Nuclear Power for Australia: Where to put it?
In 2007, combustible fuels, mostly coal, generated 224,771 GWh of electricity, 91.8% of Australia’s 244,777 GWh of electricity generation. [Source – IEA’s International Monthly Energy Statistics, May 2008.]
If we were to replace all this electricity generation with nuclear fission, using nuclear power reactors each with a nameplate capacity of 1100 MW and a capacity factor of 90 to 95%, just like the United States’ nuclear power routinely achieves, then 25 nuclear reactors are required to replace all those fuel-combustion plants.
The UMPNER report (aka the Switkowski report) found that “In one scenario, deployment of nuclear
power starting in 2020 could see 25 reactors producing about a third of the nation’s electricity by 2050.”
I have to admit, I don’t quite follow that, because as above, based on the 2007 IEA statistics, 25 nuclear reactors could supply 92% of Australia’s electricity. I suppose they based that figure on the predicted increase in consumption between now and 2050, which is completely reasonable, of course.
Anyway, since the UMPNER report’s release, “25 reactors” has been the benchmark in political debate over the potential for a nuclear-powered Australia.
Now, Penny Wong states:
“The last election showed that Australians are absolutely of one mind about not having 25 nuclear power plants dotted around their suburbs and in and around their cities.”
That’s funny, because when I went to fill out the ballot paper, I didn’t notice anything about a referendum on nuclear energy. In fact, I believe if such a referendum were ever done, Wong and Garrett might be in for a rude surprise – a recent poll I posted to a large Australian online forum of computer users found 90 percent of respondents in favour of nuclear power for Australia. Not the most formal statistics, I know, but it gives you some idea.
[Thanks to Nuclear Australia for reproducing Senator Wong’s sound bites.]
This comes hot on the heels of Ian MacFarlane’s call last week not for nuclear power, but merely for the rational discussion of nuclear power. The mere discussion of nuclear power is taboo for the Federal Government.
Furthermore, Wong says:
“Are they really saying that they have a plan for 25 nuclear reactors in Australia? Where are they going to put them?”
Now, 25 nuclear reactors does not mean 25 nuclear power plants – we can generally put two (or three, or four, or seven, or just one, but we’ll say two, usually, on average, for argument’s sake) nuclear reactors at the same power plant.
So, where do we put them? If we put 25 nuclear reactors in Australia, we need 13 sites for plants.
Since I’m not a politician, maybe I can break the taboo, and actually start naming names? Where could we put nuclear power plants?
Firstly, three plants can go outside of Morwell, replacing their 6000 MW or so of brown coal fired capacity, taking advantage of the region’s access to the electricity grid, ability to support large heat sinking capacity, the skills and labour base there, and so forth, as required to support large coal fired power plants.
Another two can go in Port Augusta, South Australia, replacing the coal-fired stations there.
Three nuclear power plants can go in various sites in Queensland, replacing the coal-fired generators there, at Gladstone, for example.
Three nuclear generating stations can go in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, again replacing the majority of the states’ coal-fired generating capacity.
Another plant can go at other sites in the state, at Eraring, for example, or somewhere else on Lake Macquarie or on the coast.
Co-locating and ultimately replacing coal fired power plants with nuclear power, provides known access to local rivers or lakes, or existing cooling towers, even, that provide heat sinks suitable for large heat engine plants, provides good access to roads and logistics, provides a solid local labour market and engineering base with relevance to the electrical, mechanical and thermohydraulic engineering and technical trades required to run a large power plant, and provides solid access to the electricity generation infrastructure.
Finally, it would be sensible to stick one last reactor over in WA, outside of Perth. Kwinana could be well suited.
So, there you go. If these were deployed by 2050, we would see a 50% reduction in Australia’s anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases, relative to present levels, with the stationary energy generation by way of fossil fuels accounting for 50% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Anyway, these are just some of my thoughts, and my answer to Wong’s question, and the oft-asked question of where the nuclear power plants should go. I’m not a politician, of course – working out where to develop different heavy industries is not my day job.