Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nuclear Plant to Bulldoze Wind Farm, but Kurdistan has Oil!

A wind farm may be bulldozed to clear a site on which a new nuclear power station will be built. This seems to me a telling sign of the future, in that wind-farms are being marginalised in favour of the tried and tested, and it must be said, far more powerful. On average, a nuclear reactor produces around 1.2 GW of electricity, which allowing for a capacity factor of 30% is the equivalent of a farm with 1,500 "2 MW" wind turbines. The "capacity factor" for a coal, gas or nuclear power station is similar at around 36%, but when a figure of say 1 GW is quoted that is the actual output, from a thermal capacity of around 3.6 GW, which is less misleading than the figures listed for wind-turbines. Unlike the wind which does not always blow, uranium always burns, so long as there is enough of it in the reactor.

Indeed, to meet EU targets, it will be necessary to build a new wind-turbine every day for 12 years, which does not seem to me a particularly realistic objective [1]. The Haverigg wind farm, located between the hills of the Lake District and the waters of the Duddon Estuary on the coast of Cumbria, is the second commercial wind farm to be built in Britain, and has run for 17 years. However, six of its eight turbines (quite a lot less than 1,500) fall within the blueprint-boundaries of the proposed Kirksanton nuclear power plant where the German RWE plans to construct "at least three" new reactors.

There is naturally a huge environmental hoo-ha, but as RWE points out, the wind farm produces 3.5 megawatts of energy while the nuclear power station would generate 3,600 MW, or enough to power 5 million homes. There is also the equally unexpected NIMBY, in that people living in the nearby village of Kirksanton have formed an action group, because the plant is only 150 yards from the village boundary. I don't blame them, but nuclear power plants are actually pretty safe in their running; it is just the issue of long term storage of nuclear waste that remains to be sorted to everybody's satisfaction. Couldn't they shift the site a little bit though, and keep both sides happy, and keep the wind farm too?

Given the amount of energy we use, and that time is of the essence, I think they should build the nuclear plant, and several others too, if only to buy some more time while we rethink our "sustainable future". Running out of juice would be a more horrendous matter than global warming, nuclear waste and all other calamities, at least in the short term.

On the matter of juice, I note an interesting development in oil exploration: namely that drillers in northern Kurdistan have identified 3 to 4 billion barrels of oil there. Now this is only enough oil to quench the world's thirst for it for around a month or so, but it is probably going to be worth $300 to $400 billion, assuming that the price of oil rises to $100 a barrel again, which it almost certainly will, and probably much more than that. The company behind the project, Heritage Oil, is doing well on the stock market with shares going for 360p per unit and 30% growth, which speaks volumes, especially in the current financial climate when 150 British businesses are going to the wall every day, and doubtless many more across the world.

Related reading.
[2] "Wind farm may be torn down to make way for nuclear site,"
[3] "Kurdistan discovery boosts Heritage," By Bryce Elder and Neil Hume,


Yorkshireminer said...

Murphy's law is the only law in the Universe that is true, What ever can go wrong will go wrong. Murphy's law in fact makes things safer in the long run. We always learn from our balls ups. I could give you chapter and verse and plenty examples concerning coal mining. What is it with these people don't they ever learn when you make a balls up with Nuclear power it is usually a permanent balls up, have they forgotten about Chernobyl. They have been forced to seal off a large area of the country for the next I don't know how many decades.

I can remember the Windscale disaster. I remember the newsreels showing people pouring thousands of gallons of fresh milk down old abandoned mineshaft. It seems that the strontium 90 fallout got concentrated i cows milk. I don't know if they are doing it now if I remember the radiation half live of Strontium 90 is 30 years or there about so it must be reduced to about ¼ of what it was by now, but does that make it any safer because it never the less gets concentrated in the bones, where it can do its work just as insidiously. They have built several windmill parks just at the back of me in Germany. If I go up too the highest part of the village and look over into Germany I can count over 50. a lot of people don't like them, but I always point out that you are not going to glow in the dark if one falls down. These sort of balls up are not permanent.

What interested me in this that I read about it in a German Newspaper. From what I gather the plant will be owned and run by a German energy firm. I can't remember which one, but it seems funny to me that in Germany all the emphasis is on renewable energy wind and solar, do they know something we don't know?
By the way Chris there is a bit of good news it was announced in the Danish newspapers that the first new potatoes from the Island of Samsoe had been delivered to the posh restaurants of Copenhagen

Professor Chris Rhodes said...

Hi Dave,

I was in Russia during the aftermath of Chernobyl, and we got all our information from colleagues in the West, such was Soviet secrecy at the time.

Yes, everyone born since 1960 has had the advantage of growing-up with 90-Sr in their bones from the atmospheric nuclear testing that was done at the time.

The German firm is RWE, and as you say Germany is going all-out for renewables which does make one wonder about British energy policy? We do seem set on a nuclear programme though, as we were in the days of the cold war, so who knows? Perhaps the reason is similar to those dark days.