UK Power and loss of power stations

I would like to learn other peoples thoughts with regards to the "capacity crunch" expected over the next 50 years or so here in the UK.  Although the below article is a couple of years old, I found it illustrates best what I wanted to ask about.  It also has some very interesting data which I enjoyed reading:

https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-how-the-uk-generates-its-electricity

I would be really interested to hear your thoughts; do you think this a possibility or an over-hyped idea which isn't really going to happen?

I'm sat more in the former camp at the moment, let's see if I stay there!

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13 minutes ago, Kit Moore said:

I would be really interested to hear your thoughts; do you think this a possibility or an over-hyped idea which isn't really going to happen?

Last time I looked at this a few years ago I came to the conclusion after talking to some people who work in the industry that there should not be a problem but we would be running very close to the line at one point. I am assuming this has not changed and only serious delays in bringing on line planned new production, eg nuke plant being badly delayed, or a large surge in electricity use, eg very cold winter, could derail us. Both possible off course

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A lot has changed since that article. Although the governments leadership has stayed the same, which isn't a good thing. There maybe need at times to pull quite a bit of energy in from Europe but in the end it will be fine. Renewables are great at quickly filling in undersupply.

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13 minutes ago, jaycee said:

eg nuke plant being badly delayed

This doesn't seem to be happening with Hinckley Point C, though it looked pretty shaky last year with investors pulling out everywhere.  However, this is the only nuclear being built, two years in and seven (should all go to plan) years to go.  It's not just nuclear - there are no other power stations being built at all.

Which leads me to your comment @DA?, although we do have a lot more renewables, I cannot see them making up the expected shortfall in the amount of time.  Not just the cost of building the sites, but our ageing infrastructure is just not built to cope with hundreds of thousands of intermittent supplies feeding into the grid.

I would also point out that in 2018, the rise in wind generation was mostly due to 40% faster windspeeds this year.  It would be VERY easy for that situation to change next year:

https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/data-portal/electricity-generation-mix-quarter-and-fuel-source-gb

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34 minutes ago, Kit Moore said:

This doesn't seem to be happening with Hinckley Point C, though it looked pretty shaky last year with investors pulling out everywhere.  However, this is the only nuclear being built, two years in and seven (should all go to plan) years to go.  It's not just nuclear - there are no other power stations being built at all.

Which leads me to your comment @DA?, although we do have a lot more renewables, I cannot see them making up the expected shortfall in the amount of time.  Not just the cost of building the sites, but our ageing infrastructure is just not built to cope with hundreds of thousands of intermittent supplies feeding into the grid.

I would also point out that in 2018, the rise in wind generation was mostly due to 40% faster windspeeds this year.  It would be VERY easy for that situation to change next year:

https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/data-portal/electricity-generation-mix-quarter-and-fuel-source-gb

Don't hold your breath for those reactors. Even if the massively expensive things do get built eventually don't count on them running all the time, ask Belgium (maybe a cold winter for them). The British public is going to pay a high price for that electricity.

The great thing about solar and wind they are very rampable. It's not like putting in one power plant that takes years to come on line. As a wind turbine goes up, so it can be plugged in.

And although GB maybe an island it's not an island grid, quite a few connections across the channel. The government needs to pull it's finger out and get a decent energy policy.

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It is my personal prediction  (should I say "conviction"?)  that over the next fifty years several new designs of nuke plants will be built to at least the prototype stage, and then one or two of the more promising designs will be replicated over a broad swath of plants,mostly located near major power draws.  

The more likely prospect right away will be a "molten salt" variant, which are being worked on in Canada.  I would hazard a guess that various salt designs ranging from 25 MW up to 200 MW will become available, all built in factories on production lines and placed inside modular containers to be trucked to the job-site.  As these smaller units are plugged into the grid, the unstable grid of today gets replaced by the sweet purr of a series of nicely stable small reactors.  

I also predict that some light-water reactors of the conventional naval design will be used in land-based applications.  You have these reactors inside submarines and aircraft carriers that seem to be at 100 MW each, then are twinned (or, in the case of US carrier reactors, 4-up), and those seem to have worked nicely for long time periods.  

What has made nukes so expensive is that each one is unique, a "one-off".  The problem with this is that there is no accumulated experience curve with these plants.  If you build them all the same, then as experience accumulates, they are made more reliable over time and the operators become intimately familiar with the quirks of the design.  I know of a reactor park in the USA that has four reactors, each built by a different company, each to a different design.  So the Operator gets Zero benefit from commonality - there isn't any. And the Operator's costs continue to climb. 

Once modularity and repeatability sets in, then you will finally get to nuke electric power that is too cheap to meter.  Coming soon, held back only by the politicians  (and very dumb Judges that listen to the hysterical). 

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Hi Jan

I have to admit, I was fascinated by your post about SWR's (the ones with a pit), I forget what topic it was under but it was an extremely interesting read.

What I don't understand is that why, when it is so feasible, cheaper and so much safer, are we still building flipping great nuclear stations at all.  I very hope to see both SWR and fusion break into mainstream within my lifetime.  Now that would be something to see!

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 An issue of loads of modular reactors all over the place is security, they have to accessible but still not been able to be cracked open. And fifty years out is a long way especially with tech moving as fast as it is. I would love to see economical well run and safe nuclear fission but nothing I've seen gives me much hope.

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15 minutes ago, DA? said:

 nothing I've seen gives me much hope.

In which case the below should help - nuclear fusion (fission being the current method used) has reached a new milestone and the project is now 58% complete.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-15/china-attempts-to-create-an-artificial-sun/10495536

I think Jan Van Eck posted at length about security regarding SWRs which would work very well. I'll see if I can find the post and link it.

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20 minutes ago, Kit Moore said:

Hi Jan

I have to admit, I was fascinated by your post about SWR's (the ones with a pit), I forget what topic it was under but it was an extremely interesting read.

What I don't understand is that why, when it is so feasible, cheaper and so much safer, are we still building flipping great nuclear stations at all.  I very hope to see both SWR and fusion break into mainstream within my lifetime.  Now that would be something to see!

Good morning, Kit,

As we are sitting underneath yet another blizzard snowfall here in Northern New England, USA, and the local two counties of schools in Vermont are closed due to "hazardous driving conditions"  (and this in a State where people use snowmobiles and skis when it gets seriously snowy!), I have a few extra minutes to write. And we are still a month away from actual official start of Winter!  

Electricity in the USA is no longer produced by the companies that retail the stuff.  You have these companies focused on the production of power, and other companies focused only on sale of power.  the producers thus build and operate what are known as "merchant plants."  A merchant plant is not amenable to being subsidized by other power endeavors, such as the transmission of power and the charges and income streams it can bring in.  So it is "make or break" in the merchant power world.  NOTE: the exception to that is what is known as the PURPA Plant, a power generator fuelled by say wood scraps, where the electricity is paid at a fixed amount (typically, much higher than wholesale) because society's politicians have deemed it a social benefit to go burn wood or sawdust. 

Now, a nuke plant has to first pass scrutiny from "the Government," which in the USA is the so-called "Nuclear Regulatory Commission" ["NRC"].  Although the NRC bureaucrats like to think of themselves as engineers and scientists, in actuality these are bureaucrats who want above all else to keep their jobs.  So there is this built-in aversion to anything new or innovative. The preference is for whatever was done in the past. The upshot is that nothing new is coming out of the USA, especially if the political masters of the NRC are the Democratic Party overlords  (i.e. Hillary and Bill Clinton, who wield even today an outsize influence over that Party).  Democrats tend not to be engineers, rather as a Party they are inordinately influenced by the hysterical screamers of the far left, known curiously as "the Greenies." 

In the ""old system," you have these light-water nuke plants.  They are the product of the US nuclear submarine program, started up by Admiral Hyman Rickover and his first nuke sub the "Nautilus," which successfully ran underneath the North Pole, I think back in the 1950's.  That technology has the potential to run away from the operators,in various overheat and melt-down scenarios, and so when the Rickover technology was translated to shore-built units,those potential risks were seized upon by the Greenie crowd as evidence that nuke power was inherently dangerous and would lead to the destruction of mankind.  In actuality, all that is totally overblown, but it is what it is. 

The immediate consequence of that is that the politicians, through the NRC, proceeded to place a vast series of additional requirements upon nuke plant builders, including for example a gigantic "containment dome" which is made of specially reinforced concrete some 16 feet thick. That this is ridiculous is not the point; it is required for political reasons, to satisfy the hysterical in society.  And there are lots and lots of hysterical people, they are all around you. 

Now if you are a merchant plant builder/operator, then if you are going to be forced to build that massive containment dome, and pay for a complete private police force, and build an exterior security fence worthy of repelling the entire Soviet Army, together with repelling a parachute attack by the terrorist equivalent of the Navy Seals, and have a paid fire department on-site on a 24/7 basis, and pay for multiple redundant circuits including extra generators and coolant dumps and whatever, and none of that actually goes into producing power but is rather a gigantic overhead burden, then you had better make that plant as gigantically huge as you possibly can, in order to "spread the overhead burden."

And that is why your merchant plants are so gigantic.  It has nothing to do with the economies of scale of the power, and everything to do with the NRC being intimidated by the Greenies. 

Now, interestingly, a totally uneducated Donald Trump just might dump all those requirements, simply because that is his personality.  His attitude is generally, "Ah, screw it," and he issues some Executive Order and all the Regulations are whisked away. This is a new development in US politics, where some buffoon is in charge and precisely because he does not know an atom from a molecule, he gets irritated easily by technical matters and just disposes of them peremptorily.  Will he dump the NRC commissioners, and fire everybody, to start over fresh?  It is a tantalizing prospect.  Personally, I don't think so, because he is so obsessed with the Honduran migrants.  But because he is a politician that has no patience with bureaucrats, he just might.  Or appoint people who would do it for him. 

So the venue for development of new technology, that would by-pass the NRC, is going to come from outside the USA.  Interestingly, Canada has this history of innovation in nuclear power, with the development decades ago of the heavy-water plant.  Unique to Canada, it is (was) an innovation.  To no real surprise, the leftists in Ontario, where those plants are mostly found, screwed it up, and so you have chaos in the merchant power industry in Ontario. But again that is a short-term phenomenon.  I predict the Canadians will develop the small packaged molten-salt reactor, and once it is up and running in Canada then it will filter down into the USA. 

But that only works if the Canadians don't run out of money first.  Right now, Canada is heavily burdened by a generation of financial mis-management, and if their major exports to the USA remain constrained by tariffs, I don't see the free cash flow to put into these new projects.   Oh, well.   And meanwhile, there goes the State snow-plow, running all-wheel-drive in a 10-ton truck.  Ah, Winter. 

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12 minutes ago, Kit Moore said:

In which case the below should help - nuclear fusion (fission being the current method used) has reached a new milestone and the project is now 58% complete.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-15/china-attempts-to-create-an-artificial-sun/10495536

I think Jan Van Eck posted at length about security regarding SWRs which would work very well. I'll see if I can find the post and link it.

Nuclear fission and fusion are two different ball games (I used to be a nuclear operator). Fusion I hope will work, haven't spoken to one of my cousin in-laws that works at Cadarache to see how it's going there. There has been some break throughs recently on such things as the Riley-Taylor instabilities with the plasma.

All I've seen so far for security on SWR's is putting them in the ground, you will always need access therefore a route for someone to get at it. Maybe at some point fission will come back, I have no problem with that but issues remain that are glossed over.

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(edited)

On ‎11‎/‎15‎/‎2018 at 4:27 PM, Kit Moore said:

This doesn't seem to be happening with Hinckley Point C, though it looked pretty shaky last year with investors pulling out everywhere.  However, this is the only nuclear being built, two years in and seven (should all go to plan) years to go.  It's not just nuclear - there are no other power stations being built at all.

Which leads me to your comment @DA?, although we do have a lot more renewables, I cannot see them making up the expected shortfall in the amount of time.  Not just the cost of building the sites, but our ageing infrastructure is just not built to cope with hundreds of thousands of intermittent supplies feeding into the grid.

I would also point out that in 2018, the rise in wind generation was mostly due to 40% faster windspeeds this year.  It would be VERY easy for that situation to change next year:

https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/data-portal/electricity-generation-mix-quarter-and-fuel-source-gb

In terms of renewables one area you are overlooking is biogas. Its estimated that by 2050 the UK will be producing approx 150TWH of Gas which is about 7% of the UK's primary energy consumption. Biogas isn't intermittent. 

Edited by NickW
typo

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13 hours ago, NickW said:

In terms of renewables one area you are overlooking is biogas. Its estimated that by 2030 the UK will be producing approx 150TWH of Gas which is about 7% of the UK's primary energy consumption. Biogas isn't intermittent. 

It also stores quite nicely for that week when the wind doesn't blow quite as hard all over the North Sea. It's not just batteries for stored energy.

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