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Nov 19, 2009

The nuclear option: too slow, too costly

It’s not radioactivity or scare campaigns that are the nuclear industry's biggest problem, it's the maths: the numbers show that for decades to come, it will offer less and less of a solution to climate change, and simply takes too long and costs too much to develop.

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The spruikers for nuclear energy never say die. Climate change has given them a whole new lease of life. No-emission nuclear power should, they say, be part of Australia’s response to climate change. This week ANSTO chief Ziggy Switkowski said we should aim for 50 nuclear plants by 2050.

It won’t happen until the ALP fundamentally changes its policy on nuclear power. The Coalition is too scarred by their experience in the last election, when John Howard’s flirtation with the debate led to a Labor scare campaign about nuclear reactors in every backyard. Alas, that wasn’t quite how the right-wing media hoped the issue would play out when the Switkowski Report was released in 2006.

Still, hope springs eternal in Liberal hearts. In Tuesday’s joint partyroom meeting, Julie Bishop pointed out that “19 out of 20” G20 countries are pursuing nuclear power. Australia, self-evidently, is the nuclear laggard.

Tomorrow we’ll look at just how much it would cost for Australia to seriously embrace nuclear power as a response to climate change. Today, let’s consider whether the rest of the world is going nuclear in the way that proponents suggest.

First, some bald numbers taken from the German Government-commissioned World Nuclear Industry Status Report from August this year.

There are currently 435 reactors operating worldwide, nine less than in 2002. There are 52 reactors listed as “under construction” (more on that later), down from a peak in 1979 of 233 and 120 in 1987. No new plants were connected anywhere in 2008. The last plant to come online was the Romanian plant Cernavoda-2, which took 24 years to build. Reactors now provide slightly less power worldwide than they did two years ago.

By way of context, the 2 GW of nuclear power connected in 2006-07 was equal to one tenth of the wind power installed globally in 2007. More than double the amount of wind power was installed in the U.S. alone in 2007.

Clearly the nuclear industry is yet to begin recovering from the slump in reactor building worldwide after its peak in the mid-1980s.

That poses two problems for any “nuclear renaissance” and its capacity to provide a legitimate, timely response to climate change.

Firstly, the global “fleet” of reactors is ageing. The average age of plants worldwide is 25 years. The industry maintains that reactors have a lifetime of 40 years (and that of new generations of reactors 60 years), but the average age of the 123 reactors that have been closed across the world has been 22 years. Even assuming a lifetime of 40 years, and assuming all 52 reactors “under construction” proceed, 42 reactors need to be planned and built between now and 2015, and a further 192 built out to 2025, to replace the current nuclear power capacity.

It is highly unlikely that nuclear power will therefore play anything other than a declining role in the provision of the world’s power supply in coming decades.

Then there’s the second, and more problematic issue: nuclear power plants take an extraordinarily long time to build. The 24-year gestation of the Romanian plant was unusual – plants have been built in five years in China, Russia and South Korea. The global average construction period for recent connections in 9 years. This means that even if Australia adopted a crash course of nuclear reactor building, there wouldn’t be a single watt of power available until late next decade at the earliest.

However, reactor construction is subject to costly delays. Some reactors are listed as “under construction” for decades and then simply abandoned. The Generation III Olkiluoto-3 reactor in Finland – the flagship of the nuclear renaissance in Europe – has been under construction for four years. It is currently three years behind schedule, €1.7b over its €3.3b budget and mired in litigation. A new plant under construction in Flamanville in France was halted last year by safety authorities and is scheduled to start in 2012-13, with the cost likely to finish at €4.5b, up from its initial €3.3b cost.

The industry faces other problems. The long downturn in reactor construction and operation has created bottlenecks and skill shortages. For example, there is only one facility in the world, in Japan, that makes the large forgings required for reactor pressure vessels. And the ageing of the western workforce has particular implications for the nuclear industry, which has failed to attract many graduates in recent decades. In France, there are currently more than 1200 positions available within the industry and only 300 nuclear science graduates a year.

There will also continue to be problems accessing capital for the industry. The long lead times for construction and uncertain economics of nuclear power prompted ratings agency Moody’s, in a bluntly-titled release in July, to declare that it would take “a more cautious view toward issuers that are actively pursuing new nuclear power generation. In a post-GFC world of constrained credit, nuclear power looks far riskier than it used to.

“Once operating, nuclear plants are viewed favourably due to their economics and no-carbon emission footprint,” Moody’s said, “but history gives us reason to be concerned about possible balance sheer challenges, the lack of tangible current efforts to defend the existing ratings, and the substantial execution of risk involved in building new nuclear power facilities.”

It’s not radioactivity or scare campaigns that are the nuclear industry’s biggest problem, it’s the maths. The numbers show that for decades to come, it will offer less and less of a solution to climate change, and it simply takes too long and costs too much to develop.

Tomorrow: what it would cost for Australia to go nuclear.

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239 comments

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239 thoughts on “The nuclear option: too slow, too costly

  1. Daniel

    Wanted to add some enriched plutonium into the mix, albeit at a late stage, and give you all some more heavy water to squirt at each other.
    Stanford Uni – CISAC Drell Lecture by Ariel Levite entitled ‘A Moment of Truth for Nuclear Energy’, dated 10/03/2009, lasting 1h26m. On I-Tunes for free and possibly also from Stanford direct. Sets out a summary of the rest of the world’s rush for nuclear energy and also the significant problems that may arise, so quite relevant to our own national question. Strikes me as a bit more authoritative and candid than, for eg, Ziggy Switkowski or Paul Howes at Sydney Institute.
    Interesting comment chat so far, so please re-arm and free-fire ladies and gents, and ignore anyone who tells you that this is getting just a bit too emotional!

    To come in late on previous discussions, James Mac, can we be sure that the Chinese will let us build much solar etc over there in light of their own massive investment in that sector? My understanding is that for nuclear they let the french build a few reactors in joint venture and then took what they learned and started to build without continued french involvment (could be wrong though, as suggestions to the contrary are given in the Levite lecture).

  2. Mark Duffett

    @Meski, if I’m understanding thiscorrectly, the model tracking results assume optimal orientation at all times.

  3. meski

    Is that tracking using a simple time based system, or is it servoed to peak output?

  4. Mark Duffett

    Okay, The Answer, from this most excellent site.

    City: Adelaide
    PV System Specifications DC Rating (kW): 4.0

    Hour = local time
    A= output (W) for fixed array
    B= output (W) for 2-axis tracking array

    Hour A B
    6 0 1
    7 57 500
    8 555 1338
    9 1173 1854
    10 1815 2289
    11 2250 2499
    12 2479 2578
    13 2590 2656
    14 2472 2641
    15 2144 2531
    16 1664 2374
    17 966 1949
    18 266 1116
    19 3 248

    Sorry I don’t think you can post images, otherwise this would be a graph. Apologies if the formatting is screwed. These figures are an average over the warmer months (i.e. when aircon is likely to be used for cooling); October-April inclusive.

    “The values reported for AC power are associated with the preceding hour; i.e., the hour ending at the time indicated. Time is reported as Local Standard Time (LST). Daylight Savings Time (DST) is not used.”

    Draw your own conclusions.

  5. Evan Beaver

    Yeah, don’t worry about me. I’ll just continue being one of those people who comes in at the end of a conversation and says ‘what are you talking about’?

  6. meski

    @Evan: I thought Ender’s Bean[1] saying that tracking wasn’t being used, and that it was a fixed array.

    [1] Yeah, deliberate Orson Scott Card reference 🙂

  7. Evan Beaver

    I don’t think there is much efficiency lost if the panels track. As long as it hits the panel perpendicular it should be close to maximum efficiency. So, maximum output for a tracker should be from 11-3 or so (DLS time).

  8. Mark Duffett

    Please don’t condescend to me, Ender. There’s a reason why I used the phrase ‘local noon’ in the first place, and why I said around 12 pm. The exact timing of local noon doesn’t come within a bull’s roar of invalidating my central point.

    Justin didn’t seem to have any trouble accepting that peak demand generally occurs in mid-afternoon. Are you saying that it doesn’t? And I have given information about when average peak demand is, albeit anecdotal. You’re the one who initially asserted that peak demand coincides exactly with peak solar, how about you come up with some supporting evidence?

    Or you could just admit that your statement was wrong, and move on.

    Finally, it may only be a ‘small amount of storage’ in temporal terms, but it would have to be many, many megawatt-hours in energy terms. Not trivial, and adding mightily to the infrastructure required to support solar generation on an industrial scale.

  9. Justin Wood

    @Mark Duffett,
    I could have made that clearer, this is true. On the plane of array, which is angled to maximise solar exposure to the PV panels (as a function of latitude), the peak PV output is commonly between noon and about 15:00. This is expressed in ‘peak sun hours’ — and these do tend to, on average align with the peak grid loads in early to mid afternoon, especially in summer.

    Obviously it’s not a trivial matter, and configurations maximising peak PV output in summer may be suboptimal for winter and the year as a whole. But the fundamental point is that the solar resource can indeed be used to maximum effect during the peak load periods.

    See for instance http://www.ergo.ee.unsw.edu.au/value%20of%20PV%20in%20summer%20peaks.pdf

  10. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    Mark Duffett – “Really? I would have thought it ‘pretty straightforward’ that maximum insolation is at local noon. Have a look here. ”

    Why not have a look at what local noon really means. Hint : Local noon is not always 12:00pm

    Plus it only takes a small amount of storage to time-shift the peak. You also did not include any information about when average peak demand is.

  11. Mark Duffett

    @Justin

    Max sun around mid afternoon

    Really? I would have thought it ‘pretty straightforward’ that maximum insolation is at local noon. Have a look here.

    If you can convince me that these graphs are a) wrong or b) can be interpreted in any way other than max insolation occurring around 12 pm, then you are a genius.

    Seriously.

  12. Justin Wood

    @Mark Duffett,
    I’m seriously amazed that you seriously doubt maximum solar insolation is correlated with peak demand. I would have thought this was pretty straightforward! All you need do is look at any Australian daily load profile and compare it with the corresponding peak sun hours profile (especially in summer).

    Max sun around mid afternoon, just like peak demand. On average of course. A few hot cloudy days really change nothing.

  13. Mark Duffett

    @Ender

    it (solar) is there exactly when you need it

    I seriously doubt this. Did you notice my post @1:27 pm 25/11?

  14. meski

    Hot water is common gas fired, so that’s possible.

    Balcony faces north. A/C is inverter type

  15. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    Me Ski – “Why would a high CF not be required? ”

    A fossil fuelled peaking generator will typically be used with a CF of 20%. The fact that it can have a 90%CF if you run it 24X7 is irrelevant as it is only required 20% of the time. Similarly a load following nuke, even though it can have a CF of 90% might only achieve 45% as this is all it is used. The other part of the theoretical CF is wasted because it is not required. The point is that often the low CF of solar looks bad compared to nuclear however more often than not it is there exactly when you need it increasing the value of the 20%CF.

    “Carpark is basement levels. Apartment’s already 4.5 or 5 efficiency rated – its 7th floor of 9 so the roof isn’t an issue, insulation wise.”

    What about the windows? Is your air-con the highest efficiency possible? How about getting the body corporate to install a solar tube hot water system that services all apartments? Does your balcony, assuming you have one, face North?

  16. meski

    @Ender:

    Why would a high CF not be required? Yes, different doped and constructed cells will give different efficiency, and that’s fairly important for a limited space.

    Carpark is basement levels. Apartment’s already 4.5 or 5 efficiency rated – its 7th floor of 9 so the roof isn’t an issue, insulation wise.

  17. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    Mark Duffet – “I seem to recall there being a reduction in efficiency per degree increase in temperature (.2 -.4% depending on cell type) look it up on wiki, I’m tired of obfuscating links to avoid moderation.”

    You are correct however this affects the voltage and it is not a reduction in efficiency. It used to be a problem where the output of the cells had to charge a battery at a fixed voltage. A lot of energy was wasted because the solar panel could put out for example 16V when the battery demanded 14V for charging.

    Nowadays all the grid tie inverters and new battery charging controllers use Maximum Power Point trackers. This means that the solar output voltage can vary all over the place decoupled from the output voltage.

  18. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    meski – “You quote CF for nuclear, where’s the CF for solar? 20%? Also, natural / lp gas isn’t renewable. What’s the current efficiency of PV? What you can buy *today* and that doesn’t require moving parts, like something to keep it aligned at optimal angle? Is that efficiency assuming that it will be fixed and not moving, or that it will be aligned by servos? Is that efficiency assuming it will be cleaned or are you presuming a pigeon-free environment? :)”

    You jammed a lot in there. The CF is about 20% however getting hung up on the CF can be misleading. Sometimes there is not much point having an 85% CF when it is not required. Rooftop solar panel do not have to have trackers. They do increase the yield however they cost about the same as another panel which would give the same yield anyway. You are confusing efficiency with yield. The efficiency is fixed by the cell chemistry.

    “Some of us live in apartments, which means no rooftop to speak of. The idea of finding space for 4.8 kW worth of PV cells to run my airconditioner is attractive, but just not on. (2 x split systems)”

    What about the car park? Does it have a roof? Some apartment dwellers are getting together to put a compact system on the roof and sharing the energy. Why not try to use your aircon less and put in some insulation or change some windows to double glazed. It is better to save the power rather than generate it.

    “I just want to see both sides through non rose coloured glasses. Not view the nuclear one through zaphod’s peril-sensitive glasses.”

    I have always wanted a pair of those.

  19. meski

    The other side to baseload is industries (eg smelters) that can’t shut down (economically)

    Smart timers for consumers are widely used now, for such things as off-peak water heating.

  20. Justin Wood

    @Stephen Gloor,

    It will be replaced with smart devices only turning on when the renewable grid is in surplus, instead of a dumb timed system we have now for dumb Victorian era power stations we cannot turn off.

    A colleague commented the other day over a beer that monolithic generation as ‘baseload’ is just another way of describing a plant that’s too inflexible to be shut down

    Also, hoping you could contact me, please? justin.wood [at] murdoch.edu.au

  21. meski

    @Mark <shudder> I well remember those ‘sultry’ days from the Adelaide weather bureau. From my electronics background, I seem to recall there being a reduction in efficiency per degree increase in temperature (.2 -.4% depending on cell type) look it up on wiki, I’m tired of obfuscating links to avoid moderation.

  22. Mark Duffett

    @Meski, funny you should mention those glasses; having just employed the phrase ‘disaster area’ a couple of times on another thread.

  23. Mark Duffett

    @Ender, hot days are not necessarily sunny. Also the hottest part of the day usually occurs well after solar noon. And if households I’ve inhabited are any guide, most aircons are only turned on well into the afternoon, after the thermal inertia of the house (from overnight cooling) has been overcome.

    If memories (of Adelaide, Darwin and Alice Springs) serve, many of those cloudy, hot days (‘sultry’, the Met Bureau used to call it in Adelaide) are rather still as well.

  24. meski

    @Ender: You quote CF for nuclear, where’s the CF for solar? 20%? Also, natural / lp gas isn’t renewable. What’s the current efficiency of PV? What you can buy *today* and that doesn’t require moving parts, like something to keep it aligned at optimal angle? Is that efficiency assuming that it will be fixed and not moving, or that it will be aligned by servos? Is that efficiency assuming it will be cleaned or are you presuming a pigeon-free environment? 🙂

    Some of us live in apartments, which means no rooftop to speak of. The idea of finding space for 4.8 kW worth of PV cells to run my airconditioner is attractive, but just not on. (2 x split systems)

    I just want to see both sides through non rose coloured glasses. Not view the nuclear one through zaphod’s peril-sensitive glasses.

  25. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    John Bennets – “You stated that 3GW of solar was installed in a recent year, but you neglected to say that the effect of this, after fraud and availability figures were taken into account, is about 20% or less of this claimed nameplate rating.”

    The link seems OK to me. It is not the fault of solar PV that installers committed fraud. 2GW of solar PV is a pretty good figure.

    Remember that the absolute CF figure is deceptive. A nuclear power plant may have a 85% CF however for a lot of that time you do not need the power so you need to sell off really cheap off-peak power to keep the nuke running. Off-peak power is history in the smart grid. It will be replaced with smart devices only turning on when the renewable grid is in surplus, instead of a dumb timed system we have now for dumb Victorian era power stations we cannot turn off.

    Solar PV has no moving parts and is absolutely silent. It is also on the rooftop of the load, not 100km away, therefore loses nothing getting there. It also has the really good feature of becoming a maximum just when you need it ie: hot sunny days when the air-con is running flat out.

    No-one seriously expects solar PV to be the backbone of the grid however it will fulfil a very important niche in the renewable smart grid.

  26. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    John Bennets – “solar technologies do rely on the sun and thus do not collect light during cloudy, rainy days or at night. Storage capacities are strictly limited and are expensive, typically resulting in storage for solar thermal from nix to six hours.”

    As usual when you are presented with valid information to the contrary you of course completely ignore it and press ahead with the nuclear misinformation.

    Solar thermal w/7 hours storage with a gas boiler will use typically less then 20% of the gas that an equivilent thermal gas power station would use. The molten salt power tower such a Solar Reserve use the salts as a working fluid therefore storage is only larger tanks to hold more salt and extra collector area to heat it. Neither of these items are way expensive. You have to have at least 30% of load following nukes. Running a 8 billion dollar nuclear power plant at 45%CF – now that is expensive quite apart from the modifications to make it load following.

    Additionally wind and wave and geothermal will reduce this fuel use even more – maybe to almost zero – as they are used in preference to burning gas.

    “Until something else comes along, baseload must be provided by coal (brown or black), gas turbine, or nuclear.”

    Something is already here. How is a solar thermal hybrid any different from thermal gas other than the 80% less fuel it consumes?

    “All else is, in 2009, dreaming. Sorry, but true. The alternative is a return to the Dark Ages.”

    And when all else fails you bring out the hair shirt argument. Is this all you have left?

  27. meski

    @Evan: Gliders are ultimately solar planes. (rely on thermal updrafts produced by the sun) 🙂

  28. Evan Beaver

    Haha! A solar plane now!

    http://cleantechnica.com/2009/11/24/the-solar-powered-plane-%E2%80%93-it-lives/

    Too bad it has a carrying capacity of about 15kg. Will make freight a bit more expensive.

  29. John Bennetts

    Ender,

    Both Meski and Mark have addressed the points you raise.

    Of course, traditional power sources have availability rates of less than 100%. However, the points I made are valid and rational – solar technologies do rely on the sun and thus do not collect light during cloudy, rainy days or at night. Storage capacities are strictly limited and are expensive, typically resulting in storage for solar thermal from nix to six hours.

    Solar availability is thus no more than about 30% at the best of times – perhaps 20% after maintenance, wind and hail storms are taken into account. I have a figure of 14% which is commercial in confidence. The Spanish example which you quoted is actually 750MW, not >3GW and has been demonstrated to be a monumental waste of money, even by the article you have referenced.

    Baseload technologies are typically 85% or better.

    Thus, please do not quote nameplate ratings to us without backing these up with availability data.

    Regarding hot rocks, do you know of anywhere in Australia where these have been demonstrated to be economic? I have examples in California and South Australia where proponents have gone bust trying, before a single MWH of power has been produced, but no successes.

    Surely, if you are planning the future of human civilisation, the technologies you will adopt must be reliable.

    I really wish that solar thermal, hot rocks and photovoltaic were proven, economic and reliable, but none of these technologies is. Until something else comes along, baseload must be provided by coal (brown or black), gas turbine, or nuclear.

    All else is, in 2009, dreaming. Sorry, but true. The alternative is a return to the Dark Ages.

  30. John Bennetts

    Evan, your quoted reference indicates that the Spanish figures are a fraud, are grossly inefficient, and rely on attempts to scrounge government support for solar, which ended over a year ago. Governments which attempt to pick winners in this way leave themselves open for frausters, and this is an excellent example in one article, that numbers are grossly inflated by the faithful in an effort to perpetuate lies.

    You stated that 3GW of solar was installed in a recent year, but you neglected to say that the effect of this, after fraud and availability figures were taken into account, is about 20% or less of this claimed nameplate rating.

    Mate, please don’t forget to read your references. The one you cited is nothing less than an embarrassment for your cause.

    Should I reduce all of your other claims by a factor of 5 or ten?

  31. james mcdonald

    From the balance of what I read here, it sounds like combinations of solar, wind, and gas turbine generators would do just nicely. Sure, gas is carbon-positive, but it’s also efficient, is great for peaking, and has the ramping speed to roll with the intermittency of wind and solar. Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good. Don’t forget there is still enormous potential to sequester carbon in farm soil, stop deforestation, and increase demand effeciency. It’s all doable, it just needs the right carrot-and-stick regime.

  32. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    Mark Duffet – “No, there wouldn’t be enough. It doesn’t matter how many times you purport to ‘prove’ that nuclear is too slow and costly, because that says precisely nothing about whether renewables are up to the task.”

    However nothing in the peer reviewed literature proves that renewables along with EE&C are not up to the task. What I mean is that no matter what anybody says you will cling to your nuclear ideas no matter what. I will also cling to my renewable ideas in exactly the same way. Time will tell.

  33. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    me ski – “@Ender: Nuclear, if you design the right capacity, will not need gas turbines. Re the auxiliary boilers for solar thermal, what *are* they using? CO2 emitting coal or gas?”

    No sorry you are completely wrong here. No thermal power station has the ramp rates required for peaking power. Peaking power and ancillary services are absolutely critical for grid stability. Why do you think the grid is the way that it is now? If what you said was true then we would have 100% cheap coal and not have any peaking turbines at all.

    The auxiliary boilers can use anything. Preferably something carbon neutral like biomass however as the amount is small natural gas will do until something better comes along. When the full renewable system is operating then power will be sourced according to it’s emissions first rather than just the cost. So anything that is available at any particular hour of the day that is zero emissions will be used to meet demand first then, and only then, if there is nothing else available and all loads are switched off that can be switched off will the aux boiler be fired up.

    “Reports that conclude that nuclear is too slow and costly are often sponsored by organisations that wanted that as a conclusion. Funny, that.”

    Strange also that reports that conclude that renewables cannot be deployed and meet the need of a technological society wanted that as a conclusion also.

  34. Evan Beaver

    True, a long term energy figure would be useful, but over a year, and particularly the year it was installed, I can’t see much value in it. This is pure capacity, obviously, and how it goes can only be reported once it’s been going.

  35. meski

    Gigawatts is an instantaneous unit, representing the peak output. Gigawatt hour would be more useful, allowing for the measure of how much the power station could produce over time. Solar is *not* going to produce 3 GW at midnight. If you had a world-spanning grid, you could manage it.

    Or you could use the Joule.

  36. Evan Beaver

    I’d been working off the wrong numbers all along. Not that this makes a difference really, but Spain installed 3GW (!!) of solar in 2008. 3GW is a lot.

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/spain-installed-more-than-3gw-of-solar-in-2008-5545/

  37. Mark Duffett

    @Ender

    Actually renewables can do the job. Connected up in a smart system then can and will do the job 24/7….How many more reports concluding that nuclear power is too slow and costly will it take for you to actually admit it? I don’t think there would be enough.

    No, there wouldn’t be enough. It doesn’t matter how many times you purport to ‘prove’ that nuclear is too slow and costly, because that says precisely nothing about whether renewables are up to the task.

    Perhaps I should be charitable and conclude that your last para didn’t quite come out the way you meant, except that it so neatly encapsulates the shortcomings of this debate, which I pointed to way back at post #6.

  38. meski

    @Ender: Nuclear, if you design the right capacity, will not need gas turbines. Re the auxiliary boilers for solar thermal, what *are* they using? CO2 emitting coal or gas? Why is it ok for solar to fall back on this, but renewable enthusiasts are happy to quote how much CO2 refining uranium will emit? (and I doubt that, there’s no good reason the refining couldn’t be done using nuclear generated energy(once one plant is running) or use fast breeder reactors.)

    Reports that conclude that nuclear is too slow and costly are often sponsored by organisations that wanted that as a conclusion. Funny, that.

  39. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    John Bennets – “If the wind isn’t blowing in SA, there is a realistic probability that it is also light in Vic and NSW. Intermittency and reliability thus suffer more than many are prepared to admit.”

    There is also a realistic probability that a fossil fuel power station will trip off due to a failure. I would like to see your references as the ones that I have seen show that the probability is significantly smaller when wind is dispersed. So please post your references.

    “In layman’s language, that means that a nominal 5000MW of windpower is needed to match the energy output of a 1000MW baseload generator such as coal or nuclear. I wish that it was otherwise, but the economics and the maths are stacked against renewables as anything except as an opportunistic supplier.”

    Again the research is against you. In Australia we routinely have CFs of over 30% with the highest being 41%. Even if this is the case the work of Mark Diesendorf shows that:

    http://www.sustainabilitycentre.com.au/BaseloadFallacy.pdf
    “To replace the electricity generated by a 1000 megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station, with annual average power output of about 850 MW, a group of wind farms with capacity (rated power) of about 2600 MW, located in windy sites, is required. The higher wind capacity allows for the variations in wind power and is taken into account in the economics of wind power.”

    Remember that the output of a 1GW nuclear power station will be nominally 850W because the world’s average CF of nuclear is about 85%. To firm up the wind a small amount of gas turbines will be required which will also be used to address the critical shortage of peaking power that we have in Australia. Nuclear will use this peaking power just as much as the wind as larger operational reserves will be required.

    “Even the much touted solar thermal is unable to supply 24/7 with any available technology, including underground steam storage and melted salt tanks. After one or two rainy days they will be as cold as a harlot’s kiss.”

    Yet more misinformation. There are solar thermal stations providing 24/7 power today as they have auxiliary boilers that take over when power is needed when there is no sun. Also the larger new power stations will have up to three days of storage allowing them to ride out all but the rarest of bad weather. Remember these power stations are going to be carefully placed where long cloudy periods are rare. Three days of storage is more than enough to lower the probability of an outage to almost the same as a fossil fuel power station. In the rare times of long cloudy periods scheduled maintenance will be carried out just like when a fossil fuel power station is taken down for maintenance.

    Finally as we will have an integrated system the solar thermal plants will be able to store energy from wind. When wind is large enough there will be times when it is surplus and it will still be sunny. In these times the solar power stations can stop producing electricity and only store energy in their tanks. In this way all other stations become virtual collection area for the solar power stations. If done correctly it could mean that the solar power stations can have smaller collection fields and therefore be cheaper.

    “There is room for intermittent power sources in the overall mix, but it is simply not feasible that renewables can or will in the near future be able to do the job 24/7.”

    Actually renewables can do the job. Connected up in a smart system then can and will do the job 24/7. No amount of nuclear power misinformation can counteract this. How many more reports concluding that nuclear power is too slow and costly will it take for you to actually admit it? I don’t think there would be enough.

  40. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    John Morgan – “Because the scale of the task is large, because the most economical resources will be exploited,”

    Our task is not large by world standards and our wind resource are huge. Even if we ‘ran out’ of good wind sites we could go offshore. Which leaves the point is that now the 1km ribbon of wind turbines is completely demolished is Barry Brook going to correct his article? Or David MacKay? I don’t think so and I am sure I will read the same incorrect thing in the next nuclear argument I get into.

    “Since this was originally directed at Evan’s concern around a couple of hundred hectares of land, I would say we’re there already and we haven’t even started, and if coastal ecology really is his priority, that a nuclear deployment is greatly to be preferred.”

    If you are so concerned with coastal development then perhaps you should be directing your concern to the hideous canal developments that are filling in all the really important mangroves or the apartments being build on the beach. Wind turbines typically use farmland that is already developed so no further degregation of coastal land should take place other than the damage done to grow your food.

  41. Mark Duffett

    @Ender, how can you not see the Wattle Point wind turbines on Google Maps? They’re quite apparent to me, here.

  42. Evan Beaver

    John B
    “There is room for intermittent power sources in the overall mix, but it is simply not feasible that renewables can or will in the near future be able to do the job 24/7.”

    Bold statement. Over what time period do you think this holds true? I only ask because I suspect (and somewhat hope) geothermal will be making a reasonable contribution by 2020. That solves a lot of these problems.

  43. John Bennetts

    @John Morgan:

    It’s not just geography and land planning that challenge wind power, but climate and cost. If wind is supposed to be better if huge and geographically diverse, then don’t put your money on it.

    If the wind isn’t blowing in SA, there is a realistic probability that it is also light in Vic and NSW. Intermittency and reliability thus suffer more than many are prepared to admit.

    Similarly, current peaks often happen late afternoon or early morning, when winds tend to drop below their daytime average.

    Even worse, during heat waves, winds tend to be especially low at 3pm, when air conditioner loads are highest, so they miss that peak as well.

    I can provide references, however basic research skills will confirm that what I say is correct.

    Anybody expecting to average more than 20% of the nameplate rating of a wind turbine over a whole year in Australia’s south east is an optimist.

    In layman’s language, that means that a nominal 5000MW of windpower is needed to match the energy output of a 1000MW baseload generator such as coal or nuclear. I wish that it was otherwise, but the economics and the maths are stacked against renewables as anything except as an opportunistic supplier.

    Even the much touted solar thermal is unable to supply 24/7 with any available technology, including underground steam storage and melted salt tanks. After one or two rainy days they will be as cold as a harlot’s kiss.

    There is room for intermittent power sources in the overall mix, but it is simply not feasible that renewables can or will in the near future be able to do the job 24/7.

  44. John Morgan

    Stephen Gloor, back at 22 November 2009 at 2:14 pm:

    Certainly inland wind sites could or will be developed. Certainly a literal (littoral?) 1 km waterfront ribbon will not be developed, though a good fraction of that equivalent area will be developed in the coastal zone. If we really try to achieve zero emissions without nuclear, there will inevitably be large scale development of coastal wind resources. Because the scale of the task is large, because the most economical resources will be exploited, because the wind resource is substantially concentrated at the coast, because to try to average out the intermittency the siting must be geographically disperse, and weather system disperse.

    In point of fact, of the wind farms either operating or under development (wikipedia’s list), one fifth of them are on or within a couple of km of the coast. Go in ten km, and the fraction goes up etc. Since this was originally directed at Evan’s concern around a couple of hundred hectares of land, I would say we’re there already and we haven’t even started, and if coastal ecology really is his priority, that a nuclear deployment is greatly to be preferred.

  45. Justin Wood

    It’s the large orange ball you can see hanging in the sky. Quite free.

  46. meski

    Norman Lindsay wrote a story about that.

  47. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Nonsense is right, you’re supposing there is such a thing as a ‘free lunch’ and you want to dine out on it every day.

  48. Justin Wood

    You’re inability to read is truly remarkable. Didn’t I just list a set of emission factors for renewables? The emissions would be generated now, just as they are for nuclear, by virtue of chemical release in current concrete manufacture, coking coal in steel production, etc. The fundamental point, however, is that plausibly emission-free alternatives exist for these (eg, electric arc furnaces and biomass for carbon in steel, different concrete processes), and the materials can be recycled using energy inputs from renewable sources. You can’t recycle the uranium without IFRs, nor is it currently particularly feasible to mine it without fossil fuel inputs.

    You’re either deliberately confusing what I’ve said or incapable of understanding it.

    I’m done with this nonsense.

  49. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    So, you don’t include the cost of steel and concrete to build your renewable energy generators! LOL

    Remind me never to walk over a bridge you design, will you?

    You are talking complete twaddle Justin. Why does the University of Sydney (and every other competent body) make estimates for the emissions of ALL generating systems and compare them if, as you seem to be saying, renewable systems don’t emit CO2 in their construction.

    Think about it. (Oh, I see, you’ll wave your Harry Potter wand in 60 years and presto, all old materials will be ‘new’ again with no energy input! )

    You are ‘right’ and the entire body of engineers who specialise in assessing these things are total bloody nongs.

    Might just be the other way around Justin…just might be!

  50. Justin Wood

    The same, and indeed, most likely significantly less, emissions would be generated during construction in comparison to nuclear. And once scale is achieved, those materials can go into a largely closed loop of materials recovery (ie, ‘closed loop industrial ecology’, surely you’ve heard of it?). Can’t do the same with uranium fission, unless and until IFRs come to fruition.

  51. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Justin, what about building the things?

    You’re either being obtuse or….

  52. Flower

    Octavius

    My sincere commiserations on the loss of your son. The causes of sarcomas have not yet been identified, however, researchers have not ruled out radiation exposure. The issue of pathogens and infectious diseases are not relevant here, however, nearly seventy percent of new and re-emerging infectious diseases afflicting humans are of animal origin. “For every action……..!”

    Christopher Dunne – You failed to mention that the author of the link you provided stated that a cause of thyroid cancers is “greater exposure to radiation associated with increased use of computed tomography scanning.”

    Samuel S. Epstein, M.D, professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; and author of over 200 scientific articles and 15 books on cancer, including the groundbreaking 1979 The Politics of Cancer, and the 2009 Toxic Beauty advised that:

    “Cancer risk from nuclear plants aren’t just potential risks, they are actual risks. A 2005 report by a blue-ribbon panel of the National Academy of Sciences reviewed hundreds of scientific articles, and concluded that there is no risk-free dose of radiation:”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samuel-s-epstein/nuclear-power-causes-canc_b_251057.html

    http://www.medpagetoday.com/HematologyOncology/OtherCancers/13813

    According to Jeremy Freeman, M.D., of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and the University of Toronto, and colleagues, “patients who had been exposed to radiation were more likely to have stage IV and multifocal disease, as well as distant metastases, than the general thyroid carcinoma population.”

    As a result Christopher Dunne, I believe it would be prudent for me to accept the most up to date findings of experts and dismiss your red herrings.

    “Carbon emitting? Toxic chasms? Oh dear, it’s lovely sounding rhetoric, but absolutely meaningless if you mean that uranium mines emit carbon dioxide! LOL”

    LOL indeed – particularly when even the hapless Ian Plimer publicly stated that “Every time you crack a rock, you release carbon.”

    Furthermore, mining and related activities cause drastic perturbation to terrestrial ecosystems, leading to severe soil degradation. Consequently, there is a severe loss of soil organic carbon (SOC) by soil disturbance through mining operations due to enhanced mineralization, erosion, and leaching.

    The Olympic Dam project has the highest emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the nation (National Pollutant Inventory.) The expansion will see more than 17,000 hectares of native vegetation cleared and in the past three years, 1400 birds have been recorded as dead due to them accessing the tailings storage facility. As for the unrecorded deaths, who knows? Currently it is estimated that a million tonnes of earth will be removed every day for three years, to access the ore body

    1,100 uranium mining claims alone are within five miles of the Grand Canyon National Park in the US, which potentially has catastrophic environmental consequences. Perhaps it’s time for you to have that cup of tea and a good lay down?

    Christopher Dunne – When do you think we can expect an acknowledgement of the reports published by The French nuclear safety authority (ASN) and the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM)?

    Liz – My reference to the protest was in regard to the Beverley uranium mine. Here we go: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/10/08/2708620.htm

  53. Justin Wood

    Oh, I didn’t realise I would have to spell it out for you, Christopher: the input is energy. No perpetual motion, just energy inputs from solar radiation and sensible heat emitted within the Earth’s surface.

  54. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Oh, a perpetual motion machine? How nice:

    “But I’ll say it one last time: renewables can be manufactured and operated in a way that is near zero emission (materials recycling, etc.)”

    Sorry, but you can ‘say it’ as many times as you like, but unless you’re Harry Potter, saying things does not make them materialise! LOL

  55. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Evan, I’m aware that the ‘unrepresentative swill’ are aptly named, but by saying this is my target, accept that or no deal, is not negotiating, it’s posturing.

    So no CPRS under 25% reductions was worth talking about? Was 20%, was 18%, was 15%?

    Was negotiating the implementation, the renewable targets, the compensation for industry not worth discussing?

    Just how can you believe that the Greens aren’t being more than a club? They certainly aren’t doing their cause many favours by this type of intransigence.

    Oh, by the way, Justin, don’t confuse science with politics! They are not, and never will be the same thing.

    Tragically.

  56. Justin Wood

    Yes, that was one of the studies I was referring to. You see, Christopher, actual scientific research obliges one to examine a range of evidence, not just the ones you like.

    And if you read what I said above the ranges are very similar. In fact the upper bound is higher than I mentioned (my mistake in reading off a chart).

    But I’ll say it one last time: renewables can be manufactured and operated in a way that is near zero emission (materials recycling, etc.). Uranium mining may be possible in this way, but producing the electricity needed on-site is not yet something that has been implemented in any significant state. Perhaps biodiesel would address that.

    And no-one here has even attempted to address the issue of negative energy balance for low ore grades. You can’t just pretend this doesn’t exist! If you expend more energy in mining and processing the stuff than you get obtain during electricity generation, the whole edifice simply collapses in a heap.

  57. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Meski, check out the various models in the report mentioned, starting at page 93.

  58. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    My point Justin was that the planet is not facing a “death crisis” from emissions in uranium mining, nor processing, nor the nuclear fuel cycle.

    But if you get your jollies by that kind of talk, be my guest. I did NOT say there are NONE.

    Pick an argument I’ve actually made rather than one you’d wished I’d made.

  59. meski

    @Christopher: “life cycle emissions intensity of nuclear electricity in Australia to be between 10 and 130 kg CO2-e/MWh.”

    What kind of power source is this assuming?

  60. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Justin argue with the Sydney University study:

    The Taskforce commissioned the University
    of Sydney to conduct an independent study
    of the potential life cycle emissions of nuclear
    power in Australia.[146] Using a comprehensive
    methodology and conservative assumptions,
    this study estimated the life cycle emissions
    intensity of nuclear electricity in Australia
    to be between 10 and 130 kg CO2-e/MWh.
    The lower end of this range would be seen
    if only centrifuge enrichment (rather than a
    mix of centrifuge and diffusion technology)
    was used, or if the overall greenhouse intensity
    of the Australian economy was lower. The
    higher end of this range would only be seen
    if extremely low grade uranium ores (ie much
    lower than current grades) were mined.

    ….and this:

    Taking into account full life cycle contributions,
    greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power
    are roughly comparable to renewables and
    between 10 and 100 times less than natural
    gas and coal (see Box 7.2). This indicates there
    is great scope, both domestically and globally,
    to reduce growth in emissions by replacing
    fossil fuel plants with lower emission
    technologies such as nuclear.

    (www) .ansto.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/38975/Umpner_report_2006.pdf

  61. meski

    @Liz: If I recall correctly, the cancers you mention are hereditary mostly, so blaming nuclear energy for them is unreasonable. Blaming chemicals that you’re exposed to everyday is more likely than nuclear energy, in fact.

    @(all those that go on about distributed): Yes, fine, all systems can be distributed, but the point is will they add up to the total GW that we use 24/7 now? URL that demonstrates an implementation of this rather than a theory ??

    @(those that talk about the NIMBY effect of nuclear): There are a lot of other NIMBYs out there for the renewables, for instance wind power.

  62. Justin Wood

    Christopher,
    The Greens have repeatedly asked to negotiate with Wong, but she will not do so unless the demand that a target greater than 25% is set be dropped.

    Unfortunately, you cannot negotiate with the laws of physics. And for crying out loud, read the climate science — people such as Hansen, Schellnhuber, etc, etc, are the ones warning of ‘climate catastrophe’. What’s more, even a 40% reduction is based on AR4 projections which have now been eclipsed by events.

    ‘Politically possible’ will lead to the wholesale destruction of large swathes of humanity.

  63. Evan Beaver

    I think you’re getting a bit carried away here CD. The actual Greens MPs have been eminently sensible in their suggestions; I think they are tarred by the media by association with any green lunatic.

    In any case, it wouldn’t have mattered what sensible suggestions they offered. Fielding does not believe in climate change. Without his support, it needs Liberal support to pass the senate. To get that the scheme needs to be neutered beyond recognition.

    Blaming the Greens for this legislation not passing is not based in reality.

  64. Justin Wood

    No, they are NOT an order of magnitude less than fossil fuels. Coal is in the range 900 – 1500 kg CO2-e/MWh; OGCC around 700; a range of LCA studies put various nuclear lifecycles and generation technologies around 50-100 but some place them as high as OGCC at 700. Wind is in the order of 20; PV can be substantially higher, in some studies as high as 200 kg, due to electricity in manufacturing. This is of course changing rapidly and does not refer to solar breeder lifecycle chains, which would also apply to nuclear (for enrichment).

    And in any case, my point was to refute your statement that “…absolutely meaningless if you mean that uranium mines emit carbon dioxide! LOL”.

    Hydro damns do indeed produce CO2, from the concrete; as does any use of concrete in any context, renewables included. I never said otherwise. And while we’re at it, large scale hydro is an ecological nightmare in general, plus they generate CH4 emissions from anaerobic decomposition of plant matter.

    However. Mining without producing GHGs requires biofuels or some form of electrification, neither of which are exactly economic today nor commonly implemented. Yes, renewables also require extraction of resources for infrastructure, but these can be recycled in closed loop industrial ecosystems (eg, the vast majority of PV components can be recycled right now, today). Not possible for uranium, unless and until IFRs become an operational reality.

  65. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Justin, if the Greens were not so strident, howling “ecopalypse now”, prepared to negotiate rather than set a high bar that’s politically impossible, Rudd would not be watering down his already dilute proposal with the moderate rump of the Coalition.

    They left themselves out of the discussion to do what they always do ie posture and rant from the sidelines. If the Greens were a real political party, rather than a megaphone for the wishlists of the rabid left, they’d poll a lot better than they currently do.

  66. Evan Beaver

    Hydro dams have fallen pretty heavily out of favour with lots of the Green agencies. Most sources I’ve seen don’t count them as renewable over 25MW; drawbacks include habitat loss and methane production doe to anaerobic digestion of the plant material in the flooded valley.

  67. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Justin, name a process that does not produce CO2? The salient point is the life-cycle emissions for nuclear power are an order of magnitude or two (ie 100 times) less than coal.

    Please read the report that Evan quotes above, page 94. Nuclear emissions are comparable with renewables, because gasp, horror, even building a hydro dam produces CO2 emissions.

    Sorry Justin, your point is?

  68. Flower

    Octavius

    My sincere commiserations on the loss of your son, however, the cause of sarcomas are not yet known. The issue of pathogens and infectious diseases are not relevant here, however, nearly seventy percent of new and re-emerging infectious diseases afflicting humans are of animal origin. “For every action……..!”

    Christopher Dunne – You failed to mention that the author of the link you provided stated that a cause of thyroid cancers is “greater exposure to radiation associated with increased use of computed tomography scanning.” Therefore, may I say “touché” to your exhortation?: “you see, it’s very easy to jump to conclusions, especially ones you already want to believe.”

    Samuel S. Epstein, M.D, professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; and author of over 200 scientific articles and 15 books on cancer, including the groundbreaking 1979 The Politics of Cancer, and the 2009 Toxic Beauty advised that:

    “Cancer risk from nuclear plants aren’t just potential risks, they are actual risks. A 2005 report by a blue-ribbon panel of the National Academy of Sciences reviewed hundreds of scientific articles, and concluded that there is no risk-free dose of radiation:”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/samuel-s-epstein/nuclear-power-causes-canc_b_251057.html

    http://www.medpagetoday.com/HematologyOncology/OtherCancers/13813

    http://www.radiation.org/reading/pubs/090212testimony_IndianPoint.html

    According to Jeremy Freeman, M.D., of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and the University of Toronto, and colleagues, “patients who had been exposed to radiation were more likely to have stage IV and multifocal disease, as well as distant metastases, than the general thyroid carcinoma population.”

    As a result Christopher Dunne, I prefer the findings of experts to your red herrings. Perhaps you need to polish up on your bait and switch tactics?:

    “Carbon emitting? Toxic chasms? Oh dear, it’s lovely sounding rhetoric, but absolutely meaningless if you mean that uranium mines emit carbon dioxide! LOL”

    LOL indeed – particularly when even the hapless Ian Plimer “Esquire” publicly stated that “Every time you crack a rock, you release carbon.”

    Furthermore, mining and related activities cause drastic perturbation to terrestrial ecosystems, leading to severe soil degradation. Consequently, there is a severe loss of soil organic carbon by soil disturbance through mining operations due to enhanced mineralization, erosion, and leaching.

    The Olympic Dam project has the highest emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the nation. The expansion will see more than 17,000 hectares of native vegetation cleared and in the past three years, 1400 birds have been recorded as dead due to them accessing the tailings storage facility. As for the unrecorded deaths, who knows?

    Currently it is estimated that a million tonnes of earth will be removed every day for three years, to access the ore body. BHB have acquired wealth and “prestige” by sustained global land grabs to privatise and pollute the air, soil and waterways which don’t belong to them.
    For the year 2005, their operations in Australia managed to kill 17 workers.

    The global renaissance of uranium mining includes the current 1,100 uranium mining claims within five miles of the Grand Canyon National Park in the US. Add hundreds more emerging U mines around the planet and you say “carbon free” Christoper Dunne? I think it’s time for you to have that cup of tea and a good lay down – what about a strong whiskey?

    Liz – My reference to the protest was in regard to the Beverley uranium mine. Here we go: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/10/08/2708620.htm

    And when do you think we can expect an acknowledgement of the reports published by The French nuclear safety authority (ASN) and the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), Christopher Dunne? Err… by the way, we’re over coal. Why do you refer to it?

  69. Justin Wood

    @Christopher Dunne,

    Yes, it is pretty moot Mark D, but those of us who wanted a CPRS to actually price carbon (to a point that it actually hurts coal) have been dudded by a coalition of the loony right and the loony left.

    Are you serious? Who precisely is the loony left you’re referring to? We’ve got a coalition peopled by substantial numbers of outright climate change deniers, and Labor just as ensnared by the fossil cabal as Howard ever was. And on the left? The Greens are the only party actually calling for the use of standard, mainstream economic policy tools — emissions trading with full permit auctioning and appropriate redistribution of revenues into infrastructure, etc — which is exactly what the government’s own economic advisor explicitly and forcefully recommended! Not to mention all other similar analysis from across the world.

    The only loons screwing up the CPRS and any semblance of a carbon price are the lunatic, moronic right who simply cannot countenance the fundamental challenge to business as usual.

  70. Justin Wood

    @Stephen Gloor,

    Again nuclear people are stuck in the Victorian age. Renewables are the future of energy with distributed energy that will be smarter and more resilient than the nuclear dinosaurs of a bygone era that you seem to favour.

    hear hear!

    Someone commented earlier about the lack of wind during this current near continent-wide heat wave. Ahhh, if only there was a generation technology that could take advantage of baking heat and clear skies… !

  71. Evan Beaver

    Good stuff Christopher; a point I can agree on. The CPRS is diabolical and will not change the rules enough to make a difference.

  72. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Yes, it is pretty moot Mark D, but those of us who wanted a CPRS to actually price carbon (to a point that it actually hurts coal) have been dudded by a coalition of the loony right and the loony left.

    Rudd has cruised down the middle, and used the Opposition’s internal ructions as lubricant to shaft Turnbull.

    It really is bloody tragic.

  73. Justin Wood

    diving back in, I guess…

    @Christopher Dunne,

    Carbon emitting? Toxic chasms?

    Oh dear, it’s lovely sounding rhetoric, but absolutely meaningless if you mean that uranium mines emit carbon dioxide! LOL

    You need to do some life cycle analysis reading. Uranium mines don’t emit CO2 from the ore body itself; however, as with almost all mining operations currently, they emit significant quantities through the use of fossil fuels for the mining equipment. And similarly for the subsequent milling, fuel rod assembly, etc. Uranium enrichment uses electricity, and so from an LCA perspective can have a large GHG intensity, depending on the upstream electricity generation source. Depending on the ore-grade and upstream mix, enriched-uranium nuclear power can have lifecycle GHG emissions on par with open cycle gas turbines.

    All of these issues can be addressed by changing the fuel mix of that upstream generation, but that doesn’t obviate the current reality. And I don’t think electric mining equipment is widely available to date. Further, if it was, by definition that requires on-site GHG-free generation in order to genuinely be CO2 free.

    Fthenakis is an important researcher in this field, as an example (as I’m sure you don’t believe me):
    Fthenakis, Vasilis M and Hyung Chul Kim. 2007. Greenhouse-gas emissions from solar electric- and nuclear power: A life-cycle study. Energy Policy 35: 2549-2557.

    And on wind, as this seems to be the pet hate. Are you all aware that Spain recently supplied above 45% of its power demand from wind sources alone for a period of almost six hours? The point being that it’s rather fatuous to claim that the energy isn’t available.
    http://www.rechargenews.com/energy/wind/article197989.ece

  74. Evan Beaver

    I would go one step further and add that the whole debate is moot as long as economics trumps all other criteria.

  75. Mark Duffett

    Yes, Christopher @ 10:18 am, as I’ve posted elsewhere, this little speech makes for very sad reading. At current and foreseeable policy settings, business as usual is going to be with us for a long time yet. This entire debate is moot while coal continues to trump all other energy options.

  76. Evan Beaver

    This is good timing:
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gTVMy0-BHwG4jKMvQ8deGgaWwA-w

    Presumably the leak was orchestrated by Leftist-ecofascists eager to make a point.

  77. Evan Beaver

    I knew I should have started reading this earlier. Some quotes from the UMPNER (Switkowski) report:
    http://www.ansto.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/38975/Umpner_report_2006.pdf

    “The earliest that nuclear electricity could be delivered to the grid would be 10 years, with
    15 years more probable.”

    “The challenge to contain and reduce reenhouse gas emissions would be considerably eased by investment in nuclear plants. Australia’s greenhouse challenge requires a full spectrum of initiatives and its goals cannot be met by nuclear power alone.

    The greenhouse gas emission reductions from nuclear power could reach 8 to 17 per cent of national emissions in 2050.”

    That’s all I need to hear. The pro-nuke body, think it will take at least 10 years to build a plant, 15 years ‘more likely’. And they’re hoping that nuclear could reduce emissions between 8 and 17 percent by 2050. That’s hardly impressive.

  78. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Anyway, what I wanted to present before being sidetracked, was this from the Oz today, a study that the NSW government has quietly shelved as inconvenient truths:

    “Mr Hunwick’s report finds that in 2015, with a $50 per tonne carbon tax, electricity produced from a state-of-the-art coal-fired power station in NSW would, at about $80 per megawatt hour, still be cheaper than wind ($115 per MWh) or solar ($130 per MWh).

    While a carbon tax of $50 makes nuclear power competitive with other sources, this option has been ruled out by the NSW government.

    The report says building enough wind turbines to replace a baseload coal-fired generator would incur an additional capital cost of $6.6 billion.”

    (www) .theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/study-backs-coal-over-renewables/story-e6frg6nf-1225801867522

    … essentially, coal is here for a generation or two, and making it more efficient and cleaner will be the path we take, not shutting it down.

    And that’s the economic reality folks: “Even with a carbon price of $50-$100, coal still looks like being more than competitive with most of the alternative sources of electricity going forward, including gas and renewables.”

  79. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Octavius…you have the wrong person, but I’m glad you think I’m as rational as any scientist! LOL

    Kinninmoth’s thesis is a bit ‘esoteric’, and it took me a while to wade through the arguments that show it’s not valid. Essentially, as I posted before, the net energy remains the same as evaporation and condensation are the opposite processes, but only re-radiation will decrease the net energy of the earth.

  80. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    I agree with you Octavius, there is no epidemiological evidence for nuclear isotopes being the primary cause of increased cancer in societies anywhere, and in the special case of Chernobyl, this from the WHO:

    “Projections concerning cancer deaths among the five million residents of areas with radioactive caesium deposition of 37 kBq/m2 in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are much less certain because they are exposed to doses slightly above natural background radiation levels. Predictions, generally based on the LNT model, suggest that up to 5 000 additional cancer deaths may occur in this population from radiation exposure, or about 0.6% of the cancer deaths expected in this population due to other causes. Again, these numbers only provide an indication of the likely impact of the accident because of the important uncertainties listed above.”

    (www) .who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs303/en/index.html

    …the effect, though real, is actually not very big. It’s a terrible outcome for individuals concerned, but to make hysterical claims about a “death crisis” and the like, is nothing short of silly. And once we descend to level there is no room for facts.

    Whatever personal tragedies we experience, there’s no need to abandon rational, objective thought.

  81. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    Christopher Dunne – “So, in an argument about scale ie how much concentrated solar power (CSP) will be needed to keep pace with increasing energy demands, your biggest point is that CSP plants are SMALLER ?”

    Solar Thermal plants tend to be about 250MW. Nuclear power plants are 1 GW or bigger usually because that is the only size that the horrendous cost of tem can be paid off in anything like a reasonable time. Solar thermal power stations being much cheaper can be built smaller. Also the smaller plants can be placed in different regions. Australia has such good solar resources that solar thermal stations do not have to all in the desert as there is good rural land that has world class insolation and enough water to support smaller solar thermal stations with their lower thermal load. Nuclear has to cool both the reactor AND the steam – CST only has to cool the steam.

    4 X 250MW CST stations = 1GW nuclear at a still lower cost.

    “It’s irrefutable, there is not enough wind to even come close to generating the power needs of NSW, nor making a sizable dent in it.”

    Its very refutable as where did you get the figure of 3 GW of wind from? It is only from a web site that does not mention that this is the ultimate yield.

    Looking at this:

    http://www.industry.nsw.gov.au/energy/files/sustain_renew_wind_atlas_poster.pdf

    There are huge areas of NSW that have world class wind potential – look at the area starting at Lithgow and extending out to Orange. The area around Narooma is also huge. Even if this was the case NSW has massive solar thermal potential. What nuclear people do not seem to get is that the renewable grid will be distributed. Also energy sources will be mixed and matched as needed. Victorian wind will supplement NSW CST and vice versa. If you are going to use the reference to out wind NSW then you will need more evidence to back up the 3 GW claim. I seem far more potential than 3GW. Some of the strong wind areas in NSW are larger than Denmark.

    Again nuclear people are stuck in the Victorian age. Renewables are the future of energy with distributed energy that will be smarter and more resilient than the nuclear dinosaurs of a bygone era that you seem to favour.

    “Boy, the wind blows, but it comes nowhere near the hot air around this subject.”

    Before sneering at people how about you check your sources. If your source estimated 3GW as the full potential of NSW then that does not seem to even close to correct.

  82. Octavius

    I was about to have a dig at you Christopher Dunne for lightly dismissing Dr William Kininmonth’s enormous relevant expertise applied to criticising the IPCC modeling with suggestions that his attention to, inter alia, evaporation was “esoteric”. Not a word I would have thought you would use pejoratively in an academic or scientific context, especially when I look at the area of Expertise that appears on what I take to be your home page as a biologist.

    However, I forgive a biologist who is so willing to do his homework on the case for nuclear power and express his arguments so convincingly (at least to one who is a fellow layman on matters of nuclear power – though a regular correspondent in the past of Em Prof John McCarthy who ran one of the most popular nuclear power sites on the www).

    As to cancer, my association has been with losing a 23 year old PhD student son to a rare sarcoma (nothing to do with anything nuclear,or HIV, just sheer unpredictable bad luck). What I have had my attention thus drawn to is that the increase in incidence of cancer has more to do with increased longevity than anything else. What is more the underestimated importance of disease caused by pathogens in this age of enthusiasm for genetic causes may have led to control of many common old-fashioned infectious diseases leading to greater scope for pathogens to cause cancers. Admittedly that last sentence is well beyond my knowledge, but, equally, anyone who looks to nuclear industry causes of increasing cancer rather than a thousand non-nuclear related chemicals is probably suggesting far more than there is any basis for believing.

  83. Liz45

    CHRISTOPHER – Sorry about your personal experience with cancer, but I’d have thought it may have made you at least more aware, and perhaps less of a smart arse, and maybe with a tiny amount of compassion – apparently not? I’ve had 2 pre-cancerous ‘scares’ of the cervix and one re breast cancer. I’ve lost at least 5 women friends(one a sister in law) from breast cancer, and about 5 more from other types of cancer – one a lovely woman of 46, whom I’d known for 25 years. I can recall the numbers of funerals I’ve been to where cause of death was not cancer. Why is that do you think?

    Australia is not in a ‘bubble’. Pollutants and other things in the atmosphere move around the planet, depending on the weather. In NSW we got red dust from Sth Australia just a few weeks ago – Maralinga perhaps? Woomera? What happened to the aboriginal people at Maralinga? Do you know? Do you care?

    Neither you nor anyone else can prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that there isn’t a link between the whole nuclear fuel cycle (apart from the bombs, bomb tests and Chernobyl) the marked increase in cancers? Ten years ago, the stats weren’t as scary as they are now – 1 in 2 will be diagnosed now? I think that’s very scary indeed!

  84. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Dear Liz45, I underwent treatment for cancer of the tonsil last year, so tell me about it! LOL

    (Apart from having a tube in my stomach for 5 months, and losing the ability to eat, and being in a lot of pain, it wasn’t too bad.)

    Now, do you want to know one of the likely factors for cancer of the tonsil?

    HPV

    I’ll leave you to have a laugh about that.

  85. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Flower, your comment about thyroid cancer intrigued me, so I did a little googling:

    The thyroid is the largest of the endocrine glands and by far the most common site of all primary endocrine cancers. However, thyroid cancer is relatively rare, accounting for only 1% of all cancers. The number of new cases diagnosed each year is comparable to that of leukemia, pancreatic cancer and oropharyngeal cancer.1 Published in this issue of CMAJ are the results of a study in which Kent and colleagues2 used the Ontario Cancer Registry to identify 7422 cases of differentiated thyroid cancer from 1990 to 2001. Their results show that the incidence of this type of thyroid cancer increased by 146% over the 12-year study period, for an overall increase of 13% per year. Similar findings have been reported lately in many countries, including the United States.

    …and one of those countries is France. It’s not that they are all dirty nuclear states! No, the real answer is much more subtle and complex, but obviously not because of nuclear fuel reprocessing.

    Read here:

    (www) cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/177/11/1383

    …you see, it’s very easy to jump to conclusions, especially ones you already want to believe.

  86. Liz45

    Flower
    Posted Friday, 20 November 2009 at 3:20 p

    I didn’t know that about the protesters in SA at Olympic Dam. Didn’t hear anything in NSW. Tell me more!

    You pro-nuclear power people. Ever wondered why the incidence of cancer has been steadily growing over the years since the end of WW2? Why is that do you think? One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their life time. I think this is a horrific situation, but I don’t have many to join me. Perhaps you haven’t lost anyone from cancer, or not enough people.

    If cancers had a little ‘tag’ on them when found, I think the world would be a different place now. That’s why those who have the power don’t want us to have any say, or give us the right to protest when we find out the truth. Look at what happened to protesters in Tasmania a few days ago? And what Flower said about those at Olympic Dam. To have a nuclear industry in this country, all dissenters would be treated accordingly, and we’d only have it because those with the power would say so – and it probably won’t include anyone who’s contributed to this site.

    You’ll see democracy in action if you protest – that’ll take that smug sneer off your face Christopher! Maybe you’re one of the ones who wield the batons, or on the end of the capsicum spray? No, probably soon will be though!

  87. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Flower, the ‘death crisis’ on this planet is not from nuclear power.

    You seem a tad confused here: “Barry Brook et al believe that humans can only reach that level of awareness by remaining in the nuclear past – digging and fouling up the earth’s crust by producing massive, carbon emitting, toxic chasms.”

    Carbon emitting? Toxic chasms?

    Oh dear, it’s lovely sounding rhetoric, but absolutely meaningless if you mean that uranium mines emit carbon dioxide! LOL

    No Flower, the issue is about the rising levels of carbon dioxide (primarily) in the atmosphere, which you and I are contributing to by using on average, in Australia, 11,332 kwh of electricity per capita (2006 figures). Most of which is produced by burning coal, and some of it, like brown coal, very ‘dirty’ indeed.

    I understand your concerns about nuclear wastes, they scare people who often seem to think of nuclear bombs immediately they hear the word ‘isotope’, but the reality is that coal mining and burning kills more people than all the nuclear waste ever has, or probably will. You need to get things in perspective, and that entails getting your head around what the actual costs of burning coal are…both in climate effects and health, before going off on a rhetorical rampage about isotopes.

    It’s all difficult stuff, but take it easy, eh?

  88. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Oh, and have a look at the NSW wind map…a fair whack of the area is on the tablelands…nowhere even remotely near the major population centres.

    So add in sizable transmission losses to get that power to the end users.

  89. Flower

    John Bennetts et al:

    “As for Liz45 – you have excelled your anti-male, anti-nuclear, anti right wing conspiracy theories today. You appear to need a cup of tea and a good lie down.”

    The above is a prime example of the nuclear overlords (suffering a God complex) on how not to try and gag lone rangers who raise valid health and environmental issues.

    There remains clear evidence that those who obfuscate the facts on nuclear energy, and talk up France’s “efficient” nuclear industry are incapable of facilitating the evolutionary ascent of homo sapiens to homo noeticus – an age of enlightenment. Barry Brook et al believe that humans can only reach that level of awareness by remaining in the nuclear past – digging and fouling up the earth’s crust by producing massive, carbon emitting, toxic chasms.

    The French nuclear safety authority (ASN), in its most recent report, advised that:

    “The ASN was called more than sixty times last year, via its radiological hotline, via its duty staff, or directly via those in charge of the various files, to deal with a number of radiological emergencies.”

    The ASN advised that “the safety of the CEA waste and spent fuel treatment and interim storage installations was assessed at the end of the 1990s, following which CEA envisaged creating new installations and renovating certain others. ASN observes that on the whole, CEA is experiencing difficulty in meeting its commitments, particularly in terms of completion times.”

    A report published last year by the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) and Princeton University’s “Programme on Science and Global Security” advised that:

    “The limits on radioactive discharges to the atmosphere and ocean from the La Hague reprocessing plant are two to four orders of magnitude larger than those for a 1300 MW reactor at the Flamanville site, just 17 km (10 miles) down the coast.

    “Revised discharge limits were issued in January 2007. While the new license has significantly reduced the limits on discharges for some radioisotopes, La Hague still has permission to discharge very large amounts of radioactivity into the environment.

    “With increased spent fuel throughput and burn-up, however, the discharges of krypton-85, tritium, carbon-14 and iodine-129 have increased sharply.

    “The overall trend is towards the reduction of doses to the local population from isotopes such as 30-year half-life cesium-137 and strontium-90, and an increase in long-term global, collective doses due to increased releases of krypton-85 (11-year half-life), carbon-14 (5,736 years) and iodine-129 (16 million years).

    “Wastes (at Marcoule), from the liquid effluent treatment station are “bituminized” (i.e. mixed into bitumen) and stored in 200-liter stainless steel drums. During the last few years, on average a little over 100 drums have been filled annually. Until 1998, those wastes were stored in carbon steel drums that have begun to corrode. The carbon steel drums are therefore being placed inside stainless steel over-packs. As of the end of 2005, over 5000 carbon steel drums had been overpacked.

    “According to the French Court of Accounts, however, as many as 61,597 drums require reconditioning. It commented:

    ‘The circumstances of this reconditioning are complicated by the ignorance of the operator of the exact content of the drums produced prior to 1995 and therefore the level of radioactivity:’

    http://www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/rr04.pdf

    IMO, the French nuclear industry is a shabby affair. In addition, the European Journal of Endocrinology reported in 2004, that thyroid cancer incidence in France, “has dramatically increased over the last two decades,” So much for the “carbon free” environment of which they boast.

    Intellectualizing over the “benefits” of nuclear energy will not advance the cause of the atomic overlords until they cease duping the Australian public.

    Rather they should consider coming clean on the realities. The status quo is a rapidly increasing radioactive planet, where the production of nuclear energy (and nuclear weapons) is initiating the death crisis of our species.

  90. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    There are 365×24 hours in a year, ie 8,544

    There are currently 50,000 GW hours of business use of electricity in NSW.

    There’s an estimated 3,000MW wind capacity in NSW (which as we all know, cannot operate at anything like 100% capacity due to wind variability, but lets be VERY generous and say it works at 50%. Reliable actual figures vary but anything from 20-40% is what I’ve seen.)

    So, let’s say 1,500MW over a year is 1.5MW by 8,544 hours or 12,816,000 MW hours.Divide by 1,000 to get gigawatt hours: 12,816 GWh

    So, even using every square inch of NSW’s estimated wind capacity, allowing hugely generous estimates of actual wind energy, we could only get about one quarter of the business consumption of electricity in NSW!

    Boy, the wind blows, but it comes nowhere near the hot air around this subject.

  91. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    My back of the envelope on the NSW figures is a bit misleading, since I’ve used GW hours and MW numbers together. I’ll drag out the abacus and show that it’s still not within a bulls roar…

  92. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    “Also solar thermal plants are smaller and easier to dry cool. It does not mean increasing the mirror fields it just means that the plant is slightly downrated in nameplate capacity. The large solar plants with storage use higher temperature steam and are far more efficient and also have an oversize mirror field anyway. With their lower thermal load they will lose far less efficiency being dry cooled.”

    So, in an argument about scale ie how much concentrated solar power (CSP) will be needed to keep pace with increasing energy demands, your biggest point is that CSP plants are SMALLER ? Than what, is my first question?

    HINT: Thermal energy efficiencies won’t be improved on smaller scales, but higher temperature differentials.

    The whole point is about scale ie what can be built to deliver the energy at the scale and cost we think we can afford, and your argument is that CSP is ‘smaller’?

    Like I said, air cooling them just reduces their efficiency (ie makes your numbers even worse than they already are). This is an argument at the margins, but you seem to think it’s central…it isn’t.

    The argument I really want to hear from you is the one outlined above based on NSW numbers.

    It’s irrefutable, there is not enough wind to even come close to generating the power needs of NSW, nor making a sizable dent in it.

    There might be enough hot air! LOL

  93. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Double post, avoiding the dreaded ‘moderation’:

    Stephen Gloor, I did not say it’s not possible, only that reduces efficiency (as a direct result of the Laws of Thermodynamics, which you so flippantly seem to disregard).

    It also increases the capital cost. If you really want the details, here’s a good one page summary, (add your own http)

    beyondzeroemissions.org/media/newswire/dry-cooling-slaking-thirst-concentrated-solar-power-091023

    …it’s not a case of air cooling is not a cost…it is, and quite a substantial one.

    Meanwhile, why not address my post on the NSW numbers.

    I’m fascinated to hear how you’ll turn the water into wine on that one.

  94. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Stephen Gloor, I did not say it’s not possible, only that reduces efficiency (as a direct result of the Laws of Thermodynamics, which you so flippantly seem to disregard).

    It also increases the capital cost. If you really want the details, here’s a good one page summary, (add your own http://)

    beyondzeroemissions.org/media/newswire/dry-cooling-slaking-thirst-concentrated-solar-power-091023

    …it’s not a case of air cooling is not a cost…it is, and quite a substantial one.

    Meanwhile, why not address my post on the NSW numbers.

    I’m fascinated to hear how you’ll turn the water into wine on that one.

  95. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Ok, some numbers for NSW from: industry.nsw.gov.au/energy/sustainable/efficiency (stick www. in front for URL…I’m sick of ‘moderation’):

    “NSW has an estimated potential for over 3,000 MW of wind energy. Currently, 150 MW has been installed or is under construction.”

    Wow, that sounds impressive, until you also get this…electricity usage for NSW business (yep, business):

    “With businesses in NSW using around 50,000 GWh a year of electricity, the potential for savings through energy efficiency is great.”

    ….now, compare 3k MW with 50K MW multiplied by one thousand!

    Now, even with ‘savings’ of, oh, let’s be generous, 50%, 3,000MW does not even come close to 25,000MW x 1,000.

    Sorry, but unless the State of Victoria is the windiest place on the planet, and it’s electricity demand the lowest in the Western world, there’s still no way that wind can do more than be a very marginal addition to our total energy usage.

    And, according to the Victorian government, in 2006, a two megawatt turbine costs about $3m. So even with some generous efficiencies of scale in construction (let’s say 30%!), that 3,000MW would cost a staggering $2 billion!

    So a potential for an infinitesimal fraction of NSW business energy usage, (3kMW), yet only 150MW actually constructed, and even if the whole lot was utilised, it would cost billions.

    Sorry, but the numbers for wind are simply not there at the scale required to make a significant contribution to our energy needs and greenhouse gas abatement.

  96. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    Christopher Dunne – “Either you accept that the laws of thermodynamics exist, and you can base your argument on them, or you enter la-la land, and believe whatever you want to believe.”

    I think that there should be an extension of Godwin’s law for discussions. He who first mentions the laws of thermodynamics should also instantly lose the thread.

    http://www.energymatters.com.au/index.php?main_page=news_article&article_id=654
    “Another very important aspect is an air-cooled condenser (ACC) will eliminate water consumption for cooling the steam turbine exhaust. Unlike solar farms equipped with solar panels that use no water at all to generate electricity, water consumption issues have been the centre of controversy regarding solar thermal plants, particularly given their locations are usually in arid areas.”

    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/sep/23/vision-desert-solar-power-plant-expands/
    “The Oakland, Calif.-based company plans to use a dry-cooled power tower solar thermal system, which uses far less water than wet-cooling technology. The company’s tower-power concentrating solar thermal technology is also expected to use less water than dry-cooled trough-style solar thermal power plants, spokesman Keely Wachs said.”

    2 new projects that at the outset use dry cooling. Nothing in solar thermal with dry cooling violates any law of thermodynamics and your mention of them only make me think that you really do not understand them.

  97. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    Christopher Dunne – “If you bother to read Brook’s page on this subject, you’ll quickly notice how solar thermal, which is best suited to arid landscapes, will also be far less efficient if its cooling system is not based on water.”

    No it won’t as most of the solar thermal power stations companies know that they will be installed in arid climates and design them for dry cooling. Also solar thermal plants are smaller and easier to dry cool. It does not mean increasing the mirror fields it just means that the plant is slightly downrated in nameplate capacity. The large solar plants with storage use higher temperature steam and are far more efficient and also have an oversize mirror field anyway. With their lower thermal load they will lose far less efficiency being dry cooled.

    Finally the mirror fields themselves are factory produced modules that are erected on site. If it is required to increase the mirror field is not as big deal as you attempt to make out. For nuclear to use dry cooling it would just make an appallingly costly power source even more appalling costly.

    “HINT: There are physical restraints, based on basic laws, and all you ever do is ‘wish’ them away.”

    As are the restraints on cooling water and extreme weather events that you cannot wish away by greenwashing nuclear.

  98. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Evan, it]s not “minutia,” it’s the basis for an informed decision. Either you accept that the laws of thermodynamics exist, and you can base your argument on them, or you enter la-la land, and believe whatever you want to believe.

    Your choice.

  99. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    “The Victorian Government’s Policy and Planning Guidelines for the development o fwind energy facilities in Victoria prohibit commercial wind developments on land reserved under the National Parks Act which means that commercial wind farms are excluded from Wilson’s Promontory and over 40 percent of Victoria’s coastline.

    The Guidelines are in place to protect significant landscapes from inappropriate wind farm developments and include rigorous environmental and visual impact assessments.”

    http://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/resources/documents/SV_Wind_Energy.pdf

  100. Evan Beaver

    Christopher, I’ve made my objections over nuclear pretty clear. Pursuing me over engineering minutia in a condescending tone does not address my concern. Until my concerns are addressed I will not support nuclear power. It’s that simple.

  101. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    So let see how the nuclear numbers stack up seeings as us renewable people have been so heavily criticised from not having the numbers.

    You say we need 25 nuclear reactor. Right at the moment these are going for

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html

    $8000 per kilowatt finished and even that is a bit low. With the problems in Finland of dodgy welds and construction practices no-one will give you money to build more than one nuke first up. Finland already had nuclear power and they are having problems. Investors are not stupid and the risk of problems in Australia with no nuclear power are much higher so at least one would have to be built from start to at least 90% finished successfully before you got any more money.

    So in the desperate need to reduce our emissions the nuclear option would take at least 8 years just to replace 1GW of baseload before another one or two could be started even if there were no problems in the construction of the first one. This would also cost at least 8 billion dollars. Now if we want our own fuel investors would also have to be convinced to part with 2 billion dollars for an enrichment plant (powered from coal) and a fuel rod manufacturing plant for a future industry that may end up being still born. As well the US has burnt 25 billion dollars on Yucca Mountain and failed to store 1kg of waste in long term storage.

    If we do not have our own enrichment and fuel fabrication then we place the future energy security of Australia into the hands of other countries. At least no-one can hold the sun and wind hostage until we do what they want. What if to get nuclear fuel and technology from China they ask us to spy on and detain Chinese dissidents in Australia? Could we refuse them if they supplied us will all our energy?

    25 nuclear reactor = 25 * 8 billion = 200 billion
    1 nuclear waste dump = 20 billion
    2 enrichment plants = 4 billion

    For this 224 billion investment we get 50% of power that is baseload replaced in 20 or 30 years – sounds great doesn’t it?

    Load following nukes are another story.

  102. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    John Morgan – “This happens to be relevant to Evan’s question, just posed above. CSP in the desert is going to have to accommodate its cooling water requirements in the desert. Nuclear power plants can be sited on the coast (with miniscule impact compared to the alternative) and cooled by seawater.”

    First of all the cooling requirment:

    http://www.ebookoo.net/water-requirements-of-nuclear-power-stations.html

    Lets not rely on Barry Brook but use a study by EPRI instead contained in a report to Australian Department of Parliamentary Services. Download it and have a look.

    “The EPRI analysis showed that existing nuclear power stations used and consumed significantly more water per megawatt hour than electricity generation powered by fossil fuels, see Table 1.9
    From Table 1 it can be seen that nuclear ‘once-through’ systems use about 20 to 25 per cent more water and nuclear ‘closed systems’ can use up to 83 per cent more water. Furthermore actual water consumption rates are higher.
    The data shows that for once-through systems nuclear consumes about 33 per cent and closed systems 50 per cent more than fossil fuel power stations.”

    Barry Brook is a climatologist and a good one and I have the highest respect for his abilities on climate change however he is badly wrong on nuclear. As a climatologist he should be very aware that the amount of heat events is going to increase in the future as we already have a lot of warming to come even if we reduce CO2 today. Nuclear power plants may CONSUME little water however they discharge heated water into the water system. When it gets too hot all thermal power stations are restricted from discharging waste water because the water is beyond safe limits. As nuke plants need 30% more cooling water siting them on the site of current coal plants will stress the water system even more and lead to more shutdowns on hot days just when the power is needed the most. This is bad enough however these days are going to get more and more frequent leading to more and more shutdowns.

    So lets have a look at the coast for seawater. The real estate north and south of Sydney for 100km is a multi-billion dollar industry. There is no chance in hell of getting a nuke plant on the coast in this region just for property values and the ‘important’ people that have property there. Even if you could our coastal regions are already stressed from over exploitation and heated water discharge is the last thing they need. Sure the nuclear reactor may be small however the discharge water plume would be vast and without a strong current it would pool and effect the eco systems of our sensitive coastline. Also the same climate change argument applies and our coastal waters are only going to get warmer.

    So to get a nuke on the coast you would have to avoid voters valuable property and protected marine parks for discharge water. This would mean going hundreds of kilometers from population centers needing the same transmission lines and renewables.

    Finally solar thermal plants are far easier to cool with dry cooling. Trough types use lower temperature steam however they do not have a massive reactor to cool along with the steam therefore their thermal load is much lower. Also as the fuel is free from the sun the efficiency loss is minimal and does not affect the operation of the plants as much. Dry cooling is preferred in desert areas and most solar thermal plants will use it. Molten salt systems use much higher temperature steam therefore are much more efficient then nuclear power plants and will lose even less from dry cooling. A molten salt thermal power station with 16 hours storage and dry cooling and a gas boiler is about the same cost as a nuclear power station as this is the most expensive solar thermal will get. For this you get 24X7X365 intermediate load following power if required for minimal gas use.

    Over this type of power station nuclear has no advantages.

  103. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    John Morgan – “None of them provide direct estimates of the area associated with wind development, so I had to do a little guesstimation to figure that out. It turns out they agree with my estimations above.”

    No they do not have crystal balls so they have to try to estimate with scenerios.

    “Victoria’s wind resource is concentrated along a coastline of length 2500 km, so if we stacked the turbines 1 km in from the coast, thats a bit over one half of the Victorian coast.”

    No it’s not and here you are making your first mistake. Wind resources of > 8m/s are concentrated along Victoria’s coast to a depth of approx 100km. 8m/s wind is amongst the best in the world. More than 6 m/s and less than 8 m/s of wind is where roughly 80% of current wind in the world is installed and this area is at least half of Victoria as small as it is.

    Here is the google map URL
    http://maps.google.com.au/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Ararat+VIC&sll=-28.951677,115.121613&sspn=0.702977,1.160431&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Ararat+VIC&ll=-37.283819,142.930155&spn=0.03995,0.072527&t=h&z=14)

    for Ararat Victoria when one of Australia’s biggest wind farms is. Before you repeat the 1km of coastline lie please report back with the exact location of the wind farm from google maps. I cannot find it, lost amongst the still productive farming land.

    This completely invalidates your other statements and calculations. Even if the required area was 6000 square kilometers this is less than 10% of the good wind area in Victoria

    Area of Victoria = 237,629 km²
    Area of good wind 237 629/4 = 59407.25
    Proportion = 6000/59407 = approx 10%

    Notice that I divided the area of Victoria by 4 to allow for spaces that you would never install wind. The 10% figure is farmland that is already disturbed and would be leased from the farmers at a profit to them and farming would continue undisturbed.

    So I think we have put the 1 km of coast line thing finally to bed and if you would like to retain some credibility please do not mention it again. If you need any further proof here is Walkaway wind farm in Geraldton

    http://maps.google.com.au/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&msa=0&t=h&z=13&msid=102932590825170079231.0000011207a4ed95c0612

    It is at least 10km from the coast and has the highest CF I have ever seen of 41%. I have personally visited this farm and I can tell you that the cows are grazing happily under the wind turbines.

  104. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    James, I’m just trying to address the innumeracy and ‘fuzzy’ logic (if it could be so called).

    There’s whole other set of arguments about nuclear ‘waste’, and decommissioning that’s really well and truly beyond the current discussion. Judging from the current ‘level’ of the debate from some quarters, you’d have to admit it wouldn’t be possible to even have it in a coherent way.

  105. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Eh? So now you are comparing air with water cooling and denying the loss in thermal efficiency?

    Evan, learn some basic physics, and if you won’t, don’t try to persuade others that your beliefs are anything but a pile of wishful thinking.

    Here, for your education is a paragraph from BB’s article on the subject:

    An alternative, for any thermal plant, is dry cooling, whereby heat is transferred directly to the air via high-flow forced drafts (using industrial-sized fans, finned radiator pipes etc.). This is a less efficient method than wet cooling, because the cooling fans consume considerable power and the temperature differential that’s established is necessarily smaller. Yet, it may end up being the only feasible option for large-scale desert-based solar thermal power. The sunny and dry desert is one place where water scarcity really bites. For instance, a German solar developer, Solar Millennium, has reluctantly decided to use a dry-cooling method for their two 250 MWe (peak) CSP plants, after the nearby residents feared their aquifers would be sucked dry by the use of 1.3 billion gallons of cooling water per annum. The inefficiencies created by air cooling will increase the size of the mirror fields required to yield a given amount of power.

    … you were saying, Evan??? Exactly the same job, but at far less efficiency, hence putting up your area required to produce the same amount of power.

    HINT: There are physical restraints, based on basic laws, and all you ever do is ‘wish’ them away.

  106. james mcdonald

    Christopher, Evan’s already agreed nuclear should not be ruled out a priori but be assessed on its merits, with public safety and long term fuel supply included in the feasibility criteria.

    Evan, “Given 2 solutions of roughly similar costs, where one involves an unknown cost in the future, with a solution that is not invented yet; and another that exploits a free resource, I would always choose the latter. So the argument is not nuclear is better or worse. You need to convince me that either unknown future costs are of no import, or that the problem of waste storage is solved and with known costs.”

    Ah, but that’s the scientist’s choice–for a business investor, the reverse is sometimes true because it allows him to have something that the competition doesn’t. And the money is even more critical than the cooling water.

  107. Evan Beaver

    Water is not a requirement for cooling. A properly designed cooling tower can do exactly the same job.

  108. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    One other thing that you conveniently leave out Evan, and that’s water. You’ll raise this against nuclear generators, but don’t address it for solar thermal (your now preferred system).

    If you bother to read Brook’s page on this subject, you’ll quickly notice how solar thermal, which is best suited to arid landscapes, will also be far less efficient if its cooling system is not based on water.

    See a problem here Evan?

    What you’re happy to criticise nuclear for, is in fact a far bigger problem for solar thermal…and reduces its efficiency even more if suitable supplies of cooling water aren’t available.

    Add these factors to the cost, and not assume ideal efficiencies of both maximum sunshine AND available water, and you lose another hefty percentage of overall efficiency for solar thermal.

    You have to live in the ‘real world, of real physics and real economics, and not one of ‘beliefs’ based on desires.

  109. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Waste is a political, not a technical problem, and it’s an element of nuclear power generation that has changed dramatically with the latest designs. You are being a bit disingenuous when you allude to this without qualifications ie are you talking about twenty years ago, or the latest designs? You’re inferring the former, but the discussion is about the latter.

    “I disagree fundamentally with the basis of Barry’s numbers and place no value in them at all. They are based on the assumption that because on average the world should use nuclear it means that every one should.”

    This statement is utter nonsense. BB does not make the assumption that the world ‘should use nuclear’ energy, he just puts the sheer scale of both wind and solar thermal against nuclear, and demonstrates that only nuclear comes within cooee of being feasible. You, on the other hand, start from the assumption that nuclear is ‘evil’ and then say only solar thermal and wind are viable…but, and this is the clincher, without showing how we could possibly construct it on the scales required to even keep up with growth demands.

    Sorry, Evan, but you always start with your conclusion, and then without demonstrating how this is even feasible, dismiss the cold hard facts that the solar/wind route cannot realistically provide the power we need.

  110. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    John Morgan – “None of them provide direct estimates of the area associated with wind development, so I had to do a little guesstimation to figure that out. It turns out they agree with my estimations above.”

    That is hardly a surprise and unlike you seem to have none of the writers claimed to have a crystal ball and could predict the future exactly.

    “Victoria’s wind resource is concentrated along a coastline of length 2500 km, so if we stacked the turbines 1 km in from the coast, thats a bit over one half of the Victorian coast.”

    This seems to be your central tenet of your objections to wind so lets see how it stacks up with reality. Here is the Walkaway wind farm in Geraldton

    http://maps.google.com.au/maps?hl=en&tab=wl
    Here the have marked the wind turbines – 20km in from the coast and very widely spaced

    and here is the Wattle Point wind farm in SA
    http://maps.google.com.au/maps?hl=en&tab=wl

    See if you can find it – I can’t – somewhere there is Australia’s biggest wind farms lost amongst the farmland

    And here is the Challicum Hills Wind Farm
    http://maps.google.com.au/maps?hl=en&tab=wl
    Again I cannot find it.

    The point is that these three windfarms, Australia largest, are lost in the farmland and not stacked 1km from the coastline. From this http://www.csiro.au/files/files/pis7.pdf I think where your mistake is being made. >8m/s are areas are among the best in the world and extend least 100km inland in Victoria. >6 and <8 regions like Ararat are extremely good wind sites and will provide excellent wind power. So even if you need 6000 square km this is already farmland and as it in the Victorian farm country is well supplied with electricity distributors.

    So in short your assumption that the wind turbines would have to be stacked 1 km from the coast is completely false and is typical of the misinformation supplied by the nuclear industry. This completely invalidates the rest of your arguments and Barry Brooks assessment of wind resources. Funny how you didn't check this with reality before claiming it.

  111. Evan Beaver

    I disagree fundamentally with the basis of Barry’s numbers and place no value in them at all. They are based on the assumption that because on average the world should use nuclear it means that every one should. The reverse applies. Further, they stop at the ‘a really big number is required’ point in the argument, without comparing the resources required with the production available. I bet if I showed you in isolation how many tonnes of steel Blue Scope exported every year it would be a ‘very big number’ also.

    It is a coarse description at best and glosses over a wide number of other variables. The numbers chosen are internally favourable, much as every other econimic and resource analysis into these topics are, on both sides of the argument. I find a dozen resources that show solar thermal is more cost effective in calculations that include decommissioning and waste storage; then we have an impasse on the economics and feasability.

    I’ve read stacks of resources stating that the economics are pretty close and mostly dependent on external variables and regional specifics. So how do we decide? My ‘belief’s are more accurately described as my ethics. Given 2 solutions of roughly similar costs, where one involves an unknown cost in the future, with a solution that is not invented yet; and another that exploits a free resource, I would always choose the latter.

    So the argument is not nuclear is better or worse. You need to convince me that either unknown future costs are of no import, or that the problem of waste storage is solved and with known costs.

  112. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    One other thing about water, and that is the latest designs using the Gen IV Pebble Bed technology are made to run hot, hence cannot meltdown, and do not use water for cooling.

    So for areas not on coastlines, there is a technology available.

  113. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Once again Evan, you’ve stated your ‘belief’ (now it’s solar thermal), in our ‘natural advantages’, but you’ve not addressed this:

    “To get 680 MWe average power, 680/0.4 = 1700/100 = 17 Andasol plants per day, worldwide, requiring (in an ideal desert location) 45 km2 of land (a square 6.7 x 6.7 km). Or, to put it another way, this means rolling out 520 m2 area of mirrors field per second, every second, from 1 Jan 2010 to 31 Dec 2050.”

    (Barry Brook’s calculations for the global requirements for the next 40 years if met with solar thermal)

    Put in the Australian context, the same ratios apply. And, you haven’t included the huge transmission costs from ideal (ie desert) locations to the major seaboard populations (and of course, the efficiency losses as a result, which are very substantial…so multiply your area needed accordingly). Oh, yes, and the material construction rates? Roughly 30% more concrete, and…wait for it…690 times the volume of steel that comparable nuclear power plants would require!

    Nuclear on the other hand, can use existing transmission grids.

    Sorry, but, you just keep dodging the numbers, and admirable as your ‘beliefs’ appear, (yes, we’d all like a ‘magic bullet’ of clean renewable power built to affordable cost), you’ve made no case whatsoever that it’s even vaguely feasible with current technology.

    Our ‘natural advantages’ are not able to overcome the inherent implausibility of your ‘belief’ that could even come close to building solar thermal on this scale.

    Numbers, Evan, it’s actually a debate about the numbers…and not what you ‘believe’.

  114. John Morgan

    John Stockdale, Barry Brook has conveniently just done a post on how cooling water is used in power generation.

    Short answer, the cooling water issue cuts equally against all thermal power plants. The water requirements for nuclear are similar to those for coal, solar thermal, geothermal, and thermal natural gas stations. A 1 GW solar thermal plant will have similar cooling water requirements to a 1 GW nuclear power station.

    This happens to be relevant to Evan’s question, just posed above. CSP in the desert is going to have to accommodate its cooling water requirements in the desert. Nuclear power plants can be sited on the coast (with miniscule impact compared to the alternative) and cooled by seawater.

    Replacing coal power with coastal nuclear power offers a great synergy – you can close down inland coal plants and just stop using all that fresh water. You can’t do that with solar thermal.

  115. Evan Beaver

    How many times do I have to say that there’s no reason to put wind turbines on the coast. Further, no one will allow it. If you read my post above I propose an alternate system that would go close to 40% below 1990 emissions by 2025, and without any turbines on the coast.

    Anyway, enough snark from me. We’ve all made our points and I can see we’re all on the cusp of changing our minds. So, try the ten word test;

    What advantage does nuclear have over solar thermal in Australia? Or vice versa if you like.

    Answering for solar;

    It exploits our natural advantages; steel, sun and the desert.

  116. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Evan, you’re clearly having a problem separating a ‘belief’ and a logically reasoned argument based on facts. Of course, when you just ‘believe’ certain things to be actual ‘facts’ when they are not, helps you to sustain this state of mind.

    So how about explaining how, as John Morgan calculates, at least one quarter of Australia’s coastline (1km deep) could be populated with wind turbines when the vast majority of Australians live along the coast? In those places that are not inhabited, mostly those remote places, would also entail huge transmission costs to population centres as well.

    You simply cannot explain how we could even contemplate this course of action, so until you do…and not just a flippant “it’s ok with me”, then you’ve proven nothing but one thing: you and logic aren’t closely associated.

  117. John Stockdale

    Did I read somewhere that nuclear power plants need lots of fresh water for cooling? Would this be an issue in Australia?

  118. Evan Beaver

    Subtle logical trick this Christopher Dunne
    “As for your ‘argument’ (in reality, a statement of your ‘beliefs’), I’ll defer to both John Morgan and John Bennetts, who’ve done a pretty good job of showing the shortcomings.”

    Label something you disagree with as a belief; thus you don’t have to engage on any of the points and give yourself the appearance of the logical high ground, because you are not burdened by ‘beliefs’.

  119. Evan Beaver

    James McD, yes, that is exactly what I would like. Put those criteria in the feasability study. I’ve got no problem with other countries using nukes; I just think that in Australia it would not play to our strengths and create lot of other problems.

    And John, I doubt we’ll see any major wind developments on the coast; the public just won’t tolerate them. Also, we don’t really need them, for the reasons stated in my tirade from saturday afternoon. The new Bungendore wind farm uses only about 10% of the potential site, all on denuded farmland. The proposed Silverton farm is near Broken Hill. With new turbine designs the criteria for a viable resource are changing.

  120. John Morgan

    Stephen, thank you for those links.

    None of them provide direct estimates of the area associated with wind development, so I had to do a little guesstimation to figure that out. It turns out they agree with my estimations above.

    The first link points to a report just for Victoria, which proposes sourcing 33% of their electricity from wind generated by about 1400 wind turbines (they assume a 3.5 MW GE unit). They suggest this would be the seven times the size of the Texan Horse Hollow wind farm, so I will take them at their word and say thats a total of 1330 km^2.

    Victoria’s wind resource is concentrated along a coastline of length 2500 km, so if we stacked the turbines 1 km in from the coast, thats a bit over one half of the Victorian coast. Obviously you can stretch or squeeze that figure depending, and this plan also uses a chunk of Tasmania’s coastline via a HVDC link.

    But we’re still talking about industrialization of about half of Victoria’s coastline, to get wind ‘into the mix’ for Victorias power.

    The second link is to a plan to reduce Australia’s emissions by 30% from 1990 levels by 2020. This envisages 8 GW of nameplate wind capacity (and assumes 30% capacity factor). There’s no consideration given to the physical scale of the deployment in this report, so to estimate that in a way I hope you don’t find objectionable, I’m going to take McKay’s wind energy density of 2 W/m^2, follow your admonition that its 100% underestimated, and so double it, to 4 MW/km^2, to find 8 GW needs 2000 square kilometres. In my estimate I assumed 100% emissions reduction (not 30%) so lets multiply that number by three to get 6000 square kilometres (and I’ll give you the 10% excess for free).

    So here we have about 6000 km x 1 km if we’re exploiting the favourable coastal wind resource. This is smaller than the figure I came up with. Its only about one quarter of Australia’s coastline. Yay!

    Stephen, those links you provided are basically in complete agreement with the estimates I gave above (the third link doesn’t contain any data to work with). You need an integer fraction of Australia’s coastline if wind is to make a contribution that matters.

    But this discussion was initially directed at Evan’s remark, that “I can’t think of a couple of hundred hectares of coastal NP I’d happily forego.” (And, in fact, nor can I.) So Evan, I think there’s enough information to make a choice here. If your priorities are eliminating CO2 emissions and protecting coastal ecology, do you

    (1) go nuclear free, and accept light industrialization of thousands of kilometres of Australian coastline; or
    (2) use nuclear power, and accept heavy industrialization of several kilometres of coastline?

    I choose the latter. Over to you.

  121. james mcdonald

    Evan, all those points are fair objections on which both the public and the experts would need to be satisfied before going down that road. Would you accept the compromise of removing the absolute ruling-out of nuclear, whilst ensuring that all the criteria that you’re concerned about are included in weighing up all the options? That would mean nuclear fails the feasibility test if you’re right.

  122. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Evan Beaver, you have admitted that you think nuclear is ‘evil’, because plainly that’s your belief, I just pointed it out.

    As for your ‘argument’ (in reality, a statement of your ‘beliefs’), I’ll defer to both John Morgan and John Bennetts, who’ve done a pretty good job of showing the shortcomings.

    And Stephen Gloor, even granted another 100% efficiency for wind generation, it does not even come close to an order of magnitude required to match the energy required to keep up with population growth!

    Not double Stephen, but TEN times! When you’re able to show that wind can get ten times better efficiency, you’re in the ballpark… just.

    Oh, and Liz45, the previous suggestion of a cup of tea…I’ll second it.

  123. james mcdonald

    Stephen, Mark, Evan – thanks for feedback.

    Stephen: “Yes but why nuclear? Why not do the deal with Solar Reserve instead?”

    No reason, I have no axe to grind for nuclear and I know nothing about power generation, only first year physics. My only concern is (a) not to miss the bigger picture and the global nature of ETS, and (b) to replace ideology with economics in this. Economics not just in the sense of “we could do this” or “we could do that”, because there is no monolithic “we”, whatever gets done, somebody has got to make money out of it and feel confident their investment has a solid future, or they won’t invest.

    Harvesting solar energy in Australia looks like a great idea. Predictable, capacitant through the night time, or you can team it up with a coal burner designed to slow down in the daytime. If the 16-hour storage is still the most expensive part, it may be more efficient to team solar with lots of coal stations rather than replace one or two coal stations entirely with solar storage at the same cost.

    In terms of my offshore idea, it comes down to where you could reap the most carbon credits for the least cost–Australia where there’s more sunlight, or China where it’s cheaper to build and no sea transport of materials is necessary. Or both.

  124. Evan Beaver

    Christopher Dunne, if you’re going to put words in my mouth, such as these:
    ‘You actually believe nuclear is ‘evil’’, I might as well use them

    Yes, I think nuclear is evil, and bloody stupid. Why are we tackling climate change at all? It’s the concept of intergenerational equity. I think, building something potentially life threatening, that generates horrendous waste and uses a lot of water is an utterly irresponsible thing to leave for future generations. Even if it is one of these fantastical FBRs that aren’t running at commercial scale anywhere in the world, at the end of it there’s thousands of tonnes of poisonous concrete to deal with. Then there’s waste, which wll also be solved with fantastic Fast Breeder Reactors. So, what, we just hold onto the waste until there’s an FBR built here? Remember, these could only theoretically burn the waste, I strongly doubt it’s ever been done, and I bet it doesn’t include non-fissile waste like pipes and irradiated sodium.

    You would rather do that then build a dozen peaking gas turbines, which we have ample gas to run, plus 150k square of solar thermal over 15 years. With some luck geothermal will be a yes or no by then and we can start pumping some genuine baseload in; for all it’s stupidity and inflexibility.

    The grid needs to be replaced, it’s old and designed for a different spread of generation options. We’ll be assisted by the National Broadband Network, which can be used to move data for monitoring and controlling the network. Smart industrial companies, and years ago Sydney Water were doing this, know the value of back up generation in the MW range, and having machinery which can be switched off. On demand supply, when spot prices are high make this very profitable if you can maintain the machinery. Using the same mechanism there is enticement for ‘Load Shedding’; like switching off your aluminium smelter at 6pm on a friday in the middle of summer. The furnace probably runs like crap in very high ambient temperatures anyway.

    Wind will take care of itself and pop up all over the country side where there’s a good resource. I fully understand that the coast is the best place to place these, but after talking to some wind engineers I’m less concerned of the threat. They know well the bad press associated with poor aesthetic projects, and so turbine are increasingly being designed for lower wind speeds where the flow is more constant; ie away from the very windy coastal sites. Previously they wanted the very big numbers associated with high wind speeds, but these can be peaky. By ignoring the very high speeds the turbine can be designed to spin up faster in lower speeds and deliver more smooth operation.

    Nuclear has unknown future risks that could be potentially catastrophic, however small these risks are. What’s the future risk of renewables and smarter network control? Nuclear is a big commitment, and like getting pregnant it is a binary process. A nation can’t dabble in nuclear power, it must be embraced completely. That means a ramp up of some very serious resource intensive industries, and the creation of some that have never existed. Know many Australian nuclear engineers with experience in building new plants? We will have to import virtually every job on the project. Comparatively, we’ve got steel coming out of our wahzoo and there’s probably some manufacturing infrastructure left over from the slow gutting of Australian manufacturing sector of the last 20 years. The manufacturing task of solar thermal is relatively simple and can done with Australian engineers. It’s just a heat supply, so thermal electricity engineers from coal plants can run the generation side while boiler makers and fitters build and maintain the machinery.

    I think it ludicrous to plan a project that counts on a future invention to solve a very big problem. The industry has been running for 50 years and there aren’t any long term dumps in operation yet. It’s like leaving money on your credit card hoping for a windfall in the future to pay for it. Every day the problem gets worse, while the solution is continually researched. Why commit ourselves to such an utterly futile exercise, when an alternative exists that makes use of our natural competitive advantage; plenty of desert and plenty of sunshine. Driest continent on the planet.

    So, yes I think nuclear is evil, but only because I think mindless stupidity is also evil.

  125. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    John Morgan – “But rather than chipping away at my assumptions one by one, can you provide your alternative? Using whatever wind power densities, turbine characteristics, energy demand numbers etc. you think are fair.”

    Sure however plenty of people wilh far more qualifications than me have done it – for instance:

    http://beyondzeroemissions.org/zerocarbonplan
    http://www.sustainabilitycentre.com.au/Wedges_final.pdf
    http://www.sustainabilitycentre.com.au/CEF_CSIROSustNet-54.pdf

    I don’t think that I can do better than these studies.

  126. merlot64

    Whoops! keyboard went a bit zero happy… But I hope you get the idea.

    The other aspect of the massive capitalisation required for NP is that once you have the plant, you are obliged to keep it going to ensure that you get a return on investment. That means you may not be able to deploy new, more efficient designs and technologies that come about after you have commissioned your nuclear plant because you hve to leverage off your current investment.

    Cheaper, distributed power systems cn be more easily and cost effectively upgraded because your ROI happens earlier.

  127. merlot64

    Aside from representing a concentration of capital, nuclear power also represents a concentration of infrastructure. The size, complexity and cost of a nuclear power station dictates that the facility must be a hub in the power distribution network. This then means that the nuclear plant is itself a single point sensitive component of the power grid. It’s all very well to have Power Station outputting 6000MW but if that station, or part of the distribution network supplied by that station, goes off line, then you have lost 60000MW of power out of the network.

    The beauty of the solar/wind network model is that the power generation capacity is distributed across a larger number of farms and supplemented by private/domestic deployments. That means that the network is more able to sustain power distribution in the event of failure of multiple components.

    Then there is the cost of the network itself in supporting the concentrated output. Not only does the network need to be massively redundant, but it will in all likelihood, need to be servicing a power plant geographically remote – not many people want a Nuclear Facility in their back yard. Because the source of the power is remote to the consumer, the distribution network is inherently inefficient. The cost of redundant power generation systems and networks capable of maintaining base load in the case of network failure has not been dealt with at all from what I have seen in the links above.

    Conversely solar, and perhaps to a lesser degree wind, can have their generation farms much closer to the consumer. Much more efficient. Much more redundant.

  128. John Morgan

    Stephen, OK, lets say these estimates are in fact 100% low, as I think you suggest, and modify my sums accordingly.

    That means we’re only (!) talking about a quarter of our coastline, 1 km deep given over to light industrialization. Its still not looking good. And since coastal ecology is something I care about, to me it looks pretty bad. And compared to the footprint of nuclear power plants, there’s no comparison – NPP has vastly less ecological impact.

    But rather than chipping away at my assumptions one by one, can you provide your alternative? Using whatever wind power densities, turbine characteristics, energy demand numbers etc. you think are fair. Can you do a quick sum on what the area required by wind farms in a zero emission Australia would be?

  129. Evan Beaver

    And yes James, your suggestion way back at 9.56 makes some sense to me. Carbon is the same here as in China. Might as well pay them to reduce emissions on our behalf. I think though that a lot of the electorate would find that distasteful; we have enough trouble building our own infrastructure, why should we build it in China rather at home for Australian workers etc.

  130. Evan Beaver

    Things have progressed since I was last here…

    Frank, Ive left out a word here”
    Evan: you say on renewables: “There’s no fluctuation in fuel supply”

    No fluctuation in COST of supply. Unless Canberra start taxing wind. Which would put most pollies at a distinct disadvantage.

  131. John Bennetts

    Luke Weston and Barry Brooks – thanks for your attempts to educate, to provide real argument based on facts.

    Justin Wood, you were correcly accused of being irrational. It simply gets in the way of readers if you don’t focus.

    Evan beaver, I have enjoyed your contributions on parallel threads, but today you have showed your true colours. Your mind is made up and it is wind and solar thermal, about both of which I know something. This stream of closed mind blind attacks on nuclear energy, accompanied by unwavering support of your chosen answer would be acceptable in a politician. However, when it comes to committing vast numbers of dollars and effort to change the shape of society, it simply will not win the hearts and minds of the decision makers or the populace if you don’t provide supported argument and the ability to listen to others.

    As for Liz45 – you have excelled your anti-male, anti-nuclear, anti right wing conspiracy theories today. You appear to need a cup of tea and a good lie down.

    Sorry to pick out individuals, but my purpose is to demonstrate how divisive and polarised this discussion has been. I am one of those who do have significant involvement in the energy industry and a respect for the national efforts after the first WW in Victoria, then after WW2 in the Snowy and NSW to bring Australia’s generation capacity up to standard.

    The time has arrived for another whole-of-government effort, yet we seem to be bogged down in personalities.

    For mine, until very recently I was anti-nuke. I am realising that cost, logistics, land resources, existing high voltage transmission systems (more billions of dollars) and availability of technologies all drive at least fair consideration of nuclear, whether sourced from Britain, Canada, France or home grown.

    I look forward to the next installment. Friday’s Crikey awaits my eyes. – perhaps tomorrow.

  132. Scoogsy

    Great article – this has certianly given me a new perspective on what’s involved in going nuclear. While I’m not a massive fan of Nuclear (I just don’t like the idea of the long term radio active waste) I wasn’t aware of the massive decline in the construction of nuclear facilities, time taken to build a plant and huge shortage of nuclear physicists needed for the facilities.

    It’s still an option I think needs to be flicked around the table, but with this information it seems far less likely that it will be considered as a serious alternative.

    I’m a little surprised you didn’t write about Australias addiction to coal and the impact of replacing coal fired stations would have on that industry.

  133. Julius

    While getting rid of a lot of nonsense under BK’s benign dictatorship of an important part of the Blogosphere can we also jettison glib references to the chances Australia (sic, not one or two entrepreneurs) has thrown away by not backing experts and entrepreneurs in the solar, and even wind farm industries.

    Can anyone make a serious case that the income of Australian investors or the income tax take of the government has been or will be greatly diminished (net, or even gross) by reason of solar or wind power inventors or entrepreneurs choosing to build things for the Chinese market in China or, more generally, earning whatever their income is in other countries?

    Any other winners that governments in Australia have missed picking? Who sez?

  134. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    James McDonald – “Suppose the contract with China is able to include some sort of exclusive licensing deal, such as first option to build any type-X power station in China for the next Y years.”

    Yes but why nuclear? Why not do the deal with Solar Reserve instead?

    http://www.solar-reserve.com/

    What advantage does nuclear have over a solar thermal power station with 16 hours of storage plus a gas boiler? Especially since just about all of Australia has solar resources most other countries would die for within easy reach of most population centers.

  135. james mcdonald

    Stephen – thank you for answering.
    Suppose the contract with China is able to include some sort of exclusive licensing deal, such as first option to build any type-X power station in China for the next Y years. This could enable the Australian operator to do more prototypes more cheaply, making it easier at a later date to implement mature generations here in Australia. And export them to other countries. The jobs would be Chinese, but the licenses and the patents would be Australian owned.
    As for reducing demand, I assumed the taxpayer would have to contribute a portion (say half), raised within the CPRS regime, to make it worthwhile for the private JV. This would also cause pressure to reduce usage domestically.

  136. Liz45

    FLOWER – Just when I was feeling all alone – there you are! Brings tears to my eyes, but don’t let those male bastards know, or I’ll get another label???

    There’s something really sick in this country, when we arrest senior citizens like Peter Cundall for peacefully protesting against the Gunn’s Pulp Mill? We arrest quiet, caring and lovely human beings like Peter, whose crime was protesting against the corrupt govt of Tasmania. They allowed Gunns to write the Legislation, then put it before the Parliament, with the directive, that no parliamentarian had the right to even ask questions, let alone disagree, let alone vote against it????What????Democracy? Are they joking or what? And the bloody coppers? Next they’ll want out support when their govt f***s them over re pay and conditions????Not me!!!

    Part of Peter Cundall’s bail conditions, is that he can’t even go anywhere near the ocean????Why isn’t everyone who’s contributed to this blog screaming???Some of us know the answer – because some time in the future, this will be the fate of people like me, who have the audacity to protest against the establishment, including arseholes like Christopher Dunn(Robin)? Get out of my face!

  137. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    John Morgan – “Barry Brook estimates the required global build rate of wind to be ~340 km2/day, assuming a common 2.5 MW turbine, and assuming we get all our power in from wind”

    Barry Brook is dead wrong. This is where he gets his information from:

    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/cB/page_265.shtml

    “This number is worth remembering: a wind farm with a wind speed of
    6 m/s produces a power of 2 W per m2 of land area.”

    Which is a classic case of using the average wind speed to estimate the output of a wind turbine. As the energy of wind varies as to the cube of the windspeed, using the average will invariably give an answer 100% too low. Putting turbines higher increases the output much more that you would estimate as the wind speed is so much higher.

    I tried to get Barry to read this and I also emailed McKay about his error however as this answer suits both their agendas they were not really interested in correcting them.

    http://www.talentfactory.dk/en/tour/wres/bottle.htm

    ” Most people who are new to wind energy think they could easily live without the Weibull distribution. After all, if we know the average wind speed, we also know the average power of the wind, don’t we? So, can’t we just use the power (or energy) at the mean wind speed to figure out how much power (or energy) will hit the wind turbine?

    In other words, couldn’t we just say, that with an average wind speed of 7 m/s we get an average power input of 210 Watts per square metre of rotor area? (You may find that figure in the table on the power of the wind in the Reference Manual ).
    The answer is no! We would underestimate wind resources by almost 100 per cent. If we did that, we would be victims of what we could call the Average Bottle Fallacy”

    Your estimate like McKays and Brooks estimate of required wind power is completely off. Australia has about 25GW of generating capacity. Part of the renewable plan is to reduce growth of energy demand so if it gets to 50GW then we can install at least 50GW of wind by 2050. Right now we have about 1GW. To get to 50GW by 2050 it would have to double six times in 40 years which is a growth rate of 11% per year. The average growth rate of wind over the last 5 years was 25%. This 50GW would be at least 16GW of firm capacity and require about 4GW of gas to replace baseload according to modelling done by Mark Diesendorf.

    How about you use standard wind figures and calculations rather then advocates with a nuclear agenda.

  138. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    James McDonald – “Stephen, isn’t it true that peaking power can come from gas turbines? And that for the same reason, gas turbines supplemented by wind can take full advantage of intermittency by turning down whenever the wind blows or load drops.”

    Absolutely correct. Peaking power is almost always an Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) which is really a jet engine tethered to the ground. In Esperance WA this is exactly what they have plus Australian developed automatic controls linking the wind farms with the gas turbine.

    The solar thermal, being a thermal external combustion system, can only be classified as intermediate as it is much slower to ramp up and down. For this reason I would advocate wind farms to be legislated to have at least 15 minute ramp up and down speeds. This could be done with fairly cheap ultracapacitors and would make interfacing wind with the grid an order of magnitude easier. Too many dodgy wind farms will be built if this is not insisted on.

    “What if we can fulfil our emissions reductions by building low-emission generators in China instead of here, at Chinese prices, as I suggested at 9:56am?”

    The problem is is how does that benefit us really? We will be stuck on the innovation dead end of coal and others will benefit from the green jobs available. Also we will make no attempts to reduce our demand for electricity through efficiency gains if we can offset our far too high emissions by helping the Chinese.

  139. Julius

    Nominal comment to pick up thread

  140. Julius

    Clearly Bernard has his teeth into AGW and related issues so it is good to see at least five contributors who can educate him on the nuclear possibilities. Even as a reasonably well-informed interested bystander whose one undoubtedly correct prediction early in 2007 was that Kevin Rudd wouldn’t do anything substantial or real to reduce Australian CO2 emissions I have a couple of further suggestions about what BK might take on board.
    1. As Australia isn’t projected by Treasury or any other analyst of the CPRS to be likely to reduce its CO2 emissions before 2033 it is clearly irrelevant whether it takes 5 or 15 years to build a nuclear power plant in Australia.
    2. As long as Australia keeps enough of its uranium for itself the question of uranium running out is irrelevant as a matter of logic, as well as most unlikely in fact.
    3. If it did matter whether Australia could build nuclear power plants quickly then it is obvious enough that a rich country like ours could buy the expertise (even if we were building in Australia and not China or India) and French companies would be all over each other to get a big toe in our market. Furthermore, apart from actual examples given of plants taking 3 to 5 years to build it is plain enough that WW2 type mobilisation (particularly in the UK and USA) for many projects much more innovative than building nuclear power plants after 50+ years of experience of doing so, of which the Manhattan Project is merely the most famous, suggests that if we really had to we could have many nuclear power plants operating by 2020.
    4. Skills shortage? Think WW2 again. Thousands of Indian and Chinese engineers could be given the modest re-training needed before the first reactor was ready to be rolled into place.

    If Rudd was serious (even half believing in AGW as a probable disaster) we would already have a significant solar thermal power station at least half way to production. At least that would give us the excuse to go on making big bucks to repay the debt accumulated for fraudulent home insulation and unwanted school halls out of producing electricity really cheaply from coal – and of course continuing to sell half our coal for burning in China and Japan.

  141. John Morgan

    Evan Beaver:

    “I like the coast. There’s also a LOT of NP there. I can’t think of a couple of hundred hectares of coastal NP I’d happily forego.”

    I like the coast too, so lets see if there’s a lower coastal impact than these nuclear plants. Wind sounds pretty good, lets have a look:

    The high value wind resource is mostly coastal – see for instance the Australian Renewable Energy Atlas. Its mostly concentrated in the southwest, and much less to the northeast.

    Barry Brook estimates the required global build rate of wind to be ~340 km2/day, assuming a common 2.5 MW turbine, and assuming we get all our power in from wind (which we won’t, but lets start with that). Australia’s share of world energy consumption is about 1%. So the Australian wind development requirement is ~3.4 km2/day, till 2050. Forty years of days is 14600. So we’d need, more or less, 14600km of coastline packed to ~3.4 km inland with windfarm.

    The CIA world factbook has the coastline as being ~25000 km long. So lets say we need roughly the coastline extending from Port Hedland to Melbourne plus Tasmania turned into windfarm about 3-4 km deep.

    And yet, you can’t think of a couple of hundred hectares of coastline you’re prepared to give up for nuclear, in order to save giving over half our coastline, kilometers deep, to light industrialization for wind!

    Now, you can certainly question a number of assumptions here. We assumed we got all our power from wind, which is wrong – wind is going to be “part of the mix”, right? Lets say its 25%, with the balance being geothermal, CSP, and tide. So we’re down to half our coastline covered to only, say 1 km deep. Great. Lets throw in technological advances in, say, wind turbines, power transmission, etc, and say that halves the deployment again. Now we’re down to a quarter of the coastline, to 1 km deep.

    Do you understand whats happening here? You can chip away at the assumptions for incremental improvements, but you will never get away from the fact that, to get a significant proportion of the country’s power from wind, you must accept massive coastal deployments, which are completely incompatible with the values embodied in, say, the National Parks. And this is more due to the nature of the wind resource itself, not the mechanism used to harvest the energy, so technological advances will not change the overall message here.

    A number of the correspondents above have asked, when people identify a cost or delay or impact of whatever sort associated with nuclear power, that they don’t just then simply say ‘nuclear is no good’ and then stop. You have to apply the same analysis to whatever alternative emission free energy source you might posit. Your rejection of nuclear on the basis of its coastal footprint is a perfect example of this failure to keep thinking after you’ve reached the conclusion you were after. Please don’t do that, otherwise we’re going to wind up with perverse outcomes like rejecting nuclear because of its coastal impact, and consequently devasting the coastline with a much higher impact technology, which would shit me to tears.

  142. Justin Wood

    @Stephen Gloor – hear hear.

  143. james mcdonald

    Stephen, isn’t it true that peaking power can come from gas turbines? And that for the same reason, gas turbines supplemented by wind can take full advantage of intermittency by turning down whenever the wind blows or load drops.

    Also: “When the first Chinese or Indian nuclear reactor is built anywhere else in the world for the unbelievable costs you mention then I will be the first to admit I was wrong.”
    What if we can fulfil our emissions reductions by building low-emission generators in China instead of here, at Chinese prices, as I suggested at 9:56am?

  144. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    Luke Weston – “If we built 50 nuclear power reactors by 2050, we would be 100% free of greenhouse gases from the electricity generation sector, we would have more than twice Australia’s present electricity supply available, and we would have the output from Australia’s existing hydro and wind on top of that (there would be no point building any more wind capacity).”

    No we wouldn’t because you, like most nuclear advocates, forget peaking power. France works because of peaking power from abroad. Australia has no such abroad to draw power from. At most nuclear could supply 50% of Australia’s demand as current reactors are baseload only. The rest of the load is supplied by intermediate and peaking generators. Load followers in a commercial situation would be gas powered CCGT as these are 1/10 the cost of a nuclear plant. If you are going to privatise then I guess taxpayers can foot the bill for 8 billion dollar nukes running at at 30 to 45% capacity factor like they do in France. However this is one taxpayer that would bitterly resent subsidising an unnecessary nuclear wet dream.

    On top of that you have the requirement for peaking power and ancillary services without which the grid would come to a screaming halt. Solar thermal power stations with storage and gas boilers are classified as intermediate. They can do baseload and load following as required. As they are intermediate that have far more chance of interacting with wind than baseload only nuclear.

  145. Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    Barry Brook – “France is the stand-out real-world example of the ultimate scalability of nuclear power, with 59 nuclear plants generating over 63 GWe (80% of supply). The French are the world’s biggest electricity exporter, with the cheapest power rates and lowest carbon footprint per person in the EU.”

    However its waste is being stored in dry cask above ground storage win absolutely no plans for a permenant underground storage. Additionally to do this nuclear miracle it also imports peaking power from other European nations. In no other country has load following nuclear power station even been contemplated other than the state run power company of France.

    After 40 years of nuclear you are still asking for handouts. When the first Chinese or Indian nuclear reactor is built anywhere else in the world for the unbelievable costs you mention then I will be the first to admit I was wrong however until then nuclear is $4000 per kW overnight cost and over $8000 per kW final price after the required 9 or 10 years.

    Solar thermal power plants with a natural or waste biogas auxilary boiler can provide energy 24X7 no matter what the weather conditions. As they require less than half the build time of a nuclear plant we can build far more of them at half the cost in half the time and replace baseload power stations with far more flexible intermediate power stations that can interact with wind far better than baseload only nuclear power.

    For Australia at least nuclear is the last favoured option. In other discussions, that I do not partipate in any more due to your now extreme polarisation on nuclear, you stated that you would be happy to have Chinese reactors with Chinese fuel in Australia. This eventually would put us completely at the mercy of the whim of the current Chinese government. The reason that solar thermal has not taken off in Australia is because of the completely hidebound attitudes of our decision maker fed by baseload required crap that you perpetuate.

    For Australia with no nuclear fuel (we only have uranium and do not enrich or make fuel rods) our abundant renewable resources are what we should use rather than nuclear. If there is one country in the world that could be 100% renewable it is Australia. We should turn around and become the renewable showcase of the world instead of the biggest per capita polluter.

    My advice – stick to the climate science and ditch the nuclear hangers on like Lang and Blees. You can get off the shark you know.

  146. Frank Campbell

    James McD: Wind company secrecy is essential to them- for eg, they typically claim “30-35%” of what it says on the tin, i.e. say a 2MW turbine – will produce one-third of its max over time, because of wind’s intermittency. In Germany however, it’s more like 18%. In uk, 20-27%. So they suppress this info. Courts have begun holding them to account for such false claims.

    No one would object to decent patent controls. Without that protection, newtech companies are stuffed.

    You’re right to start at the economic end of it: capitalism (and the voters) will never allow econ. collapse or even severe strain due to energy. There’s plenty of it about, dirty or not. So the transition has to be palatable. (one reason why wind is absurd- as it moves beyond the trivial, where it is now, it has to be backed up 100% by Barry and his pet ogre or coal/gas: then no one goes anywhere, but it costs double)…we’re now paying for govt/industry neglect of newtech renewables. Can’t expect capitalism to care- it’s making money out of plentiful cheap coal and gas…so govt has to act. Problem is obvious enough- for all the hype, not one renewable is remotely ready. Solar might get there in 10 yrs, but…meanwhile, you suggest(post 9.56 am) using the current comparative advantage of nations to juggle tech devt./export etc. An interesting idea. Well worth exploring. All such complex long-term plans are however drowned out by AGW hysteria- the demand is for Revolution Now. There will be no revolution, just a shambling, stumbling melange of pointless burdens (wind), duckshoving, cheating and modest advance in some areas. Prince Charles and 2017 will come and go like all millenarians, into the shredder of history. The best bet is to use Govt to force renewable devt. That way an energy solution will be found- and “solution” means cheap, not just feasible.

    And there’s not nearly enough attention paid to population or hyper-consumption. Last night Kohler put up a graph of the Japanese economy: showed NO GROWTH for ff-ing ages! Capitalism’s kiss of death!. What tosh- anyone familiar with japan knows it has the oldest population in the world, and lives in cramped quarters by our glorious standards. Just how much Stuff can people accumulate? The Jap. govt. has poured trillions into pointless public works for decades, such as concreting river beds (I kid you not), as “stimulus”. Stimulating Japan is like putting electrodes on a geriatric. There’s a lot of twitching, but he still dribbles when you turn the power off. Restrain the Toorak Tractor Factor and many of our problems will ease…

  147. Flower

    1. Liz45
    Posted Friday, 20 November 2009 at 12:04 pm
    “BARRY BROOK – Correct me if I’m wrong, but nobody has addressed the important and relevant questions, such as, how much uranium is left in Australia? “

    Liz – I suspect the supply of uranium is bountiful. Once the grim reapers exhaust all U mines and poison our lands in perpetuity, contaminate the ground water, kill off the wildlife, hog precious water supplies, leave millions of tonnes of waste rock for our children to deal with , dump radon to ambient air, poison workers – as they did at Ranger in 2004, they’ll move on to exploit the oceans – tonnes of uranium there girl. Nothing’s sacred with this lot!

    BTW, the Ranger U mine is currently leaking 100,000 litres of contaminated water every day into a world heritage-listed area and with impunity too. That’s a mere peccadillo for the grim reapers.

    However, a word of warning. Do not complain – no, no no! Remember the ten protesters who were locked in a shipping container at the Beverley mine in South Australia? The protesters were given no warning before police beat them with batons, used capsicum spray and locked them in a shipping container with no water or toilet facilities for up to eight hours. This could be your fate girlfriend!

    Never contented, the grim reapers have now moved into the deserts to extract uranium – desert biodiversity is of little to concern to grim reapers (or desert people for that matter.)

    “French Areva has leased hundreds of square kilometres of the desert near Trekkopje, where it plans to build one of the world’s largest uranium mines.

    “At least 20 other mining companies from the UK, Canada, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere have also been given licenses to explore thousands of square kilometres of the national park and its surrounds, and six new mines, several of which would be in the park, are at the development stage. The mines are all expected to be in open pits up to 200 metres below the desert sands.

    “With their waste heaps, acid plants and giant slurry ponds, they will extend over hundreds of square kilometres.

    “Large areas of the desert will be inevitably devastated,” said Bertchen Kohrs, director of the Namibian environment group Earthlife.

    “They will do immense damage. We fear that there will be major contamination of the ground water supplies,” Kohrs added.

    “Documents seen by the Observer suggest the mines would initially consume about 53 million cubic metres of water a year, more than 75 percent of the water presently supplied by the Namibian state water company.”

    http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/health/britains-nuclear-strategy-may-cause-destruction-of-kalahari-desert_100272080.html

    And you and I will be “comforted” by the industry spin: “There’s no immediate danger!” I note already that you are being ridiculed on this thread by the nuked up cowboys. Yep that’s the strategy – we’re all wackos! But you go get ‘em girlfriend! I’ll be right behind you – I’m from uranium country!

  148. paul.rupil

    Maybe, just maybe, governments like ours will just be paralysed by all the debate, and nothing will happen. No nuclear, just more of the same. No decisions. A bit like the NSW govt.

    With all the ensuing climate change, crack out those windmills. More energy, more wind. Bunnings should sell kits and we should have one on every roof, above the solar cells.

    Are we mining Uranium so that only some other silly countries use the stuff? Perhaps we’re worried that we’re too stupid to use it safely.

    And lastly, giving birth should be carbon taxed. After all, by having one you are burdening the world with a bigger carbon mandate.

    Have a good weekend all 🙂

  149. Mark Duffett

    James McDonald @ 2:17 pm, I’d say no news is good news, i.e. no one here can see a problem with your suggestion. I for one would love to hear what response you get from MPs.

  150. Mark Duffett

    I’d scratch “habitat loss to mining” from your list of objections/caveats if I were you, Evan @ 12:33 pm. The footprint of uranium mining is minuscule compared to that for the materials (e.g. sand/silica) used in wind turbine, solar thermal and photovoltaic manufacture. In fact, I’d say it’s minuscule, full stop (as suggested @ 10:47 am).

  151. james mcdonald

    Frank, perhaps I misdirected my point. You’re right, performance output should be published under business transparency laws. It’s protection of patents that I would like to see strengthened. For business to see investment potential in generators that do not rely on mining, there will have to be something a company can invest in, which it has and others don’t have. Otherwise they won’t invest.

    PS. Please please please see my suggestion at 9:56am. By all means blow it out of the water, but it’s an economic suggestion rather than an engineering one. I need the feedback of the smart crowd here before taking it further such as writing to MPs about it.

  152. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Justin, I think BB’s conclusion is: on the basis of this analysis, even with all the political goodwill in the world (which we’d agree, does not exist), it’s a Herculean task to build enough renewable generators (with current technology) to even come close to demand…and here’s the clincher: by order of magnitude.

    Now, argue at the margins if you want, but show how orders of magnitude are going to simply vanish from the bottom line? Several orders of magnitude even?

    You can’t, but all I’ve seen here is quibbling at the margins from several posters who have a religious conviction, based on nothing but their ‘pure faith’ in ‘clean power’.

    It’s the cult of the über-green, the holier than thou who just ‘know’ that nuclear is satan’s work.

    But like you, I think we will have to use a combination of renewables and whatever nuclear is politically achievable. If the whacky left was more numerate and less fanatical, we could save a lot of environmental hazard, but that’s a hope too near impossible I’m afraid.

  153. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    LIZ45, you’re really hyperventilating now! LOL

    Take my advice and calm down, you’re doing yourself a big harm.

  154. Frank Campbell

    James et al: Think of domestic wind turbines on a house block as a revolving dog.

  155. Frank Campbell

    BTW, this tortured thread is a perfect example of the fine mess that the AGW cult has gotten us into: Barry Brook and his nuclear ogre are rampaging through the disoriented and tattered ranks of the greens…you’ve only got yourselves to blame folks. Jesus wept, we’ll end up infested with wind towers backed up by nuclear reactors!

    The road to hell is paved with your good intentions…

  156. Liz45

    CHRISTOPHER – I’ll just leave you alone to f**k up the planet shall I?

  157. Frank Campbell

    James McDonald/Merlot64: Why should we capitulate to the extreme secrecy of wind spivs? They act like this because there is a great deal to hide. As for power companies preferring huge capital investment projects, I agree- and wind is huge: they’ve spent a lot and now want to spend hundreds of billions more. Not a turbine would be built were it not for the massive subsidies paid by the consumer. As for domestic-scale renewables, I’ve been advocating that for years. Capitalism hates them, because they reduce demand. (Solar is fine, BTW, but if you’re thinking of installing even small wind turbines on 800 sq m. urban blocks, expect to be strangled by the neighbours.)

  158. Frank Campbell

    Evan: you say on renewables: “There’s no fluctuation in fuel supply”. You jest, surely. There’s only one renewable that counts at the moment, as we all know, and that’s wind. I’m sure Rudd’s evident desire to escape from the windfarm propaganda session yesterday was due entirely due to the lack of fuel….he didn’t want to be filmed standing under his lie.

  159. Justin Wood

    I was not referring to costs of technologies yet to be invented, merely trying to highlight that costs taken at any given time or just that — not a static and immutable number.

    As I’ve now said three times, I support the policy frameworks and funding that will address these problems, be the technology renewably-based or nuclear. I do not support the assertion that renewables will always be a poor substitute and all focus should be on nuclear.

    And as for the brevity, Barry’s piece may well be ‘get the big picture across in an easily readable format’, and that’s exactly my point. It is back of the envelope, it is highly contestable, and yet it concludes with ‘On the basis of this post alone, any objective reader can see that [a position that renewables are the sensible option] is pure, quantitatively unsupportable, nonsense’.

  160. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    I’ll agree with much of your post Justin, but a criticism of BB’s one page analysis as being brief, is kind of missing the point. It’s a ‘back of the envelope’ thing, designed to get the big picture across in an easily readable format; it does this pretty well.

    Secondly, how can anyone make any assumptions about costs based on technologies not yet invented? Sorry, but that’s absurd. You can do costing with knowns, not unknowns, and certainly not ‘unkown unkowns’ ( no apologies to Donald Rumsfeld!).

    Given the huge lead times for ‘good ideas’ (witness ‘hot rocks’ for example), the inevitable technical hurdles and yes ‘unforseen’ problems in arriving to marketable technology, is it wise to ‘bet the house’ that some technological panacea will arrive? Put the house on fusion? I don’t think so.

    Nup, not if your using sensible risk analysis it isn’t. So let’s discuss the possible, not your ‘wishlist’. That’s what BB has attempted to do, and it’s a pretty good starting point, and a lot better than Bernard’s attempt.

  161. Justin Wood

    The major problem I have with Brook’s analysis — other than the brevity… — is the assumption that these ‘numbers’ are static and fixed for renewables. They simply are not. New generation techniques are developing all the time (just look at thin-film PV production, or the research in silicon nano-wire PV taking place here at Murdoch). New construction techniques. New materials. New economies of scale. Etc etc.

    The fact is that these issues are so horrendously complex with such a diversity of economic and technical studies regarding cost, materials inputs, and so on, that to work out ‘the numbers’ with any degree of certainty is highly suspect. And the inputs such calculations are based on change so rapidly that it quickly loses accuracy. The brutal reality is that we do not know these answers, for renewables or for nuclear. Would anyone in the 1950s, 60s, hell, even the 1990s, have been able to meaningfully predict the current cost and material profiles of computing and information technology? I was an undergrad when RAM hit cost levels of US$1 per 1MB. It seemed fantastic. Now it’s ridiculously expensive.

    And while we’re at it, why must we continue to assume that BAU trends in energy use will continue? The developed world’s use of energy resources is profligate and egregiously wasteful, both in terms of raw energy efficiency, and also in terms of the fatuous uses much of it is put to. A simple example of that being the electric car. Yes these will be important for transportation as replacements for oil, but the much more necessary change is modal shifts to public transit and a sustainably designed urban fabric which dramatically reduces the need for these discretionary trips in the first place.

    So many of these issues come down to a battle over perspective; a divergence of vision for the future overarching structure of society and our economy.

  162. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Liz45, calm down. You’re only raising your blood pressure, but nothing even vaguely coherent in the way of argument.

  163. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    That’s it Evan? That’s your argument for the ‘belief’ that renewables can even come close to meeting demand?

    For starters, the latest design of reactors does not even use water for cooling!

    Next “XX tonnes of waste generated by such a massive build out of nuclear” compared with what? Do you seriously ‘believe’ that building vast numbers of renewable generators (thousands of them for each nuclear generator) will somehow not produce any ‘waste’? Are you serious?

    “This is a massive advantage of renewables”

    Once again, you state your belief, but produce nothing but misinformed comments and obfuscations to support it.

    Your ‘religious belief’ is beginning to show, Evan. You actually believe nuclear is ‘evil’, but pretend you’ve got facts to prove it.

    Obviously, if that’s all you’ve got, you do not.

  164. Liz45

    CHRISTOPHER DUNNE – You’re the very type of bloke I’m referring to. Instead of answering those genuine concerns, you resort to being insulting and objectionable. With this type of response to calm rational debate, god help us. No doubt you’d type cast yourself as ‘intelligent’? “Intellignece” is good – how you use it tells a lot about you. The facts/queries I raised have not been answered. How about pulling your finger out and do it!

    What about workers health?
    Are you happy to put your total trust in those with a vested interest in only informing you of the good things? Most intelligent, I’m sure!
    Why about including costs of the whole cycle?
    Why don’t you include the cost & type of energy used for mining, milling etc?
    Why don’t you include the costs of security and decommissioning?
    What happens to the site after the reactor has finished its life – a football field?
    Reactors need to be built near a constant water source? Ocean? Lake Illawarra, Wollongong, near Blue Scope Steel and BP?(some bright spark suggested this area as a site?) To hell with tourism, fishing, prawning etc, not to mention the residents?)
    Why not discuss politicians (lies,damned lies and fabrications)engineers etc, and community’s right to know?
    Why don’t nuclear reactor supporters ever speak of conserving; or the immoral acts by manufacturers to keep on spewing out electrical goods so we use more energy, and justifies the need for more? Energy that is?
    These are relevant parts of the whole question.

    It’s all too important for insulting smart arses like you, to pick and choose what you’ll canvass and questions you’ll answer? To hell with those like me, who have the damned cheek to question you!

    How old are you? Five?

  165. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    “Moderation” is a tad slow.

    Evan, the link is on Barry Brook’s comment at 10pm last night (hmm, numbering posts would make life a bit easier too…editor!), it’s his TCASE 4 page.

    If you can still ‘believe’ we can build enough renewable generators to fill demand…please tell me how you’ve calculated your conclusion.

  166. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    LIZ45

    Why don’t you also read Barry Brook’s page about the relative costs of building renewable and nuclear generators. (see post with link, coming to a blog here soon!)

    (And just for a minute, try and put aside the hysteria…it cannot be good for your health! LOL)

  167. Evan Beaver

    At the urging of others, I’ve started reading Barry Brook’s nuclear stuff. Starting here:
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/10/18/tcase4/

    I’ve got a pretty big problem with the methodology. Okay, the numbers for the renewables are big, and they contain this caveat at the end:

    “the figures I cite above for wind and solar, huge though they are, will turn out to be severe underestimates. ”

    Fine.

    However, I don’t see the parallel caveat for nuclear.

    Something like “these numbers do not include the habitat loss to mining, disruption to ecosystems through water cooling, transport, enrichment and the XX tonnes of waste generated by such a massive build out of nuclear”.

    If you’re going to play that game, play the whole game.

    This is a massive advantage of renewables. It’s all in the upfront cost. There’s no fluctuation in fuel supply, no concerns about supply chains. You build it and it goes.

  168. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Evan, you can ‘think’ what you like, but the facts don’t support your ‘belief’.

    Wait until my previous comment comes out of moderation, follow the link, and read it.

    If you then still ‘believe’ we can’t build enough renewables, let me know why, and what logic you’ve used to come that conclusion.

  169. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    No Evan, it’s based on something called ‘facts’. Read this analysis of the energy densities and the requirements for energy at Barry Brook’s site here:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/10/18/tcase4/

    … and think about what it means ie it is simply beyond us, as societies are currently configured to build the vast number of renewable generators to keep up with energy demand.

    It’s numbers Evan, pure and simple.

  170. Justin Wood

    @Barry Brook, @Mark Duffet,
    I accept that there is more uranium to be found. However I find it pretty disingenuous to simply dismiss uranium depletion and say ‘it will never happen’. Surely you’re aware of the need for a positive energy balance; that energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) must be sufficient to make the extraction and processing of uranium as a fuel source actually viable? The problem is not quantity per se (plenty of uranium in the oceans) but ore grade quality. To quote something I wrote previously:

    One of the most important aspects of Storm van Leeuwen and Smith’s work was to call attention to the increasing energy inputs required to extract decreasing uranium ore grades (Dones 2007, 2). They assert that uranium ore grade is the most important parameter in determining the energy balance of the nuclear
    fuel chain (2007, website); this claim is supported by other work that shows energy for mining and milling ‘increases considerably with low-grade ores’ (Fthenakis & Kim 2007, 2554).

    At a sufficiently low ore grade, energy losses during extraction are such that they ‘set a lower limit on the accessible ore quality’ (EWG 2006, 30). That is, the energy balance turns negative: more energy is expended in extraction that can be obtained from the fuel. Storm van Leeuwen and Smith found that, if including necessary energy inputs for the full fuel chain, this limit is 0.02–0.01% ore grade (EWG 2006, 31). And for ore grades below 0.01%, total CO2 emissions are comparable to that of an equivalent natural gas combined cycle plant (emphasis added, Diesendorf 2007, 253). [this GHG emissions aspect could be addressed by electrification of mining operations, so is not inherent to uranium itself.]

    It must be recognised that Storm van Leeuwen and Smith’s critics dispute the ore grade point that produces negative energy balance. But Disendorf makes clear that there can be no doubt that extraction energy inputs must increase by at least a factor of 10 for ore grade decline by a factor of 10 (2007, 254). And because this energy is from fossil fuels, there must be an ore grade at which CO2 emissions are no longer acceptable for the final electricity NPP can generate (emphasis added, pg. 254).

    @Barry Brook
    Your persistence in calling me irrational, and I would guess anyone who disagrees with you on the role nuclear can play, is remarkable. My emphatic belief you quoted is based on real-world evidence and the scientific literature. Now if I was to start throwing out an anthology of sources (in a comment thread), would that change your mind? I very much doubt it! I do not believe you are irrational, but I do not accept your argument and do not accept it adequately address the whole range of issues that nuclear entails.

    As I said above, I do support the funding of aggressive IFR research. And I do support a role for Gen III+ nuclear power in the countries where that capacity exists and can be expanded. (The latter position does not go down well with some of my colleagues either.)

    But where I fundamentally disagree is in your positioning of nuclear as the sole answer to all of our energy requirements. I see no reason nor justification for the denigration of renewable energy as incapable and marginal when all the real-world evidence is that these technologies are just beginning to approach economies of scale and economies of learning that will move them down their long-run cost curves. Costs are falling continuously while capacity and capability are rising exponentially.

    Can we just assume that renewables will do the job without massive effort and substantial chance of disruption during this gargantuan structural transition? Of course not. Which is why I and my colleagues — themselves professors and doctorates, just like you — strongly advocate for aggressive and urgent policy support, including funding, across the entire innovation chain. Remove the technological lock-in (eg, see Unruh) and power of incumbency from fossil fuels, and allow properly regulated markets to bring these technologies — renewables and nuclear — to the most effective combination. We need a multiplicity of energy sources and technologies to build a sustainable and resilient energy infrastructure. Betting the farm on nuclear alone is an extremely dangerous gamble.

    We don’t agree Barry, but I wish you didn’t feel it necessary to blithely dismiss persons such as myself as irrational and ignorant.

    References from above:
    Diesendorf, Mark. 2007. Chapter 12 – Is nuclear energy a possible solution? In Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy, 247-270. Sydney: UNSW Press.

    Dones, Roberto. 2007. Critical note on the estimation by Storm van Leeuwen J.W. and Smith P. of the energy uses and corresponding CO2 emissions from the complete nuclear chain. Paul Scherrer Institut. http://gabe.web.psi.ch/pdfs/Critical%20note%20GHG%20PSI.pdf.

    Energy Watch Group. 2006. Uranium Resources and Nuclear Energy. EWG-Series No 1/2006 (background paper). http://www.energywatchgroup.org/fileadmin/global/pdf/EWG_Uraniumreport_12-2006.pdf.

    Fthenakis, Vasilis M and Hyung Chul Kim. 2007. Greenhouse-gas emissions from solar electric- and nuclear power: A life-cycle study. Energy Policy 35: 2549-2557.

    Storm van Leeuwen, Jan Willem and Philip Smith. 2007. Nuclear power – the energy balance energy insecurity and greenhouse gases (2007 update). http://www.stormsmith.nl/, including individual ’parts’ as electronic documents (accessed 23 October 2007).

  171. james mcdonald

    Frank Campbell: “we need a great deal less of ‘commercial in confidence’ crap right throughout corporate capitalism”
    Unfortunately that would make business investment in sustainables even less attractive than it is. See MERLOT64’s point at 10:07am.

  172. Evan Beaver

    Christopher, how do you know that we “simply cannot install the renewables fast enough”. I think that’s a false statement, based on nothing more than guess work.

  173. CHRISTOPHER DUNNE

    Thanks Barry Brook for bringing some facts to Bernard’s journalism… a much needed requirement. Your TCASE 4 page is bloody sobering, to say the least, but the political gulf between the cold hard facts of physics and dollars is miles away from the tribal left’s religious conviction that ‘nuclear’ is synonymous with ‘evil’.

    Something ‘has to give’, as we simply cannot install the renewables fast enough, and the political impasse over nuclear will take at about another decade to resolve here.

    Either, human population growth slows dramatically, or there’s going to be a massive shortage of energy to sustain our current levels of material affluence. It’s probable that a combination of these two will occur, along with huge increases in populations living in poverty.

    But, hey, nuclear is ‘evil’?

  174. Liz45

    BARRY BROOK – Correct me if I’m wrong, but nobody has addressed the important and relevant questions, such as, how much uranium is left in Australia? Unlimited? I heard, that if the ‘world went nuclear’ the uranium would run out in about 20 yrs. What sense is there in going down that path then? Why is it, that people who put up logical arguments, or real concerns re emissions, health of workers, terrorism and ‘incidents’ and ‘accidents’ they’re put in the ‘irrational column’ and either ignored or ridiculed.

    As a mother, who took care of my body while it was ‘making babies’ I take a very dim view of anyone or anything that wants to EVEN PUT THEM IN ANY DANGER – even now that they’re men??Is that too hard for people to understand, or does it just go in to the ’emotional rubbish bin’ not even worth responding to. Maybe if you’d put your life on the line to protect three others, turned it inside out to give birth, and then nurtured them for years, you may have a different point of view. I suggest, that most on this blog who support the nuclear fool cycle are blokes – some with not a clue! I’ve never heard you even mention the human element. Is that beneath a so-called intellectual?$$$$$that’s the real focus?

    If nuclear reactors take so long to build; and if the supply of our uranium has a life of about 20 yrs, even 30, where’s the sense or logic in going down this path?

    If pro nuclear people don’t include the pollution caused by the whole cycle, that is being deceitful – no, it’s lies by emission, but still lies all the same. If you don’t include the health of the miners and all other workers, what is the point of having a community, a country? You’re just promoting a capital intensive investment by big business, at the possible expense of your compatriots,- their health is secondary to making millions in profits for the big companies – used to be GE and Westinghouse to name just 2. Who are they now?

    I’m amazed when I hear people like MacFarlene (local ABC radio) saying, that Australia needs to have the nuclear power discussion in the next five years????What? I was a member of Friends of the Earth in the 1970’s. We were discussing nuclear power then(and ever since) we were trying to appeal to govts etc then about renewable energy resources – we were treated by many as loonies. Where would we be now, if govts started installing, just solar hot water in all homes then? Wow! And water tanks? It wasn’t long since local councils wouldn’t allow them, only on remote farms. How dumb was that? Who made most of the decisions then, as now? Yep! Blokes! Greedy war mongering dumb blokes!

    I heard somewhere, that there’s 8 million (residential)dwellings in Australia. How much would it cost to put solar panels on the rooves? for hot water – at first? How much energy would be saved? How much in dollars and cents? The coal industry and the power stations would lose profits? Perhaps that’s why it wasn’t done? Cynical, aren’t I?

    Makes me want to grab you all and shake you until your teeth fall out, or your heads fall off, or……..you develop some real brains! Real solutions for the safety and improved living conditions for all – think globally, act locally? Imagine what solar could do re poverty and education?
    Let’s not look for alternatives for capital and power to make obscene profits, that take up our time on the nightly stock market report, while kids die every few seconds, and the future for our grandkids goes down the gurgler!
    Our overuse of energy is stealing their qualitify of life – every day! It’s dumb and immoral!

  175. Frank Campbell

    Evan: that’s why I expect it’s a leak. The source was a usually reliable one…in any case in the footage I saw, the tubines weren’t turning, so the farce was inevitable.

    And indeed, we need a great deal less of “commercial in confidence” crap right throughout corporate capitalism. Just another way of keeping everyone in the dark.

  176. Evan Beaver

    Come on Frank. Call any generator and see if they’ll tell you their instantaneous generation figure. It’s called ‘Commercial in Confidence’ for a reason.

  177. Mark Duffett

    Evan @ 6:23 am, Ranger has been operating within Kakadu for decades, yet Kakadu remains a ‘nice place’. That’s telling you something.

  178. Frank Campbell

    Evan: my informant claims the 2MW as “live data”, so presumably someone leaked it to embarrass Rudd. That’s why I qualified my comment with “apparently”.

    Inadvertently you nailed one of the nastiest aspects of wind companies: secrecy. They know they are engaged in a colossal fraud, so contractually gag rentiers, guards patrol public roads constantly ( I was on a public road recently near Waubra , came over rise to find my car blocked by a guard’s car which was stationary in the centre of the one-lane road, emergency lights flashing. This is the kind of US-style fascism we now have to put up with), refuse to release powergen results etc.

  179. merlot64

    On another tangent, Power generation companies prefer the nuclear option to the development of renewables because of their high capital investment. This limits the generation of power to entrenched corporate interests with the capital to build such. Renewable energy can be deployed on a small (domestic) scale. This undermines their monopoly position. Can I set up a pebble bed reactor in my backyard? No! Can I set up set up a small solar/wind farm and sell power back to the grid? You betcha.

  180. james mcdonald

    Luke Weston,

    “24 nuclear power reactors will supply all of Australia’s electricity use at present, one nuclear power plant typically has two or more nuclear power reactors, and I don’t know that Australia’s electricity consumption will double by 2050”

    Australia’s total energy consumption may not double, but grid power consumption could take over a bigger share of the total if electric cars become common.

    “eliminate approximately 12% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions”

    Actually, under a global ETS we don’t have to eliminate any emissions within Australia; we can eliminate the required rate of emissions anywhere on Earth and still claim the carbon credits.

    “low hanging fruit”

    Suppose we build and operate a nuclear plant in China, for … what, a quarter of the cost of building it here? Evan Beaver, yes Australia’s sunshine is a comparative advantage, but China’s cheap industry, and the reduced need for transportation, is a bigger advantage (and Chinese labour won’t be so cheap forever, eventually they will close the gap.)

    Suppose an Australian venture (say, a BHP-Origin JV) makes a deal with the Chinese: the JV closes a Chinese coal station and replaces it with a non-emitting generator. The Australian taxpayer contributes half the cost. The JV then runs as a commercial operation, supplying the Chinese with power.

    But here’s the key: the Australian JV collects the same value in carbon credits as it would for shutting down an equivalent coal station in Australia–for a fraction of the price.

    It doesn’t have to be nuclear. We can do the same thing with Mark Duffett’s list of sustainables from the Scientific American–all those brilliant Australian designs that are workable now but can’t get business backing within Australia. Build and operate them in China and India and Indonesia; use the carbon credits here in Australia to continue selling coal competitively.

    After several generations of building sustainables cheaply this way, the technologies will become mature and more cost-effective (and one of these days, Chinese labour will no longer be so cheap). Then we start building them in Australia.

  181. Evan Beaver

    Mark, granted there’s probably a lot of U235 lying around we don’t know about, but what would happen if, as some people hope, everyone did decide to go nuclear? Could put some upward pressure on the cost, and put some serious upward presure on Kakadu and other nice places that have Yello Cake underneath them.

  182. Evan Beaver

    ALso RE solar thermal + water, I don’t think it’s much of a problem. They don’t require ongoing water, just a big does for the start up. They’ll mostly run as a closed loop. Difficult to see how they could do it any other way. There is the problem of cleaning lenses, but I think they can do that water-less.

    RE siting + the grid. I’m also not concerned about this. The grid will need updating regardless of what we choose. Pasticularly if the geothermal guys start putting up the numbers. My current favourite option is a HV-DC line from the Cooper Basin, east through SW Qld. Then we can build our solar fields there, and access the good connection point/protection settings available around Brisbane. It’s a longer line, but apparently the SA connections are near their limits.

    Mark, I saw that study too. The numbers, particularly for Solar Therm were weird. How big a plant? Australia could meet their requirements with 1 plant. It would be very big, but still only 1.

  183. Evan Beaver

    Bogdanavist, I think the reasons are; No carbon price and previous Government under investment in renewables. It’s not new technology in any sense; the Nevada 1 or what ever it’s called has been operating since the 70s!

    Something else about nuclear which I don’t like, and I think it’s something the coal guys have got a free ride over is water access. The Wallerawang coal plant has a dam on the Cox’s River, which is now virtually dry. If we go nuclear (which for economy of scale reasons will require 10+ plants) they’ll probably end up on the coast. Now that’s either 10 individual sites or some really big ones. I like the coast. There’s also a LOT of NP there. I can’t think of a couple of hundred hectares of coastal NP I’d happily for go.

    Solar thermal will go in the desert. They can have it. If sun’s not a competitive advantage for Australia, then I don’t know what is. You can’t make electricity from cricket.

  184. Luke Weston

    “The spruikers for nuclear energy never say die. Climate change has given them a whole new lease of life. No-emission nuclear power should, they say, be part of Australia’s response to climate change. This week ANSTO chief Ziggy Switkowski said we should aim for 50 nuclear plants by 2050.”

    That’s interesting…. since 24 nuclear power reactors will supply all of Australia’s electricity use at present, one nuclear power plant typically has two or more nuclear power reactors, and I don’t know that Australia’s electricity consumption will double by 2050.

    (222 TWh / (1100 MW * 95% * 1 year) = 24.2)

    If we built 50 nuclear power reactors by 2050, we would be 100% free of greenhouse gases from the electricity generation sector, we would have more than twice Australia’s present electricity supply available, and we would have the output from Australia’s existing hydro and wind on top of that (there would be no point building any more wind capacity).

    Replacing Australia’s entire present electricity supply with nuclear power only requires about 12 nuclear power plants, assuming each plant is a pair of modern fairly large LWRs.

    “It won’t happen until the ALP fundamentally changes its policy on nuclear power.
    Right… so should we accept public policy based on what is basically analogous to a fundamentalist religion, instead of the best available fact-based. science-based, critical, rational analysis of the challenges we face?”

    “The Coalition is too scarred by their experience in the last election, when John Howard’s flirtation with the debate led to a Labor scare campaign about nuclear reactors in every backyard. Alas, that wasn’t quite how the right-wing media hoped the issue would play out when the Switkowski Report was released in 2006.

    Still, hope springs eternal in Liberal hearts. In Tuesday’s joint partyroom meeting, Julie Bishop pointed out that “19 out of 20” G20 countries are pursuing nuclear power. Australia, self-evidently, is the nuclear laggard.”

    Once again we see the old logical fallacy of guilt by association – nuclear power is bad because it is supported by Howard and the Liberals, and everyone knows, they murder kittens. You don’t want to support something that Howard supported, do you?

    “By way of context, the 2 GW of nuclear power connected in 2006-07 was equal to one tenth of the wind power installed globally in 2007. More than double the amount of wind power was installed in the U.S. alone in 2007.”

    Here we have the familiar old nonsense of only quoting nameplate power rating figures – and using them to compare different technologies with vastly different capacity factors.

    We want to look at actual energy numbers – not nameplate capacity nonsense.

    Total world wind energy generation in 2007 was 164.408 TWh – the equivalent of only about 18 nuclear power reactors, across the whole world.

    Furthermore, since nuclear power reactors take more than 1 year to build, you’re sampling the data in such a way that you’re creating a misleading picture of relative changes between wind and nuclear energy by chopping out the lower frequency component from the data, creating a skewed interpretation of the data – a statistical trick with which anthropogenic global warming denialists are familiar.

    You won’t see that lower frequency component become statistically significant in the data for several years yet. But the fact is, we could go and build, say, 5 nuclear power reactors, if we wanted to start off modestly, and that could be done within 10 years, to get things started off.

    Those 5 nuclear power reactors could replace Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B, Hazelwood and Yallourn, and thusly eliminate approximately 12% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. It’s that simple – we just go and replace all the coal-fired power plants, starting with the brown coal first. They’re the low hanging fruit.

    No amount of wind turbines or solar cells can actually replace the coal-fired generators – you’re talking about an enormous scale-up of wind or solar power, thousands upon thousands of wind turbines across the country – something that we know for a fact will take far longer and cost far more than nuclear power, when you sensibly and quantitatively count out one kilowatt hour from oranges and one kilowatt hour from apples and properly contrast the two. The significant fact that wind does not provide baseload generation, of course, must be considered.

    “Firstly, the global “fleet” of reactors is ageing. The average age of plants worldwide is 25 years. The industry maintains that reactors have a lifetime of 40 years (and that of new generations of reactors 60 years), but the average age of the 123 reactors that have been closed across the world has been 22 years. Even assuming a lifetime of 40 years, and assuming all 52 reactors “under construction” proceed, 42 reactors need to be planned and built between now and 2015, and a further 192 built out to 2025, to replace the current nuclear power capacity.”

    What’s the average lifetime of a wind turbine? How frequently do new wind turbines have to be built to replace existing ones that reach the end of their operational lifetimes?

    Once again, are we just slagging nuclear energy with any excuse necessary, or are we making a critical comparison between different energy options?

    “Then there’s the second, and more problematic issue: nuclear power plants take an extraordinarily long time to build. The 24-year gestation of the Romanian plant was unusual – plants have been built in five years in China, Russia and South Korea. The global average construction period for recent connections in 9 years. This means that even if Australia adopted a crash course of nuclear reactor building, there wouldn’t be a single watt of power available until late next decade at the earliest.”

    The average timeframe for nuclear power plant construction over the last 10-15 years or so, in Europe and Asia where most of that construction has been happening, has been about 5 years – it’s often as short as 3 or 4 years. Of course, you can build more than one at once.

    How long does it take to build the solar cells or wind turbines, for the same amount of energy generation? Once again, we see an eagerness on the part of the author to be critical of nuclear power – but a complete unwillingless to take the supposed alternatives, wind or solar or what-have-you, and actually put them up against the same yardsticks as nuclear power and make a legitimate quantitative comparison.

    “The industry faces other problems. The long downturn in reactor construction and operation has created bottlenecks and skill shortages. For example, there is only one facility in the world, in Japan, that makes the large forgings required for reactor pressure vessels. And the ageing of the western workforce has particular implications for the nuclear industry, which has failed to attract many graduates in recent decades. In France, there are currently more than 1200 positions available within the industry and only 300 nuclear science graduates a year.”

    Not everyone who works at a nuclear power plant is a “nuclear science graduate” – far from it.

    Regarding large-scale PWR pressure vessel single-piece forgings, there’s not really much of a limitation.

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN_Forgemasters_to_pump_up_capabilities_0309087.html

    As well as the Japan Steel Works capability for large forgings, the Russians have always had their own independent forging capability, and Areva is building new forging capacity in Europe to support their new LWR builds, and now these folks in the UK are building more such capacity too.

    Furthermore, it should be pointed out that such a requirement for ultra-large forgings applies only to very large scale pressurized light water reactors.

    It doesn’t apply to small-scale LWRs such as the NuScale and mPower designs, or to Boiling Water Reactors, or to PHWR (CANDUs), or to pebble beds or any of the molten salt or liquid-metal low-pressure reactor technologies.

    “There will also continue to be problems accessing capital for the industry. The long lead times for construction and uncertain economics of nuclear power prompted ratings agency Moody’s, in a bluntly-titled release in July, to declare that it would take “a more cautious view toward issuers that are actively pursuing new nuclear power generation. In a post-GFC world of constrained credit, nuclear power looks far riskier than it used to.”

    In the post-GFC world, lots of things look risky. Just look at Solar Systems, for example.

  185. Mark Duffett

    It just so happens that the latest Scientific American goes some way towards answering the request I made of BK (@2:38pm).

    Here’s what they reckon is needed for the world to go totally renewable by 2030. This or some alternative (i.e. nuclear) is pretty much what James Hansen and others who think we need to go sub-350 ppm CO2-e is needed.

    49,000 solar thermal power plants (less than 1% currently in place)

    1,700,000 rooftop photovoltaic systems (less than 1% currently in place)

    40,000 photovoltaic power plants (less than 1% currently in place)

    900 hydroelectric plants (70% currently in place)

    490,000 tidal turbines (less than 1% currently in place)

    3,350 geothermal plants (2% currently in place)

    3,800,000 wind turbines (1% currently in place)

    720,000 wave converters (less than 1% currently in place)

    Note these are not alternatives; all are required.

    Good luck with that.

    Granted, the other end-member solution involves many thousands of nuclear reactors. But which of these paths involves the smaller construction task? Have another look here. You might be surprised.

    @Justin, as I’ve written previously, of all the arguments against uranium energy, uranium scarcity is surely the weakest. U isn’t a particularly rare element in Earth’s crust. Don’t be misled by the assumption that current JORC-compliant reserves are all there is, as so many have been. Renewed exploration is only just now starting to bear fruit after a hiatus of several decades. A lot of new production is gathering in the wings, and there’s a lot more out there to be found yet.

  186. acannon

    Oh I just remembered that Keane’s argument is that nuclear is too slow. Umm. Maybe I have already identified the flaw in that plan…

  187. acannon

    I’m not a fan of nuclear, for all sorts of reasons, but I wonder if it possible to plan some kind of staged program? Perhaps building some nuclear plants and as many wind and other renewable power plants as possible in the short term, with the view to eventually phasing out nuclear plants also, after their ‘lifespan’ is up? But more immediately reducing CO2 and other emissions.

    I know nothing about the engineering and costs involved beyond what I’ve read on Crikey so perhaps this is naive. Also it would be hard to maintain such master plans over a 40-60 year time frame.

  188. james mcdonald

    But … “If the technological solutions are available as you argue, can you suggest why this technology is not being rapidly rolled out?”
    Barriers to entry are a key fundamental in convincing an equities analyst to say Buy. What Benjamin Graham called “economic moats”. If any Tom Dick or Harry can build the same sort of mechanical/optical plant that you can, where’s the big profit for you to invest in it?

  189. james mcdonald

    Bogdanovist: “it’s a safer bet to have a range of energy sources”
    Great point. Feed a whole lot of different sources into a grid. Reduce risks, blackouts, and dependency on key materials or components. Take advantage of local conditions, and foster technological growth in multiple directions rather than picking a winner in haste and repenting at leisure. Diversify away a certain degree of intermittency. The spread between base and maximum load narrows. The intermittency gap to be filled in by gas turbines which have very rapid turndown.
    From Rob Garnett in Crikey comments 28/3/2009 and 31/3/2009: “Gas turbine generators can be run up in less than ten minutes and shut down even quicker. A 2000 MW coal fired station can reduce/increase output 500 MW in ten minutes. Hydro is even quicker.” (The graph he posted there demonstrates this.)

  190. Bogdanovist

    You’re quite persuasive on solar thermal Evan, even if I do think at some level Nuclear has a role to play, I don’t see why the debate comes down so often to A vs B, it’s a safer bet to have a range of energy sources.

    In any case, solar thermal, assuming it can be scaled up to the scale required, obviously has an inherent attractiveness. If the technological solutions are available as you argue, can you suggest why this technology is not being rapidly rolled out? Is it a matter of the lack of a carbon price? Investor sceptism? Lack of government support? Do you know of any detailed study of where you would put many many square Km’s of solar thermal in order to be as close to the grid as possible without causing other environmental issues inherrent in the water and land use requirements?

  191. Flower

    Evan Beaver

    “Anyone got a link to the actual Switkowski report? I’ve never actually found it and have been relying on quotes from other sources.”

    I have Evan Beaver – all 288 pages!

    But here’s a link which might assist:

    http://www.ansto.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/38975/Umpner_report_2006.pdf

  192. Barry Brook

    “Roll them out.”

    @Evan: That’s fine, I agree, provided nuclear power is given a chance to compete on a level playing field with solar thermal, wind etc. That’s all that is required. Currently, there are no barrier to rolling out solar thermal except one. Economics. No anti-CSP groups, no lack of desert. Just $$.

    @Justin: The running out of uranium argument is very strange. It will never happen. The fundamental reasons why breeders are not being used commercially in most places, at present, is that uranium is cheap and storing used fuel on site is a simple short- to medium-term option. When the price rises to the point where recycling becomes more economic than purchasing cheap uranium and implementing geological repositories, breeders will be the sensible long-term investment.

    I maintain that you are not being rational, if on the one hand you argue on your perceived limitations of nuclear power, and yet on the other are willing to blithely say:

    “I emphatically believe we can power a sustainable, efficient, steady-state economy on renewable energy alone.”

    Emphatic belief, in the absence of real-world evidence, is not rational.

    @Michael: If renewables are going to have any hope of replacing coal, oil and gas within the time frame of the next 4 decades, do you imagine it will be any different to the scenario you describe as being “wholly improbably” for nuclear? Do you realise that solar thermal and wind power use over 10 times more concrete and steel than nuclear power (and that is before anything more than a few hours of energy storage is factored in)?

    Once again, I’d ask you to read this, and tell me where it is incorrect:
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/10/18/tcase4/

  193. Evan Beaver

    I’ve got no dispute with that Rena. Roll them out. It’s part of my support for wind. It’s cost effective now, so companies are building them. Despite Frank’s assertions above, they’re about all that will get built until we get a proper price on carbon.

    Out of interest Frank. How do you know the farm was only producing 2MW while they were there? I don’t imagine that is the sort of info B&B wind or whatever they’re called these days would release.

  194. Flower

    Last summer, France had to shut down most of its inland nuclear reactors because of over-heating. Some companies were permitted to continue operations, discharging water into the rivers, where the discharges exceeded the temperature regulation.

    Last year, a nuclear reactor in France had a spill which contaminated a river on which the community depended. A couple of weeks later, it had another one.

    The current nuclear reactors built on the coast lines (which is most of them) could be in deep trouble with the prediction of rising sea levels.

    Security? (smile):

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/02/eveningnews/main3447744.shtml

    And good on the jolly old Scots – well done. A windfarm which will generate 322MW at full capacity and provide enough power for 180,000 homes.

    http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2242572/scotland-cuts-ribbon-europe

    I wonder what happened to the hybrid wind/solar plants. Can anyone enlighten me?

  195. Rena Zurawel

    Evan Beaver
    Whatever we build, let’s do it! It’s no good to discuss things for ever and a day whilst nothing can be done because … coal lobby groups, commercial competition lobby groups, commando groups paid by lobby groups, non-public interest groups, corruption, administrative inertia, and generally lack of knowledge of the public that can be manipulated, and the environment issues is the best example. Have you ever heard how and why the Athens fell into a decline?
    Pretty soon we will have to import energy and water from China. Is that what you want?????

  196. Evan Beaver

    For me, the argument is pretty simple. In a choice between solar thermal (which, contrary to comments above, is at 250MW scale and above, with 8-12 hours storage) and nuclear it’s an absolute no brainer. Do you build something complex and risky, which locks you in for years of waste problems, security risks and improbable decommisioning costs, and with inherent fuel supply problems; or, build something that generates power from a free resource. I just think nuclear is a stupid solution to the problem. It’s the technologists solution, rather than the efficient solution. The tech for solar thermal exists. It is mature, bankable technology, that doesn’t require government insurance deals and supplies free, clean power. The risks, compared to nuclear are manageable and don’t threaten the actual fabric of our society; and certainly not for hundreds or even thousands of years.

  197. AR

    The only reason they take so long to builds is because of silly things like concern for public safety and such bourgeois ideas – look how quickly China can bring them online, all sparkly new & clean! And think of all the wonderful by-products/spin-offs!

  198. james mcdonald

    Justin,
    1. I agree, the comment about being “rational” is uncalled for
    2. BK reports ” the average age of the 123 reactors that have been closed across the world has been 22 years”
    3. Is there enough uranium to last 22 years?
    4. Would 22 years, with the economic playing field strongly tilted towards development of sustainables, and a strong income stream to fund it with, give us enough time to bring those sustainables to production?

  199. Rena Zurawel

    I think, ‘a mirage’ is the name. All countries with a nuclear power had had a solid infrastructure before they decided to build a nuclear power station. Australia has none.
    Building a nuclear power requires lots of water and energy. It also requires an army of well educated and highly qualified technical staff. We have none.
    To provide electricity for building a nuclear energy we need a national grit. We have none.
    We are sleeping beauties and the only training we provide is for hole diggers – and the tradesmen for these holes like welders and metal workers have to be imported from overseas.
    We cannot even prevent bushfires.
    The whole debate is a waste of time unless we look cloesly in the mirror: for decades, we have not been able to solve water problems; in the sunniest of countries we cannot build solar energy, and we are unable to provide our children with state education proper; but yes, from the desert… a mirage looks quite real.

  200. Justin Wood

    @Barry Brook, @James McDonald, you’re really not addressing the uranium resource depletion issue. Such as Energy Watch Group report.

    In general terms I do not accept the claim that renewables represent a 10-20x increase in task complexity/difficulty, nor do I accept the expense argument. I’m sure we could trade any number of studies and peer-reviewed literature to support our arguments, but at heart this in many ways comes down to a vision of what to aim for as much as technology or economics.

    For the record, I am not entirely against nuclear power for the very reasons you cite. In places where the capacity exists then nuclear is an important part of the response to climate change. A response of manifest urgency!

    But unless and until IFRs become tangible, it all comes down to the volume of uranium ore available at anything near a viable EROEI. I actually do support strong funding to find out if IFRs really can work. What I don’t support is throwing money into a nuclear option only to find IFRs are not viable in time, while we watch the uranium run out.

    Lastly, I do take a little offence at your characterisation of me as acting ‘irrationally’. I don’t feel that is warranted. My training, my research, my vision of a possible future leads me to a position that substantially differs from yours — ie, I emphatically believe we can power a sustainable, efficient, steady-state economy on renewable energy alone. I do not regard your position as irrational; I simply don’t find the evidence convinces me it is the best choice.

  201. Michael James

    Barry Brook’s scenario is dependent on several wholly improbably events. For anything like the French experience to be repeated here or anywhere else would require a highly centralized decision making that allows no dissent, and essentially was possible because France has no indigenous alternatives; where there was (no longer it has to be said) serious issues of siting the plants and where central government (not a gaggle of feuding dysfunctional state governments) takes the full load of funding and liability responsibilities and persists over the decades come what may. These are why the only comparable examples of “success” are China and maybe South Korea and latterly Japan. There is just no point in waving one’s hand and saying “if only”.
    The maths on scale-up to what would be necessary to remove the need for fossil fuels does not work as he suggests. Several reasons. More than any other energy source nuclear has a huge need for up front capital, and the longer the construction the worse the economics as interest payments start compounding without any income for years—essentially why only strong central government can successfully implement such a scheme and why it has ground to a halt in the USA (despite all those “planned plants” which are all conditional on massive government direct or hidden subsidy.). (I don’t think 100% government funding is what Costello or Ziggy exactly have in mind.) Secondly, it has been calculated that China is already close to the limit of construction capacity constraints. It is naive in extreme to compare it to building 50 coal plants a year. The amount of cement and steel required is so huge that it would start to cripple all the other construction going on in this rapidly developing country. And all the flow-on supply-and-demand effects, not least the inflation in the cost of these items. Not to mention the steel containment vessel for which there is only one company in the world, in Japan, that makes them.
    And with this massive effort by the Chinese (100 plants by 2020) it will still be only a small fraction of their total electrical capacity. And answer this: if all those rosy scenarios were true, why on earth would China not be doing it? In that scenario there is nothing to stop them going full nuclear. In the real world, whether communist or capitalist, there are very real limits to the rate of build of nuclear plants. Likewise, why is Spain not going totally nuclear? Perhaps because, unlike France, it has huge wind and solar resources. The uranium resource limits and the even more fanciful IFR breeder “solutions” are even more “if only” scenarios that others have mentioned.

  202. james mcdonald

    (forgot the last point)
    – Use that to buy time while the development of renewables surges ahead, ready to take over before the uranium runs out.

  203. james mcdonald

    Justin, consider again what Barry said: “over the last decade, China has been rolling out over 50 large coal-fired power stations of equivalent size each year”

    … combined with what I said: “Suppose we pool resources with other smaller countries and help China or India replace some of its dirtiest, nastiest coal stations with a nuke station or two. In doing so we earn enough carbon credits to allow coal profits to continue unabated for the time being. The key to this is the Law of Comparative Advantage.”

    … combined with what You said: “Developments in [renewables] are surging ahead, including storage options, but more importantly, doing away with the fossilised thinking that base load is somehow an inherent function of electricity networks.”

    Put them all together:
    – Use coal tax dollars to assist China’s incredibly efficient, economy-of-scale nuclear power program
    – As part of the deal, lock them into Australian uranium contracts
    – Bribe the coal mining companies with some kind of advantage, such as taking over the uranium miners or a stake in the Chinese nuke stations, so they stop dragging the f***ing chain on the whole scheme
    – Use the uranium dollars, and the carbon credits earned in China, to offset coal charges and continue selling coal at competitive prices

  204. Barry Brook

    I forgot to add this:

    “I greatly admire you as a climatologist, but it saddens me (and many others I know) that you have chosen to advocate so forcefully for nuclear and largely ignore renewables.”

    It saddens me even more that people like yourself and Bernard Keane, who recognise the urgency of the climate mitigation task, are not willing to take a rational, pragmatic approach to facing up to the technical and logistical detail of the solutions side of the equation. It’s forever comparing apples with oranges, and that is a comparison axiomatically doomed to give you the wrong answer. Have a read of my TCASE 4 (and 1-3, and 5 [and counting]).

  205. Barry Brook

    “Why on earth is it reasonable to think that the myriad of financial, technical, security, and ultimately, resource, issues can be solved for nuclear technology, but yet that we can’t possibly do it with renewables? ”

    Because the size of the task is (at least) 10-20 times larger with renewables, compared to nuclear. Ultimately, that will also translate to 10-100 times more expensive.

  206. Justin Wood

    The problem with any such nuclear expansion, @Barry Brook, is the ultimate lack of usable uranium. Anything approaching that scale of uranium consumption, even with Gen III reactors, will see the supplies of suitable ore grade depleted within a few decades at most. If you did it out of the ground, it’s subject to resource depletion.

    I know you’re a proponent of IFR and I agree they could play an important role in finally dealing with nuclear waste, some day, but they just don’t currently exist as a commercial reality in any meaningful sense.

    I greatly admire you as a climatologist, but it saddens me (and many others I know) that you have chosen to advocate so forcefully for nuclear and largely ignore renewables.

    Why on earth is it reasonable to think that the myriad of financial, technical, security, and ultimately, resource, issues can be solved for nuclear technology, but yet that we can’t possibly do it with renewables? Developments in the latter are surging ahead, including storage options, but more importantly, doing away with the fossilised thinking that base load is somehow an inherent function of electricity networks. It’s not. It’s a function of centralised, monolithic generation infrastructure being operated by control technology that has barely even heard of the IT revolution (smart grids, dispatchable loads, DSM, etc, etc). We don’t need to supply our electricity like that, and we don’t need thermal fission reactors either.

    Let’s expend the effort and money you’re proposing on a distributed, intelligent, efficient, and renewably-based energy system that will actually give us a truly sustainable future.

  207. Liz45

    JAMES MC – Is that the same Barack Obama who professes to pull troops from Iraq; hasn’t made up his mind re more troops for Afghanistan, but is now wageing war on Pakistan? He’s just proving, that he can outdo Bush in Bush’s quest for global power, by any means possible? Too bad about the use of DU on the kids in Afghanistan?

    I’ve read that nuclear power in Australia would reduce our carbon footprint by 2 or 4%? We need to do other things as well? Such as, every new domestic dwelling should be insulated – ceiling and at least outer walls. In areas like North Qld, NT and WA, plus western NSW etc, the floors as well, and windows facing west, east in WA to be double glazed. I understand, that double glazed windows will fit in existing tracks?

    All new dwellings to have solar hot water at least, and water tanks. How’s that for a start? Cheaper than giving billions more to the biggest polluters, who already receive $9 billion per year in subsidies! It can be done, if the will is there? That’s where it all falls over, sadly!

  208. Frank Campbell

    Quite so Bernard. Too slow, too expensive. We’ve known that for a long time. Why then are we being threatened with nuclear energy in the Land of the Moratorium?

    (i) because governments/industry have spent next to nothing on renewables research. Even solar is probably a decade away from providing baseload power, and that’s optimistic. Tidal and the rest are in nappies.

    (ii) all the dough so far has been , and will be, spent on wind. Huge cost increases as wind expands. Wind cannot provide baseload power. It is GG unfriendly because as it goes beyond 10% penetration it has to be fully backed up by fossil fuel and nuclear powergen. The farcical nature of wind was seen yesterday at Bungendore wind farm, where Rudd and a host of suits stood under still, silent blades. Apparently, the “massive” windfarm was generating only 2MW when the wankers were there. Rudd looked like he’d rather be cleaning out a sewer than posing in front of turbines incidentally. He’s too intelligent not to know the depth of his own hypocrisy out there near Lake George.

    A leaked report from the UK National Grid this week says that wind will be “up to 3000%” more expensive than FF/Nuclear power, not the mere 250% the wind scammers admit to. It will be interesting to see how this revelation pans out, but the lies about wind are now threadbare in any case. The Govt. can’t admit this because they’ve staked everything on wind, which is to say they AGW credibility.

    (c) The irony is obvious: the long struggle to keep Oz nuclear free may be lost, and the chief culprit is the AGW cult itself. Instead of rational, planned action we’re driven by hysteria, provoking the politicians to push useless, environmentally-damaging wind turbines over much of the country while they soften us up for nuclear.

  209. Evan Beaver

    Yeah, I know an awful lot about that Meski; was a lot of talk of it at the Geothermal Conference last week. No chance of earthquakes in Australia. The project you mention is next to the San Andreas fault.

  210. james mcdonald

    Another thing. The challenge is global, and in essence simple: To reduce the amount of CO2 in earth’s atmosphere. Not necessarily to reduce the carbon rising from smokestacks on Australian soil; that’s just a means to an end. What matters is that we make a fair contribution somehow, and we need to do it efficiently.

    Suppose we pool resources with other smaller countries and help China or India replace some of its dirtiest, nastiest coal stations with a nuke station or two. In doing so we earn enough carbon credits to allow coal profits to continue unabated for the time being.

    The key to this is the Law of Comparative Advantage. It’s cheaper to build a machine in China than here. It’s cheaper to make carbon-additive dollars in Australia than carbon-negative dollars because coal is our biggest resource. So put the coal dollars to work where they can do most good. That’s why ETS is a global scheme, not a domestic one.

    The process of eliminating impractical options is fine, but we’re spending half our time railing at “deniers”, the other half of the time despairing how impossible it all is. And we wonder why 14 per cent of Australians now believe it is “too late”.

    How about a bit of Barack Obama’s “Yes we can“.

  211. meski

    Well, Geothermal seems to have its problems, Evan.

    AltaRock Energy Inc., the Sausalito, Calif.-based firm trying to tap into geothermal energy by creating rock fissures in Geysers Geothermal Field in Lake County, Calif., suspended operations on Sept. 2 because of “physical difficulties” encountered when drilling the first 12,000-ft well. The project, funded by $6 million in federal funding along with private money, was controversial because of the possibility that the rock-drilling would trigger earthquakes. The engineered fissures are created by using a hydraulic pressure of up to 4,000 psi to “hydroshear” existing fractures, causing them to open slightly and slip.

  212. Evan Beaver

    This is the closest I’ve got so far:

    Friends of the Earth (2004) has calculated that doubling nuclear power in the UK – which currently has 23 power reactors in operation – would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by no more than 8% given that electricity accounts for less than one third of total UK emissions.

    Friends of the Earth clearly being steaming-Lefties, it’s difficult to tell what was in and what out of their estimate.

  213. John Morgan

    “Nuclear is slow” is a statement that deserves qualification as to where and when. Nuclear is slow now, in the US. Nuclear was fast in France in the 80’s. Nuclear is slow, now in Europe. But nuclear is fast, now, in China. Nuclear is expected to be fast, in the future, in India.

    The speed of a nuclear deployment is entirely within the scope of our own choice, and the interesting question is, how would we approach a deployment to ensure a rate comparable to China, France and Japan, and not the US.

  214. Evan Beaver

    Meski, the numbers the Geothermal guys are talking about puts them well in the nuclear category.

    I’m in the anti nuclear group. Can you disprove any of my arguments?

  215. Evan Beaver

    Anyone got a link to the actual Switkowski report? I’ve never actually found it and have been relying on quotes from other sources.

    I have however read
    Ian Lowes critique and summary of the report.

    I assume it was a fair representation of the report as there were no complaints about the content in the correspondence in the following issue.

    Oh, I can’t find the quote, but there’s a line in it regarding the ability of nuclear to address emissions. Because of the emissions during construction, processing etc, it’s something like 15 reactors will reduce growth in emissions by 18% by 2040. If anyone has it I’d love to be corrected.

  216. james mcdonald

    Roger: “There is one notable exception, and that is gas power stations, possibly decorated with a token wind power farm. Each power farm could be brought into production quicker than its consumers expand.”

    The beauty of this is that gas generators are far more time-responsive than coal stations. You can turn it up or down rapidly like a barbeque flame according to load. And according to whether the wind is blowing or not. A perfect marriage with wind, avoiding wind’s problem of storing potential energy.

  217. meski

    More FUD from the anti-nuclear group. It can’t produce enough electricity? Really? Compared to what? Consider we are trying to eliminate coal and gas plants, which are the only ones that produce the same kind of output as nuclear.

  218. Mark Duffett

    That’s the stupid thing, Pete WN @ 3:59, nuclear material already is going through Australian ports…outbound.

  219. Evan Beaver

    Geoff, storage for solar thermal is fairly simple. Even without actually building it into the system, latency means you’ve got an hour-hour.5 over run after the sun goes down. Rule of thumb in Spain is that 8 hours increases project costs by 1/3. Info from same trip mentioned below.

    Mark

    No URL. Sorry, boss just got back from a ‘fact finding trip’ (sangria drinking junket) in Spain and Portugal. The Andasol guys have got their manufacturing system nailed now and just roll the things out. Problem over there is though, and probably why you’re getting the 50MW results, is the Spanis Govt have capped their rebates to plants under 50MW.

    BTW, your mailbox is full. Make 7MB of room and I’ve got some geotherm info for you.

  220. Jim Reiher

    Great article. The comments have been predictable for the most part. The pro-nuclear advocates from previous blogs are still trying to grasp something – anything … but the sand is falling through their tightened fists. Nuclear power cant be the answer to Australia (and the world’s) energy needs. It will take too long to construct, cost too much, not produce enough electricity (and still need other sources to compliment it), the worlds stocks of uranium cant sustain it for the long run, and the whole issue of storgae of waste and risk of theft of waste and dirty bombs is still there too.

  221. Pete WN

    BTW is it scaremongering if it truly is scary?

    Good luck trying to get Nuclear material through any Australian port without a littany of Mums and Dads saying “NIMBY”.

  222. Pete WN

    Hmm – West Atlas Oil Rig anyone?

    My opposition to Nuclear Power is simply because companies, governments and people make mistakes. That argument holds no sway, unfortunately.

    Thanks Bernard for putting up a monetary argument as to why Nuclear Power is bad option; definitely a more effective line to push.

    Ps Indonesia was considering nuclear power. Our closest neighbour being the 3rd most corrupt nation on earth (according to Transparency International), can’t keep their planes flying safely, and sits on an active fault line. Oh dear.

  223. Mark Duffett

    Any chance of a URL, Evan @ 2:40, or is that privileged information? After several minutes googling the closest I can find is a plan to build a 50 MW capacity plant over 36 to 48 months.

  224. Geoff Russell

    The big technical problems for wind and solar are
    intermittency and scalability. These problems will remain even
    when people decide climate change is serious and the money
    problem vanishes. These technical problems
    are both tough and are starting to bite in countries which are moving on these technologies. It would be a foolish
    set of Governments who bet the planet on being
    able to solve these problems at will. With great respect to
    Bernard, people who are interested
    in more than cheering for long held tribal allegiances, should
    head over to bravenewclimate.com for in depth discussion
    of the full range of alternatives.

  225. Liz45

    IAN KEMP – I’m with you re carbon emissions. The only part of the nuclear fuel cycle that doesn’t emit pollution is the reactor itself – but there is even debate about this. Is there radioactive material in the steam?
    I’d like to know if the cost of mining, milling, enrichment, reprocessing, transport and storage of waste, security (including police presence re transport through towns, cities etc), cost of water for all aspects, and decommissioning of reactors after use are included in the costs? All of this should be included in the cost of each KWH of energy.

    It also seems to me, that in the driest populated continent on the planet, with huge problems NOW with water availability, how and where would we get sufficient water for reactors? Via desalination plants? What happens to the oceans when the removed salt is returned, or is it stored somewhere else? Where? How much energy is required to power a desalination plant?Where would that energy come from? Coal or gas powered plants?Or nuclear reactors?

    No reactors have been commissioned or decommissioned without an injection of taxpayers money – the budgets are always heaps more by the time completion is carried out. Do we want to take dollars that could be spent on health or education or public transport or electric cars, and spend it on a questionable science, with many dangers and difficulties?

    Do we trust governments to tell us the truth about any incidents or accidents? I don’t. Look at the last 4 weeks over one boat of 75 asylum seekers. The lies, fumblings, ignoring the questions, the carry on for political purposes etc, how could we trust any govt to keep us informed. Both sides would probably be complicit in keeping truths away from us. Those who build reactors, work in them etc also have a vested interest in engaging in cover ups. I don’t trust any of them – nor do I trust the police, the military etc. They all lie! Look at the huge ones over Iraq, WMD’s etc. Are you all that gullible? I’m damned sure I’m not! Maybe once or twice, but again and again – how brainless is that? No way! I learn quickly!

    If all countries in the world turned exclusively to nuclear power, how much high grade uranium is left? 20 yrs? 10 years? Infinity? Does anyone know? Does anyone even ask that question?When the high grade uranium(which Australia apparently has)is all gone, how much extra to enrich the lower products? would we have to enrich it here, or at point of sale? Anyone know? anyone ask the question?

    I think it makes more sense to go down the road of renewable energy resources, straight off- much cheaper in many ways. ‘Australia has enough energy from the sun in one day, to provide the world’s energy needs for a year'(Prop Ian Lowe – ACF). The technology is being tested now in California, to provide base load power within the next 3 years(it was originally set at 5 yrs, that was 2 yrs ago). It is hoped to be cheaper than nuclear, and maybe even coal. We’re in the best position weather wise to utilize this natural resource – the sun!

    I refuse to go along with those, who have a vested interest $$$$$$ in pushing nuclear, knowing they’ll be long gone when my greatgrandkids arrive. They have a damned cheek. When I hear Turnbull rabbit on about Labor’s ‘legacy’ for the next generations via the stimulus, I want to shout, but your colleagues(and others like Martin Ferguson etc) don’t give a damn about stuffing up their planet – by one means or another!

    I also reject those who abuse those of us who raise the waste issue, terrorism, radioactive emissions, health of workers, nuclear weapons etc as being emotional. Funny that, how life or death is an emotional issue. Take a look at the results of Depleted Uranium bombs? You don’t have to wait for a reactor melt down; they’re using the waste now? More waste=more DU bombs? Now, that really makes me emotional! Angry in fact!
    Watch, “The Doctor, Depleted Uranium and the dying children of Iraq”. It’s on line!

  226. Roger Clifton

    So Bernard suggests that the first nuclear electricity would arrive after 10 years, followed one by one by others, each taking five years to construct. That is the timescale of pretty well any industry.

    There is one notable exception, and that is gas power stations, possibly decorated with a token wind power farm. Each power farm could be brought into production quicker than its consumers expand.

    The major flaw in arguing for gas, decorated by no matter what renewable, is that it would introduce new emitters of greenhouse gases, at a time when all our energies should be dedicated to heading off all emissions, new and old.

    If the trend in recent decades has neglected nuclear power, then it is time to reverse the scaremongering and reverse the trend.

  227. Flower

    I trust Bernard will also follow up with an article on the entire nuclear cycle – the mining of uranium, the renaissance of U mining in Australia (and its potential environmental ramifications) including the proposed new mines in Western Australia, and the past and present blunders in mining this stuff.

    Has anything changed since Venturini published his expose: “Partners in Ecocide – Australia’s Complicity in the Uranium Cartel.” (1982)? Are these the same players – different era?

  228. Andrew

    Where and what are the “guarantees” from governments or industry that, in a workl of ever-growing population and economies, dominated by greed, a growth of the nuclear industry will result in reduction of carbon emissions?

    More likely both will continue to grow, with deleterious results on all fronts.

    A proliferation of a plutonium economy, placing more radwaste in more hands around the world, can only result in further N-weapons proliferation and in nuclear conflagration, with consequeces as horrendous as climate change.

    Those who question solar-thermal and wind energy on the basis of their perceived intermittent nature make the assumption as if present population growth rates and standards of living need to continue to grow, yet it is preceisely these growth rates, non-sustainable high material standards and their high ecological footprints, which now outstrip the carrying capacity of the planet.

  229. meski

    @Ian: There is a high fossil fuel consumption *today* in mining/processing nuclear fuel – well, of course there is, because Australia isn’t using nuclear power plants – if it were, we could be using the output of said nuclear power to do the mining /processing. Don’t use the weak argument that you can’t use electricity to power mining trucks etc, you can convert it to hydrogen / oxygen and use that. Current calculations for Olympic Dam are completely irrelevant.

  230. ian kemp

    I am mystified as to why it is claimed that nuclear energy has a ‘no-carbon’ footprint. There is massive energy consumption in mining, refinining, transporting and enriching the Uranium Oxide fuel, all supplied by burning fossil fuels.

    Calculations from Dr. Mudd’s team at Monash University show that the current emissions of 30 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of Uranium oxide are likely to increase to 300 tonnes of CO2 at the Olympic Dam mine after its current expansion – due to changes in the mining & mineral processing. And these calculations exclude the provision of water, large amounts of solvents and other chemicals used in the refining process.

    Around 25 years ago I worked in an industry supplying components for nuclear power stations. Among the scientific community it was widely believed that the energy requirement in building the plant, operating and decommissioning it including reprocessing the waste, exceeded the total energy produced by the plant, when you accounted for electrical transmission losses. And all that input came from… fossil fuels. The only way to get zero emssions is to go to the Fast Breedeer technology based on Plutonium, which has a different set of problems meaning it never went past the pilot stage.

  231. Michael James

    James McD (and MattB & Roger Clifton from yesterday’s blog on Macfarlane):
    What you don’t seem to understand is that to arrive at a course of action to solve a problem, one has to dispassionately examine each potential “solution” to eliminate those “less likely” or “extremely improbable”. I don’t know what else you expect to be done. Bernard is taking an approach very similar to my earlier articles; and which is convergence as any sensible look at developing policy does this: one does not necessarily look at all aspects of each potential solution. One first addresses ONLY those issues which might be clearer or easier to obtain convincing evidence; afterall if nuclear is impractical on such issues then you never have to deal with such difficult-to-resolve arguments that just go round in circles (siting, waste management & storage, n-proliferation, end-of-life decommissioning etc). This is the equivalent of testing a provable/disprovable hypothesis. I did this with CCS over the past year –ie. it is not whether it will work etc—but on other issues that it fails; and guess what, even the GCCSI agrees, and now Macfarlane!
    BK has restated even more clearly today that nuclear fails on a few easy to assess criteria (cost and timing). Barry Brook- or Tom Blees -style obsession with new designs (IFR, fast breeders that chew waste) that any cursory examination of timing and cost (decades and unknown but huge $) makes pointless. That is why, Gavin, I do not expect and certainly hope Bernard will not go there in tomorrow’s article, as those issues are nothing but distractions.
    Excuse me for being preachy/arrogant but many bloggers simply need to try to learn about how to arrive at impartial decisions. I don’t believe either BK or myself started with any particular bias on the nuclear issue; certainly speaking for myself I was probably inclined to think nuclear may have been a part of the solution (having lived in France for a decade and zero complaints about their incredibly successful n-industry). But especially for Australia, it no longer makes any kind of sense. So with CCS dead in the water and nuclear ditto, it comes down to wind (now), solar-thermal (almost), geothermal (highly certain) and solar-PV (longer timescale to become economic). Perhaps we (gov) have to set timetable and mechanisms to winnow this list further, say over the next 5 years, since being so small a country we may not be able to invest adequate resources for success (or to get to demonstration stage to even know).

  232. Evan Beaver

    I can tell you Mark that a 250MW solar thermal plant, with 8 hours storage HAS been built in Spain in 9 months. There’s also no nuclear waste.

  233. Mark Duffett

    This is all fair enough, as far as it goes.

    But tomorrow, can you please not do what so many nuclear naysayers do, namely: ‘Going nuclear will cost x billion dollars and take y years, x and y are too high, QED’ and leave it at that. If you really want to contribute something to this debate, let’s have an apples vs apples comparison of the alternatives. Let’s also hear how big x and y have to be to build enough windmills, photovoltaics, thermal tubes and five thousand metre-deep drill holes to make the required difference, and make a judgement about those numbers as well.

    Otherwise, as James McDonald suggests, you’re simply saying that we’re stuffed. Either that, or we’re simply not World War II/Manhattan Project-type serious about solving the problem.

  234. Barry Brook

    You mention the FOAK build in France/Finland.

    France is the stand-out real-world example of the ultimate scalability of nuclear power, with 59 nuclear plants generating over 63 GWe (80% of supply). The French are the world’s biggest electricity exporter, with the cheapest power rates and lowest carbon footprint per person in the EU. At the height of its nuclear build-out phase in the 1970s to 1980s, France was rolling out 6 plants per year. Six countries have a national GDP higher than France, and all already possess the technology to build generation III+ and fast spectrum reactors: USA, China, Japan, India, Germany and the UK. At France’s historical rate, these countries could together build 120 plants per year, with no greater urgency than the French brought to bear on their road to energy independence. Indeed, over the last decade, China has been rolling out over 50 large coal-fired power stations of equivalent size each year. So at this quite feasible rate, it would take 30 years to build 3,500 plants in 7 countries.

    So we know it CAN be done, outside of the fast Asian build times. The real question an investigative journalist like you should be doing, Bernard, is asking why it isn’t happening now, what can be done to change it, or if it is not possible what are the feasible alternatives. As James McDonald noted, otherwise, you’re simply coming up with reasons why we can’t solve climate change.

    More details here:
    TCASE 4: Energy system build rates and material inputs:
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/10/18/tcase4/

    and

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/23/recent-nuclear-power-cost-estimates-separating-fact-from-myth/

  235. Evan Beaver

    Come on James, weren’t you listening? It is highly unlikely that a nuclear power plant, let alone 10, can be built in enough time to make the required difference, in the required time.

  236. james mcdonald

    That’s the way, keep coming up with reasons why we can’t solve climate change. Brilliant.

  237. Evan Beaver

    Good stuff Bernard, you’re preaching to the converted with me, but I still like showing up to church to hear the sermon…

    This comments section is going to get hairy.

  238. Gavin Moodie

    Thanx Bernard, a good start. I trust tomorrow’s instalment will include the cost of storing nuclear waste until it is safe, say, for 1,000 years.

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