Why Jordan needs nuclear energy (part II)
Part I here.
Various options have been proposed as alternative energy sources in Jordan. These include solar, wind, oil shale and the Red-Dead canal. Here is some information pertaining to these choices.
Solar Energy: While much research has been done on solar energy, this resource still suffers from high instillation costs. While the energy itself is free, the cost of installation of photovoltaic cells is still prohibitively high. It is currently estimated that solar energy costs upwards of 21 US cents per Kilowatt hour. The potential for substantial drops in costs is questionable, and little is being done in terms of commercial investment in this resource.
Wind Energy: Large scale wind farms have been constructed in Holland, and some pilot projects in Jordan have been carried out. This study estimates that installed capacity of about 50 MW per year is feasible in the two potential areas in Jordan. European estimates for the cost of wind energy, including cost and maintenance, differ according to wind regime. The most optimistic cost range is from 6.4 to 7.7 US cents per Kilowatt hour. While the economics of wind energy are promising, the potential amount of electricity that can be generated in Jordan is modest.
Oil Shale: I have written about this in the past, and many people are excited about the possibilities of this resource. Two economic issues limit the possibility of using these resources for electricity. The first is that extraction of liquid petroleum from the rock is still too expensive. Second, burning extract from the shale would be a waste of a valuable resource that would be better utilized in vehicles rather than in electric generation. Environmental issues related to the volume of water required and the nature of the waste products from oil extraction also arise.
The Red-Dead Canal: The potential elevation difference between open seas and the Dead Sea (400 meters) is being considered as a source of hydroelectric power. While some aspects of the project are desirable (restoring the level of the Dead Sea), some of the numbers associated with the project simply don’t make sense.
The flow of 1600 million cubic meters of water is expected to generate a measly 100 MWe, with an annual production of 876 GWh. This is supposed to be used for desalination of the water to produce freshwater. The best numbers concerning desalination of seawater using reverse osmosis suggest a need for over 5 KWh per cubic meter. Thus, if what the proponents say is true, then the desalination of 850 million cubic meters of water will require at least 4250 GWh per year. This will require an additional installed capacity of 400 MWe. Pumping the water from the Dead Sea to Amman (a vertical elevation of 1300 meters from the Dead Sea) will probably require another 150 MWe of installed capacity, meaning that running the system as described by the proponents will require installing of at least 550 MWe capacity above the 100 MWe that will be generated by the flow of the water. Thus, the Red Dead canal system will be a net drain on the electrical system of the country.
Nuclear Energy: The economics of nuclear energy are compelling, as described here. While the startup costs are high (about 1500 $ per KW, as opposed to between 500-1000 for gas and 1000-1500 for wind), this is made up for in low fuel costs. Therefore, a 1000 MWe nuclear plant will cost 1.5 billion dollars, as opposed to the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project, which will cost 5 billion dollars and generate a tenth of the electricity.
Part of the attractiveness of nuclear energy is that it is insensitive to fuel rises, as most of the cost is in the building of the plant, with only 8% of the cost being from the consumption of fuel. In total, the cost of generating nuclear electricity ranges from 2.3 US Cents in the Czech Republic to 4.8 US cents in Japan (an outlier in terms of cost, if you check the table). This cost includes construction, maintenance, fuel, management of waste and decommissioning. By any economic standard, it would be difficult to imagine generating significant amounts of energy at such a low cost.
An additional bonus to this is that coupling of a nuclear power generator with a desalination plant allows for the production of significant volumes of low cost water. This IAEA document suggests that a 900 MWe power plant on the Red Sea is capable of producing half a million cubic meters of water per day at a cost of between 50-60 cents per cubic meter. This alone is an important incentive.
Part III here.