Thursday, April 24, 2014

Going Nuclear

This is a simplified exercise to visualize what would be required to convert 50% of the world's electricity to nuclear, the premier low carbon source.

According to the EIA (Energy Information Administration) latest report, the global generation of electricity in 2010 was 20.2 trillion kWh, and they project that by 2040 total global generation will reach 39.0 trillion kWh.

So, if we decide to generate 50% of our electrical energy with nuclear (at, say, an average 80% capacity factor), we would require this number of 1 GWe reactors:

     50% of 39.0 trillion kWh is 19.5.

Let's convert trillion kWh to GWh by multiplying it by one million:

     We now have 19,500,000 GWh.

A 1 GWe nuclear plant at 80% capacity factor (CF) produces, on an annual basis:

     1GWe x 0.80CF x 24 hrs x 365 days = 7,008 GWh.

Thus, we would need this number of reactors by 2040:

     19,500,000 / 7,008 = 2,783.

Simplifying thing a little, let's consider that half of the current nuclear plants will still be in operation by 2040. According to the EIA, nuclear supplied 2.6 trillion kWh in 2010. This would correspond to the equivalent of 371 1 GWe reactors at 80% CF. If half of these are in operation by 2040, we can subtract 186 from the number calculated above, thus we get:

     2,783 - 186 = 2,597 new nuclear reactors.

If we have 30 years to build them, it would require the commissioning of:

     2,597 / 30 = 87 nuclear reactors EVERY year for 30 CONSECUTIVE years.

And again, let's remember that the above effort would only yield 50% of our global electricity and around 25% of our total energy consumption by 2040.

At the end of the day we have to differentiate what is possible, from what is probable.

The probability of this nuclear build up taking place by 2040 is, in my humble opinion, less than zero.

Feel free to add to the conversation.

Thank you.

EIA electricity projections from their latest report:

1. By 2040, only ~50% of our energy consumption will be electricity.
2. There is no such thing as a global grid, so the real life implementation would be more complicated than pictured above.
3. Sure, many questions need to be answered, starting with determining if we even have the manufacturing capacity required to make such a ramp up.
4. Nuclear has a serious advantage over RE (sun and wind): it is baseload, reliable power.
5. Of the renewable power in 2040, fully 65% is estimated to be hydro.
6. Yes, there are reactors bigger and smaller than 1 GWe, we are considering all of them at 1 GWe to simplify.

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At 12:58 PM, Blogger Renier Nel said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Renier Nel said...

This information is most shocking, as it strongly suggest nuclear energy deployment as incapable and impractical to simmer down the global oxygen fire in time. And the capacity of the global photosynthesis oxygen pump weaken by the day. What we have as incoming now, is physical atmospheric collapse, increasing firstly earth's 24/7 input energy penetration.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger totterdell91 said...

just attempting to replace 50% of electricty gen makes the job more difficult than it needs to be. The object is to cut 50% of CO2 from the electricty share,sojust go after the dirtiest power stations. The dirtiest US stations are listed here Wolds least efficient here that way some bang for your buck can be extracted during the ramp up phase.

You might also question how *renewables* plan to nullify the biggest dirtiest plant of them all in Taiwan at Taichung

At 1:09 AM, Anonymous actinideage said...

It MUST be stressed that in an Anything But Nuclear approach, assuming no constraints on materials, economical grid-scale storage and no "low-hanging fruit" effect for siting of expanded capacity, the capacity factors of PV/CST & wind (and IMPORTANTLY the much lower capacity credit for wind in terms of meeting demand) dictate that at least 300-400% nameplate overbuild will be necessary to provide for reliable supply and to keep backup storage full.

Needless to say, if I were an industry I would move my business and jobs away from such a precarious state of affairs to somewhere with baseload supply - even if I had to pay carbon taxes, etc.

At 9:24 AM, Blogger Keith Woodward said...

you say "87 nuclear reactors EVERY year for 30 CONSECUTIVE years" I ask how many Dreamliners can Boeing produce every year, how many Airbus aircraft/yr, SMRs could easily set a pace well above 87 unit/yr, it is only political/regulatory issues that need be overcome.

At 3:06 PM, Blogger Alain Coetmeur said...

see what a small country like France did without much experience in the 70s.

87 reactors is just 87 teams working in parallel, or 87 companies launching 1 new every year, finishing ...

only problem is politic.


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