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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default Intercontinental power transmission

    Is it feasible to run power lines across an ocean from one continent to another?

    I had a thought the other day that a lot of the world's energy and pollution problems could probably be solved by building a bunch of nuclear power plants in Antarctica. The main aversion to nuclear plants is that if they happen to melt down it has a drastically bad effect on local people and wildlife, but mainland antarctica doesn't have either of those things (antarctica does have penguins, but IIRC they're only found along the coast). They'd still need a little bunker the staff could pile into to wait for rescue if something went wrong, but that's about it.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    No it really isn't. You get a lot of loss in the transmission.

    Also ships and undersea earthquakes tend to cut existing undersea cables regularly. It's annoying when it's a datacable, one of many, between North America and Europe e.g. But if it also meant you lost power in North America...?

    The antarctic is a very important and sensitive ecosystem not "just som penguins" and you clearly are not familiar with the nesting habits of Emperor penguins (they walk tens of kilometers inland to form nesting colonies.

    Cold seas are incredibly rich in nutrients (unlike warm seas that are nutrient poor) which means that a large portion of marine life in the ocean ultimately get their sustenance from the area around the antarctic. Cold seas are much much more populous than warm seas.

    Nuclear powerplants also don't really like cold. They planned to build one in northern Finland and ran into various issues such as seaice might prevent the cooling water. Which leads me to the next thing, say you build all of the needed ones for the world, it will heat up the antarctic, more specifically the waters around it, which will distrub the weather and seacurrents around it leading to who knows what. And that's beside that heating up the antarctic is one of the major issue with the whole global warming deal.

    Basically, on almost every imaginable vector it's a bad idea, and that's if it works as intended.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Submarine power cables are a thing. Depending on what continents you want to link up, the feasibility goes up. Africa to Europe? Yeah, not too bad. Europe to South America? A lot more logistical problems. The biggest problem is cost and how much energy the cables could transfer. There are a number already under construction.

    Building a lot of nuclear power plants in Antarctica and then trying to run cables to every continent would be a signifigant undertaking on so many levels I'd say its feasibility would be 0 for the energy you'd be able to transfer. Which would be vanishingly small.
    Last edited by Razade; 2020-08-13 at 02:52 AM.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    Is it feasible to run power lines across an ocean from one continent to another?
    Buried, underwater power lines can work. However, power lines aren't perfect conductors, so you lose power over distance, and the distances between continents are vast. Also, resistance increases with temperature, about 1% every few degrees K for copper. The power you lose through resistance produces heat--for the high voltage transmission lines we currently use, air cooling effective keeps the temperature from rising out of control. I'm not sure how the logistics would work for underwater or buried cables. Water is even better than air for carrying away heat, but salt water would be pretty corrosive if it comes into direct contact with the cable.


    I had a thought the other day that a lot of the world's energy and pollution problems could probably be solved by building a bunch of nuclear power plants in Antarctica. The main aversion to nuclear plants is that if they happen to melt down it has a drastically bad effect on local people and wildlife, but mainland antarctica doesn't have either of those things (antarctica does have penguins, but IIRC they're only found along the coast). They'd still need a little bunker the staff could pile into to wait for rescue if something went wrong, but that's about it.
    That's not really the main aversion to nuclear plants, nowadays. Yes, it's a reason people don't want to live in close proximity (NIMBY), and in the aftermath of a major disaster, it's something people worry about as a general concern regarding nuclear power. However, it's not really the factor that prevents us from relying primarily on nuclear power.

    In the United States, where we once had a big push towards nuclear before the 1960s or so, there hasn't been much nuclear construction in decades, and in general, we are are probably more anti-nuclear than the typical developed country. Safety concerns were a major part of the anti-nuclear movement around that time, and as I mentioned still factor into NIMBYism today. However, we're spacious enough that we can often place plants in relative isolation, away from both population centers and ecologically sensitive areas. If we really wanted to, we could find a "safe" place for power plants in most states. There are other reasons we have only built a hand full of new plants in the past few decades.

    First, there are long term safety concerns with spent fuel: We don't really know what to do with it, and given our track record many people worry that we'd just keep dumping nuclear waste, assuming that our descendants will just figure it out. Fission leaves behind waste that is no longer useful, but still dangerously radioactive, and any long term solution has to prevent that radiation from leaking out into the environment. Right now, our best solutions are essentially variations of "seal it up somewhere that will be stable and secure for a few centuries." More recently, the threat of terrorism has also impacted the long-term storage debate. Spent fuel can be used to make dirty bombs, meaning that storage sites don't just have to take into account leakage due to accidents or breakdown over time, but also theft.

    Second, high costs make building new nuclear power plants very unattractive in the United States. In terms of per kilowatt costs, nuclear power is considered one of the least expensive options in most markets. However, the technological and logistical considerations generally meant that nuclear power plants had to be big facilities, each generating a lot of power, and safety concerns generally meant a lot of safety and regulatory costs that further increased costs. What this generally meant was that someone planning to build a nuclear power plant would have to spend a ton of money on a plant that produces a lot of power (IIRC the typical nuclear plant in the U.S. produces in the gigawatt range, compared to hundreds of megawatts for the typical coal plant.) In order to make back your investment, you pretty much need to operate near full capacity all of the time, and have people to buy all of that electricity. In the U.S., particularly in places where electricity markets were gradually deregulated, other options simply looked more attractive to investors. For example, if you have a market that was gradually growing beyond its existing capacity, you could spend less spend far less money on smaller, gas-fired plants. Even if their total capacity was much smaller, because they could ramp up quickly you could sell power specifically at peak times, for higher prices, giving your investors a more immediate return.

    Third, coal-fired plants can fill pretty much the same role as nuclear plants (large, inexpensive base capacity) and in coal-rich places such as the United States are not much more expensive (per kilowatt-hour) than nuclear. Many of the countries where nuclear power is much more popular, such as Japan, tend not to have access to inexpensive fossil fuels. Running a gas turbine in the United States often means getting it out of the ground, and maybe running it through a pipeline. In Japan, it would mean shipping LNG (liquid natural gas) in by sea. Nuclear power is cheaper, but how much cheaper is the important factor when deciding whether it's worth the hassle of all of the safety regulations and the huge initial capital investment.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    The main aversion to nuclear being bad for humanity or the environment is a PR issue. Coal for example releases over a 100 times more radiation than nuclear power plants do (per energy, not total).
    I think the logistic issues with putting nuclear power plants on Antarctica would far outweigh any benefit. It would use a huge amount of oil and coal to send the materials and manpower to construct power plants over there, and it would be extremely deadly to the workers.

    IMO even if you could fix the power loss of transmission with some kind of magic room temperature super conductor it wouldn't be worth doing.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Mastikator View Post
    The main aversion to nuclear being bad for humanity or the environment is a PR issue. Coal for example releases over a 100 times more radiation than nuclear power plants do (per energy, not total).
    I think the logistic issues with putting nuclear power plants on Antarctica would far outweigh any benefit. It would use a huge amount of oil and coal to send the materials and manpower to construct power plants over there, and it would be extremely deadly to the workers.

    IMO even if you could fix the power loss of transmission with some kind of magic room temperature super conductor it wouldn't be worth doing.
    You would be better off putting it somewhere with less horrible climate that had easy access to water. Your options in Antarctica are to either be on the coast and have to deal with sea ice or to be in the center and have to deal with miles-thick glaciers. The reason pretty much everyone agreed to the various antarctica treaties is that there really isn't anything worth digging up there except the odd fossil.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Xyril View Post
    Second, high costs make building new nuclear power plants very unattractive in the United States. In terms of per kilowatt costs, nuclear power is considered one of the least expensive options in most markets. However, the technological and logistical considerations generally meant that nuclear power plants had to be big facilities, each generating a lot of power, and safety concerns generally meant a lot of safety and regulatory costs that further increased costs.
    Operational costs are low, but they are not the lowest - wind of course is practically 0 (fuel is free, maintenance is simple), and sun is close thereabouts (higher maintenance, still cheaper than maintenance of a nuclear fission reactor, unsurprisingly). Construction costs, however, easily outstrip every other regularly employed electrical plant - it represents between 2/3rds and 3/4ths of the cost of the electricity generated, and that puts the cost per W of electricity amongst the highest in the world. As someone put it, you need the same generator of a coal or NG plant, plus all the extra stuff due to dealing with radioactivity; you literally cannot build a nuclear power plant for less money than any other "heat water to move a turbine" method. The ROI on nuclear power stations is in the decades, and in the US, more than half of the attempt at building new ones have bankrupted before completion. They are just really poor investment, even before tacking on the extra costs of building it in the middle of no-bear-land.

    (I'm also really suspicious of claims that it doesn't kill as many people as X or Y other techs, since I have seen the conditions of uranium mines in China, and that cost never seems to be factored in to these things... but because it never is, I can't put solid numbers to it).

    The bottom line is that it's cheaper to just put up solar panels, batteries and wind turbines than a nuclear plant. You make back your money quicker, you make more money selling the electricity, the customer pays less for that electricity, and doesn't involve governments having to dole out money to friends and family to build the damn things. And as a bonus, the money you'd spend in underwater cables can be used to build a smartgrid that balances the load between the places that are sunny and/or windy, and the ones that are not.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    Operational costs are low, but they are not the lowest - wind of course is practically 0 (fuel is free, maintenance is simple), and sun is close thereabouts (higher maintenance, still cheaper than maintenance of a nuclear fission reactor, unsurprisingly). Construction costs, however, easily outstrip every other regularly employed electrical plant - it represents between 2/3rds and 3/4ths of the cost of the electricity generated, and that puts the cost per W of electricity amongst the highest in the world. As someone put it, you need the same generator of a coal or NG plant, plus all the extra stuff due to dealing with radioactivity; you literally cannot build a nuclear power plant for less money than any other "heat water to move a turbine" method. The ROI on nuclear power stations is in the decades, and in the US, more than half of the attempt at building new ones have bankrupted before completion. They are just really poor investment, even before tacking on the extra costs of building it in the middle of no-bear-land.

    (I'm also really suspicious of claims that it doesn't kill as many people as X or Y other techs, since I have seen the conditions of uranium mines in China, and that cost never seems to be factored in to these things... but because it never is, I can't put solid numbers to it).

    The bottom line is that it's cheaper to just put up solar panels, batteries and wind turbines than a nuclear plant. You make back your money quicker, you make more money selling the electricity, the customer pays less for that electricity, and doesn't involve governments having to dole out money to friends and family to build the damn things. And as a bonus, the money you'd spend in underwater cables can be used to build a smartgrid that balances the load between the places that are sunny and/or windy, and the ones that are not.

    Grey Wolf
    Wind turbines cost an average of $48,000 per year per megawatt of capacity (per a google search). Nuclear plants, on the other hand, cost just $150 per megawatt of capacity. That number might be off, but not by a factor of 300. Nuclear plants also have significantly more uptime than wind, so that 1 megawatt of capacity turns into closer to 1 megawatt-year than a wind turbine. I suspect that solar has a similar problem to wind. Nuclear plants cost about $150,000 per megawatt of capacity.

    This is not to say that building any power plant in Antarctica isn't an incredibly stupid idea. Just that wind and solar do not have better operating costs than nuclear.
    Last edited by Rockphed; 2020-08-13 at 12:33 PM. Reason: Whoops, missed a mega to kilo conversion :blush:
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Rockphed View Post
    Wind turbines cost an average of $48,000 per year per megawatt of capacity (per a google search). Nuclear plants, on the other hand, cost just $150 per megawatt of capacity. That number might be off, but not by a factor of 300.
    That does not look right. My own quick google search of "operational cost wind vs nuclear" gave me this:

    The cost of generating solar power ranges from $36 to $44 per megawatt hour (MWh), the WNISR said, while onshore wind power comes in at $29Ė$56 per MWh. Nuclear energy costs between $112 and $189.
    We must be comparing oranges to apples, but I'm not sure how. If wind really costs that much to operate, it wouldn't currently be the cheapest source of electricity in the world, and yet it is. I suppose it is possible nuclear bakes in the cost of servicing the loans and ROI into those numbers, in which case, fair enough, I may have been inadvertently mixing my arguments (which really, boils down to "you can't make nuclear cheap enough").

    ETA: wiki'ing instead, found this, so another correction: nuclear, it seems, is cheaper than "gas" (which I take to be natural gas), so my earlier assertion that nuclear is the most expensive might also be incorrect - so consider it ammended to "one of the most" expensive ones. Sorry.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    That does not look right. My own quick google search of "operational cost wind vs nuclear" gave me this:



    We must be comparing oranges to apples, but I'm not sure how. If wind really costs that much to operate, it wouldn't currently be the cheapest source of electricity in the world, and yet it is. I suppose it is possible nuclear bakes in the cost of servicing the loans and ROI into those numbers, in which case, fair enough, I may have been inadvertently mixing my arguments (which really, boils down to "you can't make nuclear cheap enough").

    ETA: wiki'ing instead, found this, so another correction: nuclear, it seems, is cheaper than "gas" (which I take to be natural gas), so my earlier assertion that nuclear is the most expensive might also be incorrect - so consider it ammended to "one of the most" expensive ones. Sorry.

    Grey Wolf
    Double checked my math, and you are right that it should be $148,000 per MW of capacity (I got my kilowatt hours and megawatt hours mixed up :blush:). That said, I just checked the capacity factors of wind and nuclear, and wind had a third the capacity factor that nuclear did (meaning that for every listed MW of wind power, they were only producing power 34% of the time vs 93% of the time for nuclear), so they are pretty close in terms of cost per megawatt-hour (laying aside capitalization which I can't find anything on). I got my figures on costs here for wind and here for nuclear.
    Last edited by Rockphed; 2020-08-13 at 12:35 PM.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Rockphed View Post
    Double checked my math, and you are right that it should be $148,000 per MW of capacity (I got my kilowatt hours and megawatt hours mixed up :blush:). That said, I just checked the capacity factors of wind and nuclear, and wind had a third the capacity factor that nuclear did (meaning that for every listed MW of wind power, they were only producing power 34% of the time vs 93% of the time for nuclear), so they are pretty close in terms of cost per megawatt-hour (laying aside capitalization which I can't find anything on).
    OK, that does sound a lot more likely. And you are right, the one advantage of nuclear is that it produces such a ludicrous amount of energy that prorated it is competitive during operations. Sure, e.g. you need teams of competent nuclear engineers on hand at all times, and wind just needs a mechanic whose salary is but a fraction of what you have to pay those guys, but the mechanic is maintaining machines that produce so much less energy that the costs do sort of become equivalent.

    But those construction costs are a killer and they aren't getting better. "Solvable" or not, the problem is the problem, especially when it's closest competitor's cost keeps sliding down. Also, please don't misunderstand me - I'm not inherently anti-nuclear. There are places where it is the only option (space exploration), and there are places where it might be a better option than alternatives (a place with not enough water to hydroelectric up, but with enough water you can put a nuclear power station. Bit of a threading the needle issue, but the world is large, I'm sure there are such places).

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by snowblizz View Post
    The antarctic is a very important and sensitive ecosystem not "just som penguins" and you clearly are not familiar with the nesting habits of Emperor penguins (they walk tens of kilometers inland to form nesting colonies.

    Cold seas are incredibly rich in nutrients (unlike warm seas that are nutrient poor) which means that a large portion of marine life in the ocean ultimately get their sustenance from the area around the antarctic. Cold seas are much much more populous than warm seas.
    I was talking about putting it smack in the middle of the continent though

    Quote Originally Posted by Rockphed View Post
    You would be better off putting it somewhere with less horrible climate that had easy access to water.
    Isn't Antarctica technically underwater? Build an electric heater.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    Isn't Antarctica technically underwater? Build an electric heater.
    I remember reading somewhere (probably XKCD) that antarctic research stations have problems with putting out fires due to the difficulty in keeping water liquid. Also, I am fairly certain that we don't want to melt the antarctic ice, since that will cause sea level rise on a massive scale. Even if we just throw the ice in the cooling stacks, I'm not sure what the effects of a superheated plume of steam exiting the stack into -50 degree air would be. I imagine, however, that it would cause all sorts of interesting microclimates.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    But would it melt more of it than coal/oil fumes already are?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    I was talking about putting it smack in the middle of the continent though
    This might take you beyond penguin migration range, but the other thing you're ignoring is that Antarctica still has an ecosystem, even beyond the range of animals and larger plants. There are a bunch of lichens, mosses, and other life that we know about that range fairly far inland, and quite possibly more that we haven't discovered yet. After all, it seems like every time we've ignored some potential habitat for years because "life couldn't possibly survive there," someone eventually discovers a rich community of extremophiles once we develop the ability for humans or remote instruments to look.

    Isn't Antarctica technically underwater? Build an electric heater.
    Have you ever tried to solder anything? It's a lot more complicated than just heating something to get a useful liquid. You need to heat the ice enough to get the water you need, and then you need to make sure it stays liquid throughout your facility for as long as its doing whatever you need the liquid water for. As the driving fluid for the turbine, this might be less problematic since you're working by heating it to steam anyway. However, in power plants water generally also serves as a heat exchanger--it carries heat away from certain reactions so that the thermodynamic cycle works as it's supposed to and so that you don't have runaway nuclear fission. In theory, you would think that the cold helps you: Take that hot water somewhere less insulated, and you shed that heat fast. In practice, it seems like it would be an impossible balancing act setting up a system where hot water or steam flows somewhere to vent the heat and doesn't start freezing so fast that the water no longer flows through the system.




    Quote Originally Posted by Rockphed View Post
    Wind turbines cost an average of $48,000 per year per megawatt of capacity (per a google search). Nuclear plants, on the other hand, cost just $150 per megawatt of capacity. That number might be off, but not by a factor of 300. Nuclear plants also have significantly more uptime than wind, so that 1 megawatt of capacity turns into closer to 1 megawatt-year than a wind turbine. I suspect that solar has a similar problem to wind. Nuclear plants cost about $150,000 per megawatt of capacity.

    This is not to say that building any power plant in Antarctica isn't an incredibly stupid idea. Just that wind and solar do not have better operating costs than nuclear.
    Not sure what the point of contention is, Grey Wolf and I both said in our posts that operating per MWh costs for nuclear plants were pretty much the lowest in the industry. The main challenge is that, for nuclear, there's a huge initial capital investment. So you're paying much more to build each megawatt of capacity in order to pay less for each MWH of production. At this point, timescales determine which is more attractive. High initial outlays for better marginal costs mean that it takes longer to break even and start getting a good ROI, but if the plant and the market lasts long enough, you'll eventually be much more profitable.

    The problem is, as Pelee mentioned, for nuclear the break even point is on the order of decades. Moreover, when we in our nuclear boom, power markets were largely regulated, with local quasi-governmental utilities setting prices. This provided something investors love: Predictability. Around the time that high profile disasters and anti-nuclear protests were already putting pressure on the industry, many markets in the U.S. started deregulating. This meant that a competitive plant could potentially make much more money, but it also took away that near-guarantee of that you'd be able to sell what you produced at some minimum price. This made nuclear plants even more uncertain--not only do you have to wait decades before expecting to see yields on your investment, you're no longer confident that you'd be able to sell your power profitably for that long.

    Plus, nuclear plants aren't the sort of agile player that responds well in a competitive market. The way utilities attract the capacity they need is by offering prices based on supply and demand. They pay a certain price for baseline capacity from sources such as coal plants that don't ramp up and down too readily. They charge customers and pay other plants higher prices to ramp up and make up the shortfall when demand is high: usually during the day, where home and offices are using lights and AC, and industry is active. Supply driven sources--solar and wind--sell power when they produce power. Since solar produces when demand is at a peak, they can often demand decent prices despite being somewhat unreliable. Some plants are even paid to act as standby capacity, in case other sources go down.

    In this market, the nuclear cost model can be a disadvantage. Since their fuel/operational costs are so low, but their amortized capital investment is so high, they lose a lot of their bargaining power. If it cost me a dollar to build a watt of capacity and a dollar to produce a watt-hour of power, then in any negotiation everyone knows that I always have the option of walking away: I wouldn't take in any money, but I also wouldn't be paying that dollar. If I build a plant where it costs me ten cents to produce a watt-hour, but I spent so much money on capacity that I effectively need to be earning 50 cents per watt for every hour that the plant exists in order to pay back the investors, then I theoretically have the advantage in production. (i.e., anything over 60 cents is profit, versus anything over a dollar for the first plant.) However, I'm in a much weaker position bargaining because people know how desperate I am to keep running at capacity: Everyone knows that if I walk away, I'm saving the 10 cents in operating costs, but I'm still effectively losing 50 cents in unused infrastructure. This explains the paradox of nuclear power in the United States--despite citizens being suspicious of it, and investors still not too eager to build more plants, existing nuclear plants consistently run at over 90% capacity, which is pretty much the highest in the industry. Plant owners know they need to run as much as possible to make back their investment before another regulatory or market shift completely upends their business models; utilities know this as well, and are able to negotiate deals that generally make nuclear power the cheapest component of their baseline capacity.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Xyril View Post
    Pelee
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    Iím reasonably certain that Iím not Pelee, FWIW.

    GW
    Thanks for the correction, I'll fix my previous post.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Antarctica aside, intercontinental, or at least very long distance, power transmission is something worth considering. Many of the ideal sites for wind and solar energy are in remote areas far from major population centers, and because peak generation and peak usage of those particular renewables don't match up (the 'duck curve' situation) moving large quantities of energy large distances would help reduce strain on the power network even without the far-fetched idea of nuclear generation in Antarctica.

    For example, there are almost certainly sites in both North Africa and Central Asia that are ideal for truly massive solar and wind installations but that don't really have anyone nearby to send such huge quantities of power too. An intercontinental transmission network would be able to incorporate such projects effectively. It would also allow nuclear plants to be effectively sited in areas of limited population density and high geological stability that are not subject to the unique challenges of Antarctica. Consider, for instance, that we harvest oil shale in Northern Alberta that's not near anything (Fort McMurray is over 250 miles from Edmonton), because you can transport fossil fuels from one place to another prior to using them in power generation.

    It would also be useful, in the future, to safely send massive gobs of energy to giant carbon-capture and storage facilities, whose location will presumably be dependent on finding the right geological formations to pump millions of tons of carbon back into the ground.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Xyril View Post
    Not sure what the point of contention is, Pelee and I both said in our posts that operating per MWh costs for nuclear plants were pretty much the lowest in the industry. The main challenge is that, for nuclear, there's a huge initial capital investment. So you're paying much more to build each megawatt of capacity in order to pay less for each MWH of production. At this point, timescales determine which is more attractive. High initial outlays for better marginal costs mean that it takes longer to break even and start getting a good ROI, but if the plant and the market lasts long enough, you'll eventually be much more profitable.
    The contention was that Grey Wolf C was claiming that wind was the cheapest way to produce power, and I went looking for numbers and made a math error that led me to believe that nuclear was only 1/1000 of its actual price to operate. Even corrected for the math error, a modern wind plant and a nuclear plant cost about the same to operate on a per-power produce basis (though it looks like wind is currently slightly cheaper). Without easy access to the books of a nuclear plant and a wind farm of similar capacity (and without the desire to actually wade through them), I won't even guess which is more economical in the long term. I think we will need to wait until the first round of large wind farms gets decommissioned to see how much it costs to operate them over their lifetime.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    It seems to me that putting a nuclear power plant in the center of Antarctica, getting the power away from the plant will be the least of your concerns. The most of your concerns will be moving all the stuff to the plant in the first place - including the plant itself. Even once that's built, you need to bring fuel, parts, food for the workers and and all manner of other stuff there all the time. Antarctica is not exactly known for being easy to travel across, and all of this will need unloaded at the coasts. Another thing Antarctica is not known for is its readily accessible, open-year-round warm water ports. Flying into the interior in the winter is also probably not a great plan, and certainly no way to move the rather substantial amounts of material that you'll need to bring in constantly.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    One of the biggest reasons I am against nuclear energy is how hard it is to decentralise it.

    The big "green energy" sources can all be used on a local scale. A farmers' collective can put a row of windmills on the field and supply their farms with energy. My elderly parents can put solar panels on the roof of their home and live practically energy-neutral. Even rain, river and tidal water can be used on a small scale, locally produced (though hydro power is mostly used in a centralised manner as well).

    On this front, even horrible fossil fuels score better than nuclear energy. There is just no way, at least for the foreseeable future, that I will have a small nuclear generator in my backyard.

    Globally, the same goes: only very few countries have (so far) significant sources of uranium or thorium. If, worldwide, we replace most fossil fuels with nuclear energy, my community, my country (and even my continent) will always be dependent on a few major electricity suppliers.
    The same goes for some of the materials needed for windmills and solar panels (and the lithium batteries to store the electricity), but those materials are both easier to recycle and already circulated around the world much more: finding lithium on the free market is - luckily - much easier than uranium.

    Maybe it's overly idealistic, but in my ideal world, most electricity would be produced locally - less vulnerable to large-scale shortages, less vulnerable to intentionally malevolent action, less vulnerable to price fluctuations and I think more efficient as well. A large, global network would only be needed for stability.


    A large nuclear powerplant center in the middle of Antarctica would make the problems of centralised energy production even worse. If a large part of the world is dependent on this one location for their energy supply... ooh boy. I have no idea what impact that would have on international relations and the whole geopolitical situation and all that, but I'm sure it wouldn't be pretty.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Bohandas View Post
    I was talking about putting it smack in the middle of the continent though

    Isn't Antarctica technically underwater? Build an electric heater.
    The middle, where there are mountains kilometers high. Built on glaciers that move them into the sea. And no Anarctica isn't under water.

    The reason I brought up penguins is that, relatively unimprotant in the whole plethora of problems the idea has, the point is it may seem like it is empty but it's not quite, and we don't really know that much about what we got there. Also I wanted to point out the fact that even antarctica has a local wildlife that would be hit if there was a catastrophic accident. And it's a lot more fragile.

    Basically you are taking the least of the concerns (human fears) with a nuclear plant and instead creating massice actual technical and practical issues instead. I would even hazard to say you are guaranteeing a mechanical failure by putting a nuclear plant in antarctica, the steel will freeze and pipes break in -50C.
    Every part of the logistics and economics of creating and maintaining them is hard, if not outright impossible.

    In Finland 2 nuclear plants were planned quite far north, close to the arctic circle, and already there the cold was peceived to be an issue, e.g. if the sea froze.

    And no, it won't be enough to try and heat up the ice.

    In reality there is no really safe place you can put a nuclear plant with the expectation that it is going to go Tjernobyl on us. What you have to do is avoid that instead. The idea to put it where it doens't matter already capitulates to the eventuality that just can't be allowed, that it goes boom.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Uranium mining is about as dangerous as coal mining, which even in a first-world country with worker protection laws is pretty dangerous (and more so in a place like China). But it's much less significant for nuclear power than it is for coal power, because you need so much less uranium. A coal power plant needs a trainload of fuel every day. A nuclear power plant needs a truckload every decade.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
    Uranium mining is about as dangerous as coal mining, which even in a first-world country with worker protection laws is pretty dangerous (and more so in a place like China). But it's much less significant for nuclear power than it is for coal power, because you need so much less uranium. A coal power plant needs a trainload of fuel every day. A nuclear power plant needs a truckload every decade.
    And you can get uranium as a biproduct from regular mining. There was a Finnish nickelmine that could have produced a small quantity of uranium on the side as a byproduct of the nickle mining. The irony ofc was they were not allowed. So it lies there in the spoil.

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    A small correction to what snowblizz said: Finland has multiple nuclear reactors in operation. It's the newest one that is, I think, a decade behind its construction schedule.

    But that mess has little to do with cold weather. Geologically, Finland is close to ideal for both production of nuclear power and storing of nuclear waste, due to lying on stable bedrock and having significant coastline. We'd even have native uranium and thorium reserves.

    The actual problem was Chernobyl.

    All the operational reactors are old "second gen" models, built with Soviet help and technology. When Chernobyl catastrophe happened, popular opinion turned against nuclear power and Finland stopped building those. The stopped building for long enough that all the people who knew how to build those moved to other jobs or retired. The technological know-how evaporated.

    So when the decision was made to build a spiffy new "third gen" reactor, Finland had to hire some French company to do this... and the French dudes were complete newbies at this and bit way more than they could chew. Finland isn't even the only country where these noobs tried to build a reactor and screwed up. I think they went bankrupt or at the very least were bought off - in any case, Finland was left to deal with an unfinished, unoperational reactor as well as the legal hurdles of trying to get their money back from remnants of the French company.

    The moral of the story is this: you don't get to have nice things if you drop the ball on how to make those things and leave it wallowing in the gutter for decades. This is the state of nuclear fission not just in Finland, but all of Europe, and possibly, world wide. The details are all in the realm of politics, but popular opinion really screwed fission over.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
    A nuclear power plant needs a truckload every decade.
    False. A nuclear power plant needs about 30 tons of purified uranium rods per GW per year. Assuming you can just carry rods in a truck (doubtful), that's a truck per year per GW. More likely, they don't carry 30 tons of fissile material all at once.

    But it gets worse: since this requires U-235 at a concentration of 3-5%, but is naturally 0.7% of all uranium mined, you need to put a lot of miners through hell and back to get 5 times that amount of uranium out of the ground - which, let's not conveniently forget, is a lot of ground for very little uranium mined. A coal mine is practically nothing but coal. A uranium mine is practically anything but uranium - a quick google suggests a concentration of 0.1%, which means the workers have to mine ~100,000 tons of material to feed that 1GW nuclear plant. Yes, still less than the 1 million tons of material for a coal power plant, but not that far off.

    It is also pointless to compare it to coal mining - everyone here agrees that coal is the worst possible source of electricity. Compare it, instead, to whatever mines are involved in windmill production, or solar panels.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    If we agree to dump all out nuclear waste in Antarctica, then the best idea would be to build nuclear power plants where the energy is needed and just put all the nuclear waste on ships to the transported to Antarctica. Basically the same outcome and safety, but much easier logistics and costs.
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    If we agree to dump all out nuclear waste in Antarctica, then the best idea would be to build nuclear power plants where the energy is needed and just put all the nuclear waste on ships to the transported to Antarctica. Basically the same outcome and safety, but much easier logistics and costs.
    I don't think the people arguing that Nuclear is the best path forward for decarbonization would agree to that. I've seen claims of new reactors that produce far less waste, or secondary reactors that can process that waste to extract more energy and produce less dangerous waste far more often than the suggestion we can just dump all the radioactive stuff in some far-away place to please the NIMBYs.

    I cannot judge how realistic those solutions are, and can't recall being given a price tag, so I can't even fairly rank them against "just build more wind farms" approach I favour.

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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Grey_Wolf_c View Post
    I don't think the people arguing that Nuclear is the best path forward for decarbonization would agree to that. I've seen claims of new reactors that produce far less waste, or secondary reactors that can process that waste to extract more energy and produce less dangerous waste far more often than the suggestion we can just dump all the radioactive stuff in some far-away place to please the NIMBYs.

    I cannot judge how realistic those solutions are, and can't recall being given a price tag, so I can't even fairly rank them against "just build more wind farms" approach I favour.
    The total quantity of radioactive waste produced by power generation (as opposed to weapons production, medical testing, or any of the various other things radioactive isotopes are used for) is actually not especially large in terms of absolute volume, though how much depends on the level of reprocessing of spent fuel that is conducted (France, for instance, reprocesses much more than the US). Regardless the total output of all nuclear power plants globally comes to about 12,000 metric tons per year, and the total amount of HLW currently extant is roughly 250,000 metric tons. That might sound like a big number, but for comparison a single 'ultra-large crude carrier' (the current 'supertanker' model) can hold upwards of 400,000 metric tons of oil. So all the HLW ever produced by nuclear power generation could be stuffed into a single supership (this would be a very bad idea, but it gives you an idea of the sense of scale).
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    Default Re: Intercontinental power transmission

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    The total quantity of radioactive waste produced by power generation (as opposed to weapons production, medical testing, or any of the various other things radioactive isotopes are used for) is actually not especially large in terms of absolute volume, though how much depends on the level of reprocessing of spent fuel that is conducted (France, for instance, reprocesses much more than the US). Regardless the total output of all nuclear power plants globally comes to about 12,000 metric tons per year, and the total amount of HLW currently extant is roughly 250,000 metric tons. That might sound like a big number, but for comparison a single 'ultra-large crude carrier' (the current 'supertanker' model) can hold upwards of 400,000 metric tons of oil. So all the HLW ever produced by nuclear power generation could be stuffed into a single supership (this would be a very bad idea, but it gives you an idea of the sense of scale).
    This seems to be trying to counter an argument no-one is making - certainly not me. I don't much care about the total number of tons of nuclear waste produced, given that it takes a single spent rod to poison the ground around it for generations if not millennia.

    ETA: more to my point, too, is that this is one of those problems capitalism fails to address. People who invest in nuclear are barely willing to do so when all they have to do is build it - no business wants to be lashed to paying for the waste disposal or the decommission of their plants, and it shows. So it is even more money that the government has to put aside to pay for these albatrosses. Nuclear is just not economically viable even under the rosiest of circumstances (e.g. "the company running it puts money aside"), never mind the real scenario where the costs just mount with no end in sight ("ha-ha! We're declaring bankruptcy and walking away from our obligations, while paying our full bonus and golden parachutes")

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