The Alternatives to Nuclear Power and Expensive Renewable Energy Technologies

September 8th, 2016 Posted in cost of power generation, Uncategorized

The Alternatives to Nuclear Power and Expensive Renewable Energy Technologies

Talks about using nuclear energy and reviving the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) and to use rapidly getting cheaper renewable energy such as solar PV and wind are all long-shots in making Philippine electricity cheaper and more reliable.

What the country needs are safe, indigenous and base load power plants.

The nuclear option is a long-way to go as the country needs to develop and upgrade its nuclear regulatory framework (our Philippine Atomic Energy Commission is a research agency, not a nuclear regulator), the BNPP has to be technically, environmentally, geologically and economically studied to see if it is safe, its components are still in good working order or needs to be replaced and upgraded, the country is equipped to handle any nuclear mishaps, accidents, terrorist attacks, and the additional $1 billion to upgrade and make operational and cost of nuclear fuel rods will still allow BNPP to make electricity below grid rate of 5-6 P/kWh. We can’t reduce power costs unless we introduce power plants that are cheaper to build, more efficient to run, environmentally and geologically compliant, and have secure and cheaper sources of fuels.

Moreover, adding more renewable energy sources that are intermittent such as solar PV and wind, will require feed-in-tariff (FIT rate) support to enable them to be economically feasible (its rate can repay its costs, usually imported solar panels and inverters and wind turbine generators).

Using nuclear energy, solar PV and wind will involve paying for imported capital equipment and imported nuclear fuels. Also, nuclear energy requires a tandem energy storage such as pumped hydro to absorb any surplus output of the nuclear power plant since it would not be economical and safe to run a nuclear power plant with highly varying loads. It needs an energy absorber, like the Lake Caliraya Pumped Hydro to absorb excess power at night so that when peak demand rises during the day, the pumped hydro releases the stored energy from the pumped water.

Also, the intermittent solar PV and wind need to be supported with backup power from baseload fossil power plants like coal thermal, oil thermal and gensets, gas thermal, combined cycle and open cycle gas turbines that will catch the surge in demand or drop in generation capacity when the sun and wind fades in strength.

So there you have it. Nuclear energy is not a quick fix that will allow the current Duterte Administration to solve pronto the recurring power outages and yellow alerts that result in expensive power dispatched like peaking diesel gensets, bunker thermals (Malaya Oil Thermal), open cycle and combined cycle gas turbines with rapid ramp-up and ramp-down rates.

So what is the better and doable alternative that will provide a cheaper power generation technology and indigenous fuel components and energy resources?

Well you guessed it right. We need to deploy more large hydro, pumped hydro and smaller mini-hydro power plants, waste-to-energy (WTE pyrolysis) power plants utilizing municipal solid wastes (MSW), dispatcheable biomass power plants (using agricultural wastes, land-fill gas and biogas from animal and human wastes), low BTU geothermal resources using Kalina technology (geothermal fluid transferring heat to a working fluid to drive low pressure turbine generators and re-injecting the spent geothermal fluid back to the earth so there is no pollution to the atmosphere and nearby surface and ground waters), and mine-mouth low BTU coal-fired CFB power plants.

All the above are safer, requires lower capital outlay for minimal imported equipment, uses indigenous waste fuels, geothermal heat and domestic coals. Aside from being cheaper and faster to deploy, and thus solve soonest our power cost and supply problems, they don’t require imported fuels. Such fuels can be produced using local manpower and thus contribute to inclusive growth to the rural and poor Filipinos.

It will also solve corruption at the local levels. Currently, the disposal of domestic garbage or municipal solid waste (MSW) entails massive corruption when local officials (city and municipal and provincial officials) get kickbacks from garbage truck hauling contractors.

Thru WTE using MSW, the local governments can pay tipping fees to the WTE power company to receive additional revenues aside from selling electricity to the local and national grids. Also, the WTE power company will pay the garbage hauling contractor to collect, segregate and deliver the burnable portion of the MSW to the WTE power company. This will promote transparency and minimize corruption at the local levels. The power generated by such WTE will thus be lower since the fuel is free, only requiring the payment of garbage hauling, while it receives tipping fees from the local government.

Additionally, this will effectively solve the problem of not having a sanitary landfill to dispose of solid wastes as required by the Solid Waste Management Law, in which many LGU units could not comply with because of the absence of favorable geological features in their location.

Besides, garbage dumped at the sanitary landfill will continue to accumulate, and soon, the landfill is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the garbage.

But putting a WTE power plant will not only reduce the MSW to only 5-10% of the original garbage volume, it will also prolong the life of the landfill. It will also avoid the accumulation of untreated toxic leachate that may contaminate the surface waters and ground waters that are used for domestic and drinking supplies. While landfill gas from sanitary landfills is desirable in making use of garbage dumps, a significant volume of the MSW is still left at the landfill site after the gaseous fuels have been extracted and depleted, thus making the landfill site unusable, unlike the WTE landfill site which is covered with spent ash that is high in density and biologically stable and thus suitable for habitation after the site has stabilized in 20 years or less.

I sincerely hope that the DOE and President DUTERTE puts more effort to study the proposals more diligently.

Let us not just implement renewable technologies that just transfer wealth to the advanced economies (e.g. China for the solar panels and wind turbine generators, Western Countries for the nuclear generation technology and nuclear fuel rods and disposal of spent fuel rods).

To summarize, the only way to reduce Philippine Electricity Costs is to apply safe, environmentally and geologically sound, cheaper power generation equipment, and cheaper indigenous sources of energy and fuels like MSW and low BTU coals and geothermal fluids, and water resources.

Your energy technology selection and power generation expert.

Marcial Ocampo


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