Rants, Raves, Reviews

'I got the power' or not...

By Gary R, in , posted: 3-Apr-2006 10:11

With lake levels at record lows and threats of blackouts on the horizon NZ is seriously lacking any cohesive plan to address power requirements for the foreseeable future. Mention nuclear and your average kiwi goes into a tail spin 'what about Chernobyl and what about three mile island?'. Well what about all the other Nuclear power plants that haven't had a melt down? Interestingly your average kiwi wouldn't know the difference between fission and fusion. Its all nuclear isn't it? An example is a letter to the ed of the Dom Post a few months ago where a very misinformed woman (anti nuclear) wrote that 2 million people died in the Chernobyl 'accident'. 2 million? Where did that come from? All it takes is a quick search on Google and you will find that there were 31 fatalities as a direct result of the 'accident'. Of course since then there have been other deaths from illness linked to radiation but not 2 million.
Where does this leave NZ? Well, if we want to actively partake in the Hydrogen economy we are going to need vast amounts of electricity to split water into Hydrogen and Oxygen. Apparently 3 times more electricity than we currently produce. Sure we can build more coal fire plants (and burn more coal), dam another river (and be at the mercy of the rain gods), tap into the Geothermal veins (where available) or build wind farms (if the local residents allow). And or course there is nuclear.
I remember back in the late 80's the dairy board (as it was then) were owed quite a bit of money by the USSR. Instead of cash the USSR offered a nuclear sub as payment. The idea being that you could park this up in a harbour and plug it into the national grid. Great idea really but 'no' was the answer of course. Then in '98 we had the Auckland blackout, our biggest city with out power for 5 weeks due to a 'cable fault'. Apparently the crisis cost the NZ economy $500M. I think you could build a nuclear power plant for that.
The weekend reports on the looming power crisis were a real eye opener. With experts saying that we need a big rain shower in the next 4 weeks to avert a crisis and another expert saying we need to save power now. Save power? What, does NZ have a big bank of back up batteries? Should we all pray and do a little rain dance? Get serious, I am a consumer and pay a premium for power. Why should I turn off lights and burn candles or go with out heating and hot water. What a joke. The 'experts' are asking me to change my habits because uneducated luddites will not consider nuclear. Well, I support nuclear so I really don't give a damn. Not my problem.
With a shortage comes the inevitable price rise and who benefits from a price rise? The NZ government does of course it gets a nice boost to the consolidated fund. What a rort!
Of course there are risks with nuclear and there is a small problem of radioactive waste. But lets face it we already live in a nuclear world. Just because we are at the bottom of the world does not give us automatic immunity from nuclear 'accidents' that happen overseas. Think radioactive water lapping our beaches.
This winter electricity will be a luxury that only the rich can afford but look on the bright side there will be cheap broadband for the masses. Its just a pity that the masses will not be able to afford to switch on their PC's.
While you are all saving power I will continue to run my hot tub. After all this is the 21st century. Cheers!

Other related posts:
I Thought I would Come Back
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Comment by chiefie, on 3-Apr-2006 10:37

bring on the USSR Sub... or even a nuclear power plant. realistically, we are already using and applying nuclear substance for many things, mostly are medical related. So having aplently power supply with nuclear powerplant, and with good monitoring system to ensure its operation, i think NZ can overcome the power shortage. but NO! we have to be so damn political with our stance. "nuclear free zone", oh sure, then why shouldn't we be removing the nuclear emitting devices from hospital if we are so concern with nuclear free policy? I would like to see our power bill becomes affordable. And who knows, when power bill becomes cheap, and we able to produce NZ-made battery powered cars? And everyone will be able to recharge their eletric cars in house, daily and we all live happily, cheaply and cleanly too. Who needs fossil fuels then? (yes, i know, dreams are free...)

Comment by tonyhughes, on 3-Apr-2006 10:54

Here here... I agree. I switch off things when I am not using them to save -money- not power... :-)

Comment by juha, on 3-Apr-2006 11:22

I quite agree. The Herald too ran an anti-nuclear power piece, again focusing on Chernobyl. Unless we do nuclear power the way the Soviets did, or Harrisburg, the chances of an accident are pretty damn small. The alternatives are pretty terrible. I've driven past the big wind farms in California, and they are quite disturbing places. Coal? Well, maybe it can now be burnt without too many emissions, but digging the stuff up in the quantities required creats some horrific scars. (To be fair, uranium mining has the same issues.) Likewise, hydropower has major environmental impact - think The Three Gorges Dam(n) in China for instance. It's amazing the despite repeated power crisis, nothing has happened to sort out backup alternatives. Wikipedia article on the '98 Auckland power fiasco, with a link to Peter Gutmann's good summary of it all: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_Auckland_power_crisis

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