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Jul 12, 2010

No carbon price? You're being conned

If you can put aside the high and rising costs of failing to commence Australia's transition from one of the world's biggest carbon addicts to a low-carbon economy aside, our handling of climate policy has been the stuff of priceless comedy.

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Ross Garnaut called climate change a “diabolical policy problem” but of course it’s turned out to be a diabolical political problem as well.

It killed off two Opposition leaders and gave Kevin Rudd a healthy shove. And it certainly didn’t help John Howard’s desperate attempts to retain power.

If you can put aside the high and rising costs of failing to commence Australia’s transition from one of the world’s biggest carbon addicts to a low-carbon economy aside, our handling of climate policy has been the stuff of priceless comedy.

Particularly when you recall both sides of politics went to the 2007 election committed to introducing an emissions trading scheme, and both have wimped it.

Labor, having devoted considerable bureaucratic resources and political capital to fulfilling its promise to introduce an emissions trading scheme only to junk it on, apparently, little more than a whim, is now desperately trying to craft a jury-rigged agenda of climate-related initiatives. Depending on which newspaper you read, it will involve spending on renewables, regulation, or some hold out faint hope, even a carbon price.

And, by the way, there is support within the Government and within Cabinet for a carbon price, however much some unidentified senior ministers rule it out as impractical.

Meantime the Opposition is trying to add some bits and bobs to its own witless “climate action” policy which will mainly involve hoping farmers are innumerate enough to undertake “soil carbon” initiatives that cost far more than the $8-10 per tonne subsidy on which the entire policy is based.

Greg Hunt, who abandoned his decades-long support for an emissions trading scheme to keep his shadow ministry job following the right-wing putsch last year, is revealing more than  he perhaps thinks now that he’s spruiking nuclear power, at least to Coalition attack grub Glenn Milne in today’s Australian. The Coalition’s “direct action” guff is supposed to enable Australia to easily meet the bipartisan commitment to reduce emissions by 5% by 2020, notionally making nuclear power irrelevant.

The Coalition is dead keen on nuclear but won’t ever move without Labor giving them cover. But as Crikey showed in November last year, nuclear power is ludicrously expensive and needs massive taxpayer support, otherwise it costs a lot more to build and more to operate than renewables. And that’s before you figure out where to park the waste for a few hundreds of thousands of years or decommission reactors.

Maybe if you call it “Green Waste” it’d be easier to deal with.

More to the point, as Greg Hunt appears to have forgotten, along with everyone else in this place where the Perpetual Present reigns supreme, John Howard asked Ziggy Switkowski in 2006 to look at nuclear power, and Switkowski told him it couldn’t happen without a carbon price. So, no nuclear power without a “great big new tax”.

The debate over climate policy in Australia is equal parts hypocrisy from business (who now apparently want the “certainty” of a carbon price, having idly sat by while Malcolm Turnbull lost his leadership), rentseeking by polluters and arse-covering by our major party politicians. The last aren’t so much scared to show leadership — and what sort of leadership is needed when polls consistently demonstrate a majority of voters want action on climate change anyway? — as simply implement the policies they committed to at the previous election.

So here’s a handy rule-of-thumb for the debate. If someone doesn’t want a carbon price — an actual price that makes some things more expensive for consumers and businesses compared to others — then they’re not serious about starting the transition to a low carbon economy. Or if they are serious, they want you to think there’s no cost in using taxpayers’ largesse, or regulation, to do it.

Avoiding a carbon price does reduce one particular cost of addressing climate change — the political cost. It does it the usual way you address the political cost of reform, by shifting the economic cost from one group of voters onto the taxpayer, or by making the cost invisible by moving it into transactions and administrative efficiency.

But we still pay for those costs, whether we can see them or not. Those costs are higher than if they were directly and transparently priced onto goods and services. Worse, the longer we delay a carbon price, the greater those costs will be.

So any politician or commentator who tries to sell you measures other than a carbon price — by imposing standards on power stations, or spending more money on renewables, or handing out solar panels, or talking glibly about a “Green Army” — is in effect telling you they think you’re either too stupid to notice you’re being conned, or they don’t care if you do notice.

Australians tend to judge their politicians harshly, often without good reason. But when it comes to climate policy, our leaders are every bit as bad as voters suspect.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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168 comments

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168 thoughts on “No carbon price? You’re being conned

  1. I’m not sure that your characterisation of the Government ‘junking the CPRS on a whim’ is entirely accurate, Bernard. They tried very hard to make it law, and were only prevented by a last minute change in the Liberal Party leadership and the predictable cooperation of the Greens with the Coalition in the Senate.

    The Government only shelved the CPRS once it was clear that there was no way to physically pass any kind of emissions trading legislation through the Senate this year.

    Maybe you mean that Kevin Rudd should have called a double dissolution to pass the CPRS? I doubt very much whether the decision not to call a DD was made ‘on a whim’.

  2. Bernard, you are hopelessly out of date. Nuclear is neither as dangerous and expensive as you state, neither are the alternatives free from major problems – especially pollution problems.

    As stated in the comments to your previous piece, November of last year, gas is mainly methane, Ch4. Now, this gas has about 25 times the greenhouse potential of CO2, so any leaks are pretty severe. Add to this the inconvenient fact that at the wellhead or processing plant, very large volumes of CO2 are recovered from the natural gas and simply dumped into our atmosphere, yet nowhere do I see this accounted for in the GHG analyses of gas turbines.

    Regarding wind, I have seen many videos of actual fires, including grass fires, due to fires burning in the nacelle and showering the surrounding fields with incendiary plastic, metal, fibreglass and rubber stuff. The nacelles have to be permitted to burn themselves out and fire brigades (including perhaps my own self) are unable to approach and are simply forced to chase the resulting grass fires. Imaging a farmer in an Australian summer standing by as his field, fences and those of his neighbours are demoloished due to a fault in a single 2MW appliance. Not nice.

    Barry Brook’s booklet “Why Vs Why”, which he shares with the anti-nuke Ian Lowe, is as good a place as any to get a feel for the true strengths of the arguments pro and agin nuclear. I side with Barry, but you are entitled to your own stance.

    CARBON PRICE – A WHOLE NEW GREAT BIG TAX or a TINY LITTLE WASTE DUMPING DISINCENTIVE?
    No, it is not. The real tax at foot here is the way that carbon based energy effectively taxes the air we breathe and on which the world’s ecosystems depend. To balance the scales, a carbon tax equal to the current commercial cost to remove permanently from the atmosphere each tonne of CO2 produced would be many, many times the recommended $10 (recently flagged) or the IPCC3 suggestion of circa $30 to $65US per tonne of CO2.

    Remember, each tonne of (say) 20% ash coal produces 3 tonnes of CO2. In other words, the coal producers have been devaluing our planet by somewhere between $30 and $200 for each tonne of coal burned, yet to try to address this imbalance is somehow called a Great Big New Tax. It should be thought of as a Tiny Little Waste Dumping Disincentive.

    And, in case the coal industry are not happy enough yet, consider that the CO2 and methane liberated from their mines, both open cut and underground, add substantially to the waste.

    I have taken enough space for a single comment. I suggest that interested people check out several web sites and keep an open mind. Perhaps start at Barry Brook’s site, bravenewclimate.com .

    like Barry, I have somewhat reluctantly come to the realisation that the only current technology with any hope of providing the necessary supply, security and reliability of electrical energy for tomorrow’s world is Type 3+ nuclear, transitioning to Type 4 during the next three or four decades.

    Oh, and if anybody thinks that Chernobil was the end of the world as we know it, it was not nice but it has had an insignificant effect on the biosphere, certainly less fatalities than, say, swimming in the ocean or fishing from the rocks.

  3. [otherwise it (nuclear) costs a lot more to build and more to operate than renewables]
    This is just wrong, you are completely under estimating the amount of electricity one nuclear reactor can generate. You only need to build 1 nuclear reactor for every ~1000 wind turbines operating at full capacity (which they never do), or 3000 wind turbines operating at average capacity, or 20 really big solar plants operating at their average capacity, which is about 30% at absolute best.

    Remember, we need something like 100 GW of electricity generation by 2050, which is a big less than double what we use now. If renewables are going to be our saviour, where will we put all these renewable plants. Do you really think people will accept building 150,000 wind turbines? Remember, you need to put them near where people live, else you will you will need to spend hundreds of millions on new transmission lines, and you will reduce the efficiency of the network.

    Plus, when you consider all the steel required to build wind turbines, it turns out that they are a more carbon polluting form of electricity generation than nuclear and photovoltaic.

    Also, you can’t count on wind power to produce its capacity because the wind may change. So that means you will need other forms of generation on stand by, such as gas, to pick up the slack. So massive wind farms would also mean requiring massive investment in gas power stations. If you are burning gas, you are putting carbon in the air so that isn’t a long term solution to climate change.

    The capacity factor of nuclear at best practice is 90 – 95% of rated capacity. Recently a reactor in the U.S. operated at full 1 GW capacity for nearly 2 years before needing to be shut down for refueling and maintenance.

    I am excluding consideration of clean coal, because that is pie in the sky, with the first full scale plant not expected to be operating until 2035 – 2040. And the cost will probably end up being the same as nuclear.We could have a tried and tested nuclear reactor working by 2020 if we wanted it. I mean, to put this in perspective. If we shut down the 2 most polluting coal power stations in Australia, and replaced them with 4 nuclear reactors, we would cut carbon emissions by about 12%:
    http://enochthered.wordpress.com/category/uncategorized/

    The issue of nuclear waste is serious, but most waste is stored in cooling pools then in dry cask containers at the reactor sites. What we currently call “nuclear waste” can be reprocessed into mixed oxide fuel that can be put straight back into reactors to produce more electricity. Of course, Australia with its huge geography and stable geology could safely store nuclear waste, most likely up in the Pilbara when all the iron ore is gone (which is the time scale we really need to think about, we won’t produce a significant amount of nuclear waste for decades).

    I agree that a good rule of thumb is that if someone doesn’t think a carbon price is necessary then they aren’t taking climate change seriously. Another good rule of thumb is that if someone doesn’t think that nuclear energy is PART of the climate change solution, then they aren’t taking climate change seriously either.

  4. But as Crikey showed in November last year…

    Er, no, Crikey has done no such thing. When you fail to respond to a comprehensive rebuttal of your points such as appeared in the comments to those articles, the upshot is that you haven’t shown anything at all, except the poverty of your argument.

    As John Bennetts suggests, spend some time at bravenewclimate.com if you’re interested in why Bernard is wrong about nuclear (and, as implied, renewable) energy.

  5. Whether or not nuclear should be part of the mix, nuclear is only a long term option.

    If we are serious about taking action on climate change then we first need to take lots of short and medium term actions. Things that will start to reduce emissions quickly. Until we have got the short and medium term right, discussing long term options is just a distraction or, in some cases, a deliberate ploy to enable business as usual for now.

    What is clear from the Labor supporters on the Poll Bludger blog is that Labor has failed to get across to even it’s own hard-core supporters the magnitude of the change needed to prevent climate change.

    Apart from The Greens, no party is proposing anywhere near what the science says is necessary to make a difference.

    In 50 or 100 years time there is only one type of action which will have made a difference – that is action which makes the huge reductions needed to prevent warming of over 2 degrees.

    But to Labor and Liberal “action” is just putting in place some policy that makes such insignificant changes to our emissions that it will only slightly delay and not prevent warming far in excess of 2 degrees.

    Even worse, actions such as the roof insulation scheme and the greens loan scheme are regarded as making a difference. Yet if an ETS is put in place (and the target is not adjusted to take into account all such schemes), neither scheme will result in any changes to our emissions. If the ETS is a 5% reduction, then our reduction is 5% with or without these schemes being put in place.

    You can’t play politics with nature. Either we quickly start to take real action, or it is all just political spin.

  6. @JOHN BENNETTS – “Oh, and if anybody thinks that Chernobil was the end of the world as we know it, it was not nice but it has had an insignificant effect on the biosphere, certainly less fatalities than, say, swimming in the ocean or fishing from the rocks.”

    How do you know? With certainty? You don’t! Nor does anyone! Why has the incidents of cancer grown by such huge numbers since the arrival of nuclear power? What is causing it? If cancers had a ‘little tag’ on them that told the story of their beginnings, we’d probably all be quite shocked, and in fact, there’d probably be a world wide revolt! Those who are pushing nuclear don’t tell the whole truth for many reasons, mostly money! Too much to be made from the whole dirty cycle. I’m in favour of renewable energy, particular solar and perhaps wind and thermal.

    The CFMEU has declared the whole nuclear fuel cycle as a no go for its members. It considers it as the new ‘asbestos’ of the future. I support them in this!

    Australia doesn’t ‘need’ nuclear power. It’s too costly in many avenues, but health and safety is a good place to start. Ziggy is like many who push nuclear power – self interest, and also he won’t be around after about 40 yrs – he has a damned cheek to foist this on my grandkids – and everyone else’s as well. I’ve lost too many people from cancer, and nobody seems to give a damn about cause – the push is for the cure, as it would have a financial component – make some people rich. Why don’t people show more concern about what causes it? Pollution, fertilizers etc?

  7. With the exception of your comments on nuclear power, well said Bernard.

    It certainly is the case that any near zero CO2-emissions industrial-scale energy system will demand the internalisation of the costs to the commons of dumping industrial effluent freely into the biosphere.

    What would be interesting is if the ALP junked its policy of opposing nuclear power development and simply declared itself in favour of the immediate imposition of an initially low but escalating carbon price, removed all MRETs and RECs and other subsidies for FF or renewables or any other energy source and then said that it would leave it up to the market to decide how to respond.

    The Coalition would be wedged and The Greens would have no place to go. Most of them would give their effective preference to the ALP. We would also have opened the way to the lowest cost industrial-scale near zero emissions energy system ubiquitously available. If geothermal or any other system proved competitive with coal for base-load, it could be taken up and displace it. If nuclear really was uncompetitive, then the arguments about its merits would be moot. One suspects we would initially have a lot of gas replacing coal, but in the long run, that isn’t sustainable or even adequate in emissions terms. It’s like two-finger typing. You can clearly write a letter this way more quickly than if you learn to touch type first, but in the long run, if you want to type long passages quickly you must learn touch typing.

    Re your reference to your article about nuclear power last November at the link above.

    I note this here:

    Wind and solar power have the advantage of […] no decommissioning costs.

    Come again? You’re going to leave sites that are selected as viable for wind and solar occupied indefinitely with obsolete wind and solar dishes? That sounds sensible. Oddly, at least in terms of wind, that policy is not being followed. In fact, wind turbines with much higher ratings which require new and larger concrete footings are being built.

    The other point which ought to be made here is that, considering Australia, apart from geothermal — which might well compete here with the most expensive nuclear power, there is no renewable source capable of doing for Australia what coal does now at a comparable cost with nuclear. In order to provide power with the same load curves as the coal and gas we have now, one would need either massive overbuild of wind or solar or massive storage or a significant increase in redundant dispatchable fossil or nuclear energy. Any way you slice it, the cost per tonne of CO2 avoided goes way up using renewables and the amount you can afford to avoid declines. In practice, the best fit for renewables without nuclear entails using lots of gas to ensure that coal plants are replaced. But if you’re going to do that, why not straight swap for gas and forget wind and solar? You could replace a lot more coal that way for each dollar spent.

    The main reason that wind and solar can appear cheap is because the calculations take no account of the practical context in which these technologies would function. It really doesn’t matter how much a given windfarm or solar dish array might produce on any given day. What matters is is its capacity credit — what it can predictably produce on demand. A corner shop might well have your breakfast cereal in the volume you want it cheap, but most people prefer the supermarket because they can count on it being there in the volume they want cheap. Similarly, what an energy market needs is the ability to guarantee supply no matter whether the wind is blowing or the sun shining. Some people say that scattering wind farms over a wide area can compensate for capacity factors of 30%. Clearly this might work, but it can’t be guaranteed. Between 17-21 May this year in South Australia their 972MW of notional capacity was supplying less than 2% of its output, despite covering an area of 1100km. Nearly as bad, if you are going to reticulate energy over large distances, you have to install the transmission capacity to carry it and the equipment to ensure stable current and so forth. This adds to cost. These costs have to be factored in.

    In practice, in SA, the capacity credit for wind is about 8% — meaning that only about 70MW of that 972 is really relied upon. In Victoria, it is 3% and in both that is based on gas stepping up when and if wind cannot. Consider a single project aimed at retiring a single coal plant. Hazelwood in Victoria supplies about 27% of the state’s load. It is the world’s dirtiest coal plant — not merely on Co2 but in other pollutants as well. Meeting its notional 1600MW would imply building about 33 times that rated capacity in wind at the capacity credit used by Victoria (perhaps $120 billion for the wind and gas not counting transmission) — and then covering that with gas. Or you could just replace it with a Brayton cycle gas plant at a tiny fraction of the installed wind + gas cover cost. What to do?

    At the moment, in China, you can get nuclear for about $1.5 billion per GW — more than coal to be sure — but at least an order of magnitude less than wind or solar and cheaper than gas. Even if we accept the latest contract price for the UAE of about $3.6Billion per GW we are way ahead. Unlike renewables, nuclear can be built in the ideal place to serve load. If you replaced Hazelwood tomorrow with 1.6GW of nuclear, Victoria would be immediately producing the cleanest aluminium in the world and the air quality downwind would radically improve. Australia’s total emissions would fall by 5% — the very figure Rudd was targeting by … 2033.

    It bears considering.

    I’d recommend people interested in such matters take a look at the TCASE (thinking critically about sustainable energy) series at Professor Barry Brook’s Brave New Climate blog. It really is foundational for anyone wanting to get a handle on these matters.

  8. Thank you for the link, but no, you didnt show that “nuclear power is ludicrously expensive”. Far from needing “massive taxpayer support”, nuclear needs a hefty carbon tax – as Ziggy showed (*).

    What d’you mean, “it costs a lot more to operate than renewables”? It doesnt take much imagination to see the army of workers needed to maintain 1 GW of wind turbines or solar PV – plus the necessary ~2 GW-days of energy storage to convert it to baseload. Fifty years later, which system is still providing cheap elctricity?

    Forgot to say, energy storage? So far, storage for renewables is underfunded, experimental engineering, thus inevitably heavily manpowered.

    Where we going to park a tonne of fission products? Underground. Now, where are you going to park the equivalent million tonnes of CO2? We know which question is more important.

    And those long-lived products? Burn them, that’s what reactors are for.

    Decommissioned reactor sites are earmarked for the next power stations, of course. An exception is the containment building for Calder Hall in UK, which now houses a museum for the public to visit.

    Really Bernard, do you think we are a stampeding mob, prefering slogans to facts ?

    (*) UMPNER.

  9. I think Penny Wong did a good job of working through the practical problems of setting up a comprehensive version of ETS. What she demonstrated very clearly is that it is a lot more complex than a simple statement of how ETS works. She also found that CPRS is so complex that it becomes difficult to explain and difficult to sell when opposed by someone like Tony Abbot. Carbon taxes avoid the variation of the carbon price but they will still need most of the complexities of CPRS if unproductive price increases are to be avoided.
    We could reduce power generation related emissions by leaving the price of dirty power unchanged, setting up contracts for the supply of cleaner electricity and regulating to ensure that priority is given to the use of the cleaner electricity. Under this system the average price of electricity will ramp up slowly as the proportion of clean electricity increases. Under ETS or carbon taxes the price of electricity has to be artificially increased to the point where cleaner alternatives become competitive BEFORE NEW INVESTMENT IS JUSTIFIED.
    Cleaning up electricity on its own would reduce our total emissions by close to 50%. We certainly don’t have to put an artificial price on carbon to keep our emission reduction program on track for many years to come.

  10. “… only to junk it on, apparently, little more than a whim”.

    Obviously a typo.

    Bernard surely ment to type “… only to junk it on, apparently, little more than a whim of the Opposition.”

  11. [Whether or not nuclear should be part of the mix, nuclear is only a long term option.]
    Well, it depends on what you mean by long term. We should aim to build our first reactor by 2020.

    But mass renewable projects are long term too. The RET will only get renewables from the current dismal 4.5% to slightly less dismal 20% by 2020, in other words, Government policy ASSUMES that the vast majority of electricity generation will remain coal and gas.

    Also, these big solar projects aren’t exactly quickly sprouting up everywhere. The Victorian 154 MW plant (which will produce 45 MW at best) won’t start operating at full capacity until 2013!
    http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/national/m-to-catch-some-sun-power/story-e6frf7l6-1111112412237

    [Apart from The Greens, no party is proposing anywhere near what the science says is necessary to make a difference. ]
    The Greens are denying science, engineering, and economics by asserting that we can cost effectively transition the entire electricity generation of Australia from coal and gas to renewables without using nuclear.

  12. [How do you know? With certainty? You don’t! Nor does anyone! Why has the incidents of cancer grown by such huge numbers since the arrival of nuclear power?]
    Where is your evidence that cancer has increased? More likely what has happened is that as medical techniques have become more sophisticated, more cases of cancer are diagnosed and reported (and treated), whereas in the past people just got sick and died and never the reason was because of cancer. Also, people live longer, so they are more likely to get cancer. There is no credible evidence that nuclear power has increased the rates of cancer.
    [The CFMEU has declared the whole nuclear fuel cycle as a no go for its members. It considers it as the new ‘asbestos’ of the future. I support them in this! ]
    So that explains why people who work in Olympic Dam – the world’s biggest uranium mine – are members of the AWU. Thanks for explaining the CFMEU’s stupidity.

  13. “transitioning to Type 4 during the next three or four decades.”
    Sounds like the promise of super batteries only years away. We have been hearing that one since the first electric car 100 years ago.

    It just sounds like a gamble I’m not prepared to take when there are solutions available now. If in 40-50 years Type 4 reactor technology is proven safe and reliable, that will be great, for my grand children.

    Its like saying I wont buy new clothes today, I’ll just walk around in the nude because there will be better and cheaper clothes next week.

    In the mean time can we stop building new coal power stations, embrace current renewable technology and put minimum energy efficiency standards on all new buildings.

    The pro-nuclear advocates seem to be just as blindly fanatical as the unwashed hippies.

  14. @FRAN – “We would also have opened the way to the lowest cost industrial-scale near zero emissions energy system ubiquitously available.”

    You still conveniently omit to mention the emissions caused by the mining, milling etc of uranium. You don’t address worker safety; transportation of waste or where to store it; why the cost per kwh includes the building and decomission of a reactor and the cost of the other aspects, nor do you address the danger of proliferation or weapons etc.

    How convenient! You also castigated people like Dr Helen Caldicott for her strong stance, again omitting to acknowledge, that she’s been involved in this subject for at least 35 yrs in her capacity as a specialist in childhood illnesses and disease, otherwise known as a Pediatrician! What are your qualifications, and why do you ‘cherry pick’ only the aspects that you wish to, and ignore the rest?

    “there is no renewable source capable of doing for Australia what coal does now at a comparable cost with nuclear.”
    Maybe not yet, but if you’d gone to the 7.30Report site when I mentioned about a week ago, you’d find out that the people in California conducting the research believed, that they were about 5 yrs from having a solar plant for base load power, that would be cheaper than nuclear, and maybe even cheaper than coal. That was about 2 1/2 yrs ago at least! Dr David Mills is the Australian who’d been doing research for many years, and was forced overseas due to the Howard govt’s reduction in monies for research and development.

    Where do you propose that nuclear reactors would be built? They need to be near water? The whole nuclear industry requires masses of water – in a country that is the most arid and polulated? You don’t address positioning or the water issue either. How convenient? What about the pollution left behind during the mining/ milling process? Show me any of these major companies have successfully ‘tidied up’ their mess when they leave! Show me where govts have enforced strict environmental principles and investigations – before, during and after they’ve removed the resources?They haven’t! Ask the people on the south coast of NSW about what the big coal mining companies’ legacy has been!

    You also don’t address aboriginal land rights, either in relation to mining or as the Federal govt intends, the big nuclear waste dump in the NT that the aboriginal people do NOT want! The very fact that the govt is intent on having it there, is that no State govt wants it, and the Fed Govt can over-rule the wishes of the NT. Of course, it helps if you remove the Racial Discrimination Act first, and as most of us know, they’ve already done that! From their perspective – problem solved! Except, that opposition to the govt’s racist stance is growing, and now they also have the support of many Unions – the fight hasn’t even begun in earnest – yet!

    All you do is castigate those whose position you don’t share, but don’t address anything that is a bit ‘tricky’ or unpalatable – how convenient! You show no allegiance to human rights or at least, truth and discussion. The only opinion you have time for is the pro-stance – anyone else is just plain stupid in your view!

  15. Liz45 said:

    You still conveniently omit to mention the emissions caused by the mining, milling etc of uranium

    These are all acounted for in lifecycle emissions costs. They are utterly trivial, and so yes, it is convenient to pass lightly over them, especially since when fully utilised, the feedstock has a yield somewhere between 1.6m and 3 m times the yield per tonne of coal. If we use MOX fuel the marginal cost is zero.

    You don’t address worker safety;

    Because, as I have pointed out to you, it is radically superior to worker safety in the coal and gas fuel cycle.

    transportation of waste or where to store it;

    For the life of the plant, it is stored mostly on site, so there is no transport. Later on, it may be used again and utlitmately when it is totally depleted and of no use to anyone, it will be buried in a secure facility. Very cheap and simple.

    why the cost per kwh includes the building and decomission of a reactor and the cost of the other aspects, nor do you address the danger of proliferation or weapons etc.

    Asssuming you meant “excludes” — above it does include all these costs. We spoke about proliferation in our last exchange and as I pointed out to you, this is a furphy. Nuclear power plants appear after proliferation has taken place, not before. And here in Australia, there is no prospect of the Australian state handing over Pu239 to hostile agensies for reprocessing to weapons grade, in part because anyone wanting to do that could do it far more furtively without our help. You are doing your gish gallop again.

    Where do you propose that nuclear reactors would be built?

    Anywhere they are ideally placed. Luckily, that is not my call. Better qualified people than me will determine this. My guess would be near a major load centre and near the ocean and maybe near a sewage treatment plant, as the water there is plentiful and cheap and we could run desal and or water recycling when not producing power.

    They need to be near water?

    As I pointed out last time, they don’t. Molten salt reactors are possible.

    I’m not going to wander off into irrelevant discussion of other points, (land rights, medical isotope disposal centre in NT — which the local people want) so I am going to leave the rest of your rant. It’s not as if you listen to and consider what is said.

  16. [Sounds like the promise of super batteries only years away. We have been hearing that one since the first electric car 100 years ago.]
    Not at all, Gen 4 reactors are being worked on. But how is this different from the promise that 1 GW solar power stations and clean coal will magically appear?
    [In the mean time can we stop building new coal power stations, embrace current renewable technology and put minimum energy efficiency standards on all new buildings.]
    When you say “embrace renewable technology” what you actually mean is “hand out billions of dollars to renewable projects that otherwise wouldn’t be built.

    “Efficiency standards” are not a panacea either. Even assuming for an across the board efficiency increase of 15%, by 2050 Australia needs to generate almost double the electricity it generates now.
    [You still conveniently omit to mention the emissions caused by the mining, milling etc of uranium.]
    Even when that is taken into account, and adding in the CO2 cost of building a reactor, nuclear puts less carbon into the air than wind (creating steel is polluting), and is on par with photovoltaic, but unlike photovoltaic, it produces constant power 24/7, for about 95% of the year.
    [You don’t address worker safety; transportation of waste or where to store it; why the cost per kwh includes the building and decomission of a reactor and the cost of the other aspects, nor do you address the danger of proliferation or weapons etc. ]
    Worker safety. Well, this year alone about 50 people have died in the U.S. either mining coal, oil, or working at a gas power station:
    http://www.smh.com.au/world/us-gas-plant-blast-five-dead-20100208-nl4k.html

    There have only ever been TWO deaths in the U.S. directly attributable to the nuclear power industry, and they were killed because of a STEAM explosion at a nuclear plant.

    In most countries, decommissioning costs are financed by adding a very small tariff (a fraction of a cent) to cost of all the power produced by the plant. So the life of the plant pays for decommissioning.
    [nor do you address the danger of proliferation or weapons etc. ]
    There are far more countries in the world that use nuclear power than that possess nuclear weapons. One of the most strident non-proliferation advocates – Japan – makes about 30% of its electricity from nuclear, and has the world’s biggest plant. Saying that nuclear power must equal proliferation is just a lie.
    [the people in California conducting the research believed, that they were about 5 yrs from having a solar plant for base load power, that would be cheaper than nuclear,]
    This is rubbish. The state of the art solar plants have capacity factors of just 30% And have a capacity factor of exactly 0% at night. California has a bit over 4 GW of nuclear capacity installed. If Australia had that much, we could shut down our dirtiest coal power stations, and cut carbon emissions by 10 – 15%.
    [Where do you propose that nuclear reactors would be built? They need to be near water? The whole nuclear industry requires masses of water – in a country that is the most arid and polulated? ]
    Guess what! Nuclear power can also be used to desalinate water. It’s sure better than doing it using electricity generated from coal or even gas, which is what the eastern states are going to do.
    [You also don’t address aboriginal land rights, either in relation to mining or as the Federal govt intends, the big nuclear waste dump in the NT that the aboriginal people do NOT want! ]
    So what is your solution? We just leave nuclear waste in all the hospitals in the country, instead of storing it in ONE secure and safe location?
    [All you do is castigate those whose position you don’t share, but don’t address anything that is a bit ‘tricky’ or unpalatable – how convenient!]
    Wrong. You won’t face up to the fact that ALL energy sources have disadvantages, you pretend that nuclear is the only energy source with problems, which is just misleading.

  17. Out come the nuclear proponents with their ‘renewables can’t provide baseload power’ punchline.

    Sorry all, it can. Simple fact.

    Solar thermal plants with overnight storage are being constructed in Spain as we type. Very simple concept, heat the salt, you store the molten salt in big tanks and heat water with it to turn a big turbine like you do in a coal fired power station.

    The cost of solar thermal is dropping constantly, which is more than can be said for coal or nuclear. With sufficient investment (approx. Victoria’s stationary energy requirements) the cost of producing electricity by this method could be comparable to new coal plants within a decade.

    The best part is that scientists estimate that we have around 10 billions years worth of fuel reserves for Solar Thermal (the sun), which is better that uranium/plutonium and coal which will probably run out at the end of the century if we are lucky.

    Also, just to dispel the myth about wind not being reliable. An idiot can see that if you build a bunch of wind turbines in one spot, you are going to get times when you cannot rely on those turbines to provide power (ie. when the wind is not blowing). The strength of wind power comes when you have an INTEGRATED NETWORK OF PLANTS, which can, as a whole be relied upon to provide a certain amount of energy. The secret is in geographic diversity.

    Best of all, wind and solar thermal are easy to produce quickly, meaning that we could actually produce a system that has a timely effect on our carbon emissions. As opposed to nuclear, which might start having an effect in 20 years time, just in time for uranium prices to soar and for our massive investments to be worthless.

    Just something for you all to think about before you decide to send us down yet another one-way street (have you not learned from coal?)

  18. oeoeaio said:

    Solar thermal plants with overnight storage are being constructed in Spain as we type.

    Here’s where you get to outline the overnight costs of plants like Andasol. What were these again? How many coal or gas plants can these plants retire? It’s not the engineering feasibility of molten salt that is at issue. It is the cost to store industrial volmes of energy. How much would it cost to store the full rated capacity of the plant, or to be fair, 92% of it, for at least enough time for it to fully recharge?

    I can easily give you a calculation of how much water and head pressure you would need to store a week of Australia’s energy demand using seaboard pumped storage. But how much would this cost? Way more than you or anyone would want to pay. And of course, like any bank account, when you take energy out, it must be put back if it is to do its job, so the renewable energy unit has to produce moree than the grid demands until that is restored.

    An idiot can see that if you build a bunch of wind turbines in one spot, you are going to get times when you cannot rely on those turbines to provide power (ie. when the wind is not blowing). The strength of wind power comes when you have an INTEGRATED NETWORK OF PLANTS, which can, as a whole be relied upon to provide a certain amount of energy. The secret is in geographic diversity.

    Apparently though, not every idiot can figure out that building capacity over a wide area still can’t guarantee any particular output and willcertainly up the connection to grid costs, even when I pointed this out above. You cannot have an industrial energy system system that randomly under-produces.

    As opposed to nuclear, which might start having an effect in 20 years time, just in time for uranium prices to soar and for our massive investments to be worthless.

    This is planly the comment of someone unaware that the fuel cost of uranium is a piffling part of the cost of nuclear plants, and who also doesn’t know that throium is about three times as abundant and that uranium can be had from seawater or that reprocessing of existing hazmat forceloses the need for new uranium anyway or that plants can be built within about five years, given a minimum of legal bureaucratic farnarkling about.

    When the forst wind farm or solar array forces the first coal or gas plant to be retired, then these sources will begin to be plausible. Demonstration projects don’t count. Unless you can force coal and gas plants to close using this technology, it is just so much hot air.

  19. [Out come the nuclear proponents with their ‘renewables can’t provide baseload power’ punchline.]
    Anything can provide baseload power if you spend enough money on a sophisticated storage system.

    The question is, can you do it COST EFFECTIVELY so the price of power for householders doesn’t have to double or triple every few years?
    [Solar thermal plants with overnight storage are being constructed in Spain as we type. ]
    Spain’s solar industry recently went into recession when, for budgetary reasons, the Spainish government had to revoke a range of subsidies.
    [Very simple concept, heat the salt, you store the molten salt in big tanks and heat water with it to turn a big turbine like you do in a coal fired power station.]
    Fine, but as soon as you do that, the efficiency of your solar thermal plant goes through the floor. So you need to build EVEN MORE capacity.
    [The cost of solar thermal is dropping constantly, which is more than can be said for coal or nuclear.]
    Well I’d HOPE solar thermal plants are getting cheaper, considering the pissy little ~45 MW plant (that’s ACTUAL production) is going to cost over $420 million, of which Victorian tax payers are chipping $150 million, and tax payers from other states – via the federal government – are paying $75 million.
    [The best part is that scientists estimate that we have around 10 billions years worth of fuel reserves for Solar Thermal (the sun)]
    This is a ridiculous statement considering the efficiency of solar thermal plants (solar energy converted into electrical energy) isn’t even 20%.
    [which is better that uranium/plutonium and coal which will probably run out at the end of the century if we are lucky.]
    If you want to bring 2100 into the equation, we will probably be using Thorium based breeder reactors by then, or nuclear fusion – which is another reason for us to start a nuclear industry now.
    [The strength of wind power comes when you have an INTEGRATED NETWORK OF PLANTS, which can, as a whole be relied upon to provide a certain amount of energy.]
    Well you can’t actually rely on them to produce anything because it is impossible to predict the intensity of the wind at all locations at the same time. So you constantly need to have a safety margin. And if the wind drops, and you don’t get other power sources online, then you have black outs, which isn’t good for business.
    [Best of all, wind and solar thermal are easy to produce quickly, meaning that we could actually produce a system that has a timely effect on our carbon emissions. ]
    If that’s the case, why is it taking 5 years to produce one pissy 45 MW solar thermal plant in Victoria?
    [As opposed to nuclear, which might start having an effect in 20 years time, just in time for uranium prices to soar and for our massive investments to be worthless.]
    If Uranium prices soar, then it will be cheaper to fuel existing reactors on MOX fuel (i.e. reprocessed nuclear waste). And I hope you do realise that about 40% of the world’s uranium reserves are sitting in Australia.

  20. Political Amnesia? We could have had a price on carbon! Tony Abbott and his mates killed it. Anybody asked him lately whether he still believes climate change is “crap” or has he changed his mind again?

  21. Beyond Zero Emission’s stationary energy plan http://beyondzeroemissions.org explodes the myth that renewables can’t provide baseload and that nuclear is needed in Australia. The report shows how 100% renewables is doable in ten years. So Bernard’s point about nuclear being expensive, inadequate and dangerous is well made. And Barry Brook may be an excellent climate scientist, but he is in denial about the potential of renewable energy.

    But I’d strongly caution against reliance on a carbon price as the major instrument to spark the transition. At best, any carbon price could be a subsidiary measure to complement direct government investment. So I think the thrust of the article – that a carbon price is necessary part of the solution – has got things upside down.

    It’s a climate emergency and we shouldn’t be so willing to “privatise” the response effort – there are exactly zero good precedents for major, market-driven environmental changes. 100% renewables for Australia would cost about 3.5% of GDP over ten years (roughly equal to a third of the health budget). Government spending on the military in 2009 was about 1.8% of GDP. Were the government to spend twice current military spending on saving the planet for future generations instead, we’d be really moving forward.

    The technical and economic solutions on offer are actually are pretty straightforward – the only hard bit is the politics. And that includes the kind of politics that says: “Be realistic, if people can’t make money out of this crisis then the crisis can’t be solved.”

  22. One thing that current forecasts of energy (electricity mostly) needed doesn’t factor in is the sheer amount of electricity we waste at the moment.

    Millions of computers left on overnight in empty offices, cold air-conditioned air rolling into the heat outside through massive open doors at shopping centres, massive amounts of solar energy pouring through glass ceilings and requiring more electricity to cool down.

    We could easily reduce the amount of electricity we use as a society with no change to our standard of living.

    We don’t because its so cheap at the moment (because polluting our atmosphere can be done without cost) that its easier to use it than turn it off – or to design things differently.

    Stupidly a lot of people are extrapolating the amount of cheap energy we use now into the future and saying it will bankrupt us to use such a large amount at a higher price.

    Of course thats where the economics comes into it – with higher prices we will use less (waste less as the wastage will be reduced first before any essential or amenity is lost).

  23. [One thing that current forecasts of energy (electricity mostly) needed doesn’t factor in is the sheer amount of electricity we waste at the moment.]
    Wrong:
    http://www.ret.gov.au/energy/facts/Pages/EnergyFacts.aspx

    [We could easily reduce the amount of electricity we use as a society with no change to our standard of living.]
    This seems to be the corollary of the “Renewables will save us!” delusion, the assertion that everything will be fixed if we are just more energy efficient.

    Again, even if there is a 15% across the board increase in energy efficiency, we still need to almost DOUBLE our electricity generation capacity by 2050.

    Moreover, energy efficiency beyond 15% is very expensive! So you start to get to a point of diminishing returns where, rather than investing billions for a few more percent of efficiency, the money would be better spent building new clean generation capacity.
    [Of course thats where the economics comes into it – with higher prices we will use less (waste less as the wastage will be reduced first before any essential or amenity is lost).]
    If you think people are going to give up their computers and TVs then you are just kidding yourself. People will change their behavior based on price incentives a bit, but if you think people will stop turning on their electric heaters in winter, then you just aren’t being serious.

  24. [Beyond Zero Emission’s stationary energy plan http://beyondzeroemissions.org explodes the myth that renewables can’t provide baseload and that nuclear is needed in Australia. The report shows how 100% renewables is doable in ten years.]
    LOL! Anything is possible if you have $100 billion laying around! I hope this is going to be done on YOUR credit card.
    [It’s a climate emergency and we shouldn’t be so willing to “privatise” the response effort – there are exactly zero good precedents for major, market-driven environmental changes.]
    Absolute tosh. The reason power stations don’t create as much acid rain now as they previously did is because there is a price on sulfur dioxide emissions.
    [The technical and economic solutions on offer are actually are pretty straightforward – the only hard bit is the politics. ]
    WHAT ABOUT THE MONEY!? You’re unbelievable.

  25. The world faces two main problems. Overpopulation and pollution. We have to tackle these by any appropriate means possible! That’s the challenge and we are running out of time fast. When we choose our next leader we better make sure that there is the understanding and the will to tackle these and other unpopular and difficult issues. Admittedly T. A. is a jolly good fellow, amusing and entertaining but is there anybody out there who really believes he has the wherewithal? I don’t think so!

  26. And Barry Brook may be an excellent climate scientist, but he is in denial about the potential of renewable energy.

    Actually Simon, it is BZE that is Pollyanna on renewables. The hard reality is that apart from, possibly, geothermal, renewables cannot produce power at the quality needed when it is needed at a price that the system could tolerate without backup fossil or nuclear capacity. BZE is a misnomer, because really, it has no viable plan to radically reduce emissions.

  27. [The hard reality is that apart from, possibly, geothermal…]
    It’s sad that the Resource Super Profits Tax wouldn’t been an excellent way to give tax breaks to drilling for geothermal energy which is horrendously expensive.

    But that vanished into thin air when Gillard had to cave in.

  28. Here’s a quick back of the envelope calculation for everyone to ponder.

    Taking a random 24 hour Monday (7th June 2010) the total amount of electricity used by the entire state of NSW was 230,492MWh (taken from AER half hourly demand for 24 hour period 0001h – 2359h 7/6/10).

    The amount of solar energy available at the surface in NSW is about 900W (0.9kW) per square metre.

    230,492MWh = 230,492,000kWh

    If we take 6 hours as the period with which you can reliably harness sunlight during one day then the same amount of energy that NSW consumed in the entire 24 hour period would fall into 42,683,700 square metres. (230,492,000 kWh / 6 hours = 38,415,333 kW per hour. Then 38,415,333kW divided by 0.9kw/m2).

    This area is a square 6.5km each side. Its an area equivalent to 17 times the CBD of Sydney. Its less than half the size of Wollongong.

    Now of course you don’t get 100% efficiency – but it shows the enormous amount of energy raining down on the planet from our star.

    With wind turbines picking up 20-40% of our state’s demand (easily achievable) then the area required for solar thermal is reduced. Once built the solar thermal stations require minimal maintenance – certainly far less than any coal fired plant.

  29. It’s sad (because) the Resource Super Profits Tax would’ve been an excellent way to give tax breaks to drilling for geothermal energy which is horrendously expensive.But that vanished into thin air when Gillard had to cave in.

    I doubt that this was what the government had in mind and they could still fund it under one renewabla mandate or another. Personally, I’d prefer that all subsidies and tax deductibility to existing dirty energy be withdrawn, along with MRET and FiT, RECs etc and the money/benefit returned in one form or another to those on or below average income. The carbon price could be used to fund loans at something like the OCA or the 10-year bond rate, if due diligence could show a viable project.

    I’d actually like the governent to tender for companies to replace Hazelwood with maximum carbon intensity at no more than 5% of industry average coal and availability at rated capacity (min 25% of Hazelwood) of at least 8000 hours per year. I’d offer the project at $4.2 billion per GW and state that we’d go with the best bang for the buck in terms of $/CO2 reduction. Tenderers agree that if the project fails spec by more than 10% they have to pay back moneys advanced but get to keep the plant (liquidated damages at the margin). If it succeeds, the state pays out and takes the plant and then calls for tenders to operate it/them.

    That way, we can’t lose and we get to see if any renewablists can do roughly what they claim and we can stop this entirely silly barn dance.

    FTR I did hate the backdown on mining. There were better ways of taxing anomalous profits than RSPT though. Not on topic here though.

  30. [Now of course you don’t get 100% efficiency]
    Of course you don’t, in fact, you don’t even get 20%, so your calculations are pointless.
    [but it shows the enormous amount of energy raining down on the planet from our star.]
    No one is disputing that the big nuclear reactor in the sky called the sun is a powerful source of energy. The question is, how to harness it COST EFFECTIVELY, and in a way so you don’t have to bulldoze half a state to install solar power stations.

  31. @SHOWSON “This seems to be the corollary of the “Renewables will save us!” delusion, the assertion that everything will be fixed if we are just more energy efficient.”

    Well if the cry is “renewables will cost too much – we can’t afford them” then any forecast increase in demands which include the 15% wastage is a complete untruth.

    The analogy is you’re driving around with 2 tonnes of unneccessary lead weight (thats the current wasted energy for those who need the dots joined here) in the boot of your car and you project the cost of buying a more expensive car in the future to include carrying the 2 tonnes of extra and unneeded weight.

    Get rid of the 2 tonne weight and looking forward suddenly you don’t need an expensive truck – you might only need a people mover (to account for additional population growth).

    Of course you need to understand the electricity supply system too. The massive doubling of demand is only the top of the peak of demand on a few days. The baseload will be far less than double compared to what our current generation capacity is.

    It doesn’t make economic sense to build far more generation that you need for a few peak days – when you could easily reduce the rare spike days with a bit of price signalling – for instance “Gee Westfield – do you *really* need to be running all the air con to keep your massive shopping centres cooled to 20 degrees today when its 40 outside. If you do decide that you need to then you’ll have to pay a far larger amount today to justify stressing the network. If you decide to reduce your wastage of energy and let your centres get up to 28 or 30 degrees then surprise, surprise – the network isn’t stretched to breaking point”. Of course if the government had any balls then commercial properties such as shopping centres would be forced to put solar panels onto their football field sized rooves and then they could run their air con all they wanted for free.

    Also Showson – renewables aren’t subject to the restrictions of location to resources in the way that fossil fuel plants are. If demand is increasing in an area then you could whip up a few turbines and solar plant close to the area. Not so for a coal or gas fired station – where you need to be close to large and reliable supplies of cooling water and fuel sources.

  32. No one is disputing that the big nuclear reactor in the sky called the sun is a powerful source of energy. The question is, how to harness it COST EFFECTIVELY, and in a way so you don’t have to bulldoze half a state to install solar power stations.

    This is what you always get. Purely notional conceptions of what might be done with absolutely no acknowledgement that CF (when they even acknowledge its relevance) is not the only consideration in choosing an energy system. Dispatchability is central. So is total cost of ownership. So is the distance one must move energy. So is volume. And from the POV of those of us who care about the footprint we humans leave on the biosphere, so is the footprint.

  33. @Showson “Of course you don’t, in fact, you don’t even get 20%, so your calculations are pointless.”

    Actually the efficiency of concentrated solar thermal is already above a fossil fuel plant. So sorry old chap – but thats a fail for you!

  34. Sorry folks, I fell behind, but I have got a few things to offer.

    Gosh, where to start…

    I’ll start with @FRAN…4:34 pm

    Also, I’m new to this, so I don’t know how to do your cool comments boxes, so you’ll just have to make do with quotation marks.

    “How much would it cost to store the full rated capacity of the plant, or to be fair, 92% of it, for at least enough time for it to fully recharge?”

    Well, lots. Obviously the more storage you need/want, the more it will cost. I’m not saying that this is going to be cheap, but neither are you. The cost of transitioning our entire energy supply entirely from one source to another is always going to be expensive. The issue is finding a solution that will do what we want, within the required time frame, and is economically feasible. Which I would argue that CST certainly is. I would also argue that the nuclear, while fulfilling the first requirement, does so in a less satisfactory way than CST and lags significantly with respects to the second requirement.

    “Apparently though, not every idiot can figure out that building capacity over a wide area still can’t guarantee any particular output and will certainly up the connection to grid costs, even when I pointed this out above. You cannot have an industrial energy system system that randomly under-produces.”

    Rude. But I’ll accept your myopic view as the product of a…..no I just can’t say it. Firstly, I did not suggest that wind would be a base load power source. Never. That’s a good thing for solar thermal or in the future, geothermal. What you do with wind is you use it when you have it, which takes the load off CST during the day (which frees up energy for storage for use over night), and can be used for pumping of water for hydropower or in the future, generation of hydrogen for use during peaks. It is better to have a reasonably predictable level of energy generation from wind, which is why it helps to have geographical diversity, but 100% reliability is not vital, or, I agree, possible.

    “This is planly the comment of someone unaware that the fuel cost of uranium is a piffling part of the cost of nuclear plants, and who also doesn’t know that throium is about three times as abundant and that uranium can be had from seawater or that reprocessing of existing hazmat forceloses the need for new uranium anyway or that plants can be built within about five years, given a minimum of legal bureaucratic farnarkling about.”

    Are you trying to say that increased uranium prices won’t increase the price of electricity? Sure, commodity prices are low, coal is cheap too, so was oil once upon a time. You neglect to mention that the energy density of Thorium is less than half that of natural uranium, so, yes, while 3 times as abundant, you only have 1.5 times the actual energy that you have for uranium. So, yeah, you might get to 2150 before you run out uranium, plutonium and thorium. Even if current demand doesn’t increase, which it undoubtedly will.
    You talk about the economics of storing molten salt for CST. How economical is pulling uranium out of the ocean? Sure, there are billion/trillions of tonnes of it in there, but surely it would be easier to just build a big bunch of mirrors and tanks now and be done with energy – move on to more pressing matters?

    And now @ SHOWSON….4:35 pm

    “Spain’s solar industry recently went into recession when, for budgetary reasons, the Spainish government had to revoke a range of subsidies.”

    I am aware, but we are not in recession, and the CST plants in no way contributed to the Spanish government’s dire economic situation.

    “Fine, but as soon as you do that, the efficiency of your solar thermal plant goes through the floor. So you need to build EVEN MORE capacity.”

    I am as happy with installing as much capacity for solar thermal as you are for nuclear power, ie. sufficient to do the job it is intended to do.

    “Well I’d HOPE solar thermal plants are getting cheaper, considering the pissy little ~45 MW plant (that’s ACTUAL production) is going to cost over $420 million, of which Victorian tax payers are chipping $150 million, and tax payers from other states – via the federal government – are paying $75 million.”

    Have you not heard of economies of scale? How is a demonstration plant ever going to compete economically with technologies that have been around for 50 years+?

    “This is a ridiculous statement considering the efficiency of solar thermal plants (solar energy converted into electrical energy) isn’t even 20%.”

    Yes, it was intended to be ridiculous. In fact, state of the art solar thermal has exceeded 40% efficiency. The fact remains that the sun doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t run out. You place great weight on technological advances in the future, CST doesn’t need advances to be viable but can only improve.

    “If you want to bring 2100 into the equation, we will probably be using Thorium based breeder reactors by then, or nuclear fusion – which is another reason for us to start a nuclear industry now.”

    So we can burn through the Thorium as fast as possible? What happens when we need it for something else? Don’t people think about the consequences of exhausting a resource? After that it’s gone! I made the point about Thorium above, so yes, you can go past 2100, well done. Thorium used.

    “Well you can’t actually rely on them to produce anything because it is impossible to predict the intensity of the wind at all locations at the same time. So you constantly need to have a safety margin. And if the wind drops, and you don’t get other power sources online, then you have black outs, which isn’t good for business.”

    See above, I agree (as any idiot would) that you cannot hope to use wind as a baseload power. But today we are good at using energy pretty much around the clock, and with advances in smart grid etc. we will have much greater control over when energy is used. Making wind a very useful option.

    “If that’s the case, why is it taking 5 years to produce one pissy 45 MW solar thermal plant in Victoria?”

    Yes, with full government support and years of technical experience, the project is obviously a prime case for the expediency with which solar thermal can be utilised if we really put our minds to it.

    “If Uranium prices soar, then it will be cheaper to fuel existing reactors on MOX fuel (i.e. reprocessed nuclear waste). And I hope you do realise that about 40% of the world’s uranium reserves are sitting in Australia.”

    Yes, but it will be cheaper still to power Australia using solar thermal, wind and presumable geothermal (by then).
    Also, I believe Australia has closer to 25-30% of the world’s uranium but whatever, try keeping out the hoards of resource hungry neighbours when the price of iron ore, uranium, coal and practically-any-other-resource-you-can-name shoots through the roof and they realise that we have vast amounts of it all. That is going to be super easy. Better to promote a global culture of energy production and living in general that doesn’t rely on all the things we (Australia) have, so we aren’t such an attractive target.

  35. Actually the efficiency of concentrated solar thermal is already above a fossil fuel plant. So sorry old chap – but thats a fail for you!

    Nonsense. Conversion of incoming energy to electrical output is under 20% for solar thermal. Hazelwood, perhaps the least efficient large coal plant is about 24%. Bog standard coal plants are about 35% efficient in converting the chemical energy of coal to electricity. IGCCs are closer to 45% and some Brayton Cycle gas plants manage the right side of 50%.

    Engineering reality? What an odd name.

  36. @Fran “And from the POV of those of us who care about the footprint we humans leave on the biosphere, so is the footprint.”

    Well the problem is that mining will always have the larger and more destructive footprint – out of almost any human endeavour (apart from spreading radioactive isotopes in widespread areas through nuclear weapons or other nuclear mishaps).

    I grew up near 2 powerstations and lots of coalmines – and seeing the environmental vandalism of coalmines with huge areas suffering subsidence and cracking, entire rivers disappearing underground and running dry. The local Coles carpark even cracks and disappears into sinkholes every few weeks.

    Renewables means that massive amounts of energy, pollutrion and waste in mining, crushing, washing, transporting and disposing of the fuels is no longer needed.

    The footprint of any solar powerstation isn’t very disruptive to the biosphere. There are support structures built on the ground – but 90% of the land taken up by solar collectors remains uncovered and in its natural state. Animals and plants can live and move underneath the collectors. Yes the amount of sunlight reaching the ground is reduced, but with not other form of pollution or degredation it has less impact on the land than farming or mining.

    Also the footprint needed is a tiny fraction of the land available in Australia. Its actually less than the total surface area taken up by roads in NSW. Funny how the arguement against renewables is turning to “oh they take up too much land” when the road network in NSW would actually be a far greater area – and a road completely destroys the biosphere underneath it – and around it to a large extent.

    Also moving electricity around isn’t a problem – we already have a statewide transmission grid to move electricity from the coal fired powerstations which are all remote from population centres to where the people live. The infrastructure is already in place – that certainly isn’t an obstacle.

  37. “Engineering reality? What an odd name.”

    Its funny how many times I have a discussion with someone and the facts are laid onto the table it suddenly gets to a critical time when my on-screen name starts to get a mention.

    I like to think about it as the “I know you are but what am I” part of the argument when the logic runs out and the name calling begins.

    Sadly there is no hidden message there. I didn’t give it much thought when I was signing up for crikey – so you can’t read much into it. I am an electrical engineer though.

  38. Engreality, aren’t you forgetting about all the mining that would be necessary to supply the raw materials to build the CSP and wind plants that you say are the solution? Steel and concrete are both large emitters of CO2. Investigations into this, which can be accessed on the bravenewclimate website, showed that far more raw materials are required for wind and solar than would be required for a equivalent GW of nuclear power plant. Also, the footprint of uranium mining is quite small due to the energy density of uranium. To compare it with coal mining is patently ridiculous.

    Also, experience over the years have shown that the economies of scale effect for wind and solar are quite low, so we shouldn’t really expect the cost of these technologies to reduce greatly into the future.

    As wonderful as it would be for wind/solar/geothermal to be the answer, I’ve also reached the conclusion that nuclear is the only way.

  39. @Fran “Nonsense. Conversion of incoming energy to electrical output is under 20% for solar thermal. Hazelwood, perhaps the least efficient large coal plant is about 24%. Bog standard coal plants are about 35% efficient in converting the chemical energy of coal to electricity. IGCCs are closer to 45% and some Brayton Cycle gas plants manage the right side of 50%. ”

    Well efficiency isn’t as much of an issue when the fuel doesn’t cost any energy to extract or harvest. When you’re digging up massive amounts of coal (and using heaps of diesel to do so) then you want to get bleeding edge efficiency to compensate for all the effort in extracting and transporting the coal or gas.

    With renewable its a case of “build it and they (the fuel) will come”. Yes there is energy involved in making the steel and glass and concrete of a solar power station or wind turbine. But thats the end of it. The free energy comes to you. Look at the economics of a solar power station after 50 years of operation – they are only mirrors after all – they can and will last that long. Our current mastery of material science means we can make mirrors that will never degrade. After paying off the initial capital cost and energy used in construction then its free energy baby.

    Meanwhile show me a coal mine that still going strong after 50 years!

    Concentrated solar thermal efficiency is up around 40% – but who cares when you’re not expending energy to extract the fuel? We know its not below the figure where you wouldn’t bother – so why would you choose mining and burning coal over it? There aren’t many moving parts (apart from the turbine) so all the collectors will last – and the physics of collecting solar thermal energy don’t require any wear and tear on the collectors/concentrators.

  40. oeoeaio said:

    Also, I’m new to this, so I don’t know how to do your cool comments boxes,

    Use the following syntax:

    quoted text (for what you are quoting

    Remove spaces within the metatags (eg between < and blockquote. I left them in otherwise they’d have vanished and you’;d only have seen the string beginning quoted text

    Obviously the more storage you need/want, the more it will cost. I’m not saying that this is going to be cheap, but neither are you.

    But I’m not pitching storage and the numbers matter. If you are planning 6 days of storage, for example, you need 6*24 hours * energy demand for six days worth of storage. Let’s say your solar unit is 1GW. If you are going to cover that you need 144GWh of storage at or near the sea — where there’s lots of water you don’t have to pump from someplace else. Building a facility like that is going to run into tens of billions of dollars. The cost of the special reinforced concrete alone will ensure that. For that price you could have 5-10 1 GW nuclear plants which need perhaps 5% cover for unplanned outage. It doesn’t add up.

    And of course, if you have a solar facility that needs to be covered for six days, when is it building up the surplus needed to repay the draw down? If you need six days you can’t be happy sitting with just three in hand. You are going to use fossil thermal to repay the debt, but round trip efficiency is unlikely to be above 80% so you are paying a 20% cost just to keep your really expensive system topped up — but not too toped up because you want space to capture anything extra you collect on good days. Again, the whole thing doesn’t make sense. In practice you are still ultimately reliant on fossil fuels.

    Rude. But I’ll accept your myopic view as the product of a…..no I just can’t say it.

    Well you spoke first of idiots …

    Firstly, I did not suggest that wind would be a base load power source.

    But that is what we are discussing. We don’t need boutique power sources.

    What you do with wind is you use it when you have it, which takes the load off CST during the day (which frees up energy for storage for use over night), and can be used for pumping of water for hydropower or in the future, generation of hydrogen for use during peaks.

    What a mess. If CST is your baseload source wind can’t relieve it unless it is also a baseload source. Morover you can’t discharge and recharge at the same time and you can’t recharge with variable input. Try that and you will trash the pumps. This may come as a shock to you but you aren’t the first person to imagine this scenario. Why do you suppose this hasn’t been done, if it was so easy?

    And hydrogen again is not viable. Much too expensive and slippery to deal with.

    More later

  41. @GregB “As wonderful as it would be for wind/solar/geothermal to be the answer, I’ve also reached the conclusion that nuclear is the only way.”

    I agree – nuclear fusion would be the best way – but that is years (decades) off and at the moment not technically feasible. Also confining the supply of energy to a select few who can operate fusion plants is less preferable to having our society powered by easily accessable renewable sources.

    However nuclear fission is definitely not the way to go. Fission is a crude, dangerous and stupid way to harness energy. Taking something deadly and poisonous and cracking its nuclei is a finely balanced reaction that could easily unbalance & run away to meltdown without the fine tuning of control rods and cooling medium and needing to be locked away behind expensive and massively overengineered pressure vessels and radiation shielding – and then to be left with highly radioactive waste products and highly radioactive reactor, containment vessel, fuel rods, machinery.

    There hasn’t even been a nuclear power station that has successfully been decommissioned and disassembled. They’ve started one in the UK – but now it has to sit there for 10 years to “cool down”.

    Most of the radioactive isotopes produced in the nuclear fuel cycle are heavy metals which are poisonous and impossible to remove from the food chain even in their non-radioactive isotopes – combine this with the fact that every atom of the radioactive waste materials will eject parcels of deadly radiation at random times – meaning slowly decreasing emission of radiation – with some having half lives of hundreds of years.

    They are measured in half-lives because we have no control over their radioactivity and can only statistically guess when they will finally be 50% less radioactive – not safe – but 50% radioactive from when we took them out of our nuclear furnace.

    Extrapolate 100 years into the future and “here you go kids – here’s the earth – its not in exactly the same condition we got it in – but its really within the bounds of reasonable wear and tear. Stuff all animals about – but we’ve got a few zoos and plenty of audio-visual of animals we used to have. By the way that pile of glowing slag – thats our nuclear waste. Still arguing what to do with it but never mind. When you change the fuel rods in the 500 nuclear powerstations just keep adding to the pile. You look pretty smart – I’m sure you’ll work out what to do with it – heaven knows we tried and couldn’t. Oh well – bye!”

    But somehow going down that deadly and risky path is better than free and safe sunlight and wind. Sometimes I just shake my head. Darwin was right – we certainly have evolved from monkeys!

  42. quoted text (But I’m not pitching storage and the numbers matter…..)

    Conceded, I already conceded that it costs lots, but the actual solution is a better one. The cost is not a crippling one, and the result is a more permanent, more sustainable, safer (yeah, I said it, we are still having issue with nuclear waste, which is a point I know you will vehemently deny but it’s true), cleaner source of energy.

    quoted text (Well you spoke first of idiots …)

    I didn’t call you one though and therein lies the difference.

    quoted text (But that is what we are discussing. We don’t need boutique power sources. )

    quoted text (What a mess. If CST is your baseload source wind….)

    You and I are thinking about this in different ways (obviously), here is where I am coming from:

    You can’t store wind power, but it is a ubiquitous and clean source of power. So you install a large capacity and use it when you can, if you don’t need it, use it to store energy that can be used later, ie. hydro. (I am of course aware that hydrogen is not ready for primetime, but it will be.) I can’t see what is wrong with that.

    I’m not sure what you think I am suggesting but I am not proposing any interaction between CST and wind (is that where the “variable input” comes from?), beyond using wind and not CST when wind is available. The storage component of CST means that you can choose when to use the energy you collect. Am I missing something here?

    The storage side of the CST plant is independent (sort of) of the energy production side. You can ramp up or down the amount of salt flowing through each side as and when you choose. No?

  43. “Why do you suppose this hasn’t been done, if it was so easy?”

    Well unfortunately the argument of “it hasn’t been done before – so its not possible” isn’t really appropriate when dealing with our society.

    We don’t do rational things. We fight, we are corrupt, we keep having destructive booms and busts. We hardly ever do what is right. We pollute and kill off animals living alongside us. We give in to our greed and give power to people interested in their own self interests.

    So unfortunately using precedent of the human race doing something as a measure of why something won’t work or can’t be done isn’t really correct.

    Why did General Motors take back and scrap all their EV1 electric cars in the 90’s? Because they didn’t work? Or because the oil companies didn’t want them to be show to work? Retiring CEO of GM now admits that was the worst decision of his rein at the top of the then biggest car maker.

  44. Good to see the nukular spruikers out in force. I especially liked the one who declared “I have seen many videos of actual fires.” I bet you have! Who doesn’t enjoy a really good fire video?

    As long as you want to spend your money on nuclear power, be my guest. I have no objections. Just don’t spend mine.

  45. Nice article Bernard by the way!

    OEOEAIO “The storage side of the CST plant is independent (sort of) of the energy production side. You can ramp up or down the amount of salt flowing through each side as and when you choose. No?”

    Yes thats right. The storage can be scaled up as long as the available collector has sufficient capacity to get the “hot” side of the storage up to storage temperature within a day.

    Thermal storage is cheap – you just need an insulated tank or vessel. It doesn’t need to be pressurised. It doesn’t need to be super reinforced concrete – like a nuclear reactor housing. It just has to hold hot salt. Not at thousands of degrees – but at around 500 degrees. Have a look at the Sydney Gas Cavern for an example of storage space tunnelled into bedrock. In that case they store liquid lpg in the unlined rock tunnel with only the pressure of the watertable keeping the gas confined and pressurised.

    Of course building massive storage tanks for hydrocarbons is fine – no one has any argument that a collection of massive storage tanks filled with volatile, inflammable liquids and gas under pressure “won’t work” or “be prohibitively expensive” – but first time you suggest you store hot, inert salt in same sized tanks and you’re a crackpot spouting uneconomic and bankrupting the nation sized crippling costs.

    Laying a pipeline down the entire length of Western Australia is fine if it transports gas – but suggest a few solar power stations and a transmission line or two and suddenly “the costs don’t add up” and you’re “putting everyone in massive debt”.

    Spending billions anchoring deep sea oil platforms and drilling for oil 6kms down underneath 2km of water is nation building investment – but talk about the same kind of money for solar energy and you’re an insane tree hugging greenie without a connection to reality.

  46. We are not going to run out of coal or uranium. Not now, not ever. Our species will be extinct before that happens. More generally, we are not going to run out of hydrocarbons or fissile elements.

    The reason we must turn our backs on hydrocarbons is because the atmosphere is full. There is nowhere to put our waste CO2.

    We are not going to run out of uranium. Sure, the design of reactors will evolve, but we can reassure each other that we have access to unlimited quantities of clean energy.

    People who use the terms “non-renewables” and “renewables” are just squealing. They know that time has run out for hydrocarbons. They are just chickenshit about going nuclear.

    Say “carbon-based” and “alternative” instead. Then we will be able to discuss real alternatives, instead of pipedreams and perpetual motion.

  47. [It doesn’t make economic sense to build far more generation that you need for a few peak days – when you could easily reduce the rare spike days with a bit of price signalling ]
    But this is a human behaviour issue. When it is a 42 degree February day in Adelaide, people don’t think “oh crap, electricity is more expensive on the National Grid, I think I’ll turn my air conditioner off!”
    [Also Showson – renewables aren’t subject to the restrictions of location to resources in the way that fossil fuel plants are.]
    Well this isn’t true at all. You want to build wind turbines close to where it is really windy, e.g. the Roaring 40s. In the UK they have realised how pointless photovoltaic power is because it just isn’t consistently sunny enough.
    [Actually the efficiency of concentrated solar thermal is already above a fossil fuel plant. So sorry old chap – but thats a fail for you!]
    Absolute rubbish, the most efficient solar thermal plant currently planned will be just 18% efficient, and is predicted to have an a capacity factor of just 30%, i.e. it runs at under 1/3 of its rated capacity:
    http://techpulse360.com/2010/06/21/is-ivanpah-the-world%E2%80%99s-most-efficient-solar-plant-2/

  48. [Have you not heard of economies of scale? How is a demonstration plant ever going to compete economically with technologies that have been around for 50 years+?]
    Sorry, but I don’t want to bet the health of the planet on “economies of scale”.

    Plus, if you use that argument for solar thermal, you should also use it for nuclear.
    [Yes, it was intended to be ridiculous. In fact, state of the art solar thermal has exceeded 40% efficiency. ]
    Sorry, but the evidence is that the best planned solar thermal plant will be 18% efficient. And remember, any storage system automatically reduces efficiency due to wastage.
    [So we can burn through the Thorium as fast as possible? What happens when we need it for something else? ]
    This is just silly. What happens when we need to use gold for electronics, should we stop making wedding rings?
    [But today we are good at using energy pretty much around the clock, and with advances in smart grid etc. we will have much greater control over when energy is used. Making wind a very useful option.]
    This doesn’t make up for the fact you never know precisely when it will be windy. Also, did you know that if it is TOO windy, most wind turbines must disengage from the generator to avoid overload?
    [Yes, with full government support and years of technical experience, the project is obviously a prime case for the expediency with which solar thermal can be utilised if we really put our minds to it. ]
    It demonstrates how big a failure the renewables sector is without a carbon price. All I ask is that nuclear be treated the same as renewables! If renewables keep getting billions in subsidies, then nuclear should get exactly the same too.
    [Yes, but it will be cheaper still to power Australia using solar thermal, wind and presumable geothermal (by then).]
    Evidence?
    [Better to promote a global culture of energy production and living in general that doesn’t rely on all the things we (Australia) have, so we aren’t such an attractive target.]
    Well, there is a global culture of producing energy using nuclear reactors.

  49. [Well efficiency isn’t as much of an issue when the fuel doesn’t cost any energy to extract or harvest]
    NONSENSE! The fact wind and solar energy are so diffuse and so hard to convert efficiently means you need a lot of ‘collectors’ to do the job. That means thousands of wind towers and hundreds of solar plants. That costs a lot of money, and will require a lot of land / space.
    [With renewable its a case of “build it and they (the fuel) will come”. ]
    Correction, regarding wind, it is “build it and the wind MAY come, and its intensity will vary.”
    [Look at the economics of a solar power station after 50 years of operation – they are only mirrors after all – they can and will last that long. ]
    Well, we would look at the economics if you were able to provide them! But the state of the art is around 18% efficiency, and a 30% capacity factor.
    [Our current mastery of material science means we can make mirrors that will never degrade. After paying off the initial capital cost and energy used in construction then its free energy baby.]
    Our mastery of materials science means we can make nuclear reactors that provide electricity 24/7 irrespective of the wind and sun.
    [Concentrated solar thermal efficiency is up around 40% – but who cares when you’re not expending energy to extract the fuel?]
    Where on earth are you getting this 40% figure from?
    [I agree – nuclear fusion would be the best way – but that is years (decades) off and at the moment not technically feasible.]
    If Australia wants to use nuclear fusion in the future we will need a nuclear industry with well trained nuclear scientists and technicians. A good way to attain that would be to start a nuclear industry now.

  50. [Good to see the nukular spruikers out in force. ]
    Wow, your big knock down argument against nuclear is to spell it “nukular”. That’s just weak.

    It’s annoying that you can’t even engage with Barry Brook’s arguments on the issue, and instead just cite the Lazard report that seems to be made from fictional figures, including figures for things like carbon capture and storage that are completely unproven.
    [As long as you want to spend your money on nuclear power, be my guest. I have no objections. Just don’t spend mine.]
    As long as you want to spend your money on renewable (generally unproven) energy, be my guest. I have no objections. Just don’t spend mine (including any of the taxes I pay).

  51. [but first time you suggest you store hot, inert salt in same sized tanks and you’re a crackpot spouting uneconomic and bankrupting the nation sized crippling costs.]
    This isn’t the issue. The point is ALL of the money you spend on the storage system adds a massive cost to the project that DOESN’T generate any energy. Once that cost is added to the energy production (conversion) part of the plant, you have just massively increased the cost of the electricity that is ultimately produced.

  52. You know something Bernard Keane? For a climate change agnostic like me, when I hear campaigners saying “Danger, we’re all going to die, we need climate action now, as long as you don’t use that yucky nuclear stuff,” I know I can relax. It’s just the end-of-the-world crowd at it again.

    When you’re serious about climate action, when the best is no longer the enemy of the good and I hear you say, “Whatever, just build it, just stop burning carbon,” then I’ll really sit up and pay attention.

    For those debating the merits of solar power vs nuclear reactors – why choose just one? Surely we learned in the 1970s that you should never put all your energy eggs in one basket. And competition is a wonderful thing.

  53. [For those debating the merits of solar power vs nuclear reactors – why choose just one?]
    I think we should use both. In fact, there are probably some areas ideal for solar thermal plants that wouldn’t be good for nuclear.

    But what irks me is that it is currently unlawful to build a nuclear power plant in Australia because ARPANSA is forbidden by federal legislation from licensing such a facility.

    The thing the anit-nuclear zealots don’t want is for nuclear to be treated the same as renewables. They crap on about how expensive nuclear is, but can’t explain why South Korea, for example, is building 6 reactors.

    But ultimately, let the market decide. If there is a repeal of the nuclear ban, a carbon tax, and an end to stupid one-off renewable subsidies then Australia will have a nuclear power industry in a decade.

  54. Surely, if the cost of an energy source seems excessive, then we should ask the question, how do we make it cheaper?

    Construction of the ocean liner, Queen Mary took 3.5 years and cost £3.5 billion Sterling by 1934. Needless to say plenty of people said it was costing far too much.

    Between 1941 and 1945, 2751 Liberty Ships were launched at a tiny fraction of that cost. A large part of the cost reduction was due to mass production, made possible by the use of standardised design.

    Regardless of what technology gets rolled out in response to a climate crisis, the fact of mass production will certainly bring its cost down.

    That, and standardised design. It is in design, testing and regulatory licensing, that the developed countries can contribute cost-effectively to the undeveloped. If costs are brought down far enough, then all of the people who would emit CO2, can look forward to a clean alternative.

    If we are serious about rescuing the climate, that “alternative” should be any technology alternative to carbon-based fuel.

  55. “Sorry, but I don’t want to bet the health of the planet on “economies of scale”.

    Plus, if you use that argument for solar thermal, you should also use it for nuclear.”

    I am, so do we toss a coin? Also, in what way is nuclear an emerging technology that doesn’t benefit from economies of scale. Global installed capacity is over 380GW. It’s had its chance, and it’s failed.

    “Sorry, but the evidence is that the best planned solar thermal plant will be 18% efficient. And remember, any storage system automatically reduces efficiency due to wastage.”

    What is the issue here? Absolute efficiency of conversion of energy from heat into electricity is irrelevant when you are talking about a source of power that doesn’t cost anything. Yes, you have to pay for infrastructure and maintenance, but as I already said – the cost per unit energy of electricity generated by CST is projected to approach the cost of coal with a relatively small level of investment over the next decade. Efficiency can only improve as the technology is invested in.

    “This is just silly. What happens when we need to use gold for electronics, should we stop making wedding rings?”

    Well yes, that’s exactly what you do. You can’t keep making gold wedding rings when you don’t have any gold. Are you serious?

    “This doesn’t make up for the fact you never know precisely when it will be windy.”

    Yes, it does. Explain you logic to me.

    “Also, did you know that if it is TOO windy, most wind turbines must disengage from the generator to avoid overload?”

    Yes, so? Just because you are placing turbines in geographically diverse locations, it doesn’t mean you have to place them in stupid places. You can still use a bit of intelligence to select locations that a small chance of having excessive wind speeds. This is a moot point.

    “It demonstrates how big a failure the renewables sector is without a carbon price. All I ask is that nuclear be treated the same as renewables! If renewables keep getting billions in subsidies, then nuclear should get exactly the same too.”

    Sort of. Carbon price would helpful, feed in tariffs more so. My personal view is that nuclear is by definition not renewable and so does not deserve the same level of encouragement.

    “Evidence?”

    Do I need it? No one has any serious idea what the price of anything will be in 100 years time. But if it costs more to produce energy by building a bunch of mirrors and pipe and tanks or a tower with a turbine and generator on it that it does to reprocess nuclear waste then something is seriously wrong in the world. Listen to yourself.

    “Well, there is a global culture of producing energy using nuclear reactors.”

    I think you missed my point. If we can get the world to not lust after the things we have, we will be better off in the long run. Even better, get the world to not lust after anything, there’s a thought!

  56. [Between 1941 and 1945, 2751 Liberty Ships were launched at a tiny fraction of that cost. A large part of the cost reduction was due to mass production, made possible by the use of standardised design.]
    Well this has been an huge issue in nuclear reactor design. All the existing nuclear reactors in the U.S. are each unique designs. The big move now is to install “of the shelf” designs such as the Westinghouse AP1000. The idea is to build exactly the same design at all sites.

  57. [I am, so do we toss a coin? Also, in what way is nuclear an emerging technology that doesn’t benefit from economies of scale. Global installed capacity is over 380GW. It’s had its chance, and it’s failed.]
    You forgot to mention the bit about their being 59 reactors under construction world wide.
    [What is the issue here? Absolute efficiency of conversion of energy from heat into electricity is irrelevant when you are talking about a source of power that doesn’t cost anything.]
    Completely untrue, because the solar thermal plant uses another resource SPACE. And if you are happy with 18% efficiency, then that means you need to use more SPACE to build another solar thermal plant, and another, and another and another. Nothing comes close to nuclear in terms of space / MW of power.

  58. “Completely untrue, because the solar thermal plant uses another resource SPACE. And if you are happy with 18% efficiency, then that means you need to use more SPACE to build another solar thermal plant, and another, and another and another. Nothing comes close to nuclear in terms of space / MW of power.”

    Irrelevant point again. Yes, nuclear has amazing land use efficiency in terms of energy generation. However, Australia has hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of land that are not even fit for use as marginal farmland, and are ideally suited for massive CST plants. Also, keep in mind that the total area required to meet Australia’s energy demand in 2020 will be a so small that you could lose the plants in the desert if you were not careful. I think 50 square kilometers in total is the estimate from the BZE report.

  59. [However, Australia has hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of land that are not even fit for use as marginal farmland, and are ideally suited for massive CST plants.]
    So now you are adding the cost to the project a massive new costly electricity grid to get the power from these remote areas to the places where people live. And of course, this grid will reduce the efficiency of the system.
    [Also, keep in mind that the total area required to meet Australia’s energy demand in 2020 will be a so small ]
    How will the area be “small” when solar and wind require far more space than nuclear?

  60. The grid already goes across the country. We already have an integrated electricity grid comprising Qld, NSW, ACT, Vic, SA and Tas.

    Plus the area underneath a solar station need not be wasted. You could raise them up and build a city underneath – after all the energy is coming from the sky. The buildings underneath would have the benefit of being shaded from the sun by the collectors and require less energy for air con.

    I’m sorry but area of land use is not an argument against solar thermal!

  61. “Also, keep in mind that the total area required to meet Australia’s energy demand in 2020 will be a so small that you could lose the plants in the desert if you were not careful. I think 50 square kilometers in total is the estimate from the BZE report.”

    Thats right – its a tiny fraction of Australia’s total area that you would need. A square 50km (2,500,000,000 m2) to a side is indeed the size you would need. There are many, many cattle stations in Australia that dwarf such a small piece of land.

  62. [The grid already goes across the country. We already have an integrated electricity grid comprising Qld, NSW, ACT, Vic, SA and Tas.]
    But not in these semi-arid areas that are marginal farming land. That would require a new grid out there to take the power to the areas where people live.
    [Plus the area underneath a solar station need not be wasted. You could raise them up and build a city underneath – after all the energy is coming from the sky.]
    And now you’ve just massively increased the cost of the project (again).
    [I’m sorry but area of land use is not an argument against solar thermal!]
    Of course it is, because solar thermal requires a great deal of area to generate an amount of power. So you will use an enormous amount of space.

  63. “So now you are adding the cost to the project a massive new costly electricity grid to get the power from these remote areas to the places where people live. And of course, this grid will reduce the efficiency of the system.”

    Yes.

    “How will the area be “small” when solar and wind require far more space than nuclear?”

    Relative to the area in which they are located, they will be. Also, 50 square kilometers of land in the grip of salinity is arguably of lesser value than the 100 hectares required for a nuclear reactor in highly arable land close to a city.

  64. [Thats right – its a tiny fraction of Australia’s total area that you would need. A square 50km (2,500,000,000 m2) to a side is indeed the size you would need.]
    50 square KM is probably hundreds of billion of solar projects.

  65. “But not in these semi-arid areas that are marginal farming land. That would require a new grid out there to take the power to the areas where people live.”

    What?

    What about the people in Broken Hill or Bourke or Coober Pedy or Cunnamulla. They somehow have power when they flick their switches? How do you reckon that happens???

    Because the electricity grid crosses all over the entire Eastern and Southern parts of Australia!!!! Its already been built. We have interconnectors between states and the transmission lines cross over desert and empty land completely suitable for solar stations – it hardly ever rains or is cloudy out there – and lots of transmission lines cross our states.

    There are transmission lines out past Broken Hill – out to Bourke and Lightning ridge. The grid is already there!

  66. [What about the people in Broken Hill or Bourke or Coober Pedy or Cunnamulla. They somehow have power when they flick their switches? How do you reckon that happens???]
    Dear lord. They don’t have the very high voltage lines that can be connected to power stations.

  67. “Of course it is, because solar thermal requires a great deal of area to generate an amount of power. So you will use an enormous amount of space.”

    But we have lots of space. We only need 50km x 50km = 2,500km2. Thats 3.122% of total area of NSW – for Australia’s entire energy needs. Its actually only 0.0328% of Australia’s total area of 7,617,930km2.

    And its out there not being used at the moment for anything.

  68. “Dear lord. They don’t have the very high voltage lines that can be connected to power stations.”

    And what would you say is a very high voltage that can be connected to a power station?

  69. [And its out there not being used at the moment for anything.]
    Wrong. Most of the area where people like to live IS being used, that’s why the median house price in Australia is now over $400,000.

    Look where we put power stations now, near heavy industry, or in the La Trobe Valley near the coal mines. Yet you want to put tend of thousands of solar power plants right near where people live. You’re in dreamland.

  70. “Yet you want to put tend of thousands of solar power plants right near where people live.”

    No – I said build them in the desert – where the land isn’t being used.

    Funnily enough the desert also happens to have sunnier, drier climates – which correspond nicely to producing electricity from the sun.

    Gee I’m lucky to have had my ideal solar power stations locations where coincidentally there is a lot of flat land and a lot of sun. Very lucky.

  71. Oh dear! The crazies are in full flight.
    Even Bernard has had a go at me regarding my comments about wind turbines.

    Right! Let’s get real, then.

    Wind power is not a solution to anything, because it mis often the case that SA, Vic and NSW are lacking in wind at the same time. Base load has to come from elsewhere and always will need to. Always. For ever.

    Solar thermal on a 24/7 basis has not been demonstrated or amde commercial anywhere. Ever. Not nearly. Even in Spasin or California. David Mills is known to me personally and I have had the experience of working in a senior engineering capacity on the first two demonstration plants he designed. The first is scheduled for demolition very soon and the second, which was to intended to be the first producing solar thermasl plant in Australia, has problems. I hope to be engaged in constructing the next phase, but David will have no part in it. It is a marvelous concept but is not really likely to do much more than produce low pressure steam very economically for at least several years, perhaps never to go beyond this. Do not get me wrong – this decreases the need for coal or whatever, but it is not, by itself, even close to being a commercial solution for our power needs.

    I am really disappointed that Bernard has resorted to snide disparaging remarks. Bernard, you ca
    n and should do much better. Lift your standards, mate. I usually like to read your contributions, but at least stay professional. And please also maintain professional standards of conduct on your own site.

    Fran Barlow has fought the good fight. Rational and perceptive. Thanks. You have avoided emotional outbursts and personal attacks. Well worth the read. Twice.

    Engineeringreality, you have again shown the shallowness of youth. You may indeed have an BE in electrical engineering and an MBA. What you lack includes an open mind, professional detachment, and long term perspective. Your contributions lack judgement regarding time constraints, costs, in short – practicalities. Again, I suggest that you digest the information on Barry Brook’s site. Compare and contrast it with the opposing views presented in “Why Vs Why – Nuclear Power” by Barry Brooks (pro nuclear) and Ian Lowe (anti nuclear). This will save you a lot of original thought and errors of fact. I bought my copy for only $19.95 from Readings. It is an easy read.

    Nuclear is not, as Liz45 said, the end of the world. The actual facts indicate a somewhat benign industry with a history of very high safety, Ms Caldicott notwithstanding. Caldicott has devoted her life to lying about the environment, espectailly nuclear power, and to emotional misrepresentation of the demonstrated facts. She is a hero in her own time to some, but in fact, she has stood 4-square in the way of progress and efficiency for 5 decades. She has zero published work which has been peer reviewed and is a charlatan. Have I made myself clear, or should I be aggressive. This lady has for a long time been an absolute disgrace. Her claims to being some kind of expert are shams and lies. Grow up and check her credentials. They are virtually nonexistent.

  72. [No – I said build them in the desert – where the land isn’t being used.]
    That’s interesting. I hope you realise the geothermal project in the Cooper Basin needs $100 million, that it is trying to get from the state and federal governments, because it needs a new high voltage line so it can send its electricity into the rest of the national grid. Without that connection it won’t be able to operate at its full 280 MW capacity because the power just can’t be sent over the relatively low voltage lines.

  73. Engineeringreality proposes construction of solar thermal power stations far away, somewhere where people are not, presumably Back-O-Bourke.

    He also proposes that these be connected to the grid via new high voltage transmission lines. Typically, transmission systems cost a similar amount as the (coal fired) power stations they serve, so we are faced with multiple billions of dollars of new infrastructure just to move his power around NSW to get to the grid. There is nothing like a 500KV transmission line out west, so it will be entirely new.

    Now, it is clear from previous posts that this fellow is an electrical engineer. He has also shown a lack of knowledge about the current power generators.

    Is it possible that he seeks a future building, operating or maintaining several tens of billions of dollars’ worth of high voltage power lines, as part of his fantasy about solar thermal?

    Solar thermal certainly has a future, but it is far from viable for base load usage. Please grow up, ER. Stop thinking that the issue is so simple as to be solved by a single concept.

    The solution of Australia’s energy issues will be complex, multi-faceted and will involve nuclear facets, whether you agree or not. It is only a matter of time and pragmatism.

  74. John

    There is plenty of land close to the interconnectors NSW-Qld and NSW-SA that is suitable for siting several GW of solar thermal.

    Of course its not easy to find maps of transmission lines now as all the transmission companies have taken down their network information due to “terrorist” concerns.

    HVDC doesn’t cost as much as you would think. Quick estimate from an ABB paper is about $550 million for 1,000km line of 500kV HVDC of 2000MW capacity. Thats almost two coal fired stations equivalent.

    Yes the reasons why it can’t be done are complex – lots of people think it can’t be done – but then again thats what Australia is good at – talking itself out of doing anything visionary. No fast rail, no multinational technology companies, massive trade deficit.

    Meanwhile other countries can do it. Japan had its million solar rooftops scheme – as did Germany and now USA. Now Germany has more wind generation capacity than all of Australia’s generation.

    I went to IEAust presentation last week – and guess who – a climate change denier was the guest of our profession’s professional body. What did I find? A room full of old men, sniggering at each snide reference to the “evils” of climate change. A roomful of tired old men – with tired old ideas. The Professor giving the talk was a geologist from James Cook university – and it turned out h e was mainly there to flog his book.

    It was only the young engineers there who were asking the critical questions – everyone else was firmly in the camp of “keep burning the coal and oil – we’ve got plenty of it and we’re not doing anything wrong!!!”.

    So I’m not surprised with your attitude.

  75. EngineeringReality (9:54pm and 10:09pm):

    You clearly are pinning your hopes on a transmission line between Broken Hill or Bourke and the Eastern States.

    As an electrical engineer, you are presumably aware that the transmission line to Broken Hill is only 66kv and that to Moree is 132KV, and that is where TransGrid stops. Clearly, the transmission systems to the Outback are in no way capable of handling your dream of 40 sq.km of mirrors. Please allow in your plans for a twin circuit 500kV transmission line south and east, plus switchyards and transformer yards, easement acquisition and engineering costs – say 10 $ billion or more and at least ten years.

    As you are a recipient of an MBA, I expect much better from you. Your research skills leave a lot to be desired, your grasp of reality is poor. Your financial management skills are negligible. You are extremely gullible. For God’s sake, what did you learn at university?

    Toughen up! Use your noggin!

  76. I was hoping that Costello would have had the nous to impose a small tax on carbon, with suitable imputation of carbon values to ensure that imports were taxed and the playing field for Australian business kept level. Given Costello’s preferences it would have been natural for the proceeds to have been used primarily for reforming the personal income tax system. As the tax could have been (and would have been unles too high) the equivalent of a small rise in the GST that the states couldn’t get their hands on it wouldn’t have made much difference to anything in Australia’s economic life apart from an improvement in the tax system. However…….

    Since none of that seems likely to form the basis of any current policy making, it is imporant to know why you Bernard Keane, and many others parroting the same stuff, insist that the costs of inaction on reducing CO2 emissions (and in some versions making money out of coal in any form) will rise if we delay. One takes you to be making the only intelligible statement of that kind which is that net present value costs will make it a bad thing to have delayed. Why? Can you spell it out with figures (at least representative notional ones)?

    Clearly you are wrong if the world never gets round to agreeing that worldwide reductions in CO2 emissions must be mandated – whether that happens because “the science” ceases to be as certain about AGW’s processes and effects as is now represented or because of political failures worldwide. In that case, since nothing Australia does can affect its climate significantly, it will have been foolish for Australia to invest in anything but the most profitable means of power generation, and to export its coal to China and others who will burn it.

    What if the pessimistic predictions of the AGW alarmists prove correct? How will it have benefited Australia to have invested money in very expensive ways of producing power or in conservation measures which are not otherwise justified instead of continuing to invest in the most profitable forms of electricity generation, overwhelmingly coal fired generators in Australia? We are already committed to stupidly wasteful investments in windfarms (and that doesn’t count the environmental damage, often to historic and heritage landscapes) and solar photovoltaic generation as well as solar thermal which is more promising but still needs subsidies. Why does it make sense to waste money early rather than later? And if they turn out to be what we do want later, please do some calculations and prove (which you can’t, any more than Treasury or Ross Garnaut have) that investing in them sooner rather than later is a good investment. True, early decisions could mean that some investments which will eventually be made on good commercial grounds are made earlier instead of delayed and that may be economically sound but even that case remains to be proven by actual facts.

  77. Bernard Said:

    Good to see the nukular spruikers out in force. I especially liked the one who declared “I have seen many videos of actual fires.” I bet you have! Who doesn’t enjoy a really good fire video?

    As long as you want to spend your money on nuclear power, be my guest. I have no objections. Just don’t spend mine.

    Hmm … I wonder what you can mean by this. Ruling out the idea that you propose we all live as hermits in some sort of brutopian libertarian autarky …

    All energy sources receive at least some subsidy from what one may call “the commons”. Fossil fuels, as we know, get more than any other, but it will be damned near impossible to account for them all. As a matter of principle, if your claim above simply means that direct and indirect subsidies to energy systems should, so far as practicable, be eliminated, then I agree. That would apply of course to what are normally called renewables as well. A level playing field is … by definition, level. I’d be happy for state funds to do relevant R & D, based on proof of principle, due diligence conformtity with the goals of public utility and overall relative merit. That would apply all round. There are dangers allowing industry to run its own research where conflicts of interest might arise, as you’d surely know. And as a socialist, I favour public ownership of key infrastructure, so my money and yours are bound to get mingled. A lot of non-socialists think the same way of course.

    It makes little sense to get all fundamentalist about this Bernard. being part of a society is like being part of a really lasge insurance pool. We pool our assets, our income, our risk and our benefits and if we believe in equity we share the resultant advantages and burdens about fairly, according to need. So to it is with energy.

    We all need it and it is in limited supply. We should produce it as cost effectively as possible — which means in practice with as little labour as possible, precisely so that our labour can be freed up to do other things we can’t avoid spending our labour on. And the more efficient we get the more stuff we can produce and distribute and the less the burdens each of us must carry to get our needs met. It’s not hard to follow.

    If we waste a lot of labour digging up huge amounts of iron and copper and lime to make thousands upon thousands of concrete footings and access roads and HVDC, and fashioning the glass and polymers for wind turbines and solar dishes and running gas besides, then it follows that that labour is not available for anything else, leave aside the materials we have expended.

    Nuclear power simply demands less of everything to produce the same amount of energy and it leave almost no mess. People here insisting that Australia’s land mass is mostly waste are troubled at what we will do with the utterly tiny amounts of unuseable hazmat left over at the end of the reprocessing fuel cycle. It is strange indeed.

    And you Bernard, an articulate and perspicaceous fellow, whom I heard this very afternoon, doing yourself credit in a radio interview on carbon pricing, feel moved to swipe at us with appeals to whose money is whose and mocking iterations of the word nuclear?

    It is hard to credit, but perhaps a sign that you need to take a deep breath and consider where your most careful and dispassionate reasoning should faithfully lead you.

  78. @John Bennetts Hang on – whats your point? That developing solar thermal stations is going to cost money? Well yes I know it is. You’ll notice that I haven’t costed any of the options here. I merely stated that the land out west could be used for a primary purpose of generating power and its economic cost is virtually zero out there because its not being used for any other purpose.

    So you point out my plan will cost money as some kind of flaw to my argument. Will so too will building nuclear power stations cost money. So will building gas turbines. So will building coal fired power stations.

    So you’re attacking me because of why? Because my plan will cost money? Every project will cost money – so not sure what you’re getting at John.

    Also its not 40 sqkm – its 2,500km2 => 50km x 50km = 2,500km2. Its a square of sides of length 50km not 40sq km.

    PS I never actually said I had an MBA. An MBA is the study of Human Resources with a bit of commerce mixed in. I am in the final year of M Economics (10 subjects done – 2 more to go). I mentioned it before not to stroke my ego but to let you know know that I’m not a dummy shooting my mouth off about stuff I don’t know anything about – I understand the technical side and I’ve gone out of my way to learn about the economic side.

  79. (I also posted this at 11:18pm but its still awaiting moderation – not sure why – so here it is again)

    There is plenty of land close to the interconnectors NSW-Qld and NSW-SA that is suitable for siting several GW of solar thermal.

    Of course its not easy to find maps of transmission lines now as all the transmission companies have taken down their network information due to “terrorist” concerns.

    HVDC doesn’t cost as much as you would think. Quick estimate from an ABB paper is about $550 million for 1,000km line of 500kV HVDC of 2000MW capacity. Thats almost two coal fired stations equivalent.

    Yes the reasons why it can’t be done are complex – lots of people think it can’t be done – but then again thats what Australia is good at – talking itself out of doing anything visionary. No fast rail, no multinational technology companies, massive trade deficit.

    Meanwhile other countries can do it. Japan had its million solar rooftops scheme – as did Germany and now USA. Now Germany has more wind generation capacity than all of Australia’s generation.

    I went to IEAust presentation last week – and guess who – a climate change denier was the guest of our profession’s professional body. What did I find? A room full of old men, sniggering at each snide reference to the “evils” of climate change. A roomful of tired old men – with tired old ideas. The Professor giving the talk was a geologist from James Cook university – and it turned out he was mainly there to sell his book.

    It was only the young engineers there who were asking the critical questions – everyone else was firmly in the camp of “keep burning the coal and oil – we’ve got plenty of it and we’re not doing anything wrong!!!”.

    So I’m not surprised with your attitude.

  80. @Julius:

    The difference between doing nothing and getting on with GHG reduction is the same as blindly stuffing the planet versus trying to avoid 60% species reduction, 6 metre or more sea level rises and so forth, a few generations down the track. You and I may not be here to witness all this coming to pass, however we have been warned.

    Read IPCC3 or any of the many other references if you want to review your position re the actual, factual, prognosis for the planet. Please do not bother us here with your suggestion that somehow playing catchup in a generation is sensible. It isn’t.

  81. EngineeringReality, you are a dummy shooting your mouth off.

    You actually stated that transmission lines existed out west as part of your justification for the Tibooburra Solar Farm, or whatever. Yes, you did. Read again yours at 9:47. The transmission lines you blithely referred to are totally useless for your purposes and you know it.

    No need to act coy and slimy – it doesn’t help your case whatever and you and I are essentially on the same team, so please stop white-anting me.

  82. @Fran Barlow:

    You are correct. Bernard has not done himself proud this time. I am starting to think that his grip is a bit weak when it comes to the real world, y’know – science and engineering and stuff like that. Perhaps he should stick to the corridors of Canberra and just peddle rumours, with an occasional twist of humour.

  83. @BK

    Good to see the nukular spruikers out in force.

    Glad you appreciate our efforts, Bernard. After all, it’s only the future of civilisation at stake.

    Actually, no, scratch that. It’s really only the future of Australia and New Zealand that’s in the balance here. The rest of the OECD and a large chunk of the developing world have all done their sums and are maintaining and/or planning nuclear power generation capacity as a result.

    As long as you want to spend your money on nuclear power, be my guest.

    That’s great, Bernard. I’d love to. Only trouble is, as Showson@8:47pm reminds us, that would currently be illegal. I look forward to the lending of your not inconsiderable campaigning weight in overturning this legislation. Then by any and all means jack up the carbon price, and we’ll see what technologies are up to the task of taking up the slack, at a price people are willing to pay. Personally I’d prefer that this didn’t involve subsidies. But if we must have them, let’s see them applied equally across the board, to all forms of non-CO2-emitting power generation.

  84. Ah, yes, John Bennetts @ 12:10 am. At times like these I am reminded of Ben Goldacre:

    The people who run the media are humanities graduates with little understanding of science, who wear their ignorance as a badge of honour. Secretly, deep down, they perhaps resent the fact that they have denied themselves access to the most significant developments in the history of Western thought from the past 200 years.

  85. @John Bennetts

    It is interesting that, though you seem to be numerate as someone with engineering qualifications should be, you disgard your numeracy in matters of investment or economics.

    Even assuming that the world is going to suffer all sorts of disasters if CO2 emissions are not curbed sufficiently and early enough to prevent global temperatures rising more than another 2 degrees Celsius it is important to remember that every dollar lost to Australia by making a commercially inferior investment (which windpower is compared with coal based electricity generation for example) is a dollar which can’t be spent to do various expensive things (building desalination plants or sea walls) that might be needed to protect Australians or others from the consequences that will result from the decisions made or actions omitted by China, India and the USA (principally). It would be better to be be rich and able to afford protection of habitat of threatened speicies than to find that waste of resources on well-intended but futile projects had left us having to forgo such habitat protection because the money is needed to ameliorate the lives of our increasing number of demented elderly (or rather their families who insist that other taxpayers bear most of the cost).

    Of course the sooner we get sensible about nuclear power the better. If France can maintain a very civilised way 0f life with most of its electricity generated by nuclear power stations it will certainly be a lot less damaging to our economy to go nuclear than to play around with wind power. Windpower advocates are usually pushing a barrow of self-interest unless they are just playing fashionable games. They don’t seem to even notice that their mantras about their being more jobs in renewable energy than in coal fired generation is very close to saying that renewable energy is wasteful and inefficient – as it is.

  86. Go Nuclear! Why Australia is not using nuclear power is astonishing. Look at the world map of nuclear reactors and who has them and who is building new ones, we have our head in the sand here.

  87. What absolute piffle. There’s nothing worse than two entrenched points of view screaming “I’m right”, “No, I’m right” back & forth at each other for no net gain except the deepening of the entrenchments around their intellectual barricades. This is of course why we are in the situation that we are in, and why little meaningful action has been taken.

    Both solutions will cost shedloads of money. Let me say that a little louder in case you didn’t hear it the first time. BOTH SOLUTIONS WILL COST ALOT OF MONEY. Can we all accept that? Good. When you’re talking about many, many, many, many billions of dollars, the differences from this view truly seem semantic. Both solutions require significant infrastructure changes. Both solutions will take time to get online. Both sides are arguing that it’ll get better and more efficient in the future. Gee, do you see a theme developing here?

    Enough rant – it would be most unseemly to not at this point identify what resonates more for me. It I don’t have any specific vested interest in either argument. I’m just a humble consumer who’s taxpayer dollars will poured into subsidising the profits of the power generation industry (cynical, I know, but none-the-less true). I just cannot see the point in such an investment in a solution which is dependent on particular finite resources. I suppose that I’d consider a nuclear solution the day every proponent moves themselves and their families to live immediately around the reactor and along the waste transport routes to provide a buffer for the rest of us.

  88. There are other, smarter ways to reduce power consumption at peak times without entering into the base load argument. It’s cost-effective too.

    Chromasun, a company started by Ausra’s founding CEO, has developed a solar air-con unit precisely because he thought that geting power from solar thermal to large populations was a problem. The unit uses the same fresnal technology of solar thermal plants.

    Interesting interview at:

    http://beyondzeroemissions.org/media/radio/peter-le-lievre-chromasun-discusses-solar-powered-air-conditioning-090424

  89. Thanks to those who have valued my contribution here. I do what I can.

    John Bennetts commented of Bernard Keane:

    I am starting to think that his grip is a bit weak when it comes to the real world, y’know – science and engineering and stuff like that.

    I am rather leery of the opposition between insight into the humanities and soft sciences and ostensible “hard sciences” as being analogous to that between fantasy and reality, or between the ethereal and the prosaic. If one wants to get public policy right, one needs a strong grasp of both these major areas of knowledge. A purely instrumentalist and positivist paradigm explains much of the challenge humanity faces in the world today, not just in environmental matters but in social policy as well. I get that Mr Keane’s views seem to offend against reason in this matter, but one should respond, if one can, with analysis rather than vituperation.

    Deep down, I suspect Mr Keane knows that we are right in this, and this explains his rather petulant and sub-intellectual response. He is nobody’s fool. People do what he did when they are emotionally and/or culturally invested in something and yet cannot find a satisfying analytic response. In such circumstances, responding in their emotional terms merely affirms their attempt to salve their distress and can achieve nothing of value.

    I can begin to empathise, because for much of my conscious political life, I shared his predisposition on this matter. It seemed to me to be intuitively unassailable that the harvest of the abundant stores of redundant energy must be preferred to all other finite sources of energy — chemical or otherwise. The idea of the sun as the giver of all life predates civilisation by a very long time, which is why we humans become metaphorically warm at the idea of solar energy. Was there ever a pre-western culture that lacked a sun god or a moon god or a god of the wind and the trees? When Marx spoke of the tradition of the dead generations weighing like a nightmare on the brains of the living, he wasn’t thinking of this matter, but he might have been. There’s nothing more “natural” and thus virtuous than living in apparent harmony with the rhythms of nature. By comparison, nuclear power seems almost by definition, to be unnatural — a departure from our true selves. Even burning coal seems analogous to burning wood. Yet the physics involved in manipulating radiation comes from knowledge millennia later than our contact with the sun and its symbolism attached to the cycle of life. The desire for renewables taps deep wellsprings in human culture that nuclear power cannot. It draws upon human yearning for the authenticity of pre-literate culture, of small community and of direct experience and of the desire to submit to forces that are beyond human responsibility and the fear of those forces that are. These yearnings are by no means the privilege of leftists but appear perhaps even more strongly amongst the right, with their celebration of the rural and the plebeian, their animus to “big government” and taxes and remote authority and intellectual elites. One hears it in the fatalistic assurances from the naysayers on anthropogenic climate change that “climate has always changed” and that we humans are too trifling to affect nature. Once one grasps this, one can see that both the arguments advanced against anthropogenic climate change and against resort to nuclear power are culture clothed in the garments of and artefacts of science and reason, rather than science and reason. If you wish to defeat these things, one must deprive these arguments of their finery, laying them bare as culture.

    It is an attribute of humans that we consciously modify our environment, shaping it to our needs. We do this more purposively than any other species — something which has been true since the first of out human ancestors created the first cave painting, or the first stone tool or fish-hook. We authored ourselves and were authored by our settings. Our story has become larger, more complex and now paradoxically, it threatens to set us back — to make our species victims of our own epic tale. We must find a way to use what we have learned to permit the story to continue in ways that we find felicitous, and it is idle to ask whether this process will be natural or authentic. For good or ill, it will be human in character, as it always has been, and we must take responsibility.

    Mr Keane is not stupid. Mr Keane and those who share his predisposition merely wishes for something that everyone who has dreamed of sitting on a verandah overlooking the beach or a forest has wanted — authentic connection with his humanity. We all want that, but he is mistaken in how best to realise it. The world of the early Holocene and the subsistence agrarian is no longer possible, and it follows that the kinds of tools which that era produced are no longer feasible. Humans have moved on and we must seek authenticity in our contemporary achievements, of which the power to harness nuclear energy is certainly one. And if we step forward confidently, applying this technology as rationally as we can, the 9 billion or so of us who will be around in 2050 will leave more of what remains of the Holocene undisturbed than we could by any other combination of technologies. So much is certain.

  90. Thanks, Fran.

    Mr Piffle: it is you who is deaf and ranting. Each of the issues you so mindlessly echoed have been addressed above and in the previous thread, by a series of competent voices aided by a couple of trolls.

    But you did point out a rather good real estate opportunity.

  91. Fascinating, so many ‘possible’ solution! Priority No. 1 – get a carbon price in place. In the initial stages implement a fundamental, flexible, relatively ‘neutral’ system that creates investment certainty.
    Project future trends and make adjustments accordingly over time.
    One thing is clear, it’s not going to happen under T.A. and his merry climate sceptics!

  92. @mrflibble

    I just cannot see the point in such an investment in a solution which is dependent on particular finite resources.

    Taking that line of argument to its logical conclusion, the entire industrial revolution was a mistake. In any case, the premise is wrong – see Roger Clifton @ 7:54 pm. And here is why Roger is right.

    I’d consider a nuclear solution the day every proponent moves themselves and their families to live immediately around the reactor and along the waste transport routes to provide a buffer for the rest of us

    No worries then. I’d be happy to have a Westinghouse AP1000 over my back fence tomorrow.

    But I really don’t get your first para @ 9:45 am. Yes, there are shades of the climate science vs denial debate (I take it that’s what you’re referring to with “why we are in the situation that we are in, and why little meaningful action has been taken”) in this exchange. But as that example demonstrates, that the debate has taken a strident form does not mean that one side is not pretty much right, and the other wrong. What would you have us do? Ignore the arguments and the evidence for them, throw up our hands and prefer the solution that “resonates” with us?

  93. Mark asked:

    What would you have us do? Ignore the arguments and the evidence for them, throw up our hands and prefer the solution that “resonates” with us?

    Indeed he would Mark. Here, “resonates’ is just another word for the kind of cultural claim I suggested was in play above. It’s not about analysis. Rather, it’s a claim about the kind of world or lifestyle that appeals, regardless of whether it is actually available.

    Here’s an interesting comparison. Those favouring renewables think that its principle advanatge is the limitless supplies of apparently redundant energy from tides, winds, the sun and so forth. Of course, they ignore what you have to do to collect it and convert it into a form that is useful and dispatchable.

    Let’s say that you are needing to refuel your car. The next service station offers petrol at $1.20 per litre. Before you drive in, you hear on the radio that 20 km away, one of those independent operators is pulling a stunt in which he sells petrol for 50 cents per litre. The fuel is clearly cheaper, and if you have to put 40 litres in your tank you will save $28.00 — a lot of money for most people.

    On the other hand, you can well imagine that there will be a long queue by the time you arrive. Perhaps the fuel will be exhausted by the time you get there. Even if you fill up, the entire exercise may take 3 hours of your time, and cost you three or four dollars in fuel meaning that your gain is about $8 per hour. So does this make sense, bearing in mind the costs, benefits and risks?

    It is the same with renewables. Sure the fuel is cheap, but the costs of collecting it are very high, and there’s no guarantee that you will get any fuel at all, or as much as you need, when you want it, but you have to pay up front to even find out. And even if you do, the cost of collecting it will almost always be higher than more reliable fuel. That is, after all, why people turned to fossil fuels in the first place.

    The idea that a sunny day and a warm breeze could run your refrigerator and car is charming and makes all of us feel good inside. It’s positively wholesome. It is, sadly, almost always a fantasy made possible by cultural cognitive dissonance.

  94. @ Mark Duffett
    Interesting article. Certainly provides some interesting information about the availability of the ‘raw product’. That said, there are a series of assumptions which the article is based on. The ones which I’ll flag are:
    1. Technological progress and the timing of the ability to extract fissile material from seawater and/or ‘ordinary’ ore in ‘industrial’ quantities.
    2. The timing of breeder reactors coming on-line (which is what, 20 odd(ish) years away).

    The other interesting thing for me is the increasing ‘electrification’ of the economy. Something I hadn’t really grasped the implications of. I’d even suggest that the numbers postulated are on the low side if you consider replacing the consumption of fossil fuels with electrical power (which to me seems likely in the medium term). It seems to me that there will be implications of pressure on the resources given the current state of technology and increasing demand which aren’t directly addressed in the article. The calculations provided stop short of the current state of technology and a nominal period to transfer over to the coming technology.

    The source and driver of this particular debate is indeed climate change. I’m quite relaxed about “strident” debate – all I’m pointing out is that isn’t a great deal of movement on either side. I’m seeing huge costs on both sides and I’m seeing technological assumptions on both sides. Personally, after reading a great deal, this all adds to there not being a remarkable and clear-cut overall difference between these two postulated solutions. Nuclear has the benefit of being a proven technology, but it also carries a significant legacy (which imo ought to be acknowledged) and also carries a risk of failure which is a very low incidence but with an impact which is absolutely off the charts.

    This is my opinion. I’d like to think that I’m honest enough to listen to all sides, and also honest enough to state where my opinion falls.

    The other thing for me is that both the solutions being debated are what I’d describe as “late afternoon” technology. That is, it isn’t sunset yet. When (and I hope it’s when) fusion technology is figured out, all of this debate will very likely become moot.

    Oh yes – & Fran, please don’t presume to speak for me or interpret me according to your own ideological viewpoint & agenda. If you’d like to know what I meant – ask. Ta.

  95. This has been an extremely interesting debate so far, and let me thank Fran, SHOWSON and everyone else for there excellent input so far (not sure I’m 100% with you re Bernard’s warm fuzzie feelings but the technical stuff was great).

    The only thing I can really add is to recommend, as others have previously, that anyone with an interest in these matters head over to bravenewclimate.com. Just in my personal experience bravenewclimate fundamentally changed my outlook on the nuclear energy debate, before reading his TCASE series I was thought Nuclear was a waste of time. Now I’m practically convinced the opposite is the case. Honestly, even if you don’t like nuclear power for ideological reasons go and read TCASE, if it doesn’t nudge you closer to the fence it should at least lead to informed debate.

  96. Simon Butler is already a convert to Beyond Zero’s assertion that Australia can do without carbon sources of power and without nuclear. OK, I have reviewed their summary of the proposal which is due to be released tomorrow. Simon cunan’t have read it – it is still under wraps, yet he is a convert. Talk about uncritical acceptance of pollywaffle!

    As I thought, it is larded with heroic assumptions about 33% efficiency gains, reduction in peak loads (demand management), assumptions that solar thermal with molten salt storage is a proven and costed technology, new transmission lines across the Nullabor and, conversely, affirmations that new transmission lines will not be needed because the new forms of generation will be local – some kind of solar tower at the end of your street.

    All by 2020!

    I await the public demolition of this dreaming, which does nothing in the long run to promote carbon reduction and serves to indicate to the gullible that the good guys are divided against themselves.

  97. @Julius
    Posted Tuesday, 13 July 2010 at 1:33 am:

    You think that I have not considered the economics of the proposals? I certainly have, and so have many others. Since you raised it, I suggest – as I have on several topics – that you review WhyVsWhy – Nuclear Power, by Barry Brook and Ian Lowe, who present and review each other’s analysis of indicative costings, including whole of life costings. They are diametrically opposed, so there is a clear balance of perspective for those who read both sides of the book. Suffice to say that, Each of these two professors and little old me agree that commercial considerations are not to be shrugged off or disregarded.

  98. @mrflibble
    Posted Tuesday, 13 July 2010 at 1:41 pm

    You correctly point out that nuclear power generation carries a legacy. Quite correct, even if often exaggerated hugely by opponents. For example, I have no doubt thar Saint Barbara Caldicott is a raving loony, full of mad nonsense about the impending end of the world due to non-existent threats from nuclear usage. I suggest that the reasoned voices be heeded.

    However, this whole debate is based on the legacy of the carbon-based fuels. This legacy is real, present and threatening our way of live and mass extinctions. This is a whole magnitude (at least) more severe than the measurable and observable effects of nuclear power generation in the hundreds of current establishments. Some small parts of their operations are, indeed, of concern but this concern is minor, very minor, compared to carbon based power generation in all of its forms, including natural gas.

    You also state that breeder reactors will come on line in 20-ish years. This is not really the picture. Breeder reactors exist and more are being constructed. What is needed eventually is for commercialisation of this technology to come on stream in say 20 years’ time, which is quite reasonable to expect.

    Again, a plug for bravenewclimate and “WhyVsWhy – Nuclear Power”. These two sources are digestable and available. Find Prof. Ian Lowe’s stuff online for the renewables point of view.

  99. I always wonder why those troubled by the idea that a small volume of easy to contain nuclear hazmat that would ultimately have to be sequestered for about 300 years or so aren’t bothered by the fact that large volumes of CO2 that cannot easily be sequestered are going to be out there for at least 50,000 years, when perhaps only about 7% of the CO2 released today will be about in the atmosphere.

    And make no mistake — while we are finding out the serious limits on renewables, that CO2 will continue to be emitted. The clock is running as we speak.

    If CC&S ever gets going, that CO2 will have to be placed under pressure and kept there, effectively, until the end of days. How is that not more troubling than storing a finite amount of nuclear hazmat?

  100. Nobody has answered why it’s not possible anywhere in the world, to obtain an Insurance Policy that includes coverage against a nuclear incident or accident. I challenge anyone to try. When this is possible, I’ll have another look. This reality ‘speaks’ volumes! I don’t have faith in the ‘infallibility of humans’ which the pro nuclear either don’t adress or glibly gloss over it. Even Lloyds of London won’t entertain such an idea, and when I inquired at several quarters, a common comment was, that they’d never been asked the question. Apathy or just hadn’t thought about it. Look at the misery caused when Insurance companies try to get out of paying up after a storm or flood or???A nuclear incident? I don’t think so!

    Who’s going to nominate to live near a reactor? Not me! It’s not necessary here; we have alternatives that will provide more employment(due to renewable materials) and be much safer and cost effective. The nuclear idea is being pushed by people in the industry, are apologists for it, or who won’t be around long enough to have to be concerned about the waste etc?My grandkids will! The first question to ask of those who stridently support the nuclear fuel cycle is why?

  101. liz, you are beating a broken drum, grabbing factoids and announcing that the sky is falling.

    Insurance is available for almost all facets of nuclear power generation, including cradle to grave.

    What I have heard is the the US legislation provides a cap on liability for power station operators and that there is support of some kind during the decommissioning phase.

    To challenge private citizens to obtain evidence of actual corporate insurances is nonsense and demonstrates only that you have chosen to demand the impossible – what is impossible is obtaining this type of first hand evidence. Nice try.

  102. Liz45 asked:

    Who’s going to nominate to live near a reactor?

    I would, providing it had all the usual services, was near where I worked, was reasonably priced etc

    If I were living in Morwell, I’d see replacing Hazelwood with a nuclear plant as a huge step forward in local amenity.

  103. @Mark Duffett 11:52am
    “Taking that line of argument to its logical conclusion, the entire industrial revolution was a mistake. In any case, the premise is wrong – see Roger Clifton @ 7:54 pm. And here *Link removed* is why Roger is right.”

    Had a look at the link you provided. What a fairy tale. Expending energy to suck up half of the oceans of the world to obtain uranium. Moving thousands of tonnes of dirt and rock around every single year to extract uranium. Causing immense damage to the face of the earth. No mention of the ecosystems being destroyed by all this uranium extraction. No mention of where the hundreds of tonnes of nuclear waste is going to go. Completely unfeasible !

    Now lets have a look at these massive amounts of money people are throwing around. Tens of billions! Hundreds of billions. So much money people cry. But is it?

    In the government world of millions of taxpayers and billions of dollars in revenue isn’t too much of an issue.

    Lets have a look at the simple case of the government financing $100 Billion of whatever power generation technology you would like.

    The government borrows $100 Billion (10% of current GDP of $1015 Billion). To stop the attacks of the rabid nuclear furnace crowd here lets call it a Nuclear Power Bond issue at a 6% coupon rate. Aust Government bonds would be lower (about 4.5%) but lets forget that for the moment.

    Payback period is 40 years. Why? Well because governments can think long term (unlike politicians). It took us 70 years to pay off the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Was that an issue? Is anyone suggesting we shouldn’t have built that cause it took the government 70 years to pay it off? Of course not.

    The bond repayments would amount to approx $6.6Billion a year. How much does that cost each of Australia’s 8 million or so households?

    Well its only $831 per year. Staggering isn’t it – what a drain on resources!

    Of course the $100 Billion would have built something to generate electricity so that extra $831 would be offset by a reduction in costs for fossil fuelled power generation.

    We can sustain conducting a war or two for 7 years, waste billions on Joint Strike Fighters that are lemons but you’re telling me we can’t stretch to investing in electricity generation infrastructure of the same magnitude?

    Give me a break.

  104. @JOHN BENNETTS – Well, it’s happened in the recent time then. I’m not interested in what happens in the US – I don’t live there! You tell me – is a nuclear incident/accident part of your insurance policy? Perhaps Fran knows? It’s not irrelevant or “impossible”? If it’s considered around the world to be perfectly safe, then show me! I asked about domestic coverage, and nobody could tell me that such a clause was in their policies. So then I contacted the ‘bigger’ companies, like Lloyds – same story! As I said, some peoples’ response was that they’d never been asked, and no such an assurance was not in their policies! Ask the people who live near the Lucas Heights reactor? I bet they don’t have that included in their policies!

    Don’t fob me off with words – Prove it!

  105. I obviously meant, ‘no such assurance was in their policies’?

    Incidently, as I live within about 100klms of the Lucas Height reactor, I’m most interested!

    Also, I’ve just received an email from a friend, re an informative discussion and support meeting for those Muckaty Traditional Owners, who are visiting Sydney and the Sth Coast to tell us what’s going to happen to their lands and culture if the nuclear waste dump ends up there. They DO NOT want it! 3,376 kilometres – a long haul for nuclear waste?

  106. @Liz45 You can be a bit reassured that the lucas heights reactor is a tiny research reactor that is different to a normal power reactor. And less riskier.

    Lucas Heights only has a small reactor core of 20 MW capacity that isn’t pressurised. The new OPAL reactor is actually at the bottom of a 13m pool of water. The water is the coolant and the shielding – so you can stand at the top of the pool and see the reactor at the bottom of the pool.

    Power reactors are of the order of 1000MW and run at much higher termperatures and pressures. The materials used in these reactors are exposed to constant high pressure, high temperate and high rates of neutron flux which makes it more likely of a component made brittle by the high temperature, high pressure or neutron bombardment breaking and the coolant spilling out. The coolant can either be water under so much pressure that it doesn’t turn to steam, or hot liquid metal like sodium or a hot pressurised gas like helium.

    These are the reactors we don’t want – nor does anyone sane want built near where they live.

    Of course your point about transporting the nuclear waste is applicable to any nuclear reactor – as no one really knows what to do with it. You can’t just dig a big hole and bury it – which is what they are proposing to do in the NT. And moving it any distance is risky – never mind 3,000kms!!!

  107. Engineering reality I think you’re being a disingenuous in implying that nuclear power stations are so unsafe when hundreds have been operating throughout the developed world virtually without incident for sixty years. Chernobyl was the result of a substandard Russian design that was poorly managed and would NEVER be repeated. The vast majority of nuclear plants have exemplary safety records. The nuclear plants that are built today are inherently and physically failsafe. This is engineering fact and you should know this.

  108. @ENGINEERINGREALITY – The new reactor at Lucas Heights is about 3 times as large as the old one, which was a 10MW reactor, I believe. During the construction there were design faults in the walls, and time was wasted. Then, after it was up and running, it was closed down due to reasons that we were not told??My thoughts and concerns re secrecy have been vindicated.

    I heard on ABC PM this evening re a report out tomorrow about thermal/solar renewable energy – will be available in/within 10 years. It may be on their web site now. From what I can gather, the realities have been researched and those who wrote and are involved with it are certain as to the function etc. The funding will require 3% of GDP each year for ten years, which sounds pretty reasonable to me! I think it’s exciting, and welcome renewable energy in preference to coal/nuclear etc. I’ll be interested to hear what the zealots in favour of nuclear power have to say!

    I’m most concerned re the aboriginal people who are being rail-roaded in order to have a nuclear waste dump in this country. SA said no, the NT can be easily over-run by the Commonwealth – so much for engaging the opinion of the people. But of course, as we know, aboriginal people have been treated in this manner for over 200 years. Silly me and them for thinking things would change! It’s much easier to ‘bash’ people who’ve been demeaned, belittled and insulted! Hence the removal of the Racial Discrimination Act! Here we go again!

    I think it’s very telling, that none of the proponents of the nuclear ‘fool’ industry ever utter any concerns for the wishes of the indigenous peoples! Beneath contempt I believe!

  109. Yeah Liz – I’m not saying I’m about to head over and go swimming in the reactor pool because its so safe – and as we all know it was designed by those behemoths of the nuclear industry – the Argentinians. Apart from having a better world cup soccer team than us I’d be hard pressed to know what we import from Argentina – but we DID import their all new improved reactor design.

    The Collins class submarine of nuclear reactors. Nice work ANSTO!

    GregB – yes I like how you say for sixty years “virtually without incident”. Because the nuclear industry hasn’t been “without incident” in its 50 year history, has it? Oh we’re told about low level leaks from Japanese reactors and a few mishaps here and there – but do you know that we’re told about all the mishaps and mistakes that the secretive nuclear industry makes?

    All reactors are locked away and you can’t get into them. You can’t find out what is happening. How do we all know that we are told promptly and completely about any incident? Like BP eh? If only BP discharged accurate information with the same rate as the broken well gushed oil into the ocean – but it reacted as any company or government department has reacted over the last 50 years – complete lockdown and control of any information. But somehow you believe that all the companies running all the reactors around the world have behaved completely differently to BP. Knowing that news of a radioactive leak would be greeted 1000% worse than BP’s gushing crude they have told us of every accident and problem.

    It was weeks after the uranium mine discharged a large volume of radioactive wastewater into Kakadu National Park that anyone found out. And questions still remain how much and when?

    Because in every organisation I’ve worked in a lot of effort has gone into making sure that the media doesn’t find out about the mistakes and problems that happen. Because everywhere you look there is human laziness and incompetence. But suddenly you’re asserting that “oh no – don’t worry – there are superhuman beings who never make mistakes looking after all the reactors”.

    Yes virtually without incident. Humans make “virtually no mistakes”. The world is “virtually perfect without mistakes”.

    Newcastle was “virtually without earthquakes” until 1989. People were lying on the beaches in Thailand because that area had been “virtually without” Tsunamis for years and years.

    I would never say that mistakes can’t happen. That problems don’t occur. No rational person can look someone in the eye and say “things will always go perfectly without mishap and there will be no mistakes”. And unfortunately the consequences of a nuclear accident are so terrible that you can’t even afford to have one major accident. The 1 in 10 million chance. The 1 in 100 million chance. Show me a nuclear reactor design with a 0 probability of something going wrong and I’ll show you someone lying to you.

    So who is being disingenuous? Someone who is raising the terrible & real risks of human error meeting radioactive contamination – or someone who is asking us to believe that everyone running nuclear facilities has behaved for 50 years against human and corporate nature and has either never made any mistakes and has been completely honest and open about every nuclear spill and accident?

    I wonder.

    The absence of evidence for something doesn’t prove its non-existence.

  110. Liz45

    Despite the fact that it has the world “reactor” in its title, there is no prospect of the Lucas Heights reactor catching fire or melting down. It’s main work is not procuing iundustrial heat but medical isotopes. So that kind of risk is non-existent. I also live within 100km of the reactor and I’d be happy living with 2km of it.

    It was closed as a result of a minor problem for ten months prior to 23 May 2008. As a result medical procedures were deferred as the isotopes came into short supply and had to be rationed. The trivial “hazard” to the local populace remained trivial, but patients were inconvenienced and their treatment disrupted — so their risk of loss increased.

    What do you have against Australia producing medical isotopes?

    As I understand it, the Aboriginal people are perfectly happy having a waste repository for low level radioactive medical waste. The fact of the matter is that if one agrees nuclear medicine is valuable, then you need medical isotopes. Someone must store the waste. So unless you are proposing to shut down nuclear medicine, with all of the negative consequences to human life that this would imply you need to say what would happen with the low level waste. Indeed, even if you did propose to shut down such medicine, you’d still need to say what should happen to the waste we have.

  111. ER said:

    The 1 in 100 million chance. Show me a nuclear reactor design with a 0 probability of something going wrong and I’ll show you someone lying to you.

    No part of your life has a zero probability of going wrong. There’s a rough possibility that a power surge at a sub-station could start a fire in your house while you are reading this message, leaving you trapped and unable to escape, with lethal consequences. You think that probability so low that you disregard it and keep reading. That’s wise because attempting to avoid all risk is not only impossible, but the costs of the avoidance effort would render pleasure impossible.

    The only way you can avoid the possibility of unforeseen harm is suicide. You can trade the randomised risk of death or injury for certain death. I’d call that a poor trade as there is zero upside, and there’s always a risk you will mess it up and make things even worse.

    By the time most of us reached kindergarten we realised that we were not immortal. We got it that people have a finite amount of time to have fun and that sooner or later, death was certain. Once you realise that you start thinking in detail about how best to use the time you have and that involves trading in all sorts of risks. Is the risk to your health of living within a few kms of a nuclear plant zero? No, but it is tiny. Is it as high as living within a few kms of a coal or gas plant, or even the risk of living along the delivery chain between the coal mine and the plant? Not even close. It’s a lot safer than living above a granite slab of rock or flying in an aircraft once each year or driving your car or sunbaking or going to parties where people smoke or drink or eating fatty food.

    Rational people trade big risks for lesser risks, especially when the lesser risk comes with benefits. That is what we humans have always done, and we who live today are the beneficiaries of the willingness of our ancestors to adopt that course, sometimes at the loss of their lives.

  112. ER and Liz:

    I know you are both capable of rational and balanced thought when you choose to do so. Why are you so determined, for no rational reason, to disregard facts, demonstrable, provable facts, that indicate that nuclear energy has a safer record cradle to grave than any other form of power production?

    Why are you prepared to assume that costs and risks are not able to be compared on the basis of past experience, as are similar risks associated with other forms of energy conversion?

    The simple, demonstrated and telling fact is that nuclear is actually much safer and cleaner than coal, oil and gas. No ifs and buts. Absolutely proven. Cherry pick incidents workdwide regarding nuclear and you run out after two. Two. Three Mile Island – no injuries, minor gas leak, poor management of the publicity and an abject failure of the testes of those in charge of the industry in the USofA, leading to absolutely horrid supposed safety measures, but really just fake restrictions on this industry for 30 years since. What a charade!

    And Chernobyl. A poorly designed reactor, never to be seen on the face of the earth again, subject to shockingly inadequate maintenance and then found to fail during operational games dressed up as tests, which the designers have stated time and again to be stupid. This cost (from memory) 22 lives on site and a similar number later – about the same as the largest annual coal mining disaster for any given year, China included.

    Twenty-two lives are of the same magnitude as the BP problem in the Mexican Gulf right now, where a cubic kilometre of oil is on the loose and a similar quantity has been flared off. Perhaps a similar volume of methane has been released during the BP oil spill – I have seen no figures, but it is certainly substantial. This, in relation to a single oil facility, needs to be compared with Chernobyl. Both, quite probably, were avoidable. Both, due to commercial or bureaucratic considerations, were allowed to happen.

    All I ask is that you both consider nuclear power on its merits and permit the most environmentally and economically solution to the world’s GHG problems to be implemented. To emotively rule one or more of the possible technologies out of consideration is cruel to those lowlying and needy people who have no choice. It will also add to the degradation of the environment which sustains all of the species of Earth, including humans. It will add to the liklihood and actual loss of up to 60% of this planets life forms. It will also reduce your personal standard of living and those of your children and their children.

    By all means argue on the basis of facts for and against any particular proposal, but please consider the actual facts and choose your way forward based on an assessment of ALL risks and costs, not just the ones which you bring to the discussion.

    This has been one of the most interesting of Crikey’s discussion threads. It is perhaps appropriate that it was started by a good and respected journalist of no particular scientific and/or engineering bent.

    I thank you all, but I must move on. Another day is beckoning, and another Crikey.

  113. ER@ 4:47 pm, I thought you of all people would have recognised the U assessment I linked to as the back-of-an-envelope exercise that it is. No one is actually suggesting that we’ll need to be strip mining continental crust to a depth of 4 km anytime in the next millennium. The wonderful propensity of our planet to concentrate minerals way above average crustal levels ensures that. The point is that there’s a vast continuum between what’s currently inventoried as economic reserves and what’s actually practically extractable. And with advanced reactor (breeder) technology, that millennium becomes literal geologic ages. Indeed, we’ve already mined enough uranium to do us for the next 700 years – by consuming nuclear waste.

    No, we won’t have to cause “immense damage to the face of the earth” to get more. Even millions (let alone thousands) of tonnes of ore is still orders of magnitude less than that currently chewed through annually by the coal industry (or would be required in the form of concrete, steel and glass for the BZE plan, just quietly). That would affect something like 0.001% (being generous) of Australia’s landmass. I think the ecosystems currently have much worse to contend with than that.

    “Hundreds of tonnes of nuclear waste” would fit in an Olympic swimming pool. You could put it in with the backfill at Olympic Dam (over a kilometre deep, in the middle of crust stable for the last 1500 million years) and it would barely register on the scale of that mine.

    And please, tell me you’re just humouring Liz45 with the tin (or should that be lead?) foil hat stuff @ 8:02 pm. The thing about radioactive material is…it radiates. Pretty hard to hide. So actually, you can find out what is happening. Sure they’re not on the shelf at your local Dick Smith’s, but it’s not that hard to get hold of a gamma ray spectrometer if you’re that convinced The Truth Is Out There. Just don’t be alarmed when you first turn it on and realise how many perfectly natural gamma photons are zapping through you, every second, 24/7/365.

  114. I’m yet to hear a solid rebuttal to the arguments the “nuclear zealots” have put forward. Come on renewable guys, convince me. I WANT to believe you, I WANT renewable energy to be the answer, trust me I really, really do. In fact I did until I heard the arguments put forward by those “nuclear zealots”, but if you remove the emotive element the cold hard logic is pretty darn hard to miss. So come on guys, convince me!

  115. @FRAN ” As I understand it, the Aboriginal people are perfectly happy having a waste repository for low level radioactive medical waste.”

    Well, you’re wrong! I know it will be difficult for you to grasp, but you’re damned wrong. The Muckaty Traditonal Owners are travelling down south to let us know, that they do not want a waste dump anywhere near or on their land. There is to be two forums in Sydney and Wollongong on the 27th and 28th July inst. The fact that every effort is being made to silence them, either by removing the Racial Discrimination Act(Howard and still not changed by Labor govt) or by using the same old patriarchal and patronising attitudes and behaviours of over 200 years.

    Just because you’re not interested enough to even research what they think or feel, doesn’t negate the reality! THEY DON’T WANT IT! “Low level waste”? Do you or ‘they’ think we’re stupid? There’s no guarantee, that it won’t be used as the world’s high level waste dump? Bob Hawke thinks it’s an OK idea? Once it’s there – out of sight etc etc I bet people don’t realise, that many aboriginal people have already felt the effects of nuclear ‘waste’ via the tests? Many are still sick today?

    None of the States want a nuclear waste dump, and when SA rejected any idea of having one on their soil, the Fed govt then decided on the NT – as they can over-rule any objections by doing what they do best – stomping all over aboriginal peoples’ rights and interests, let alone their thoughts and feelings.

    We could import medical isotopes – we didn’t need to spend $$$millions building a reactor! We import heaps of other ‘stuff’ that doesn’t bother people very much! Plain dumb! I believe there are alternate ways of achieving the same or similar without a reactor, but haven’t researched it in any length!

    JOHN BENNETTS – You were wrong about the Dr in the Hunter region, and his research/experiences re what is happening to the people of that region from the approximate 14 coal mining operations that are current- he’s been vindicated, as there is an assurance, that more research will now be done – that the health concerns are legitimate and warrant further investigation. You denigrated and insulted him, as you do to Dr Helen Caldicott. I don’t think you answered my question last time – where did you obtain your medical qualifications from, and what Speciality are you involved in?

    Just because we don’t hear of every human error, incident, accident in the nuclear industry does not mean that it hasn’t happened. For example, the ‘whistleblower’ re the Lucas Heights Reactor was suspended (earlier this year – ABC?) and as far as I know, could still be! So much for openess and frankness in the nuclear industry. There’s been lots of incidents re nuclear reactors, nuclear material etc. Only in recent times, there was a discrepancy between the amount of nuclear material in the records, and the reality! There’s been issues in Pakistan, and years ago, both the US and Britain had problems in their reactors. Scarily, many of those reactors are still being used.
    Off the top of my head, there’s been – Three Mile island, Windscale, more recently in Scotland(nuclear waste ‘seepage’ from memory)nuclear materials found in a ‘hatbox’ at some railway in the US; workers having ‘waste’ drips on their foot, and later they died of cancer. Years ago, there was definite proof, that water from the old Lucas Heights reactor, ended up in the Georges River? Does anyone recall the US Karen Silkwood story? She was allegedly run off the road because she was going to ‘blow the lid’ re poor work practices and probable exposure to radiation. I also recall (late 70’s?) where a Professor Ernglass? Sternglass asserted, that when China had conducted nuclear ‘tests’ the fallout was found in the US?

    Last year, strong winds carried red dust from SA to Wollongong/Sydney etc. What if some of that dust came from the Maralinga sites or? How do we know that it hasn’t done any damage or will in the future? The CFMEU are conducting an anti-nuclear industry campaign, as they see it as the ‘asbestos’ concern/s of the future! You haven’t heard about it? That’s my point! If you don’t want to know, keep on just reading msm bulls**t!

    I recall reading a book years ago called, ‘Nuclear Power’ written by a Walter Patterson(from memory). It was full of incidents and human errors. Polluted and ‘heated’ water in rivers etc, that killed off many fish stocks etc. It was full of a justifiable scepticism re the lack of openess re the public’s right to be told, even health checks and the workers being told of pathology tests of x-rays etc. I also have several books on this same theme – one is called – ‘The Menace of Atomic Energy’? I repeat, these reactors are still in operation, yet they’ve well and truly gone past their ‘used by’ date? Scary thought! While society’s attitude to nuclear tests is well known, it is prudent to keep in mind the secrecy, the absolute and arrogant disinterest to the health and safety of people, particularly countries in the Pacific! I have no confidence, that the same cult of secrecy has been removed!

    In recent times, there’s been concern at Olympic Dam(bhp billiton – “smelting system”) and Pellonium 210 and high levels over time = lung cancer.

    The whole industry in the past, has only functioned without public outcry, because it operates on secrecy, with workers being sworn to secrecy – the plight of the ‘whistleblower’ at Lucas Heights confirms this. I also suggest that you check out page 76-81 of the Anti-Terrorist Act, and when you read ‘and for any other purpose’ just think, that this open ended inclusion could be used in the future! There’s no guarantee, that a govt could use this in order to silence workers and or others on the ‘grounds’ of ‘national security’? I don’t trust them one bit!

    Just because the incidents and accidents aren’t covered in msm doesn’t mean that there has not been any or won’t be in the future.

  116. @ Liz45, Posted Wednesday, 14 July 2010 at 1:08 pm:

    I will try to be brief.

    I have no more medical qualification than you have. What’s your problem with this? I live locally to the first doctor, I have formed my position based on the basis of publicly available interview and reports. If you think that Tuan was absolutely right, then you are absolutely wrong. As I said before, his claims have been reviewed by real epidemiologists and will no doubt be further monitored, but the Hunter Valley has no statistically significant increase in incidence or severity of dust diseases. What it does have is a shortage of GP’s, a high incidence of worried well, made more so by the populist bleatings of scaremongers such as yourself, who see threats in every shadow. The epidemiologists have not supported yous stance.

    Now, regarding that old, loud, bigotted, radical leftie warhorse, Helen Caldicott. Where are your corpses? Where are your peer reviewed statistics to support your fears of megadeath scenarios in relation to nuclear power? Why do you feel, in your bones, that these things have happened and will continue to happen, when the evidence is not available?

    Read “WhyVsWhy – Nuclear Power”, Pantera Press, 2010, for both sides of this, written by true experts. Start with Prof Barry Lowe’s account – he is President of the Australian Conservation Foundation. His Chapter 5 “Because it will increase the risk of nuclear war” and Chapter 6 “Because there are safety concerns” are somewhat one-eyed in my opinion, but they are nowhere as extreme or as unfounded as your own contributions on this subject.

    If we cannot agree on the facts, we will never agree on a solution. By taking an ultra-extreme position, you risk marginalising yourself and losing all credibility. I cannot remember a single instance where you have provided a link to support your view of the facts. This is simply not sufficient to convince me or anyone else of anything, so essentially you are preaching to yourself.

  117. @JOHN BENNETTS – Re the doctor in the Hunter Valley, Dr Tuan? There was an interesting item on eitherABC The World Today or perhaps PM in recent weeks, that covered his research and the NSW govt’s response to it. I stand by what I said, and you can avail yourself of this interview if you wish. If it wasn’t June, then it was possibly, probably May. I’ll take a look myself!

    As to Dr Caldicott! By your use of language, I get the distinct impression, that you cast aside her views totally, because she’s an “old, loud, bigotted, radical leftie warhorse.” Says more about you and your attitudes, than any views she’s expressed over about 40+ years. No doubt if you agreed with her views, she would lose all the other labels; who knows, if you agreed with “Tuan” he might even be acknowledged as having degrees and experiences that you don’t have – medical knowledge!

    Why should I write a bunch of “peer reviewed statistics” to support my view/s when you neither produce them yourself, nor do you demand same from others, particularly those you blindly support! Show me where you or FRAN or other pro-nuclear people have supported all your assertions with “peer reviewed statistics”? You haven’t! What you’re doing, is engaging in bias, with generous lashings of paternalistic and patronising comments!

    You’re in favour of nuclear power, I’m not! I support real renewable energy sources, and if you take a look at last night’s ABC PM program, there’s a very interesting segment about just that – renewable energy sources, and how they can be in operation for base load needs in 10 yrs. Couldn’t have a nuclear reactor up and running by that time?

    There are many people who do not support nuclear power. People with lots of qualifications and expertise, such as Professor Ian???(Australian Conservation Foundation, President). I’ve seen him interviewed several times; he was a guest at The National Press Club prior to the 2007 Election; he’s been interviewed on 7.30 Report etc. He’s written papers etc.

  118. Liz45, you are a fraud.

    You pose as a person with queries, yet you do not listen to counter arguments. By stridently barking your position and demanding more and more references, you display your own lack of research. Indeed, you have yet to provide a scintilla of evidence for your aggreessive rants in these columns.

    OK, again I will list two references for you to study. First, asmall book, costing less than $20, which should be on the shelves of your local library. “WhyVsWhy – Nuclear Power”, Pantera Press, Melbourne, 2010. This presents the arguments for and against nuclear power and is the fairest representation of the subject I have ever seen, as well as being Australian and current. I have recommended it before. Second, go to Brave New Climate, the web site of Prof Barry Brook, who is widely published on the subjects of climate change and nuclear energy. Please never again accuse me of not providing references.

    Regarding Dr Caldicott, she is everything I said and more. She has not reviewed her position since I first met her in the 1960’s and is a disreputable sham. Call her what you want, even saviour if you wish, but not near me.

    She is guilty of the worst of professional misuse of information and denial of facts and has elevated lecturing to the converted to an art form. However, she is not and never has been a credible spokesperson for or against the nuclear industry. As a legend in her own mouth, she is the greatest.

    Last night’s PM program was exactly that – a PM program on TV. Sorry, but I was enjoying Top Gear at the time. Wrong channel. Its contents are not yet available via the ABC website.

    However, to provide the first name only of an expert is not the same as providing a citation. The person you are thinking of is Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe, President of the ACF and co-author of WhyVsWhy I referred to above and at 1:08pm today. I don’t agree with much of what he is saying, but his arguments are rational, well-informed and well stated. They are essential reading on this topic.

    Regarding not being able to have a nuclear reactor up and running in ten years, you may or may not be correct. At present the show-stopper is the irrational, hopefully temporary, banning of nuclear power via federal legislation. I have extensive on-site and very direct experience in construction of large power stations. The planning, design and procurement phases of a 2GW station should take no more than a couple of years – say 3. Construction and commissioning, based on actual Australian experience, is achievable in a further 6 years – say 7. Thus, if the flag was dropped today and finance provided when scheduled, the first 2GW nuclear station could very well be very well available in 8 to 10 years, with further 1GW units at approximately 1 year intervals.

    By 2020 it is entirely practical to envisage 10 or 15GW of nuclear, zero carbon, extremely safe, environmentally friendly nuclear power stations generating half of the power demand of Australia. I expect this to be paralled but not matched by massive growth in the renewable power sources including solar thermal and wind, for perhaps (optimistic??) 5GW. That would set us up in advance of Type 4 nuclear, which will be fuelled entirely from used cores of the other reactors and the next great leap forward (to pinch a phrase from Mao).

    Next problem?

  119. This has developed into quite an interesting scientists’ discussion now that Fran Barlow is contributing. So non-scientists like myself should keep it brief, and mention that they’re non-scientists, and avoid taking over the thread. Please.

    Aboriginals have every right to protest against nuclear waste dumps on their land. That’s what it means when it’s your land, you don’t have to accept it so the price is negotiable. That’s what it will need to come down to – a fair price leading to real benefits for all the traditional owners, not just a trust-fund ripoff like some of the old ATSIC deals.

  120. @JOHN BENNETTS – You have your opinion, and I have mine. I’m not going to change it just because you harass me. You denigrate me, but use the same behaviour yourself. Your mind is made up, and nothing will change it. If nuclear power could be justified in perhaps European countries due to weather etc, that doesn’t mean that there’s no alternative/s. I happen to believe, that Australia has plenty of options re renewable energy – and that’s the basis for my opposition to nuclear power – it’s not necessary in this country. OK? I’m just as entitled to my point of view as you are, but you don’t agree – you have to be patronising or bullying.

    Another legitimate reason to be against it – Aboriginal people don’t want a nuclear waste dump – they say so! I support them. End of story!

    They’ve gained nothing since the advent of mining companies, whether it’s uranium or anything else – they just get left with the shit! And they would again if the nuclear industry had its way.

    You act superior, but you insult and denigrate anyone, even if they have qualifications, like the Doctors mentioned? You don’t accept contrary opinons to yours!

    funny how every time the US has re-started the conversation about a nuclear waste dump for high level waste, they get threatened with legal action – it’s been going on for years? Why haven’t they replaced their old reactors?

    I disagree with you! That’s it! I want nothing to do with nuclear power, or uranium mining either for that matter – none of it! OK? Good!

  121. @POWER – Show me where aboriginal people have benefited from all the mining of many things on their land. I still have the T-shirt in support of their struggles against Jabiluka – they eventually won that – for now? Looks like I’ll have to get it out again! Wear it to listen to the Muckaty Traditional Owners in Wollongong on the 28th of this month!

    My understanding, is that in their view, none of the 3 proposed sites are suitable. Too close to water or their food, or will destroy their culture, sacred sites – any or all of those reasons are legitimate as far as I’m concerned. there’s more important things than money – not that they’d see much! haven’t before!

    Aboriginal people don’t want the proposed gas plant in WA either!

  122. Liz45
    Posted Wednesday, 14 July 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Very excited. Very personal.

    Totally devoid of reason.

    I am sorry that your opinions may be – indeed are – fixed in stone. Your mind is closed to truth on so many subjects, many of which you have so little knowledge and no willingness to add to your empty head.

    Sure, I have no aboriginal Tee shirts. Sorry – only a few. But at least I can and do back up what I say with argument and references to sources, which you never ever have managed to do.

    As I said, a fraud.

  123. As I said Liz, not like some of the old ATSIC deals. A few traditional owners have become jaw-droppingly rich out of mining royalties while their people get nothing, no jobs, just a nanny state and a lot of guns in their faces. I completely agree, that’s got to change. Aboriginal communities deserve a fair price for the use of their land, and they need help setting up corporations which will negotiate those prices and use the money to develop industries and training for them. That doesn’t mean taking away their choice to negotiate nuclear dumps or anything else on their own land.

  124. @JOHN BENNETTS – You and Fran and all the rest who are pushing nuclear power attempt to pull the wool over other peoples’ eyes by using scientific arguments etc. You don’t look at the ‘holistic’ view, that is, from mining to the finished ‘product’? You don’t concern yourselves with the people whose land is being stuffed due to mining; you don’t give a stuff about the health and safety of the workers(far away from you – like aboriginal people – out of sight, out of mind?) after all, it’s not as though they’re REAL PEOPLE is it? Anybody who disagrees with you, you denigrate, and being a chauvinist at heart, it’s really easy to do it to women!

    I am not a fraud. I have never left my footprints in another human beings shoulders; nor have I sold out other humans, and I’ve not resorted to using your language either. The doctor in the Hunter region has been taken seriously – at last! You just missed that news item/discussion. Dr Helen Caldicott has dedicated her life to being concerned about the health and quality of life of children. What have you done to benefit human kind? how dare you rubbish her, when you have no answer to the medical concerns about the reality of the dangers of every part of the nuclear cycle! The books I have on my book shelf that itemise the human frailties, incidents, accidents and in too many cases, secretive, corrupt actions or inactions by those who gain the most from nuclear power – the big corporations, tell a frightful story! That was years ago, I hear you say! Those bloody nuclear reactors are still in operation to this day! I find that scary indeed! Neither the US or the UK have built new reactors for decades. In fact, I remember when the British Parlt decided not to replace their reactors, I think for another ???years! The US also! Neither country has a solution to the storage of high level waste – the stuff they’re not using for weapons that is!

    If Bob Hawke was still PM, he’d probably allow them to send their rotten, radioactive stuff to our country, and force it on aboriginal people – again!

    @POWER etc – Name the “few traditional owners” who’ve “become jaw droppingly rich out of mining royalties”? Either put up or???
    I’m surprised that JOHN BENNETTS hasn’t challenged you on this – you know, show references etc. Oh yes, that’s right, he only does that to people whose views he rejects!

    Let me say it again! The Muckaty Traditional Owners DON’T WANT nuclear waste on their land – low, medium or high level? NONE! When I go and listen to them on July 28th, I’ll let you know exactly how they feel! – they say NO, and that’s good enough for me! It’s called human rights, justice, and having respect for those whose land this is – they never relinguished their right to their land! This country was black before it was white! They took better care of it than we have! for at least 40,000-80,000 yrs+?

    Show me one aboriginal community that has gained anything from mining of anything on their land! Gold, bauxite, uranium, gas or ????The aboriginal people in the Kimberley don’t want the gas ‘factory’ on their land either! Take a look at 4 Corners of a few weeks ago! They don’t want it!

  125. Liz, passionate Liz:

    You have these books on your shelves yet decline to name them? I have asked several times for you to show that you are not all wind. You repeatedly decline so to do.

    Regarding Barbara Caldicott, she is in love with herself and this has always been so, to the exclusion of all other inputs. I will waste no more time on this disgrace to the human race. If, by chance, she has anything rational and relevant to say in relation to the current proposal of Type III+ or Type IV reactors, please share it with us, otherwise forget her.

    Regarding PINS’s contribution, I also noted that his statements re the traditional landowners being in favour of nuclear waste at Mucketty or any other place as unsupported and simply unbelievable. This type of announcement, which will inevitably be followed by a retraction sometime soon, or at least an overwhelming rebuttal, does no good.

    Again, I beseach you – both sides of the nuclear power story are available in a small book, really two matched booklets called “WhyVsWhy – Nuclear Power”. Find and read this book. You will see some interesting claims re safety, waste generation, waste storage, costs, cradle to grave analyses, including those aspects which you accuse me of not caring about.

    I have only recently become convinced that nuclear is safe, is available, is environmentally safe, and is worthy of serious consideration on all the grounds you listed.

    Go on, find it and read it.

  126. That’s what I said: it’s their land, they don’t have to accept it if they don’t want to, and it’s their choice to negotiate if they do want to, not mine or yours. JB, I lost the thread of your sentence there, but I hope you weren’t putting works in my mouth about me having put words in anyone else’s mouth.

  127. One more argument against nuclear: it is safe in a “perfect world”. Problem is, this sin’t a perfect world. There is always a human factor involved. Do you think the Russians wanted a meltdown at Chernobyl?

    What about other human factors like…greed and corruption?

    How else do you explain this…from the BBC news site http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4312553.stm
    “Tsunami waves could have spread illegally dumped nuclear waste and other toxic waste on Somalia’s coast, a United Nations spokesman has said. Nick Nuttall of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) told the BBC that December’s tsunami appeared to have broken barrels and scattered waste. Mr Nuttall said a preliminary UN report had found that Somalis in the northern areas were falling sick as a result… ”

    Another story:
    “Operators of a nuclear power station in Essex have been accused of allowing radioactive waste to seep into the ground for 14 years.” – http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/7813543.stm

    “German authorities discover radioactive rubbish…That city’s rubbish problems have been blamed on illegal dumping by the local mafia.” – http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/06/07/2268118.htm?section=justin

    “Mafia accused of sinking toxic waste ship” – http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/09/26/2697272.htm?section=justin

    This may explain why a 100km long human chain was formed by over 100,000 people in Germany recently to protest against the continued use of nuclear power – http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gebM75fo2iuimu5hnvcYYQvrsLeA

    Until we get rid of the humans, nuclear will never be safe.

  128. @ Powerisnotstrength: Posted Friday, 16 July 2010 at 8:46 pm
    No, I did not put words in your mouth that you did not say. However, the aboriginal land owners of the proposed disposal site are not happy. You will read much more on this subject before it comes to pass, if ever, so don’t worry about my opinion.

    @ S1mon ; Posted Sunday, 18 July 2010 at 11:30 pm.
    If this generation fails to do the best that it can regarding energy management and GHG minimisation, we will indeed be remembered. Do not write off sensible proposals because of sloganeering. To do that is mindless.

  129. @S1mon > “nuclear: [only] safe in a ‘perfect world’ ” … “meltdown at Chernobyl”

    This is the sort of fact-free jibe that the converted chant to each other to keep reality at bay.

    You assert that there was a meltdown at Chernobyl as if it is fundamental to a shared religious belief. If any of your gang of faithful actually check for facts, s/he would find that there never was a meltdown at Chernobyl. But then, that is probably why your band of bigoted few keep losing members.

    > ” How do you explain this… “. We don’t have to explain any damn thing to someone who hasn’t asserted a fact. What you have said here is that somebody said that somebody said that somebody said that something horrible had happened. Should we take that as true? Your failure to question the
    obviously weak connection shows that you are wilfully ignorant.

    > ” Radioactive rubbish”. Banana skins are radioactive rubbish, slightly more radioactive than background levels. If you think there is something unnatural about being radioactive, then you have forgotten what we learn at school. The air, water, sky and ground all radioactive.

    What is worrying is that you can chant off this ignorant nonsense as though Crikey readers believe it.

  130. @S1mon > “nuclear: [only] safe in a ‘perfect world’ ” … “meltdown at Chernobyl”

    This is the sort of fact-free jibe that the converted chant to each other to keep reality at bay.

    You assert that there was a meltdown at Chernobyl as if it is fundamental to a shared religious belief. If any of your gang of faithful actually check for facts, s/he would find that there never was a meltdown at Chernobyl. But then, that is probably why your band of bigoted few keep losing members.

    “How do you explain this… “. We don’t have to explain any damn thing to someone who hasn’t asserted a fact. What you have said here is that somebody said that somebody said that somebody said that something horrible had happened. Should we take that as true? Your failure to question the
    obviously weak connection shows that you are wilfully ignorant.

    “Radioactive rubbish”. Banana skins are radioactive rubbish, slightly more radioactive than background levels. If you think there is something unnatural about being radioactive, then you have forgotten what we learn at school. The air, water, sky and ground all radioactive.

    What is worrying is that you can chant off this ignorant nonsense as though Crikey readers believe it.

  131. @ROGER CLIFTON – You might think it’s cute to argue on the exact reasons for Chernobyl or argue language, but the indeniable fact, is that it happened. The also facts are, that unlike banana skins, nuclear materials are dangerous to all living things – and the air, and the oceans and the????
    There’s been discussions for weeks over the insulation issues etc. Who’d want either major party in control of nuclear waste. Not I! There’s a history of secrecy, cover ups, waste of money etc in the nuclear industry around the world. The main motivation is wealth, not the people. When wealth is the motivator, you have a breeding ground for cutting corners, budget blow outs, waste, lies and more lies. No thanks!

    People on these sites quote countries in Europe etc that are happy with nuclear power, when, if they bothered to research ( a case of ‘we don’t want to know, so we won’t look?) they’d find out that there are thousands, millions even who don’t like nuclear power.

    In Australia, indigenous people do not like uranium mining on their land, and the Muckaty Traditional Owners do not want a nuclear waste dump. I support them. Once again, the racist views of governments and corporate wealth are walking all over their human rights, their health, their culture and their very right to be listened to and respected. I suggest you also look at the Native Title Act, and the Amendments made by the Howard govt athat remain unchanged by this govt. You may also note, that after SA refused to agree to a waste dump, the govt looked at the NT because they can walk all over them!

    I’m hoping that The Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate, and refuse to agree to a nuclear waste dump anywhere in this country. If it goes ahead on a ‘low level waste’ agreement, that would change, and before we know it, we’d be having waste from around the world dumped here. Bob Hawke promoted that idea! Waste from Lucas Heights should remain on site, and under close scrutiny! If it’s unsafe, close the bloody place down!

  132. @Liz45 “indeniable fact, is that [Chernobyl] happened.”

    Yes, disasters on that scale happen every year on our crowded planet. Here is an even bigger, renewable energy disaster that happened this last year, where 75 people were killed. That’s a lot more than the disaster you quoted.

    Last week, the most recent of the frequent coal mining disasters killed 28 officially . There were more than 1000 killed last year this way.

    Gas explosions kill many people often too.

    The remarkable thing about nuclear accidents is that there haven’t been any in the quarter-century since the one you quoted. Comparatively speaking, nuclear is squeaky clean.

  133. @JOHN BENNETTS – Because I don’t think that your opinion is any more superior than mine, and I stopped bowing to male perceived superiority many moons ago. Just because your opinions don’t even include any concerns for anyone else, despite the history of corporations stuffing up our world, doesn’t mean they are non-existent.

    I don’t give a toss what you think of me, really I don’t! I’m not so bereft of friends or those who believe, that taking care of the total person(peoples, environment, cultures, health etc) is what the world needs – not more of your money driven lust for more wealth, regardless. Look at BP? How many times have you heard the CEO’s include the families of those 11 men who died? The big bloke, ‘just wants his life back’? How gross and insensitive – but typical! Not one person has been arrested yet!

    Ask the aboriginal people near Olympic Dam about their quality of life, and how uranium mining has affected them. You lot don’t give a fig for them – it’s money, money money! I reject that philosophy!We need to look at the whole nuclear fuel cycle, not just the end product! Be as offensive as you please! Doesn’t worry me one bit!

  134. @Liz45 – and John Bennetts

    You, Liz45 might like to consider the minimum requirements for demonstrating that anyone should go on taking any notice of what you say. Knowledge and the ability to understand when you lack it wouldn’t be a bad start. But perhaps the most important is that you actually pay attention to what other’s say.

    John Bennetts so patently doesn’t care about money in the way you refer to so abusively, or possibly at all. Indeed I have never even read him whinging about what he gets by transfer payments from other members of the community as you have done. So…..

    JB, the effort to get something into Liz’s mind that she is resistant to could be better spent on other things.

  135. @JULIUS – Another bloke! I don’t give a hoot what you say either? If people are trying to push nuclear power, they obviously haven’t paid too much attention to cost – either in dollars or what it costs other humans. You can shout from the roof tops, as far as I’m concerned! You show me where there’s been any concern for people from the beginning to end of the nuclear ‘fool’ cycle! Name the companies involved and their track record re public scrutiny, cleaning up their mess/es, aboriginal human rights etc. You blokes just think of money and then try and justify why it’s a good idea – I don’t! We’re like chalk and cheese!

    On all levels – I don’t approve of nuclear power, nor do I think it’s either necessary or a good idea for Australia. You think differently? Whatever!

  136. Liz, I know that I am wasting your time and mine, but your repeated derogatory comments about blokes = bad and, presumably, female = good indicate an unhealthy degree of bias.

    Add this gender bias to your quite clear bias against both facts and knowledge of any kind and you are actually causing the distaff half of the population much reputational harm.

    And, for the record, no – I am not as driven by the Almighty Dollar as you think. Again, you simply have made accusations without the slightest knowledge of the facts.

  137. @JOHN BENNETTS@JULIUS

    These are just a couple of the things in recent weeks, that have renewed my opposition to nuclear power – in fact, the whole nuclear industry – from mining to????

    TUESDAY JUNE 22nd 2010! THE WORLD TODAY! abc radio!
    100 PER CENT RENEWABLE BY 2020!
    http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2010/s2933567.htm

    “Researchers from Melbourne University and Beyond Zero Emissions have modelled, costed and tested whether introducing 100 per cent renewable energy in the next ten years is feasible.

    The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan was launched in Canberra this morning by Senator Judith Troeth from the Coalition, Independent senator Nick Xenophon and Greens Senator Christine Milne.”

    Go to the above link to read the rest, and to listen to the interview!

    GERMANS FORM HUMAN CHAIN IN NUCLEAR PROTEST! APRIL 24 2010
    http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2010/s2933567.htm
    BERLIN — Tens of thousands of Germans joined hands to form a human chain to protest against nuclear energy Saturday, two days before the 24th anniversary of the worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in Ukraine.

    “The chain is almost complete,” a police spokeswoman in the northern German region of Schleswig-Holstein told AFP.

    She estimated that more than 100,000 people took part in the human chain which stretched for 120 kilometres (75 miles) along the Elbe river through the port city of Hamburg. Organisers put the turnout at more than 120,000.

    Matthew Wright is the Executive Director of Beyond Zero Emissions. He says the ten year road map focuses on technologies that are already commercially available such as wind and large scale solar thermal.

    MATTHEW WRIGHT: The inherent design of a solar thermal plant is that it stores its heat away for night time. We’ve modelled that from our 12 solar regions across the country and our 23 wind sites that we get 100 per cent of our power needs, 365 days a year, 24 by seven.”

    MUCKATY TRADITIONAL OWNERS SPEAK OUT AGAINST NUCLEAR WASTE DUMP!

    “We want them to stop it! We don’t want them to come back and ask again!
    They should have done it right the first time. And we would have told them no, from the beginning.
    People from the Muckaty Land Trust say no to a nuclear waste dump.” Diane Stokes

    Sydney 27th July 2010 6.30PM Surry Hills.

    ABORIGINAL PEOPLE ARE AGAINST THE URANIUM MINE AT OLYMPIC DAM!
    “….the devastation caused by the Olympic Dam uranium mine to the Arabunna people.”
    At the BHP Billiton building, one protester, a former BHP employee, poured green slime outside the building to represent the destruction being caused in leaking uranium mines.”

    GreenLeft Number 844 – July 14 2010.

    Thirty odd years ago, I helped organise the first Hiroshima Rally in the city adjoining mine. The Minister of the Uniting Church participated, and was our guest speaker. We had a ‘die in’ in the main street outside the church. There has been nothing in the intervening years that has made me change my mind re the whole nuclear cycle – whether it’s safety, weapons, waste, mining, milling, enrichment etc – nothing! In fact, if anything, I’m even more against than then. There’s now Depleted Uranium weapons, and the ramifications of them are hideous.
    There’s enough weapons in the world, but nobody is even talking about dismantling any!

    I’ve read books such as, Nuclear Power, by Walt Patterson(I think)
    Just Testing
    The Menace of Atomic Energy – Ralph Nader
    Plus others! such as Only One Earth etc

    Asbestos-Work as a Health Hazard? What’s the connection I hear you ask?
    This was an ABC special broadcast made up of several different Background Briefing radio programs in 1977 – the journalist was Matt Peacock. He put the interviews in a book, and hence the above title. What it clearly illustrated, was, that those who were using the stuff, or employing people to mine the stuff, or transported it, or loaded it, like wharfies, had been dying and/or getting sick from this material. The thing that struck me then, and still to this day, was that those making money out of it knew how dangerous it was. In fact, the Navy had known since the 1930’s.

    Matt Peacock has since written another book – ‘The Killer Company’, about James Hardie.

    I’ve also heard a program on Radio National – Background Briefing(a couple of months ago) about another company, Gillard or ??? – same stroy! They knew, and let people get ill and die awful deaths.
    The association between the nuclear industry and the asbestos industry is the secrecy. The absolute lack of a conscience when there’s money to be made. Human beings are a commodity – their lives, loves, families are not important. It’s all about wealth, and lots of it!
    Lang Hangcock’s descendants are using money, gained from the horrific deaths of workers!

    I’ve read where up to 75% of uranium miners in underground mines died from lung cancer.(menace of atomic energy).
    I have no confidence in either politicians or mining companies or those pushing the nuclear industry to protect human beings, and other living creatures including rivers, oceans etc.

    My mate has asbestosis! He was a waterside worker, and can recall being in the ship where you couldn’t see across the ‘room’ due to the fibres floating around! The men were working in singlets and shorts – loading this stuff!

    I am 65 years old. From the time I was aware of the Hiroshima bomb and Nagasaki, I’ve taken an interest in this issue. I don’t want a nuclear world for my kids or grandkids. Yes, I get emotional – funny, that’s how love is! I’d say, that on my death bed I won’t be thinking of how much money BHP Billiton has made, or BP or Hardies – it will be the emotional things in life that will be important! I’ve seen and listened to over 40 yrs of politicians and others, speaking ‘rationally’ about the things that endanger the lives of others – like wars for example! They always make sure, that they are far away from the danger – the same applies to the nuclear industry. Far away!

    Govts can use the Anti-Terror Legislation to silence opposition. Howard introduced it by using the ‘gag’ and ‘guillotine’ and could use it again – whenever they please! I’m not going to make it easy for them!

    THERE ARE PLENTY MORE ARTICLES, INSTANCES ETC THAT TELL THE TRUE STORY ABOUT THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY. If you choose not to read them, so be it! I really don’t give a damn!

    People have been sacked for being whistleblowers, whether it was about Lucas Heights safety issues, or the invasion of Iraq, or another man who was charged with blowing the lid on lack of security at Mascot Airport! Cost him thousands of dollars, lost his job, his home etc!

  138. @ Liz45, Posted Monday, 19 July 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Odd selection of sources there from Liz. Beyond Zero Emissions has been named for the result they hope to achieve. Having determined the outcome, they are now in search of a mechanism. I wish them luck, I really do. The problem is that, even though I am engaged in construction of zero emission energy, I have little faith that progress come even close to 100% replacement of existing power plants by 2020, let alone provide for anticipated growth.

    ZCA – similar comment. Lofty goals, but to my mind, doomed to fall far short of their goal. If the alternatives are more coal or more but modern nuclear, I happen to be prepared to consider that nukes arepreferable to fossil fuels.

    Depleted uranium weaponry, which I do not advocate, are at least depleted. They thus contain less, not more, radioactivity than would be the case with native uranium. I am not sure just what the for and against situation is, but it is pretty hard to be FOR modern weapons of any type.

    Having worked in the electricity industry for a few decades, I have lost friends due to asbestos. It is not really where this thread was heading, but at least asbestos in all of its forms and uses has been outlawed in the NSW power generation industry since the early 1980’s, when it was also outlawed in the building industry generally, except under very specific circumstances.

    I will review the couple of links which Liz provided. Many thanks for them.

    .

  139. Ahh… now I see.

    The Beyond Zero Emissions folk and their friends at Zero Carbon Australia have decided as a matter of faith that, in addition to the direct costs of installing wind, solar thermal, etc at a huge cost, somebody else will provide $92,000,000,000 Ninety Two Billion Dollars worth of new high voltage transmission lines and switchyards to support this.

    They don’t propose to replace 100% of the electrical load – they propose to equal 50% of the current load, to add substantial transport load in the ofrm of electric cars, trains, etc. They also allow no increase in the number of consumers or even the historical 3% long term average growth in power consumption.

    In other words, for each 100 units of electrical energy consumed at present in Australia, then 10 years in the future, when we will be needing (that 3% growth) 134, these groups plan to provide only 50 units.

    Well done, ZPE and ZCA. I won’t be holding my breath waiting for this dream to be achieved. I may turn off my pool pump. Perhaps reduce my reverse cycle air conditioner. I’m not perfect, but just how I reduce the energy consumption by, for example, my roof water pump, is beyond me. I have, this past couple of years, reduced the incandescent light globes in my home and improved the insulation of windows by high tech curtains. But I cannot envisage a 2/3rds effective reduction domestically, any more than most industries will be able to achieve this within 10 years, if at all.

    This simply will not be achieved in my country, to save my planet, in my lifetime. That is what is needed.

    In effect, what ZPE and ZCA have said is that, flat out, Australia can achieve about 1/3 renewable power out of the propable 2020 demand.

    Thus, even the strongest proponents of renewable power admit that the best that they can do is only one third of that which is needed.

    I suggest that the next best option is for nuclear, Type III+ or better, generation should supplement the renewables and that coal powered generation should be phased out. This is quite possible by 2030 but effectively impossible by 2020.

  140. @JOHN BENNETTS – You can save energy by turning your air conditioner up or down, depending on the season. Use your pool pump when it’s cheaper (we’re all going to get those monitors aren’t we?)

    If we start acting smarter, and reduce our energy demand, combined with renewables, I can’t see why it can’t work. If we WANT it to work, and put the time and money into it, why not?

    May I suggest that you put Donald Rokke into your search engine; also Depleted Uranium; watch ‘Depleted Uranium, the doctor, and the dying children of Iraq’ and then research the effects on British ex-servicemen and women who were exposed to depleted uranium bombs in the 1991 invasion of Iraq. Their jobs were varied, but some just loaded the bombs onto the aircrafts etc. There have been many babies born in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo with genetic mutations, and also a marked increase in cancers. Investigations have shown alarming levels of radiation.

    This is not a world that I want, and I certainly don’t want it repeated here.

    Oooops! Sorry, I messed this up! I was distracted and had to go in a hurry! This bit belongs with the renewable energy article!

    TUESDAY JUNE 22nd 2010! THE WORLD TODAY! abc radio!
    100 PER CENT RENEWABLE BY 2020!
    http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2010/s2933567.htm“Matthew Wright is the Executive Director of Beyond Zero Emissions. He says the ten year road map focuses on technologies that are already commercially available such as wind and large scale solar thermal.

    MATTHEW WRIGHT: The inherent design of a solar thermal plant is that it stores its heat away for night time. We’ve modelled that from our 12 solar regions across the country and our 23 wind sites that we get 100 per cent of our power needs, 365 days a year, 24 by seven.”
    ****************
    I’m not apologising for having a different ‘slant’ on things than a lot of men. I don’t particularly like the world that men have ‘created’? I think there’s a better way!
    It can’t be denied, that men have all the power when it comes to these issues, and too many others. I don’t think history will show, that they’ve made the planet a better place to live! If that’s an unhealthy attitude? Tough! Men deserve the criticism that is owed to them. I don’t see many on these sites who’ve a vastly different point of view, or have learned from their bombastic control/s over almost everything! Don’t harshly judge me, look at ‘the form’?

    Men who acknowledge the past and the present, who understand the damage that has and is still being done, want change also. These are men who are OK in their own ‘skin’ without feeling a need to dominate, abuse and denigrate in order to fulfill some desire for superiority. It’s the men who denigrate womens’ views, without even attempting to understand them, or at least to acknowledge, that women like me have the same right to express them.
    Perhaps it’s because I spent two of my pregnancies vomiting my heart up almost every day for 9 months and the 3rd one – I had a life threatening condition. I don’t take my kids’ lives for granted, or their kids either, and I’m damned sure no greedy multinational corporate arrogant bastard is going to stuff up all my ‘hard’ work, or some paranoid power hungry insignificent politician/s either for that matter! I don’t want other peoples’ kids harmed either!
    There are lots of people who think like me!

    It’s imperative that we take control over what happens. I think it’s weak to just say it’s too hard, so we’ll just hand over all the decision making powers to them, and sit back and have a martini! It amazes me, that so many men, who like to think that they’re in control of their present, and have planned for their future and that of their family, are quite content to just allow it all to happen? I find this incredibly lazy! Not the actions of intelligent beings at all! Look after your kids; send them to good schools etc but not take part in a safe and healthy future, without empire building, or making wealthy people disgustingly more wealthy!
    What a cop out!

  141. John Bennetts: A cost of $92 billion is the wrong way to look at it; that’s creating a million new jobs! Just joking – the thread needs a bit of lightening up.

    As far as energy demand side – efficient homes, air conditioners and so on – I think it’s fair to say that for forty years since the energy crisis, a vast number of opportunities for demand reduction have been missed. Motorcars underwent a fuel-efficiency revolution in the 90s, and that’s about it (and much of that has been offset by the rise of 4WDs). Modern housing burns most of its energy just in making up for poor design, even though most of the passive heating and cooling technologies were mature centuries ago, and with emerging research and technologies since the 1970s, the majority of Australian homes could have dispensed with air conditioning years ago (I don’t have any AC in my home, nor do I miss it). Instead of stabilizing temperature, builders are flat out complying with the building codes and meeting the new architectural fashions, which are based on pretending that houses are not physical objects, just abstract “space” and “flow”. Having a few energy-rating stars on our washing machines and switching incandescent light bulbs doesn’t really amount to diddly.

    Isn’t it amazing that in the age of taxpayer subsidies of domestic photovoltaic cells, it took forty years for someone even to suggest painting roofs white?

    I believe the environmental lobby groups have been asleep at the wheel as far as demand side goes. And I think this is because they were too busy looking for the grand masterstroke that would transform all our power supply to renewable, making all energy usage suddenly free of any consequences whatsoever.

    Now that the discussion on supply side is coming down to earth a bit, and people begin to see that everything has costs, maybe now’s a good time to attempt some serious demand-side reform. Give supply reform a bit of breathing space.

  142. John Bennetts @ 7:48 pm has succinctly hit some of the most salient points, however anyone interested in a comprehensive dissection of the ZCA2020/BZE proposal should head over to Brave New Climate, where a crowdsourced analysis is in progress.

    @James McDonald, you’ve been missed. However, I think you’re being a little unfair with “environmental lobby groups have been asleep at the wheel as far as demand side goes”. My recollection is that many such groups have been pointing to the low-hanging energy efficiency fruit for quite some time; at least since the Lake Pedder and Gordon-below-Franklin dam days. Of course, advocating it and coming up with practical proposals to achieve it are two different things.

  143. Liz, you lose a lot of credibility every time you slip into a tirade aimed at men. You are a totally sexist sh_t – one of the most extreme examples of sexism that I have ever heard of, yet you somehow believe what you say.

    Lady, there are female engineers in the power industry, there are no reasons to discriminate.

    Now that I have this off my chest, you have not yet come close to justifying the increased transport load vcan be transferred to renewables, 50% of current power consumption can be transferred to renewables, natural growth can be transferred to renewables, yet somehow the maximum availability of renewables, as calculated by the converted, is about 50% of current national usage.

    Even with heroic demand management, which I doubt very much will happen, and substantial carbon price, which must happen, and everything else optimised, I do not see the current fossil carbon load being less than about 2/3rds of its current load.

    Unless, to your disgust and dismay, nuclear saves the day – about 10 x 880MW units by 2020 or thereafter and a similar number to follow soon after.

    Howard, the little, scheming, toad, had one thing right… start thinking of 25 nuclear power station sites.

    I am thinking of spreading them equidistant down the East Coast, to share the job opportunities fairly. Perhaps they would cost us a few golf courses on headlands, but so what! They look great, with all those well kept grounds and well-designed domes and chimneys. Kind of Yin and Yang of architecture.

  144. @JOHN BENNETTS – No, you’re just in a different world, that’s all! One, where you think you’re naturally superior – you certainly wouldn’t even think that I could have legitimate reasons for being a feminist – you’ll never read anything to even raise any questions? The news item on PM was exciting I thought. The people who are discussing this as a strong possibility don’t have your agenda – you favour nuclear power, and that’s it! They’re far more experienced and knowledgeable about these things than I, and I suspect, you also, although you’re too arrogant to admit it! You’re the one with the closed mind – yours is made up, and you’ll decry any alternative.

    So we disagree! So what? It matters not to me!

  145. Liz, we don’t disagree.

    You agree with yourself absolutely, to the exclusion of all other consideration.

    I, on the other hand, have changed my mind radically as I came to recognise the need for nuclear power. Unlike you, I also do not give a flying F what gender person I am sharing a discussion with.

    No, Liz – you do not even know what a disagreement is. The word is without meaning if there is no acknowledgement from the frozen mind that there is another perspective. Why, lady, do you spend your afternoons doing yourself and your causes such a disservice?

    Why?

    As for my supposed superior attitude or whatever – if you think that this comparison is true, so what? get used to your own insignificance. I am truly much humbler than you suspect, it is just the extreme comparison which you draw which seems to have upset you so much.

    You know… If the shoe fits…

  146. Welcome back, Mark and James. You spoke of energy efficiency as “low-hanging fruit”.

    Surely energy efficiency would be an early consequence of increasing the price of carbon? Consumers faced with a hefty increase in energy costs would start by reducing their consumption. Smaller cars, architected homes etc. Even schoolkids can participate by putting on a jumper instead of the heater.

    But would a movement to “reduce consumption” falter after achieving a warm feeling of forgiveness?

    This website (*) says that Australians and Australian industry consume 7.6 kW per capita of carbon-based thermal energy. Even if thrift could halve that, we’ld still have a long way to go. We dont want our sinners to feel forgiven before we have reformed their ways.

  147. Hi Roger: “Surely energy efficiency would be an early consequence of increasing the price of carbon?”

    Absolutely. Look at what we can do with computer technology when there’s a real financial incentive. A few major revolutionary leaps, but most of it was a long line of incremental improvements, driven by a voracious market appetite for faster cheaper more powerful computers. Ignoramuses call this “Moore’s Law” as if it were some dictate of nature. But there was nothing natural about the blood, sweat and tears that went into bringing us laptops which can do more than the NASA supercomputers of the 1980s.

    Of course, energy isn’t quite the same as computing — the number of joules required to heat a litre of water by 1°C doesn’t change no matter how you jiggle it — but I think you’d have to agree we’re a long, long way from any asymptotic limits on overall usage.

    A few campaigns to fit compact flourescent light bulbs just aren’t going to even get us started down that road. When you can say to an architect, “What about air flow?” and he looks at you strangely and asks if you’ve never heard of air conditioning;
    – when Australian apartment blocks have a separate AC device for every unit and tenants all turn them on during a 24°C day (it’s more like 30°C around the building, because ACs are not the cooling devices people imagine, they are heating devices with a local cooling effect on one side);
    – when Sydney-siders with Humvees won’t take the train or bus even if it’s on their front step because they think it’s uncouth to use public transport;
    – when Shell can do the sums and realize it’s cheaper to move petrol across NSW by roads running alongside freight railways, and 90 per cent of Sydney-Melbourne general freight doesn’t even consider using the rail or sea routes;
    – when BHP can’t even build its own bulk railways without having them partly nationalized by the ACCC for the sake of “competition”

    … well you know, we haven’t even begun. And it’s ludacris to try closing down perfectly good coal power stations before eking out the greatest possible efficiency from our consumption of them. Paying for an energy revolution is going to need lots of spare wealth, which will have to be paid for — and this will seem absurdly paradoxical to those not versed in economics — it will have to be paid for partly by coal exports and, at least initially, without the added burden of generating our own electricity from less-than-optimal sources.

    The good news is that nuclear power can in the long term fill the breach, at least once we get over the enormous capex hurdles. It will require international investment, lots of it. So don’t even think about scaring global investors away with a “super profits tax” on a cherry-picked set of the most profitable assets, raising perceptions — rightly or wrongly — of sovereign risk and “nationalization”.

    More good news, once Australia gets over its Luddite aversion to nuclear technology, there’s a barely tapped source of wealth in uranium exports and an untapped resource of nuclear waste dumps. And no, I don’t have a problem with it being in my backyard as long as you don’t feed me vegetables grown directly on top of it.

    And by the way, John Bennetts is telling the truth about his reluctant conversion to nuclear advocacy. I distinctly remember his earlier opposition to it, as well as the actual blog thread last year in which he announced he was changing his mind in the face of sheer weight of evidence. Evidence about the impossibility of some Bob Brown utopia of windfarms and solar collectors, some idyllic vision out of Aldous Huxley’s Island. (I called him rude on that occasion, but in hindsight he was just coming to grips with something he hadn’t wanted to believe until then.) And he knows a lot more about energy supply than I do.

  148. @JOHN BENNETTS – I don’t believe that changing your mind about something automatically gives greater credence to your new belief/s? I have many views that I haven’t changed all my adult life, but that doesn’t make them unimportant or trivial – such as against the invasion of sovereign countries in order to steal their resources; the right of women to have control over their own fertility and health; the right to a full free education regardless of financial status, and the right to live in a self sustainable country free of capitalism’s habit of allowing pollution to cause unclean air and all that it entails – contanimated food for example!

    The only thing that has changed in this country re the nuclear industry, is the quantity of uranium exported and the intention of the federal govt to impose a nuclear waste dump on aboriginal people! Nothing has eventuated to make me change my views about nuclear power – in this country there are renewable, self sustainable alternatives, and that is what I support – as do many others I might add!

    When I speak of the world and the role that men have played in its demise, I’m criticized? for it – but you haven’t shown any evidence as to why my views aren’t accurate. Almost every violent crime is perpetrated by men; particularly the ugliest of them; the suppression and oppression of women and girls – all laws, rules, attitudes, stereotypes of women and by men. Prove that this is not so, and I’ll apologise, but these are facts. I could list the crimes that have come to light or cases finalised just this last week to 10 days – none of the perpetrators were women.
    Then there’s wars, business operations that inflict suffering on the population/s via pollution etc, and the fact that there’s alternatives, but the profit margin wouldn’t be as high.
    Nuclear power is a good example of this, and the recent protest in Germany adds proof to this.
    Many men I know recognise this, and rather than act in a defensive or abusive manner, they speak out against these behaviours!
    It never occurs to you to even wonder what these sorts of environments do to the psyche of those who are on the receiving end? This doesn’t mean, that there aren’t ruthless or destructive women in the world, but when you look at the ‘big picture’ and what invades the lives of the majority, the answer is via men! Wars, prostitution, domestic violence, sexual assaults, pollution, greed, lust for power and all that involves, day to day discrimination/s etc. This is my reality – this is the world I live in, where I have to be very careful where I go and at what time of the day or night? This has been my reality all of my life, as it is for most women and girls that I know, and know of!

  149. Sorry Liz, but what you’re criticised for is statements like this:
    [“@JULIUS – Another bloke! I don’t give a hoot what you say either?”]
    How far do you think Julius would get if he said the same thing in reverse?

    You speak as though strength of feeling, and sheer volume of posts about those feelings, carry greater weight than knowledge and reasoning. You also speak as if every person who disagrees with you is complicit in violence against you. Most people just don’t agree with you about either of those beliefs. You mistake this disagreement for lack of understanding, so you repeat it again, and again, and again.

    You’re arguing from a different paradigm than the rest of us — a paradigm just as valid, maybe, but it’s not the paradigm the rest of us are using, so it’s not persuasive. And if it’s not persuasive, what’s the point?

  150. Liz45, you prattle on at length in an attempt to justify – to yourself – your view of the male role in society.

    For goodness’ sake, take a deep breath, turn off your chant for a minute and think: When you pre-determine the value of a comment, an action or a thought on the basis of the gender of the doer/speaker/thinker, then you are a sexist.

    You do not want your life played with on the basis of your gender any more than males like to be similarly offended against. However, by repeatedly and continually, without need or evidence, you blame the male half of the population for anything which you do not like, you are devaluing your own contribution.

    I challenge you to make no sexist remarks to the columns of Crikey for a month. I believe that, even if you accept the challenge, you will fail. Your defective nature in this regard runs too deep.

  151. James says that we have yet to get over enormous capex hurdles to establish nuclear electricity. How about some capex solutions?

    Obama’s administration is supporting nuclear establishment using “loan guarantees”. It strikes me that a stream of thus-guaranteed repayments spread over 60 years should offer any financier a blue-chip investment. That’s one solution.

    (er, friends, let’s reserve our fiercer passions for our common enemies …)

  152. @JAMES MCDONALD – “You’re arguing from a different paradigm than the rest of us — a paradigm just as valid, maybe, but it’s not the paradigm the rest of us are using”

    Just as valid you say? Well, you wouldn’t think so judging by the comments. Have you read the comments made by JOHN BENNETTS re Dr Helen Caldicott? Or did you just decide to ignore it, like you do other sexist comments made by men?

    The fact is, that most of the men on these sites react in an insulting manner when they disagree with women. John Bennetts attitude to Helen Caldicott is case in point; also his attitude to me JUST BECAUSE I disagree re nuclear power! it’s as though he thinks I’m at best, damned stupid for having this view, or, anyone with any intelligence believes that nuclear power is the answer, and anyone, particularly a mere woman is stupid for not ‘seeing the light’? Who came to my aid then? Certainly not you!

    You blokes, by your very attitude to me, only reinforce everthing I say, and yes, it is like living in a parallel universe – you live a different life, without the adverse effects! Actions to and about women won’t change until you do – you and your attitudes are part a huge part of the problem!
    Go and read some of the posts and the attitude to women by men who disagree with them! The attitude is of smart arsed mouthy blokes who think and act as though they’re AUTOMATICALLY superior! I reject that view and say so! End of story!

    @JOHN BENNETTS – You conveniently omit your own barbs, jibes and superior-type language in your deliberations. A sanctimonious and patronising slant to your language – look at how you reacted to Dr Caldicott! Take the rose coloured glasses off your own eyes first!

  153. I see no problem with my calling the Caldicott for what she is. She has been an affront to rational thought, right from my university days. Yes, she knows who I am.

    Nothing has changed to cause me to change my mind about her at all. She owes the world a huge apology for being so wrong-headed, obstinate, aggressive, stupid and for being wasteful of time and emotion.

    What, precisely, I should recant from this statement I have no idea. 40 years of being wrong does not somehow make one right.

  154. @JOHN BENNETTS – No but your sexist language was! In your opinion she’s all the things you say – in your opinion! That’s my point! No respect! Thank you’re naturally superior, and so have an inalienable right!

    Interesting story on ABC local radio, The World Today re the EPA in the US(environmental protection agency) and its ruling, that the use of the products re the oil spill are OK etc. The New York Senator interviewed was scathing in his attitude to the EPA – he said, that the EPA also said it was OK for the workers to keep on working around the 9/11 site, and now, 40,000 of them are sick.

    In Michael Moore’s documentary, ‘Sicko’ he covers the illnesses of about 4-5 of these people – cast aside with awful illnesses. The relevance I hear you ask? This is the same body that decides what the safe level of radiation etc is for the population re nuclear power etc. They’ve had this responsibility for as long as I can recall, and do a shitty job, always on the side of the polluters as they are now with BP! The books I have are riddled with their stuff ups, or to be more precise, their taking sides with big business, big polluters, to the detriment of any concern for the general population. They’re just damned lucky that the ramifications of their actions can’t be seen or tasted, such as cancers etc? No little ‘tags’ to tell what caused them! How convenient!

  155. Liz, the US version of the EPA has had a terrible time during the past ten years. Bush hollowed them out and tied their hands, denying them even the opportunity to treat CO2 as a pollutant.

    They are just getting back on their feet.

    It is no surprise that they made stuff-ups in the Bush era re the 9/11 site, if this has been the case.

    Regarding the cleanup by BP, I took the time a few weeks ago to check the MSDS of the dispersants that BP are using. I agree that they have not been tested for the type of use that is currently the case. There is a long and sad story yet to unfold regarding errors made before the failure and during the cleanup.

    It appears quite probable that the dispersant will result in many small particles of oil to be suspended in the ocean and digested by life of all types and sizes. Goodness knows what that will do to their livers, etc. Note that I am not just talking about cancer, which may or may not result.

    The next 5 years or more will bring with them a steady stream of researched papers and court cases, I expect, full of expert opinion on every aspect of BP thing, but the dispersant worries me most.

  156. Just watch: BP is going to be bailed out by the US and perhaps UK governments in some way, limiting damages claims etc, in effect underwriting the right of companies to drill first and worry about what to do if the well bursts later. Too big to fail, you see.

    If Obama could only see it, the unlimited size of really big companies is the best protection against that sort of irresponsibility. If civil law is allowed to work, independent of any concerns about driving BP into administration to pay its debts, then a mega-company is clearly the only thing (apart from the poor old US taxpayer and Treasury bonds) with the capacity to pay for the damages. Assuming of course that any amount of money can repair the catastrophe.

    As Roger Clifton noted earlier, when it comes to safety the nuclear power industry stands head and shoulders over the extraction of chemically volatile fossil fuels when it comes to safety and side effects.

    Don’t give big business any favours or any special treatment, is my suggestion. No selectively targetted “super profits” taxes which underwrite losses and punish success; and no “too big to fail” protection which undermines the very basis of creative destruction in capitalist free markets.

    With the right broad-based incentives, with no protection from civil damages or criminal negligence charges if they stuff up, and with the sort of finance instruments Roger suggests made available for all, in time industry will be able to build safe, efficient, low-emission power plants for Australia.

  157. @JOHN BENETTS – I agree. If you listen to the Senator’s argument, he believes that as the dispersant ‘sends’ the oil downwards, BP will make out that the problem isn’t too bad etc, but the damage down below the surface could last for hundreds of years in that area! Shocking isn’t it?
    I’ve read that the dangers of the chemicals in these dispersants are very serious, and the possibilites are very scary indeed. I was sent a collection of photos during the week, of the horrific damage, including thousands of dead fish, dead dolphins, and pelicans absolutely coated in oil. I found it very distressing to look at them. Their manner of death would’ve been pretty horrible.

    @JAMES MCDONALD – I would like to see BP’s assets frozen by the US govt, until the whole ‘rotten mess’ has been attended to. I include compensation to the families of the 11 dead men; compensation to those whose livelihood has been destroyed/finished, and the oceans/rivers attended to – for as many years as necessary. I’d stop the obscene salaries to the CEO’s and introduce legislation to prevent another situation like this. Barack Obama should withdraw his agreement for oil companies to be free of conducting more stringent environmental tests etc. At this time, access to special dispensation is still in operation. The ripple effect of this disaster is probably limitless! Like Bush, Obama talks tough for the media, and acts like a wimp in reality! It’ll happen again if this is allowed to continue!

  158. Did anyone see the David Letterman episode following Obama’s comment that he wanted to “know whose ass to kick”?
    [DL: President Obama is fed up with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. He wants to know whose ass to kick, which brings us to “President Obama Ass Kicking Simulation.”
    (photo): Barack Obama is seen standing in front of the White House.
    (voiceover and flashing subtitle): “PLACE ASS TO SCREEN NOW”
    (animation): The President kicks.]