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Nuclear Electricity

 

Nuclear power is a significant competitor to renewables generated electricity in many countries. Conventional nuclear power (fission) is growing rapidly and fusion sill holds promise for the future (as the resource is effectively limitless).

 

In much of the world nuclear generated electricity is already competitive with fossil fuels and less costly than wind or solar energy. Nuclear energy is expected to replace a modest proportion of fossil fuel generated electricity in many large economies during the first half of this century[28]. Prominent amongst these are China and India[29].

 

For example, the Republic of (South) Korea produced 343 TWh of electricity in 2004[30] of which 63 per cent came from conventional thermal sources, mainly coal, 36 per cent came from nuclear power, and a small amount came from hydro-power stations. But nuclear power is planned to steadily increase its share of the country’s net electricity generation. Korea already has four operating nuclear power stations containing a total of 20 nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 17,716 MWe. This exceeds the total electricity generation capacity in NSW[31].

Six additional reactors are under construction and a further six scheduled for completion by 2021 (total 14,800 MWe capacity). As a result, Korean manufacturers have developed proprietary IP and are beginning to market reactors internationally (with a target of 80 reactors exported by 2030)[32]. Similarly another major NSW coal customer Taiwan has two new 1,350 MWe reactors due to come on line this year.

A carbon mitigation strategy that attempts to achieve a zero increase in CO2emissions worldwide by 2030 (while not constraining economic growth) would need to achieve a very much faster growth in renewables than is presently the case (or is achievable in practice).

 

Implicit in the EIA projected worldwide growth in coal and gas consumption is the assumption that many new thermal power stations will be built. Many existing thermal power stations worldwide will also need replacement in this time frame.

 

Worldwide, the only practical and available alternative in a 20 year time-frame may be a very much faster growth in nuclear energy. If reliable, proven designs are adopted, allowing approvals to be streamlined, nuclear stations could have similar lead times to thermal stations.

 

A relatively modest threefold increase in present nuclear generation worldwide would meet the entire projected world electricity growth to 2030 and together with projected growth in renewables, return World fossil fuel consumption for electricity generation to 2006 levels.

 

 

World Electricity Projections to 2030 Present and with 300% Nuclear

 

 

image006
Source: IEA ibid; and the author

 
 

 

Simply replacing conventional thermal stations with nuclear stations as they retire may obviate the need to use the marginal renewables such as wind and solar when they are uneconomic without subsidy.

The following graphic shows the relative scale of energy flows in Australia.
 

image033

 

The dominance of coal and uranium are immediately apparent, as is the very small contribution presently made by renewables. The total of the carbon in the coal, gas and oil represents the Australian contribution to worldwide CO2 emissions.

The domesticity consumed component of this is so small that the domestic achievement of 20% renewables would be overwhelmed by a fractional increase in coal exports, as a result of the growing world demand for coal-fired thermal electricity.

 

A cessation of Australian coal exports might make a greater contribution to reduced world CO2 release. This would result in an increase in the world coal price, followed by accelerated development of coal projects in other countries to meet the growing demand.

This may be marginally effective as a higher coal price could be expected to accelerate the adoption of nuclear power, particularly by major NSW coal customers[33]; all of which have a high and growing nuclear capacity. But such a policy would have a serious short to medium term impact on the Australian economy (particularly in NSW[34] and Qld). Correspondingly, a relatively small increase in the export of uranium oxide would achieve greater reduction worldwide carbon emissions than can be achieved by adopting renewables domestically.

 

 

 

 

 

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Travel

China

 

 

I first visited China in November 1986.  I was representing the New South Wales Government on a multinational mission to our Sister State Guangdong.  My photo taken for the trip is still in the State archive [click here].  The theme was regional and small business development.  The group heard presentations from Chinese bureaucrats and visited a number of factories in rural and industrial areas in Southern China.  It was clear then that China was developing at a very fast rate economically. 

Read more: China

Fiction, Recollections & News

The Meaning of Death

 

 

 

 

 

 

'I was recently restored to life after being dead for several hours' 

The truth of this statement depends on the changing and surprisingly imprecise meaning of the word: 'dead'. 

Until the middle of last century a medical person may well have declared me dead.  I was definitely dead by the rules of the day.  I lacked most of the essential 'vital signs' of a living person and the technology that sustained me in their absence was not yet perfected. 

I was no longer breathing; I had no heartbeat; I was limp and unconscious; and I failed to respond to stimuli, like being cut open (as in a post mortem examination) and having my heart sliced into.  Until the middle of the 20th century the next course would have been to call an undertaker; say some comforting words then dispose of my corpse: perhaps at sea if I was travelling (that might be nice); or it in a box in the ground; or by feeding my low-ash coffin into a furnace then collect the dust to deposit or scatter somewhere.

But today we set little store by a pulse or breathing as arbiters of life.  No more listening for a heartbeat or holding a feather to the nose. Now we need to know about the state of the brain and central nervous system.  According to the BMA: '{death} is generally taken to mean the irreversible loss of capacity for consciousness combined with the irreversible loss of capacity to breathe'.  In other words, returning from death depends on the potential of our brain and central nervous system to recover from whatever trauma or disease assails us.

Read more: The Meaning of Death

Opinions and Philosophy

Now we are vaccinated

 

 

 

Now that every adult in my extended family is vaccinated is my family safe from Covid-19?

The short answer is no.  No vaccine is 100% effective. Yet, we are a lot safer. 

It's a bit hard to work it out in Australia as, although we are familiar with lockdowns, we have so little experience with the actual disease.

Read more: Now we are vaccinated

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