back to article UK electricity crisis over - for now

The UK electricity market has recovered from a troublesome shortage of supply on Tuesday, according to network operator National Grid. However, some analysts are seeing the problems - which included power cuts and reduced supply voltages - as a warning sign of more trouble to come. National Grid spokesman Stewart Larque …

COMMENTS

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Time to adopt the Disaster Area solution?

    I.e. meet with the environmentalists and have them all shot.

  2. Robert Flatters
    Thumb Down

    No supprise

    What the Govenment will say is "its up to the engergy supliers to find ways of coping with demand." not us we just like to accept bribes...oooppsss incentives to promote nuclear power plant.

    Well Mr Brown is another mess for you to deal with....any more pigeons wanting to to make their way home.

    Regards

    Sir Bobby

  3. dervheid
    Black Helicopters

    Cospiracy Theories...

    will no doubt abound.

    (Nice to see the Scottish Parliament rushing through permission to use gas at the 'Gannet. Boiler Burner mods have been done there quite recently too. How terribly convenient!)

    Having worked, albeit breifly, at Longannet a few years ago, it's a bloody miracle that this decrepit old plant is still functioning, LONG after it's expected lifespan, like a large proportion of our larger generation sites.

    We need new generation capacity in this country NOW. And at the moment, if you want it to be relatively pollution free, then it'll have to be nuclear.

  4. Pavlovs well trained dog

    ah, there is a god (and she's an angry lesbian)

    I just picked up my copy of the April BBC Top Gear. If any of you read it, you'll know that it's the edition where Clarkson revels, like a pig in shit, about South Africa's power crisis.

    God, I hope where he lives was hit by The Unthinkable Happening In Britain

  5. lIsRT
    Flame

    Low Volts ---> High Amps?

    To anyone who knows lots about electric supply/appliances - what would actually happen if voltage drops?

    I assume for simple devices (light bulbs etc.), it just means a proportional loss of power, but I remember reading something at the time of the big US blackouts a few years ago about server PSUs making the whole thing worse.

    Apparently they could vary their resistance in response to voltage, and therefore draw more current and end up running quite happily on exactly the same power as before.

    Essentially, what proportion of plugged-in devices will just do an electronic "You want to cut my power? er..., NO." when the grid drops their voltage?

    Icon for what might happen if that idea gets taken too far...

  6. Chris Hawkins
    Unhappy

    Is the UK regressing to developing country status?

    Hmm!

    "One energy-market analyst, speaking to the Times, blamed lack of investment owing to years of uncertainty over government policy.

    "The Government’s inability to make long-term energy security decisions over the last decade is coming home to roost," said the industry watcher. "Lack of political will to make tough decisions has left Britain short of power."

    Sounds remarkably similiar to what's been going on in the South Africa over the past year!!!!

  7. Mr Smin

    thinking selfishly.....

    could someone knowledgeable comment on the need for UPS at home? The article only says that supply variations are 'mostly harmless'.

  8. Onionman
    Thumb Down

    "Green" propaganda coming home to roost

    For yonks the Greenies have been telling us that Nuclear power will cause our kids to have two heads, whereas factually, every single X-ray dept (several hundred) in the UK releases a similar amount of radiation as a typical nuclear plant with no apparent outcry.

    This, er, misunderstanding of the facts by the greenies has paralysed the government for fear of scaring voters. So we end up in the mire once again thanks to a combination of lying greenies and terrified politicians.

    What we need is a bundle of nuclear plants. What we'll get, no doubt, is a rush of Russian-gas-powered generators.

    I despair.

    O

  9. Stuart Ross
    Paris Hilton

    Typical....

    Just goes to show that this government needlessly interferes ins tuff it doesn't need to (and sibsequently f*cks it all up) and leaves alone stuff that it should have a handle on, and lets it slide.

    Paris because she knows when to go down........

  10. Joe K
    Black Helicopters

    Can't wait for the movie

    Sounds like an exciting day for the power-bods.

    So what happened? Virus? Network attack of some kind?

    9 going down in sequence sounds very iffy to me.

  11. Mike Richards

    Slight correction

    Although Longannet is capable of producing over 2GWe, much of the plant had been shut down for maintenance, so the loss was only about 350MWe.

    Now will there be a baby boom in February 2010?

  12. Robert Wilson
    Boffin

    Re: Low Volts ---> High Amps?

    Yes that is true for switch modes and what have you, but for straight online resistive loads, this would have a large net effect.

    For AC motors, the torque would drop off a bit, so if the shaft is not heavily loaded, the shaft speed will be unchanged.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Meany Greenys....

    Seem to want us to move back to the dark ages (Sorry about the pun).

    As above, shoot the lot of them. Then we could compost them for fule. That would be a green option.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @lIsRT

    It be surprised if a server did that. A decent UPS on the other hand...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @lIsRT - PSU's

    Decent computer PSU's are switching supplies that switch the input on and off loading up an internal capacitor to stabilise the energy available. (Approximately)

    So, yes, falling voltage on the supply will result in more on than off on the switching however the total energy draw should remain steady.

    Of course part of the reason for such high voltage transmission in the first place is that there is less loss in a high voltage/low current set up, so a falling voltage would actually make the entire distribution system less efficient. More of an issue that any number of PSU's.

    The result of this will be that they "manage demand" by "putting up prices".

  16. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    Government Advisor

    Ex advisor on again this moring on BBC R4 pushing Electric Cars and Nuclear.

    What is the grandchildren going to do with decommissioning & waste?

    Electric cars waste energy. Up to 30% grid loss and upto 20% charging loss. Diesel is a better bet.

    What about the carbon / engergy cost of all the concrete for a NP station?

    Yes SMPSU used in Servers, PC, laptop, TV, many chargers and almost every electronics and also CFLs etc, take more current to keep power constant. They may even lose efficiency and consume MORE power.

    Only really filament bulbs, electric heating (Immersions, Washing, tumble driers) but often not the motors take less power.

    Grid losses on SMPSU current is higher at lower voltage as the current is higher and grid resistance is the same P = i2 r

    Coal but with better scrubbers and CO2 removal on stacks is best power solution. We know there is 100's of years. The Arabs have been estimating the same reserves fro 30 years which is a bit suspicious and appear to be past peak production unable to increase flow on most fields. North Sea is also past peak and I'm sceptical about claims this week of increasing its production.

    Rising oil prices is good. The UK may have Tax on it too high, but USA has tax far too low.

  17. Adam Foxton
    Dead Vulture

    @Anonymous Coward "Disaster Area"

    Completely the correct solution- I bet that the people who complain about nuclear/wind/hydro power being generated where a small moth once lived or anywhere that could be described as "picturesque" are the first to complain about this and shout about it being Gordon Brown's fault. The sort of people who'd drive their battered old bus up the whole of the UK to complain about environmental issues.

    Maybe this will make people sit up and think "sod the conservationists, to Hell with the protestors. We're building wind power on hills, hydro power in moving water and nuclear anywhere where the fuel-supply/waste-disposal logistics would work. They complain, we roll out the army."

    I mean this- security of power- is one of the few points where I'd imagine Reg readers would be in support of a forceful government.

    My icon was killed by a wind turbine. And you know what, no-one cares since they've now got heating and refrigerated food-storage.

  18. Lazy Gun
    Thumb Down

    Tinfoil hat time

    No one's remarked on the fact that all these "coincidental" shutdowns have ramped the wholesale price of power up 35%. Very profitable, I'm sure.

    I worked on Sizewell B back in the early 90s. It was a huge, and hugely prestigious, civil engineering project. The people who built it felt, and feel today, very proud to be able to say they worked on it.

    The tragedy we face now is that if we wanted to build anymore PWRs like Sizewell B, they'd have to be built by foreign companies and foreign engineers. I suppose there'd be one or two jobs for the natives, as they'd need people serving in the canteen and the toilets would need cleaning.

  19. Chris Cooke
    Flame

    Geographical morons

    If Sizewell B is in Suffolk then Longannet is in Fife. Conversely, if Longannet is in Scotland then Sizewell B is in England.

  20. alistair millington
    Thumb Up

    9 all at once?

    Even terrorists couldn't be that good.

    I like the way the Scottish government rushed something through. Where the UK one takes fricking ages to do anything except vote on porn laws or things that are completely pointless.

  21. Charles Smith

    Greed > Strategic Provision

    This failure is an easily predicted outcome of Electricity Trading schemes. In essence power generation equipment capacity will be configured to make a profit, not to provide resilience in the event of failure of someone else's machinery.

    An CTO who permits a Data Centre to be constructed or refurbished in the UK without a full capacity UPS and Generator system should be fired and sued for negligence.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ lIsRT

    if i remember my physics correctly, watts = volts * amps. so if a server PSU is 300 watts, so in mathematical theory, this server running on 230 volts will consume 1.30 amps. now if the voltage drops, the amps consumption will rise. if the voltage were to drop just 10 volts to 220 volts, it's power consumption will increase by 0.06 amps. most computer and server power supplies these days are designed to run on both 230 & 110 volt mains, so they can be used across the seas in the states without changing PSU's. so basically these supplies should, in theory, continue running until the voltage drops below 105 volts. at 110 volts this server will consume 2.72 amps.

    this is only theory though. most datacentres will filter voltage fluctuations as extreme at that and, more than likely, hop over to UPS/generator power supplies until the main feed returned to normal.

  23. Armitage
    Boffin

    @Low Volts ---> High Amps?

    yea when the voltage is dropped the current (amps) in the circuit increases, most modern equipment is happy to run on reduced voltages for a short time in my experiance, the problem tho is if your pulling bigger amps through a circuit you risk tripping the circuit's protective device (fuse or mcb) which in a home would only knock off a few things.

    However it runs a risk of taking out a portion of the final grid since all the transformers are protected by fuses on the supply side

    although im speculating on the grid since i dont know for sure>_<

    my coats the one with the tester hanging out the pocket

  24. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
    Coat

    Ah! So that's how to do it.

    <blockquote>Scottish politicians rushed through approvals for the station to be allowed to use gas if necessary in future, with one saying they were "lucky it wasn't cold".</blockquote>

    Tory B Liar was all set to rush through a new Nuclear Power programme. Typically he hadn't thought it through.

    They seem to have learned a thing or two since.

    First kill all the thinkers. Then promote all the politicians?

    <blockquote>One energy-market analyst, speaking to the Times, blamed lack of investment owing to years of uncertainty over government policy.</blockquote>

    Isolate, compromise, threaten and abuse. Everyone has a weakness. so just kill all the experts adjust a meeting off ze Kommittee, pull a few plugs and you can do what you want; invade Iraq if you like.

    Whose going to know the truth?

    Besides a few dead Iraqis that is.

  25. Tom Hawkins

    re: amps/volts

    Devices like computers, which have switch-mode power supplies that can adapt to different voltages, will indeed draw more current as the supply voltage drops, in order to maintain the same power output. However I would guess that this is pretty insignificant compared with the power draw of heating, lighting, cooking, big industrial motors etc which will reduce with lower supply voltage.

    For a special case like a huge server farm which takes a significant fraction of the output from a particular substation I guess things might be different...

  26. Matt

    What a suprise

    More UK government under investment. Of course you've got to hand it to them each time they get caught like this they manage to pass the blame to someone else or say it's for the sake of the environment.

  27. Chris Walker
    Thumb Down

    Fuck the envirotards

    I'm bored literally shitless by the mentality we have in this country when it comes to sorting basic infrastructure out.

    1. Ignore envirotards who are push abstinence rather than reduction*.

    2. Acknowledge we're heading towards a problem.

    3. Acknowledge that big windmills, tidal barriers and other such shit won't suffice.

    4. Embark on a proper program of new nuclear power generation.

    5. Allow a moderate PPP (emphasis last P) to achieve #4

    6. Stop dicking around and make a decision.

    *These people should simply be taken out to a land fill site and buried. They're one of the root causes of the problems we're increasingly facing - no solutions, only complaints; no understanding of the real world, only a desire to run everywhere bare foot. Indeed, they may be joined in the land fill by any politician who doesn't understand the basic tenets of energy security, and who believes their current term in office is somehow more important than the national energy strategy.

  28. Pete James

    Oh, mercy mercy me.......

    This is just another area of the British infrastructure that this Administration has dithered, avoided discussing and pointedly ignored; the Government knows it will have to embrace nuclear power into the power generation map and that's going to alienate some core votes. Which is the last thing they want right now. Maybe, just maybe, they'll start to put the long-term future of this country ahead of their miserable backsides - but having seen the way politics has evolved over the last few years that's very unlikely. Let's face it, after the utter lies in trying to introduce retrospective taxation of motor vehicles just recently, would you trust them to get anything right?

    I may well be alone here but I really do find the buying and selling of electricity and gas on an open market to be rather immoral. This isn't some optional commodity, it's an essential aspect of living. Why should any population be subjected to the whims of a few? Perhaps we'll only learn when the markets make power a luxury good out of the reach of the poor, the elderly and the socially disadvantaged - or has new Labour completely forgotten it's heritage?

    Sir Christopher Hinton must be doing a triple twist with pike over all this nonsense.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    move to "sunny" Cheltenham... : Enron

    no power cuts there... there's a damned great big "super secret" building there which requires lots of electricity...

    and didn't Enron do a similar thing with the power supplies to cause rolling blackouts in California to ramp the electric price up????

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_electricity_crisis

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just poor regulation really

    >>More UK government under investment. Of course you've got to hand it to them >>each time they get caught like this they manage to pass the blame to someone else

    >>or say it's for the sake of the environment.

    What do you mean government investment - the power industry (not including the nuclear,well not really) is privately owned.

    Maybe the shareholders wish to put up the price of energy by not investing in new plant and making shortages of a commodity, whilst taking cash out of the industry by having nice big dividends.

    Paris because she has loads of energy

    Now that's a regulatory fault - so still a government problem, but where else would all the ex ministers and MPs go but to big business.

    Perhaps all government employees above a certain grade should be banned from working in a related industry, on pain of imprisonment.

    Now that would really stop all the ID card proponents, if there was no trough to stick the snout in once they leave government.

  31. GremlinUK
    Coat

    Clarkson...

    (like me) lives on the Isle of Man. Which, by the way, was providing electricity to the UK grid to help out when all this was going down.

    Mine's the one with three legs.

  32. Tom
    Coat

    I just wanted to say...

    1.21 gigawatts?! What was I thinking?!

  33. Phil Endecott Silver badge

    According to the Times...

    According to an article in yesterday's Times, we can't be told exactly what caused these 9 "units" to fail at the same time because "it might have an effect on the wholesale price of electricity".

    So what's next: "We cannot tell you how late your train will be, because it might affect our share price." "We cannot tell you if there is lead paint on your toys, because it is commercially sensitive information."

  34. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Fuck the envirotards

    Um, obviously it's a heated debate and all, but could we refrain from suggesting people with whom we disagree should be buried alive? Thanks. (And no, I'm not an envirotard, I'm just weary of comments suggesting Ultimate Solutions.)

  35. Paul Smith
    Paris Hilton

    Re:- Conspiracy Theories

    "And at the moment, if you want it to be relatively pollution free, then it'll have to be nuclear."

    A nuclear plant can produce "relatively" cheap leccy for twenty to fifty years, with "relatively" little pollution escaping, as long as the plant is well maintained. It will stop producing leccy after fifty years max and will still release "relatively" little polution, for as long as the plant is well maintained. Great, except that someone will have to pay to maintain the plant even when it no longer produces leccy, and they will have to keep paying to maintain the plant for fifty to one hundred thousand years. That is longer then human beings have been recognisably human.

    Still think they are a good idea?

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >move to "sunny" Cheltenham...

    I suspect the bloody big super secret building there has its own power supply when necessary anyhow, and probably won't use it to shore up the grid supply to Cheltenham.

    @GremlinUK

    The Isle of Man has a 2GW energy surplus?

    What the hell are you lot up to over there?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Pollution? Well it's nothing really

    So a nuclear power plant has a waste problem now, has it? Well, how about the mountains of ash piling up just outside my back yard - there's a coal fired power plant not 300 metres away and they generate large amounts every day. How about the radon released when the coal is crushed and burned? Not to mention all the gunk scrubbed out of the exhaust so it'll only cause acceptable damage when it's released. To all the emotional little know-nothings busy having an opinion on nuclear power: shut your gob while the adults are speaking... Yes, I feel strongly about this. If we'd done it right from the start the Russians and Arabs wouldn't have the stranglehold on our wealth that we're busy handing to them ATM.

  38. Nick Pettefar

    Waste!

    So, what is the plan for dealing with the nuclear waste then?

    Stony silence.

    Umm, let's leave that to our children to deal with...?

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear Fusion...

    <Rant>

    Spend billions on researching Nuclear Fusion instead of wasting it on crap IT systems, implementing governance via the 1984 User Guide and buying big nukes to enter an international dick waving contest.

    </Rant>

  40. GremlinUK

    @JonB

    I never suggested the IOM had replaced the entire 2GW supply. Between the four power stations the island has about 135MW generating capacity, some of which can be exported through the 40MW capacity sub-sea cable to the UK.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nucleotards

    How is possible to believe you have a valid point of view if (i think 3 examples so far), people who may hold an alternative view you propose to kill....?

    It is not even rational that there are just two sides to this, it seems to be quite the thing for anti-environmentalists (for want of a better word), to try to polarise the argument - just because you want more wind energy does not meen you are a hippy and dont want nuclear.

    I can see a positive benefit for using less energy and therefore needing less nuclear, but still having nuclear as a useful part of our energy strategy.

    For myself, the obvious pattern with this issue and with the rising price of oil, is that the UK is too dependant on oil and energy consumption. If we could all use less energy and e.g. distribute consumables with less energy, we would not be so dependant on energy and so affected by the price of oil. I agree that the government should take more resposibility, but so should the individual.

  42. Richard Silver badge

    @ Nuclear Waste

    We bury it in deep granite depositories, as various scientists and researchers have been saying for a decade or two.

    Fill the depository with concrete cans for a few decades and then re-fill and seal the shafts.

    We've got variants of concrete that last, unmaintained, for at least 2000 years (the Romans used it), so we know that it won't be a problem for quite some time.

    By which time the 'mine' is buried under many hundreds of metres of rock.

    Then, our children's great-great-grandkids can dig it up for useful bits - I have no doubt that there'll be a lot of by-products that our descendants will find useful, if a little bit dangerous!

    The best long-term solution is actually to deeply bury it where it'll go into a subduction zone and be recycled into magma, but that's quite difficult to do as those are in unreasonably deep water, which is quite difficult to excavate.

  43. Chris Walker

    Dealing with nuclear waste...

    "could we refrain from suggesting people with whom we disagree should be buried alive?"

    At no point did I suggest they should be buried _alive_.

    That would after all be rather cruel.

    "So, what is the plan for dealing with the nuclear waste then?"

    Package it up and fire it into the sun. Surely by the time its an issue the ISS loo will be operational and we'll have enough time to work out how to slingshot a bit of spent fuel someplace safe.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Threat Level

    Is there a website where the current power situation or warnings are published in real time so the general public can see what's going on? (Provided they still have a working computer of course, like a laptop/UPS)

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Die Hard 4.0

    This happened in Die Hard 4.0 during the "Fire Sale", power stations going down.

  46. Alex Wright
    Unhappy

    Coincidence?

    While I was reading this, we had a five second brown out...

    Didn't affect the laptop or UPSed server, mind you.

  47. Adam

    @ Chris Walker

    Firing nuclear waste into the sun is all well and good, bit of a problem when the rocket goes wrong as they invariably do.

    Also another problem with nuclear (even though it is the best solution) is that we need Uranium from somewhere, and then just beholden ourselves to other foreign governments who are currently a little easier to get on with, like Nigeria.

  48. ChrisB
    Stop

    Nucleotards

    Quoted from http://www.fraw.org.uk/mobbsey/papers/oies_article.html

    'At the current level of uranium consumption (67,000 tonnes per year) known uranium resources (2.8 million tonnes of uranium) would last 42 years – a fact highlighted by the European Commission in their Energy Green Paper [EC 2001]. The known and estimated resources plus secondary resources (such as the military inventory), a total of around 4.8 million tonnes, would last 72 years. Of course this assumes that nuclear continues to provide just a fraction of the world's energy supply. If capacity were increased six-fold then 72 years would reduce to 12 years. This is because nuclear energy, in terms of global energy supply, must increase by a factor of four to eight to make any significant difference to the use of fossil fuels around the globe. Consequently the expected lifetime of the uranium resource would fall by a similar factor.

    The actual lifetime of the uranium resource will depend upon the technologies adopted as part of any new nuclear capacity. New reactor designs are more thermally efficient (up to 45% to 50% rather than 30% to 35%) which could extend the lifetime of the uranium resource by a factor of 1.7. Introducing a number of fast breeder reactors, to increase the efficiency of uranium consumption, might increase the lifetime of the uranium resource by a factor of 2. Even so, taking these two factors together alongside a six-fold increase in capacity, the lifetime of the known and estimated uranium resource would still be less than 50 years.'

    Yes, let's build lots of nuclear power stations. That's a great long-term solution.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Burying envirotards causes problems

    If you think of the quantity of envirotards buried in the local landfill, you're increasing the meat content of the pile. That will cause increasing numbers of pests etc. and probably dangerous gases released when they decompose.

    You're also storing up a problem for the future, what if someone digs up those envirotard remains and gets envirofected? Then the epidemic will start again. People of the future will not have such good resistance to diseases from the past, considering that health and safety will mean they can't leave their houses without being cocooned in a rubber ball.

    To show that I'm not an envirotard, I've got a solution. Use the same method we used for all those foot n mouth infected carcasses and burn them.

    How about "envirotard fueled power stations". Solves 2 problems in one.

    (I know it's a short term, unsustainable solution but I can't decide if I used to work for the goverment)

  50. dervheid
    Thumb Down

    @ Paul Smith, Adam

    Yes, basically.

    BTW, where did you get your figures from?

    "fifty to one hundred thousand years"?

    That, I'm afraid, sounds rather like envirotardal shite.

    Adam, rockets do not "invariably" go wrong, just seems that way, although I do think that the idea of launching rockets filled with nuclear waste is a tad insane.

  51. A J Stiles
    Stop

    Nuclear Waste

    There's a point that everyone seems to be missing about nuclear waste: surely if the stuff is still radioactive, then that means it's still got some PE in it?

    If we actually extracted all the potential energy in the first place (by means of a reaction that proceeds to completion), then the waste products wouldn't be radioactive.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have no problem with nuclear energy per se...

    ...but I do have a problem with shoddy cowboy builders and cost-cutting PFI/PPP managers.

    I know nuclear power *could* be safe, but I don't believe we have the ability or the will to *make* it safe.

    In evidence, I would point to the fact that they built a *chimney* next to a *waste chute* at Windscale and left a hole between them(!), and they started illegally dumping radioactive waste into a wee wet hole in the ground at Dounreay.

    Our IT projects cost shedloads -- then fail.

    Our cars slow to a crawl due to poorly maintained roads and badly planned transport initiatives (Edinburgh trams, anyone?).

    Do you really think that the UK can be trusted with more nuclear power?!? If I was the UN, I'd threaten sanctions!

  53. This post has been deleted by its author

  54. Michael
    Flame

    Most of the "greenies" live in london ....so,

    http://www.nextenergynews.com/news1/next-energy-news-toshiba-micro-nuclear-12.17b.html

    (seen recently in a slashdot article)

    My solution is to let London and the major cities generate their own power .... they use the most of it. If they want to dispose of the fuel waste, i can see some HEAVY negotiation with local councils in cumbria and elsewhere. ( "separate your rubbish" ) .

    It's always annoyed me that the guardian (A) pontificates about the "morality" of energy generation and (B) has it's base in london. ......and never poses a VIABLE energy solution . This is a solution , so propose something else , & implement it or stop whining.

  55. Chad H.
    Thumb Down

    nuclear powered posters

    at the risk of being called an envirotard, can the nuclear powered posters please explain:

    1) what the intend on doing with all that toxic waste thats going to take millions of years to become safe? How will we ensure that it doesnt end up in the wrong hands? Where are we going to keep it?

    2) considering Chernobyl, and 3 mile island, how are you going to convince the people that have to live near it its safe.

  56. muzchap
    Boffin

    I agree with A J Stiles

    There are 2 options...

    1) As A J STILES suggests - learn to harvest the energy more efficiently (this reminds me of Command&Conquer, need to build a research lab!), if we can extract ALL energy, then there is no DANGEROUS 'residual' to worry about.

    If 1 cannot be achieved, then

    2) Extract maximum percentage of energy and instead of firing to the sun (I think the earth requires all of its resources - we should look at re-integrating the waste into the molten lava of the earth.

    As for the Uranium argument - People said 50 years ago that Coal, Wood, Gas and Oil, would have run out by now. It's just not realistic to listen to those people - we have only speculated the major 'LAND' masses - we have so much ocean floor to explore, it's just not funny - so believe the 'hype' if you want - nucluer energy is pretty much the only option, both short and long term.

    M

  57. Joe

    @ Mike Richards

    A baby boom in February 2010? Do you know something we don't?

  58. lIsRT
    Happy

    @ Chad H. - nuclear powered posters

    1 - See above re. geological repositories. The deep ocean trenches might work too, for the heavy stuff - afaik anyone with the technology to retrieve stuff from that depth wouldn't need to. Or... just combine the two - undersea oil fields beyond economic recovery? * (The shafts are there already.)

    2 - Don't bother, as power gets more expensive, people will become less fussy. (or just build a new town exclusively for the IMBYs - free power and a Chernenkov blue water feature for the garden would do it for me)

    .

    .

    .

    * well, they will be after filling them with nuclear waste...

  59. This post has been deleted by its author

  60. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: nuclear powered posters

    "what the intend on doing with all that toxic waste thats going

    to take millions of years to become safe?"

    Nuclear power generates bugger all of *that*. The whole lot could be burried in a relatively small hole in a relatively large block of granite, for several billion years. The major waste disposal problem comes from hospitals and industry generating tons of low-level waste. Want to ban those?

    "considering Chernobyl, and 3 mile island, how are you going to

    convince the people that have to live near it its safe."

    As far as Chernobyl goes, I'd have a rule that said "Don't deliberately cripple ALL your safety systems and then switch off the systems that stop the reactor blowing up.". Oh, and I wouldn't build reactors to that design. As far as 3 mile island (and the rest) are concerned, the evidence is that nuclear facilities have killed more people because of their tendency to import staff-and-their-diseases than because of any radiation leaks.

    In 50 years, the nuclear industry has killed *orders*of*magnitude* fewer people than coal or oil and the only major disaster was deliberately engineered. (That's little consolation to those nearby, but pretty reassuring on the "Might it happen again?" front.) Over the same period, cars have killed millions. Society clearly feels that the price is worth paying.

    You presumably worry about the very small risk of very damaging events, and you have a point since human beings are very bad at assessing such risks. However, if the recent Chinese experience is anything to go by, then it is only a matter of time before a major dam fails. Is that to be taken as an argument against renewable energy? There's also the fact that the carrying capacity of the planet is a function of (amongst other things) the energy we consume, so the ultra-envirotards call for abstinence is effectively a death sentence for millions.

    The clock is ticking. If the energy runs out, people will start dying. Those who did nothing will be as guilty as those who did the wrong something.

  61. Conway

    Phileas Fogg

    In around the world in eighty days Phileas Fogg is a man on a mission. When the Captain of the paddle steamer he is makng the last leg of his journey on refuses to go any faster "to conserve fuel", Phileas buys the boat and proceeds to run at maximum speed. As the boiler needs it, he has the combustible parts of the boat chopped up and fed to it.

    He finally steams into dock in a tin tub which he gives away to the stoker (I believe).

    Can't imagine why this suddenly came to mind. Carry on....

  62. Steve Foster

    Immediate Options?

    While dithering^h^h^h^h carefully considering longer-term choices, would it not be sensible to push the micro-generation renewable grant schemes a lot harder in the short-term? Compared to the large scale costs of building new power plants (not to mention interminable delays from NIMBYism, legals shenanigans, public inquiries, etc), rooftop solar PV energy is relatively cheap (and would get cheaper as mass-production volume levels are reached) and straight-forward. Hell, switch the grant money to be seed capital for low interest loans to domestic households for PV installation (rather than outright grants) over sensible timeframes (10-20 years).

    By combining the grant/cheap loan carrot with a building regs stick, it ought to be possible to vastly increase the amount of total UK solar PV energy within 20 years.

  63. Chris Walker
    Go

    @ Chad H. - nuclear powered posters

    1. Bury it deep underground, or deep enough that it gets subsumed into the earth's mantle. A couple of folk here have already mentioned this.

    2. Build the new nuclear facilities where people _aren't_. Take a leaf out of the mobile phone mast people and disguise them if you want to pretty them up.

    And I reject the Chernobyl / 3Mile Island argument.

    Planes crash, people still fly.

    Boats sink, people still er, boat.

    TV dulls the brain, people still watch Jeremy Kyle.

    Life is full of risks, so lets just make sure they're properly evaluated and managed. And that means doing it properly, paying for it properly, and running it properly - and not outsourcing it to Uranium-R-Us at the first opportunity.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Please sir, I know

    I wonder why all those power stations tripped on the same day? Wonder what could possibly have caused it? What grid-conditions occurred that day to cause so much wanton destruction to our infrastructure?

    http://news.scotsman.com/latestnews/Renewables-revolution-as-first-tidalpower.4124862.jp

    And the biggest power-station to keel over is quite near it in Grid terms.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Nuclear is a necessary stop gap...

    ..until either fusion comes on line in 50 years, or we manage to more cheaply produce more efficient solar panels - so if the uranium runs out shortly afterwards then who cares. Anyway the plants will only have a 50 year lifespan anyway.

    However, we cannot keep burning oil & gas in the meantime. The environmental catastrophes that will occur if we do will kill thousands of times more people than a Chernobyl. And it might not be reversible.

    As to the nuclear waste, dumping it deep in the ground is as close to safe as we'll need - hell you could even dump it in the sea or even playgrounds and it would kill less people than burning coal will.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Envirotards....

    ....like it!

  67. Onionman
    Dead Vulture

    @ChrisB

    Your quoted link:

    Quoted from http://www.fraw.org.uk/mobbsey/papers/oies_article.html

    leads to "The Free Range Acvitism (sic) Website". Hence the dead (free range) chicken.

    That'll be a nice, neutral view, then.

    Also, ref burying nuclear waste. Do people think you really dig a hole, pour it down and walk away? Think of a long, underground tunnel with side storage rooms off it, manned and monitored. Not quite as daft now, is it?

    O

  68. Lazy Gun
    Stop

    Nuclear Waste - some myths exploded

    No less a person than Prof James Lovelock, the "father" of the modern green movement, has called for the building of new Nuclear power plants. According to Prof Lovelock, the entire amount of high level radioactive waste we have in the UK is equivalent in size to a small car. Most of it emits Alpha radiation. Alpha particles have a range of a few cm in air, and are stopped dead by a sheet of paper.

    The solution to radioactive waste disposal is/was "vitrification", a process pioneered by BNFL whereby waste was mixed with, and thus sealed inside, molten glass. These could be dropped into a deep ocean trench, beyond the reach of pretty much anyone.

    Consider also that if coal-fired stations had to operate under the same rules and license as a Nuke station, they'd be closed immediately. Burning coal releases significant amounts of naturally occurring radio-isotopes. Consider also that everything you eat, drink and touch, the air you breath and the sea you swim in is radio-active.

  69. David Pollard
    Thumb Up

    @Frank Gerlach

    Thank heaven that some readers are awake. 'Fourth generation' reactors using thorium could, apparently, consume a proportion of nuclear waste; as well as disposing of existing plutonium stocks that are no longer a strategic requirement.

    Were some of the boffins hired a year or two back to work with our American colleagues on the programme to develop mini-nukes to be redeployed to this end, there is a strong argument that it would have significant benefits for world security.

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blame the bankers

    "I never suggested the IOM had replaced the entire 2GW supply. Between the four power stations the island has about 135MW generating capacity, some of which can be exported through the 40MW capacity sub-sea cable to the UK."

    Yes, just 40 MW....i.e. three fifths of five sixteenths of bugger all and significantly less than a great number of industrial consumers. The contribution from the IOM is useful if you live in Lancashire, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn't even register.

    But that's neither here nor there. The clock is ticking . If new nukes don't get approval and major contracts are awarded by the end of 2008 the lights WILL go out in the future. It may even be too late now but by the end of the year the probability is absolutely , positively, definitely, and without question, 1.

    The cause? Blame Thatcher. She kicked off the privatisation of the electricity in the first place, leading to the tragic squandering of North Sea gas resources on electricity generation where it was burnt at around 40% efficiency rather than the 90% efficiency of a modern condensing domestic central heating boiler. She hammered the coal industry to the point of extinction where it's deemed acceptable to import strip mined coal from the other side of the world than mine it in the locality of the power stations.

    Blair can't escape blame either, he permitted the gas pipelines to mainland Europe to be used for close to 100% export rather than demand balancing, in the end the free market has decided that keeping the lights on doesn't matter, the only thing that does matter is making money, lots of it. Bugger the consumer, industry and commerce, the ultimate blame is with b{w}ankers in the city.

  71. shay mclachlan

    @envirotards

    I used to be an envirotard over nuke power but I've now come round to the idea as the least worst solution. Does that make me a nuckwit?

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @ Mr Lovelock and others

    I have a great deal of respect for Mr Lovelock. His recent suggestion that we need more nukes and we need them ASAP isn't one of his brighter moments though, but this was made in conjunction with a suggestion that we ensure that we have non-electronic versions of the breadth of human knowledge, which does sound like a bright idea.

    One of the many reasons why, as a graduate physicist with dealings with the nuclear industry over a decade or two, I'm not a big fan of nukes is the waste issue, which people are trying to sweep under the carpet. Ask the folks near Dounreay how they feel about their beaches being unsafe for people to use. Ask the folks whose shores have been washed by the effluent from Windscale how they feel, not just around the Irish sea, but across the North Sea too. Ask why, if the Chernobyl emissions were/are so insignificant, why Welsh hill farmers were until recently restricted from moving or selling their lamb. (Couldn't possibly be because Snowdonia was actually radioactive pre Chernobyl, due to forty year old pollution from the Windscale fire, could it?)

    Ask yourself about the reliability record of the UK's nukes. "British" Energy have eight nuclear stations iirc (and one coal burner). Two have been out of service for maintenance for many months. One fell over a few days ago, Sizewell fell over earlier this week, two of the others are running at 60% capacity for safety reasons. Nothing unusual there, actually, nuclear power is often like that. It's barely more predictable than a suitable distrbution of wind power sites.

    There is a thing called a "safety case" which needs to be made before approving a nuclear station. Historically, they've been declared safe because destructive things like aircraft impact have been considered extremely low probability. 9/11 changes that; an aircraft impact should now be considered extremely high probability, and once you accept that, making a sensible safety case becomes near impossible. Just ask the French, who had to fiddle their aircraft impact calculations (by using a lightweight aircraft with negligible fuel content, rather than the rather bigger and heavier kind of thing which has already been used as a terorrist weapon).

    Then there's the economics. Nuclear industry economics don't make sense unless the taxpayer/government pick up various costs, like the cost of capital to build the stations, and the cost of insurance if they are allowed to operate.

    There is one thing the nuclear power industry has been, and still is, very good at. Lying. As another comment already noted, the science is on paper manageable, but in reality those awkward untrustworthy things called managers and consultants get involved, and sensible people all know where that eventually leads.

  73. Richard Cross
    Thumb Down

    Rocketards

    I am assuming that these rockets will in fact be wind-powered when they are deployed to slingshot nuclear waste to the sun? Because the economics of oil* suggest that we won't be able to waste the stuff for very much longer - let's get used to this - we have the awesome privilege(!!?) of watching the beginning of a paradigm shift.

    We are transitioning from the days of cheap and easily available energy to a time when energy demand management is going to rule. At the moment, the only enforcement point is price but I suspect other mechanisms will arrive before too long. Energy rationing is destined to be a part of our future in most of our lifetimes given the current rate of depletion of known energy sources (no great, workable ideas for the future are really coming to the fore are they?).

    To illustrate the point - a study showed that for every gram of silicon chip, 630grams of fossil fuel energy was required to manufacture it. That doesn't sound sustainable to me...

    * yeah yeah pedants - I know rockets are not powered by oil but by other chemical fuels like Liquid Hydrogen - but where does the energy come from to manufacture the hydrogen and keep it in a cryogenic state? There are very few processes, be they industrial, financial, technical, agricultural (?!) that don't rely on hydro-carbon energy sources at some point.

  74. Chad H.
    Unhappy

    @ bury it solutions...

    most of you seem to be missing the keep it our of wrong hands bit. If a fundamentalist thinks nothing of giving his life with a bomb on his chest, is a fundamentalist really going to be worried about mining risks for the chance of getting a dirty bomb

    As for the other point, the nimby factor, most of you are forgetting that most people, and tabloids aren't rational, and put them where people aren't isnt always an option.

  75. The_Police!
    Coat

    lights

    We almost had a lights out!

    Mines the flashing one.

  76. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Energy problems solved!

    Total conversion hinted at: http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_4.html

    Or maybe we could just finally put those solar energy collectors into orbit, something people have been talking about since the 50's at least. If you can still find the politicial will for such a solution.

  77. Brian
    Flame

    Mass Driver

    So you want to send the waste to the sun... easy... build a mass driver and send it that way... you want to power it... well, you have a few larger reactors....

    Until we can build the sorts of solar arrays that are in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 or have a suitably mature alternate power source, Nuclear is the only decent solution. Nuclear needs to last, what... 20-100 years until we have the other technologies mature enough to replace it with higher efficiency 'cleaner' alternatives...

    I suppose we could always burn all dead biomatter and use that.... anyone???

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    err "demand reduction"?

    The demand was still there -- shouldn't that be "supply reduction"?

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    You are all nuts!

    Many years ago the British people owned the generating and distribution system. Then the government hit upon the great idea of selling it off at a reduced price to the British people, and they bought what they already owned. The politicians used the cash to reduce taxes so that they would get re-elected.

    The British people then sold the system to themselves in the shape of their pension funds at a higher price so that they could take their profits and reduced taxes to spend money on holidays in the third world.

    The third world and the politicians would like to say "thank you".

    The solution is probably to sell it off to the Spanish, you know, the lot who cannot run a brand new airport terminal. They should get it going for you all.

    Just imagine a nuclear terminal 5!

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This whole thing

    reminds me of usenet. Where's the whip cracking Mod?

    @Adam Foxton: Loved the "They complain, we roll out the army" comment. Tell you what, you complain (petrol prices, perhaps?), I'll roll out the army? Got it yet?

    The nuclear boys have had 60 years to come up with something that will stand up without resort to corruption (eg. fiddled records for the Japs: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/709189.stm) and subsidy. They are still fannying around with THORP (£1.8 billion to build in 1994, oops, sprung a leak in 2005 : http://www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?sectionCode=132&storyCode=2029958). They are about to start dealing with 50 year old waste that some one chucked in a pond and, get this, they're saying "No-one's done this before. It's very difficult to find another measure. There's nothing in engineering terms that allows you to extrapolate from what you have today." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7215688.stm) whilst asking for another few billion.

    Just to complete the whole sci-fi thing we get the shoot it into the sun line and the nuclear fusion in 50 years time one (my favourite). Then various people saying "Kill the Greenies" to keep the turbines running (so funny to see hard headed techies resorting to ju-ju man antics; tried praying for rain recently?) While we're at it, can we have more stunning insights about windmills not turning when it's calm and solar power not working at night?

    The point at issue is that there probably won't be enough electricity and oil for life to go as hitherto. For a lot of people on here this seems to be a good excuse to abandon freedom and start building nukes at the point of a gun. In actual fact there are a lot of existing ways of getting round the various problems that will ensue, and you can bet that there are going to be a lot more answers found when the oil price gets up to $200 - $300 / barrel. Tell you something else, these technologies will be up and running before the nuclear boys have got their snouts out of the trough.

  81. Allan Dyer Silver badge
    Alert

    Home UPS = Population control

    "could someone knowledgeable comment on the need for UPS at home?"

    Home power circuits usually have an earth leakage circuit breaker (ELCB), a fail-safe device that cuts the power if the current on the live & neutral is not equal (i.e., possibly leaking to earth via a warm, fleshy object).

    Conversely, a UPS is designed to keep the power on when the supply is cut. Not exactly what you want if you have small, curious children who might explore a power socket with a metal object.

    I'm not an expert, but, before ELCB's became common, I was once a small, curious child who inserted a paperclip into a power socket. Luckily, I chose the earth.

  82. André
    Alien

    A few points, just for good measure

    Volts and Amps:

    Switching power supplies as used in most electronic equipment to date will indeed react to voltage drops by drawing more current, thereby maintaining constant power. However, the SMPS's in most consumer equipment will start flaking out when voltage drops more than 10% below nominal. Some SMPS's are however capable of operating anywhere between 100-250Vac (sometimes even 90-260Vac), these are mostly found in pro gear.

    Heaters will indeed consume notably less power as the voltage drops, but most heaters tend to be governed by thermostats so they will just spend more time being switched on, and in the (medium)long term there'll be no difference in energy consumption.

    Incandescent ligth bulbs and motor driven appliances are the few things I can think of that will effectively use less power in brownout conditions.

    Uranium scarcity and thorium reactors:

    Uranium is indeed getting somewhat scarse though the figures quoted (about 40 years of supply @ status quo, 70 years if we include military inventory) are the most pessimistic I've seen so far. A few other sources I came across (print publications so alas no url) went for 100 years @ status quo, and maybe twice that if uranium reserves that are currently considered uneconomical to mine are brought into the bargain.

    Also note that nuclear reactors have few emissions, but uranium mining causes severe pollution.

    Thorium can be used as fuel in breeder reactors, as can uranium. But breeder reactors are a tad more dodgy to operate than conventional reactors. The few known practical breeders use liquid sodium as a coolant, which:

    * becomes very radioactive (Na-24)

    * is extremely chemically reactive and will cause severe explosions if it comes in contact with water.

    Apply Murphy's law to the above, and then tell me if you'd want such a reactor anywhere near where you live.

    The most promising new reactor design from a safety point of view is the pebble bed reactor, which has its fuel encapsulated in graphite/ceramic spheres that are just about indestructible, in other words there's very little risk of irradiated fuel and fission products (aka radioactive waste) getting into the environment where it can do damage.

    Regrettably, this also means that fuel recycling is not viable.

    Radioactive waste:

    Disposing of radioactive waste by shooting it towards the sun with rockets is 1950's sci-fi, except there's a lot of fi(ction) and very little sci(ence) involved. The largest current vehicles have payload capacities in the low tens of tons, there are tens of thousands of tons of higly radioactive waste to be disposed of, and operational safety would require the waste to be packed in shielded containers which weigh something like ten times the amount of waste they contain. Which means that all the rockets launched since the 50's would not have been sufficient to deal with even a small part of the nuclear waste that has been produced till now.

    Fusion:

    For the past 30 years, science pundits have been telling us that we'll have viable fusion reactors in less than thirty years. Don't hold your breath. Also, contary to popular belief, fusion reactors *will* have radioactive waste problems. The fusion process does not produce fission products ,of course - but it does produce truckloads of very fast neutrons which will "activate" (= render highly radioactive) the materials that the reactor is made of, and damage them in the process. Parts of the hypothetical fission reactor will have to be periodically replaced, these parts will be extremely radioactive and will need to be disposed of safely.

    Building a fusion reactor has been likened to "putting the sun in a box", but "we still don't know how to make the box". I'd like to remind y'all that we already have a fusion reactor, which is sitting at a safe distance, has a MTBC (Mean time between catastrophe) of about 10*10^9 years which leaves us still about 5*10^9 years of stable operation, is totally maintaince free and supplies the earth with more energy each hour than all industrialized countries consume in one year.

    Wind:

    The U.K. has a lot of potential for viable wind energy, but it is currently among the european countries with the lowest installed base in wind power. While it is true that wind does not blow all of the time, it does most of the time and the possible contribution of wind should not be dismissed as an ecotard hobbyhorse. Wind energy has come of age, it is one of the cleanest sources and now economically viable.

    Also please do not confuse (most of) the anti-wind-turbine crowd with "ecologist" or "conservationists". A sizeable part of this crowd is made up of nimby's who gratefully accepted the Exxon Kool-Aid. As for yours truly, I cringe at the thought of strip mining for coal - which comes down to blowing off entire hilltops - but I would not have any problems with looking at an array of windmills perched on those same hilltops.

    For those who managed to get to this point, thanks for sitting this one out. However, the above arguments barely scratch the surface of a very complex set of problems humanity is currently facing. I'd just like to remind y'all that all such complex problems do indeed have simple solutions, and these solutions have one thing in common: They're invariably wrong.

    My excuses for any typo's and spelling errors: this post has become an article proper and as such should have been proof-read, but I don't have a proof-reader handy.

    Alien, just because that's what I feel like at the moment.

  83. David Shaw
    Thumb Up

    Home UPS

    living in Italy , Europe's most power starved economy - no natural resources beyond a few wet alps, we each get maximum 3kW for our house. (You can pay a lot extra to get 4.5kW) My MCB in the power meter trips off after a few seconds of more than 3kW peak. *A home UPS is essential* , not to power the whole home, but to keep the small family infotainment server room going, ADSL WiFi Airdisk Apple TV etc. Having electronics connected directly to a wall socket, then losing 220V is a very unhappy experience for, in cost order of previous failures : Sony 17"LCD, Mac Mini HDD, LaCie 250GB external HDD, iMac DV. The UPS gives me a pleasant 15 minutes of beeping, time enough to reset the MCB or switch everything off safely if it is Enel's fault. (all eventually repaired except the Sony)

    I see the need to cover my roof with PV, tenthousandpounds for a couple of kilowatts peak , with hopefully a 25 year lifetime if I use certified modules, I already have wood heating installed, with gas backup, I suppose I should go solar thermal for an extra 2 grand. Maybe I'll build the envirotard stuff instead of buying a new car?

    Why , I ask myself, does Italy historically have hardly any investment in Solar , whilst it seems that every German village is covered in PV, plus many people I know in Germany have installed salt water under-garden thermal heat pumps. In Italy the 3kW available won't even drive the heat pump! <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ground-coupled_heat_exchanger>

    is there a reason why everyone with a house in the UK can't install 80 metres of 35mm tubes, or a few hundred PV tiles, microgeneration could certainly lighten the drain to Sizewell during the winter? Currently the UK, and most other neighbours of France are importing as much juice as is possible.

    Of course, reading the expert prediction from EC DG Transport and Energy(2003) document : "European Energy and Transport Trends to 2030" says "Oil prices decline from their high 2000 levels over the next few years, but they then gradually increase to reach a level in 2030 no higher than that in 2000 (and 1990)" (Oil was an average of U$D 28 per barrel in 2000) <http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/energy_transport/figures/trends_2030/1_pref_en.pdf>

    so that's allright then!, for my amusing quip at the end I should ponder where I can get a PV powered ökologischesalzwasseruntergartenthermischewärmepumpen?

  84. Kenny Millar
    Flame

    There is something missing here.

    In Scotland there are hydro stations such as the one at Cruachan which can come online in as little as 28 seconds, and at worst 2 Minutes notice.

    At the time that Longannt went offline, cruacan would have been sitting idle and ready to go. So why wasn't it brought online?

    The reason in twofold. 1. Hydro power is expensive - more expensive than gas, coal or nuclear fuel.

    2. It's GOOD for the power companies to create the illusion of power shortages as they can then trump about the 'power crisis' and justify inflated prices.

    The honest truth about this is that Scotland's hydro stations could have matched the missing power from Longannet and Sizewell within seconds. But this option wasn't used - for political and propaganda reasons.

  85. A J Stiles
    Boffin

    @ Allan Dyer

    The only reason why you can get a shock from touching one side of an AC power line is that the other side is joined to Earth (always at the substation; and, in urban areas, also at your meter), and your body is capacitively coupled to Earth. (BTW, a small child has less surface area and therefore less capacitance, so a higher reactance and therefore receives less current than an adult.) Note that this coupling involves the *whole* body, not just the soles of the feet.

    As long as your UPS output is *not* earthed (and not sharing a neutral terminal with the real mains), and all wires are kept short, it should be safe to touch only one side.

    In some countries, the neutral side of the mains is not connected to Earth at all -- meaning, in theory, that you should not get a shock by touching only one wire. However, the distribution lines from substation to house are capacitively coupled to Earth; so you can end up getting a shock touching *either* wire!

  86. DMG
    Unhappy

    Still happening here in Suffolk

    Every night, around 3am according to the clock - electricity is still going out since this happened. Not sure when it's coming back on, however!

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Richard Cross - Rocketards

    >a study showed that for every gram of silicon chip, 630grams of fossil fuel energy was required

    Not "fossil fuel" energy, just the energy equivalent of 630 grams of <which fossil fuel?>. It could come from nuclear, the troublesome part of silicon chips is the roasting up a good bit of silicon, the energy could come from solar. It doesn't because it's expensive.

    >I know rockets are not powered by oil but by other chemical fuels

    >like Liquid Hydrogen - but where does the energy come from to manufacture

    >the hydrogen and keep it in a cryogenic state?

    How about the nuclear power station that you're building the rocket for?

    Not that I advocate blasting nuclear waste into the sun, not least because we might find out it's useful in a few years.

    The essential problem is that we've been working with a giant store of energy for a while now, and the population has grown beyond what the planet can sustain, courtesy of the giant energy store. That is, there are too many people.

  88. Kevin Whitefoot
    Boffin

    @Kenny Millar

    >1. Hydro power is expensive - more expensive than gas, coal or nuclear fuel.

    Can you justify that?

    Surely the marginal cost is much lower for hydro. Or is this a pumped storage station?

  89. Kevin Whitefoot
    Boffin

    @A J Stiles

    >In some countries, the neutral side of the mains is not connected to Earth at all

    As far as I know the only European countries where this is true are Albania and Norway.

    I don't know about Albania but the incidence of earth faults here in Norway is high enough that you would be most unwise to rely on the fact that the domestic supply is supposed to be floating. I have seen cases where one phase was pretty well grounded. Which means that the other two give you 230V to ground just as you would get in a grounded neutral system. Unfortunately it can be a ground fault in someone else's house that makes yours unsafe (or on the low voltage side of the distribution transformer or in the overhead distribution system, yes we still have a lot of telegraph poles with 230V phase to phase cables distributing power to houses).

  90. frymaster

    Cruachan

    iirc it's pumped storage - essentially a very large battery where they let water flow downhill to generate electricity (and sell it to the grid at peak times), and pump it back up at night (using electricity bought from the grid at off-peak rates)

    maybe it was already in use at the time? Or was empty?

  91. Peter

    re: Re: Low Volts ---> High Amps?

    I'm not sure how lowering the voltage on the grid, which is supplied to the REC (regional electric companies) has any effect. The REC's have automatic equipment to vary the voltage supplied out to their customers so that it's maintained at a near constant level.

    This accounts for peek supply times of, e.g. Dinner Time, where otherwise when the power demand increases the supply voltage would drop.

    So I some how doubt that the end customer would have noticed a voltage drop at all. And as other posted have commented, a lower grid voltage would reduce the efficiency of the high voltage distribution system ...

    Some how I don't think the PR person who gave the quote understands the systems.

  92. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >doubt that the end customer would have noticed a voltage drop at all

    Indeed there's a plan to standardise europe on 220V I think, so the equipment we use probably works quite well with significantly lower voltages.

  93. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Pumped storage is as subject to "the market" as anyone else

    Wales has pumped storage too (see e.g. www.fhc.co.uk).

    The marginal cost of this electricity in real terms isn't huge - the capital costs are long since paid off, the running costs are related to the cost of off-peak electricity to pump the water back to the top lake.

    There is a bad smell around parts of the electricity industry this week, similar to the bad smell in California a few years back, when the power generators started trying to "game" the system.

    It was all entirely predictable when electricity (and gas, and water) were privatised and de-regulated. Chickens are now coming home to roost.

    Meanwhile, elsewhere in Europe, many utilities are still properly regulated in their domestic markets, which is why all the UK's utilities are now owned by foreign utility companies.

    Gotta love those market forces.

    Incidentlally, was it market forces that brought proper water supplies and proper sewers to the UK? And proper widely available electricity and gas?

  94. pctechxp
    Pirate

    Is it just me

    Or does the British Energy statement that technical faults on nuclear power station instrumentation can not be eradicted scare the shit out of you too.

    I mean what if the incorrect reading was that everything was OK but in fact a meltdown situation was developing? We could have ended up with a Chernobyl on our doorstep.

    And our stupid government want to build more of these damn things and turn over their design and operation to the cheese eating surrender monkeys?

    I mean they'd be hopping on the ferry back to France if that happened.

    Time for a coup I think otherwise we are all doomed!

  95. Daniel B.
    Joke

    Wait a moment...

    "The initial warning was issued to cover the period until 7pm yesterday, saying that a further 1200 megawatts was required."

    There you got it. The 'crisis' was caused by Doc Brown plugging the DeLorean into the National Grid!!!

  96. Tom Silver badge

    If nuclear power is so safe

    I would suggest that anyone who thinks nuclear power is safe should live with a kilo of material that is the equivalent of 200,000 year old waste from a power station.

    And as for the price... For the next building of nuclear power stations the company involved should be able to prove that the station and the waste disposal are covered by cast iron insurance so that the public never have to pay for todays profits.

    Its not so cost effective if you actually make it pay its way.

  97. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Nuclear power is not the solution, when ....

    ...the clean up bill will cost the Uk tax payers £73 BILLION (and rising) to clear up the existing legacy of nuclear power in the Uk....

    http://uk.news.yahoo.com/pressass/20080528/tuk-nuclear-costs-to-rise-by-billions-6323e80.html

    Hazard sign, due to half life of radio active materials....

  98. Paul Stephenson

    @pctechxp

    You seemed to have missed the point that they fail _safe_, and no one bit of kit has only two sensors. I forget the technical term for it but you would normally have three sensors arranged in a way so that you always count on the response of the majority and not a single individual or the three as a whole. So essentially if a sensor said "hey ho meltdown ahoy!" the site would fail safe faster than a really really fast thing!

    I would suspect in the case of a meltdown a whole bunch of sensors would be going damnwell crazy.

    Sadly, the cheese eating surrender monkey's have a modern fleet of nuke running already, so they kinda have the edge on experience.

    Been to the FHC site (well, Dinorwig), very interesting place but actually a net consumer of electrickery, which is a bit of a mind screw when it's a power station.

  99. Andrew Steer

    @ plan to standardise Europe...

    This happened years ago (1995).

    Officially the UK and Europe converged their traditional 240V and 220V respective standards and harmonised on 230V.

    Unfortunately this 10V adjustment would have a significant effect on the lifetime of conventional tungsten lightbulbs.

    So... harmony was achieved politically -while making no technical change- by the sleight of hand of re-jigging the voltage tolerances (previously +/-6% on 240V)making the UK 230V +10/-6% and mainland Europe 230V +6/-10%. In practice, the UK target is still 240V... (see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mains_electricity )

    Lightbulbs for the British market are still marked "240V" while those for Europe are "220V".

  100. Allan Dyer Silver badge

    @A J Stiles

    "As long as your UPS output is *not* earthed (and not sharing a neutral terminal with the real mains), and all wires are kept short, it should be safe to touch only one side."

    Not things I've seen listed in UPS spec.s, so somewhat a risk. And what is "short"? Scope for a new El Reg unit, the Zap, defined as the minimum length of wiring required to electrocute a small, curious child by capacitive coupling.

    How about using a laptop instead - has it's own battery, not used for generating mains-voltage electricity. Much safer - apart from the risk of the battery exploding.

    Sigh... I'd suggest stone tablets and chisels, but I've heard the silicon chips can cause injuries.

  101. Wayland Sothcott Bronze badge
    Flame

    Of UPS and oil filled transformers

    A UPS or Switched Mode PSU will draw a bigger slice of current in order to maintain it's output. Dropping volts will increase the current drawn by computer equipment. Probably also true of every electronic device connected to the mains. However resistive loads will use less power when the volts are dropped. Cookers and kettles and heaters.

    I know that EDF engineers are very wary of oil filled substation gear. If the oil level gets too low or if the oil is contaminated then the thing could blow up in a big fireball. Just to prove the point an Engineer from Colchester was killed when one he was working on in Chelmsford exploded. Maintenance on these units is vital and I suspect the French have been skimping on the maintenance budget for greater profits. That's one of the advantages of privitisation into foregin hands.

  102. mark jacobs
    Unhappy

    We were down for hours!

    Our offices in Watford were down for about 7 hours! WTF! Welcome to Britain - a 3rd world country.

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