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World's Largest Solar Power Plant Planned For Chernobyl Nuclear Wasteland (electrek.co) 159

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Electrek: Chernobyl, the world's most famous and hazardous nuclear meltdown, is being considered for the world's largest solar power plant. Even though nearly 1,600 square miles of land around Chernobyl has radiation levels too high for human health, Ukraine's ecology minister has said in a recent interview that two U.S. investment firms and four Canadian energy companies have expressed interest in Chernobyl's solar potential. Electrek reports: "According to PVTech, the Ukrainian government is pushing for a 6 month construction cycle. Deploying this amount of solar power within such a time frame would involve significant resources being deployed. The proposed 1GW solar plant, if built today, would be the world's largest. There are several plans for 1GW solar plants in development (Egypt, India, UAE, China, etc) -- but none of them have been completed yet. One financial benefit of the site is that transmission lines for Chernobyl's 4GW nuclear reactor are still in place. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has stated they would be interested in participating in the project, 'so long as there are viable investment proposals and all other environmental matters and risks can be addressed to the bank's satisfaction.'"
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World's Largest Solar Power Plant Planned For Chernobyl Nuclear Wasteland

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  • by sittingnut ( 88521 ) <sittingnut&gmail,com> on Saturday July 30, 2016 @06:20AM (#52611177) Homepage

    this seems such a great idea at 1st, but why build a solar plant there?
    just because land is wasted and unused? but so are lands in much hotter places 'wasted'? there is no inherent reason why that place should be chosen over any other place with unused land. (ok its position in power-grid integration may have had some validity because there was a power-station there, but that was years ago.).
    decision to build or not a solar plant should be made based on factors (such as weather) that make that location better than others.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pentium100 ( 1240090 )

      And one such factor is that the are currently sits unused and cannot be used for pretty much anything else. It also is probably safe from being taken over by Russians (who would want uninhabitable land), unless they prepare to occupy the whole country (in which case the location of this power plant does not matter). Also, as the summary states, there are high capacity power lines in the zone already and repairing them probably is cheaper than building brand new lines.

      While you could built it, say, near Odes

      • And one such factor is that the are currently sits unused and cannot be used for pretty much anything else. It also is probably safe from being taken over by Russians (who would want uninhabitable land)

        Well, other than as a wildlife preserve (yes, there's wildlife there. Doing quite well, actually - apparently better than the non-wasteland surrounding areas where they have to compete with humans). And the people living there might object (yes, there are people living there. Illegally, no doubt. They're

        • If the people live there illegally, well, they cannot really object, can they?

          As for wildlife preserve - so, it is disused right now. You most likely can't even hunt the wildlife (I would imagine the meat is more radioactive than usual).

          Therefore, instead of allocating land that has other uses (say, people live there legally or the land is being used to grow food) or clearing out a non-radioactive forest to build the power plant (and Ukraine really needs it, since the fuel for its other power plants comes f

          • The nightmare scenario is a massive brush/forest fire. All those nice medium life, non water soluble radioisotopes back in the wind.

            Funds for clearcutting and burying of the current forest, starting with massive fire breaks need to be found. At least assays for the most contaminated locations vs those where the wood was safe to use.

    • by darthsilun ( 3993753 ) on Saturday July 30, 2016 @07:05AM (#52611265)

      At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious––

      I don't know what the numbers are, but apparently not having to build the connection to the grid makes it worthwhile.

      People have talked about building solar+wind in the Sahara, but the cost of constructing the connection to the European grid is prohibitive. You could produce a lot of electricity, but who would you sell it to? I.e. who would you sell it to at high enough prices to make an ROI that justifies doing it in the first place. It would appear that Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya aren't the answer.

      • The Sahara projects are still running.
        However slowly.

        The power line to Europe is not an issue at all (Europe is already covered with 1000ds of km long 'long distance ultra high voltage' power lines. The mediterranean sea has lots of options where a power line could be relatively short) The problem is the political instability.

        E.g. it is not feasible to build a solar plant in Tunisia and sell all the power to Europe, while the locals have to buy the power from the oil plant around the corner. The locals woul

        • by hawkfish ( 8978 )

          But like the /. story about Kuwait a week ago: I can't grasp that the wealthy and powerful in such countries are to dumb to do anything with their wealth and power.

          I can. I went to school with a bunch of them, and some of them are - to put it delicately - dumber than a bag of hammers.

      • The only way to build a solar power plant in Sahara and use the electricity to power Europe would be to take the required land from whatever country it currently belongs to and also occupy a land strip at least 100km in both directions from the power lines and then mine the hell out of it.

        I am sure that there are multiple groups of people in those areas that would really love to blow up that power line, therefore it would need a lot of protection. The 100km buffer around the power plant and the power lines

        • "The only way to build a solar power plant in Sahara and use the electricity to power Europe "

          Would be not to do it. There's at least as much demand south of the Sahara as there is north of it and distribution lines are somewhat easier to run over land (the largest submarine connectors in existence are only about 2GW). On top of that it would be easy to characterise exporting electricity to europe as yet more colonial imperialism and theft from Africa.

    • because there was a power-station there, but that was years ago

      Well, only fifteen years ago. It shouldn't be all that problematic to take advantage of it, it was a 4GW plant so even partial capacity would be more than adequate for servicing a solar plant of any reasonable size.

      • because there was a power-station there, but that was years ago

        Well, only fifteen years ago. It shouldn't be all that problematic to take advantage of it, it was a 4GW plant so even partial capacity would be more than adequate for servicing a solar plant of any reasonable size.

        And still there, although not as pretty as it once was.

    • by hodet ( 620484 )

      power line infrastructure is already in place

    • by AchilleTalon ( 540925 ) on Saturday July 30, 2016 @08:25AM (#52611453) Homepage
      Power transportation and distribution already exist on this site. Your comment 'but that was years ago' is totally irrelevant.Building distribution lines is expensive, they are already on site. It is not like you have to build them to an isolated site in the middle of nowhere.
    • I always thought that Chernobyl make a good wildlife preserve, because it's no longer infested with humans. A large powerplant will still require a lot of human workers, even a solar one. And it will be hard to find enough workers willing to live there to man it fully.
      • Check this out: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/chern... [ibtimes.co.uk]

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        It's not a good place for wildlife. Anything that lives longer than a year or two starts to run into problems from ingesting contaminated substances, including plants. Birth defects are not uncommon, especially in larger mammals. Unless you are trying to breed radiation hardened animals very slowly for some reason...

        • That's only in close proximity to the plant. While a significantly larger area than that is off limits for human populace. Some locales are closed just because they have somewhat larger risk of cancer, something that an animal population will be totally fine with. Humans just have less tolerance for being subject to natural selection than animals. Don't force human rules on animals :P
          • "That's only in close proximity to the plant"

            Even in close proximity to the plant the hotspots are pretty easily characterised and dealt with if there was a will to do so - mushrooms in particular have been shown to concentrate the contaminants.

            The entire Chernobyl exclusion zone is about as radioactive as the Yorkshire Dales and less so than downtown Helsinki (granite) or Denver (altitude). For that matter the Yorkshire Dales are several times more radioactive than the entire Fukushima exclusion zone (incl

    • The term "wasteland" is actually pretty misleading, most of the area is lush forest, there's just a few hot spots you need to avoid. "Wasteland" implies something like a scorched, lifeless desert. Calling it the exclusion zone is more accurate.
      • Sounds like kind of a historical misnomer to refer with the word to a "scorched, lifeless desert" when it seems like a perfectly appropriate term for referring to land with waste. Which applies very well here, both in the nuclear and non-nuclear sense.
        • Cold war mentality at work there. The reality of multi-megaton weapons was gone by the 1970s. Almost all nuclear weapons are under 1000kT and the vast majority of those are well under 100kT (most tactical and strategic weapons are dialable from 5-150kT, with some (depth charges) being as low as 0.3kT)

          Nuclear winter was/is an unlikely scenario from the late 1960s onwards, but it was a hell of a good way of scaring the civilians into submission.

          That said: As of 1979 no USA military commander authorised to use

    • this seems such a great idea at 1st, but why build a solar plant there?

      Solar has come far enough that you don't have to have an ideal location to have a product. There are solar installations in some nasty-ass northern places in Alaska, which shocked me when I found that out. While it's true that during portions of the winter, they have to use diesel power generation, during the spring summer and fall, they don't, so solar becomes a cost cutter.

      And the Ukraine is in a temperate zone, so they can expect power generation the entire year.

      The other matter, I would conjecture

      • Solar has come far enough

        What does that even mean? Solar cells turn photon flux into electron flux, basic e&m and material science. The more photons you have, the more electrons you have. If you had 100% cells (44%, whatever) you are going to get more electricity where you have more light. If you have 1% cells, you are going to get more electricity where you have more light.

        • Solar has come far enough

          What does that even mean?

          What do you mean what does that mean?

          Well let's see. Higher efficiency, less expensive, easier to obtain, and peripherally, better storage, better tracking , better inverters. Or are you tryinng to say that today's solar technology sprung fully formed like Venus from the ocean?

          Or what? You figure that the solar cells that Edmond Becquerel built in 1839 are the exact equivalent to those built today?

          If you don't think that solar cells have come a long way, then tell just what the holy jeebuz on a harl

    • by rch7 ( 4086979 )

      Power station is still there, even if last reactor was shut down in 2000. The power lines are there and operational - and they are expensive. The land is free and has no other use, you don't need to buy it from multiple owners. It allows to reduce costs significantly and make it faster.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        I assume the cheap basis comes from using cheap disposable Ukrainian workers to put it in :/. I am pretty sure that factor is built into calculations for the profit margins. If it ain't safe to live there, then it ain't safe to work there and you can bet safety measures taken will be on the minimalist side. This is pretty crude exploitation, America grabbed it because Russia didn't want it and now Europe is stuck with it, an economic basket cast that has got to be made to pay for itself somehow (especially

        • by rch7 ( 4086979 )

          Some 3000 people already work in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. They work in shifts, their exposure to radiation is monitored, and it isn't as bad as 30 years ago. I assume this installation would no be next to the reactor anyway. It is the same as working in any nuclear power plant - you may get some exposure to radiation, but it is monitored and isn't likely that it will be dangerous if everything goes as expected. You don't live at your workplace next to a reactor though. There is difference between agric

    • this seems such a great idea at 1st, but why build a solar plant there? just because land is wasted and unused? but so are lands in much hotter places 'wasted'? there is no inherent reason why that place should be chosen over any other place with unused land. (ok its position in power-grid integration may have had some validity because there was a power-station there, but that was years ago.). decision to build or not a solar plant should be made based on factors (such as weather) that make that location better than others.

      We are talking Ukraine here, not the Soviet Union (which had hotter places in what's today Uzbekistan). There are no hot places in Ukraine. Chernobyl is close enough to Kyiv so that if they do build these plants, they can provide electricity using the transmission lines in question, and supply much of the population.

      Speaking of which, such a place would have to be remotely managed, maybe from Kyiv, since the radiation levels are what they are. While installing everything in place, workers would ha

      • "such a place would have to be remotely managed"

        Why? Chernobyl isn't that hot. The remaining reactors were (and are) staffed by people right up to their shutdown. Unless you're planning on eating some of the Ukrainian fungii, you're perfectly safe in almost all areas.

  • Well.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by John Smith ( 4340437 ) on Saturday July 30, 2016 @06:32AM (#52611195)
    There goes the wildlife preserve that was doing so well. Honestly, why not build another nuclear plant there? It's all shielded anyway.
    • Well, think about it.

      The region is contaminated. People can't stay there. (IIRC animals in the area have been tested and found to be harmed by long term exposure.) To run a nuclear power plant you'd have to have people there 24/7. PV solar farms don't need staff. All the (small) farms around here just sit quietly making electricity without a human anywhere in sight.

      • Animal life is doing quite well. The were observed impacts on some wildlife that got huge exposures (mostly birds, insects, and invertibrea) during and soon after the accident, but its been many years since any observable impacts have been seen. Animal life is healthy and thriving in all areas of the exclusion zone. And there has certainly been no shortage of studies, and we've had multiple generations of animals during this period.
        • okay, so animals are flourishing. But I suspect you're not going to get too many people willing to staff a nuclear power plant 24/7 in the Exclusion Zone, even if it's not in the Black Zone. Or government approval for it.

          A solar farm, OTOH, that doesn't need 24/7 supervision, seems like a great idea.

          • True, it would be hard to find well educated people who have a grasp on radiation risks to staff a solar plant far from anywhere. Solar plants mostly need low skilled workers, who are often less educated and more susceptible to the FUD.
          • Re:Well.... (Score:4, Informative)

            by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Saturday July 30, 2016 @11:03AM (#52611957)

            Three of the four reactors were in use for years after the accident. Apparently it was still possible to find staff.

            It is also possible to book a daytrip to the exclusion zone as a tourist. Costs around $100.

            Here's some wildlife: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/chern... [ibtimes.co.uk]

          • "I suspect you're not going to get too many people willing to staff a nuclear power plant 24/7 in the Exclusion Zone,"

            You'd suspect wrong. There are staff on the reactor sites 24*7 and have been all along (they're bussed in/out from Kiev)

        • Most animals have very short lives compared to humans, so who cares if they'll develop cancer after 20 years exposure? We know quite well from our studies that living there would cut human life expectancy unacceptably.

          • There is no science that backs up your contention. Species that rapidly reproduce and/or have lower order biological complexity are most susceptible to radiation health impacts.

            There are no studies that show or indicate that humans living in the exclusion zone today would have shorter life expectancies. In fact the body of data tells us there would be an extremely small increase in cancer risk, smaller than say, getting a few bad sunburns.
            • And as a matter of fact there ARE currently people living in the exclusion zone - those who refused to move away after the disaster. And I can't say that I recall hearing about any particular health problems, not that that necessarily means anything.

              As I recall the soil fungi and other microbial life are having a hard time of it, but the rest of the ecosystem is doing pretty well, especially considering the trouble in the foundations. Higher cancer and mutation rates probably, but while that sucks for ind

              • As I recall the soil fungi and other microbial life are having a hard time of it, but the rest of the ecosystem is doing pretty well, especially considering the trouble in the foundations.

                Your recollection is incorrect regarding fungi and microbial life. Only in very small patches of highly contaminated earth near the plant has that type of impact been observed, and even that impact has long since passed.

              • " And I can't say that I recall hearing about any particular health problems, not that that necessarily means anything."

                Health problems in the exclusion zone are those you'd expect to see with a lack of medical care.

                Similarly the documented problems of chernobyl firefighters are more down to them being treated as pariahs and and denied decent medical care/accomodation than radiation exposure.

                Interesting stat: When enhanced thyroid cancer screening was introduced in local areas in the wake of Chernobyl and F

          • "so who cares if they'll develop cancer"

            Gamma/Beta/Alpha radiation seldom causes cancer. It generally kills cells due to the energies involved.

            On the other hand, various chemical toxins, ultraviolet light and heat are well proven to be carcinogenic to various extents. The cancer rates around Love Canal and Minimata Bay, vs those around Oak Ridge and downwind of the atmospheric nuke tests in Nevada are ample testament to that.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Animal life is doing quite well.
          Only if you count the numbers of animals that live there now in relation to how they where hunted before.

          Quite well implies healthy and long lived: and that they are not. Animal life is healthy no it is not healthy. They live about 2/3rd of their natural life span and die to cancer (longer living ones, rabbits which die after 4 or 6 years probably die to early anyway to have a measurable effect besides birth defects) or unknown reasons, sudden immune system collapse etc. Th

        • No, even the base of the ecosystem has been disrupted. https://www.thestar.com/news/w... [thestar.com]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Honestly, why not build another nuclear plant there? It's all shielded anyway.

      Because solar is walk away safe.

      • What do you call a massive solar spill?
        A great day.

        • What do you call the clusterfuck of pollution around the chinese solar PV plants?

          There's serious potential for watersheds servicing something north of 100 million people being rendered undrinkable.

          • by mspohr ( 589790 )

            Unfortunately, some of the Chinese manufacturers don't invest in pollution control equipment.
            The Silicon Valley Toxics coalition rates one Chinese manufacturer best in the world for pollution control and some others are rated lowest. It's an easily solvable problem but, as we know, sometimes manufacturers like to cut corners.
            (I read today that some Chinese companies are exporting tanned hides of cats and dogs and labeling them as cow leather... makes you think that PETA may have a point.)

    • The animals can live around the Solar panels just fine. No people to disturb them. Nuclear plant not so much...

  • Workers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Saturday July 30, 2016 @06:49AM (#52611229)
    The plant's not going to build itself, which means thousands of people kicking up dust over those six months, and even after it's complete there will need to be people there to maintain it.
  • by Bob_Who ( 926234 ) on Saturday July 30, 2016 @07:08AM (#52611271) Homepage Journal

    It will be the first twenty four hour solar power plant since the place already glows in the dark.

  • To me what is interesting is the old nuke plant put out 4GW and the new biggest ever solar plant produces 1, and if the 1 is peak, then most of the time it is pumping more like 500MW and only during the day. I wonder if they costed out putting in a new nuke instead vs the solar and which was more expensive per watt.

    • Solar is cheaper per Watt, and more importantly per kwh.
      • Depends on the study. Wind does beat pretty universally. Also must add in costs for backup since the sun does not shine at night. For northern climates like ukraine this gets more problematic as demand at night is higher in winter. Shoot even in texas, peaks on cold nights can get very close to daytime summer loads. For texas, usually ok as wind is blowing out west on those nights, but I recall one brief cold spell where ERCOT was worried about satisfying demand during the night time peak and was worried th
    • Re: 4GW vs 1GW (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Saturday July 30, 2016 @11:29AM (#52612061)

      Solar is half the cost of nuclear (per kWh) and getting cheaper.
      Nuclear just keeps getting more expensive.

      • As I said in my post, it depends. Wikipedia and other sources note nuclear/solar depends on the study and what factors are accounted for. Batteries alone cost more per kwh if you need to store the juice. It is a complicated problem and everyone seems to pick a side and hrumpf away.

        • by mspohr ( 589790 )

          Yes, it is complicated and there is much FUD. There is also a lot of good research.
          Here is a good article which tries to correct some of the misinformation:
          http://thinkprogress.org/clima... [thinkprogress.org]
          In particular for this conversation, there is a discussion and nice graphic of the cost of the latest and greatest nuclear plant (Hinckley C) from EDF, the Chinese, etc. which shows that it is projected to have 126% greater cost than current base load.
          It also discusses the falling cost of battery storage and the role of w

  • nearly 1,600 square miles of land around Chernobyl has radiation levels too high for human health

    The irreparable damage is already done, but the other three reactors at the station are in perfectly fine order. In fact, they continued to operate for 14 years [go.com] — and were shut down for reasons political rather than technical [wordpress.com].

    Instead of sending thousands of people to install solar panels in the vast dangerously polluted lands, it would be far more sensible — and cheaper too — to reactivate the

  • by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Saturday July 30, 2016 @12:03PM (#52612191)
    Out of 12 months a year that region might have seven months in which construction is possible. Ice and snow take up almost half a year so a one year period is simply not at all realistic. Imagine trying to keep the snow off of those panels to generate power in the cold months over there.
  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday July 30, 2016 @02:07PM (#52612913)
    Chernobyl is at 51 degrees North latitude [wikipedia.org]. That far north, the angle of the sun and the earth's tilt significantly reduces the the available solar power throughout the year. It's about the same latitude as Germany, which only manages a solar capacity factor of about 0.10 (i.e. if you have a fixed panel with 100 Watts peak generating capacity at that location, over a year it will on average generate 10 watts). Capacity factor incorporates weather, night, average angle of the sun, and less sunlight reaching the ground because it has to travel through more air due to its oblique angle through the atmosphere.

    The continental U.S. sits closer to 40 degrees North latitude, and has an average solar capacity factor of 0.145. The best locations for solar are closer to the equator, and in arid environments with few clouds. Solar capacity factor in Southern California and Arizona for example is about 0.185. That is, you can get nearly double the energy production of Germany for the same surface area of panels, simply by putting them in a better location. Chernobyl sits along Ukraine's northern border. Unless there are huge differences in average cloud cover, Ukraine would be much better served by building the solar plant along its southern border.
    • On the other hand, it seems like a worse location for a nuclear plant, considering.
    • Ukraine would be much better served by building the solar plant along its southern border.

      And the Russia may just come and take it.

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