Monday, June 16, 2014

Nuclear Power for Australia?

Should the electricity production in Australia go nuclear?

In this entry we'll calculate the number of reactors that would be required to produce 50% of the electricity in Australia.

Before even starting, here we state two facts:

1. Australia is the Saudi Arabia of Uranium reserves: they have 31% of the world total. The country in second place, Kazakhstan, has less than HALF Australia's reserves.*

2. Australia has the 4th largest global reserves of Thorium.**

Other countries would certainly kill to own these amounts of fissile material.

Now, let's make the math.

According to the IEA, Australia produced 228,152 GWh of electricity in 2013.  Let's convert this to average power:

     228,152 GWh / 24 hours / 365 days = 26.045 GW.  For simplicity, let's leave it at 26 GW.

50% of the above power is 13 GW. So now let's calculate how many 1 GWe nuclear power plants would be required to supply 13 GW of electrical power.

To be conservative, let's say that the capacity factor of these reactors is 85%. Thus:

     13 GW / 0.85 / 1GWe = 15.29 nuclear reactors.  Let's round it up to 16.

That's it! 16 reactors is all that Australia needs to replace 50% of its electricity and thus dramatically reduce its carbon emissions (in 2013, 86.4% of Australia's electricity was produced with combustible fuels).***

With their current reserves, Australia essentially has enough U / Th to power a civilization "forever."

Sure, the Australian coal industry would suffer greatly, but this is probably the price that has to be paid to reduce emissions Down Under.

The growth in Australia's electricity consumption is projected to amount to only 1.4% per year, so by 2035 they would need 22 reactors to supply 50% of its electricity. China today is building 28, so 22 should be a perfectly achievable objective for a developed country like Australia.

Feel free to add to the conversation on Twitter: @luisbaram

Thank you.





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At 6:20 PM, Anonymous actinideage said...

I'm not claiming it'll be simple, but it's pretty straightforward, isn't it Luis? We have your chinese example but also the french who built many more reactors then we would need even for 80 percent capacity like they have. The coal industry need not shut completely: coal is still a rich chemical feedstock but unfortunately there is much environmental impact related to its mining and when the concept of synfuel manufacturing and the like was raised with industry people by an acquaintance they showed no interest in such opportunities.

The party which holds power here currently is historically friendly to at least the idea of nuclear energy but unfortunately they are very happy with coal and are unlikely to be swayed on this issue (or any issue for that matter). The most damaging aspect of this is the tall order of amending the specific legislation prohibiting fuel production and nuclear generation (unique within the OECD) which is the main target of my advocacy efforts.

At 9:54 PM, Anonymous Ruth Sponsler said...

As the saying goes, the Liberals and Abbott are killing nuclear with faint praise.

It's the same thing that Reagan and both Bushes did in the US.

Mind you, I'm not discussing the overt anti-nuclearism of elements of Labour and the US Democrats.

I'm talking about conservatives' (Liberal in Australia) faint praise that amounts to lip service.

I think a direct policy is needed akin to the Gaullism that got France where she is today.


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