Nuclear vs Solar : Their Relative Dependence On the National Grid.

Synopsis: Nuclear power plants are reliant upon stable electricity supply FROM the grid in times of reactor emergency, and for normal shut down and start up. Reactor emergency cooling systems designed in the West have an operational life in emergency core cooling situations of 8 hours. This applies as much to the current AP1000 design as it does to the Mk1 GE of the late 60s, which is still in service around the world.

Solar power in conjunction with battery storage is approaching the cost benefit point where residential urban dwellings will benefit from grid disconnection.

If a nuclear power plant were approved today, it would not come online for 15 – 20 years. In that time, the state of renewable power generation and storage in SA would be such the need for a large multi mega watt fuelled generator of any kind would not be needed. Certainly in the case of the uranium “burning” reactor, the cost of a nuclear compatible grid would be unacceptable to the normal domestic energy consumer in this state.

It seems to be beyond the ability of Australian politicians to comprehend the nature and the timeline involved in the requirement to intelligently respond to the energy technology transitional cusp Australia and South Australia presently live in. The time line will extend for the best part of 20 years. An attempt to force a power generation regime upon South Australians which is not compatible with and cost competitive with the final shape of the energy paradigm will waste billions of dollars and force Australians to continue to live accelerating energy costs.

Nuclear Power:

“The safe and economic operation of a nuclear power plant (NPP) requires the plant to be connected to an electrical grid system that has adequate capacity for exporting the power from the NPP, and for providing a reliable electrical supply to the NPP for safe startup, operation and normal or emergency shutdown of the plant.

Handout photo from Tokyo Electric Power Co. shows workers attempting to repair power lines at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, March 2011. The power grid connection to Units 1, 2, 3 and 4 was destroyed during the earthquake.

“Connection of any large new power plant to the electrical grid system in a country may require significant modification and strengthening of the grid system, but for NPPs there may be added requirements to the structure of the grid system and the way it is controlled and maintained to ensure adequate reliability.

kawamoto takuo – Flickr: Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant_48 Transformer building terminating power lines from the 500kV Futaba power transmission line behind reactors 5 and 6 at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant in Japan. These lines remained energized throughout the entire earthquake and tsunami incident of March 2011. This photo was taken on June 23, 1999 during a plant tour. "On 23 March, it was reported that the cooling pump at Reactor 5 stopped working when it was transferred from backup power to the grid supply.[87][88] This was repaired and the cooling restarted approximately 24 hours later. RHR cooling in Unit 6 was switched to the permanent power supply on 25 March.[89] On 28 May, the temporary seawater cooling pump for Reactor 5 stopped, which was discovered by TEPCO at 21 local time. At that time, the temperature in the reactor was 68 °C, and in the spent fuel pool 41 °C.[90] At 11 in the morning the following day the temperatures had risen to 92.2 °C and 45.7 °C.[91] Cooling was restored at 12:49 pm.[92] "Seismic Damage Information (the 59th Release-Corrected)" (PDF). Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. 28 March 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
"Cooling system stops at No.5 reactor in Fukushima". Xinhua News. 29 May 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
"Earthquake News No. 96" (PDF). JAIF. 29 May 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
"Status of TEPCO's Facilities and its services after the Tohoku-Chihou-Taiheiyou-Oki Earthquake(as of 4:00 PM, 29 May)". TEPCO. 29 May 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011.

“The organization responsible for the NPP and the organization responsible for the grid system will need to establish and agree the necessary characteristics of the grid and of the NPP, well before the NPP is built, so that they are compatible with each other. They will also need to agree the necessary modifications to the grid system, and how they are to be financed.

“For a Member State that does not yet use nuclear power, the introduction and development of nuclear power is a major undertaking. It requires the country to build physical infrastructure and develop human resources so it can
construct and operate a nuclear power plant (NPP) in a safe, secure and technically sound manner. ” end quote. Source: “ELECTRIC GRID RELIABILITY AND INTERFACE WITH NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS” IAEA NUCLEAR ENERGY SERIES No. NG-T-3.8, IAEA, COPYRIGHT NOTICE All IAEA scientific and technical publications are protected by the terms of the Universal Copyright Convention as adopted in 1952 (Berne) and as revised in 1972 (Paris). Reproduced for study purpose and fair use.

“Vibrations from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered an immediate shut down of 15 of Japan’s nuclear power stations. Seismic sensors picked up the earthquake and control rods were automatically inserted into the reactors, halting the fission reaction that is used to produce electricity. This sudden loss of power across Japan’s national power grid caused widespread power failures, cutting vital electricity supplies to Fukushima Daiichi. There were three reactors, one, two and three, operating at the time when the earthquake hit while reactors four, five and six had already been shutdown as part of routine maintenance work.” “Japan earthquake: how the nuclear crisis unfolded”. Richard Gray, Science Correspondent, The Telegraph, 20 March 2011. end quote. The disaster sequence at Fukushima Diiachi units 1, 2, and 3, with consequences for Unit 4 spent fuel pool, commenced with the failure of the power grid. Caused by the Designed in automatic responses to quake – shut down no matter what – and by local damage to local poles and wire. Nuclear reactor design thus demonstrates it’s ability to amplify the grid vulnerability to natural forces. Had more renewable energy sources been feeding the Japanese grid, the emergency shutdown of 15 nuclear reactors around Japan may not have resulted in the sudden lack of coolant pumping power Fukushima Diiachi ended up with and which, in the final analysis caused the mass meltdown of three reactors. As foreseen in 1975. Had Japan built more renewable energy sources into the national grid prior to 2011, the grid would have been more stable and more able to supply power to mass ranks of reactors suddenly without access to the grid upon which, the IAEA itself admits, is crucial to the safety of nuclear reactors. No other form of energy production uses the national grid as such an umbilical cord to prevent nuclear disaster. Only nuclear power is capable of repeated explosions and the release of toxic material which has cost that nations many billions of yen and which continues to render as internal refugees an entire generation of farming and rural families.   Further, there is a profound technical reason why nuclear reactors are built to shutdown during earthquake. It is explained in here: ““ANALYSIS OF FUEL BEHAVIOR DURING REACTIVITY INITIATED ACCIDENTS” by L. B. Thompson, E. L. Tolman, and P. E. MacDonald, Aerojet Nuclear Co. March 1975”. On page 22 the paper states :“fuel pellet enthalpy has a positive influence coefficient with respect to maximum cladding temperature; that is, an increase in maximum enthalpy increases the maximum temperature. An increase in heat transfer coefficient or rod diameter causes a decrease in expected maximum temperatures. “ end quote.  When earthquake vibration causes fuel pellets to impact each other in tune with the quake vibrations, the pellets may crumble and compress.  This increases the energy density of the fuel rod and causes overheating and boiling of water adjacent to the afflicted fuel rods. Reactor fuel is vulnerable to earthquake, not withstanding the patented but ignored means of overcoming the vulnerability.  drill a hole through each pellet so that if compressed by earthquake, the energy density of the fuel remains unchanged.   It’s an old Japanese patent, and the industry and the world mourns the day the idea was sealed into a box at the back of the nuclear idea warehouse. One such patent is this one: “Patent 4587089 Fuel assembly for boiling water reactor Takeda et al.
Quote: “The present invention relates to a reactor… “It is a primary object of the present invention to provide a reactor in which the earthquake resistance of the core is improved and the change of the power at the transient stage is reduced.” “the safety, the earthquake resistance, the stability, the fuel soundness and the fuel economy can be improved by means described below according to the present invention.” You have to hand it to the nuclear industry don’t you. Such admissions of vulnerability and solutions to that vulnerability become ignored and forgotten under the combined weight of nuclear denialism and technological arrogance. No problem with the Fukushima reactors or anyone other types. According to them.

Does the South Australian power grid meet the IAEA requirements for Nuclear Power Plant Connection? Is our grid more robust than Japan’s?

Published: November 2017, Australian Electricity Market Operator AEMO.

“The highest risk of USE (Unserved Energy) in South Australia in the 10-year outlook is in 2017–18. This risk is being addressed by the South Australian Government’s Energy Plan3 developing additional diesel generation and battery storage, and AEMO pursuing supply and demand response4 through the Reliability and Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT)5 provisions. Without these actions, the USE in South Australia could exceed the reliability standard. The USE risk is forecast (subject to significant uncertainty) to reduce after 2017–18, due to increasing renewable generation. Power system security and reliability will be tested on extremely hot summer afternoons and evenings, when photovoltaic (PV) generation drops to low levels. The risk increases if this coincides with low wind generation, unexpected generation outages, or constraints on electricity imports from other regions. South Australia’s mix of electricity supply sources continues to evolve. South Australia has become increasingly reliant on electricity generation from gas-powered generation (GPG) since the closure of coal-fired generation. South Australia’s reliance on natural gas for energy supply and maintaining system security means gas supplies must be available for GPG during critical times. AEMO considers the gas supply-demand balance across the east coast of Australia to be finely balanced, with continued risks of supply shortfalls. AEMO continues to monitor this balance, and is collaborating with industry and governments so sufficient gas is available to keep meeting demand and minimise the risk of energy supply shortfalls.” End quote

The relative scarcity of natural gas in the Australian market is the natural consequence of the policies of successive national governments, which continue to favour excessive export of Australia’s natural endowment of this relatively clean and formerly inexpensive energy source.  

It can be seen that if a nuclear reactor was sited in South Australia, it would not meet the IAEA requirements for a stable electrical connection to a grid capable of assuring bountiful grid supply to the nuclear reactor in the event of an emergency shut down of that nuclear reactor.

That bountiful supply of electricity in the South Australian portion of the national grid, will not be available until the state government has forced the now privatised energy suppliers to construct sufficient clean generation capacity and battery storage of a non nuclear nature.

At that point, the SA grid will be potentially able to meet all other IAEA requirements for a nuclear compatible grid. These additional steps will include the construction of several multi million dollar interstate interconnectors.   No authority would approve the siting of a nuclear reactor in SA without such expensive redundancy plus the rebuilding of the related long distance poles and wire.

At the same time, while the SA government attempts to build a reliable state based generation capacity based upon renewables and gas, it is hampered by the single, vulnerable, solitary interstate grid interconnector.  We need at least two at the moment.  A nuclear powered SA would require double redundancy at least.

The cost of a  nuclear reactor compatible grid would add a very large additional burden onto South Australian households.   Had government continued to have owner status as a stakeholder in the SA energy market, the transition to renewables would have commenced in a far more rational fashion that it has over the last 16 years.

At the other side of the energy technology transition cusp, the last thing South Australia with its natural endowments in renewable  energy potential needs is a nuclear reactor which taxpayers will have to fund for the 20 years it takes to build the thing, and for the centuries of watching its waste when it is decommissioned.

The problem of nuclear waste and human and grid energy to guard it:

“IAEA Estimates of Global Inventories of Radioactive Waste”

Original Link for  full text download

“The accumulations of radioactive materials can be considered a burden for human society, both at present and in the future, since they require continuing monitoring and control. Knowing the amounts and types of such radioactive inventories can help in the assessment of the relative burdens. Knowledge of the national or regional radioactive waste inventory is necessary for planning management operations, including the sizing and design of conditioning, storage and disposal facilities. A global inventory, either of radioactive waste or of other environmental accumulations of radioactive material, could be used to provide a perspective on the requirements and burdens associated with their management, by means of comparisons with the burdens caused by other types of waste or other environmental threats. The IAEA officer responsible for this publication was K. Hioki of the Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety.” end quote.

 OK, Hioki san, let’s look at your country, Japan:
How does the waste from Japan’s car industries and electronics industry, the things which cannot exist without nuclear power in Japan, compare with this:

Progress of Fukushima Cleanup and Interim Storage Oct 2017 Gov. of Japan
Original Link for pdf download:



wow, i hope the nuclear industry can do it at a profit. It would be horrible if taxpayers had to pay. Oh, they do do they? Why? So how much profit from 1974 until today did those reactors mark? MINUS how many billions of yen? Jesus H Christ. I suppose that’s what you get with a socialist government. What ? They are right wingers? Hell. Are you sure? well fuck me. And you reckon all of this was due in the first instance in the accident sequence was due to fifteen reactors shutting down, with the resultant grid instability compounded by a power pole going down in Fukushima? The batteries for the emergency valves went flat, the 8 hour design life time of the emergency cooling system expired, despite which the workers kept the 3 reactors from melting down for 3 whole days, and then there were explosions and toxic material scattered to the four winds. wow. Who the hell approved that? I thought the nuclear industry was never wrong!!!! How come a nuclear reactor, or rather 3 of them, each capable of powering a city, hasnt got sufficient power to power itself on vital functions? How come it has to rely on the grid in the first place? I mean, christ, it uses rechargible batteries to keep the emergency core cooling systems (3 each for each reactor ) and they have no grid independent means of recharging them? Oh what, since then the US installed portable diesels at each similar reactor in the US? Wow, they are addicted to the 1950s arent they?

The Cost of the Australian National Electricity Grid – a primary reason for rising power prices in South Australia


Down to the wire: A sustainable electricity network for Australia
by Tony Wood, David Blowers and Kate Griffiths

State governments have spent up to $20 billion more than was needed on the electricity grid, and households and businesses are paying for it through their power bills.

Customers in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania are paying $100-to-$400 more each year than they should.

Those state governments should write down the value of the assets to reduce electricity bills, or give direct rebates to customers.

The cost of the National Electricity Market’s power grid rose from $50 billion in 2005 to $90 billion today. But up to $20 billion of that was not needed to cover growth in population, consumption, or even demand at peak times.

There have been some improvements in reliability of supply, but not enough to justify the spending.

The over-investment was overwhelmingly in NSW and Queensland. In 2005, the NSW and Queensland governments required their network businesses to build excessive back-up infrastructure to protect against even the most unlikely events. At the same time, growth in demand for electricity slowed, as appliances became more energy efficient and more households installed solar panels.

Unless state governments fix the mistakes of the past, consumers will continue to pay for assets that are neither used nor useful. And prices that are higher than they should be will lead to poor investment decisions in future.

In Queensland and Tasmania, where the businesses are still state-owned, the Government should write down the value of the assets. This would mean governments foregoing future revenue in favour of lower electricity bills.

In NSW, intervening to revalue the privatised businesses would create too many problems, so the Government should instead use the proceeds of the privatisations to fund a rebate to consumers.

To prevent the mistakes happening again, state governments should move to full privatisation, because the evidence shows that privatised electricity businesses deliver lower prices for consumers, without compromising reliability or safety.

And governments should change the way electricity is priced, so all consumers can see when demand is high. Network costs would fall if customers reduced their consumption at critical peak periods.

Consumers are copping the bill for the past excessive spending on the electricity grid. Governments should act now to give some of that money back to consumers, and to ensure Australia has a more sustainable and affordable electricity network.” end quote full report at :

Who Owns South Australia’s electricity grid?

“There are four parts to the electricity market: generation, distribution, transmission and retail.

Of Australia’s eight states and territories, three governments retain full ownership of all elements of their electricity networks: Western Australia; Tasmania; and the Northern Territory.

Queensland also owns the generation, distribution and transmission of electricity, but the retail market has been privatised.

Chinese Government-owned State Grid Corporate and Hong Kong-listed Cheung Kong Infrastructure — the two companies whose bid for NSW electricity distributor Ausgrid were blocked by Treasurer Scott Morrison — already own significant shares in the privatised state power distributors.

Breakdown of Australia’s electricity industry
Power generators, which produce energy to sell to the wholesale electricity market.
Distributors, who design, construct and maintain the network of “poles and wires”
Transmitters, which transport power from generators to the distribution system via the high-voltage transmission network
Retailers, who purchase power from the wholesale electricity market to sell to retail customers
Australia’s retail energy markets have a multitude of private players but the big three are AGL Energy, Origin Energy and EnergyAustralia, which dominate southern and eastern Australia.

The trio jointly supply more than 70 per cent of small electricity customers and more than 80 per cent of small gas customers, as of June 30, 2015.

EnergyAustralia is owned by Hong Kong-based China Light and Power.

In South Australia, Cheung Kong Infrastructure/Power Assets owns a 51-per-cent share, on a 200-year lease, in SA Power Networks Electricity Distribution network.

The transmitter in that state, ElectraNet, is partly owned by State Grid Corporation — at 46.5 per cent, it holds the largest share.” end quote. Source: Australian Broadcasting Commission ABC. By political editor Chris Uhlmann
Posted 21 Aug 2016.

The utter malaise in the SA power production market, in which government and voter choice was, until recently, suppressed, was caused by 1. the commercial only options chosen by the generating companies 2. Federal subsidies for wind generation in preference over solar Pv and solar thermal, geothermal and gas, 3. The 50s era status quo of low grade coal burning until the happy demise of the Port Augusta brown coal (aka almost like road tar burning) power station. 4. The complete resistance of the energy generators to build a solar thermal plant at Port Augusta against the back drop of politicians with heavy personal stakes in SA’s uranium fields sniping, at every opportunity, for a nuclear power plant to be built in this state. Which cannot happen, even if approved by law today, for another 20 years. By the time it is finished, it would be redundant and an albatross around the necks of the South Australian people.

The Australian Federal Government has no concept of the reality of the energy technology transition cusp we are living in at the present. It will take some years to complete. Out the other side, nuclear will be seen by governments around the world, but particularly here, to be a lunatic dead parrot, the advocates for which have made the bird appear to talk only by the precise navigation of the industry’s hand up the birds innards to the dead creature’s squawking apparatus.

Solar and the Grid

Unlike nuclear reactors, if solar PV and solar thermal loose connection to the grid, the consequences do not cost billions of yen and thousands of human hours of suffering. The concept of the nuclear refugee was a reality in 1945 and such refugees exist in a number of countries.

Rural and Remote Australians have had many decades of experience without connection to the electricity grid.

Such Australians were among the first to adopt solar PV panels and batteries to power their homes. Often farms also relied upon diesel generation for agricultural/industrial purposes and as energy supplementation.

Today solar/ battery powered rural households are more economic to set up. Current cost estimate guides give a range of prices to establish an off grid home. For example a price range from $!0,000 to $36,000, depending on capacity requirements, are given by the following estimate website: This may represent a major form of cost relief for rural and remote homes, who would have to pay more for the extension of the grid to their homes. However, though many SA homes are already contributing to the national grid and lowering their energy costs by using solar PV panels, relatively few city dwellers have disconnected from grid. As the cost of solar panels and batteries reduce, this movement away from the grid by Australian urban dwellers will increase.

The combination of Solar PV and storage battery at the urban residential level demonstrates a critical vector of change in the present energy technology transition cusp.

Solar PV plus battery, coupled with progressive price reductions over time and technological improvements leading to progressively increased components efficiency at the same time demonstrates the potential for urban dwellers to become independent of the grid.

While think tanks point out the increasing cost of the grid via pole and wire servicing and rebuild costs, new technology is allowing more and more urban households to escape the constraints and costs of the grid entirely.

The solar/battery technologies, both those on the market today and those of the future are increasingly making the grid redundant for more and more people.

As we have seen, nuclear regulations demand that a grid be compatible with nuclear power. The grid which services a nuclear reactor requires a high level of investment, and in the words of the IAEA itself, “”For a Member State that does not yet use nuclear power, the introduction and development of nuclear power is a major undertaking. It requires the country to build physical infrastructure and develop human resources so it can
construct and operate a nuclear power plant (NPP) in a safe, secure and technically sound manner. ” Source: IAEA. see above.

The cost effectiveness of rendering Australia’s power grid nuclear compatible, for reactor safety is reliant on this, is highly dubious now, would certainly increase power bills for the twenty years of the planning, approval and construction phase.

In two decades time, it may well the case that the major urban centres will not have a residential power grid at all. Local grids may exist at the area or block level, in order to share rooftop generating capacity and neighbourhood storage capacity. But the idea that SA would need a residential power grid centred around a very remotely located nuclear reactor reliant upon the interstate interconnector for its safety stability and for increasing consumer demand for power restricted to household grid connection seems a deluded pipe dream even now.

Nuclear is tried to a highly specified and expensive grid for more than one reason. 1. Reactors require power from the grid for safe operation. 2. Reactors rely on power from the grid long term after emergency shut down. Emergency systems require absolutely secure connection to a powered grid. An interruption to that supply connection of more than 8 hours threatens the ability of even modern Western reactors to avoid the same fate as befell the three reactors of Fukushima Diiachi Number 1 power station. Not even in the Westinhouse AP1000 is the emergency passive system of cooling able to function for more than 8 hours. Mains power must be securely available to nuclear reactors even in shutdown.

Some Australian authorities are concerned that already, as household electricity consumption per household declines and grid costs spiral upwards at the domestic level, the trend of residential disconnection from the grid will make grid costs and energy costs for the industrial and commercial sector spiral upwards to unavoidable levels. The fact is residential grid connected energy users have always subsidised the bulk wholesale energy prices paid by industrial scale energy users. While the concept of bulk pricing is an accepted and fair one, if energy suppliers cannot provide economic industrial scale power to bulk users with current technology such as coal, gas, wind and solar – given that the price of solar and wind continues to reduce – then the generators within their privately owned sphere have only themselves to blame.

As grid costs continue to escalate, more urban dwellers will become independent of the grid. What industry is to do about the resultant increase in its energy costs as wage earners abandon the high price of traditional energy delivery and generate and store their own energy is up to government and industry. The wage earners are less and less keen to subsidise the bulk pricing industry has always enjoyed.

Australia in the 1950s led the world in solar research. That has not been the case for many years.

While some sections of industry and business see nuclear power as the answer, the economics and limitations of the grid, from the point of view of the domestic user, renders the idea ridiculous.

By the time a nuclear reactor, if approved to be built in SA today, was built and contributing to grid power, the year will be about 2038. And a very high proportion of the people in metropolitan South Australia will be running entirely from the sun and from battery storage. They wont be connected to the grid, they wont be paying the economic price of the nuclear plant, nor its power, nor its highly specified grid. They will have no need of it and will mourn the cost of the mistake as paid for, probably, by a special tax levy, needed to finance the bankrupt white elephant.

Instead of complaining industry and right wing politicians need to study the adaptions of technology needed to make renewable appropriate to them. It should not be hard to achieve an economic industrial grid powered by renewables and energy storage.

Costs associated with the grid are a major element to be dealt with realistically in the present era of the energy technology transitional cusp.

Nuclear needs the grid for many critical reasons, including safety. Solar can take it or leave it.