Author Topic: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.  (Read 9985 times)

ColinB

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #195 on: November 17, 2021, 10:21:02 AM »
How about we park up some old nuclear subs in the Thames outside pParliament, fire them up and plug them into the grid. All funded by a friendly Gulf state with a great human rights record. Seem like a plan?
It's OK. At the moment they are more than 400 miles from London (but only 30 miles from Glasgow.)

Actually there are NO "old nuclear subs" within 30 miles of Glasgow. Some are at Rosyth (10 miles from Edinburgh) but the majority are at Devonport, ie in the middle of a major English city. And most of these are de-fuelled so just a collection of irradiated material, and would be no use for power generation or as any sort of bomb. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/submarine-dismantling-project

It's not unknown for reactors to be installed in major population centres and operated safely for many years, for example:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JASON_reactor
That's 5 miles from Westminster. Close enough for you? Would anything like that get planning permission now? Probably not, because of the Great British Public's outdated attitude towards nuclear safety (ie Nuclear = bomb = bad = avoid at all costs). That's the real problem that RR have to overcome with their SMR proposal.

Jocko

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #196 on: November 17, 2021, 11:17:15 AM »
Glasgow city centre to Rosyth is 34 miles, as the crow flies. Rosyth Dockyard is a mile or more closer. Glasgow itself spreads more than four miles in every direction so yes, the old nuclear subs are within 30 miles of Glasgow.
Mind you, the ones based on the Clyde are also old and clapped out, even though they are still in service.

JimSh

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #197 on: November 17, 2021, 11:53:23 AM »
How about we park up some old nuclear subs in the Thames outside pParliament, fire them up and plug them into the grid. All funded by a friendly Gulf state with a great human rights record. Seem like a plan?
It's OK. At the moment they are more than 400 miles from London (but only 30 miles from Glasgow.)

Actually there are NO "old nuclear subs" within 30 miles of Glasgow.
I was thinking of Faslane

https://distancecalculator.globefeed.com/UK_Distance_Result.asp?state=SCT&vr=sehest&fromlat=56.06529&fromlng=-4.81269&tolat=55.85783&tolng=-4.24251&fromplace=Faslane,%20Helensburgh,%20Scotland,%20United%20Kingdom&toplace=Glasgow,%20Scotland,%20United%20Kingdom


https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/our-organisation/bases-and-stations/naval-base/clyde

Rosyth
Before I posted I thought the submarines had been decommissioned ages ago.
It seems not.

Seven nuclear submarines were stored at Rosyth in 2007. In 2018, the Public Accounts Committee criticised the slow rate of decommissioning of these submarines, with the Ministry of Defence admitting that it had put off decommissioning due to the cost.
https://www.edinburghlive.co.uk/news/edinburgh-news/nuclear-graveyard-just-five-miles-19118105



« Last Edit: November 17, 2021, 12:17:59 PM by JimSh »

ColinB

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #198 on: November 17, 2021, 01:35:41 PM »
I really don’t understand where this discussion is going. There have been previous posts declaring that we need nuclear in order to provide the base capacity when wind and solar aren’t working, and lauding the Rolls Royce initiative to build new modular reactors ... which will be based on their experience and expertise building submarine power plants. And now people appear to be dissing that technology because of a perception that the submarine plants are dangerous, even when decommissioned even if not actually defuelled and dismantled? Doesn’t sound logical to me.

I still think the biggest problem with new nuclear plants - whatever size they are - is not legislative, commercial, or technical but public acceptance, ie the NIMBY problem. We’re still in the “nuclear = bad” mindset; comments here and elsewhere suggest that’s going to be a big problem to overcome.

@JimSh: I interpreted the “old submarines” comment as meaning decommissioned. If you were referring to those still in service yes some are based at Faslane (which, as pointed out, is within 30 miles of Glasgow), others at Devonport. They all operate under a set of safety regulations which are arguably more rigorous than for a land-based plant (not many static plants have to function safely under conditions of shock loading or extreme angles of pitch and roll).

JimSh

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #199 on: November 17, 2021, 02:35:03 PM »
I too would prefer to see nuclear generation of base load instead of from fossil fuels.
The Scottish Government's position has been consistently anti-nuclear for a long time.
I also think that the problem will be a NIMBY one.
I don't know how applicable the Rolls Royce experience of powering nuclear subs is to building power plants or how long it would take to adapt. - or how long it would take the UK government time to get round to building them.
(see earlier post  Reply #139 on: November 13, 2021, 11:44:01 AM »)
I don't like the idea of cosying up to Qatar in order to subsidise them.


Neil Ives

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #200 on: November 17, 2021, 02:47:55 PM »
My worry about nuclear power stations, apart from dealing with the spent fuel rods, is complacency. Of course, on a submarine no-one is going to be slack about safety procedures. Historic nuclear power incidents have been due to lack of proper maintenance or lack of foresight when planning their location. In our small island, where is there to go in the event of a Chernobyl type incident? Yes, I know, the Rolls Royce jobbies are just babies compared to Chernobyl but even on a smaller scale, I cannot imagine the chaos resulting from a leak somewhere in the UK.
Neil Ives

ColinB

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #201 on: November 17, 2021, 03:04:47 PM »
The Scottish Government's position has been consistently anti-nuclear for a long time.

Hmm, are you sure? Scotland is vehemently opposed to nuclear weapons, but the position on nuclear power seems decidedly foggy to me. As far as I can discover, the policy is here:
https://www.gov.scot/policies/nuclear-energy/
It says “no new nuclear power stations” but that seems to be based on stations such as Hinkley offering poor value for money rather than any doctrinal opposition. The policy is based on a strategy that’s 4 years old with a proviso that it applies to  “current technologies”. A lot’s happened on the climate change front in 4 years, and the policy goes on to say specifically that they’ll need to look at new tech developments such as SMRs. Unless there’s an unexpected dramatic improvement in the availability of reliable renewables such as tidal or hydro, I think the policy’s at risk no matter how good it looks to the man on the Edinburgh tram.

culzean

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #202 on: November 17, 2021, 03:23:08 PM »
My worry about nuclear power stations, apart from dealing with the spent fuel rods, is complacency. Of course, on a submarine no-one is going to be slack about safety procedures. Historic nuclear power incidents have been due to lack of proper maintenance or lack of foresight when planning their location. In our small island, where is there to go in the event of a Chernobyl type incident? Yes, I know, the Rolls Royce jobbies are just babies compared to Chernobyl but even on a smaller scale, I cannot imagine the chaos resulting from a leak somewhere in the UK.

My worry about current energy policy is also complacency of politicians who are crossing their fingers about wind and solar, desperately hoping it will be OK,  but if the UK has a high pressure (cold with no wind ) cold spell this winter then there may well be rolling power cuts, bear in mind that UK only has 4 days reserve of gas.... and using gas to generate electricity uses an awful lot of the stuff...  and solar in UK this time of year is marginal ( and that is being generous ).
« Last Edit: November 17, 2021, 03:29:47 PM by culzean »
Some people will only consider you an expert if they agree with your point of view or advice,  when you give them advice they don't like they consider you an idiot

madasafish

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #203 on: November 17, 2021, 03:55:46 PM »
Or another big Icelandic volcano to erupt for weeks at a time blotting out the sun in the Northern hemisphere around Iceland..
"In 2010, an eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland sent clouds of ash and dust into the atmosphere, interrupting air travel between Europe and North America because of concerns the material could damage jet engines. More than 100,000 flights were grounded, stranding millions of passengers.20 Mar 2021"

JimSh

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #204 on: November 17, 2021, 04:15:38 PM »
The Scottish Government's position has been consistently anti-nuclear for a long time.

Hmm, are you sure? Scotland is vehemently opposed to nuclear weapons, but the position on nuclear power seems decidedly foggy to me. As far as I can discover, the policy is here:
https://www.gov.scot/policies/nuclear-energy/
It says “no new nuclear power stations” but that seems to be based on stations such as Hinkley offering poor value for money rather than any doctrinal opposition. The policy is based on a strategy that’s 4 years old with a proviso that it applies to  “current technologies”. A lot’s happened on the climate change front in 4 years, and the policy goes on to say specifically that they’ll need to look at new tech developments such as SMRs. Unless there’s an unexpected dramatic improvement in the availability of reliable renewables such as tidal or hydro, I think the policy’s at risk no matter how good it looks to the man on the Edinburgh tram.
You are correct

I see that it does say "using current technologies"

"We are opposed to the building of new nuclear stations using current technologies, because and we believe that nuclear power represents poor value for consumers. This is clear from the contract awarded by the UK Government to Hinkley Point C nuclear station in Somerset, which will result in energy consumers subsidising its operation until 2060."
in the document
https://www.gov.scot/policies/nuclear-energy/nuclear-stations/

But in https://www.gov.scot/policies/nuclear-energy/
It is stated
"We are aware of increasing interest in the development of new nuclear technologies such as Small Modular Reactors. We have a duty to assess this and all other new technologies based on safety, value for consumers, and contribution to Scotland’s low-carbon economy and energy future."

The question might then be would the UK Government be likely to make a better hand of SMRs than they did of Hinkley Point or other proposed reactors.
Recent history does not look inspiring.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2021, 04:53:26 PM by JimSh »

TnTkr

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #205 on: November 19, 2021, 05:50:19 AM »
Did this thread disappear for yesterday? It has been interesting to follow the discussion but yesterday I couldn't find it from any listing.

embee

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #206 on: November 19, 2021, 11:42:37 AM »
Technology moves on, something often not appreciated. Only a few years ago few people would have thought wind turbines the size of what's being built today would be feasible, LED lamps were a dream and as for a quick electric car with a 200+ mile range, no chance.
I remember several instances when doing engine development work when the old-timers would say "we tried that 20yrs ago and it didn't work". Well, the concept was the same but the reason it didn't work was materials, manufacturing methods, or control systems etc, and those have moved along and now it will work.
I feel nuclear was/is a key player. It's not a perfect solution, but there probably isn't one in the near future. As I've said before, we mustn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If something can be done now and is better than what we have, then do it. You can always replace that when something "better" comes along.

One thing we should be honest about is the folly of burning wood to make electricity. That really is a political con-trick. It's the way it is treated as a "renewable" so zero carbon in the country where it is burned. The carbon is safely locked up in the fuel. When you have a choice of fuels to burn to generate electricity you use the one which releases the least CO2, and that's gas. From what I can find wood is about 1.5 times the CO2 of coal, and 3 or 4 times that of gas. Why would anyone burn wood? Sure it's renewable, but so is gas and coal if you wait long enough. Burning wood means a "carbon debt" for the next 50-100yrs until the trees grow back and re-absorb what you've released, it's stupid counting what it absorbed while it was growing as the "credit card" to borrow for the present.

I'm sure we could reduce the demand for electricity quite easily if we really wanted to. Just thinking about what is used and reducing it 5 or 10% would make a big difference at probably very little cost, bang for buck would very probably be much greater than other technology approaches. It's an attitude thing. Look at all the lights on in big buildings, there's no need for it, easy to switch stuff off either manually or automatically. Reducing demand is a no-brainer, less is better regardless of how it is generated, and in reality it's the dirtiest generation which provides the marginal energy, turn off the kettle and they turn down a gas fired power station, not a wind turbine.

JimSh

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #207 on: November 19, 2021, 12:56:58 PM »

One thing we should be honest about is the folly of burning wood to make electricity. That really is a political con-trick. It's the way it is treated as a "renewable" so zero carbon in the country where it is burned. The carbon is safely locked up in the fuel. When you have a choice of fuels to burn to generate electricity you use the one which releases the least CO2, and that's gas. From what I can find wood is about 1.5 times the CO2 of coal, and 3 or 4 times that of gas. Why would anyone burn wood? Sure it's renewable, but so is gas and coal if you wait long enough. Burning wood means a "carbon debt" for the next 50-100yrs until the trees grow back and re-absorb what you've released, it's stupid counting what it absorbed while it was growing as the "credit card" to borrow for the present.

If they are only using waste wood as they claim (small unusable branches and thinnings) then it  is sustainable and useful.
If they are felling trees and pelleting them then, as you say it is counter productive.
1. they would be removing carbon sinks. (trees which will take~50 years to grow)
2. They would be wasting energy processing them and transporting them, especially if imported.
3. they would be releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
https://www.drax.com/sustainable-bioenergy/what-is-a-working-forest/

I had a look on the Drax site after I read your post and was interested in the article on the extension of the pumped storage Cruachan scheme. I had no idea that Drax ran that.
Again more pumped storage would be great but I would imagine there would be lots of objections.
Although looking at the picture it looks as if the scheme could be extended by raising the dam without much environmental damage.
https://www.drax.com/opinion/pumped-storage-hydro-why-its-key-to-a-renewable-future/

Edit Just looked further and the plan just seems to be to run more water out in parallel to existing  outflow without raising dam.
https://www.drax.com/about-us/our-projects/cruachan-2/
« Last Edit: November 19, 2021, 01:08:15 PM by JimSh »

embee

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #208 on: November 19, 2021, 02:12:55 PM »
If they are only using waste wood as they claim (small unusable branches and thinnings) then it  is sustainable and useful.

I've read much on the Drax website. They will justify what they are doing, and it suits the government because it gets classed as zero carbon renewable so helps their PR.

Unfortunately that's the con-trick. Think about it.
The carbon is locked up in this "fuel". You also have the option of other fuels. One produces a lot more CO2 than the others for a given amount of energy generated (CO2eq/kWh). Which do you choose to burn, the one which produces the most or the one which produces the least? It's not a case of a perfect solution, it's just the least worst at the moment.

The argument goes that if left as forest litter it will degrade and release the CO2 anyway, but that would take many years, not 30sec in a furnace. Timescale is critical to where we are right now. I suspect a lot of it is not that small anyway and could probably go to making construction products etc. They will want to deal with as big pieces as possible to minimise handling and optimise output. Chipping a big branch is way quicker than feeding loads of small twigs into a machine. I doubt it's the twigs.

It is not a question of whether it is sustainable or renewable, when burned it releases so much CO2 which could be much less if gas was burnt instead. Burn the gas and plant the trees anyway. Cut down trees to use as timber/wood products, don't burn them, keep the carbon locked in. The talk of carbon-capture from flue gas continues, no great outcome as yet (maybe in time), but why put way more CO2 up the flue than you need to when the trees have already done the carbon-capturing during the last 50-100yrs of growth?

I'm happy to be proven misguided and wrong by numbers, but PR blurb from the parties with vested interests carrying out the deed doesn't convince me. It's the same with the domestic gas boiler/heat pump issue, as far as I can see the numbers don't support it but I'm happy to be proven wrong. I'm just an engineer, I work with numbers not propaganda.

JimSh

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Re: Electricity generation. The pros and the cons.
« Reply #209 on: November 19, 2021, 03:04:43 PM »
I don't know whether to believe them or not.
In fact like you I'm quite sceptical but when a tree is taken down only the trunk and larger boughs can be used for construction or furniture.
Much of the smaller branches are useless and would probably be burned on site releasing CO2 without gaining anything from it.
This would be better  converted to electricity (or chipboard or MDF)
Also cultivated trees benefit from thinning. The small trees removed again are useless for timber.
If however trees that could be used as timber are being felled and chipped for profit or to clear ground for monoculture crops or for building then that is despicable for the reasons I gave in my previous post.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/oct/19/drax-dropped-from-index-of-green-energy-firms-amid-biomass-doubts
https://www.newstatesman.com/environment/biodiversity/2021/10/the-battle-over-burning-why-drax-is-being-accused-of-greenwashing
https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/environment-and-conservation/2021/11/europe-burns-a-controversial-renewable-energy-source-trees-from-the-us


Edit added links the last one is the best
« Last Edit: November 19, 2021, 04:10:28 PM by JimSh »

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