Posts Tagged ‘nuclear’

Nuclear plants operate at only a few hundred degrees Celsius, so they don’t have very high thermal efficiencies. Thus only a small part of the nuclear energy is changed into electricity and most is lost with the coolant fluid, about two thirds. Could it be used for something?

Traditional coal plants have long given their waste heat for district heating (and some cooling in the summer too!). This “free” energy is distributed as hot high pressure water in large pipes. It works great, especially in dense areas. This reduces coal usage quite a bit if you compare it to heating with coal electricity, or oil usage if you compare it with heating with heating oil.

In Russia special nuclear power plants, especially for isolated cities included provisions for large amounts of district heating. Though this means that the plant needs to be quite close to the city for it to be effective. It’s not done in the west. Could it work in Finland?

The power company Fortum is probably building a third unit to the Loviisa power plant complex some 100 km east of Helsinki, and it’s proposing to Helsinki that the new unit could provide a gigawatt of cheap district heating for the city. But Helsinki at the moment owns its own power generation company, Helsingin Energia (Helen), and is sceptical of the idea. Helen’s coal plants provide the current district heating and there are rules about the maximum size of a plant in the grid – if over 40% of the district heat would be provided by one plant, when it went down for some reason., there could be a catastrophe.

A 100 km long very large hot water tube system might also be very expensive. There exists a roughly 100 km long  fresh water tunnel carved in rock, providing water to Helsinki from lake Päijänne, so there is some expertise regarding such large scale subterranean building.

Another way of thinking about nuclear heating is to generate normal electricity but use it to power a heat pump at the heating location. This can increase the heating power as much as five fold – ie 5 kW of heating for 1 kW of electricity. This requires no district heating pipe infrastructure but the heat pumps are expensive. They are becoming more common in less dense living areas though and are a good way to reduce electricity use if they replace direct electric heating. They also increase peaks since the five multiplier can drop to two when it gets much colder outside – because the temperature difference that the pump works against is larger.

Political ties

Helen is a very good business for the city and its profits lower the local tax rate quite a lot. Those fools in the neighbouring city of Espoo sold their own power company abroad, started playing in the stock market with the money and have lost quite a bit. (And that was before the recession!)

Helen is also a stakeholder in the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear plant that is being built in Eura, in Western Finland, they’ll use part of the electricity that will be generated there. The consortium leader, Teollisuuden Voima, is a competitor to Fortum.

There seems to be no love lost between Helen and Fortum.


Nuclear power plants have been proposed for city part heating, one was even in operation in Sweden. It was built securely inside rock, but it was shut down after a mishap. There were plans to put such a small nuclear plant in the Malmi northern suburb of Helsinki in the sixties or so, but that plan was cancelled. Also, in the past, the large Granö island in front of Helsinki’s east side neighbour Sipoo was charted for a nuclear power plant, but it was cancelled and in the end only Loviisa and Olkiluoto were built. Now that the western part of Sipoo has been grabbed by Helsinki, some have proposed to dust off the old plans and put a reactor on the island. 🙂 At one point when no plants had been built yet in the country, Inkoo, some 50 km west of Helsinki was also one of the possible plant locations. The pipes from there would have been easier. There already exist quite large power grid connections in Inkoo because an emergency coal plant is located there. It could be one compromise site for a small nuclear plant – far enough but not too far.

Sources: personal communications with various people, an article in Tekniikka and Talous (in Finnish) and Finnish Wikipedia on Finnish nuclear history and air heat pumps.

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Kirk had some thoughts when touring the Delta IV factory in Alabama.

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The Green Nuclear kind, be sure to read the comments in German.

G8 Climate Scorecards: CO2 Per Capita

To summarize, in WWF:s climate score cards, France is scoring pretty badly. Everybody knows that France has about 80% nuclear power in electricity production, much more than the neighbouring Britain and Germany which use mostly coal. So, since WWF and Allianz don’t like it, they substitute it as if it was natural gas.

WWF does not consider nuclear power to be a viable policy option. The indicators “emissions per capita”, “emissions per GDP” and “CO2 per kWh electricity” for all countries have therefore been adjusted as if the generation of electricity from nuclear power had produced 350 gCO2/kWh (emission factor for natural gas). Without the adjustment, the original indicators for France would have been much lower, e.g. 86 gCO2/kWh

Of course these score cards are widely published everywhere without reference to the footnotes . There are some other weird things about them too…

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Coal is Bad

And there could have been much less of its use – but the alternatives of the past lay in half finished ruins. Kirk Sorensen explores them and their history concisely.

Grand total: 85,000 tons of coal each day that TVA wouldn’t be burning.

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Finland is enacting laws that lead to building some more wind power. Like some professionals in the Finnish wind power association, Suomen tuulivoimayhdistys, have told me, perhaps the most important thing about wind power is that you have to be smart about what and where you build.

The wastelands of dead windmills in the California deserts are a result of subsidizing the building of very immature technology, with little concern for actual electricity production.

Wind power can be useful for energy production and CO2 emissions reduction, but it must be built with operation in mind. Finland and the whole Nordpool market operates with a power generation mix that includes possibilities of reducing CO2 emissions by just injecting wind power to the market when there is wind.

If Finland is serious about deploying large amounts of wind power, offshore is the way. The winter sea ice is a hard problem. Lighthouses have washed away in the fifties because of moving thick sea ice. It is even possible that  wind power in icy sea conditions is simply not profitable in the near term, even with high subsidies. It also might be that because of the very high cost of the foundations per mill, the optimal unit size is far bigger than in warmer waters. This all would require a methodical approach with multi-year testing programs of different foundations and possibly different turbine paradigms. (Sort of how the current wind turbines enjoy the methodical research programs and various large prototypes of the nineties.) So a decade perhaps from start to deployment, at rapid pace, starting immediately.

The other thing, like the major parties have been saying, is nuclear power. In an energy mix, this can push out the fossils out, approaching from the bottom instead of the top like wind power. If current trends continue, there will be a few more nukes soon. If I recall correctly Mauri Pekkarinen, the trade and industry minister from the center party commented how the next nuclear power plants would replace, roughly one each, electricity imports (from Russia), old nukes (that have to be retired in the future decades), and fossil fuel plants. Perhaps that is not entirely correct and gives little possibility for energy conservation or renewables, but I actually view it as a rough and dim picture of a not worst possible future.

So, in summary: be careful about how you encourage and where you build big wind – otherwise it’s just a nuisance – and also, build some nukes (keep the regulatory body in good control of them).

I am a fan of wind power – correctly built wind power. And so are the people at Tuulivoimayhdistys – they are professionals after all. Lawmakers should listen to them very carefully, when deciding what kind of subsidies to make.

I’ve seen some talk how in USA the Democrats that currently hold power are proposing methods of CO2 cuts completely based on renewables. This seems unrealistic to me. Too bad the Republicans, when they were in power, did nothing to make CO2 cuts. Now they can just complain about the methods.

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At Fingrid. EDIT: same in English.

Usage, Imports and Exports of Electricity in Finland at one moment in timeUsage, Imports and Exports of Electricity in Finland at one moment in time

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This is what many people should grasp what renewables and nuclear are about. The real electricity world operates with an energy mix. In many places there is open electricity trading, and if you introduce new sources to the marketplace, it affects the buying of other sources. So if you have lots of coal and gas, introducing wind power, even when the wind doesn’t blow constantly, can reduce the usage of the coal and gas power.

So here is a rough sketch how fossil fuels might be eliminated gradually in some mythical place with lots of solar and hydro power. This is not an accurate description of reality, more of a demonstration of principle. Now I’m really in a hurry and have to go, I probably don’t have time to review things for a few days, so can’t respond immediately to comments.




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