Friday, May 14, 2010

Vermont and World Nuclear

In Vermont, it becomes very easy to think that the whole world is anti-nuclear energy. Except for the people in Vernon who work at the plant, of course. The anti-nukes make a lot of noise, some of it not very rational. Senator Shumlin asserts we have abundant solar resources in Vermont (making me wonder whether he lives here). The same old crowd in Brattleboro keeps making the same old shut-it-down statements. And so forth.

Today I will do a compare-and-contrast post. I am going to examine two places in which one would think that nuclear would be not-an-option. Instead, new nuclear plants are being built.


The Olkiluoto 3 reactor currently being built in Finland has become a poster-child for anti-nuke activists. The project has had major cost overruns of perhaps 1.5 billion Euros and is seriously behind schedule. (Similar reactors being built in China are within budget and on schedule.) The construction problems in Finland make the local crowd in Brattleboro extremely happy, as their worst economic assumptions seem to be proved true. Naturally, Vermont anti-nukes expect Finland will swear off nuclear forever.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As Dan Yurman (and others) report, the Finnish government is granting permits for two more reactors. Finland gets 1/3 of its electricity from nuclear now, and plans to increase that to more than half from nuclear. The Environmental Minister Anni Sinnemaeki objected that the new reactors would be “dangerous” because they are “based on foreign technology.” Okay. Whatever.

Perhaps the Finns are building nuclear plants because they are desperate. They have very few other energy choices. Their major non-nuclear option is buying gas from Russia; these purchases place Finland in energy fealty to their old enemy. Not even Shumlin would claim that Finland has abundant solar in the winter.

Perhaps poor old Finland has no choice.

So let's look at another country. Let's look at the United Arab Emirates.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have a lot of oil. They have abundant solar year-round. Being near the equator, they can count on solar for many hours a day, even in winter. And they don't have a lot of clouds, either.

They are building four nuclear reactors. They plan to save their oil, use solar as appropriate, and build nuclear. It makes sense.

First of all, we are at peak oil, and oil will become more expensive in real terms as the century goes forward. Why should the people of the UAE burn their oil to make electricity? It is far better to sell it. The UAE have plans for solar, but even in a desert, people still need baseload. Also, they plan to use some of that nuclear power to desalinate water.

According to Wikipedia, the UAE population has grown from about 200,000 in 1968 to five and a half million today. Clearly, they need a new energy path for the future.

Thanks to Dan Yurman for the article about the reactors, and thanks to Rod Adams for this excellent video clip, straight from the Emirates. Watch the reasons for this decision in their own words. Unfortunately, not all the Arabic is translated.

If you have difficulty reading the subtitles, note that double-clicking on the video will open it in YouTube, in a bigger format.


North or South, resource-poor or resource-rich, nuclear is an important option. An essential part of the energy mix.

The same is true in Vermont.

1 comment:

DV8 2XL said...

This nonsense of good solar conditions in the North is something i have run into up here several times. Digging a bit, I found that these predictions are largely based on a very 'generous' interpretation of photoelectric cell I-V vs temperature curves, that when extrapolated down to our normal winter temperatures, shows solar arrays in the North on cold days out preforming those in the South on hot days by a significant percentage.

From this they then declare that solar is effective by assuming that most of the time it will yield this higher amount all year.

The reasoning is flimsy, of course, and indefensible, bit it is at the root of these assertions.