Powering the northern cities
Energy Sources & Technology
For a city in the far north, with onsite agriculture and industry, the most viable option for electricity and heat is a nuclear reactor. Since Canada has traditionally been a pioneer and leader in nuclear power, this Proposal assumes that a CANDU reactor will provide both heat and power for the city. This is already standard practice at Bruce Power near Kincardine, where process steam from the nuclear facility is supplied to an adjacent industrial park. One of the businesses in that park is a greenhouse complex, where tomatoes and peppers were once grown, and which is now used to grow medical marijuana.
One significant consideration in using any nuclear power plant is one of capacity. The current generation of CANDU, the CANDU-6, is rated at 700 MWe per unit. That is sufficient to support a population of 350,000. In the interests of redundancy, the ideal power plant would have two units, each of 200 MWe capacity. Since this is tiny by CANDU standards, an entirely new design would be required. The new work being done on SMRs (Small Modular Reactors) at the Chalk River Labs is a step in this direction. An alternative would be to use a standard unit, and either derate it, or use the excess power to produce hydrogen or methane. In any case, some of the electricity from any size unit would be used to produce gaseous or liquid fuels. Since nuclear power plants operate best when running constantly at full capacity, and since electricity demand varies substantially over time, using the excess capacity to create hydrogen through electrolysis solves several problems.
The production of liquid and gaseous fuels would be required to provide feedstocks for industrial and transportation purposes. Hydrogen would be the first feedstock produced, using electrolysis. This is also an area where considerable research and development has been done in Canada. Hydrogenics is a world leader in both electrolyser and fuel cell technology. (Hydrogenics has been acquired by Cummins.) Ballard Power Systems is another world leader in fuel cell systems.
Hydrogen can also be used directly through combustion for process heat or in engines. As a primary chemical feedstock, hydrogen is the main component in the Sabatier process which produces methane. The other component, carbon dioxide, can be scrubbed from the ambient air using an Amine process. This technology is widely used in Alberta’s sour gas treatment plants which remove sulfur from raw natural gas. A slight variation removes CO2 from air instead. The methane would then be available for further processing into plastics, synthetic petroleum, or as a transportation fuel.
Should it be impractical to develop and deploy a CANDU power system, the option of deep geothermal would need to be investigated. Unlike a nuclear plant where 200 MWe is tiny, for a geothermal plant it is quite large. However, a geothermal plant’s output capacity is easily controllable, since many boreholes feed a number of turbines. A geothermal plant may have undesirable emissions, ranging from CO2 to heavy metals. Although geothermal plants are considered to be capital-intensive, they are generally much cheaper than comparable nuclear power plants.
Canadian Nuclear FAQ: http://www.nuclearfaq.ca/
Dunedin Energy: http://www.dunedinenergy.ca/
General Fusion: http://www.generalfusion.com/
Nuclear Process Heat for Industry: http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/non-power-nuclear-applications/industry/nuclear-process-heat-for-industry.aspx
Ocean Geothermal Energy Foundation: http://oceangeothermal.org/
High-Temperature Electrolysis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-temperature_electrolysis