The thing that most impressed me about the nuclear power plants was that everything on site is massive.
Inside each reactor building (the dome at Seabrook and MY, the “box” at VY), there is/was a crane capable of lifting the reactor core into place – The crane needed the capacity to lift hundreds of tons.
The bolts used to hold down the reactor heads at MY and VY were as big around as a 5-gallon bucket. The wrench was operated by the crane.
The backup diesel generators at Seabrook Station are enormous. Forty feet high, 50 feet wide and more than 100 feet long.
Everything about these facilities was huge. And there is a reason for this. These units generate/ed huge amounts of thermal and electrical Energy.
Here are some numbers for Seabrook Station. Seabrook is rated at 1124 megawatts-electric. That means that its peak POWER output is 1,244 megawatts or 1,244,000 kilowatts.
Seabrook’s capacity factor for the last three years was 88%. That means it operated at peak power for 88% of the 8,760 hours in the year (or some combination of below peak and peak such that the total annual production was 88% of the ideal energy output).
The ENERGY output of the plant for a typical year is 1,124 MW x 8,760 hours x 88% = 9,622,439 megawatt-hours or, 9,622,439,000 kilowatt-hours.
That’s a lot of energy but it’s hard to imagine how much so let me put it in terms of solar panels in Massachusetts.
A typical solar panel is around 200 watts of peak power.
In MA, the solar capacity factor for an unshaded solar array is about 13%. That means for every 1,000 watts of solar panels, you’ll get about 1,200 kilowatt-hours per year.
When installing solar panels on “ground mounted” arrays, we can fit, on average, about 7 watts per square foot. (we have to space panels out so they don’t shade each other).
If I want to generate 9.6 million megawatt-hours in a year using solar, I need more than 40 million 200-watt solar panels.
At 7 watts per square foot, those 40 million panels require more than 41 square miles.
And that’s just to replace Seabrook Station! (and worst of all, you’d only get that energy on sunny days. As my friends who are still in the Nuke business say, “Solar’s all right, but Nukes do it all night.”)
We (humans) use an enormous amount of energy (particularly in the US) and until we dramatically change our energy use habits, we are stuck with Nukes and all the other undesirable energy generating plants.
New England Breeze Solar
PS As I finished this, I realized I can do the numbers for wind as well. The Hull Unit 2 Wind Turbine is a 1.8MW peak power unit. In it’s first year, its capacity factor was about 26%. How many turbines do we need to replace Seabrook?
In it’s first year Hull generated 1.8mw x 8760 x 26% = 4,100 MWh
So 9.6 million mwh/year (seabrook) / 4100 mwh/year (Hull 2) = 2353 wind turbines the size of Hull (200 foot tower, 130 foot blades)
Cape wind better get moving…