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back to article Greenpeace: UK gov trying to strangle wind power

The British government has been accused by Greenpeace of trying to strangle development of renewable power in Europe, and in particular in the UK. Greenpeace say they have obtained draft documents from negotiations in Brussels, which amount to a 'smoking gun' exposing the UK's anti-renewables agenda. The eco-hardliner pressure …

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Coat

Err... Wrong interpretation

The reason why the energy lobby (and its pocket puppets) do not want this phrasing is this will automatically make our best beloved utilities obliged to hook-up spare microgeneration capacity - aka the German scenario.

It is not the big off-shore windfarms they are concerned about, it is Joe-average luser selling back energy to the grid. The utilities in the UK do not have the infrastructure and backoffice processing to handle this and they are desperately doing anything they can to make sure they look "Green" without allowing this.

Just try to call the British Gas solar helplines and see what I mean.

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Let's get this straight.

The fact that the feckin' things are already subsidised to the hilt and backed with a cast-iron EU mandate to install 'em isn't enough? They need priority grid access as well to make 'em worth having?

Taking a car analogy, ISTR that the Austin Allegro sold quite well without requiring every five Escort drivers to own at least one Allegro between them and without the Government giving 500 quid to anyone who bought one, let alone being given dedicated petrol pumps at filling stations AND IT WAS A LEGENDARILY AWFUL PIECE OF TOTAL SHIT! (Yes, I did have one and, yes it was.)

Christ, renewable power generation must be a right load of pointless cobblers if GreenPeace are talking anything other than complete bollocks here........

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Really?

It's a bit difficult to believe that the UK government isn't keen on wind power, since here in South Lanarkshire we're surrounded by turbines.

We have Europe's (once) biggest on-shore wind farm at Black Law (OK, also in North Lanarkshire and West Lothian).

Then we have Europe's biggest on-shore wind farm at Whitelee.

Now we're going to have Europe's biggest on-shore wind farm (Clyde) at Abington.

Then once Whitelee is extended it will be even bigger than Clyde, and it will be the biggest on-shore wind farm in Europe.

And that's ignoring all of the other local ones that would have been Europe's biggest on-shore wind farms just a few years ago.

Last night's election result could have given me some hope, if it wasn't for the fact that the SNP are even more keen on wind than GB is.

(Did I mention that we have lots of turbines here?)

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Booooooooooooored of this spinning

So the lovely neutral and not-having-an-agenda-at-all BERR are being all sensible and rational in saying that they won't anger the great god of the market.

While those oh-so-unreasonable-"hardline"-pressure-group-oh-they-have-an-agenda folk at Greenpeace are being all stubborn and hardline and inflexible.

Way to convey a balanced story Lewis. I spend more time mining the meaning from your layers of perjorative language than getting information from it.

It's at the point where if certain authors' names appear at the top of a story I don't bother to read on, because I know I won't get anything of value from it.

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Go

Nuclear Future TBPFH...

Surely if we used a load of nukes for the power backbone and used non-consistent renewables for demand where possible, we'd reduce our energy carbon footprint to as close to zero as is actually possible with current tech...

So, I contest that Greenpeace have their own agenda, and are not actually as into the carbon emission ting as they claim.

Food for thought.

Fluke

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Greenpeckers still around?

Surely I can't be the only one who sees the words "Greenpeace expert" and immediately assumes anything further is just a waste of oxygen? To sum it up, it looks like the Greenpeckers are just trying to use prioritisation to stop nucluer plants and foist unreliable wind-power on us instead, probably at the same time doing more eco damage than good, and costing us all a lot more. I have had many conversations with Greenpeckers and I have yet to find one that can go five minutes without falling back on unscientific, blinkered, Luddite rantings against "nasty Capitalist oil/nuke/gas companies". How on Earth do they still find enough imbeciles to keep funding themselves?

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Okay setting aside the Greenpeace hyperbole

They do seem to have a point - in part. Since none of the new nuclear plants have ever been announced, let alone designed, tendered and built; there would seem to be available tap in points waiting to be used as older plants are decommissioned.

It's obvious that wind turbines and presumably wave can be constructed and deployed faster than a new nuclear plant; so why not give offshore renewables priority access to the existing terminals and build additional grid capacity at the same time as the new nuclear stations go up?

Or is that dangerously joined-up thinking?

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Someone sit on greenpeace

I'm sick and tired of the naysayers of greenpeace. The facts of the matter are that wind turbines will never be able to make up a large percentage of UK power supply because they are never going to be reliable enough. Yet when people look to address this with tidal power (which you know what you're going to get) and nuclear power (which we only don't have BECAUSE of greenpeace) we get the moaning ninnies carping on again.

When the lights start going out I hope the populous remembers just who is responsible for the mess we're in. Never has "first against the wall when the revolution comes" been more apt.

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hydrogen, anybody?

OK, I haven't thought about this for very long (about as long as it took to click "add comment"). What we have, or will (might?), have is a bunch of wind-powered generators whizzing round as fast as they can go, capable of producing gigaWatts of power when no-one wants it. Being offshore, they're also surrounded by water.

Is there any possibility of using this otherwise wasted generation capacity to electrolyse some of the water (not the whole North Sea, you understand) into something just as green but slightly less useless?

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Joke

Scrap the wind power

Time to start using Stirling Engines, hook one up to every politician, green activist in the land and we will be cooking on... ermm not gas anyway.

Efros

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Sigh...

Screw GreenPeace™!

If they had their way we'd be starving in unheated, unlit caves.

Of COURSE the current nuclear generation sites need to have their grid connections reserved for future development - the locations are where they are because they are ideal for siting nuclear power plants.

All GreenPeace™ want is to reduce the hidden costs of 'eco-friendly' (try telling that to a flock of birds that just flew into the blades) wind power generators that only generate expensive power when the wind blows.

They nearly killed nuclear power with their scaremongering, now they are hyping wind-power, which is too expensive and unreliable - so, to reduce the cost they want to grab the nuclear power industry's grid connections - which will have the, to them, bonus of increasing nuclear power infrastructure costs and possibly, in their dreams, torpedo the plans for nuclear power plants.

'Eco'-terrorists the lot of them! Now if only we had laws against terrorists...

Hang on a second... :-)

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low demand times

Since coal fired stations can't be shut down, it makes no sense to automatically give priority to wind farms to sell into the grid at low demand times.

Ideally we could do with a way to store the excess energy generated, because it's guaranteed that on the day demand is highest the weather will be calm.

Without this storing capacity it's impossible to rely on wind as the buffer to provide energy when demand peaks. So you end up with dual capacity, gas turbines for when the wind can't provide which then stand idle (and so loose money) when the wind is blowing.

Maybe every wind turbine built should have a linked gas turbine by law, that way the cost of both is amortised and the supply to the grid is guaranteed no matter what the conditions.

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You need a mix, idiot!

Okay, so Greenpeace have seen the word "nuclear" and are getting in a tizz about it? What all the greenies seem to forget is that wind power, even if it is offshore, only operates _at best_ at a load factor of 30-40%. In other words, if you shut down Drax (which I think produces 4000MW) with 4000MW of wind power generation (or over 1000 wind turbines spaced about 200m apart for good power generation, how big will that be???) you will, on average, produce only a maximum of 1600MW.

Where is the remaining 2400MW going to come from? More wind turbines? Hydro? Geothermal?

Nah, it'll be gas. Easy to build these gas fired stations. Just don't mention the C word and you'll be fine.

Nuclear stations, on the other hand, will be designed for a 60 year life (4 times the life of a wind turbine), will operate at better than 90% load and won't produce CO2.

Renewables have their place, but so does nuclear and fossil fuel. You can't exclude any from the mix if you want to save the planet.

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A pox on renewables and Greenpeace

Renewables simply cannot meet the power demands of the UK, not unless everyone cuts their power demands by about 90%. Renewables have their uses in certain situations (e.g. highlands, emergency relief etc) but in general they are hugely expensive, unreliable, inconsistent, sited away from demand, and destroy landscapes.

The only real answer is fission, until such times as fusion can be harnessed (if ever). Although our government has done a good job of destroying whatever nuclear expertise we used to have.

The hysterical bleating of Greenpeace increasingly amuse me as the push their global-warming myth.

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Question..

Does anyone (except for the irredeemably gullible) believe anything Greenpeace says these days?

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Greenpeace in retarded anti-nuke shocker!

So they're suggesting what... ramping up natural gas plant creation to cover for quiet, wind-less days? Surely that makes wind power far less green than they claimed?

Couldn't we use fast-breeder Nuclear plants to generate a "base" power level and use wind + excess nuclear to pump water up into reservoirs during low-usage periods, then have the hydropower nicely stored for peak period use?

That way there's no problems reacting to peak power (hydro should be nice and quick to start up!), there's stored energy to cover low-wind periods, power plants can be kept running at a pretty constant level AND it's zero-carbon, zero-gas-emmission, zero oil dependancy and tiny amounts of waste created by volume. You could even design the power plant so it would actively hug a tree.

Plus there's a guaranteed amount of power coming from the nuclear plants which can be scaled back as more and more reliable renewables come online.

Use the nuclear power to electrolyse or thermolyse water to produce Hydrogen, pump that up to about 1000bar to give you a volumetric energy density almost half of that of Petrol, stick it into cars and stand back as the hydrogen economy literally explodes when confronted by the reality of having large tanks of incredibly compressed gas mass-produced to a budget and raced about at 90mph in their millions.

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Stop

When the wind blows

I sometimes wonder whether the Register is part of the pro-nuke/anti wind cabal along with the dubiously named Renewable Energy Foundation - http://eeru.open.ac.uk/natta/renewonline/rol52/7.htm

What do you think happens when a nuclear plant or 2 (or 6) shuts down on the same day for 'essential maintenance' ? AFAIK - the gas powered plants kick in to keep the lights on, along with hydro from existing pumped storage.

That's not a speculation about what will happen 'in the future' - it already happens.

Let's start thinking about how the grid *needs* to change now that the oil/gas party is over. I thought neo-cons, and geeks would be pro-change...

Stop reducing the discussion to a polemic debate, I know it makes it easier for the journalist, but c'mon!

How about reporting on the recent news of huge under-estimation of nuclear decommissioning and clean-up, or the fact that 'British' Energy is now the property of the French (Government owned) EDF? ;-)

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Boffin

Grid Issues...

When I worked on an energy trading floor inputting to the Grid, one of the traders characterised the Grid quite well. Keeping a steady electricity supply was like blowing into a balloon which had myriads of small leaks, and trying to keep it half full.

For this to be successful what you need is RELIABLE power. Some is base power - large amounts of cheap power which keeps coming, for which nuclear or coal is ideal, and some is top-up rapidly switchable power to call on for peaks and troughs. Hydro or gas turbine is ideal for this. Raw wind power is effectively useless.

A small amount of wind power may be accepted into the Grid. Its variability will then present the Grid operators with the same problem as variable demand. So long as this is small; say, 5% or less of total load, it can be acceptable to degrade your Grid in this way. But as you accept more the whole system starts to fail, and rolling power cuts are the order of the day...

From an engineering viewpoint, what you can do is use wind to pump water up a hill and then use the water as Hydro - that is 'pumped storage'. This sorts the problem, but is costly, and only possible where the geography permits.

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Windpower bias

So, even though it is accepted that wind generation of electricity is fatally flawed as the wind she don't blow all the time, (hence 100% cover by conventional power stations is required), the 'green' activists now want precedence over the only sensible and reliable source of power !! You just couldn't make it up!

If gas-fired power stations are constantly fired up and shut down to accommodate the vagaries of the wind, they require far more maintenance than if they are allowed to run continuously.

The only sensible course of action is to build more nuclear power stations.

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Windfarms

I have a windfarm of 9 towers fairly close to my home. I pass this farm twice weekly at close to the same time every week so I feel that I have a reasonable snapshot of the usage / availability of these towers. About one time in three these wind generators are idle, thus no power being generated.

If Greenpeace think that this is a sufficiently robust system for powering our national grid then I would invite them to depend for their lives on electrical power. and that power should be 100% provided by a wind turbine.

Do this for a month and then we will discuss your views on renewable energy, or funerals, which ever.

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Alien

Back in the USSR ..... Mama Mia Mea Culpa Live

The Common Theme running through every Energy Source is that it is not something which can be Stored and Sold, as it is AI Fluid Dynamic. And likely subject to Simple ReRouting for Beta Power Control.

Energy Demands Indicate Kernels/Packets of Advanced Knowledge which in turns means Knowledge is Provided by Energy and it is Sold causing Crippling Debt Economies. Wiping Out and Writing Off the Debt to Begin again would Posit that Paying for Fuel rather than it Being always Provided, is an always Fatal Flaw IntelAIgently Designed to Server the Status Quo rather than Build the Future.

New CyberIntelAIgent Design Simply Removes the Flaw. .... for Beta Attraction/Alien ProgramMIng Quantum Entanglement.

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Follow France - Oh Dear!

France is way ahead as the least CO2 emitting electricity generator. Yep 75% of it comes from nuclear - but they have come from nowhere to overtake us in wind generation.

Maybe beacuse they stand up to the Nimby's and build on land rather than offshore. That means wind actually gets built, fast and at half the cost.

Frankly renewable is not the issue - it is CO2 reduction. Indeed a sensible energy policy is looking at displacing other hydrocarbon energy uses with electricity - so ramping up to near 100% CO2-less generation and increasing it should be a national priority.

The only two proven technologies that can do most of that are nuclear & wind. Nuclear is nasty, but the worst is having to sit around with some spent fuel. The CO2 alternative may mean many of our kids won't sitting around to worry. Or is that someone's secret agenda?

So while we should be doing all we can to increase the manufacture and installation of wind (worldwide it is currently supply limited) - we need nuclear too. The two should be bedfellows not enemies.

Which is why I support wind and oppose Greenpeace

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Coat

You can always trust Greenpeace

To want the impossible.

They want to reduce CO2 emissions. They want to do this with a combination of Wind Turbines (massively expensive, massively subsidised, to be built at a rate that simply CANNOT be done). Then, because this is inherently variable, they want gas (CO2 emitter) as a backup. Or a massive project to create pumped storage on a level never carried out anywhere in the world. Or something else, probably yet to be invented. And they want us to subsidise having the grid extended to the middle of the North Sea or the Scottish Highlands.

However, the option of nuclear (based on engineering that is proven and reliable, already on the grid) is against their religion, so has to be rejected out of hand.

I'll get my coat before I'm told about all the clearly obvious holes in this argument by the greenies.

O

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hydropower massively expensive?

okay, i'll bite. just how expensive is hydropower compared to nuclear then? and please factor in the real cost of ownership .. build cost, cost of foreign nuclear fuel, safety running costs, disposal costs, cost of compensating blighted local areas, cost of all the monopolistic foreign companies taking their profits away to countries with lower company taxation etc

i'd quite happily live next to a hydropower plant ... great views, waterfowl and lots of water ... can't say the same for notclear or gaz or cole ... don't mind a wind turbine though the whoosing side is quite soporific.

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Paris Hilton

oh-kay

Remember the co-founder of greenpeace left them because they became a money making, private agenda pushing political party. says it all really.

Paris - because at least she's straightforward

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@TheBigYin

"The only real answer is fission, until such times as fusion can be harnessed (if ever)."

Yes, that shiny thing in the sky will never be harnessed, nor anything like it! Sheesh! It's a good job that the people working on such stuff don't have the 1950s outlook that pervades the typical collection of comments on these kinds of articles.

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Simple-minded Greenpeace.

You can't go far wrong if, whenever Greenpeace say anything, you shout, "It's not that simple."

Not that I'd put a nuclear plant where some of the existing ones are. What happens if there is a storm surge in the North Sea?

I don't, myself, see any practical alternative to a major expansion of nuclear power in the UK. For renewables, we pretty well have to rebuild the whole country to cope with the variations in supply.

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Easy CO2 solution

Why worry about Greenpeace? Just stop he problem at its source. The first thing we do is yank all the catalytic converters off our cars. These insidious, government mandated devices turn exhaust into CO2. If that doesn't prove effective, we start killing people hither and yon. After all, we are huge polluters in our own right, expelling tonnes of CO2 each year from our fowl mouthes. (If that seems too harsh, then we can start by shutting down the governments where, it seems, disproportionately massive amounts of CO2 are created hourly.)

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Re: Let's get this straight.

Well, I thought you were talking about nuclear to begin with. Your comment about huge subsidies and threats to take the ball home if they aren't kept fits the nuclear industry far better.

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Copying the Sun

The argument doesn't get better if you oversimplify it:

"With vanished nukes replaced by dirtier, non-combined-cycle gas plants"

Gas plants produce CO2 which while a greenhouse gas is certainly cleaner than nuclear waste. As for the connection issue: it works fine in Germany where wind now competes with gas on the energy market. As for subsidies: guaranteed minimum price is not actually a subsidy. Anyway anything the renewables get pales in comparison to the subsidies handed out for nuclear over the years and that doesn't even take the decommissioning into consideration. Power produced by nuclear fission is so expensive that it only survives when backed by state guarantees.

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Pirate

Windpants

Wind power doesnt work - we cant produce enough electricity from wind, added to which fact that if the wind dies down, wind turbines need a backup supply - enter coal power.

Alternatives: put a wind turbine in front of every green's gob, that should keep the country powered for years.

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Happy

@Onionman

I think you'll find the scottish highlands already have large amounts of hydro power generation (mostly from the 1950's) and a nuclear power plant, so I don't think you really need to extend the national grid up to us. We also have cars, colour tv and inside toilets.

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Re: hydropower massively expensive?

You are biting the wrong bait.

The comments on this thread are full of FUD of monumental proportions. While Britain does not have the natural resources to have high proportion of hydro proper 90% of the grid stability problems which many people consider to be the ultimate bane of renewables can be solved by using hydro-accumulation.

I own a house overlooking the lower portion of one of the biggest hydro-accumulation cascades in Europe (not in UK). It is a weird sight to see how a reservoir the size of Granham water is empty at lunchtime and fills up nearly to the rim by the end of the evening just to be empty again next morning. It is a solution which works and which can be built in many places which lack the natural hydro resource.

In fact, Britain has all the infrastructure necessary to have this in place already. It is called "The Lake District". The Victorians built it to supply the industrial north of England with water and it is an idiocy not to use it.

Ok, heritage dolts will scream because the sacred Coniston water level will vary by a meter or so a day. So what? The investment is a minute fraction of the investment into nuclear and it will allow to eliminate most of the expensive gas-burning capacity outright. Unfortunately it is a very "politically incorrect" proposition which we are not likely to see it any time soon.

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hmm

> Even if the wind is blowing hard, the spot energy price is low at times

> of low demand. This means that fossil and nuclear plants are able to

> undercut wind operators, and so sell all the power.

Hang on -- it doesn't actually cost less for fossil/nuke plants to generate power at low demand; they just decide to sell for less because no-sale means no income.

(a) Why can't wind do the same? (though obviously this may make it harder to turn a profit)

(b) Surely fossil/nuke (or wind) plants selling energy below cost is dumping, which is often regarded as bad thing in many markets.

Thus, ban dumping of energy at below its cost of production (but that's easier said than done, I suspect). Then any source of power (greeen or black) can work out for themselves whether it's economic to operate.

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Anonymous Coward

skewed

"Does anyone (except for the irredeemably gullible) believe anything Greenpeace says these days?"

Unfortunately you can say pretty much the same about the author of this piece. The tone and standard of this article is worthy of a blog.

Reminds me why I rely on New Scientist for Science and The Reg for IT.

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EDF

EDF is no longer owned by the french government iirc, it was privatised.

Hydro power stations are usually attractive places, Dinorwig for example, which is one of ours. Problem is they are actually net consumers of electrickery due to the requirement to pump all that water back up hill. Couple this with wind though as said and you might be on a winner.

Given the power demands of the UK, and our strive to have electric car's to replace our highly polluting petrol/diesel engines then power demand in the uk is only going to skyrocket, and to which imo the only solution is a sizeable portfolio of nuke's. It will be interesting to see how this new battery tech going into the electric lighening fares on an industrial scale and if it can be used on a large scale for energy storage.

From the other side of the power station I am in I can see a wind turbine, which today is actually turning for I believe the first time this week, and this is in Hull, just off the bank of the humber river where's it is *always* windy.

I see this move by greenpeace as an attempt to block nuclear power whilst pretending to be 'stopping the gov from blocking windfarms'.

Note: My company has no nuke's, if you think I have a vested interest. :P

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Anonymous Coward

Don't Assume ...

... that it's only the supply side of the grid that will change. Many people seem to be under the impression that 9-5 office hours and daytime factory work are immovable obstacles. They are not. Demand is a *variable* that can, in part, be modified significantly such as distributing major loads around the 24-hour clock ... and I expect this will happen to some degree.

I know it's a cliche, but the size of the problem requires us all to "think outside the square".

As for implementing wind power as a major grid supply source, I expect a number of other measures to eventually be implemented, including diversified national and pan-European grid connections, pumped storage, some direct electrical storage, intelligent demand control and peak wind supply corresponding to usage in time-flexible industries. No silver bullets, but many measures combined to offset wind's variability.

It's an ill wind that blows no good.

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Anonymous Coward

this, climate change, ozone, BSE, food,

It seems all this is more about emotion and identity than anything else.

we are so close to the chimps.

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Can someone explain

Can someone please explain to me just how they get a wind turbine to do a constant 3000rpm (in order to get exactly 50 cycles a second, pretty important if you're pushing into the grid) irrespective of how hard the wind is actually blowing?

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Go

Wind power storage

How about this for an idea... why not have something on all windfarm sites to store the energy they generate if they can't sell it to the grid at that time - they can then release it back when they can sell it?

Something simple, like a big weight on a bit of rope that gets electrically wound up the inside of the hollow turbine mast, and let down again to generate? Like pumped-storage, only with something a little more dense so you don't need as much of it?

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EDF

Paul Stephenson said "EDF is no longer owned by the french government iirc, it was privatised"

Yes with the French government retaining an 85% shareholding. British Energy will be an oxymoron. Believing the government should not own a strategic national resource is a fair point of view. Believing another (competitive) government will run it for our benefit and not theirs is kinda brave thinking.

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Go

For f***s sake.

Can't some government department just approve a bit of petty cash to pay for a bunch of Tarts to get Greensheesh LAID once in a while?

That way they wouldn't have to cream themselves with the "look at us we're saving the world" act every so often.

Thanks to greenpeace, research into longer fuel cycles and new reactor designs has looked distinctly unsexy at times, stiffelig innovation in the area, and quite possibly Ecologically important findings.

There was some work done in Germany about using reactors to "reburn" waste, accelerating it's conversion into acceptably safe material, while also gleening a few last joules out of the fuel... However turning that into a real design, or "Evil New Generation Of Capitalist Pressurised Wet Dream Reactors" becomes (politically) far more complex than it needed to be.

Brent Spar: Turns out BP's idea was perfectly sound, Greenpeace's arguments towards the end becoming more and more ludicrous.

Ghost Fleet: Rather than dismantled with all the facilities of the Tyne, they're dumped in the far east with _no_ care for the environment.

Rohs: The run off from solder is far less serious than GP made out, the sheer waste of reworked, and junked infant-mortality parts, and production in less compliant nations easily masks any improvement GreenPeace might be imagining in their fluffy bunny la-la-land... But they still strut around boatsing about how this will make everyone super brainy and live forever.

Those are three of GPs more memorable "success stories" and none of them did any real good.

The big guns have blown serious holes in Wind Power, but greenpeace seem to be far more interested in teaching everyone their "The Earth is Cool and So Are We" song than actually countering the arguments.

The quality of Greenpeace's "findings", announcements and accusations would never survive the academic rigour that real experts have to satisfy... As such GP gets "Science" in general, and (Genuine) Environmental research in particular a name for simplicity and wooly thinking.

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Black Helicopters

My Earlier Rant.

I wouldn't normally cut loose like that, but I'm suffering from BOFH withdrawl.

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IT Angle

Keeping the lights on

Will people stop going on about 'Keeping the lights on' lol - it would take a handful of hamsters on hamster wheel generators to keep your average household's low energy lights on.

Let's be honest here - we are talking about keeping our 750w power supplies for our high-powered PCs, large plasma screens and surround sound running... :)

Isn't that why most people seem to be in favour of nukes when it comes to this kind of polemic discussion (apart from the beardy weirdy greenpeacers like me of course) - cheap energy so that we don't have to worry about turning things off? (such an inconvenience having to think about energy use! tsk!)

@Paul Stephenson - RE: EDF. I believe it is still majority owned by the french governement.(85% stake).

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Anonymous Coward

nuclear v coal

Here are some facts regarding nuclear and coal fired power generation, specifically the differences in amount of material "burnt".

From http://www.world-nuclear.org/

##############################

"A PWR (Pressurised Water Reactor) has fuel assemblies of 200-300 rods each, arranged vertically in the core, and a large reactor would have about 150-250 fuel assemblies with 80-100 tonnes of uranium."

"Most reactors need to be shut down for refuelling, so that the pressure vessel can be opened up. In this case refuelling is at intervals of 1-2 years, when a quarter to a third of the fuel assemblies are replaced with fresh ones."

##############################

So we can see that in the highest usage scenario, a nuclear plant will consume around 33 tonnes of fuel a year. (33 tonnes of fuel, not distinguishing between the original uranium and reprocessed fuel)

From http://www.power-technology.com/

##############################

Drax Power Station, Selby, United Kingdom

"Claiming to be the largest, cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power station in the UK, the 4,000MW Drax plant supplies around 7% of the UK's electricity needs.

.... The company has recently contracted with Sempra Energy Europe for the supply of 150MW of power and one million tonnes of coal over two years, starting April 2006

.... Coal is transported to the station by 1,000t coal trains"

###############################

So we can deduce that a coal fired plant of this size needs a minimum of 500,000 tonnes per year to run, with all the transportation and emission problems this incurs. (I have no way of knowing if the stated 1 million tonnes is their total consumption for a 2 year period, it could be much more, or they may be stockpiling too.)

Even if we allow for the fact that the average nuclear plant only produces 1000 MW, then that would bring the equivalent capacity coal plant down to only needing 125,000 tonnes of fuel per year.

Which looks like the sensible option ? 33 tonnes of fuel a year with no CO2, or 125,000 tonnes of fuel a year with significant amounts of CO2 ?

Waste is another issue, but suffice to say that all nuclear waste generated since the 1950s (in the UK) is still on site, and the earliest waste produced is now only regarded as low level radioactive. (Long half life = low radioactivity)

From http://www.world-nuclear.org/

###############################

"In the OECD some 300 million tonnes of toxic wastes are produced each year, but conditioned radioactive wastes amount to only 81,000 cubic metres per year. In countries with nuclear power, radioactive wastes comprise less than 1% of total industrial toxic wastes (the balance of which remains hazardous indefinitely)"

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It would be nice to know how much a cubic metre of radioactive waste actually weighs, but even so, less than 1% of total industrial toxic waste would put that at around 3 million tonnes spread between 30 countries.

Sounds a lot (100,000 tonnes per country), but this waste is not all waste from nuclear fuel. Some of it is waste from the infrastructure (decommissioning etc), and bear in mind the fuel rods are not pure uranium.

Renewables are good for local consumption, but not for the main grid, as they cannot be depended on without a great deal of investment in energy storage technologies.

On another point, all our coal is imported. So is our Uranium. But consider the size of the stock piles. A 10 year stock pile of coal would mean 1,250,000 tonnes per plant whereas 10 years of uranium would only need 330 tonnes per plant.

Do we want to be held to ransom for 1.25 million tonnes of coal per plant ?

We could store the same weight of uranium that we use in coal (for 1 plant for 1 year) and it would last 3787.9 years in 1 nuclear plant. (not counting the added time gained by reprocessing spent fuel rods)

Disclaimer : I have just taken the figures as I found them, I can't guarantee their accuracy, however even if the figures for uranium are 3 times worse than I quoted, it would still last a lot longer with less ill effects than coal. If you have hard evidence that these figures are wrong, please reply with links. I am in this to learn, not prove a point.

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Anonymous Coward

oooh

>Nuclear stations, on the other hand, will be designed for a 60 year life

Why? We've only got 100 years of fuel left, so even if we only double the nuclear capacity, the lights still go out in my lifetime (and I'm old).

Also bear in mind that nuclear is the second most expensive form of generation, and is as efficient as it's going to get, so the price can only go up. Whereas renewables are getting cheaper

Before someone starts bleating about breeder reactors - get real - it'll be 20-30 years before we've ramped up the building cycle. Uranium from the sea? You need to pump and filter so much seawater, the energy return is close to zero. Thorium reactors? Show me a working prototype. Fusion - looks promising, but 20-30 years away, so you might as well wait for that.

I'm not saying forget nuclear, but it's not the black and white solution the pro-nuke lobby are making out. It's part of the mix, but the priority has to be on the renewables.

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Boffin

Wind power: what doesn't work, and what does.

Firstly, micro wind turbines, or 'micro generation' as PR calls it. Research suggests this will be useless for the vast majority of urbanities; sticking a 1.5m diameter turbine rated at 1.5kW peak output on your roof will, if you're lucky, generate enough power to run your PC (300-400W). Don't bother switching on TV or washing machine, though.

This is a lot less than popular literature suggests. Why is this? Because every man/woman + dog pulls their data from the NOABL database, which assumes that your house is surrounded by no trees, houses, or indeed any other kind of obstruction. Which is the complete opposite of a real-life urban environment, where turbulence generated by neighbouring houses, etc. gives you a much-reduced and irregular air flow.

Furthermore, those micro turbines that claim to have 'much reduced vibration' can't actually stop the forcing that damages your roof, because this is generated by the highly turbulent flow typical of surburban environments.

Secondly, what does work, works largely by two principles: economy of scale, and suitability of location.

The basic rule-of-thumb power law for wind turbines scales as the square of the blade radius, so a linear increase in size gives you, very roughly, a quadratic increase in power. It's a little more complicated than that in real life, since a larger turbine effectively changes the Reynolds number of the problem. Regardless, this means that larger turbines can be more efficient that smaller ones, by design.

In the more traditional sense of scale, add material transport and construction costs for a more convincing argument.

Then there is the location. If you want wind power in the UK, you should be building it offshore. The Danes, as ever, got here first -- just look at www.windpower.org/en/pictures/offshore.htm . Whilst offshore farms are more expensive to build, they produce more energy. The sea is smoother than land - a low 'roughness factor' ensures higher wind speeds - and it is isolated, meaning that there are no hills or buildings to disrupt the air flow, no matter what the wind direction. That gives you a more reliable supply than land-based farms.

Even when power attenuation over long transmission distances is taken into account, the best strategy will almost always be: pick the windiest spot, build big turbines, and lots of them.

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Bronze badge

I Agree Halfway

I agree halfway with Greenpeace. Since fossil-fuel generation can shut down relatively quickly, renewables should get priority over fossil fuel so as to burn as little fossil fuel as possible. But if nuclear is cheaper, of course that's what will be preferred among no-carbon alternatives.

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Re: hydrogen, anybody?

Why, of course you can generate hydrogen on offshore windfarms, pipe it on shore and deal with it in any number of worthwhile ways.

This is extremely beneficial as you use direct current 'leccy to electrolyse, whereas currently the 'leccy produced offshore has to be converted to fit in with the grid A.C., 50 Hz, timed just right. This incurrs all sorts of losses.

Piping hydrogen ashore from such windfarms may not be the most efficient system in the world, but at least it would be emissions free (after construction et al). Given enough storage facility, it would also be able to iron out those calm days/weeks, and meet demand peaks.

Why is everyone so negative about hydrogen energy? Scared of a little investment are we?

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