Robin Hickey discusses the Nuclear power challenges need for alternative energy sources
Robin Hickey reports that Hitachi has agreed to build a series of new power stations in the UK is good news, following months of uncertainty. And the medium term spectre of British lights flickering under the duress of insufficient electrical generation capacity is now reduced.
Robin Hickey thinks that the need to rely on large scale, long term projects to keep the lights on in the UK has pointed out the value of alternatives as we consider our long term energy consumption, and the way that electrical power is generated across the UK.
Nuclear power plants continue to leave significant legacy problems. No completely safe long term storage solution has been devised for handling the waste created from spent nuclear fuel, and this has to be accommodated somewhere. With radioactivity emitting from the waste for many hundreds of years to come, finding a safe solution is no small problem – Robin Hickey reports.
Hitachi has a number of hurdles to overcome, before it gets to building the promised six power plants, which will then take years to build and commission. Ahead of this, it needs to agree a satisfactory price for the power the plants will produce, to ensure it has sufficient financial interest in investing in these major construction projects.
There is also the issue of transmission loss. Major nuclear power plants, constructed on coastal sites that are away from population centres and with good access to cooling water, then require their output to be fired through cable networks, to locations where the power is required. Transmission loss means that typically an estimated seven per cent of the power generated is lost in the USA, before it actually reaches its destination; similar figures can be expected anywhere that large, distant power plants are employed to feed a power grid.
Far more efficient is the creation of more localised sources of electrical power, ideally using greener sources of energy. Energy from biomass, energy from waste and power created by solar, wind and wave sources are all sensible alternatives that are being developed more and more, as governments and industry realise that they need to prepare for a future of more expensive fossil fuels, which may in future be in the control of a smaller number of potentially unfriendly country states.
Generating power from waste is probably one of the best, most environmentally sensible ways to create a new energy source, close to the place where that waste is produced. By employing small, local power plants, it is possible to substantially reduce the miles that waste is transported, as well as ensuring that power is provided in a locality where it is used, thus reducing transmission losses, too.