The nuclear-powered archipelago?

UTV report that the Assembly’s Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee have agreed to examine the possibility of building a nuclear power station in Northern Ireland. Bring on the nuclear NIMBYs!From the UTV report

Alan McFarland (UUP, North Down) admitted nuclear power was a controversial issue but said it was one that had to be examined.

Mr McFarland added that renewable energy may not necessarily be the answer.

A DETI inquiry in 2002 rejected nuclear power as a potential option in Northern Ireland.

The British government has given the go-ahead for a number of new nuclear plants in Great Britain.

However in 2006, then Secretary of State Peter Hain said there were no plans to build a station here.

Sean Neeson (Alliance, East Antrim) said changes in the global energy market meant the issue now had to be revisited.

, , , ,

  • Comrade Stalin

    A coastal nuclear power station would permit us to close all of our existing coal-fired stations, elimating millions of tonnes of mildly radioactive particles and soot from the atmosphere each year. I say go for it.

  • URQUHART

    This is a capital idea.

    With the Brits having decided to build a whole new generation of nuclear power stations, we are going to carry all the risks associated with nuclear power whether we like it or not.

    It’s time for us to realise this, grow up, and start enjoying some of the benefits. Like what Stalin here says.

  • Dr Strangelove
  • joeCanuck

    There are size limitations dependent of the Mw capacity of existing stations versus an economic nuclear plant.
    For example, when we built Kilroot, the size of the units were 300Mw but we could not run them any higher than 200Mw because of system stability constraints.
    A typical nuclear station these days is 1000Mw perhaps as low as 600Mw.
    It’s certainly not a simple decision. It would make more sense if there was a consolidated, integrated island system.

  • Crow

    North Antrim would be the most suitable. Sounds like a job for Seymour Sweeney. I believe you know of him.

  • lib2016

    “integrated island system.”

    It would seem that relying on one plant is putting too many eggs in one basket so we would then have to build a number of plants. Before getting into that we would be better off to consider the direction of the prevailing winds and let the Brits build them.

    Sometimes I’m in favour of better East-West contacts.

  • DK

    The Republic uses about 4000 MW, so Northern Ireland would probably be in the order of 1000 MW. A modern nuclear power plant can produce 2000 MW, so we don’t need one… unless we plan to export a lot.

    Anyway – aren’t we missing a trick with all the wind and waves… they don’t rely on uranium bought from abroad.

  • Pete Baker

    “unless we plan to export a lot.”

    See link in original post.

  • aquifer

    Jobs for the suits, loans for the fat bankers, genetic damage for the grandchildren and they pay to clean it up. A sound investment proposition.

    How many fossil stations do we have to build to allow it to be shut down from time to time?

  • Crataegus

    A wise man would give this one a miss. Why not encourage investment in renewables, can be done NOW!!! no long lasting down side and would create wealth locally and could be owned locally.

    Too simple or perhaps no wealthy interests promoting this route?

    Politically it is a mine field, where do you locate it? What part of the coast or beside which major river?

  • Briso

    Posted by Crataegus on Jan 25, 2008 @ 12:22 AM
    >Politically it is a mine field, where do you locate it? What part of the coast or beside which major river?

    Derry, Lough Foyle, the Foyle.

  • Comrade Stalin

    acquifier:

    Jobs for the suits, loans for the fat bankers, genetic damage for the grandchildren and they pay to clean it up. A sound investment proposition.

    There is very little direct evidence that nuclear power stations nearby increase the risk of serious illness. There are towns clustered around the ~30ish nuclear plants in the UK, and there doesn’t seem to be any pattern of unusual sickness. If there was, people would refuse to live and work near them. And remember that in France, 80% of all their generated power comes from nuclear plants; again, no serious differences in terms of cancer.

    Yes, nuclear power is expensive, and yes, the real elephant in the room is how to deal with the waste. But at least in the nuclear industry they’re having a debate about the waste, where with fossil fuel burning plants, we’re just dumping it into the atmosphere. there are some of the opinion that local power plants have a role in levels of cancer here and in Scotland. If fossil fuel plants and fuel processing stations were required to operate with the same level of containment as with their nuclear equivalents, I’d expect things to be a lot safer.

    How many fossil stations do we have to build to allow it to be shut down from time to time?

    Some nuclear reactor designs, eg CANDU, support online refuelling, so the government has this option if it is a strategic priority. But I suspect if any reactors ever get built here, they’ll be the well-tested French or American PWR designs which need shutdown to refuel.

    Regarding renewables, yes I’m all for it. But remember that a windmill generates 2-3MW of power. Kilroot is 600MW and Ballylumford produces 1.6GW. To replace those entirely, you’d need over 700 wind turbines, and that’s assuming there’s plenty of wind around all the time. By comparison, the Atlantic Array proposal will have only 350 wind turbines, and that will be one of the largest windfarms in the world.

    Wind turbines are, of course, not free. They have to be maintained, and energy must be spent to extract the raw materials required to build them, and to manufacture them. They obviously require periodic maintenance.

  • eranu

    ” the real elephant in the room is how to deal with the waste.”

    i dont think this is really a problem. people talk of having to store waste for thousands of years. but we really only need to store it until we have a reliable method of lifting it into earth orbit. then it can be launched off into the sun. i think some sort of reliable shuttle type craft should be in use in the next 100 or 200 years at most.

  • Oiliféar

    eranu, are you serious? The disposal question has been around since the inception of nuclear power and the answer has always been that “we really only need to store it until we have a reliable method of [such and such a thing]”. Half a century of asking the question later, face facts. We have no way around this problem except storage, and that’s no good.

    I remember an article in the Economist liking nuclear waste storage centres to Stonehenge. 5,000 years from now, who’s going to know what they are and to stay well away?

  • eranu

    oilifar, i know its not a new idea, but we’re more than likely to have the technology sooner or later. i think 100-200 years at the most.

    nuclear material has been transferred by rail and sea already. our chemical rockets are very primitive and unreliable. but we’re still at the early stages of space flight. compare chemical rockets to rowing a hollowed out log across the sea in the early days of sea faring. while you wouldnt want to transport nuclear waste across the sea in a hollowed out log, it can safely and reliably be done in one of todays large container ships.
    Bikes, cars, ships and aeroplanes were all shaky at the start, but they’ve all been refined nowadays. The same will happen with space flight to earth orbit. That’s why I don’t see the point in getting worried about the next thousand years. Their technical abilities will be well beyond what we can imagine.

  • Crataegus

    Comrade.

    Regarding renewables, yes I’m all for it. But remember that a windmill generates 2-3MW of power. Kilroot is 600MW and Ballylumford produces 1.6GW. To replace those entirely, you’d need over 700 wind turbines, and that’s assuming there’s plenty of wind around all the time. By comparison, the Atlantic Array proposal will have only 350 wind turbines, and that will be one of the largest windfarms in the world.

    Why is everyone fixated on windmills, what about hydro, or the waves or tidal?

    Wind turbines are, of course, not free. They have to be maintained, and energy must be spent to extract the raw materials required to build them, and to manufacture them. They obviously require periodic maintenance.

    nothing is free but at least the average mechanic can fix a turbine the same can’t be said about a nuclear power station and experience tells me that construction on any building site is only as good as the weakest link. With all those pipes containing radioactive waste you had better pray for the worlds best.

    Also building and fixing conventional types of energy production is a task that local businesses can do. Good for the local economy. Who will own and maintain a nuclear power plant? Cui bono.

    eranu

    the problem with space is every so often a rocket fails to escape the atmosphere.

  • I have heard may differing views on nuclear power recently. Many would point out that there is a prime opportunity to show how effective wind farms can be, given the undeveloped nature of this country there is certainly enough room for it. On the other hand I’ve yet to see actual recent evidence of how harmful nuclear power can be, Chernyoble(sp?) aside.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Why is everyone fixated on windmills, what about hydro, or the waves or tidal?

    I guess it is to do with the fact that it’s easier to find places to put windmills, and they’re proven technology.

    nothing is free but at least the average mechanic can fix a turbine the same can’t be said about a nuclear power station and experience tells me that construction on any building site is only as good as the weakest link. With all those pipes containing radioactive waste you had better pray for the worlds best.

    That is a fair point. Although, while I am not advocating that the dangers of nuclear waste should not be taken seriously, humans are probably less vulnerable to radiation than it is often thought. For several decades during the last century the USA and USSR exploded stacks of nuclear bombs in the atmosphere, scattering fallout everywhere. And there is the matter of Chernobyl; animals and wildlife have thrived in the dead zone and some people have even moved back to their houses.

    Pounder,

    The RBMK nuclear reactor (as used in Chernobyl) is not an example of nuclear power done right. It is an extremely unsafe and unstable design, a design which was rejected by British nuclear engineers during the 1950s on that basis. The Chernobyl accident occurred because some technicians who were doing an experiment with it were not aware of this instability and overrode the safety features on it. You can fix this reasonably easily; firstly by using modern, safe reactors which are cannot operate in the event of a failure (such as the PWR, BWR, gas-cooled or CANDU designs); and secondly, ensuring there is legislation so that anyone who tampers with the safety features on a reactor does jail time.

    This reminds me of the original braking systems on trains, back when trains were first becoming popular. Originally, the brake would be applied by controlling an air pressure valve on the locomotive. The trouble was, if the pipe travelling throughout the carriages was broken, the brakes could not be applied. The invention of the automatic brake changed things, so that the brakes were spring-loaded and continuously applied unless there was a vacuum in the brake pipe holding them off. This means that if the vacuum tube breaks or the braking system fails, the brakes are immediately applied.

    The principle is similar in a modern pressurized water reactor. Water flows continuously around the core, acting as both a moderator and a neutron absorber. If the reactor overheats or goes wrong, the water overheats and turns into steam. It cannot moderate the neutrons and therefore the reactor cannot continue to produce energy. This is the reverse of what happened at Chernobyl – when the water surrounding the reactor began to turn to steam, the power output increased, which in turn increased the temperature of the water, which in turn caused the power output to increase further (and so on) until the pressure buildup blew the lid off the reactor vessel. This happened because even though the water turned to steam, the graphite moderator core of the reactor still moderated the neutrons allowing the power levels to increase.