Nuclear output gas with steam turbines in Wallonia

Synthetic article by Laurent Minguet, author of the Nowfuture blog, including many interesting figures, showing that a gradual exit from nuclear power is possible thanks to gas-vapor turbines. Encrypted application in Wallonia.

More: debate on the exit of the nuclear or visit our forum on nuclear electricity

The nuclear exit for dummies

Meanwhile a Wallonia-Brussels Federation 100% fueled by renewable electricity will have to go through a transitional phase based on three new turbine-gas-steam plants. These TGV plants are the ideal cradle for the development of renewable energies, because we can easily vary their production according to real needs. This is not the case for nuclear, which produces the same amount of electricity continuously, including at night when demand is very low. The main obstacle to the abandonment of the atom in Belgium is not the cost of renewable energy, it is the power of the nuclear lobby. In particular, he managed to infiltrate EDORA, the federation of renewable electricity, which has never taken a position on nuclear power, despite Fukushima.

Many people are worried about the exit of the nuclear industry in Belgium. The stakes are high: it is a question of replacing by 2025 the production capacity of nuclear power plants, 5.900 megawatts (MW), half of which is located at Tihange.

In 2009, Wallonia produced slightly less than 34 TWh or billion kWh (1), including 24 TWh at Tihange and 10 TWh non-nuclear. Given that the Walloon Region consumes only 24 TWh per year (2), to satisfy our consumption it would be necessary to substitute nuclear power with a production capacity of 14 TWh per year.

An easy solution: 2 TGV plants

Until a Wallonia powered 100% renewable electricity, 14 TWh can be produced by 1.800 MW additional turbine-gas-steam (TGV), operating a little less than 8.000 h per year (90% of the time). An 900 MW project has already been licensed by Visé. It remains 14 years to achieve a second project of the same ilk. And that can go very quickly: between the decision to invest and the realization, it is necessary to count between 3 and 4 years.

What will be the cost of the MWh produced?

The investment of these two plants amounts to only one billion euros, less than a year of "nuclear rent" (the share of the profit of Electrabel resulting from the fact that the company must not amortize any more its power plants) estimated by the federal energy regulator CREG at around two billion. The cost of this investment, funded at 5% over 20 years, is 4 € / MWh, to which must be added 3 € / MWh of operating expenses (3).

Today, the price of gas for a large consumer is about 28 € / MWh. With a production as regular as a nuclear power plant, a TGV plant can reach a yield of 58%. The cost of electricity would therefore be around 55 € / MWh (a little less than double the price of gas), which is three times less than what is charged to the residential consumer.

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Nobody can predict with certainty what will be the price of gas in the future but to give orders of magnitude, the price at the terminal Zeebruge (year ahead) has evolved between 12 € and 22 € / MWh in 2009 (4). The free on board market price is about 10 € / MWh (4 $ / MBTU).

What about the production of CO2?

At the rate of 198 kg of CO2 per MWh primary, the additional TGV plants will emit annually a few 4,8 Mt of CO2, which is about the production associated with the recovery plan of the Liège blast furnace (5) or the combustion of 1,5 million tonnes of fuel oil. .

To compensate for this production of CO2, it would be necessary, for example, to substitute residential heating oil expensive and polluting by heating pellet (wood pellets), much cheaper.

In fact, there are a multitude of means to reduce the production of greenhouse gases (GHG) by energy efficiency (economic bulbs, A + appliances, heat pumps, sober cars, efficient boilers, etc.) not to mention the gas cogeneration techniques that reduce the production of CO25 by 2% compared to the production of separate heat and energy.

In this respect, it would be even better to continue to promote decentralized electricity production by gas cogeneration with a primary energy yield of more than 90%, rather than building large TGV plants.

In addition, the growing production of renewable energies (wind, photovoltaic, biomass) will directly reduce the production of CO2 generated by fossil plants (coal, oil, gas).

The Walloon government wants to increase 4 TWh's annual wind production by 2020, ie an annual saving of at least 1,3 million tonnes equivalent CO2 (MtéqCO2).

Wallonia has already reached the European goal of reducing CO2

For the European climate-energy plan, Wallonia does not exist. Belgium is committed to limiting its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 123 MtéqCO2 in 2020, which is 15% less than the 144,5 2 1990 MTEqCO6, reference year. (XNUMX)

In 1990, Wallonia has issued 54,7 MtéqC02 (7) for less than 46 Mt in 2007 or 16,5% less. Wallonia has already achieved the European objective imposed on Belgium for 2020.

Also, in its regional policy statement, Wallonia has set itself a more ambitious goal of 30% GHG reduction in 2020. We should then limit our GHG emissions to 38 Mt (8), which is 8 Mt less than what Europe imposes on us.

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Even with transitional TGV plants, Wallonia will remain one of the best students in the European class for the CO2 reduction targets.

Renewable electricity? At what cost?

Today, the cost of the most competitive electricity in the Walloon Region is the wind at 54 € / MWh, assuming a price of 1,25 € / W financed at 5% for 20 years, 2.200 h of wind, and 15 € operating costs per MWh (4)

The advantage of the TGV plants compared to the nuclear power is to be able to very flexibly supply the additional electricity to the production of renewable. It is therefore the ideal cradle for the development of renewable energies. This is the model that ecologists have proposed since 20 years as an alternative to nuclear. Faithful to this vision, they were the craftsmen of the law on the exit of the nuclear power to avoid that the catastrophe of Fukushima will happen one day in Tihange. It is the maintenance of nuclear power plants that should make us fear the blackout and not the other way around.

In the long term, the balance between renewable energy production and fluctuating consumption will be ensured by storage, probably thanks to pumped storage power plants like that of Coo. This technique has been well controlled for decades, and allows a return of more than 75% of electricity stored at a reasonable cost.

100% renewable electricity? Does the potential exist in Wallonia?

With the 6 wind turbines assumption of 3 MW per km2 (2.000 h / yr), the wind potential in the agricultural zone (8.350 km2) is 300 TWh.

The photovoltaic potential of this same surface is 835 TWh. The essential difference between photovoltaics and wind is that only the latter is compatible with agricultural production.

On paper therefore, without agricultural production, this area could produce 1.135 TWh of electricity, compared to our electricity needs of 24 TWh.

Even assuming that some extra TWh should be produced to compensate for storage losses, only 3% to 4% of this area would be sufficient to achieve renewable electric self-sufficiency.

The renewable potential of the Walloon soil far exceeds our consumption requirements.

Of course, this does not exclude that we can also import renewable electricity. It is likely that, even if the potential exists widely, it will be more appropriate to continue importing some of our renewable energy in the form of biomass or electricity if the market offers more competitive prices.

And Brussels then?

On the 6 TWh consumed by the Brussels region (9), it will be necessary to substitute about 3 TWh of nuclear electricity per year, the equivalent of the production of a 350 MW high-speed plant. There will also be a further reduction of one million tonnes of CO2 knowing that 4,3 Mt is released today.

With a fleet of energy-intensive buildings responsible for 70% of Brussels emissions (3 Mt), there is a huge potential for energy savings and energy efficiency.

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In Brussels too, the development of decentralized gas cogeneration at 90% yield is preferable to the construction of a large TGV plant.

Who fears the end of nuclear power plants?

The French nuclear power generators Suez (Electrabel) and EDF (SPE) enjoy an annual pension of 1,75 to 2,3 billion euros according to the CREG. They therefore have great interest in extending these radioactive milk cows as long as possible.

To achieve this, several messages were spread by the Atomic Lobby: the fear of the shortage in case of closure, the fear of an increase in GHGs with the impossibility of fulfilling our European commitments, the fear of a increase in the price of electricity, job losses and know-how.

Huge lobbying has been deployed to convince decision-makers in some political parties of the benefits of nuclear power.

This lobby has also penetrated academic circles, including universities, some of whose chairs are directly subsidized by the nuclear industry.

The general public also suffered propaganda from forum nuclear display its message through TV-radio infomercials and 20 m2 display campaigns.

This lobby sits continuously within EDORA, the federation of renewable electricity, which has never taken an official position on nuclear power.

Conclusions ...

The Fukushima disaster has had the sad merit of reminding an arrogant and greedy technological world that within one of the most advanced, democratic and cautious countries in the world, one must not play with nuclear fire.

Belgians pay more for their electricity than most of their European neighbors, some of whom do not even have nuclear power.

Technologies for the production and storage of renewable electricity exist. They constitute a tremendous opportunity to develop know-how, technology and employment, which is out of all proportion to the nuclear industry.

If the cost of producing renewable electricity is a little more expensive than the current cost of conventional energy that does not include the externalities it induces, it is significantly lower than the price paid by small and large electricity consumers. Belgium.

We must not fear the cost of renewable because it is transparent: it gives total visibility on the future price. This is not the case for fossil fuels, whose prices are extremely volatile, nor for nuclear energy that future generations will pay for centuries.

Laurent Minguet


(1) Electrabel. The Tihange NPP.
(2) Including 1 TWh of distribution losses
(3) Portal of energy in Wallonia. 2009 provisional balance sheet
(4) Energy, Economics and Politics (JP Hansen-J. Percebois) Boeck 2010.
(5) Arcelor Mittal / Ougrée: when to pollute big returns, IEW, 25 March 2010.
(9) 2008-2012 Allocation Plan for the Brussels Capital Region (February 2008)

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