Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nuclear options

There have been occasions where I've heard people in Nunavut say what they really need to solve the energy problems facing the territory are nuclear power plants.

Now, this has been one of these things that gets a raised eyebrow from me. First of all, nuclear power plants are phenomenally expensive. If I'm not mistaken the power they generate can only be transmitted over relatively short distances. And, you know, they're nuclear power plants. I don't have a strong opinion on nuclear power one way or another, but if one was being built in Iqaluit, you can bet I would start learning a whole lot more about the critters before I would feel comfortable living that close to one.

Then I found this website (courtesy of the usual culprit, Warren Ellis). Basically, imagine very small, very portable nuclear generator that could provide electricity for about 20,000 homes.

Now, I have no idea how legitimate this company is, if the technology actually exists or if these people are complete cranks. Nor does it say anywhere that I can find how much one of these generators would cost. The cost of a single generators could still be in the tens of millions of dollars range.

But if this technology is legitimate and if the costs aren't completely insane, then it certainly is an interesting option for Nunavut's power issues. Most communities burn an insane amount of fuel to provide electricity and oil isn't cheap. Wind or hydro-electric still might be preferable, but if this portable nuclear generator is legit, then I guess the idea of nuclear power for Nunavut isn't as silly as silly as I once thought it was.

Last Five
1. She has no time - Keane
2. My way to you - Lloyd Cole
3. Call it a day - The Raconteurs
4. Tired of pretending - Blue Rodeo
5. Dignity - Bob Dylan


Ron said...

Yeah I have been thinking this almost since I got up here. Despite the images of Three MIle Island or Chernobyl dancing in our heads small reactors have a long history of safe operations on submarines. If a hung over Warrant Officer can operate one of these safely at 500 meters below sea level I'm not too worried about them on land.

The Canadians actually have a design for a small reactor which they built in the mid-eighties called the Slowpoke. There is one in operation in Kingston RMC. I think they put it in there in the 80's when the Canadian military aspired to nuclear subs.

Also the electricity generated from a nuclear power plant can be transmitted as far as electricity generated by hydro or oil or solar. So concievably you could just put the thing out in the middle of the tundra and run the wires.

The biggest problem from a political economy perspective is that if you go this route you don't get the opportunity to create a huge building project and the associated jobs. But the HUGE the GN has taken on fuel this past year might cause themn to reconsider that cost-benefit equation.

Anonymous said...

Hey Craig , have you seen this show yet.


It has completely changed my way of thinking.Do we really need to burden our children with looking after this Toxic mess when we are gone.Will this be what we are remembered for.

It has really made me think.

Anthony said...

The small Alaska town of Galena, Alaska is moving towards one of these systems. It is being built by Toshiba, requires minimal staffing and can go 30 years without refelling. The costs to generate power are a fraction of what it costs for diesel.

When when you stack it up against 30 years of tanker flights to bring in diesel for the generators, it sounds like a good option for Northern communities.

Galena is a pilot project, supposed to be online in 5 years or so. If it works out I bet you'll see more of these popping up across the North.