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MSc report - "Do we need nuclear power"

 
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mikepepler
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2005 7:02 pm    Post subject: MSc report - "Do we need nuclear power" Reply with quote

As part of my MSc in renewable energy I have been required to write a report criticising an article published in Physics World in 2001, entitled "Do we need nuclear power". Writing the report involved a lot of resarch, and I learned a lot along the way, so if you're interested to see what I discovered, see below for links to the original article and to my report.

The abstract from my report:

In June 2001 Physics World published an article ?Do we need nuclear power?? (Hodgson and Anderson, 2001), in which a nuclear physicist and an economist argue for and against nuclear power. This report examines a selection of the points made in the article, commenting on their accuracy and validity. The article?s authors raise many important issues related to nuclear power, but some factual errors are present, particularly in the area of statistics on nuclear plant and on CO2 emissions. In some cases the information provided is accurate, but not complete, preventing the reader from making an informed decision without reference to outside sources. The important issue of the peak and decline in oil production is not present in the authors? discussion, but is covered briefly in this report, as it may have a great impact on any decisions taken regarding nuclear power.

Links:
the original article
my full report

I look forward to any discussion provoked but please don't tell me if you find any spelling mistakes, etc. as I've already handed it in for marking! Smile
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Pixie



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 21, 2005 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Appalling that two supposedly intelligent guys can make so many mistakes and not even check up on each others 'facts and figures'! Will they get to see your paper?
Re your conclusion that we need both nuclear and renewables in the short term while we work towards only renewables in the long term I am not convinces. Just as once a 'relief road' is built it rapidly becomes essential, not a useful extra, do you really think we would reach the point where we would voluntarily shut down nuclear power stations? Frankly I think this would only happen if either there was a terrible accident or, as other threads here point out, raw materials run out. Having said that, I can see politicians going for this option because it feels safer (better the devil you know...)
What does anyone else think?
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mikepepler
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 21, 2005 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pixie wrote:
Appalling that two supposedly intelligent guys can make so many mistakes and not even check up on each others 'facts and figures'! Will they get to see your paper?

It is appalling isn't it!?!? Maybe I should mail my report to them and see what they think Twisted Evil


Pixie wrote:
Re your conclusion that we need both nuclear and renewables in the short term while we work towards only renewables in the long term I am not convinces. Just as once a 'relief road' is built it rapidly becomes essential, not a useful extra, do you really think we would reach the point where we would voluntarily shut down nuclear power stations?

I agree that is certainly a risk - hence I'm always taking every opportunity to mention to my fellow students and our lecturers that if demand continues to grow all our efforts are ultimately doomed. The reason I reluctantly think we will need some new nuclear plant is that the renewables will be be available in time to replace falling gas supplies, even with demand reduction. In order of importance, I'd like to see:
1. Demand reduction
2. Renewables in general built
3. Severn barrage built
4. Nuclear power

It may be possible to avoid the nuclear option if the first three work, but by the time we know it will be too late to build it if we need it.

Nuclear power has one crucial advantage that no other energy system has - you can buy the fuel up front and store it, as it takes so little space. Last week on a power station tour I saw 900,000 tons of coal in a heap - it was huge, yet it will only run a 2GW power station for about 50 days. A heap of processed uranium the same size would provide all our country's power for years.

Of course the waste issue is the big problem. What we have to ask ourselves is would running out of power for a long period over a cold winter be a bigger problem? We might have an idea what the answer will be after this winter...
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Andy Hunt



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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Location: Bury, Lancashire, UK

PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2005 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we will get new nuclear, to give us electricity until people get used to the idea of living within nature's limits.

Of course, nuclear fuel is just as much of a finite resource as fossil fuels, so we will eventually run out - which is why nuclear WILL only be a stop-gap measure.

Renewables - the way, the life and the truth . . . Wink
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mikepepler
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2005 8:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andy Hunt wrote:
Renewables - the way, the life and the truth . . . Wink

Hear hear!

Renewables is the only way to go in the end, which is why I'm studying it. I just wish I could be convinced that we could get away without another round of nuclear plants - I'm a very reluctant proponent of them.

One of my course-mates is reading a book about the history of energy. A very interesting quote was this (in my own words):
Quote:
A 17th century coal miner could extract energy from a mine at a daily rate equivalent to 30 (yes, thirty!) modern wind turbines extracting energy from the wind.


That to me sums up the problem we face in building renewables. It's far, far harder to "earn" our energy rather than spend our "inheritance". We have to do it, but the adjustment can probably only happen so fast. I just hope we have time...
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Rob Hopkins



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2005 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting report, I wanted to cite a bit of it in the PhD I am researching on peak oil, which University was it done for? The only thing I thought of reading it was that you didn't refer to the other impact peak oil has on the whole nuclear question, which is that the disposal of the waste is such an energy intensive business, lots of steel and concrete, and is based on the idea that future generations will be more technologically advanced than us...but there is an equally strong argument that we are as good as it gets! How will people in 50 years be able to produce the steel and cement needed to keep the waste safe? You can't do it with cob or strawbales!!

Also, I wondered, and you do hint at it, are there any figures produced yet for the embodied energy of a new nuclear power station?

Well done, and thanks
Rob Hopkins
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mikepepler
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2005 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rob Hopkins wrote:
Well done, and thanks

Thank you Smile

Rob Hopkins wrote:
Very interesting report, I wanted to cite a bit of it in the PhD I am researching on peak oil, which University was it done for?

You certainly can quote it. I'm at Reading Univeristy. What's your PhD in, and how far through are you? I did one in Elec Eng 5 years ago - so it's a bid odd taking a step "back" to do the MSc now, but it seemed the best way to retrain.

Rob Hopkins wrote:
The only thing I thought of reading it was that you didn't refer to the other impact peak oil has on the whole nuclear question, which is that the disposal of the waste is such an energy intensive business, lots of steel and concrete, and is based on the idea that future generations will be more technologically advanced than us...but there is an equally strong argument that we are as good as it gets! How will people in 50 years be able to produce the steel and cement needed to keep the waste safe? You can't do it with cob or strawbales!!

Sadly this kind of thing was outside of the remit of the assignment - I think I may even have stretched it a little with the stuff I did put in! Wink I certainly think the future disposal is a big problem, and needs to be addressed in parallel with any plans to build new plant - I guess if they built everything required to decommision and store waste now, then we might feel a little less nervous about whether they'd be able to handle it post-peak.



Rob Hopkins wrote:
Also, I wondered, and you do hint at it, are there any figures produced yet for the embodied energy of a new nuclear power station?

Most realistic figures I've seen show that nuclear does have a positive EROEI, but not a very large one for the complete life cycle. I don't have the figures to hand, but could look them up again. Personally, if I was to build nuclear plants now it would not be for sustainability, but only for energy security over the next few decades to buy us some time to build renewables. Obivously we'd need to have bought up the required nuclear fuel in advance...
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"Deal with reality or reality will deal with you"
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Rob Hopkins



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
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Location: Totnes, Devon

PostPosted: Thu Dec 01, 2005 1:00 pm    Post subject: Thanks Reply with quote

Thanks for that. My research is about relocalisation as a response to peak oil, and trying to develop a practical model for grassroots led relocalisation. There is more about the approach on my website, www.transitionculture.org, which you might find of interest.
All the best
Rob
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