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Australian Nuclear discussions

Discussion in 'Geostrategic Issues' started by Boagrius, Sep 24, 2019.

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  1. Boagrius

    Boagrius Active Member

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    I don't want to side-track here too much but I am genuinely fascinated - does anyone actually know what would need to happen for the RAN to make the jump to SSN's? I mean barring the political aspect I understand that our lack of a nuclear power industry is an obstacle but is it really a bridge too far logistically speaking?
     
  2. ngatimozart

    ngatimozart Super Moderator Staff Member Verified Defense Pro

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    Read back through the **RAN** thread. It's been thrashed a few times and if GF0012 has commented on it pay very close attention to what he has said, because he is rather knowledgeable in the sub area, without going into too much detail.

    ** EDIT: edited 26/9 to reflect move to new thread from RAN thread.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2019
  3. Boagrius

    Boagrius Active Member

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    Will do, thanks Ngati.
     
  4. John Newman

    John Newman Well-Known Member

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    Mate, the 'bridge too far' is the political aspect, it simply can't be brushed aside, it is the start, middle and end of the matter at the moment, and I can't see it will change anytime soon.

    Currently there is a parliamentary inquiry into the 'Prerequisites for Nuclear Energy in Australia', see below:

    Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy – Parliament of Australia

    We'll just have to wait and see what the result is, but reckon I could just about bet my left nut that it will be a dissenting report, there are five LNP members, two ALP members and independent Zali Steggall on the committee.

    The five LNP members will probably come out with a 'cautiously needs more investigation' finding, and be slightly positive, the ALP members will be a big fat no/negative (as is ALP policy), and from what I understand Steggall is not 'pro nuclear'. Basically the result will end up along party lines.

    The last real inquiry/review into Nuclear in Australia was back in 2006, 13 years ago, it was chaired by Ziggy Switkowski, some recent press regarding him and his opinion of the current 2019 inquiry:

    Australia should repeal nuclear ban, inquiry told - World Nuclear News

    Here is something else worth a read too:

    Nuclear power in Australia - Wikipedia

    The opinion poll stats are interesting (not recent stats, but probably still fairly representative of the electorate), the breakdown along support for political parties is pretty predictable:

    * ALP - for 30% - oppose 66% - don't know 4%
    * LNP - for 59% - oppose 34% - don't know 7%
    * Green - for 22% - oppose 78% - don't know 0%

    Voters for the ALP and LNP are basically mirror reverse of each other, ALP two-thirds against and one-third for, LNP two-thirds for and one-third against, the Greens voters are much more fixed in their views will nearly 80% against.

    So what does that tell us?

    There will be no bipartisan support for SSNs (as opposed to Defence policy generally) unless the ALP shifts its position on all things Nuclear, as it stands at the moment, it has little to gain and a hell a lot to loose (in a political sense), if it changed its position to a more 'pro Nuclear policy', I would easily imagine that a reasonable chunk of the 'left of the ALP' would drift even further to the left and end up at the Greens.

    Anyway, I'm not against debating SSNs for the RAN, but it really is a waste of time until there is broad support firstly for an Australian Nuclear Industry, and that is something that I don't think I'll see in my lifetime!

    Cheers,
     
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  5. StingrayOZ

    StingrayOZ Well-Known Member

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    The french have actually apparently got their reactor working. But I am still skeptical if they will meet the lifetime targets and how cost effective it ill be. Going with regular low enriched uranium will mean french subs will have to watch their power budgets more than US/Russian CONOPs, particularly the soviets who were known for plowing at 30 or even 40 kts through the water. The Barracuda SSN is the best SSN to convert because the french have had a real go at reducing the drag and other factors that should help reduce noise and energy required to operate. Shrinking the K15 down to fit in the Baracuda has been a tremendous problem. I wonder how brazil will built their custom reactor to fit into their subs given the headache its given the french.

    The original Rubis submarine was refitted and returned to service this year, as it will be a while yet before the new sub is completely operational, although I believe they are fuelling it this month.

    There are also many other issues converting a SSN to a SSK. But converting a SSK to a SSN there are fewer. The original Rubis submarines were basically diesel subs converted into nukes. They were so small they needed shortened torpedos.

    The french have the steam turbine in the reactor pressure vessel so it aint easy to resize.
    An interesting paper on HEU/LEU in naval reactors and talks about some design issues the french must make with their reactors.
    https://media.nti.org/pdfs/Replacing_HEU_in_Naval_Reactors_Report_FINAL.pdf

    Nuclear reactors for subs are not easy things to engineer well. Ask the Chinese.

    It would be a massive distraction for us to go down that path right now. It would be 20+ years before we would see any benefit from that distraction.

    With battery technology seeing significant improvements, and it being much easier/cheaper/faster/low risk to load a sub up with advanced lithium batteries, we would be far better off doing that in a big, low drag sub. You could get potentially thousands of km of dived range out of such a device, so much that your indiscretion rate really doesn't matter any more. Run the generators a few times on the whole mission. Points where you would need to communicate and do other activities anyway.

    I love nuclear, but I can't see it ever working. Not now. If it was back in the early 80's and we built a few nuclear reactors for civilian use and there wasn't the huge multi-decade push against nuclear power, maybe a remote possibility.
    But given where things are right now, unless your already knee deep in a SSN program you would probably be looking at Australia's new subs for inspiration about the future.

    Big oceanic conventions, might be the way forward.
     
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  6. Boagrius

    Boagrius Active Member

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    Fascinating. Thanks for the detailed response.
     
  7. ngatimozart

    ngatimozart Super Moderator Staff Member Verified Defense Pro

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    @John Newman in the interests of fairness etc., World Nuclear News is basically an industry body so there is somewhat of a bias in its reporting. Having said that, I do agree with your conclusion that at present there is no bipartisan or public support for an Australian nuclear industry, let alone RAN SSNs and that any discussion about SSNs in RAN service is really a waste of time until that dynamic changes.

    However, having read the entrails of sheep, possums and wallabies, plus divined the dregs from the beer, rum and wine barrels, I have come to the following conclusion.

    I would suggest that at some stage in the future (~20 years +/-10 years) Australia may have no choice, but to create a nuclear industry to support nuclear electricity generation plants as the climate in Australia becomes hotter and dryer, resulting in ever increasing demands for electricity to drive air-conditioning and cooling plants etc., that solar and other non coal, gas and hydrocarbon based generation capabilities cannot meet. If that is the case then SSNs in RAN service may not be so difficult an option to contemplate. My reasoning for this is that the Greens and the ALP left of centre to far left wingers may be forced to swallow a dead rat and choose between what they see as two Satans:
    • Continue to burn coal to generate electricity, or
    • Move to nuclear power generation.
    Now which dead rat will they swallow, especially if there is no viable realistic cost effective third option?

    But until something like this, or similar, happens this is just a hypothetical discussion - a what if and this topic doesn't need to be rehashed and beaten to death yet again.

    EDIT: Just so that you touchy feely Aussies don't get upset, spit the dummy, toss all your toys out of the cot and severely stress your ticker, here in NZ both possums and wallabies, along with rabbits, stoats and weasels are pests to be eradicated on sight. We shoot 'em, trap 'em poison them, run 'em over, kill 'em any way we can. None of them are native to NZ, and they cause deleterious harm to our native flora and fauna.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2019
  8. Boagrius

    Boagrius Active Member

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    Sorry, missed this earlier in my haste at work. Thanks for the insight on this aspect of the issue. It's something I'll be watching with keen interest in the coming years.
     
  9. John Fedup

    John Fedup Well-Known Member

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    Agree, the nuclear option for the RAN is DOA until Australia gets a civil nuclear power grid. Climate change will eventually force the nuclear option for electric power generation. Conservation, wind mills, and solar farms can't meet future base load requirements and when the transportation sector is converted to electric vehicles the demands on the the power grid will be even greater. Anyways, no future sub project design will happen until after 2050.

    Maybe the long promised fusion reactor will ALMOST be ready by then.:D
     
  10. StingrayOZ

    StingrayOZ Well-Known Member

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    Nuclear power generation is dead. At least in terms of the national grid.

    For all its coal loving reputation, Australia is having one of the fastest roll outs of renewable energy per capita.
    Australia has succeeded where Germany failed.
    Australia has met its renewable energy target. But don’t pop the champagne
    [​IMG]
    It has become apparent that Australia has large sites that are perfect for solar and wind. Watch as Australia deploys more roof top PV than Japan and the US, combined.

    [​IMG]

    At its current rate, Australia is on track for 50% renewable electricity in 2025

    At this rate, no new coal or even gas will get much of a look in. Let alone nuclear. Small scale nuclear might be useful for the Non NEM parts of the grid. Perth, Darwin and perhaps remote communities like Broome. But all of those also get lots of sun light and significant wind.

    I don't think linking nuclear with power generation is helpful any more. I think keep it military. Nuclear weapons and submarine reactors. With that I would say put in some infrastructure to have latent capability if we ever needed. I would fund a pilot silex enrichment plant, that would be able to do general isotopes and could be adapted to nuclear. Very high end, high quality isotopic refinement. But small scale. Kilograms, not tonnes etc.

    But submarine nuclear reactors are fraught with difficulty. Off the shelf US/UK are likely not to be applicable.

    Just build the best conventional submarines you can.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2019
  11. SteveR

    SteveR Active Member

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    Through late winter and early spring a high pressure system sitting over the Bight can deliver days of cloudy skies and slight winds over much of SE Australia. Wind and solar will offer very little power under such conditions.. Yes we now have Li battery storage that will power the SA for about 1-2 hours. I have read somewhere that proper backup storage for wind and sun renewables against long cloudy periods will cost about $1Tn. Also just 2 years ago wind farms in SA had to shut down due to strong winds in stormy conditions with no solar was being produced - we had hours of blackout partly because wind generated power fell outside the specified tolerances of the Australian power regulators. I attended a course on how to help people on the pension with their power bills. The lady who gave the course had migrated from California to SA to marry and told us of her shock to discover SA power bills twice that of California. She said Californian power bills were being held down by competition between nuclear power plants.
     
  12. Hazdog

    Hazdog Member

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    Sorry, but your post completely ignores the cost, availability and impact of solar.

    Nuclear is a much better alternative in terms of resource efficiency, environmental impact and emissions reduction targets. Alternatives such as Wind and Solar should be part of the markets private ventures; but for industry and others that cannot afford rooftop solar or cannot rely on the most unreliable sources of energy; nuclear is the only option.

    The idea that solar and wind make up a significant proportion of energy generation is a farce; solar makes up roughly 5% of our current production, and as subsidies are removed, the fantasy of solar will wear down, resulting in not nearly 50% of our energy production coming from solar.

    Statistically the best option is nuclear; an option that should be explored by all sectors of our society, civilian and military.
     
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  13. CJR

    CJR Member

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    Peak solar contribution to the National Electric Market (i.e. excluding NT and WA) is up to 20% of 30-minute averaged demand, of cause, that's then offset by no solar generation at night. There's been occasions within the last week (see same source on NEM 30-minute averaged input) where solar+wind+hydro has accounted for 40%.

    There's been multiple studies that show 100% renewables is doable (e.g. AEMO 2011, ANU 2017). The ANU 2017 study (see above) suggests a 100% renewable with 30 hours hydro+battery storage would result in no significant rise in power prices:
    "If no modelling constraints are applied, then we estimate that average LCOE for a balanced 100% renewable electricity system is $93 and $75 per MWh respectively using current and future wind and PV prices. This can be compared with the 2017 average wholesale market price in Australia of about $80/MWh"

    Nuclear? the poms Hinkley Point reactor (nominal capacity of 3200MW) is predicted to cost over 20 Billion pounds, about A$35 Billion, up from an initial expected price (2012) of 16 billion pounds... and that's before construction has really got anywhere. The risk of further cost blow outs is rather high. We'd need about 4-5 such reactors to displace coal generation. Extrapolating UK figures above 4-5 nuclear plant would be $135-170 Billion, before factoring in any transmission infrastructure upgrades or developing any of the supporting nuclear industry (that'd cost a lot as well). Meanwhile the ANU 2017 100% renewable study for the full set of generation, storage and transmission upgrades comes in between $152-182 billion:
    "The capital cost of the baseline scenarios (PV, wind, PHES and HVDC) for current and future PV/wind prices are $184 billion and$152 billion respectively. Approximately 60% is for construction of the PV and wind collectors, and 40% is for construction of PHES and HVDC"
    There's a few official reports on the 2016 blackout out there. The TLDR is, yes, a lot of wind capacity was shut off due to overly conservative settings on fault ride through and voltage limits when hit by a one in fifty year storm; but what turned things from an hour in the dark into people without power for days was damage to transmission lines and towers (to quote the above report):
    "The remaining load (around 10–20%) could not be restored in this time due to damaged transmission towers and lines."

    It's also rather notable that when a gas plant was responsible for a later large-scale blackout the rabid right-wing also blamed renewables...
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2019
  14. ngatimozart

    ngatimozart Super Moderator Staff Member Verified Defense Pro

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    I would argue that as both the atmosphere and the oceans heat up, storm events will become more energetic and pronounced, meaning that wind turbines will have to be shut down during storm events due to high wind velocities, solar arrays will not generate due to cloud cover, and both will be prone to storm damage; from wind, inundation and hail. There will be a higher frequency of cyclones and tropical cyclones, with these having higher intensities and wider geographic distributions, probably down to the lower 30, possibly upper 40 degrees South latitude. This means cyclones in all states & major cities of Australia, excluding Ettamoggah, but including Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney & Hobart, the North Island and the top half of the South Island of NZ.

    As water increases in temperature it's volume also expands, meaning that there is an increased hydro surface area for solar radiation to evaporate water from, which means an increased transfer of radiation in the form of heat to the atmosphere that in turn condenses to form cloud and with the continual and increased uplift of warm air over the ocean due to solar heating through the day, this continual uplift of heat / energy in the atmosphere forms an ever deepening low pressure area which in turn draws in air from surrounding areas. The Coriolis effect causes said low to spin and as it deepens the winds become stronger because it's drawing more air in. As long as the low is being supplied heat energy from the warm water of the ocean it will continue to deepen. The low pressure also causes the sea surface to rise with, from memory, a rise of 1 cm for every 10 millibar drop in pressure. Add that to the storm surge on top of the ambient water level it makes life somewhat interesting along any coast that a cyclone will encounter. That is the science of the matter.

    Therefore, my conclusion is that your argument is erroneous, because it neglects the climatic hazards that will happen due to increased global and regional atmospheric and ocean temperatures. Australia will indeed have to travel the path of civilian nuclear power generation as will my own country, NZ. So the establishment of a nuclear industry in Australia will, as I said earlier, ease the way for RAN SSNs.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2019
  15. StingrayOZ

    StingrayOZ Well-Known Member

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    Given the interest from the RAN thread, and several papers from think tanks and recent public discussions and government reviews, we should probably have a general thread on this, relating to any Australian acquisition of:
    • Civilian nuclear Power and nuclear industries, with informing discussions around viability etc.
    • Nuclear powered Submarines
    • Nuclear Weapons
    Please refrain from posting in the other Australian military threads regarding these topics as they tend to derail things and as it's a connected issue to things military and non-military with civilian sectors often inseparable to military capacity, this thread can cover those topics.

    Edited and bolded by Moderator.
    Ngatimozart.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 26, 2019
  16. hauritz

    hauritz Well-Known Member

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    I sometimes wonder if perhaps we shouldn't look at the other way around and use Nuclear Submarines as a way to get into the nuclear power industry. Given that there would probably be a 20+ year development period for any new nuclear submarines that time could be used putting together the infrastructure for a nuclear industry.
     
  17. ASSAIL

    ASSAIL Defense Professional Verified Defense Pro

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    The problem with this scenario is that there is nowhere to train nuclear engineers, where would the RAN find them?
    We would probably have to ask the USN/MN/RN (depending on what type of reactor) to loan them and train some newbies.
    I’m not aware of the regular maintenance required for a nuke but it would probably all need to take part overseas.
    This would be totally impractical IMHO and we could lose sovereign control of our boats.
     
  18. John Newman

    John Newman Well-Known Member

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    Sure, but why stop at a fleet of SSNs? Why not a fleet of SSBNs too? Go the whole hog and procure a couple of CVNs while we are at it as well.......

    This is simply not going to happen, no matter which end of the stick you try to start from, there is no political bipartisan support for anything Nuclear.

    Go read The Greens manifesto, they would rather chew their fingers off than agree to anything Nuclear, the ALP (and their union masters) are also anti-Nuclear. So that just leaves the Libs and Nats (LNP), whilst they don't appear to have a clear concise Nuclear policy (either way), they are the one political party that might consider going down that path, but they wouldn't make such a politically polarizing decision all on their own, and certainly not without majority support of the Parliament.

    Again, this is simply not going to happen, all the what ifs in the world won't change anything, certainly not under our current system of Government.

    Cheers,

    PS, if you can suddenly turn Oz into a Benevolent Dictatorship in the next little while, then you might have a chance.....
     
  19. tonnyc

    tonnyc Active Member

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    Using Hinkley C's cost to generalize for the cost of any nuclear power is like pointing at F-35 budget overruns and delays and saying that all jet fighters are like that. In reality, not even the most rabid anti-F-35 crowd makes such an argument. If Hinkley C is bad then don't use Hinkley C. Australia is not a colony of the UK. Australia needs not mimic the way the UK does things. Australia should instead learn from UK's mistakes and apply the lessons learned. So okay, Areva says Hinkley C's cost may go up to A$ 35 billion, which is quite high. Well, then don't hire Areva (sorry, Areva). Go find some other vendor instead. Why not contract South Korea's KEPCO, for example, whose Barakah nuclear power plant is on schedule and on budget. Their contract in 2012 was $24 billion for 5400 MW. And unlike intermittent power sources, a nuclear power plant has a capacity factor of about 90% and can function without needing energy storage, though energy storage will synergize better with nuclear power than with intermittent power sources.

    Since 5400 MW is 1.6875x larger than 3200 MW, using the same numbers StingrayOZ provided it's reasonable to assume Australia only needs three such power plants, probably located on the southern, southeastern, and eastern coast of Australia, since that's where the industries are. Cost can be expected to be close to US$72 billion in 2012 dollar. Call it US$80 billion to account for dollar inflation (and also to get a nice round number), convert to Australian dollar, and I get AU$ 108 billion, which is significantly lower than the alternatives.

    This is of course very much a back of napkin calculation and actual numbers will require Australia to negotiate with KEPCO in earnest, but my point is that Australia is not confined to the choices UK made. I mean, hey, if you are thinking about buying a car and Ford offers you something you think is too expensive, don't immediately assume that all cars are too expensive. Go check what Hyundai has to offer instead.
     
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  20. ngatimozart

    ngatimozart Super Moderator Staff Member Verified Defense Pro

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    @John Newman never say never. Have you been drinking the Fosters again? You know that stuff's not good for your guts.

    The real point is that at some stage Australia may not have a choice about nuclear power and it may be either go down that road or return to the stone age and warm beer, or in Australia's case hot beer that even an esky won't keep cool in the slightest. You could have salties swimming in Sydney Harbour cobber. We're getting tropical fish in NZ now. The Greens, ALP & their union paymasters will have to swallow that dead rat, and don't worry we'll be having exactly the same conversation across the ditch too, and some of us will thoroughly enjoy some dead rats being swallowed by some pollies and associated organisations.

    I am at present working my way through the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, but it'going to take some time because it's 1145 pages in length. The cryosphere is the snow and ice on the planet, and whilst most people when they think of climate change, they think of the atmosphere and sea level rise. Both the oceans (which cover 70% of the planet's surface) and the cryosphere are part of the hydrosphere which is all the planets water. Approximately 70% of the worlds freshwater is locked up in the cryosphere. It is these two which are causing concern at the moment because the heating processes in the ocean and increased uptake of atmospheric CO2, have changed both the pH levels causing phytoplankton and other sea life loss at the base of the food chain; and increasing ice melt means higher levels of freshwater and sediment entering the water column which changes the salinity. All these processes cannot be stopped because they have already started. However, what can be done is to mitigate the damage by reducing the amount of CO2 that the ocean absorbs, reduce the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and importantly reduce the amount of ice mass loss so that we don't lose fresh water, and we don't lose any more albedo than we have too. The albedo is the planet's ability to reflect solar radiation back into space: too little and it gets too hot; too much it gets to cold. If there is too much cloud, debris, C02, CH6 (methane), acid droplets etc., in the atmosphere, then solar radiation is reflected back into space and the planet cools down.

    Therefore, John a lot can and will change with govts, of all stripes, all over the world having to make some pretty hard decisions in the future and some will have to swallow some very large dead rats.

    Right, you want a Benevolent Dictator, we'll export Jacinda to you soonish, and I am sure that @John Fedup will be keen to export his favourite pollie, Justin, as well. I am sure a couple of the pommy posters will export you Jeremy too. :D