How Many Reactors?

Page Contents

PWR Progrramme

In a 22 year period from 1977 to 1999 France built a generating system containing 58 reactors.

Its capacity was of similar size to Australia’s but generates only 40 gr CO2/kwh or less that a 20th of Australia’s emissions intensity.

Edition 3, Revised 18/10/2016

Figure 1 – AP1000 reactor nearing completion at Sanmen in China

The initial scoping of the Australian Nuclear for Climate Project will reference the Westinghouse AP1000 of the type shown in Figure 1 with its electrical capacity of 1117MWe. This is based upon its recognised design merits within the Chinese and US markets, its current design approval in the US, Europe and China, its lower generating capacity and ready acceptance of US technology within Australia. This does not exclude other designs with similar power output.

How many reactors are required?

Electricity Generation

In the remainder of this section we will provide a “broad brush” scoping of the size of the project which will be determined in detail within the actual study. The initial sites would utilise existing coal and gas generating sites and would also need to meet evolving environmental requirements.

1. New South Wales and ACT

Within New South Wales we have about 10 GW current coal plant capacity variously commissioned between 1973 and 1993. These plants which include Liddell, Vales Point B and Eraring produce about 73 million tonnes of CO2 per annum and carbon intensities of approximately 1,000 gr. CO2/kWh.

In addition we have 2 GW of younger peaking gas plants with emissions of up to 730 gr. CO2/kWh. We also have potential generating sites at disused plants such as Wallerawang and Munmorah where 2.4GW of capacity was previously in operation.

Reference to the future demand in New South Wales as documented Australian Energy Projections to 2049-50 by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics in 2014 shows that by 2050 the state will require 94TWh of electricity per annum. Assuming 80% is provided by a reliable low carbon source such as nuclear energy then this equates to 9.6 x 1.117 GW AP1000 nuclear power plants.

   2. Victoria

Within Victoria we have 6.3 GW of current brown coal plant capacity commissioned between 1964 and 1985. These plants are Hazelwood, Loy Yang A&B and Yallourn and include some of the world’s most polluting generators with up to 1,400 gr. CO2/kWh. In addition another 2.4 GW of gas power exists which was commissioned between 1979 and 2012.

Reference to the future demand in Victoria in the BREE 2014 document shows that by 2050 the state will require 56 TWh of electricity per annum. Assuming 80% is provided by a reliable low carbon source such as nuclear energy then this equates to 5.7 x 1.117 GW AP1000 nuclear power plants.

   3. Queensland

In Queensland about 8.4 GW of coal generators are operating. These were commissioned between 1968 with Callide B and 2007 with Kogan Creek. In addition another 3.5 GW of gas power capacity was constructed between1960 with Mica Creek but the rest after 1999.

Reference to the future demand in Queensland in the BREE 2014 document shows that by 2050 the state will require 85 TWh of electricity per annum. Assuming 80% is provided by a reliable low carbon source such as nuclear energy then this equates to 8.7 x 1.117 GW AP1000 nuclear power plants.

   4. South Australia

Within South Australia the coal plants are closing down though 2.7 GW of gas power exists which maintains high greenhouse gas emissions. In 2014 South Australia produced 7,600 GWh of fossil fueled generation.

Reference to the future demand in South Australia in the BREE 2014 document shows that by 2050 the state will require 28 TWh of electricity per annum. Assuming 80% is provided by a reliable low carbon source such as nuclear energy then this equates to 3 x 1.117 GW AP1000 nuclear power plants.

   5. Western Australia

Within Western Australia there are three electricity generating systems and they are not connected together.

The largest is the South West Interconnected System (SWIS) which has some 2.994GW of capacity and 91% of this is powered by fossil fuels.

The North West Interconnected System (NWIS) has 554MW of generating capacity but this can change rapidly because being located in the Pilbarra region it responds to changes in resource development. The NWIS is closer to 99% fossil fuel dependent.

The major and realistic challenge for decarbonisation in WA are the Non-Interconnected generators which total 3,390MW of capacity and are 99% fossil fueled. They consist of many small generators located around the state at small communities and resource projects and are often separated by hundreds of kilometres.

Reference to the future demand in Western Australia in the BREE 2014 document shows that by 2050 the state will require 46 TWh of electricity per annum however roughly 32TWh will be generated on the SWIS and NWIS. Large reactors are not practical in WA and so if and when Small Modular Reactors become available it is calculated that 16 x 225MW SMR’s could provide some 39 TWh of electricity generation per annum. These reactors would also meet some 46% of the projected peak of 7,500MW.

   6. Tasmania

Tasmania is currently supplied by hydropower

Reference to the future demand in Western Australia in the BREE 2014 document shows that by 2050 the state will require 17 TWh of electricity per annum while the current output in 2015 is 14TWh. Assuming 80% of this increase of 3TWhis provided by a reliable low carbon source such as nuclear energy then this equates to only 0.4 x 1.117 GW AP1000 nuclear power plants.

   7. Northern Territory

The Northern Territory is currently supplied by 618.2MW of gas fired power

Reference to the future demand in the Northern Territory in the BREE 2014 document shows that by 2050 the state will require 7 TWh of electricity per annum. Assuming 80% of this is provided by a reliable low carbon source such as nuclear energy then this equates to only 1 x 1.117 GW AP1000 nuclear power plant.

   8. Summary

In 2050, if all the states and territories of Australia were to get 80% of their electricity generated by nuclear generated power, this could be supplied by 28 x 1.117 GW AP1000 nuclear power plants and 15 x 225MW SMR’s in Western Australia.

Transport Fuel

This resolution of this issue is of massive benefit to both Australia’s national security and our environment. As the steady replacement of the fleet of motor cars, motor cycles, light vehicles and buses with electric power takes place, the demand for additional electricity generation will increase rapidly.

In 2012 Australia consumed 215,570 mega litres of petroleum products in light vehicles, passenger cars and buses. In a 2013 report, Australia’s Fuel Security, commissioned by the NRMA found that Australia imports 91 per cent of its fuel, up from around 60 per cent in 2000.

Over a two or three decade period, in the eastern states alone, the replacement of some 200,000 mega litres per year of liquid fossil fuels costing around $32 billion at $1.4/litre could be replaced by electricity costing $8.5 billion at $150/MWh.

By 2050 if Australia used 80% of electrified light vehicles and 40% of heavy transport then this could be met by 7.4 x 1.117GW AP1000 sized nuclear power plants and 5 x 225MW SMR’s in Western Australia.

The potential also exists for increased use of electrified rail freight and high speed rail which would reduce air travel. This will further increase the need for reliable and despatchable electricity generation.

Primary Energy Processes

Stationary energy and industrial processes amount to 23% of Australia’s Greenhouse Gas emissions.

One very exciting process advocated by John Morgan through the Breakthrough Institute can be viewed at The Breakthrough Institute – Ammonia is Everest Base Camp for Clean Energy. This concept provides a clear direction to eliminating the emissions of carbon dioxide emissions in fertiliser manufacture and can be extended to all processes requiring hydrogen production and even transport fuels.

Some other processes such as cement and metal manufacture have unique process issues requiring high temperature process heat which may be provided by a future generation of high temperature reactors. Nonetheless increased electricity use within these sectors could displace large amounts of fossil fuel use though no estimate is included at this stage.

By 2050 the BREE report projects that Australia will consume some 1618Pj of primary energy. Assuming that 70% of this became electric power operating at 90% efficiency instead of around 35% from thermal source then this would require some 122.4TWh/annum which could be supplied by a further 13.6 x 1.117 GW AP1000 nuclear power plants and 10.9 x 225MW SMR’s in Western Australia .

Australia’s Reactor program to supply our needs in 2050

In summary then the roll out requires at least

28 x 1.117 GW AP 1000  and 15 x 225ME SMR nuclear power plants to supply 80% or 265.6TWh of electricity production,
7.4 x 1.117GW and 5 x 225MW SMR nuclear power plants for the replacement of petroleum products in 80% of light vehicles and 40% of heavy transport,
at least 13.6 x 1.117 GW and 10.9 x 225MW SMR nuclear power plants for 70% of industrial processes

making 49 AP1000 and 31 SMR nuclear power plants in all.

This is a large program though comparable to that achieved in France over a 22 year period from the 1970’s to the 1990’s.

Further Development

This section of the project requires help in exploring the options and developing the concepts.

It requires people with skills in:

  • Electrical Engineering to advise on grid assessment, scoping and costing
  • People with skills in industrial and mechanical processes, chemistry, metallurgy to invent new electrified processes to maximise the use of electricity to displace fossil fuel use.
  • Electrical demand projections including new markets and fossil fuel replacement strategies.
  • Construction personnel both professional and trades related to help build up the costing and workplace opportunities.