Monday, October 15, 2012

Singapore: Not All Nuclear News Is Good

From Singapore:

Second Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran said a pre-feasibility study has concluded that current nuclear energy technology is not suitable for use in Singapore, even though the latest designs of nuclear power plants are much safer than older designs which remain in use in many countries.

Not exactly a  good time story for nuclear energy advocates.

Konstantin Foskolos, project adviser from Switzerland, said: "Singapore should wait for a reactor technology that cannot have a severe accident like in Fukushima - where the probability of such an accident is practically zero. Fukushima reactors belong to a technology which is 30,40 years old. They cannot compare with today's reactors. This zero probability for an accident can be achieved by different kinds of technology, which are currently under scrutiny and under development."

None of this really adds up – if Foskolos feels that current technology is not like that of Fukushima Daiichi, and less prone to accidents, then what’s the problem? If it’s a question of risk, then where does one draw the line? In 2009, power lines owned by a subsidiary of Singapore Power (may have) toppled over in Australia, causing a fire that killed 119 people. I say “may have” because I don’t believe the cause of the fire was determined definitively – the point is, power lines in dry country carries a risk.

Mr Iswaran said: "Singapore needs to continue to monitor the progress of nuclear energy technologies, and to strengthen our capabilities to understand nuclear science and technology. It is also important to track related developments in areas such as emergency response and radioactive waste disposal. Then we can assess the implications of evolving nuclear energy technologies and regional nuclear energy developments for Singapore. This will also strengthen our operational preparedness and our existing capabilities in radiation and incident response."

You really don’t need a million reasons to do something – or not do it – but it’s interesting regardless that Singapore looked at nuclear energy. Currently, Singapore generates about 80 percent of its electricity from natural gas, almost all of which it imports. The goals here are energy diversity and independence – and maybe balancing its trade portfolio while it’s at it. I couldn’t find much on renewable energy – maybe Singapore is too small for it to make much sense at the scale it requires. This abstract for a report seems to think so.

Ah well – moral of story: can’t win ‘em all.

---

But why leave on the down note?

Poland will pursue its plan to build the country's first nuclear power station, a government member said on Monday, playing down suggestions from commentators that the 50 billion zlotys ($15.8 billion) investment might be scrapped.

And:

European Union member Poland wants to develop nuclear power to reduce its dependence on highly polluting coal. It aims to launch a 3 gigawatt nuclear plant by 2023 and double that capacity by 2030.

GE-Hitachi, Westinghouse and AREVA are all angling for some of the work. Hope they all get some.

2 comments:

Robin said...

Singapore is a city state and as such, a decision to not build is a minor dissapointment at best. It has the same impact on the industry as, say, Chicago deciding not to build a nuclear plant. The reaction from the audience sould be a "Huh? Chicago?".

Engineer-Poet said...

I don't know if Singapore has a stand-alone grid or is connected to others, but its 2009 electric consumption of 39.6 TWH yields an average of about 4.5 GW.  An AP-1000 would supply roughly a quarter of average electric demand, which is a huge amount for a single plant.

Singapore is probably better off waiting for the mPower or other small modular reactor, and buying those in some quantity on the order of a dozen.