Australian news, and some related international items

Don’t miss this excellent radio interview on the future of nuclear power

Nuclear Energy Raises More Questions  ABC Radio 702 Sydney. Tim Holt interviews Derek Abbott,  Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Adelaide, raises some very interesting practical considerations that will affect the future of this alternative source.  17/10/2012   

TRANSCRIPT  - (best I could manage – Christina Macpherson)

PROF ABBOTT  - Very hard to say how much nuclear industry is going ahead. Nuclear power –  Some countries going ahead some countries pulling back. Not all so rosy in India.They are planning 60 nuclear stations. But In Tamil district 10,000 villagers demonstrating against local nuclear reactor, going on hunger strikes. Indian forces had to put out 4,000 security forces to control this problem. Needed large security force there.

Can nuclear power supply world’s needs? Could it ever be a reality?
My view is no. Nuclear power at the most could achieve only a very small slice of global energy pie. Can’t even supply half of the world’s needs.
Uranium gradually runs out – ore becomes more crude, harder to find uranium, and mining costs more. That’s one problem
Other problem actual metal you make the nuclear power stations out of / Nuclear power station isn’t just concrete and steel. Metals in nuclear power station – lots of exotic rare metals.Excessive energy given out,  Prone to cracking, these exotic metals needed to prevent cracking are quite rare. Growth rate in consumption of these rare metals is huge , because used also in many modern technologies. Faster growth rate in consumption of these metals than the growth rate in oil. Likely to run out, even without nuclear. When would these metals run out? Add nuclear to the equation put on line hundreds of new nuclear stations.-  eat into these rare metals and depleting them at  a faster rate.
Problem with nuclear power – everything becomes non recyclable. What do you do with the nuclear station – you bury it for 10,000 years. Those metals become radioactive and you can’t re-use them.  So – reducing world’s elemental diversity, supply of these rare metals.How many nuclear reactors would we need to supply all our energy needs from nuclear power?   Something like 15,000 nuclear power stations to power the world presently.  Completely unfeasible to scale up to some sort of nuclear utopia.  We have problems with 430 reactors now.
Get any map of any country of the world – draw 100 dots on map as to where you could possibly put  a new nuclear power station. Hard to put 10 nuclear power stations, let alone 100.  Need to be away from populations, near water, where you won’t get lawsuits. USA would need 4000 nuclear stations – hard put to find 100 spots.

What about Nuclear fusion – the holy grail of nuclear physics?
Yes, we should still research nuclear fusion. But to make that leap to a commercial fusion reactor- a big thing.But nowhere near commercial. Still the problems – high energy neutrons will crack  the metal – same problems of rare metals – metals recycling problems again.
Supply of uranium?   All of the world’s exploitable uranium –  to run conventional nuclear reactors to supply the world’s energy would last less than 5 years. Add up all of world’s exploitable  uranium – maximum amount of energy you could get out – would equal the amount of solar energy you could get in one year. Shows how much bigger solar energy is than nuclear power.There is also a large supply of uranium in oceans ?-  Yes absolutely enormous amounts of uranium in oceans.  but concentration is very small  Enormous volume of the oceans.  uranium in the sea water  3 parts per billion. absolutely tiny.  - extraction very time consuming, very expensive. - so rate of extraction is very low. could not keep up in rate so slow.

What about Fast Breeder New Generation reactors  - a path that we should be exploring? –  still problem of metals cracking and metals becoming non recyclable. New Generation reactors – no commercially proven one running. Is it pie in the sky?
Alternative energy.  In 2010 solar energy power exceeded nuclear.?
Renewables so relatively cheap and easy to lay on. Can build a modular solar farm using curved mirrors that focus sunlight . Mirror 10 metres in diameter – get 300-400 degrees Centigrade  Can super heat water and run a steam turbine.- can set up in desert place relatively easily.
To lay on farms like that in desert in modular form is relatively easy.  Nuclear power station can take 10 years to build. Example new one in Finland  it’s 4 years late- taking long time, expense rising. Solar farm can be built bit by bit, and expand it. The same can be done with wind.
Wind power does need rare metals in its magnets – but you can recycle those materials. Everything you use in solar power is totally recyclable as well
Why did Australia not embrace solar and wind technologies, as California and Spain have?
Sadly Australia has not taken bull by the horns. There are solar thermal projects in Australia. ANU in Canberra have had solar project for  along time.  Australia needs to take up solar. So much desert – the ideal country for solar.
Theoretically, If you powered an area size of Canberra with solar mirrors. – enough to power the whole of Australia.
Sun is  a nuclear fusion reactor – it’s the obvious one to turn to.
Going back to your question about why Australia has not embraced solar power  - Economics  the reason and what we can afford to do. – we have  a relatively small population.  We are getting wakeup calls now  with the changing climate. The rime is ripe now for Australia to change this

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October 20, 2012 - Posted by | Audiovisual, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy

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