to Sydney? Isn’t that what’s happening with our airports?

I think that the issue here is in the attempt to be objective. There is a lot of emotion attached to nuclear power generation, and that tends to muddy the waters. The first thing that needs to happen is to get the facts – there are plenty of developed countries using nuclear power without a problem. Once we have the facts, then we can make a decision.

engage brains people.

There are many more people out there, so more chances that a disaster is going to occur in an inhabited area.

There are better communications so we’re more likely to hear about the disaster

Most importantly in the last few years even in the poorest parts of the world someone’s got a video camera, even if it’s on their mobile phone.

So a disaster story that once would have been a five line item in the world news section of the paper now leads the TV news, just because there are exciting pictures.

Maybe there are more disasters… but even if there were LESS we’d still be hearing more about them.

Absent Diane8:59 am 06 Jun 06

BTW, is it a coincidence that there seems to be more natural disasters these days, or is it greater reporting capabilities? Or both?

Thumper I tend to agree…. we have taken so much out and not put anything back in… equilibrium and all that jazz…

oil seems to have some pretty good lubricant qualities – has anyone ever actually studied whether it provides lubrication for tectonic plates or other weakspots in the earths crust? or is that just completely dumb of me to even think of??

Wave fluctuates too much for baseload, geothermal would be great, but we’re a very geologically inactive country and not suited to large scale geothermal energy production.

Solar Thermal would be great (I’m assuming the 10MW in the article your link refers to is a research power plant, not an end product) but is still very much in its infancy. I’d like to see lots of money thrown at it in the next few years, but I really can’t see that happening.

Nukes are well researched, and relatively safe (the new generation plants can’t really go Chernobyl – they don’t operate at high enough temperatures).

There is, of course, the pesky matter of what the hell we do with the waste; but our wide, brown (and geologically inactive) land gives us plenty of quiet places to sock the stuff away a couple of k’s underground in synrock.

Nope – not ideal, but probably the best solution we’ve got until we find out if the whole fusion thing is workable or a multi-billion dollar white elephant.

Solar Thermal, Geothermal and Wave are all options for base-load power generation.

Absent Diane5:07 pm 05 Jun 06

We do need an alternate source of energy soon… im sure that there are things out there…

Maybe we could make up the money to equal cheese by running with hawkies nuclear dumping ground idea…

A few more years and we may not have any choice as to whether we get nuke plants or not. It’s either that or coal – which is far worse environmentally speaking – or let the lights go out.

Wind and solar are okay – but they just won’t provide the kind of base-load power that a reactor can provide.

I’d be happier exporting cheese too, but as our oil and coal reserves start getting depleted and pricier to extract, and our planet starts heating up, nuclear power starts looking awfully attractive.

The ACT Government could put their hand up for a nuclear reactor, problem is that Tom Snow would undercut their offer and have it built at the airport.

Guess it’ll have to be on Norfolk Island then…

Creswell is not the site it used to be, so any thoughts of going back to Jervis Bay are very, very, very unlikely. Most of the land has been given back as a national park with significant wildlife and aboriginal cultural grounds, plus the bay is a marine national park as well. Way too much hassle to try and change all this stuff. They’d be far better off looking at places that actually want it.

A point to note is that the money gained from installing a reactor and exporting enriched uranium would only be a third of Australias cheese exports.

I think I’d prefer to export cheese.

James-T-Kirk1:47 pm 05 Jun 06

Sadly the world is still full of clueless people. Some of the try to report, and some of them try to govern.

Sadly, the truly clueless have no idea, so the cycle continues!

If they ever build it you’d think that it would be built in either Jervis or the Top End to restrict the State opposition and court battles ensuing.

Where I live, they have been fighting a proposed wind farm (Molonglo Ridge) for some time. They talk about noise. Meanwhile, everyone on these tiny little subdivisions has a stable of 2-stroke trail bikes!!!!!

On the subject of renewable energy sources, I mooted an interesting point last week. Its amazing how resistant everyone is to wind farms being established “in their backyard”.
Faced with the idea of having a nuclear reactor anywhere within 200kms of my place, or a wind turbine over the back fence, I know which one I would prefer!

Maybe a reactor might get them a new dam – as long as Goulburnites dont mind a few extra isotopes with the flouride!

There is absolutely no way a nuclear reactor would be built in Goulburn – Not in 1997 and not in 2047.
There’s a little resource you need a reliable supply of, in order to operate a reactor… it is called water. Now exactly how much of this liquid has Goulburn had in recent years? Two thirds of nothing.

This is a simple case of the CT scraping the bottom of the barrel for stories they like to call “news”, and a chance for a few pollies to grandstand.

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