Nuclear?

This might be a bit off-topic, but I can’t resist comment on the nuclear debate.

A common assertion is that the only available, and economic, alternative to coal is nuclear (with maybe gas filling in for a period of time it takes to build the plants).

There ARE other options. There are also great difficulties with nuclear in the context of the Australian National Energy Market.

To function at all, nuclear needs huge amounts of water for cooling. For the NEM, this mandates a nice seaside location. Difficult. Next: Our current grid is not designed to support injection from single sources that large. So take the cost of nuclear and double it to provide switchgear and additional transmission lines. Expensive. Next: Redundancy demands at least two plants, and a market that relies on only one to function. Double again.

So what are the options? First option: fix hot water. Instead if the state making asset-poor people subsidise asset-rich people with houses to install inefficient solar PV arrays, insist first that ALL the hot water used by that house be solar / renewable. This admittedly rules out pretty much all solar hot water systems, but it creates a 30% drop in domestic energy consumption. And it creates an immediate, superb, place to STORE RENEWABLE ENERGY. So much for the sun not shining and the wind not blowing.

Second option: behavioural change (see WattWatchers). All studies show 20% domestic reduction is available. Then there are peak-spreading, demand side strategies that more effectively use existing generation capacity (WattWatchers again). This requires policy change and heavy handed intervention in the strategies of utilities.

Third: stop population growth. It is now well established that this generation can’t plan, so we don’t deserve and can’t cope with more people. Anyway, we can’t expand for ever, why not stop now? See all conservation arguments. Or visit Bondi.

These measures will reduce carbon now, when the cumulative effects of carbon savings can accumulate. Once done, nuclear is even less necessary.

Oh. And if we ARE going to spend more on distribution, note that South Australia currently generates >20% of total energy with wind. It could be even more if it wasn’t limited by the poor distribution infrastructure close by Adelaide where the wind blows.

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