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Nuclear power


Pumped hydro storage is a great concept but it only has a capacity factor of 20% and an LCOE of $161 per MWh sent (+ the cost to pump the hydro).

AMEO “South Australian Fuel and Technology Report” 2017.


[quote=“john.fletcher, post:16, topic:14728”]
Coal is around $80 - $90 per MWh (baseload)
Utility scale PV around $150 per MWh (non-baseload)
Wind is $90 - $130 per MWh (non-baseload)
Nuclear is around $150 - $220 per MWh (baseload)

I am trying to find out the cost (LCOE) of PV with storage. (baseload)
[/quote]Try to avoid getting hung up about “baseload”. The term is a hangover from the days of large, inflexible generators like coal and nuclear. They had a block of generation to deal with that they called “baseload”. That inflexibility is why Snowy Hydro incorporates a pumped storage component. They needed something to do with the power when there was insufficient demand.

To quote from RenewEconomy:
“Base load is not a technical concept, it is an economic concept and a business concept of the coal industry that is no longer feasible,” says Sven Teske, an analyst with the Institute for Sustainable Futures in Sydney.

“Baseload is a myth, but it is so deeply rooted in the debate that it will take a number of years to change perception. It’s a bit like going from analog to digital, it is a different way of operating the system.”


[quote=“john.fletcher, post:21, topic:14728”]
Pumped hydro storage is a great concept but it only has a capacity factor of 20% …
[/quote]What do you think is the significance of the term “capacity factor” in relation to storage? With storage, the relevant measure is full-cycle efficiency: how much power comes out, compared to how much goes in. Depending on a host of variables, full-cycle efficiency of pumped hydro is generally between 70 and 80%.

[quote=“john.fletcher, post:21, topic:14728”]
(+ the cost to pump the hydro)
[/quote]What cost? It’s storing excess energy, just as the pumped hydro component of the Snowy scheme stored excess coal power. Without the storage, the energy would go to waste.

I have a feeling that report is intensely political.


AEMO has traditionally viewed energy through fossil fuel coloured glasses, and uses inaccurate costing for renewables, always on the high side.

More up to date pricing here, and note that renewable prices are already under these:

Polls show that nuclear is not attractive except to a small minority, for so many reasons previously covered in thread.


Someone had to throw in the price of tea in China, didn’t they? Is this thread about nuclear power, or about knocking states (or to get the blame properly apportioned, successive feds) about their choices?

The reality is that we need to consider the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for any future choice of power. Which in turn means:

  • Coal, oil and all of the ‘battery’* options we have been using for the past two hundred years must die. They are limited resources that will only get more limited - and thus more expensive. Worse, none of the companies that have been digging these things out of the ground, and none of the companies that have been using them as energy sources, are being asked to pay for the clean-up. This is not only the CO2 they’re dumping into the atmosphere (along with all sorts of other nasty stuff), but the holes they are leaving in the ground and the ‘no-go’ areas that are too polluted for anything to live.
  • Nuclear would be great - if it could be clean or if we had some safe way to dispose of the waste. Unfortunately, neither of these is currently the case. Nuclear fusion is the solution - if it can be done at decent temperatures and at scale. Other than that, we do have nuclear power that we are increasingly harnessing and that comes from fusion… in the Sun.
  • Finally, there are the standard ‘natural forces’. These include solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, and whatever else we can use that does not leave us with something that needs extensive cleaning at the end or which is going to run out soon. The really big - and really ignored - benefit of all of these is that they are build once, use over and over and over. Wind farms and solar farms require maintenance, but nothing like what a coal station requires - and your fuel comes to you. Same with geothermal and tidal - you don’t have to ship poisons to the production facility, because you simply build it where the power source is, sit back and suck in the rays.

In other words, the TCO of any non-renewable solution is pretty much by definition higher than the TCO of renewable energy. There is an up-front investment, and there is ongoing maintenance - but there is not the ongoing need to purchase more ‘fuel’, and there is much less damage to the surrounding environs. And that initial investment cost will get lower as the technology gets better - something that cannot happen with fossils and could only happen with nuclear through fusion, because of the waste problem.

*Battery, because that is effectively all they are. Fossil fuels are just ways of getting access to energy that was laid down millions of years ago. Cheap if you ignore ‘externalities’, they are becoming enormously expensive.


20% of what? Sorry, but consider the purpose of pumped hydro. It doesn’t need enormous capacity - it just needs to be there when no wind is blowing and no sun is shining somewhere in Australia! For wind and sun to go across the country would be a natural disaster beyond imagining; all that is actually required is a little pumped hydro to enable load-shifting when needed, to back up a decently designed and managed energy system to the limit that could ever possibly be required while this planet continues to spin.


I’m so glad that this tread on nuclear power possibilities has generated a positive and robust discussion.
It is good to know that other consumers worry about the fact that Australia has one of the most expensive electricity costs in the world.
Despite our abundant resources and small population.

The capacity issue works like this: the sun is shining, and power is flowing. Then the sun goes down. The wind is not blowing. But there is some expensive batteries and some pumped hydro available. Great!
Then that runs out and next day, it is cold and overcast. No wind. No backup. Capacity is exceeded.
Coal, gas, geothermal and uranium contain entropic and atomic energy. When you want more power, you add more fuel. It’s thermodynamics 101.

It’s having baseload.

The cost of pumping hydro relates to the LCOE formula.
The amortisation of the plant when the is no actual income.

Similarly the capital cost of the batteries must be depreciated against the income. Lithium ion batteries cost lots and only has a life span of 15 years. Hence $200 per MWh LCOE.


Therein lies one of the issues with electricity that nuclear will not solve. A small widely distributed population is best served by hydro, solar and wind, although as of 2017 some fossil backup is still required for 24 x 7 service as that infrastructure grows and economically matures.

Simply, common sense shows our population density is a big part of the cost because the network infrastructure necessary to distribute power per premise is high. One way to reduce it is to continue localising generation through renewable technologies thus reducing the costs of long haul infrastructure.

If small nuclear generation systems come available suitable for a city, town, village, estate, or single property sized customer bases, and the problem of storing the waste is solved to neutralise, not bury, you could have many eager ears. But that is not on any radars I am aware of.


[quote=“john.fletcher, post:27, topic:14728”]
Despite our abundant resources and small population.
[/quote]Because of mismanagement.

[quote=“john.fletcher, post:27, topic:14728”]
The capacity issue works like this:
[/quote]Like any other budget. I live on the land. For water, I’m “off-grid”. I need to manage inflows, outflows and storage.

The power network is similar. We manage what goes in, what goes out and storage. If we run out, then we’ve mismanaged. Time to find better managers.

[quote=“john.fletcher, post:27, topic:14728”]
It’s having baseload.
[/quote]Baseload: taking a shortcoming of centralised generation and making it a perceived necessity. A tribute to the art of spin!

Something similar that seems to have dropped out of fashion recently is inertia. It’s basically a characteristic of the large spinning mass of old-fashioned generators. The upshot is that it stabilises the grid. For a while, politicians and their spin-meisters were touting inertia as a necessity like baseload. For inertia, these days read Frequency Control Ancillary Services or FCAS. Pumped hydro does FCAS better than gas turbines. Batteries do it best of all.

[quote=“john.fletcher, post:27, topic:14728”]
The cost of pumping hydro relates to the LCOE formula.
[/quote]LCOE relates only to generation. Storage doesn’t generate power. What it does is store what would otherwise go to waste. What comes out may be less than what goes in, but all that comes out is savings. Storage is a grid service. It isn’t related to any single source of generation. If you consider the grid overall, then its LCOE without storage will be higher than with it.

A traditional centralised generation grid needs backup; at least enough to cover failure of the largest generator. Traditionally, that’s taken the form of “spinning reserves” - turbines kept spinning, but not generating, just in case. That’s expensive so, more recently, various types of gas turbine have become more common. That’s what failed in South Australia. The turbines weren’t spinning, they took too long to fire up and the grid went down. That’s why SA is going for the battery instead of more gas turbines. The battery is comparatively small, but the perturbations that it needs to handle are in the microsecond range - far beyond the reaction times of any turbine that isn’t already spinning. By the way, if more than one large generator fails in a traditional grid, the grid generally goes down.

Nuclear generators are large. Assuming we go for storage as the reserve, rather than more expensive traditional types, going nuclear will probably demand more storage than will distributed renewables, each of which is comparatively tiny.

As to storage, in addition to batteries and the 22,000 potential off-river fresh water sites found by the ANU, there’s also the option of salt water pumped hydro. Most of Australia’s population lives on or near the coast. Along the coast are lots of cliffs and hills. In the ocean is - well, you get the idea. :sunglasses: The concept proved rather successful at a pilot project in Okinawa. Originally intended to run for only five years, it was decommissioned after 17.


@john.fletcher You’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest here. Unfortunately, you’ve picked a forum where many of the regulars are anti nuclear. There is too much baseless antipathy here to even start to respond appropriately. So, here’s what I think; nuclear is the future and there are current packaged technologies available and being installed in several countries.

Just to demonstrate I’m not anti everything, let me say I love wind turbines. But the wind doesn’t blow somewhere all the time. For a demonstration of this, have a look at where wind performance at three locations, remote from each other, was examined. The results are based on factual observations and clearly demonstrate that there is a fallacy in the belief that there is always wind somewhere.

Solar is great too, until the sun goes down. Pumped hydro will work but the same people who are anti nuclear are likely to protest against building any more dams where they might work well. And just what sort of power will be used to do the pumping?

I’m glad you brought the subject up


Look at France, they produce over 70 of there power from nuclear power stations. They have the cheapest industrial and domestic power in Europe and the cleanest air. Topped up by hydro and gas power. Wind and solar are a small fraction of total output. This makes their industries more competitive. Not to mention, low CO2 emmisions. Australia has 30% of the world’s uranium reserves, so why not use it.


A modern industrial economy needs bulk cheapbase load power 24/7/365 days. Wind and solar are to variable keep the eastern states network at standard voltages and frequency. Let’s get back to reality, large power stations are not obsolete. Why not go back to steam, with all its inefficiencies.


[quote=“timetaxi, post:30, topic:14728”]
… many of the regulars are anti nuclear.
[/quote]Not so much anti-anything as pro-reality.

[quote=“Brohill, post:31, topic:14728”]
Look at France, they produce over 70 of there power from nuclear …
[/quote]Yet nuclear’s share of electricity generation in France will drop from 75 percent to 50 percent by 2025: “The French energy agency ADEME recently issued a report finding that it is technically and economically feasible for France to switch to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, though distributed renewable energy is a direct threat to the nuclear utility’s business model.

[quote=“Brohill, post:32, topic:14728”]
Why not go back to steam, …
[/quote]Nuclear is steam. The reaction just provides the heat.


Even if you don’t want to believe the overwhelming evidence of anthropogenic climate change and the measures we need to take to reduce CO2 emissions, it is a fact that solar and wind plants cost less to install than new coal, gas and nuclear power stations and the same amount of energy is cheaper to generate. It’s politics and vested interests (including the Murdoch-dominated media) that stand in the way of cheaper power by sustainable means.


No nuclear power! Have you not heard about Nuclear power plant accidents - Serious nuclear power plant accidents include the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011), Chernobyl disaster (1986), Three Mile Island accident (1979), and the SL-1 accident (1961).
When nuclear accidents happen the consequences can be horrific and the aftermath can be deadly and destructive long after the initial incident. 20 years after Chernobyl the area is still too toxic to even visit for longer than a few hours.
Why risk it? We have huge opportunities for developing safe, and sustainable energy. Safe employment, safe environment and safe power.


Please don’t get me wrong. I’m a pragmatist. Nuclear is an option that I felt should be discussed. As it turns out, as a result of this discussion, it looks like there are better options than nuclear.
David4 hit the nail on the head. We need better planning and management.

What can Choice (us) do to fix this? Quickly.


Locally, yes; nationally, not so much. That is the point of a national grid - when you have shortfalls in one place, it can be picked up by another.

If we were having this discussion in Nauru, for instance, then you might have a point. Australia is a little larger than that, and if there were ever a day when the wind failed to blow and/or the sun failed to shine across this entire country that would be calamitous! The likelihood is so small as to be effectively non-existent, and thus wind and solar are fine for so-called ‘baseload’ power. Again, as I stated, we also have plenty of opportunities for pumped hydro - which is a form of battery that is not going to go away in the manner that our current dinosaur batteries are being burned out of existence.

It is unclear on what basis the author of that particular article chose those three geographically disparate sites for his work, but it is clear that he is not looking at wind availability on a single large, contiguous land mass. Are you claiming, on the basis of that post, that there are periods in which combined wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, and stored energy (chemical batteries, pumped hydro etc.) from across Australia would be inadequate to meet demand other than due to design inadequacies?

I think I have already made clear my stance on pumped hydro. It is also obvious where the energy will come from to do the pumping.

I wouldn’t claim to be anti-nuclear; as I have already stated, if we can find a proper nuclear power solution then fantastic! (One of our energy solutions, of course, is nuclear - the fusion of atoms that occurs within the Sun, hence driving solar power.) The problem is that current nuclear fission energy production - as with the fossil batteries we keep digging up and burning - is not cost-efficient once you start to include the externalities. That is, when you start counting the cost of storing the waste and cleaning up the site after closing down the plant nuclear fission is just too expensive. Even without any disasters, the cost of cleaning up mine sites, disposing of spent fuel and figuring out what to do with a retired plant is astronomical!


This is nonsense so called renewables are very expensive (why do you think your power prices are so high) Gupta is taking advantage of massive subsidies and like all so called renewable energy schemes, no subsidy no scheme. As to storage of nuclear waste it can be done very cheaply if you get the protestors out of the way, there are thousands of safe sites, of course at the moment it is stored in pretty much every hospital in Australia or af the Lucas heights facility in suburban Sydney and of course the the nuclear producys are already transported all over Australia without problem


[quote=“timetaxi, post:30, topic:14728”]… have a look at
[/quote]Thanks, but I’ll pass on that. Brave New Climate is the blog of Barry Brook, a fanatic proponent of nuclear power. Not remotely a credible source.

[quote=“john.fletcher, post:36, topic:14728”]
Nuclear is an option that I felt should be discussed.
[/quote]Examining options is generally wise, but nuclear has been done to death. There’s so much money pushing it and so many fanatic proponents that any mention tends to attract vigorous opposition. I hope my contributions have been constructive.

[quote=“john.fletcher, post:36, topic:14728”]
What can Choice (us) do to fix this? Quickly.
[/quote]Choice is already doing quite a bit on the global warming front. That’s where this thread originated, after all. We could expand that to advocating for renewable energy. Others are already doing some pretty heavy lifting in that space, so I wonder whether it would be a wise use of Choice’s resources.

As to how quickly our predicament can be improved, here is a table from RenewEconomy:
Nuclear is even more time-consuming. For one, we don’t have the workforce. As Mike Barnard said:
The skills required to build and operate nuclear reactors safely are not basic skilled trades, and even the basic skilled trades have to be held to an extraordinary quality standard due to the nature of the built object. The human resources required to ramp up a significant nuclear build out include a large number of nuclear engineers who don’t exist and can’t be created from existing trained personnel without 5-15 years of re-education. People are not opting into nuclear engineering or even pre-cursor education programs in schools because they realize that there are no jobs in the field and because of the negative associations nuclear energy has.
At a guess, given that we’d need not only to train the tradesmen, but first to train the trainers, we’d be lucky to bring a single nuclear reactor on-grid within a generation.


Many don’t know Australia already as an operating nuclear reactor, in Sydney. It isn’t ised for power generation, but is used for other purposes such as medicine.