Thursday, May 17, 2012

Fukushima: contaminated area could produce 7x more power, used for PV

Fukushima nuclear power plant
We were talking about Fukushima the other day, and Nicky mentioned that the land that is too much contaminated with radioactivity for living and agricultural purposes could be used for renewable energy. Which s a good point.

So I did some very rough calculations.

Take the evacuation area, set at 30 Km (30,000 metres) around Fukushima as the radius.
Take Pi (22/7) as 3, because these are very rough calculations.
Area of a circle is Pi R squared.
3*30,000*30,000 = 2.7 billion square metres.

But half of this area is in the sea (you thought I was going to forget that, didn't you?)
So we have 1.35 billion sq metres to work with.

Insolation of Japan is 4.3KWh/m2/day, so this area gets 5.8 billion KWh/d.

Assume the area is covered with PV panels which are 10% efficient (market leaders are breaking 40% at present, but no matter) the contaminated area would therefore produce 0.58 billion KWh per day, which I make to be 580 GWh/day, or 211,120 GWh per year.

Now. Now then. The output of Fukushima Daichi Nuclear power plant is quoted as 29,981 GWh per year. Say 30,000 GWh/y.

It therefore appears, as a result of the above calculations, that the solar power output of the area contaminated by the Fukushima tragedy is 7 (seven) times greater than the original power output of the nuclear station.

I may be wrong.

My field is psychiatry and general practice. I can only do basic maths. I do not have the calculus.
I may have got decimal points sliding around all over the place.

But I have used conservative calculations all around, and I have done my best.
If you are a nuclear engineer, you will be able to check my calculations, I'm sure, and I stand to be corrected.

For the avoidance of confusion, I am not advocating that we should encourage nuclear power development, whether uninsured (as is the case at present) or not, on the grounds that if they blow up, we can use the contaminated ground to collect sunbeams.

I am advocating that we do the solar/renewable thing without going through the nuclear stage.


See also: Could we trust Iran not to attack us with the sharp corners of photovoltaic panels?


@jessecusack said...

I love calculations like these, and so does this guy here:

who writes a blog about climate/energy/sustainability which is really worth reading.

Some things I can't help but point out about your calculation are:
* the ground around Fukushima is not flat!
* a complete blanket of PV arrays would mean chopping down vast swaths of forests.
* the weather doesn't distribute radiation contamination in a nice circle, and the huge majority of the 'exclusion zone' is likely to be entirely free of radioactivity.

Another interesting fact is that around Chernobyl, wildlife is thriving, seemingly unaffected by radioactivity hot spots. It would suggest that human presence is much more harmful than radioactivity.

DocRichard said...

Hi Jesse

Thanks for commenting. I take your point about the trees and the topography. I just took the exclusion zone as a guideline.

Turbines could be installed too.

There would be no NIMBies to object, that's the point.

This was only a half-serious proposal. The main point was to show the enormous potential of solar energy. I was surprised it was so great, considering that Japan is on the same latitude as UK.

Thanks for the link to do the math - a great resource.

Did you look at the Iran link in my post?

@jessecusack said...

Solar potential is staggering! As 'do the math' works out, it eclipses the potential of all other (currently known) power sources by orders of magnitude.

I read your link, and agree countries like Iran are ideally place to exploit solar energy. The problem is of course, political and economic, rather than technological. Can enough people get their act together to plan a cross-borders renewable energy grid?

DocRichard said...

That is the $64bn question. But I'm optimistic, as we see HVDC popping up more and more. It is all horrendously slow, like riding a bike through a lake of treacle, but however unlikely it seems, the political machine is not a 100% reason-free zone.