Energy density explained… using a satchel

This is the Leigh Creek Coal Mine in northern South Australia. Big isn’t it? In 1980, they moved the whole town of Leigh Creek to expand it.

It supplies brown coal to the Northern and Playford Power Stations in Pt Augusta. That’s Playford, below.

This is the number of tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from those two power stations, every year:

5.37 million

The coal reaches the power stations with this train, the longest coal train in the world. It shifts about 2.5 million tons of brown coal per year. That’s about 6,900 t per day, EVERY DAY, being moved 260km from the mine to the power stations. That requires a train 2.8km long, with 161 wagons.

This is the Beverley Uranium Mine, also in northern South Australia. Thanks to Heathgate Resources for the first image, and Heathgate Resources and Australian Geographic for the second.


It mines, processes and packages uranium oxide (U3O8) for export and use in power stations all over the world. In 2007/2008, it produced 719 tons of uranium for export. None of it is used in South Australia, because we have refused to introduce nuclear power.

This is a Merrell Chart messenger bag.

With a total capacity of 24 L, there is sufficient space in this bag to carry enough uranium oxide to replace the Leigh Creek Coal Train for a day. With some room left over for your iPad, wallet, keys, and probably a copy of The Lord of the Rings.

Do you know anyone who might find this interesting? If so, please forward them the link.

Have a great weekend!

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Annual coal output Leigh Creek (t) 2,500,000
Av. daily coal moved by train (t) 6,849
Energy content brown coal (GJ/t) (range: 10-20) 15
Total daily energy being moved (GJ) 102,740
Approx energy content U3O(GJ/t), once through a light water reactor (range: 420,000- 675,000) 500,000
Amount of U3O8  required per day (kg) 205.48
Density of U3O8  (kg per L) 10.9
Volume of U3O8 required (L) 20.55

4 thoughts on “Energy density explained… using a satchel

  1. David White

    Good post, but it has to be said that lots of uranium mines are opencast and an opencast uranium mine looks much like an opencast coal mine!

    1. Decarbonise SA Post author

      Certainly! But the density means those holes are way smaller for way more energy out! There is a good piece by Luke Weston out there on that, i will try and link it.

  2. James Greenidge

    re: “…because we have refused to introduce nuclear power.”

    Man, I’d really REALLY like to know the “official” reason or rational for that!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY USA


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