Nuclear Power Plant

Subject: Tech & Engineering
Pages: 6
Words: 2936
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: College

Abstract

At the present nearly 20% of Kuwait’s entire oil production goes immediately towards supplying its various power plants into order to meet the energy requirements of its populace. The inherent problem with this lies with the fact that the oil reserves in Kuwait are a finite resource and eventually with the increased demand for energy this resource will be consumed that much faster. Based on this dilemma this paper tackles the facts behind the current energy consumption of Kuwait.

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Introduction

In his paper detailing energy consumption in Kuwait, Alotaibi indicates that based on 2005 estimates of the current oil and gas reserves in Kuwait only 100 billion barrels of oil and 55 trillion cubic feet of gas are left [5]. While various experts are contending on the actual size of reserves stating that they are far smaller than what they actually appear to be the fact remains that on a daily basis 2.7 million barrels are produced from a supply that is not self-replenishing.

It is estimated that within the next 50 years the oil reserves of Kuwait will have been exhausted which presents a problem for a country that is heavily reliant on fossil fuels as a means to power its rapidly expanding economic and industrial infrastructure as well as desalinate much needed drinking water [5]. The power generation sector in Kuwait is unique in that the power plants produce not only electricity but desalinates water as well.

The current process utilized by the plants is actually highly inefficient with the desalination process utilizing the multistage flash process (MSF) consuming 20kWh/m3 as compared to the traditional reverse osmosis method which only consumes 5 kWh/m3 [5]. When looking at the current rate of consumption versus actual oil reserves left it is obvious that this current method of utilities production is unsustainable in the long run and that other methods need to be devised in order to resolve it.

Based on this fact this paper assumes that the best means of supplying Kuwait with enough electricity in the future is to utilize alternative power sources such as nuclear, solar or wind power sources. The only inherent problem though with utilizing renewable energy resources such as solar and wind power is that they are not as reliable compared to fossil fuel burning plants. Solar energy is dependent on the sun, while Kuwait has more than enough free space to establish a solar array the fact remains that energy production cannot be done when there is no sunlight, as such solar power has a distinct limitation in that it cannot provide electricity 24 hours a day.

On the other hand, wind power is not on a set schedule compared to solar power and can run at any time of day or night however wind power as a source of electricity is subject to a certain degree of unpredictability since there is no definite assurance that air currents will blow in a certain spot on a constant basis. One alternative power source that is reliable and is not dependent on external factors such as the sun or the wind is the use of nuclear power. Nuclear power reactors are a proven technology utilized in the U.S., Japan as

well as several 1st world countries. One of its advantages is that it is able to function at the fraction of the cost of fossil fuel plants, can produce more electricity and utilizes a fuel source that is not expended easily. Based on the given data this study recommends that the best way to facilitate the effective production of electricity in Kuwait in a more efficient and cost effective manner would be to switch to nuclear power plants as a means of energy production.

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Energy Consumption in Kuwait

The main contributor to energy consumption in Kuwait is its harsh climate, the fact is Kuwait is located in a hot and arid desert with little rain fall whose primary export is oil and petroleum based products [5]. It was the oil industry that started the rapid industrialization of the country in an area that for all intents and purposes is one of hottest and harshest places on the planet to live. Such an environment places certain unique strains on the energy production capabilities of the country not apparent in other areas. For example, during summer months the outside temperature can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius which necessitates the need for constant and continuous energy use by the vast amount of air conditioning systems within the country [5].

In fact, various studies have shown that among all other countries it is the oil exporting states within the U.A.E and Saudi Arabia that have the greatest per person consumption of electricity on the planet [5]. This distinction is further exacerbated by the fact that power plants located within Kuwait work on a low thermal efficiency especially during summer months due to high outdoor temperatures which causes more fuel to be burnt than what is necessary with fuel consumption reaching 2 to 3 times its normal rate [5]. Combine this with the fact that summer in Kuwait lasts from April to October and that public consumption of electricity also increase during this time means that for a vast majority of the year Kuwait is operating

under an energy infrastructure that consumes more than the global average, operates under a system that is highly inefficient and actually wastes fuel and is unsustainable in the long run as fuel sources dwindle. The inherent problem lies with the fact that despite the increased rate of production Kuwait still consumes 20% of the fuel it produces and 100% of the natural gas extracted [5]. Estimates show that by 2010 Kuwait will need 25% of the total amount of oil produced in order to provide energy for its growing infrastructure [1]. This signifies an almost 100% increase since its rate of consumption in 1995 and presents a growing problem of fuel reliance on a source that is rapidly dwindling.

Kuwait also has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest per capita rates of consumption in the world with the latest estimates showing that on average 13,000kWh and 535 liters per year of water are consumed per person [1]. Not only that, as the population of Kuwait increases to an estimated 4,324,157 people by 2015 this will in effect increase the overall consumption of energy by 35% [1]. As seen in Fig. 1 in terms of actual domestic fuel consumption only 1% actually goes to households with 54% of the total amount of domestic consumption going towards electricity generation and water desalination sectors [1].

Consumption of Energy In Kuwait
Fig. 1. Consumption of Energy In Kuwait, 2005 Data.

Environmental Issues

The inherent problem in utilizing fossil fuel burning power plants is the resulting carbon dioxide waste that gets expelled into the atmosphere. It must be noted that increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere especially in areas where there are few natural ways for the resulting gases to be absorbed results in a significant accumulation in the air for quite some time which has the potential to cause various respiratory diseases. China which possesses one of the world’s most extensive power grids which utilizes dozens of fossil fuel burning power plants has seen a rise in respiratory diseases as the amount of smog in the air continues to accumulate.

Kuwait Carbon Emissions Data.
Fig. 2 Kuwait Carbon Emissions Data.

In Fig. 2, an examination of the current amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere by 2010 reveals that 25000 metric tons of carbon emission gas was released by various sources into the atmosphere. This number is a combination of both emissions from motor vehicles as well as those coming from fossil fuel burning power plants. Based on current estimates of the amount of energy needed by the country within the next 5 to 10 years or so it can be expected that the amount of carbon emissions in the atmosphere will increase as a result if the country compensates for this need by creating more fossil fuel burning power plants. In terms of the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere both solar and wind turbine facilities have next to no carbon footprint due to the fact they do not produce any CO2 emissions [5].

Alternative Energy Sources for Kuwait

The main issue with renewable energy resources is that they are as of yet an unreliable form of main energy generation for a country. There are three reasons behind this: renewable energy resources from a commercial energy standpoint are as of yet an unproven method of reliable energy production, the means by which renewable energy is produced requires a high initial startup cot and finally in terms of overall reliability only geothermal plants or hydroelectric dams are the only proven reliable sources of renewable energy both of which cannot be used in Kuwait due to the overall lack of the necessary areas to actually create them.

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Commercially speaking when comparing fossil fuel burning power plants to either solar powered arrays or wind turbines most energy producers would choose to construct a fossil fuel burning plant rather than a renewable energy production site. The reasoning behind this is simple, fossil fuel power plants simply require less space and produce more power compared to solar or wind generated energy sources. In order to prove this point, the example of Egypt and its attempt at utilizing renewable energy resources should prove to be an adequate example. In its attempt to expand into the renewable energy industry in order to supply energy starved populace with more electricity Egypt introduced both solar and wind energy into its electricity producing infrastructure [5].

The result was the wind turbine installations in the Red Sea producing only 230 MW while the solar energy array only produced 30 MW. When taking into consideration the fact that Egypt requires 36GW within the next 10 years in order to keep up with demand indicates that renewable energy resources currently do not have the needed capacity to keep up with an ever increasing demand for electricity [5].

Nuclear power plants as the only economically viable large-scale alternative for electricity production in Kuwait

An analysis of data obtained on the amount of oil consumed by Kuwait in 2005 reveals that in order to meet its fuel needs it consumed 150 million barrels of oil in that year or roughly 0.411 M-boe/ d (fraction of million barrels per day) [1]. Estimates show that if continuing trends in fuel consumption prevail then the amount of oil consumed by 2015 will be 155.2 million barrels per year, 295 million barrels by 2025 and finally 560.3 million barrels by 2035 [1].

As such a shift toward the production of electricity through nuclear fuel presents itself as a viable method of saving a large amount of the oil produced which in turn can be sold in order to improve the economy of Kuwait. An examination of local power plants in Kuwait reveals that on average the 5 main power stations in the country have the capacity to produce 13.1 GW of electricity for consumption, this is based on data gathered in 2008 and does not take into account subsequent changes made to increase power output [2]. Based on the gathered data nuclear power plants (NPP) would be a viable option to consider as a means of expanding the current energy producing capabilities of Kuwait. Not only can NPP’s produce the amount of electricity needed they can do so at a fraction of the cost associated with fossil fuel burning plants.

On average a single fossil fuel power plant can go through several thousand barrels of oil in a single day, NPPs on the other hand use nuclear fuel rods which can last several years and are relatively inexpensive when compared to costs of oil. While there are concerns regarding the possibility of meltdowns and radiation poisoning most NPPs have several backup systems to prevent this and so far in the history of the technology only 3 incidences of a nuclear meltdown have occurred and in all cases it was usually due to human error and not a failure of the technology itself. Daily operations at an NPP are not as polluting compared to the emissions of fossil fuel burning power plants.

The steam seen being emitted by various NPPs is merely evaporated water and does not truly present a threat to the environment. As such as far as emissions are concerned nuclear technology is a far cleaner method of energy production. As for its ability to produce electricity, a single nuclear reactor (depending on the size and scale) can rival and exceed the energy producing capabilities of several fossil fuel plant and the amount of energy loss is also minimized due to the overall design of the energy collection system [2]. An examination of the current steam turbine systems in Kuwait reveals that each has a capacity of 300 MW (Megawatts) each with new facilities planned in Azour N. to have steam turbines with capacities easily reaching 500 MW or more (possibly 600 to 700 MW) depending on the method of operation [2].

The reason why such data is important to take note of is that as mentioned earlier a single nuclear power plant depending on the scale can easily surpass the power generation capabilities of several fossil fuel power plants however the problem with this is even though an NPP can generate that much power the power stations and power grids utilized by Kuwait can only take a certain amount of voltage before they are subsequently destroyed.

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If an NPP is created and connected to the power grid with a power generating capacity exceeding what the grid is normally used to the effects are usually disastrous as power stations not used to the higher power supply overload as a result. Based on this it is recommended that the AP600 NPP be utilized rather than the AP1000. The reasoning behind this is twofold: first the AP600 which has a nominal power generation capacity of 600 MW is more compatible with the expected Kuwait electric system in the next few years with a capacity of 18 GW (Gigawatts) [2].

Not only that the AP600 NPP system is a commercially available pressurized water reactor as such private companies such GE or Mitsubishi Heavy Industries can be brought in to bid on the project thus lowering the costs as compared to building a reactor that has to be custom designed to fit a specific purpose. Also of note is the fact that since Kuwait combines both power generation and desalination processes in its power production facilities the AP 600 NPP is actually compatible with the MED, MSF or TVC desalinating units which can run of thermal energy produced by the AP 600 [3].

This would result in a much lower overall cost for desalinating water since the process can be combined with energy generating capacity of the reactor [3]. While stronger reactors area available such as the AP 1000 which can generate over 1000 MW of power such reactors are more suited towards electric grids of 27 GW, 35 GW or greater such as what can be found in the UAE or the U.S [2]. Based on the data this study assumes that should an NPP be built it is likely that an AP 600 will be utilized with a 600 MW capacity for energy production.

In terms of the area needed for this solution an obvious choice would be any area located directly beside the Kuwait coastline where water can be easily extracted for both desalination and to cool the reactor during emergencies. Suffice it to say, so long as competent individuals are at the helm of the controls most nuclear reactors are rather safe and are a stable and efficient means of energy production. Finally in terms of production an NPP built in Kuwait should have a minimum capacity of 600 MW during the initial phase of operation with additional capacities being added on as the technology continues to prove itself.

Conclusion

Based on all the evidence presented the reason why nuclear power was chosen as a viable means of energy production in Kuwait is based on the fact that it does not rely on oil, it does not release carbon emissions into the air and it is a viable means of energy production that is comparatively cheaper to other alternatives. While there are various arguments against its usage such as disposing of spent nuclear fuel rods and the possible threat of a nuclear meltdown as a result of user error the fact remains that on average NPPs are actually quite safe.

Unfortunately, one of the barriers in establishing this particular method of energy production is not the inherent cost but rather the history of the region. The Middle East has the unfortunate distinction of being called an unstable region where terrorists are located. While such claims are based on unfounded and often times preposterous claims the fact remains that building nuclear reactors is strictly regulated by an international body.

The political ramifications alone would cause the project to be mired in political red tape and as such it is to be expected that an NPP will not be built without some sort of obstacle presenting itself. Despite these apparent setbacks this paper still recommends the usage of nuclear power as a future energy source for Kuwait due to the fact that as oil reserves continue to drop the price of energy production using the traditional method of fossil fuel burning power plants will become an almost unviable means of supplying energy to the populace of the country.

References

  1. M. A. Darwish, F. Mal-Awadhi, Ali Akbar, and Ali Darwish. (2009). Alternative primary energy for power desalting plants in Kuwait: the nuclear option I1. Deswater. pp. 25-41. Web.
  2. M.A. Darwish, M.E. Eleshaky, Najem M. Al-Najem, and Bader S.A. Alazmi. (2009). Alternative primary energy for power desalting plants in Kuwait: the nuclear option II The steam cycle and its combination with desalting units. Deswater. pp. 42 – 57. Web.
  3. M.A. Darwish, F.M. Al Awadhi, A.O. Bin Amer. (2010). Combining the nuclear power plant steam cycle with gas turbines”. Energy. (35),pp. 4562-4571. Web.
  4. M. Wood. (N.I.) “Kuwaits Energy Economy The Nuclear Option” (N.I.). pp. 1 -15. Web.
  5. S. Alotaibi. (2011). Energy Consumption in Kuwait: Prospects and future approaches. Energy Policy. (39),pp. 637 – 643. Web.