back to article World's largest heap of untreated nuclear waste needs more bots to cart around irradiated crap

Sellafield nuclear power station in Cumbria, northern England, is calling for help to increase the number of robots it uses to monitor and clean the site. The plant already employs a number of machines to assist with maintenance but is seeking more innovation in specific areas. Some of these robots stretch the definition a bit …

  1. Korev Silver badge
    Mushroom

    A scary look at the Windscale of the problem

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I do believe it's also home to the World's largest plutonium repository.

    1. simonlb Silver badge

      Which could be easily used to fuel Thorium cycle reactors for thousands of years with minimal work.

      I wonder if the stuff going for export is destined for China, as I believe they are currently building a few Thorium cycle reactors themselves...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yup.

        China has one going live this year (sorry, too lazy to look it up exactly when), and the next one early 2020. AFAIK France also has one going live next year as part of a collaborative effort, whereas good olde UK is still happily building Hinkley Point C based on risky, super expensive and wasteful fissile kaboom tech instead of safe, small and easy to shut down fertile process based cheaper LFTRs which will eventually produce power at a price point that fossil fuels can't touch - especially now some idiots have bombed Saudi oil production facilities.

        Sigh.

        1. simonlb Silver badge

          Yeah, and with a Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) only ever using up to 2% of the highly enriched plutonium before the fuel requires reprocessing - yes, that's right, only 2% - compared to a Thorium reactor using over 98% of the fuel, I know which ones are realistically the only long-term option we have at this time.

          1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

            AFAIK, 2% is on the high side - I've seen figures somewhere that were more like 0.5%. That said, there's a still a rather massive gap between 2% and 98%, also because the resulting waste has a half life measured in hundreds of years, not the galactic times of standard fissile waste.

            So, simpler mechanism with far less demanding safety measures and FAR better fail safe processes, supports non-proliferation as it doesn't cook up kaboom plutonium, easy to obtain fuel (because it's a "waste" product of rare earth mineral mining) which needs very little enrichment AND it gradulaly chews away at the mountains of existing nuclear waste because it needs some to start the reaction: I honestly cannot see why someone would want to run a uranium based reactor for power anymore. Maybe a small breeding one to create elements for Xray gear and (inevitable) the plutionium stuff for bombs, but for power, this seems to be so far beyond what we do at the moment that it would be insane to continue down that road.

            Oh, wait. Unless you're the one making profit off the fuel and the waste management, of course..

        2. Muscleguy Silver badge

          I understand the Indians are going down that route as well. Last I looked they had demonstration plants working. I further understand that India has rich sources of thorium. I’m a Kiwi and a Scot so I’m no fan of nuclear but Thorium looks like a far safer and more sustainable long term power source that PWR’s.

          The Iranians could be encouraged/helped to build a couple to calm the world’s fears. But that would be sensible and the Israelis would probably bomb the sites and attack the computers. Because.

          1. Archtech Silver badge

            Does not compute

            "I’m a Kiwi and a Scot..."

            Well, as a Scot myself I can't see your logic. Aren't both Scots and Kiwis considered hard-headed, logical and practical?

            And isn't nuclear power (done right) by far the best source of the vast amounts of energy modern civilization needs?

            1. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: Does not compute

              No nuclear power is not. It was one of my major courses at Uni and at the time I asked my lecturer about a possible problem and was told it was unlikely to happen. It has since happened more than once and if terrorists were to understand what actually happened its surprisingly easy to make it happen again. You can do it right and prevent it happening but nuclear is already pretty much the most expensive source of electricity without taking into account waste management and this would make it safe from the problem I wont mention it detail would make tit twice as expensive at least.

              PV even in the UK, for the price of one nuke, can provide 60GW peak load and provide more power than the nuke would ever deliver and not produce waste some of which will require 2 million years of management.

              Offshore wind is already so cheap as to not require any subsidy and land based, should a government be inclined to allow it, would be near half that price - 20% of Sizewell C's price - assuming it is ever completed.

              Thorium seems to be put forward as a possible solution but the fact no-one is investing serious money in it suggests there is a problem with it that is not generally known.

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: Does not compute

                PV even in the UK, for the price of one nuke, can provide 60GW peak load and provide more power than the nuke would ever deliver and not produce waste some of which will require 2 million years of management.

                Ah, Green economics at their finest. PV can't provide anything close to 60GW peak load at midnight in the UK. It provides energy whenever the Sun feels like it. Ok, that's somewhat predictable, but would require covering a large chunk of the UK in solar PV panels. Which if you're in the business of flogging those panels is surely a good thing.

                And then there's physics. As always, it's the waste that has a short half-life that tends to be problematic. But given it's a short half-life, problematic for a shorter length of time. Which then becomes a Green Management theory problem. So they may demand ludicrously expensive active management measures, including inventing warning signs that can last thousands of years. Alternatively, one could bury the waste in a hole in the ground and put 'KEEP OUT' signs around. Give nuclear families free housing, paint supplies and brushes and caretaking costs would be a lot less than say, Serco might charge & it'd be about as risky as buying a basement flat in say, Cornwall.

                Offshore wind is already so cheap as to not require any subsidy and land based, should a government be inclined to allow it, would be near half that price - 20% of Sizewell C's price - assuming it is ever completed.

                But that's also incorrect. The latest round of CfD auctions has resulted in some magic, ie the Dogger wind farm coming in at £39 & £41/MWh, which makes one wonder why Hornsea's contract doesn't have benchmarking given that's £160/MWh. Then there's older subsidy generators that started life under the ROC regime that adds around £9bn to their cost.

                But like solar, there's still the problem of intermittency and variability, which means needing more stand-by capacity for when it's dark, and/or the wind's not blowing.. So needing lots more CCGT/OCGT gas generation, diesels or enormous piles of batteries.. Which are costs that need to be added to 'renewables' to end up with a reliable energy network.

                Thorium seems to be put forward as a possible solution but the fact no-one is investing serious money in it suggests there is a problem with it that is not generally known.

                Some countries are. The US had a working system in the '50s, China and India are investing serious money now. In the West however, the Greens have managed regulatory capture having spent decades denouncing anything nuclear in favor of supporting their sponsors, the 'renewables' lobby. Which is odd really given LFTR/MSR designs would be low carbon, sustainable and could help deal with radioactive waste like all the once-through fuel rods that could be recycled from PWRs.

            2. veti Silver badge

              Re: Does not compute

              The problem with that proposition is that nuclear power has, in its 70-plus-year history, never yet been "done right".

              And there is no reason to believe it ever will be. Or can be.

              Every generation, no pun intended, of reactors has been claimed to be the greatest thing ever, completely safe, completely clean and ridiculously cheap. That was Magnox, it was AGR, PWR, ABWR. And each time, that promise has turned out to be false on every count. If you think "thorium" is the magic word that's going to break that pattern, I have an Internet to sell you.

          2. Badbob

            What does being a Scot have to do with it? So am I, and I wonder where our baseload is coming from once the high heid yins in Edinburgh get their way and sever our links to the rest of the island and Torness and Hunterston B eventually give up the ghost (which could be any day now).

            Peterhead’s gas plant is going to be pretty important.

            I’d also far rather see a single Nuclear plant being built than every damn hilltop around having a windmill on it. I live in Lanarkshire and their isn’t a direction I can look in outside my home where I can’t see a whirly mill somewhere.

        3. Archtech Silver badge

          Just saying

          I completely agree with you about the thorium reactors, but I would like to point out that the Houthis did not ask or want to have to attack the Saudi oil plants.

          It was their last-ditch effort to stop the Saudis bombing them - with US and British aircraft and bombs - as they have been doing for 6 or 7 years now.

          The German Blitz on Britain only lasted about one year, killed far fewer people, and did far less damage.

          If someone keeps hitting and kicking you, and ignores all pleas for mercy, eventually you have to hit them back - and hit them somewhere they will notice.

          1. Archtech Silver badge

            Re: Just saying

            For details, see https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/09/eric-margolis/the-saudis-get-a-taste-of-their-own-medicine/

          2. devTrail

            Re: Just saying

            but I would like to point out that the Houthis did not ask or want to have to attack the Saudi oil plants.

            Who told you that the Houtis did that?

            Closest distance between the plant and Yemen is more than 700 KM. Closest distance between the area of Yemen where you can find the Houtis about 1000 KM. Do you really believe that a people that has been besieged for years by a coalition with modern equipment managed to get the means to strike to such a long distance?

            Even a strike from Iran which is more than 200 KM apart is hardly credible. Not only the area is monitored using modern equipment supplied by western countries, but the US air base in Qatar with sophisticated radars is slightly closer than the closest point in Iran to the plant.

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Just saying

              Even a strike from Iran which is more than 200 KM apart is hardly credible. Not only the area is monitored using modern equipment supplied by western countries, but the US air base in Qatar with sophisticated radars is slightly closer than the closest point in Iran to the plant.

              Much of it stretches credibility. So it was Iran. Ok, it may have been Iran supplying weapons to the Houthis, much as the West has been doing with Saudi. So will all suppliers be held accountable for the way their products get used? And geopolitically, how far back do you go? So Iran's cruise missiles are domestic versions of Kh-55 sold to Iran by Ukraine. They're almost in the EU now, so I guess their past sins can be forgiven (unless you're a Biden?).

              But assuming cruise missiles were used, they seem to have been undetected by the West's air defence networks, especially ones sold to Saudi.. Who may be regretting not following Oman, Jordan or the UAE and buying Russia's Pantsir systems, which have been shooting down drones & missiles in Syria. But large cruise missiles seem to have made small holes in tanks, which is a bit odd. Either way, it seems to highlight a gap in NATO air defences, ie something capable of detecting and shooting down drones or low-flying cruise missiles.

              1. devTrail

                Re: Just saying

                you write that Much of it stretches credibility, but then you stretch credibility as well.

                1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                  Re: Just saying

                  Which bit confuses you? Something made a mess of Saudi's refinery. We know where that is located. We have imagery of the damage. Then there's a lot of speculation, ie it was Iran!

                  So assumption that Houthis couldn't have done it due to distance from Yemen to target. Which assumes the attack was launced from Yemen, and not from inside Saudi. Then assumptions that it must have been a cruise missile attack given 5-700km range from hostile nation to target. But images show fairly small holes in refinery structures. So land attack missiles are designed to do damage & the Kh-55 Iran developed their medium-range missiles from had a 400kg warhead, which would do more than just puncture a tank.. Plus as yet, there's no evidence that missiles (or drones) crossing the Saudi border were detected, despite Saudi spending a LOT of money on defence kit.

                  Alternatively, cheap commercial drones could carry 15-20kg payloads and be good enough for non-government work. Which is obviously a problem for government given the number of things we'd want to protect, and the challenges with using systems like Pantsir's to defend against. Set up a few around Sellafield, and it'd be covered, but could get messy for people living downrange.. Which is the challenge for governments trying to defend against nutjobs using weaponised drones.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Just saying

                What we need is something like a directed energy beam that directly affects the space-time in its path, sort of like a gravitomagnetic pulse generator.

                Lets see a drone deal with THAT! It would be like swatting a fly with a "Little Feller".

                Also slight problem: it would need a range limit so other things in the path don't get affected but this is just a minor inconvenience plus you get to salvage the fissile material assuming anyone is stupid enough to try throwing a "Physics Package".

      2. PhilipN Silver badge

        Too much information but ...

        I have always wondered, given the existence of nuclear-powered subs for decades, we do not yet have nuclear power plants the size of a truck. Taking the lead from the honourable simonlb I came across:

        https://www.powermag.com/a-thorium-molten-salt-reactor-when-and-where-you-need-it/

        (which may be a site already well known to aficionados).

        I learnt of Calder Hall when a wee lad. Almost 2020 and the promise of nuclear energy is within touching distance (as it always has been since then).

        1. Archtech Silver badge

          Re: Too much information but ...

          Well, it seems the Russians have nuclear motors compact enough to fit into a cruise missile.

          https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/russias-nuclear-powered-%E2%80%98skyfall%E2%80%99-missile-unlimited-range-doomsday-weapon-74156

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Too much information but ...

            Not quite sure why you want to send a nuclear reactor to your enemy - they might just send it back.

            1. Binraider666

              Re: Too much information but ...

              Regarding their not so secret nuclear rocket programme, the advantage is extreme range. Tomahawks running on conventional fuel - maybe 250 to 1000NM range depending on model. A nuke rocket stick a zero or more on the end of that number.

              Where an ICBM has that range, it doesn’t have stealth on its side. The project is basically NATOs worst nightmare. I don’t credit Trump with much, but when he pulled out of certain treaties recently, that was in response to the development of this monster.

              The Cold War is back, and this time, there aren’t many spin off benefits to build upon.

        2. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

          Re: Too much information but ...

          Bus size reactors... The sub reactors are pretty small in the scheme of things, IIRC in the high tens of MW thermal power versus 2GWish for the larger civil reactors. In order to get the power density up, highly enriched U is used, which makes things interesting for the nonproliferation chaps if done on the civil side.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Too much information but ...

            The sub reactors are pretty small in the scheme of things, IIRC in the high tens of MW thermal power versus 2GWish for the larger civil reactors.

            AFAIK, 500MWish thermal for a decent naval reactor. So perfect for running a datacentre or 3.

            In order to get the power density up, highly enriched U is used, which makes things interesting for the nonproliferation chaps if done on the civil side.

            I think that's mostly a paperwork exercise, ie Rolls Royce makes compact and bijou naval reactors that are fed on HEU.. Which is also useful for making medical & industrial isotopes. Which I guess will be a problem if sanctions are wielded and nations decide to simply ignore prolifieration concerns & look to make fast neutrons instead. In theory, it's already a trust system anyway, ie regulators trust that states aren't cheating when it comes to declaring their nuclear stockpiles and activities. Or they just ignore the regulators entirely, eg Israel, N.Korea etc etc..

          2. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Too much information but ...

            The ship based nuclear reactor mentioned earlier would make a mess of any large water navigable city in the wrong hands.

  3. hplasm Silver badge

    Wow

    But is it really bigger than the literal piles of untreated crap in the American and Australian deserts?

    1. Bite my finger

      Re: Wow

      Crap doesn't pile up in deserts. A, there's not that many animals, and B, the crap has significant value in such a restricted environment. Thus organisms have evolved to, ahem, 'exploit' said crap.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Wow

        Atomic crap though...

        Unless - the giant ants!! AAAAAhgh!

        1. MonkeyBob
          Mushroom

          Re: Wow

          Or mutant turtles

          1. Ochib Silver badge

            Re: Wow

            Will said turles be teenagers?

            1. MonkeyBob

              Re: Wow

              They could be between the ages of 12 and 20. I couldn't possibly comment on what sort of rodent there friend and mentor is.

          2. Tom Paine Silver badge

            Re: Wow

            Or mutant camels.

        2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

          Re: Wow

          Ant Attack by Sandy White from Quicksilva circa 1983.

      2. devTrail

        Re: Wow

        Crap doesn't pile up in deserts. A, there's not that many animals, and B, the crap has significant value in such a restricted environment. Thus organisms have evolved to, ahem, 'exploit' said crap.

        Even this crap could be valuable. But political reasons prevent any decent research in a technology able to recycle it. Don't forget that the security council was formed from those countries that had the bomb back then, that is why Plutonium producing plants are forbidden almost everywhere.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    is it really a good idea to give robots access to nuclear stockpiles?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re

      "is it really a good idea to give robots access to nuclear stockpiles?

      A-FiRmAtIVe!!

      1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Re

        Yes of course, ignore the pile of robot parts in the corner, its really your robot there!

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      is it really a good idea to give robots access to nuclear stockpiles?

      Only until they become sentient and decide we humans are a problem.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Only until they become sentient and decide we humans are a problem."

        So putting them somewhere where there might be gamma radiation would be a bad idea. (It's always Gamma radiation - I've read the pictorial Marvel documents)

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Is that any worse than giving 650 underpaid idiots in Westminster access to nuclear missiles?

      1. Outski

        Underpaid???

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Underpaid???

          You're misunderstanding a contraction. In this case, "underpaid" actually means "payments made primarily under the table, in brown paper bags."

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          >Underpaid???

          There is a credible argument that they are underpaid. If we doubled their wages, but removed the opportunity to make any extra money then perhaps we wouldn't have the situation where the PM will make more money from a national newspaper this year than he will earn from politics.

          It would remove the "possibility" that certain MPs are reflecting the views of their sponsors rather than the best their constituents.

          Alternatively, the Monster Raving Loonies have MPs having to wear sponsors logos in their manifesto. That could be fun.

          1. ridley

            I am pretty sure that even BoJo has had to give up writing his spaff for the papers once he became X minister.

      2. Vincent Ballard
        Coat

        Parliament doesn't have access to nuclear missiles. Giving orders to the armed forces is a function of the executive, not the legislature. (Not that it's very reassuring to know that the launch codes are in Boris' hands).

    4. Psmo Bronze badge
      Terminator

      DO...YOU WANT...TO PLAY... A GAME?

  5. Ochib Silver badge

    So that's why C3P0 has red eyes in the new Star Wars movie

  6. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    The picture in the article looks like a set for Thunderbirds (the 1960s one) :)

    1. Dazed and Confused

      > The picture in the article looks like a set for Thunderbirds (the 1960s one) :)

      It's looked like that since the 60s so that's probably where Gerry Anderson go the idea from.

  7. _LC_ Bronze badge
    Joke

    Remember the good old times when people used to look funny due to inbreeding?

    The times, they are chhhhhhannnging...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Remember the good old times when people used to look funny due to inbreeding?

      Well, there was the guy who worked at the Indian Point reactor, and each of his kids got stranger and stranger than the preceding older sibling. We always wondered if there was a correlation.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How is Sellafield secured against aerial attack?

    What would happen if somebody launched a Saudi-style drone attack or a twin towers-style attack on Sell a field?

    And why are they trying to sell it?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: How is Sellafield secured against aerial attack?

      They would use it as an excuse to release some radioactive gasses as they may have dont during the Chernobyl event, The Guardian printed a map of where the radiation from the reactor was deposited and there was a very suspicious plume in the Cumbria area near Sellafield.

  9. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Holiday at Windscale '74

    My dad took us on holiday to Windscale in 1974 because he was a sci-fi fan and thought it would be interesting. We didn't actually go to the plant but stayed nearby. There were thousands of dead seagulls everywhere and my mongrel mutt would roll in their corpses. My dog died the next year age six, perfectly healthy until then. My health suffered. I went from being one of the fittest children among my peers to losing any stamina, and being one of the unhealthiest in a short period of time.

    Years later when we learned it was the height of the emissions there, and that seagulls had access to open pools of waste, it made me incredibly anti-nuclear. I can't prove anything of course but if anyone reading this wants to analyse my bones after I die then great.

    1. Archtech Silver badge

      Re: Holiday at Windscale '74

      @Danny 2

      My heartfelt sympathy for your dog, yourself and everyone else who has suffered.

      But your hideous experiences are not, in themselves, an indictment of nuclear power. Just nuclear power done badly, lazily, ignorantly.

      Long ago when humans first discovered the uses of fire, it seems likely a number of people - and maybe dogs - suffered terrible burns before it became thoroughly understood - bred in the bone, so to speak - that fire is dangerous.

      1. _LC_ Bronze badge

        Re: Holiday at Windscale '74

        When a technology requires you to store waste safely for much longer than our species is in existence and that waste has proven to eat itself through everything in time, then there cannot be any "clean nuclear energy" by definition.

        1. devTrail

          Re: Holiday at Windscale '74

          There cannot be any "clean coal burning power plant" by definition as well.

          There cannot be any "clean natural gas burning power plant" by definition as well.

          There cannot be any "clean oil burning power plant" by definition as well.

          But we have a lot of them. Nice slogans are not a solution.

          1. _LC_ Bronze badge

            Re: Holiday at Windscale '74

            There are no such clean plants. Whatever made you put that into my mouth???

            Among other "niceties", they spit out lead and mercury.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. devTrail

              Re: Holiday at Windscale '74

              When you talk by slogans these things can happen.

            3. James Loughner
              Headmaster

              Re: Holiday at Windscale '74

              Irradiate mercury with neutrons and it decays to gold.

              1. _LC_ Bronze badge

                Re: Holiday at Windscale '74

                "Gold was synthesized from mercury by neutron bombardment in 1941, but the isotopes of gold produced were all radioactive."

                Now wouldn't that make a nice necklace for Mrs. May? It would highlight the pearls...

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Holiday at Windscale '74

          Even now hoses are falling into old mineshafts that are less than 200 years old and forgotten about. Given that some parts of nukes will still be capable of killing people in millions of years safe waste management could actually use more power than the stations ever generate*. Interestingly this is a charge frequently aimed at wind despite even sea based turbines paying back their CO2 debt in less than 9 months now.

          *When I studied nuclear engineering at uni I got concerned about waste and was surprised by the what I would call a brexit like belief that it would be all sorted out later. Given that this stuff will still be capable of wiping out everyone in a city the size of London in 100,000 times longer than the existence of civilisation I do feel a little more attention should be paid to it and the potential cost for future generations.

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Holiday at Windscale '74

        "But your hideous experiences are not, in themselves, an indictment of nuclear power. Just nuclear power done badly, lazily, ignorantly"

        Have you seen governments of late?

      3. ridley

        Re: Holiday at Windscale '74

        "badly, lazily, ignorantly."

        Give me an example, just one, where large scale industrial processes have not become "routine" and gave not been run lazily, badly and in ignorance.

  10. Conundrum1885 Bronze badge

    Zero point

    Its not completely impossible to build "Clean" fission reactors, as in a properly designed plant ie LTWAMSR the core is only ever at between 400 and 700C in operation, outside these limits it is either shut down or in a failsafe cool down mode pending repairs.

    The trick is to avoid using beryllium as this complicated things given how toxic it can be, though molten salts generally aren't particularly nice with the right materials they can be virtually shipped in solid form then assembled on site block by block inside the pre-fabricated monolithic containment unit.

    I did look into building a small scale non-energy producting version just to get the temperature down and using liquid metals is an acceptable compromise given that many of these can be magnetically pumped. In fact this makes things even simpler as convection currents within the core generate power directly.

    The inner core could be a solid lump of iron with an external neutron reflector and this would be an effective way to keep things under control.

    Geometry changes too much and it goes sub critical then shuts down.

    1. _LC_ Bronze badge
      Alert

      Re: Zero point

      We already have clean energy that costs a lot less. The only reason this is being boycotted (by putting taxes on foreign products and keeping the prices high; by inventing nonsensical new regulations, which punish you for using them) is that they work best DECENTRALIZED. The latter implies that the big companies, with all their corruption and huge profits going into the pockets of those who never moved a finger, would become superfluous and the "little man" would make his/her own energy.

  11. Conundrum1885 Bronze badge

    Re. Re. Zero point

    Is this incidentally why solar grid tied inverters generally are designed not to run in standalone mode? I was told ages ago that this was to stop grid backfeeding but surely this is a simple matter of a sensor that turns off the external link in the event of voltage/frequency going out of specifications.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Re. Re. Zero point

      I was under the impression it was more of a safety thing - you dont really want to be working on some wires having isolated the rest of the grid mains to be fried by someone's PV.

      I have PV and we frequently have mains power outages here* and it does piss me off that I cant have a cuppa when my PV should be kicking out enough. I have looked into some form of isolation and then using another inverter to start the PV but its surprisingly expensive to do it properly.

      You can get stuff for totally off grid working but I've not been able to find any that would work in both situations.

      I did work with a civil defence group some years ago and it is surprising just how vulnerable to grid (and hence the country) is to terrorist/enemy attack - correctly implemented renewables make it vastly safer.

      *lightning seems to bugger things up a lot but farmers with forklifts seem to take out a lot of cables too.

      1. Conundrum1885 Bronze badge

        Re: Re. Re. Zero point

        Yes this was the consensus here as well.

        Incidentally why aren't superconducting transformers used? They would surely be a lot smaller and deployable anywhere as probably 1/6 the mass of anything on the market even if cooling was needed, simply use internal cooling using a magnetocaloric effect heat engine or similar.

        Ideal for a black swan "Carrington Class" event or some other disaster that wipes out the transformer network but leaves most of the cables and infrastructure intact.

        Also useful: we didn't have EVs back when the original estimates were made. These could certainly be used to supplement emergency supplies for a short time and would keep things like freezers storing medications going for weeks if needed.

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