The Present and the Future of the Australian Power Grid. Big Bucks and Fewer and Fewer Users.
Currently Australians are discussing and are concerned about the cost of electrical power. The cost of the electrical grid has become more and more expensive. Energy market authorities have noted that this fixed cost is increasing. At the same time, the advent of solar panels and storage batteries has meant that some people are no longer reliant at all upon the electricity grid and more and more people are totally reliant upon it. The fewer people and businesses connected to the grid, the higher grid costs will be for the remaining grid connected customers.
I think it is unlikely that widespread house hold and business adoption of plutonium or strontium Radioisotope thermoelectric generator batteries will occur. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator ). These devices are routinely used by NASA in its space craft, and have been used extensively as a source of electrical power in remote areas in various nations, especially in the former USSR. There are a number of reasons why these devices will not be sold on the retail market to individuals. The reasons for this relate not the devices’ function nor its normal safe operation. The reasons relate to what the devices contain. I will discuss this further later.
At the dawn of the nuclear age, it’s futuristic advocates , such as Dr. Edward Teller (USA) and Prof, Titterton (Australia).promised that nuclear technology, including nuclear power cars, would hit the open market “soon”. NASA does use nuclear isotope thermal electrical generator batteries in spacecraft. For example: “Radioisotope power systems convert heat from the natural radioactive decay of the isotope plutonium-238 (used in a ceramic form of plutonium dioxide) into electrical power to operate the computers, science instruments, and other hardware aboard NASA missions.” End quote, Source: “NASA Radio Isotope Power Systems, About RPS, About Plutonium 238.” These devices could power homes and cars. They could compete on the open market against solar panels and lithium batteries. This will never happen, for reasons I will explain later.
Seriously thinking about the power grid as it is, the cost of it, the nature of the challenges and changes the current grid faces into the future, the rise of home and business small scale power generation and storage, the anticipated rise in micro grids and shared power generation leads to various possibilities. And most of these possibilities pose serious questions on many levels. Access and equity being a most important one, one that so far has not, substantially, been included planning for either the present or the future. It is certain, in my opinion, that over time more and more Australians will live grid independent lives.
There are no small scale modular reactors in mass production, none with a proven commercial track record and the vast bulk exist only as concepts, designs and prototypes. A nation which installed a current model small modular reactor would be foolish to do so. They are unproven.
Nuclear power does not address the market which caters for those who wish to disconnect from the grid. This is because the proliferation of solar panels is not a threat to the safety of the world. This is why RTG power sources will be sold on the retail market. This is why I cannot ring up NASA and order 6 RTGs to bolt to my house to power it. I will never be allowed to sell the excess power such an array of RTGs to my immediate neighbours. There are other reasons in addition to proliferation concerns and treaties. There is the threat of deliberate misuse. There are other threats. There is the aging of the unit’s shielding. There is the threat of theft. And so on and so on. In a perfect world RTGs could power millions of home. There is nothing about the device themselves that poses a threat. The problem is not the functioning unit. The threat is the nature of humanity, for all our attributes we are capable of making grave mistakes and of acts of folly. Even though RTGs could radically reduce deforestation in remote areas such as on the fringes of the Sahara, the risks are so grave it will never be done. However, off grid power provided at the village level to the same area can halt the expansion of the Sahara over night, and villagers would have far less need to walk miles looking for firewood.
Although the current generation of lithium batteries need to be developed futher, they are in use and their prices are rapidly becoming more and more affordable. Further, current research by various researchers in various nations – including Australia, China, the joint China – Australia university based teams in Australia, the US Military and many others – hold the very real promise of perfecting aqueous Lithium batteries which are fire proof, cheap and safe to store and use at any time, including whe n worn out. The life span of today’s lithium batteries is 10 years, and this is expected to increase. I refer to the article “Army discovery opens path to safer batteries, By CCDC Army Research Laboratory Public AffairsMay 10, 2019, USA, at https://www.army.mil/article/221700/army_discovery_opens_path_to_safer_batteries the article in part states: “….researchers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory known as ARL, and the University of Maryland demonstrated a transformative step in battery technology with the identification of a new cathode chemistry…. Building on their previous discoveries of the intrinsically safe “water-in-salt electrolytes (WiSE)” and the technique to stabilize graphite anodes in WiSE, the team’s development of the novel cathode chemistry further extends available energy for aqueous batteries to a previously unachievable level.” End quote. Source as cited above. Backpack RTGs could be carried by soldiers, The reasons why that has never happened and will likely never happen relates not to the device’s functional reality but to the manner by which it may be misused by enemy and to the consequences of battle damage to the device’s shielding. Nuclear industry only sells to governments. It does not have a product for the mass retail market. Normal people are not to be trusted with an RTG in the shed or bolted to their houses or shoved under the bonnet of an electric VW Beetle. The promises made by Teller and Titterton always were bunkum. It could all done but it will never will be done. The nuclear industry has nothing to sell me as an individual. A home will never be grid independent because of nuclear technology or nuclear products. In fact the reverse is true. As grids get bigger and bigger and more and more complex, they become more and more expensive. In Australia, the more the grid expands, the more money is sent to the owners overseas.
What will the cost of the grid be in 10 years time? In 20 years time? I do not know. However government must surely be aware of projections based on present trends. I would anticipate that the grid is projected to become more and more expensive for those fewer and fewer people who remain totally dependent upon it.
For as sure as eggs, nuclear power will rely upon an expensive nuclear specification power grid to operate economically and to operate safely. I shall prove this in the next section, using IAEA technical documents as my source. I refer the minister to the following news item: “Living off the grid and driving an electric car is this former farmer’s idea of heaven” ABC News, Australia, August 2019 at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-09/sylvia-wilson-lives-off-grid-and-drives-an-electric-car/11391552
The reality is we are on the verge of the onset of the effects of sudden climate change. We are also in a transition phase in terms of energy technology. The power grid is one of the oldest components of the old energy production and distribution order. It is in for a period of rapid change. At the same time as more and more people are able to generate and store their own energy needs, nuclear industry claims it’s nuclear power plants can solve all the world’s energy and save the world. must know it cannot compete in the off grid world. It must know its technology will add to grid costs. The transitions we face in many ways reveal the vulnerabilities of the nuclear industry to changing economics and the changing nature of the Australian energy market. I don’t want experimental reactors with no commercial track record. I don’t want an expensive system which has no social licence to exist in Australia, I don’t want to be connected to the grid at all. I don’t want my electricity to be produced by the consumption of fuel or by the use of Einstein’s 1905 (E = MC squared ie 200 million electrons volts for each atom fissioned) . Einstein is being replaced by the new formula :
E = e – conversion losses. I expect solar panels to become increasingly efficient, and with an increasing expanding operational bsndwidth. In terms of technology breakthroughs which may well render the grid redundant completely, scientists continue to define and understand the Higgs Boson, that concept, recently confirmed as a particle, which seems responsible for determining how the stuff of cosmos manifests. As Mass or as Energy. In comparison to such promise, fission is in fact extremely and wantonly dirty and inefficient. I won’t mention fusion except to say research to date indicates that perhaps soon an investment in fission power could well be the road to grave financial loss. After all, nuclear power already has competitors.
I refer the Minister to the publication: “Review of Radioisotopes as Radiological Weapons”, Carl A. Curling Alex Lodge, INSTITUTE FOR DEFENSE ANALYSES, June 2016 Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited. IDA Document D-8048 Log: H 16-000770, INSTITUTE FOR DEFENSE ANALYSES 4850 Mark Center Drive Alexandria, Virginia 22311-1882. Copyright: Copyright Notice© 2016 Institute for Defense Analyses 4850 Mark Center Drive, Alexandria, Virginia 22311-1882 • (703) 845-2000 This material may be reproduced by or for the U.S. Government pursuant to the copyright license under the clause at DFARS 252.227-7013 (a)(16) [June 2013].
The following information is reproduced from the source above as fair use in the interests of open debate. In relation to portable small nuclear electrical generators the publication says this: “Despite IAEA guidance, many nations still fail to regulate and protect their dangerous sources adequately. For example, in December 2001 in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, an abandoned Russian RTG, which contained significant quantities of 90Sr, was discovered. Three woodsmen encountered the source and unknowingly exposed themselves to high doses of radiation. Two of the woodsmen developed serious symptoms of Acute Radiation Syndrome (ARS) and beta radiation burns that required immediate medical treatment. Another example, from Mexico, occurred when a transport vehicle carrying a significant amount of 60Co was hijacked by criminals. These incidents demonstrate a lack of security and the opportunity that surrounds the acquisition of radiological material. A high demand for illicit radioactive material has resulted in heavy black-market trade, notably in Former Soviet Union (FSU) states.” end quote. source as given above. This publication explains why the nuclear industry cannot enter the retail market. It explains the misuse to which fission products can be put. Nuclear advocates habitually label those who point these facts and risks out as deluded and hysteric idiots. I refute such allegations with the full force of the source document cited above. That such a document is needed and exists at all is appalling, although the topic is known by me and the theme is familiar to me due to my previous employment and training.
Nuclear industry and government does not trust individuals to own their own fission product powered thermal electric generators (RTGs). Yet that industry and its customer governments demand of us that we trust both of them. Once nuclear power comes to Australia we will have no say in regard to the utterances of the nuclear authorities, corporate or governmental. The concept of nuclear secrecy is enshrined in national legislation around the world. Control of information relating to “special nuclear material” is bedrock in the current US Atomic Energy Act. The US concept of “Unclassified Restricted Information” related to “Special Nuclear Material” remains current in the United States. Apart from reducing people from fully knowing, these restrictions prevent investors receiving full disclosure from nuclear industry. Recent events in Japan bear witness to this in action. The indications are that if nuclear power comes to Australia, the free market forces will not be allowed to apply to the nature and adaptions of the grid. The grid will be protected by a barrier from the most efficient future. This is because the grid will have to comply to nuclear specifications. To be viable economically, people will likely be compelled to either remain connected to the grid or to pay for the grid whether they use the grid or not.
Next The reliance of Nuclear Power Plants upon a compatible and infallible Power Grid for safe operation