Archive for September, 2012

German offshore plans… John Bennetts comment

September 23, 2012

I am a regular reader of this on-line paper (registration is free). It has a lot of interesting articles, many albeit tinted by the usual Euro-enviropolitics green glasses, but others more sober. The comments following the articles are often excellent, and many clearly show more common-sense than the utopian plans presented.

The latest issue of EER has a report on a Hamburg meeting discussing German offshore wind energy politics. Reader John Bennetts wrote what I consider an excellent comment. I just will copy here two sentences:

“It is becoming clearer every month that the costs of adopting irrational populist energy “solutions” are mounting exponentially. Even an economic powerhouse such as Germany must, at some point, step back and consider where their money can best be spent and how much environmental degradation is allowable.”

“The root cause of all of this is the incomprehensible decision [to build a total of 25000 MW offshore wind capacity] made by Merkel and others to adopt an irrational, emotional view of power generation and to shut down the best non-carbon energy sources available. This goes beyond madness. It is suicide on a grand scale. It is physically suicidal because these other energy sources are less safe than nuclear power – the statistics are clear, and thus will certainly cost more German lives than the previous energy mix. It is also figuratively suicidal because of the economic and environmental harm which this policy has already caused and will continue to cause at an accelerating rate.”

Read the report with the comments here.

And I recommend making the free registration to EER.

Dossier ozone 2012

September 22, 2012

Le G.D. de Luxembourg connaissait quelques pics d’ozone au sol durant la période du 25 au 27 juillet 2012. J’ai fait une étude de cette situation, analysant l’évolution des trois gaz ozone, NO2 et NO mesurés sur 5 stations de mesure.  Cette analyse conduit à se poser un certain nombre de questions sur les taux biogènes de VOC , le choix des stations de référence et l’efficacité des restrictions de vitesse.

Le rapport (PDF) est ici. (en français).

Prière d’ajouter les commentaires éventuels à cette page du blog!


Approx. English translation:

Luxembourg had three days of high ground ozone concentrations from the 25 to 27th July 2012. I made a short study on the time evolution of ozone, NO2 and NO measured at 5 stations. Several questions become important to ask as:  is the importance of biogenic VOCs in creating the highest ozone concentrations in rural stations recognized by the authorities? Are speed restrictions on the motorways efficient in reducing local ozone concentrations?

The report (in French) can be found here. (sorry, no English translation available for the moment)

Please attach your comments to this page of the blog!

4th generation reactor: General Atomics EM2 uses spent fuel, runs for 30 years!

September 21, 2012

We all are accustomed here in Europe (old Europe!) to the hysterical noise that rises when talks about nuclear energy are made. It comes as a big relief that in other parts of the world at least some scientists and engineers have kept their reason and are intensively working on new reactor technologies that will be both save, tamper proof,  secure, reliable and most important can use spent fuel. One always should keep in mind that traditional reactors use only 5% of the energy stored in the fuel rods containing enriched uranium. When these 5% are used, the rods have to be changed, stored away or reprocessed.

General Atomics is working on a smaller kind of reactor called EM2 (Energy Multiplier Module ). As the “Hyperion power Module” (now called  Gen4 Module) of former Hyperion Power Company (now Gen4Energy) the aim is to build a self-contained module. The EM2 is rated at 240 MW, with a 70 MW prototype in the planning stage. The reactor will be of the well known gas-cooled type: gaseous helium will be pumped through the reactor core, heated up to approx. 850 °C and drive a fast (gas) turbine  coupled to an electrical generator:

What makes the system so interesting and novel is that there will be a two stage operation:

First the EM2 core will be started using 12%  enriched uranium and used fuel or depleted uranium (DU). After the initial U235 amount has been consumed in the “starter-part” of the core, enough fissionable material will have been created to switch over to a second part of the core where the nuclear reactions will continue and be fed nuclear waste..

(picture from GA presentation)

General Atomics plans a whopping 30 years time span of continuous operation without refueling or opening the reactor!

Small nuclear reactors should have a bright future, at least in regions of the world where reliable and non-intermittent energy remains mandatory.

“Gas und Kohl, uns ist wohl!” Germany’s retour to fossil energies.

September 18, 2012

The German Bundesnetzagentur has published a very interesting Excel file listing the non-renewable power utilities that are to be built from 2012 to 2015, and also those that will be decommissioned.

Here are the numbers of fossil power stations, in MW rounded to the integer (coal means lignite + coal)

to be built:   1581 MW gas   8586 MW coal     total fossil 10167

to be removed:   220 MW gas   3215 MW coal     total fossil 3435


Balance:  + 6732 MW fossil

So the country that very few years ago wanted to save the world from the CO2 belching fossil plants, will add close to 7 GW fossil capacity (1371  MW gas and 5371 MW coal) during the next years.

Let us assume an 90% capacity factor, 450 g/kWh CO2 emissions for gas and 800 g/Kwh from coal; these numbers correspond to 0.45 metric tons CO2 per MWh for gas and 0.80 metric tons per MWh for  coal.

The annual production numbers will be 0.9*1371*8460 = 10 660 896 Mwh from gas and 0.9*5371*8640 =41 764 896 MWh from coal. So the yearly emissions will total 10 660 896*0.45 + 41 764 896*0.8 = 38 209320 metric tons of CO2 i.e. 38.2 Gt CO2 or 38.2*12/44 = 10.4 GtC (gigaton carbon)

The CARMA database shows that in 2009 Germany emitted 303 Gt CO2. So after much lamenting on the necessity to cut carbon emissions, Germany is back on the road with a healthy carbon increase.

The irony of the “Atomaustieg” is that coal ash (fly ash) is more radioactive than properly stored nuclear waste, and that people living near coal fired power stations get a higher radioactive dose than those near nuclear facilities (estimated yearly dose in the bones = 0.18 mSv).  Read this Scientific American article.
A modern 1000 MW coal fired plant equipped with scrubbers emits ca. 40 kg of radioactive material (mostly uranium and thorium) per day into the environment (see here).  So the new to be built stations will belch out approx. 200 kg of radioactive material per day or 73 tons per year;  a pity that the German Greens do not have an understanding of these problems!

A more recent research paper (2010) analysing the vicinity of three Turkish coal fired power stations concludes that “the natural radionuclide activity concentrations of burnt coal and ashes thrown out from these three power plants are quite high relative to the world average UNSCEAR data“.


19 Sep. 2012:  there were two typos in the table which gave some nasty albeit small calculation differences. This has now been corrected; the balance and conclusion are practically unchanged. I apologize and many thanks to Pierre for watching!


21 Jan 2013. Read this very interesting article in The Economist: Europe’s dirty secret  (5 Jan 2013)