Making 11% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions disappear.

In 2006, Australia’s total anthropogenic GHG emissions to the atmosphere were 576 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

In 2006, the 2200 MW Loy Yang A power station in Victoria delivered 16 TWh net electricity output to the grid, and emissions of 19.36 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. [source]

That’s a carbon dioxide emission intensity of 1210 g/kWh, and a capacity factor of 83%.

In 2006, the 1450 MW Yallourn W power station delivered 10.39 TWh of net electrical energy output to the grid, and emissions of 14.68 million tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere. [source] [Along with Loy Yang Power and their excellent sustainability reports, the candor of these utilities in reporting the quantitative data straight to the public is nice.]

That’s a staggering carbon dioxide emission intensity of 1413 g/kWh, and a capacity factor of 81.7%.

Official data from the operators of the 1600 MW Hazelwood power station is hard to find, but the greenhouse gas emissions intensity of the plant is about 1550-1580 g/kWh, possibly the highest in the world.

If we assume that the plant has a CO2 emissions intensity of 1550 g/kWh and operates with a 82% capacity factor, then the station delivers approximately 11.5 TWh net electricity output to the grid, and emissions of approximately 17.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Similarly, data for the 1050 MW Loy Yang B station is hard to find, but if we assume that the plant has a CO2 emissions intensity of 1400 g/kWh (approximately, the average of the other three) and a capacity factor of 82%, then the station delivers approximately 7.55 TWh electricity output, and emissions of approximately 10.57 million tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere.

So, collectively, across these three plants, all essentially in the same place, that’s 62.4 million tonnes of CO2e emissions, or 10.84% of total national greenhouse gas emissions.

These three large Victorian lignite burning, massively CO2 emissions intensive, plants are the great big juicy low-hanging fruit that is staring us right in the face. They are absolutely the obvious place to start to take a real chunk out of the country’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Just three plants, which are all effectively next door to each other – Loy Yang (A and B), Hazelwood and Yallourn. You simply replace those few plants with clean technology which is dropped in on the existing sites, and stop burning the coal.

The total electrical energy output of those plants is about 45 TWh, meaning that a total of five modern nuclear power reactors (1150 MWe each, 90% capacity factor) will replace them all.

There’s absolutely no reason why five nuclear power reactors cannot be deployed on the same centralised site, just as with the Latrobe valley’s existing coal-fired generation, and much as with large multi-reactor nuclear power plants in Japan and France. Having many nuclear reactors co-located also reduces costs.

This would cost approximately 30 to 35 billion US dollars, take perhaps 20 years, and just like that, you’ve made just under 11% of the total national greenhouse gas emissions – over twice Rudd’s feeble target – disappear.

Since last year, the Rudd government has already spent a total of AUD $36.7 billion on supposed “economic stimulus”, some proportion of which just gets spent on (bad) beer and pokies – but that’s OK, as long as it’s “economic stimulus” (or outright vote-buying from people who probably don’t know any better.)

That money, properly directed, could easily meet, and indeed exceed, Rudd’s 5% reductions target, and deliver a greater degree of economic stimulus, and deliver real, lasting, valuable advantages for Australia.

What would the majority of sensible Australians choose? A couple of handouts for low-mid income families and pensioners, or comfortably achieving our GHG emission targets and setting Australia on the path towards a clean energy future? The kind of jobs created by building five nuclear power reactors would be invaluable, and absorb a good chunk of the job losses in the mining sector, not to mention re-instilling confidence in the energy generation sector and associated technical industries.

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