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Energy admission: wind, solar to be cheapest by 2030

The Australian government’s chief energy forecasting body has published a dramatic revision of its cost estimates, predicting that onshore wind and solar PV will deliver the cheapest forms of energy by 2030 — with solar PV dramatically cheaper than all other energy forms by 2050.

The Australian Energy Technology Assessment (AETA) prepared by the government’s Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) slashes its previous estimates of the cost of a whole range of renewables technologies, and in some cases doubles the predicted cost of coal-fired generation in the decades to come — with or without the addition of carbon capture and storage.

Its estimates of the cost of gas generation are relatively unchanged, around $130/MWh, but in its most controversial conclusion is says that nuclear energy currently represents the cheapest form of energy — saying that its range of costs is between $55 and $100/MWh, even though the experience in the UK is that new nuclear requires tariffs of at least $220/MW to get built.

BREE’s Professor Quentin Grafton said in the report, prepared in conjunction with engineering group WorleyParsons, that by 2030 some renewable technologies, such as solar PV and wind, are expected to have the lowest LCOE of all of the evaluated technologies.

The results indicate that Australia’s energy future is likely to be very different to the present,” the report concludes. “This has profound implications for electricity networks, how energy is distributed and Australia’s ability to meet its targeted greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”

These are the first government-sponsored technology cost estimates published since the draft Energy white paper was released last December. That paper virtually ignored solar as a contributing element to Australia’s energy grid, but it now recognises that estimates for solar PV were wide of the mark, and its costs have fallen dramatically and would continue to do so (even though the report predicts no cost declines between 2020 and 2030).

The estimates for 2012, 2020, 2030 and 2050 are published below. The contrast with the December predictions — published at the bottom —  is informative.

BREE suggests that solar PV will be competing with onshore wind, biomass and, controversially, nuclear in Australia by the end of the decade, before emerging as the cheapest technology in subsequent years. Its estimates are for a midpoint of around $224/MW now, around $116/MWh by 2030 and a midpoint of $86/MWh by 2050, and as cheap as $70/MWh by 2020 and $30/MWh by 2050. Even brown coal, without a carbon price and CCS, is costed at around $100/MWh by 2020, nearly double that with a carbon price, and with CCS is costed between $150/MWh and $200/MWh, depending on the technology.

Its predictions for other renewable technologies may also be disputed by some technology developers.

A range of solar thermal technologies are appraised, with current costs estimated at more than $300/MWh, falling to around $200/MWh by 2025, but then making no further progress. Solar thermal developers, along with the International Energy Agency, believe costs will fall to around $100/MWh by the end of the decade. An Australian industry report released in June suggested costs of $120-$130/MWh could be reached.

The AETA report sees the average cost of onshore wind at $116/MW (although some are being built now in Australia for around $80/MW), and while it sees this falling to the low $90s/MW by 2025, it then predicts a gradual rise in costs, which may be disputed by the industry. It says offshore wind would cost around $194/MW now, and be virtually unchanged out to 2050.

In wave power, where Australian developers predict costs coming down to around $100/MWh by the end of the decade, BREE suggests it will still cost around $222/MW by 2025, but then achieve no further cost reductions over the next 25 years.

Geothermal (hot rocks) is expected to deliver costs of around $215/MWh in 2025, and then gradually increase in costs to $222/MWh, while hot sedimentary aquifer’s will cost around $154/MWh from around 2020 and also increase in costs. Geothermal developers have previously predicted costs of around $100/MWh, although they have gone a bit quiet on these predictions recently due to a lack of progress.

Among the non-renewable technologies, BREE said combined cycle gas (and in later years combined with carbon capture and storage) and nuclear power offered the lowest LCOE over most of the projection period, and they remain cost competitive with the lower cost renewable technologies out to 2050.

However, its forecasts for nuclear are astonishing, given the experience in the UK, which already has nuclear plants and is desperate to build more. The BREE report suggests the cost for new-build nuclear in 2012 in Australia would be less than $100/MWh, rising slightly to around $126/MWh in 2050. Last week, the Financial Times reported that French nuclear giant EDF is asking for ÂŁ165/MWh — or $250/MWh — to build the Hinkley Point project, and a French government committee estimated the ongoing costs of nuclear plants already built would be around $88/MW by 2017, and that does not include the capital costs. The BREE report says decommissioning costs were not factored in to its calculations.

 

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  • 1
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    nuclear energy currently represents the cheapest form of energy — saying that its range of costs is between $55 and $100/MWh, even though the experience in the UK is that new nuclear requires tariffs of at least $220/MW to get built.”

    This is essentially a function of private sector investment time horizons being too short.

  • 2
    Geoff Russell
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    The South Koreans are building 4x1400MW nuclear plants in the UAE, expected to be complete by 2020.

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/UAE_nuclear_power_inf123.html

    The total earnings to the KEPCO is estimated at $40 billion, half to build and half to jointly run for 60 years … lets add $20 billion for the UAE joint operations bill.

    What’s that in dollars per megawatt hour? By my calculations with a 90% capacity factor (which the South Koreans are exceeding) this is about $22/MWh

    Have I missed anything?

  • 3
    lindsayb
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Bizarre that they feel free to clain that nuclear is the cheapest when decommissioning costs were not factored in to the calculations. I am sure that they didn’t factor in the cost to taxpayers if it blows up either, which is now estimated at hundreds of billions for Fukushima. You’d get a lot of renewable energy for that money, not to mention the thousands of square km of prime agricultural and urban land that become uninhabitable in the event of a disaster.

  • 4
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    decommissioning costs not included’ is disputed, see comments at reneweconomy.com.au/2012/canberra-concedes-wind-solar-to-be-cheapest-energy-by-2030-82930. The LCOE figures given are similar to those in a 2010 report by the IEA, which definitely do incorporate decommissioning costs.

  • 5
    David Hand
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Well this is what we want - renewable energy prospering because it is competitive in its own right, not because it is being pushed on us by eco-fascists with an anti-growth agenda. I hope the publishers of the report are not eco-fascists.

  • 6
    David Hand
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Well this is what we want - renewable energy prospering because it is competitive in its own right, not because it is being pushed on us by eco-fas cists with an anti-growth agenda. I hope the publishers of the report are not eco-fas cists

  • 7
    John Bennetts
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Parsons Brinkerhoff have runs on the board when it comes to engineering, particularly power generation. They are true experts, with international stature.

    A single author, one with a history for favouring PV come what may has decided to pluck a figure out of his bottom, call it British and use it to wave away all opinion and knowledge to the contrary.

    Giles, we have come to expect a one-eyed anti-nuke view from you, but please at least recognise that, if this type of brain-dead comment came from someone opposed to your point of view, you would be the first to argue that a single, unrelated fact is not sufficient reason to counter expert opinion.

  • 8
    John Bennetts
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    There are half a dozen references to costs per MW in this article, where context suggests that what was intended was cost per MWh.

    The on-line version of the article should be corrected asap.

  • 9
    John Bennetts
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Is the ABARE report available on line? If so, how about a link?

  • 10
    Owen Gary
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    @John Bennetts,

    Are you a yellow cake salesman??

  • 11
    lindsayb
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Lots of US plant owners are asking for 20 year licence renewals to allow them time to save more for decommissioning, which they say will cost them more than they have budgeted.
    As machinery ages, it becomes less reliable, so I guess if you extend the licence for long enough, the plant will blow up and become a taxpayer problem, which would save the operator the cost of decommissioning it too. It’s economically rational for the operators to do this when their liability is less than decommissioning costs.

  • 12
    Owen Gary
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    *Cost of mining uranium.
    *Cost of enrichment.
    *Cost of Transport.
    *Cost of running & especially maintaining a nuclear facility.
    *Cost of Safely disposing spent nuclear fuel rods.
    *Cost to decomission a nuclear plant like that of Calder Hill in the UK which will take over 100yr’s.

    As opposed to the initial sourcing and set up costs of renewables, I’m no expert but common logic would suggest renewables win hands down in the long run despite the initial subsidies.

  • 13
    Microseris
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Eco facists! It is sad that some seek to denigrate environmentalists, for simply caring about the impacts of current economic policies on nature.

    At least its not the infinite growth on a finite planet fantasy foistered on us by neoliberalism economics. A ponzi system of capitalism which suggests a magic pudding of resources can sustain infinite growth without leaving the earth a barren core.

    Surely this is a self evident truth obvious to even conservatives.

  • 14
    David Hand
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Micro,
    Your view that those to care about the planet are written off by some, such as me, as eco-fas cist is an eco-fas cist view and not what I’m saying.

    Eco-fas cists are people who have adopted a fundamentalist position regarding climate change and have dedicated their lives to forcing the world to live as they believe it should. This does not describe the average environmentalist.

    The issue with this report is that it is so dramatically optimistic that renewables are going to save the world, something I would like to see, that one must at least ask who the author is. If it was authored by members of the Australian Greens, Greenpeace or WWF, for example, the veracity of the report would be much diminished.

    I’ve seen your “infinite growth on a finite planet” idea doing the rounds for some time. It has that superficial appeal to people who are flirting with the “new age, evil corporations are killing us” brigade. It doesn’t recognise that growth in the in the developed world is becoming virtual and it doesn’t recognise that Earth’s resources come from the sun which for the purpose of this discussion is essentially infinite.

  • 15
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Owen Gary, working out what wins in the long run is precisely what LCOE (Levelised Cost Of Energy) is designed for. Accordingly, the conclusion of your ‘common logic’ is at odds with the research outlined in the article. One reason for this (among many) is that, full lifetime considered, renewables need a lot more mining per unit of electricity generated than nuclear.

  • 16
    dunsford Bert
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Ahhhh…the old chestnut wind power etcetera, what a load of codswallop, easy to say but in what 18 years who knows what the future holds, fusion etc, so don’t get conned. solar will be the most expensive means of producing electricity and to keep up with the base load of Sydney (todays load) one would need all those lovely wind producing “fans” stretching from Sydney to Cairns. It seems like the Y2K thing all over again. snake oil merchants and freaking carpetbaggers!!

  • 17
    rohan
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    @David, earth’s resources come from the sun…riiiiight so by that logic the sun is constantly giving the earth extra mass allowing it to grow with us. You are a complete lunatic.

  • 18
    John Bennetts
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Owen Gary (3:08pm, above):

    Owen, I am certainly not a yellowcake salesman. Why do you ask? Want to buy some?

  • 19
    helen caldicott
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    This is ridiculous, it costs now between 12 and 15 billion dollars to construct a new reactor in the US, while the tax payers cover the uranium enrichment, the Price Anderson Insurance Act. The nuclear industry is heavily subsidised as it constructs the reactors themselves. I refer to the second chapter of Nuclear Power is Not the Answer. Utilities have run out of money to cover all the costs of decomissioning, the cost of dry cask storage is very expensive, let alone the transportation of radioactive waste to a yet to be determined central respository and the ongoing costs to store this toxic material isolated from the ecosphere for one million years which the US EPA requires. The US has now accumulated over 70,000 tons of high level civilian radioactive waste and this does not include similar amounst of military waste.

  • 20
    John Bennetts
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    @ LindsayB:
    Quote: “Lots of US plant owners are asking for 20 year licence renewals to allow them time to save more for decommissioning, which they say will cost them more than they have budgeted. As machinery ages, it becomes less reliable, so I guess if you extend the licence for long enough, the plant will blow up and become a taxpayer problem, which would save the operator the cost of decommissioning it too. It’s economically rational for the operators to do this when their liability is less than decommissioning costs.”

    Wrong in many ways.

    Operators in USA and elsewhere have adopted life extension policies for the same reasons that power station operators world-wide keep older plant in service and some folk keep cars rather than scrap them after a decade… cost.

    The power industry in USA, Germany and elsewhere contributes to funds which have been established for spent fuel storage. The US funds are now so large that there is pressure to wind back the contributions. The industry is self funding, which is unlike the wind and fossil fuel industries, which leave old plant and untreated waste everywhere they exist. Ash dams, abandoned wind farms, atmospheric pollution, polluted rivers and waterways… the list is endless. The common accusation that the nuclear power industry does not manage its own waste is in fact daibolically wrong, because in fact, they are the ONLY power generating industry which does do so.

    Google “abandoned wind farms” or “abandoned solar power station” to see plenty of examples. For example, (add the WWW) naturalnews.com/034234_wind_turbines_abandoned.html and (add the WWW) webecoist.momtastic.com/2009/05/04/10-abandoned-renewable-energy-plants/

  • 21
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Renewables essentialy subvert the grid by decentralised production.
    Conventional power stations use absolutely massive amounts of capital with multi decade payback requirements.
    So the grid and it’s captive consumers, in order for those financial arrangement to made secure, must have no choice or competition from the decentralised production of renewables.
    Remember, absolutely massive amounts of investment can certainly afford to buy comments.
    Sorry posters for the torrent of yellowcake like incontinence this post will generate.
    Will it be cash for comment or you know who” would say something like that now wouldn’t he?”
    And no I didn’t say the word prostitution. That would be provocative.

  • 22
    Microseris
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    @ David Hand, I think I’m with Rohan on this one. Anyone who thinks activities like mining can go on forever is a fool. Former Treasury boss Ken Henry was quoted in Fairfax today -In a speech in Canberra this month, he warned it was not ”fanciful to imagine that before the end of this century Australia will be importing some of the raw materials it is [at present] exporting in volume”.

    Like I said fool.

  • 23
    John Bennetts
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    Helen Caldicott”, is that really you? Come to grace Crikey with your presence?

    Those who really do want to understand the story about nuclear power, from both sides, can do a lot worse that reading “Why Vs Why Nuclear Power”, published by Pantera Press. It presents both sides of the discussion, written by experts Professor Ian Lowe (Against) and Professor Barry Brook (For) in language that everybody can understand.

    Those whose minds are already made up may choose to read “Helen’s” reference.

  • 24
    David Hand
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I thought an observation that a lot of energy constantly arrives from the sun and that it will go on for billions of years is a reasonable one and the idea that humans will harness it to meet their energy needs in the future is at least realistic. The view that growth cannot be infinite is attractive in a superficial way but not as self evident as some would like it to be.

    The fact that the “growth is not sustainable” view is used to actively subvert growth today reveals it as a tool of eco-fas cists.

    You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.

  • 25
    helen caldicott
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    I write to clarify my previous post.
    The cost of enriching the uranium needed for nuclear reactors and hence nuclear power is, in the US, paid for by the government (therefore the taxpayers). The Price Anderson Insurance Act — again paid for by the US government – compensates the nuclear industry in the event of an accident and covers some but not all property damage. This cost of this coverage, which is of course footed by the American taxpayers, is tremendously expensive and a cost that could not be borne by private industry alone . The point here is that if nuclear power is pursued in this country, the Australian government (and hence the taxpayers) would be looking at the same considerable cost, as well as those associated, as noted in my previous post, with the eventual costs of decommissioning; dry cask storage of nuclear waste and/or the transportation of the waste to the some as-yet-to-be-determined central respository.
    Thus the report’s conclusion that nuclear energy would be the cheapest alternative energy source in Australia is a total furphy – a fantasy in Martin Ferguson’s mind’s eye.
    A detailed discussion of the costs of nuclear power can be found in my book, Nuclear Power is Not the Answer (MUP, 2006)

  • 26
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    The mouthpiece for this piece of Futurism said on ABCTV’s Midday Report today that opposition to nuclear was “ideological”. “One hand tied behind our back”, he harrumphed…

    That should give the lie to the academic pretensions of this report.

    The sheer futility of long-range prediction of power costs by technology (or any other parameter) should be plain to anyone not suffering terminal Parkinson’s Disease. Note that we’ve had a “dramatic” revision by this august body’s predictions since…December 2011…

    Well frack me dead…8 months is a long time in a corporatist think tank.

    There seems to be little awareness either of the falling price of coal, driven down by the crashing price of gas. The near to medium term looks like a fossil fuel bonanza, as I’ve been saying for years. As for “cheap” solar and wind, what stupidity…both are as they currently stand marginal, unreliable, redundant, expensive and dependent on existing fossil fuel/nuclear and hydro generation.

    This report illustrates how objectivity is traduced in the corporate state: a corporate university entity at the service of a desperate government trying to revive dying climate millenarianism…

  • 27
    drsmithy
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t recognise that growth in the in the developed world is becoming virtual and it doesn’t recognise that Earth’s resources come from the sun which for the purpose of this discussion is essentially infinite.

    Uh huh. Iron, copper, etc, come from the Sun ?

    I thought an observation that a lot of energy constantly arrives from the sun and that it will go on for billions of years is a reasonable one and the idea that humans will harness it to meet their energy needs in the future is at least realistic. The view that growth cannot be infinite is attractive in a superficial way but not as self evident as some would like it to be.

    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/can-economic-growth-last/
    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/04/economist-meets-physicist/

  • 28
    Liamj
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Helen Caldicott for bring some facts to the debate. The BREE cost estimates for nuclear are ludicrously low, anyone would think the Minister for Flogging Oz Off had supplied them!

  • 29
    Stickey
    Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    I am hearing solar PV can be very dangerous if you are up on your roof getting a tennis ball, particularly in wet weather. Also the fire authorities are keeping “mum” about hosing down houses laden with active solar panels. No pole fuse available !! Engineers and insurers are very interested.

  • 30
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Of course Iran only wants nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
    And there is no solar advantage in an essentially desert country for renewables.
    These are nonsense arguments promoted by certain interests who rely on vast nunbers of city based consumers or captive customers for the paying off of massive investments.
    Decentralisation coupled with sustainability threatens the “Bright lights of the city” idol worshiped by certain posters who are blind to the financial manipulation of the markets.
    Who beleives that massive mortgage debt has anything to do with housing?
    Conventional power generation similarly has everything to do with debt and not much to do with power supply.
    All over the world the city grows at the expense of the country, The late Frank Devine called it “Metropolitanism” and in an “all roads lead to Rome” thought it was marvellous.
    Cities, are, like Rome and Babylon, sick and unsustainable and the Grid is part of the disease.

  • 31
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Rome and Babylon, testing for moderation, By Crikey there is something cretinous happening here!

  • 32
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Apparently, suggesting that cities and their grids and centralised power generation facilities are unsustainable is something to be moderated.
    Or, that this unsustainablility is a direct result of manipulative financial schemes dependent upon
    Captive” consumers, is something to be moderated.
    Or, referring to Biblical prophecies concerning the collapse of unsustainable city regimes which exploited their captive populaces, is something to be moderated.
    Arguments which go directly to the argument between renewables and conventional power generation is something to be moderated.
    Quite, simply moronic.

  • 33
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    LiamJ, you choose to believe Helen Caldicott over BREE at your peril.

    decarbonisesa.com/2011/06/16/your-friday-fearmonger-courtesy-of-helen-caldicott/

    monbiot.com/2011/04/04/evidence-meltdown/

  • 34
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Crikey” moderates “Christ” and all is revealed on the religious prejudice front.

  • 35
    jeebus
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    The BREE report presents an inaccurate comparison by not factoring in the decommissioning costs for nuclear.

    In 2005, the British Nuclear Decommissioning Authority estimated the cost of decommissioning their sites at ÂŁ55.8 billion. However in 2006 the NDA reported that the cost of cleaning up existing waste was higher than previously thought, and gave a new estimated decommissioning cost of about ÂŁ72 billion over a 100 year period.

    Nuclear is not getting cheaper, and the decommissioning costs are always heavily underestimated.

    If you look at current trends, solar technologies are dropping in price every year, even disregarding the global moves to put a price on carbon emissions.

    Also, where are we going to hire all the nuclear technicians needed to set up a nuclear industry in Australia? Import them all from France? They already have a shortage of them. Training Australian electricians to install and maintain solar panels is more realistic, cheaper, and creates more jobs for locals.

    Then you have national security issues. I’m not just talking about how much safer a decentralised power grid is in terms of terrorist attacks, bombings, or sabotage.

    Many people have no idea how close Japan came to losing Tokyo last year.

    In 2012, Japan’s Prime Minister was interviewed about the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and has said that at one point Japan faced a situation where there was a chance that people might not be able to live in the capital zone including Tokyo and would have to evacuate. He says he is haunted by the specter of an even bigger nuclear crisis forcing tens of millions of people to flee Tokyo and threatening the nation’s existence.

    Kan said, “If things had reached that level, not only would the public have had to face hardships but Japan’s very existence would have been in peril”.

    That convinced Kan to “declare the need for Japan to end its reliance on atomic power and promote renewable sources of energy such solar that have long taken a back seat in the resource-poor country’s energy mix”.”

    Japan has entrapped itself with nuclear. There are few alternatives for them. And while it makes sense for Australia to continue exporting uranium, it would be folly for us to ignore their lessons. The massive long term government investments required to set up an Australian nuclear industry would trap us, and force us down a path from which there is no return.

    Why would we chain ourselves to nuclear when the numbers are telling us that lower cost, safer, cleaner, and renewable alternatives exist?

    Renewables can be rolled out gradually, are only getting cheaper, and we are perfectly placed to take advantage of them.

  • 36
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Capitalists have an interest to deceive and oppress the public”, wrote Adam Smith.
    Tens of billions of dollars for a nuclear power station, lots of slavering capitalists here I should think.
    Any deceiving and oppressing going on in this debate? By power station promoting posters perhaps?

  • 37
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    @Jeebus, see my comment at 2:42 pm yesterday - credible estimates at a similar level to BREE’s do include decommissioning costs.

  • 38
    lindsayb
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    @ John Bennetts
    “common accusation that the nuclear power industry does not manage its own waste is in fact daibolically wrong, because in fact, they are the ONLY power generating industry which does do so”

    Is this why there is 30 years of spent fuel rods in almost every nuclear power station spent fuel pool in the world, even though the spent fuel pools were only designed to hold rods until they were cool enough to dry cask? Even though the fuel rods in some fuel pools are packed in much closer together than they were designed to be? All part of the “plan”? A possible prompt criticality in Fukushima SPF3 and a full SPF4 teetering 5 stories above ground in a seriously damaged building should give the nuclear industry some cause for concern about the past management of their waste.

    The only countries in the world that have got this anywhere close to “managed” are Norway and Sweden. Everywhere else looks to be leaving a financially and environmentally toxic legacy for future generations to inherit.

  • 39
    Liamj
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    @ Mark Duffett - you claim low costs for nuclear, but with what arrangements for long term storage of our existing and growing pile of nuclear waste? Cos current practices of simply stockpiling waste at reactors is nutso, you recognise that don’t you? If not, please attempt to justify the perched spent fuel pool at Fukushima.
    Reprocessing is a fiction, sea dumping is harder to get away with these days, and ‘depleted uranium’ munitions just don’t disperse enough of the stuff, so .. what you gonna do with the waste?

  • 40
    John Bennetts
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    @ LindsayB:

    Spent fuel rods in concrete casks ARE managed wastes… in fact, they are stored fuel for future fast breeder reactors, but that’s another story.

    CO2 emissions, polluted water and polluted soil from fossil fuelled power stations are NOT managed wastes. On a cradle to grave analysis, nuclear is far ahead of renewables of all kinds when it comes to air, soil and water waste, resource usage and land useage.

    It’s sometimes difficult to get this across to the unwilling and uncomprehending public, but if any other energy technology is assessed against nuclear on the basis of safety or environmental standards, they are all found wanting, with the possible exceptions of leg powered bicycles.

  • 41
    jeebus
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    @Mark Duffett, if that is the case then perhaps nuclear may be somewhat price competitive with renewables over the next 20 years.

    However, the point still stands that the cost trend of renewables is going down, while the cost trend of nuclear is not.

    It would take Australia more than a decade to set up a nuclear energy industry if there was immense bipartisan commitment, by which point we would be within a stone’s throw of 2030, at which point we would have an inflexible, heavily centralised national energy market controlled by a small number of large power companies.

    Would these giants then exert pressure on the government of the day to protect them from the more competitive, efficient, and cheaper renewables industry? It’s happened in the past.

    As we have seen in Germany, when electricity demand goes up on a hot summer’s day, solar panels bring additional supply onto the market, cutting the peak off the spot price for electricity. This electrical ‘liquidity’ benefits every energy user, even those without solar panels on their roof.

    Let’s not forget the fact that uranium is an exhaustible resource that is subject to speculative manipulation on global markets (take a look at Uranium prices in 2006).

    Investing in a nuclear industry would push the burden of energy insecurity onto our grandchildren. Investing in renewables instead would see Australia as completely energy independent and freed from future global conflicts over dwindling fossil fuel resources.

  • 42
    John Bennetts
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, Jeebus.

    You have stated that German experience is for PV to cut the peak off the spot price for electricity on a summer’s day. That is a long way from saying that PV will do this job every summer’s day, or even most summer days.

    What then about the other three seasons? What about night time? What about winter cold and rain?

    The answer, also from German experience, is that neighbouring countries are relied upon to provide secure supplies, whether from coal (Austria, Poland), nuclear (Sweden, France), hydro (Norway, Sweden) or wind (forget wind - if the wind was blowing, Germany might not backup power, which it does when the wind is not blowing. The Netherlands and Denmark’s wind will be idle when Germany’s is, so they are all in similar trouble when a stable High sits on top of Europe.).

    There is a huge distance yet to travel before the Germans can be held up as a success. Certainly, the final vote will not be possible before 2030 or beyond. Are you willing to wait or operate on the basis of optimistic guesswork in the face of climate change and declining economic circumstances (Germany’s, not Australia’s - we are doing OK pending change of government some time next year, after which all bets will be off - there’s no way to say how Australia will fare under an innumerate, policy-free government led by a very publicly self-confessed liar)

    The German experiement has certainly cost hundreds of billions of dollars thus far and has resulted in many more lignite (brown coal) and natural gas stations being operated, with plans for more still.

    Be very careful what you ask for. It may come parcelled up with a whole raft of things which you do not want. I, on the other hand, prefer to consider all the available options by which to ensure an energy-rich and thus prosperous Australia. I have no desire for my grandkids to have to sit shivering in the dark in 2040 because as a nation, we stuffed it up in 2012.

  • 43
    izatso?
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Yes, it is neccessary to enslave our grandchildren. Too. Deliberate, Malice a’Forethought, Pre-Emptive …..

  • 44
    Owen Gary
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    The only reason the US want to encourage more reactors in this country is so their subsiduaries like “Pangea Resources” can dump the worlds nuclear waste in our backyard, this has been known for a long time, yet this discussion is quietly averted.

    Their world class method of disposal (dig big holes in the ground in the outback & dump it in there)

    As already mentioned Sweden & the Nordic countries are the only countries storing this toxic waste properly, but their scientists are still very apprehensive of what the future holds.

    The nuclear industry is very reluctant to die, it would rather see humanity suffer from more Chernobyl & Fukuishimas, any guesses as to the level of radiation in our atmospere from these disasters & other poorly run facilities that save money by reducing safety measures??

    At best there is 50 years worth of uranium to fuel current nuclear plants without the addition of new plants being added. It then takes over 100 years to decomission these plants & during all this time we have to put our faith in Corporations like that of the ones that owned & run Fukuishima to make sure that all safety guidlines are applied. Only total morons would tread this path again, what planet are we on? because it wont be this one for much longer.

  • 45
    Owen Gary
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    The only reason the US want to encourage more reactors in this country is so their subsiduaries like “Pangea Resources” can dump the worlds nuclear waste in our backyard, this has been known for a long time, yet this discussion is quietly averted.

    Their world class method of disposal (dig big holes in the ground in the outback & dump it in there)

    As already mentioned Sweden & the Nordic countries are the only countries storing this toxic waste properly, but their scientists are still very apprehensive of what the future holds.

    The nuclear industry is very reluctant to go away quietly into the night, it would rather see humanity suffer from more Chernobyl & Fukuishimas, any guesses as to the level of radiation in our atmospere from these disasters & other poorly run facilities that save money by reducing safety measures??

    At best there is 50 years worth of uranium to fuel current nuclear plants without the addition of new plants being added. It then takes over 100 years to decomission these plants & during all this time we have to put our faith in Corporations like that of the ones that owned & run Fukuishima to make sure that all safety guidlines are applied. Only total morons would tread this path again, what planet are we on? because it wont be this one for much longer.

  • 46
    CHRISTOPHER DUNNE
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    LIAMJ, using the name Helen Caldicott and facts in the same sentence is an injustice to language, rational thought and intellectual honesty.

    How’s the 900,000 deaths from Chernobyl looking Helen?

    Talk about making up your own facts and sprouting the most egregious nonsense.

    Anyone listening to Caldicott is reinforcing their own limited understanding, and certainly not not getting facts.

    Serial fabricators with a barrow to push are hardly likely to give anyone facts, and she’s the supreme example of it.

  • 47
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    LiamJ, it’s BREE (and the IEA) that claim low costs for nuclear, not (just) me, decommissioning costs or no.

    The best arrangement for our nuclear ‘waste’ is to use it as feedstock for Generation IV reactors. These are not a ‘fiction’, the components have all been successfully demonstrated. They would amplify the energy extractable from fissionables (including our current waste, which alone is enough to keep us going for 700 years) by orders of magnitude, sufficient to power our entire civilisation for millennia (which also addresses Jeebus’ energy insecurity concerns).

  • 48
    CHRISTOPHER DUNNE
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    And it’s always good to read the caveats, a key AETA statement that everyone needs to understand: (read Barry Brooks’ take here https://theconversation.edu.au/low-carbon-electricity-must-be-fit-for-service-and-nuclear-power-is-8605)

    Projected LCOE does not necessarily provide a reliable indicator of the relative market value of generation technologies because of differences in the role of technologies in a wholesale electricity market. The value of variable (or intermittent) power plants (such as wind, and solar) will depend upon the extent to which such plants generate electricity during peak periods and the impact these plants have on the reliability of the electricity system. Unlike dispatchable power plants (such as coal, natural gas, biomass, and hydroelectric) – which are reliant on some form of stored energy (e.g. fuels, water storage) – wind and photovoltaic power plants do not, typically, include energy storage.

    To cater for sudden, unpredictable, changes in the output of variable power plants, it is necessary to operate responsive, dispatchable power plants (e.g. hydro, open-cycle gas turbines) in a back-up role to maintain the overall reliability of the electricity system. As a result, LCOE by technology is not the only factor considered when deciding what type of electricity generation plant to construct.

  • 49
    lindsayb
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    @ mark duffett
    I would love to see some good quality information about Gen 4 reactors. Everything I have been able to find suggests that they are still beset with major design issues, and that no working reactor yet exists.
    If they can be proven to be safe, and will burn the leftovers from current reactors, there would be an argument for building them just to get rid of all the current waste stockpiles
    I am deeply suspicious though. They would need to be a couple of orders of magnitude safer than the current designs, which were sold to us as safe, and have an approx 1/75 chance of major melt down at around halfway through their operational lifespan.

    @ christopher dunne
    The work of a large cohort of scientists and doctors in the chernobyl area suggests that the 900K early deaths as a result of chernobyl is probably an underestimate. Recent findings regarding genetic damage to the children in the area also suggests that things are getting worse for them, not better, with much higher levels of heritable genetic damage being observed than was predicted. Fukushima kids are not doing too well either, with 36% having thyroid lumps inside a year of the accident, the director of Iwase general hospital Sukagawa city Fukushima finding 6 in 10 of the children under 12 at his hospital having diabetes, and reported increases in stroke, heart attack, bleeding disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, miscarriage and a big drop in birth rate. Just because the IAEA/WHO and conflicted government agencies say there is no problem does not make it so.

  • 50
    izatso?
    Posted Thursday, 2 August 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Maintenance ? Costly, Boring …… Next! C.Y.A. V.Important, Prioritise ….. De-Commissioning ? V. Expensive, Externalize, Problem for Someone Else’s Children. ……. Emotive ? Certainly. Un-Truthfull ? Wish to Hell it Were …….

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