Tuesday 12 December 2017
 
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ANALYSIS

Nuclear power key part of green energy mix: study

CAIRO, 15 days ago

While renewables are generally regarded as the solution, the definition of what does and what does not qualify as renewable energy tends to focus on wind and solar sources while downplaying the role of nuclear power, say experts.

In the wake of the most recent United Nations Climate Change conference (COP 23), the general excitement over the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2015 is giving way to the practical considerations of how individual countries and the world as a whole are going to tackle the transitioning to a low-carbon economy while meeting their growing energy demands.

The obvious fact is that drastic adjustments are required to the energy mix that will form the basis of the future economy that does not depend on hydrocarbons for normal operation. The key question that is just what that energy mix is going to be that could sustainable provide for humanity’s energy needs while also preserving the environment.

While renewables are generally regarded as the solution, the definition of what does and what does not qualify as renewable energy, tends to focus on sources such as wind, solar, biomass hydro power sources while neglecting or downplaying the role of nuclear power. Many experts believe this line of thinking is both unfair and detrimental to the effort of transitioning to a low-carbon economy and combating climate change, in which nuclear power and other renewables should be teaming up rather than competing.

Professor Yasin Ibrahim, former chairman of Nuclear Power Plants Authority, said that Egyptians have many questions and rumours and sometimes misconceptions, whether intentionally or unintentionally about the harmful and enormous danger of using nuclear energy.

“They also know that Egypt enjoys enormous solar energy resources and has huge capabilities for wind energy. But those who promote these concepts have neglected the rest of the truth related to the characteristics of electricity consumption and the need for sustainable electricity,” he added.

The capacity of electricity source should be more than 50 per cent of the maximum loads which isn’t supported by renewable energy. On the other hand, the continuity of the wind throughout the day and even throughout the year or tens of years is inconsistent, and there are periods of stillness. What is the alternative of these sources? There is no conflict between different energy sources but there must be integration. We can achieve maximum benefits from energy mix at appropriate cost. There is an urgent need to clarify these facts with complete transparency and without conflict and the need for a clear and wise media discourse.

And actual data speaks quite clearly for nuclear power being an essential part of the global energy mix that can sustain and support humanity’s growing electricity demands without reliance on hydrocarbons. In a scientific paper Burden of Proof, a group of Australian researchers led by Ben Heard, Executive Director of climate change think tank Bright New World, examine 28 different global energy consumption scenarios and how renewables such as wind and solar perform in terms of supplying power under these scenarios.

Notably, of the 28 scenarios analysed in the report, only two simulated power supply to periods of under 1 hour – that is, the baseload power supply that is critical to the functioning of any economy and even those did not take into account the exponentially growing demand for electricity worldwide. The conclusion of the report was unequivocal – renewables, at least for the observable future, are even theoretically unable to form the basis of any country’s energy mix.

This leaves nuclear power, which is uniquely capable of producing clean energy in a stable and reliable manner regardless of the weather and other external conditions, as the only viable alternative to hydrocarbons in supplying baseload power for humankind’s needs.

This conclusion is borne out by the realities that the world’s countries are increasingly coming to face, In the UK, the country’s electricity network operator, National Grid, has estimated that, in to meet the 2C target set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the UK needs to build 14.5 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2035, this being the only scenario where the carbon reduction goals are met. Then there is the case of Germany, whose rejection of nuclear power as part of the Energiewende policy has already cost the German economy and taxpayers more than $200 billion in subsidies for renewables, doubling the electricity tariffs, while failing to reduce the country’s emissions.

Dr Mohamed Mounir Megahed, independent technical consultant, Nuclear Energy Applications, said: “Renewable energy resources can play an important role in the energy mix of any country and can reduce the adverse environmental impacts of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, coal), but they are not a reliable alternatives for these sources of energy or even for nuclear energy that provides electricity 24/7.”

In addition, there are several problems related to the use of renewable sources of energy, including problems related to the nature of the source itself, and technological problems related to the development of various technological options, and economic problems related to the cost of different renewable energy systems.

As a result, the alternative to nuclear energy is not renewable energy but fossil fuels (coal) and this is what happened in Germany, instead of reducing carbon emissions after these policies, they are steadily increasing. Not only that, but wind and solar have proved to be prone to catastrophic failures at times when the demand for electricity is highest. This January, for instance, heavy clouds and fog meant that Germany’s wind and solar power generation ground to a complete halt. Again, the deficit had to be made up through increased use of coal and gas – and nuclear, as the remaining operational NPPs were generating power at full capacity to keep the country’s economy running.

In a reasonable approach to a sustainable energy economy, however, such tradeoffs would be both self-defeating and unnecessary. Rather than pitting nuclear power against renewables, the world’s countries will benefit greatly by accepting nuclear as an integral part to form the basis of a low-carbon economy of the future, and learning to use it in combination with other renewables to create a truly sustainable energy mix.

Dr Mohamed El Sobki, professor at the Engineering Faculty, Cairo University, said: “The importance of creating the ideal energy mix from different resources, if only sustainability and availability are valid. The objective is not diversification itself, but the sustainability of the resource is what matters most.”- TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Renewable energy | solar | Cairo | Nuclear power | Wind |

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