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China Power Science Technology

China To Build a Solar Plant In Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone (reuters.com) 87

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Two Chinese firms plan to build a solar power plant in the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, which has been off limits since a devastating explosion contaminated the region with deadly radiation in 1986. GCL System Integration Technology (GCL-SI), a subsidiary of the GCL Group, said it would cooperate with China National Complete Engineering Corp (CCEC) on the project in Ukraine, with construction expected to start next year. CCEC, a subsidiary of state-owned China National Machinery Industry Corp, will be in overall charge of the project, while GCL-SI will provide and install solar components. GCL-SI did not say how much it would cost. The Chernobyl reactor, which is due to be covered next year by a 1.5 billion euro ($1.6 billion) steel-clad arch, is surrounded by a 2,600 square km (1,000 square mile) exclusion zone of forest and marshland. GCL-SI would not disclose exactly where the solar plant would be built, but a company manager told Reuters that the site had already gone through several rounds of inspections by the company's technicians. China is the world's biggest solar power generator, with 43 gigawatts of capacity by the end of last year. It is also the world's top manufacturer, producing 72 percent of global solar power components in 2015, according to a research note by Everbright Securities last week. "There will be remarkable social benefits and economic ones as we try to renovate the once damaged area with green and renewable energy," said Shu Hua, chairman of GCL-SI. A company manager added: "Ukraine has passed a law allowing the site to be developed for agriculture and other things, so that means (the radiation) is under control."
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China To Build a Solar Plant In Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone

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  • I wonder how this would be making Russia feel, having its BFF help Ukraine wean itself off Russian energy...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      There is only about 1000 kWh/m2 annually in Chernobyl. Far from the best place to build a solar plant. Also, being a contaminated area and such, construction will be extra expensive.

      I guess Russia won't really mind its BFF pocketing poor Ukraine's money on a non-viable project that only happens to sound good on words, and whose impact will leave it as dependent on Russia for energy resources as it ever was and will be.

      Sorry to break it to you, but it won't be the rift in Russia-China relations you are hopin

      • by skids ( 119237 )

        Looks like 1150ish to me. They'll probably save a bit on permitting and security, at least.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        The average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. household is ~10,000 kWh. Not sure about Ukraine but let's use the same number as a ballpark estimate. Population of Ukraine is ~45 million, or ~17 million households.

        Assuming your number is correct, and assuming the latest ~20% solar cell efficiency, it requires ~850 million sqare meters to power all households in Ukraine. That's ~328 sqare miles, or ~18 miles x 18 miles.

        In comparison, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is 1,004 square miles: https://www. [google.com]

        • Your ballpark estimate is about an order of magnitude wrong. Average power use in Germany, for example, is about 3100 kWh per year for a household. Ukraine is a piss-poor country, they use even less.

          • The link between purchase power and energy consumption is debatable.
            http://www.tradingeconomics.co... [tradingeconomics.com]

            Electric energy cost tends to match purchase power with a few exceptions.

            • Except when it doesn't. The terms for getting a credit from the IMF were (among other) that the Ukrainan government basically stops the natural gas and electrical power subsidies. When people have to pay two thirds of their monthly income for power and heating, they tend to lower their consumption. I have just checked out of curiosity, in Kiev the price per kWh is 1.29 hryvnas, that is about 5 eurocents, which is about half of the price in Bulgaria (let's take two more or less comparably piss poor countries

      • Think about infrastructure - the transmission networks are already in place from the old nuclear power plant, so situating distributed solar generation there is cheaper.
    • When have Russia and China ever been BFFs? They've always been competitors with very different interests... even when they were both communist.

    • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @03:58AM (#53337577)

      Russia and China aren't that close, this is a common myth peddled by the idea that because they both oppose US domination, that they must be friends.

      But let's be clear, even China agreed that Russia's annexation of Crimea was wholly unacceptable, and regardless of Putin trying to put a brave face on things by announcing deals with China to sell them Russia's oil and gas, this is really desperation by Russia and exploitation by China as the prices China has agreed to pay are grossly in favour of China.

      It's arguable that China actually has a better relationship with some European nations such as Britain than it does with Russia. Ultimately China cares about two things - trying to gain control of the South China sea, and growing wealth through trade. The reality is that contrary to it's claims Russia can't help much in the South China sea because it's navy is decrepit (and focussed on Syria) and it's economy is small, declining, and of low quality to external investors anyway.

      As such, China has more to gain from working with the West than it does with Russia as much as Russia may be desperately happy to play the useful idiot for China when it needs one every now and then. Even historically one shouldn't forget that China and Russia were technically at war with each other over a border dispute for most of the cold war and up until 1991.

      • by Jzanu ( 668651 )
        Not at all, that is just the American viewpoint. You need to read [www.ecfr.eu] more.
        • by Xest ( 935314 )

          Did you mean to respond to me? What I posted is the exact opposite of the American viewpoint because the American viewpoint is exactly what I pointed out - that China and Russia are working in concert against the US and are inseparable communist allies, which is clearly nonsense.

      • by Agripa ( 139780 )

        I remember Clancy's comment on the relationship between Russia and China.

        "I can assure you that my country will not meekly submit to an invasion of our soil."
        "Even if China is involved?"
        "Especially if China is involved."

    • A Russia vs China battle will be like Alien vs Predator. President Nixon famously took advantage of the rift b/w Khrushchev and Mao to wean China off the Soviet Union. President Trump can go the other way - create an alliance w/ Russia against the Muslims (ISIS being one) and extend such an alliance to oppose China as well
  • They faced contamination over a vast area. Water and ploughing was used to lock the contamination into a restricted zone.
    The idea of a restricted zone is then not to go back and dig holes or do "agriculture".
    Laws don't clean up contamination. Time and no access is the idea behind a restricted zone.
    • Re:Restricted zone (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @11:08PM (#53336867) Homepage Journal

      Well, people *do* work in the exclusion zone -- obviously the people involved in managing the ruins of the plant. So people *can* work there reasonably safely with precautions. And contamination is spotty. There are really hot spots, like the hospital which is too dangerous to enter without special gear, and there are other spots that are pretty much uncontaminated. In fact people have returned to subsistence farm, and they're OK as long as their soil and water is regularly tested.

      The idea of setting up photovoltaic farms here is actually pretty clever. You don't want to bring lots of people into the exclusion area on an ongoing basis, because sooner or later they'll tramp around where they shouldn't go and spread the contamination. But the thing about PV panels is that they don't have any moving parts, and they aren't really that complicated to install. So you don't need that many people to get PV farms up and running, and with remote monitoring you don't really need anyone in the exclusion zone on a permanent basis to keep them running. With PV panels becoming cheap and land essentially free for the asking it makes a lot of sense.

      • Cleaning them of dust, leaves, dirt is a bitch though.

        • It is when they're placed on a roof, or if you're watching The Martian and are a lone person stuck on mars. It's not so much in large scale PV installations where cleaning is done with machines effortlessly. It is also not required to be done very often, especially in places where there isn't a desert close by.

      • Plus you probably have fairly meaty connections to the electricity grid that were previously used by the power plant.

        • Electrical cables and switchgear which have remained unmaintained for 30-odd years? Hmmm, I'm not so sure that would be much of a benefit.

          I used to have fiends working in the (UK) national grid's infrastructure, who worked on the basis of a 50-year working lifetime for his gear. So if Chernobyl were built before 2016 - 50 = 1966 ... then the existing links aren't likely to be much benefit. [Wiki] "Construction began 15 August 1972" ; not so helpful - there's going to be that much repair work that tearing d

      • There are really hot spots, like the hospital which is too dangerous to enter without special gear, and there are other spots that are pretty much uncontaminated.

        And there is wind. Which means that all such bets are off. It only takes one hot particle to ruin your whole lung.

        In fact people have returned to subsistence farm, and they're OK as long as their soil and water is regularly tested.

        Old people, who are expecting to die before the cancer risk catches up with them anyway. Some of them won't.

      • I don't know if the design calls for this; but it wouldn't be rocket surgery to lay out a PV generating facility such that it doesn't disturb the soil much(possibly some posts driven into the earth if there is a risk of high winds) mostly just a frame laid on top; raised walkways between all the areas that will need to be serviced periodically; and a parking lot where you can check people coming in and out.

        You certainly don't want people coming home from work coated with strontium; but, especially at sca
      • by idji ( 984038 )
        Austria has one never-functional nuclear reactor, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org], and look at what it is used for today - solar power testing! https://goo.gl/maps/yCiP3vGtnt... [goo.gl]
      • by stair69 ( 680444 )
        There were other reactors working in the same plant until the last one shut down in 2000 (14 years after the disaster) so there were plenty of people working *in the same building* for a good long time.
  • WTF?!?!? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by BuckaBooBob ( 635108 )

    "Ukraine has passed a law allowing the site to be developed for agriculture and other things, so that means (the radiation) is under control."

    Oh my God... help us all if politicians think radiation will disappear because they passed a law that says its ok..

    I think Solar power generation is a good use for this land maybe... if the radiation doesn't break down the materials in the solar cells or the power systems.. Agriculture no F'in way!!

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Agriculture no F'in way!!

      Depends what they are growing. The crop might not even be a food crop... e.g. a biomass fuel feedstock.

      I suspect the dubious reasoning in that sentence in the article is either an artifact of translation, or just a journalism fail.

      • Tomacco might work.

      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        So biomass fuel feedstock from land thats in an exclusion zone.... that was set aside due to contamination....
        • by skids ( 119237 )

          Right. Fermented and upgraded on site, you'd get methane. It's my understanding that C14 and H3 are not major causes for concern at this site, except right near the reactor area... otherwise we'd be rather panicked over 1000 square miles of evaporation and biological decomposition.

          In fact, using a closed loop biogen system has been proposed for dealing with the radioactive forests in the exclusion zone before a wildfire releases the radionuclides uncontrollably.

      • No. Its an artifact of communist propaganda. I'm sure all the Chinese workers are told its perfectly safe.

      • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

        They where proposing to use sugar beet for biofuels as a method to speed up decontamination of the land in Belarus (noting that much of the contamination fell in Belarus and not Ukraine). New Scientist article on the subject.

        https://www.newscientist.com/a... [newscientist.com]

    • Re:WTF?!?!? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday November 21, 2016 @11:50PM (#53336997)
      A good chunk of the exclusion zone [google.com] is to the southeast of the reactor. The winds on the day of the accident [youtube.com] were primarily to the northwest. Radiation levels in the southern portion of the zone are only slightly higher than natural background, and about the same as some of the more naturally radioactive cities on Earth. Most people don't realize that Ukraine's capitol of Kiev is only about 100 km southeast of Chernobyl.

      Some elderly people have been allowed to move back into this portion of the zone, but it's still kept part of the exclusion zone out of an abundance of caution. I think it should be kept undeveloped because this is a great experiment on the long-term effects of a nuclear accident on wildlife (both flora and fauna), and the results could be very insightful for determining the effects of radiation on humans. There's very little data on long-term exposure to low levels of radiation [nih.gov]. Right now we simply take the effects of high doses of radiation on people, and extrapolate it as a straight line down to zero assuming that if a lot is bad, then a little is also bad. The early research coming out of the Chernobyl exclusion zone seems to contradict this. Slightly elevated levels of radiation actually seem to make animals healthier than normal background radiation (though it could just be that they're not bothered by people). (source [pbs.org])
    • Quit being paranoid about radiation. It may cause a few mutations or even rarer a few extra isotopes in the food -- they are not a big deal. Mutations in the DNA of your food can't give you cancer, neither can a couple of stray isotopes in it. I mean in theory they can but you're more likely to get hit by lightening on Jupiter tomorrow. And what's the chance you would even be on Jupiter tomorrow? Not a big chance is there?

      • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

        I mean in theory they can but you're more likely to get hit by lightening on Jupiter tomorrow.

        The difference is there was *no chance* before and now it's like lightning hitting the same place, twice.

      • Quit being an idiot and a morin about radiation.
        And read a damn book about it ... hope you never have children so you can mot give them such idiotic advices.

  • i seem to recall from researching nuclear batteries that semiconductor junctions degrade quickly when exposed to high energy ionizing radiation.

    that means this site has to be very low on the contaminants, or the upkeep will be hell from the panels failing.

    unless the chinese are also testing some new PV designed for use in strongly ionizing radiation, and want to collect energy at night too. :)

    • i seem to recall from researching nuclear batteries that semiconductor junctions degrade quickly when exposed to high energy ionizing radiation.

      I think perhaps in practice this may not be a big problem, since alpha and beta radiation don't travel far in air or through most materials. It would be more of a problem in a vacuum, like in space. Gamma radiation, being photons, could potentially be a problem, but I don't know how much there is in that area - presumably the engineers will have though about this problem - they are quite clever, is my impression.

    • My understanding is that, outside of the worst areas(the reactor complex itself and some areas that were most heavily exposed to fallout during the accident) the level of ionizing radiation isn't particularly high. The main area of concern is that some of the more persistent isotopes in the soil could become a serious problem if people were to live there or grow food there. Alpha emitters, in particular, are essentially harmless unless taken internally; but quite nasty if they are(and some of them have the
  • Before we get up in arms, read up on the science.

    http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/ [hiroshimasyndrome.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      "...The Fukushima accident's radiation will not harm anyone."

      Fukushima isn't even over yet. There was a meltdown, Tepco covered it up and later admitted it, and it's still releasing radiation into the ocean.

  • Quick everybody... Copy the highest up-voted comments from the last time this story was posted, and paste them here as your own:

    https://hardware.slashdot.org/... [slashdot.org]

    No need to thank me.

  • by Max_W ( 812974 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @01:12AM (#53337203)
    I hope this solar power station would not interfere with the de facto vast wildlife refuge, which formed in the Chernobyl Exclusion zone. Surprisingly the deadly radiation turned out to be a lesser evil for wildlife than a human with its exoskeleton - a car.
  • Perhaps it is now time to stop saying "China does ..." when it is actually not the Chinese state that does it? After all, when Oracle, Microsoft or IBM do something, we don't refer to them as "America ...", or if a smallish company in Denmark does something, for that matter, the headline is something like "Danish company X ...". Otherwise it comes across as poorly researched, in my view.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Perhaps it is now time to stop saying "China does ..." when it is actually not the Chinese state that does it?

      China National Machinery Industry Corp. is state-owned, so technically it is China that is partnering.

  • by sabbede ( 2678435 ) on Tuesday November 22, 2016 @07:38AM (#53338153)
    Visiting the Zone was my dream vacation. But if it's been cleared for development, what's the point...
    • Yes this. I think I need to bring forward my plans as well.

      • You know, there are people out there that think a tropical paradise is a more desirable destination for a vacation than a dead city at the heart of a radioactive wasteland? It's a... contested issue in my household.
        • I can roast myself on some beach in the tropics when I'm retired. My idea of a vacation is to run around and explore interesting and strange corners of the world. Chernobyl is high up on my list. I just hope I get there before Putin does something stupid to that corner of not-europe.

  • In Kyiv (South of Chernobyl) housewives shop with dosimeters to ensure the food is safe. Travelers are advised to brush their teeth with bottled water as the water is believed to be radioactive.

    The locals clearly don't believe its safe.
    • In Kyiv (South of Chernobyl) housewives shop with dosimeters to ensure the food is safe.

      Never heard that story. Some evidence would be a good idea - especially considering that a dosimeter is quite an expensive piece of kit.

      Travelers are advised to brush their teeth with bottled water as the water is believed to be radioactive.

      People who travel almost anywhere outside north America and Western Europe are advised to use bottled water for tooth brushing for reasons completely unrelated to radioactivity. Certa

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