Saturday, July 5, 2014

China Nuclear Power Ambitions

Subtitle: Sixteen Hundred Nuclear Plants is a Bad Idea

Let's do some simple math on this one.   The basis is that China has approximately four times the population of the US, but wants to achieve electrical parity (kWh per year per capita) with the US.  Further, as some (idiots, in my view) have stated, China will achieve this by constructing and operating 1,600 new nuclear power plants (using uranium fission, it is expected).   The Chinese ambitions related to nuclear fission power plants are a source of praise (by the idiots), and are held out as "proof" that the plants are safe, plus they must be economic or the Chinese would not build them.

Further, the US provides approximately 20 percent of all electricity via 100 nuclear power plants of average size 900 to 1000 MWe.   

With that as the basis, what would 1,600 nuclear power plants achieve in China?  Since their population (using round numbers) is four times that of the US (1.2 billion vs 300 million), we divide the 1600 by 4 to get 400 plants - US equivalent.   400 plants is again 4 times what we presently have in the US (400 vs 100 actual).  Therefore, the electricity provided would be 4 times our US rate of 20 percent, or 80 percent of all power.    Are the Chinese actually attempting to produce 80 percent of their electricity by nuclear fission plants?    

If that is the case, I highly suggest the Chinese planners read my article Two of The Truth About Nuclear Power (see link).  In that article, the results that can be expected are explored.  It is not a pretty picture.  Prices for electricity skyrocket, with resulting damage to the economy.  Nuclear plants must also increase then decrease their output to follow the load, not only frequently but also dramatically.    When hydroelectric power is included in that scenario, or any of the intermittent renewables (wind, solar), the situation becomes much worse.  

Finally, as Professor Abbot wrote in his paper (see link), nuclear plants are becoming more and more difficult to build due to a shrinking number of suitable sites.   He also concludes that there are not enough raw materials to build enough nuclear plants to run the entire world.  I also add that nuclear plants use inordinate amounts of water for cooling, typically four times the water of a same-size gas-fired cogeneration plant. (see link) Does China have sufficient water to waste on nuclear power plants?  They could, of course, place them all near the ocean.  Is that their plan?  How will 1,600 nuclear reactors fit along the coast of China?  That works out to approximately one per mile.   They would, of course, be built in clusters of 2 or 4 reactors per plant, so the coastline would be cluttered with a nuclear complex every 2 to 4 miles.  

If the plants are built farther inland, there are issues of water availability.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.
Marina del Rey, California

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