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Oct 13, 2011

The web of vested interests behind the anti-wind farm lobby

A network analysis of links between the principal voices involved in demonising wind farms in Australia has been circulating in recent weeks and reveals connections between some of the principal wind farm opponents.

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Following a July investigation by environmental correspondent Sandi Keane , a network analysis of links between the principal voices involved in demonising wind farms in Australia has been circulating in recent weeks.

The network diagram shows connections between some of the principal individuals who have been vocal in opposing wind farm development in Australia, several organisations that are at the forefront of the opposition, the Institute of Public Affairs and its love-child the Australian Environment Foundation and the Victorian Liberal Party.

In August, the Baillieu government announced it would be amending legislation to require all wind turbines to be sited further than two kilometres from any residence.  The push is now on to get the NSW O’Farrell government do the same thing. The decision effectively guts the wind industry’s immediate prospects of further development in Victoria with wind industry insiders predicting that money will rush into South Australia, where already 21% of the state’s energy is sourced from wind.

(Click on the image for the full, readable version)

At the base of the diagram are various wind farms that have been targeted by those opposed and the connections with protest meetings that have been held in recent years. The often cosy relationships are never better illustrated than by looking at the links between the Waubra Foundation, the Australian Landscape Guardians  and Victorian mining investor Peter Mitchell. Mitchell has uranium and coal seam gas interests and has spent a lifetime in the fossil fuel extraction industry.

Mitchell is the Waubra Foundation’s founding chairman and at least until February 2011, was also chairman of the Australian Landscape Guardians’ Science and Economics Committee.

The Waubra Foundation, the Landscape Guardians and Mitchell’s investment company Lowell Capital all have the same post office box, yet the “medical director” of the foundation, Sarah Laurie, wrote recently on a blog: “The Waubra Foundation is not a front for the Landscape Guardians … Peter Mitchell  … has kindly made his mailbox available for the use of the foundation, as we have extremely limited financial resources.”

Things must be tough: a post office box costs about 50 cents a day.

Amazingly, the Waubra Foundation website states that Laurie has an MD (research) degree from Flinders University. She does not: she has bachelor’s degrees in medicine from Flinders, but is unregistered to practice as a doctor. An MD is a postgraduate degree awarded to accomplished researchers for a body of published work.

One of Waubra Foundation’s  governing principles states: “At all times to establish and maintain complete independence from government, industry and advocacy groups for or against wind turbines.” Its chairman Peter Mitchell is a strident opponent to the Stockyard Hill wind farm (which borders his weekender). Sarah Laurie ties herself in knots claiming that she doesn’t oppose the proposed Crystal Brook wind farm in her backyard, yet she’s devoted the past 15 months to fighting wind farms.

Fellow director Tony Hodgson is a founder of Friends of Collector, a protest organisation in the mould of the Landscape Guardians, he’s working hard to scuttle a wind farm adjacent to his weekender. Director Kathy Russell opposes the Mount Pollock wind farm in her backyard and is vice-president of the Australian Landscape Guardians, vice-president of the Victorian Landscape Guardians, spokeswoman for the Western Plains, Mount Pollock Landscape Guardians and the Barrabool Hills Landscape Guardians. The Landscape Guardians appears to have more office positions than members.

A front group bereft of credibility, we might wonder how the Waubra Foundation garnered the support of Michael Wooldridge (federal health minister under Howard) to also sit on their board. Wooldridge opposes the proposed Bald Hills wind farm, which borders his family’s farming interests in Gippsland.  The Bald Hills project was almost scuttled by the Guardian’s heartfelt concern for the orange-bellied parrot.

A ban was overturned when it was shown that the whole wind farm might endanger one theoretical parrot every 667 years.

Having found limited success using protected species to prevent wind farms, the anti-windies settled on a new weapon, a manufactured health crisis. But last month, international journal Environmental Health Review published a review of all evidence about the proposition that wind farms cause health problems in those exposed. Like at least four other previous reviews, this latest review concluded:

“While it is acknowledged that noise from wind turbines can be annoying to some and associated with some reported health effects (e.g. sleep disturbance) … given that annoyance appears to be more strongly related to visual cues and attitude than to noise itself, self reported health effects of people living near wind turbines are more likely attributed to physical manifestation from an annoyed state than from wind turbines themselves. In other words, it appears that it is the change in the environment that is associated with reported health effects and not a turbine-specific variable like audible noise or infrasound.

“Regardless of its cause, a certain level of annoyance in a population can be expected (as with any number of projects that change the local environment) and the acceptable level is a policy decision to be made by elected officials and their government representatives where the benefits of wind power are weighted against their cons.”

So people who are annoyed or affected by wind farms are those who basically don’t like them and find the sight and sound of them upsetting, in much the same way that some people object to traffic, aircraft or street noise while others are indifferent to it. The idea that in themselves, they are intrinsically toxic to those exposed, has poor support in the scientific research literature.

The anti-wind farm movement regards such conclusions as profanity but has had a hard time getting the scientific community to take them seriously. For example,  look up “wind turbine syndrome” (a new “disease” invented by a US general practitioner) in PubMed , and you’ll find zero entries. And if you look up “vibroacoustic disease“, the name for a new disease caused by inaudible, invisible sound waves put out by evil wind turbines, you’ll find papers by staff at a minor Lisbon university where the authors all repeatedly cite each other’s papers, but few others ever do.

Australia’s commitment to renewable energy faces formidable opposition from interests who think climate change is  “crap” and who will be affected by the carbon tax.  China, India, the US, Canada and many European nations are storming ahead with wind energy development. If flakey arguments about wind farms being harmful are not exposed, Australia will be tying one hand behind its back on the path to a greener economy.

*Tomorrow: the eight papers that the anti-wind farm lobby describe as “groundbreaking” —  pity about the “peer review” …

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135 thoughts on “The web of vested interests behind the anti-wind farm lobby

  1. Ian McKendry

    Good to see detailed and well-researched commentary on the frothing dishonesty of the anti wind farm lobby. Such ‘tell it like it is’ refuting of the mystical rubbish solemnly put forward by the anti brigade is surprisingly rare. Yes, of course it is mainly the usual Australian whining and NIMBY-ism at play yet again, however disguised as pseudo- science.

    The most hilarious example was on display on 7.30 last night. Suffocatingly self-righteous farmers in opposition to a wind farm because the sheep are sensitive creatures and it will affect the quality of the wool! Spare me. Of course, it does also leave open the judgement of the producers of 7.30 in seeing the story as interesting or newsworthy. Maybe they saw it as beautiful satire – you certainly couldn’t make this stuff up.

    Ian McKendry

  2. Russell

    No matter how worthy” such investigations are, they are besides the point. You will never be able to “debunk” the opposition, because it defies rationality. Similarly the Four Corners program a free months ago, which spent a lot of time trying to rubbish the claims that the turbines caused “headaches.”

    Interesting, but irrelevant..

    The real problem here is the Nimby-ism which is rampant through the inner city urban area of Australia, and now the rural regions as well You will never defeat their issues with argument, the selfish, emotionalism behind it is totally impenetrable to reason.

    The rise of Nimby-ism in the cities has been fostered and is encouraged by the Greens. In fact they campaign constantly on Nimby issues. At the recent Sydney Film Festival screening of a movie called “Windfall” about the impact of a wind farm on an upstate New York community, I was struck by how the opponents of the turbines were all what we would call “greenie” tree-changers.

    Affluent, educated, articulate environmental activists. Just like the ones protesting CSG in the inner city now.

    Those who signed up for turbines on their properties all needed the income. The film wryly noted that in the more affluent neighbouring communities, wind farms didn’t even get past first base.

  3. Mark Duffett

    “…tying one hand behind its back on the path to a greener economy…”

    You’d better hope metaphors aren’t covered by the Geneva Convention, because that’s torture.

    Wind farms aren’t evil, they’re just not all that useful: bravenewclimate.com/2011/05/21/co2-avoidance-cost-wind/. There are fundamental reasons why a point of diminishing returns is hit very rapidly once a given power grid tries to go above a ceiling of about 20% contribution from the things.

  4. Modus Ponens

    What is most interesting is that those who received rental payments for the turbines never suffer from any symptoms that those who receive no payments do.

    It would be interesting if neighbouring property owners were entitled to small royalty payments, whether the anxiety induced headaches and blood pressure would be alleviated…?

  5. Steven Warren

    From what I have seen in reports your claims that SA “sources” 21% of their power from wind may be a little bit of a furphy.

    21% of their capacity may be wind (which would be fairly close to it’s coal capacity) yet while practically all of their coal would be purchased, a large percentage of that wind wouldn’t.

    In 2005-2006 back when 10% of SA’s capacity was wind, they actually purchased no wind power generation at all (or at least a statistically insignificant amount).

    With the price parity effect of the ETS it is more likely they will use wind power now, but having the capacity to use something is not the same as actually using it.

    This just reinforces your point more not less though.

  6. Richard Mackie

    response to Mark Duffet:
    The Brave New Climate article you reference is widely acknowledged as based on an attack on wind by the Idependant Petroleum Association based in Colarado. They make some rather outlandish claims and baseless assertions about fossil fuel generator ramp-rates. The web site also rather fairly published a response to the article you referenced. Look here: http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/09/01/wind-power-emissions-counter/
    The reality is a similar result to what we found in South Australia. Look here: http://www.windlab.com/sites/default/files/20110915_SouthAustralianWindPower_DO_LHO.pdf
    Wind farms directly displace fossil fuel use (wind wind is blowing coal or gas is not being burned) but also, pushes the dirty plant (old coal) out of the system first. Wind has shown to actually reduce emissions more than first thought.

    response to Steven Warren:
    Your comments don’t make sense. All power produced in the National Electricity Market is bought by someone.
    As well as being 21% of nameplate capacity, we found that wind in South Australia also produced about 21% of the energy last year. This means the capacity factor of the wind farms is about the same as the capacity factor of the rest of the system. Wind energy works.

  7. Captain Planet

    20 % is a pretty useful contribution, Mark.

  8. Dan Cass

    Great piece, Simon. There are fascinating connections there and I’m keen to see if any more information comes to light….

    I’m very disappointed by the NHMRC’s response to this furphy. When the NHMRC ran a consultation on this issue recently, it was structured as an equal argument – half science that Simon describes and half the pseudo-science of the Waubra Foundation.

    The only MP invited was Alby Shultz (Lib, NSW). It is absurd to have Alby at a forum on the science of health because he is anti science. He has described climate science as Nazi science.

  9. David Clarke

    I happen to know Sarah Laurie. We both live at Crystal Brook, a small SA country town; when she was practicing she was, for a time, my GP. I believe she is sincere and well meaning, but badly mistaken and being used by the Landscape Guardians.

    There are people who believe wind turbines make them ill. Lots of them have told their tales to Dr Laurie. Fair enough. But there is no evidence that it is the turbines that cause the illness; all the evidence that I’ve seen points to anxiety and fear. And unfortunately Dr Laurie is increasing that.

    If anyone doubts the 20% plus that wind power contributes to SA’s power I suggest that they read ElectraNet’s SA Annual Planning Report, 2011. Which also says that “Studies show that the existing transmission network has the capacity to enable up to approximately 2300 MW of wind generation in South Australia before generation exceeds regional demand and interconnector export capacity.” That is, about double what it is now.

  10. Stevo the Working Twistie

    Aren’t the executives of big mining and oil and traditional power companies allowed to care for the little birdies and struggling farmers? “We’re behind you all the way in stopping these ghastly, unnatural wind turbines. By the way, do you have room for a fracking plant on the south paddock?”

  11. Microseris

    The usual suspects and axis of evil: Liberal, IPA and the obligatory fossil fuel representative. No right wing nutters worried about the landscape issues or health effects for a potential new coal fired plant in the Latrobe Valley. The proposed location has hundreds if not thousands of residents within 2km, whilst the effects and carcinogens will spread well beyond. The only thing stopping the project at the moment is the fact they can’t generate the necessary funds from the market and have to rely on provision of funds from governments. No right of veto for the residents.

    The market knows a turkey when they see one.

  12. Mark Duffett

    @Captain Planet, I don’t dispute that, but there are a hell of a lot of people out there who blithely assume we can sail through to 100% renewables off the back of wind turbines (to employ a tortured metaphor of my own).

    @David Clarke, sorry I didn’t make clear the 20% refers to a sustained, long term contribution levels, not instantaneous ones. SA can only go nominally above that because of its existing connections to the wider SE Australian grid.

  13. michael r james

    Mark, you appear to be a closet Luddite (who has come out), a bit odd for a technical and scientifically literate person (apologies, for some reason I never quite remember your profession, geological engineer?).

    Are you not aware (it is probably on BNC?) that the Gemasolar solar-thermal plant in Spain was officially inaugurated last week (it has in fact been operating for a while). It provides power 24/7 with up to 15 hours storage (via salt going between crystal/ liquid states). Yes, it is a small start. But it is only the beginning, and in all likelihood other technologies will turn out to be more efficient and more practical for large-scale energy storage.

    I am a firm believer that it is only a matter of time before the energy storage issue is solved technologically. (Which of course requires it to be solved economically.) Most of the renewable energy technologies benefit from or require it (though ironically geothermal could feasibly make it redundant) and they all will be able to draw upon central storage facilities when the proper grid and support facilities are in place.

  14. michael r james

    Simon Chapman wrote “If flakey arguments about wind farms being harmful are not exposed, Australia will be tying one hand behind its back on the path to a greener economy.”

    Alas, on ABC 7.30 last night we saw why that program is in decline. Its wind farm story was purely “descriptive” in that it merely presented the whingers and a few locals who were in favour, but hardly touched any real investigation into the fundamental issue. This approach is exactly what Leigh Sales claimed they would not do, ie. not follow the empty populist path of the commercial “current affairs” shows. A lot of time was given over to a pair of rich (possibly very rich, given their contracts with Zegna–Paul Keating’s fave suit designer) sheep farmers who worry that their sensitive sheep will stop growing wool if the planned wind farm is allowed to go ahead. It was beyond parody really.(One almost expected Michael Palin to appear claiming to John Cleese, that this sheep was a dead sheep!)

  15. Gratton Wilson

    The very sensitive merino sheep that produced such ultra fine wool should be examined in their entirety. The sheep in question are apparently “shedded sheep” that is they are permanently enclosed in pens inside a shed, they do not graze but are fed special nutritional pellets that may include a considerable amount of sawdust so that no matter how much they ate they would not put on condition – they have nothing else to do but eat. They have no contact with the outdoors; never see the sky, they may become neurotic and bite the fleece off each other out of sheer boredom. They wear sheep coats all the time, to keep the fleece clean and to protect the main fleece from being torn off by other sheep. Their diet is very strictly controlled to keep the protein level low, thus the fleece “fine” but not so fine that the staple becomes “tender” and thus to break.
    No wonder they wouldn’t let anyone inside their shed to take photographs of their shedded sheep. Fine wool is the desirable outcome of merino breeders. Some sheep are bred fine, other sheep are fed fine – that is they are kept on starvation rations and housed in sheds.

  16. AR

    Knock me down with feather! hooda thunk it? Astro turfing and vested interests! I’z shocked! Shocked I tells ya!

  17. Muzza

    I just checked the Waubra Foundation website, but could find no reference to the MD description linked to Sarah Laurie that Simon Chapman speaks about. However, my main point is that the wind turbine debate has become so polarized that truth has gone out of the window. It’s clear that there are health issues related to wind turbines if one searches the web, reads the recent Senate inquiry report, follows up on medical professionals with experience in the area etc. But Chapman attempts to cast anyone who raises issues about wind turbines and health as a climate change denialist. Unfortunately, this is an all too common response from the Greens as well. Could someone for example, be supportive of various forms of solar energy, but have concerns about wind energy because of the associated adverse health effects? Of course! Could someone be concerned about climate change and the need for carbon reduction measures, and at the same time have concerns about wind power and its adverse health effects? Of course! Could someone be against coal seam gas, but have concerns about wind power? Of course! Big business interests are behind the industrial wind turbine push too, but there are many reasons why it may not be a good form of renewable energy to pursue. Chapman’s vendetta reminds me of the Shakespeare quote: “The [man] lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Further, as I understand it public health is about prevention and the precautionary principle. For a person with the title of professor of public health, the latter characteristics seem to be in dangerously short supply. As for the mass hysteria argument, this has been used by psychiatrists such as Simon Wessely to blame the victim, by attempting to suggest that some in chronic pain suffer as they do from psychological causes, rather than from a direct biological cause. If one does a wiki search on Simon Wessely, one finds that the Times of 6 August 2011 describes him as “the most hated doctor in Britain”, along with other unsavoury connections.

  18. Bill Parker

    Is everyone going quite mad here? Sensitive merino sheep?

    Hasn’t anyone got the wit to do proper acoustic measurements over accurately measured distances from a set of wind turbines and generate some data that say its THIS or THAT? By acoustic data I mean in the air and in the ground. Just how far from a wind farm is the background threshold changed?

    This is starting to be fading curtain country.

    If do not like the LOOK, that’s different, but let’s have a modicum of scientific data. Or has that already been derived and buried?

    Mark D, the sensible end of the renewable energy end has never talked about 100% wind. It will always be a mix of technologies. The biggest challenge is to manage the grid responses to a variety of intermittent and variable inputs.

  19. Peter Clunes

    Ms Laurie was quick to update her website and remove the MD postnominals. For those who want to see evidence, it’ll be here for a few days: http://tinyurl.com/sarahmd

    If you were there a few months ago you would have seen her claim that she holds various fellowships. After strong words she inserted “Past” in front.

    It’s tempting to feel sorry for her for being so utterly used by the anti-wind mafia. But she’s known about these links for a long time, and nothing stops her from taking the stage around Australia and scaring communities that wind farms will give you heart disease and diabetes. Privately she tells her extensive mailing list to amp up fears about fire risk now that summer is coming.

    She’s even told folk in hushed tones that wind farms give off “stray voltages”. Nutty stuff.

    She’s an activist, not a medical professional.

    For a further look at her ethics breaches, check out the lively discussion here: http://yes2renewables.org/2011/09/12/disclosure-needed-on-anti-wind-farm-groups-motives/

  20. Peter Clunes

    @BILL PARKER yes, the research has been done. The whole infrasound “debate” is a red herring.

    Here’s the engineering study showing nothing sinister in the audio spectrum even at 305m (1000ft): http://dl.dropbox.com/u/958819/Papers/Low%20frequency%20noise%20and%20infrasound%20from%20wind%20turbines%20%28INCE%202011%29.pdf

    Here’s the study that explains the sociogenic “Wind Turbine Syndrome”:
    http://www.ehjournal.net/content/10/1/78/abstract

    And if you want to laugh and cry at the same time, check out this document by the husband of Dr Nina Pierpont, the first person to describe “Wind Turbine Syndrome”:
    http://nosydenhamwindfarm.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/how-to-fight-big-wind.pdf

    Regarding merino sheep, the greatest quote has got to have been:
    “But the sheep are nervous, seriously nervous”

  21. Roger Clifton

    @Michael R James – Are you saying that there are no Luddites around here? If that is the case, let’s go straight to nuclear, and stop mucking around with unreliables.

  22. Dave Burraston

    A piece by Dr. Carl V Phillips on Simon Chapman :

    “Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney, wrote a really bad commentary about wind turbines, employing the utter confidence while having no idea what he is talking about.”

    http://ep-ology.blogspot.com/2011/05/unhealthful-news-138-another-side-of.html

  23. Steven Warren

    @ Roger The biggest problem with nuclear is it is actually currently more expensive per gigawatt than wind or solar.

    Given the tears over $10 a week we have now the nuclear lobby is basically living in dreamland if they think we are going to switch to nuclear power any time soon.

  24. Dave Burraston

    Here is an excellent & recent paper by Dr Daniel Shepherd et al, (Auckland University of Technology, NZ.

    http://www.windaction.org/documents/33166

    Evaluating the impact of wind turbine noise on health-related quality of life
    September 27, 2011 by Daniel Shepherd, David McBride, David Welch, Kim N Dirks and Erin M Hill
    Noise & Health, September-October 2011, 13:54,333-9
    Abstract:

    “We report a cross-sectional study comparing the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of individuals residing in the
    proximity of a wind farm to those residing in a demographically matched area sufficiently displaced from wind turbines.
    The study employed a nonequivalent comparison group posttest-only design. Self-administered questionnaires, which
    included the brief version of the World Health Organization quality of life scale, were delivered to residents in two
    adjacent areas in semirural New Zealand. Participants were also asked to identify annoying noises, indicate their degree
    of noise sensitivity, and rate amenity. Statistically significant differences were noted in some HRQOL domain scores,
    with residents living within 2 km of a turbine installation reporting lower overall quality of life, physical quality of life,
    and environmental quality of life. Those exposed to turbine noise also reported significantly lower sleep quality, and
    rated their environment as less restful. Our data suggest that wind farm noise can negatively impact facets of HRQOL.”

    Dr Shepherd also made a very good submission to the recent Senate Inquiry (Sub 540 attachment):

    http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/clac_ctte/impact_rural_wind_farms/submissions.htm

    He also had a paper in the International Conference on Wind Turbine Noise (WTN2011):

    Wind turbine noise and health-related quality of life of nearby residents: a cross-sectional study in New Zealand.

    One of the findings published by the conference website is:
    http://www.windturbinenoise2011.org/
    “The main effect of daytime wind turbine noise is annoyance. The night time effect is sleep disturbance. These may lead to stress related illness in some people. Work is required in understanding why low levels of wind turbine noise may produce affects which are greater than might be expected from their levels.”

    All this research has been pointed out to Simon Chapman on numerous occasions, and yet even with an international conference attended by industry & academics alike, Chapman seems not to be interested. Annoyance is a primary health effect.

    Another 2 papers from WTN2011 worth looking at are:

    “The audibility of low frequency wind turbine noise.” Swinbanks MA

    “Selection of outcome measures in assessing sleep disturbance from wind turbine noise.” Hanning C and Nissenbaum M

    This is a 2 yearly conference, next one is 2013. If noise was not a problem, why is there a 2 yearly conference trying to understand it?

    And regarding NIMBY, for those who still think this a justifiable tactic of name calling & bullying, I suggest you read :

    http://geography.exeter.ac.uk/beyond_nimbyism/

    &
    Dr Richard Hindmarsh, Snr Associate Professor, Griffith University: “Wind Farms and Community Engagement in Australia: A Cricital Analysis for Policy Learning”. (available on the Senate Inquiry website, Additional Information Received Number 30)

  25. michael r james

    @GRATTON WILSON at 7:16 pm

    Thanks for that. Your detail fills in the gaping holes in the story left by ABC 7.30. I wondered about the bit when the farmers refused ABC to photograph inside the sheds. It makes the story about possible impact of the wind turbines even more specious, if that is possible. (And was that stock footage the ABC showed of happy sheep gamboling over the verdant hills! Report it to ACMA.)

    @ROGER CLIFTON 1 at 8:37 pm

    Groan. I have written/published reams on this. Nuclear is not the new technology here, it is the old established one. Fifty years and it is still promising the same old same old (cheaper, efficient, quick to build, solutions to the waste and proliferation issues……..not). Indeed it is a Luddite who would say we should close down all renewables (as BNC argues) in favour of an all-out nuclear build. To put the kind of funds that nuclear requires (real world price check: Obama’s loan guarantee of $8B for twin nukes; total cost probably >$11B; this is the industry’s own figures and explains why the loan guarantees are still not enough to get the companies to commit to build the things).

    So, Roger Luddite Clifton, you do not believe the issues with renewables (cost, efficiency, energy storage) are solvable? Who is the Luddite here? (that is a rhetorical question, Rog.)

    @MUZZA at 7:54 pm
    ” It’s clear that there are health issues related to wind turbines if one searches the web..”

    Good one. It was on the web so it must be true? I think you muzza left your thinking cap off. I am a PhD research scientist and am totally unconvinced by any of that so-called evidence. As Chapman says, anything published in peer-reviewed scientific literature says there is no statistically meaningful untoward medical outcomes attributable to the actual operation of the turbines.

    @BILL PARKER at 8:16 pm

    Bill, a lot has been done (though maybe more needs to be done) and it has been published. There is no medical adverse effect. Unless of course it is a conspiracy between thousands of scientists and doctors. Doh, of course how could I be so dumb, it is a grand world-wide conspiracy between those same bloody scientists that are trying for world government (geeks rule, s’pose).

  26. Muzza

    Ha! Being a PhD research scientist confers no great connection with what is true. Consider the recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for example. Here is a quote from the ABC story on him: Thirty years ago Daniel Shechtman discovered quasicrystals – a new form of crystal that had a structure many scientists said at the time was impossible.

    For years his peers rejected and ridiculed the findings, with the head of his laboratory handing him a textbook in crystallography and suggesting he read it.

    At one point Professor Shechtman was even branded a disgrace and asked to leave his research group at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

    But since then the Professor’s quasicrystals have helped change the way chemists conceive of solid matter.

    There is in fact evidence about adverse health effects related to wind turbines, and peer reviewed studies in any case depend on who is peer reviewing what and where.

  27. Muzza

    Are peer reviewed studies on renewable energy reliable?

    Are peer reviewed studies on nuclear energy reliable?

    If one is reliable, but not the other, why is this is so?

  28. Peter Clunes

    @MUZZA where is the peer reviewed evidence of wind turbine syndrome?

  29. Muzza

    One lead in to this literature is a recent issue of the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society (August 2011) 31 (4) peer reviewed journal by Sage. It has a number of authors researching in this area. Follow up on each of those authors as well, with their other papers e.g. Dr Bob Thorne also gave a presentation at the NHMRC Scientific Forum on Wind Farms in June 2011 – you can google it to find it.

  30. john2066

    Typical NIMBY whiners, you can stand under the turbines and barely hear them; the only thing these people want to ‘guard’ are their house values.

    There is scope, however, for sensible revenue sharing on new wind farms between people in a certain radius and the turbines.

  31. john2066

    These idiot NIMBYS will be claiming cancer from the turbines next. If they are so concerned about bird life, why dont they stop driving their cars, as far more birds are killed by cars then have ever been killed by wind farms.

    These people are beyond belief. Its time the vast silent majority who support wind turbines tell them to shut up.

  32. s_keane1

    Just returned from 5 weeks in the UK where wind farms are aplenty. Many of them nudging right up against residential areas. Needless to say I was anxious to hear about the epidemic of “Wind Turbine Syndrome” that surely must be sweeping the land… but sadly all I got was pathetic looks reserved for what the British must think of as one of the “Weird Mob”.

    I also took the opportunity to ask about that serial eco-offender, Christopher Monckton. I drilled my well-read, university mates in London, several doctors on holiday in Cornwall, a couple of fellow journos in Scotland but, alas, alack, the man is UNKNOWN…. Not even as LORD Monckton.

    As I returned to the blunt end of the world, where more than half the population want Tony Abbott as our Prime Minister, climate skeptics roam free, and merino sheep tilt nervously at windmills, I wondered what has happened to plain old commonsense that we Aussies used to be so proud of.

  33. michael r james

    Muzza, your examples are the opposite of what you want to say or show. Sometimes a discovery that is counter to the prevailing paradigm will be rejected, or considered improbable. However in the crystals story, he in fact published it in peer reviewed journals and other scientists still thought it was nonsense. But the point of such publication–indeed the top requirement for publication of conclusions based on experimental data is that you must provide enough detail to allow an equivalent scientist/research lab to reproduce the experiment and so either confirm or reject the results. This was what was done and eventually multiple other labs did reproduce his results and it slowly became accepted. That is how it is supposed to work. Another recent example is of the neutrinos travelling faster than light: the scientist have published their experiments so that others can attempt to either see the error (which is what everyone expects) or in fact reproduce it. Of course peer-review is also to check that the experimental approach seems valid and that the conclusions can be logically made from the data.

    And you obviously have no idea of how peer review works. But look I really do not want to adopt a tone here. (sorry about the earlier sneer, it came from frustration) It is not easy for a non-scientist to understand; however please try. And do not make uninformed silly comments about it, as if it was like publishing a novel of fiction or a frontpage article in The Australian.

    And I have no idea of what you mean by studies on nuclear energy being reliable?

    But, as it happens, if you google (or go to PubMed) economics + nuclear power + “Dr Michael James” you will find my article published in the Age a few years back, but also an impressive bunch of technical papers in scientific journals. OK, let me fess up, it is true, but those scientific papers are by another Dr Michael James, a young Texan punk whose career is nuclear economics! (I am a biochemist/molecular geneticist. My namesake’s nuclear papers were way too technical for me to read.)

  34. Muzza

    Can scientists be irrational, and non-scientists rational?

    Does a scientific background provide a good grounding for the understanding of ecological values?

    Who peer reviews studies on nuclear energy? If those people are funded the nuclear industry, does it affect what appears in the peer review comments?

  35. michael r james

    Muzza, the very first section in the report of that NHMRC conference read:

    [The review revealed there is no peer reviewed, published scientific evidence to link wind turbines with adverse health effects]

    The above statement is manifestly true. But sure, scientists in politically charged areas (and especially in the politicized CSIRO, sad but true) will equivocate with statements that more investigation needs to be done blah, blah. And no doubt more detailed work will be done. But it is like the mobile phone scares–no scientist believes any of it but there is nothing that will kill the beast. The media do not know how to report scientific studies and the public do not know how to interpet such studies.

    I think you are confusing the fact that various scientists have papers with titles on the subject, versus conclusions. That is, you seem to be interpolating false conclusions to those scientists. I am not accusing you of being insincere but it is a game Monckton plays. He quotes dozens of reputable scientist’s published works claiming they support various anti-AGM scenarios, when in fact pains-taking investigation by other scientists have revealed Monckton just willfully misinterpreted them.

  36. Russell

    Rubbishing the opponents and calling the “deniers” or whatever, discovering “conspiracies” is all very satisfying, I’m sure… But a pointless waste of time.

    And I’m amused by greens getting all hot under the collar about Nimbys. The Greens have made Nimby-ism their defining political creed. In the case of wind farms, that has come to bite them on the bum. Get used to it.

    Live by the sword, die by the sword. Personally, I’ll believe Cate Blanchett telling me wind farms are the future when I see one in Hunters Hill.

  37. Muzza

    Michael

    The NHMRC rapid review was limited, and quick and dirty. Nothing is manifestly true in this area. Much of the research remains to be done. The effects of low frequency noise and infrasound on humans, animals, and other parts of the ecosystem could well be very large. The evidence that already exists certainly suggests the need for great caution. Open minds are in short supply. Your comment on mobile phones that “no scientist believes any of it” is simply untrue. For example, google Professor David Carpenter at SUNY and the many scientists who contributed to the BioInitiative Report.

  38. michael r james

    MUZZA at 10:11 pm

    Give it up. You are trying to talk yourself into believing that joe sixpack (or Andrew Bolt) can understand complex issues better than scientists who have spent their careers on the topic, publishing in peer-reviewed international journals. Scientists laugh at the notions of collusion or fudged reviewing or conspiracies etc. The review process is not perfect but you must try to understand the first part of the process is a process amongst the co-authors, none of whom want to be associated with crap that will be pilloried/rejected or worse by their peers. Then there are the sub-editors who you have to get past. Then there will be usually at least 3 reviewers (anonymous to the authors). Incidentally all these people must declare (written declarations) that they have no conflicts of interest. The reviewers write their review and the authors must respond to their detailed critique (if the sub-editor does not reject the paper before that stage based on his reading of the reviews). So you respond and often rewrite the paper–get all the authors to agree etc. Resubmit. The sub-editor sees whether your response/rewrite is adequate (they often reject at this stage if they are a top journal). Then they will usually send your responses back to the same reviewers who write another response to say whether they think your response/rewrite is adequate. If there remain unresolved conflicts of opinion, the authors can ask the sub-editor to find another reviewer. And so it goes. Oh, by the way, the reviewers do not get paid for this–and it is incredibly time consuming and intellectually demanding, if sometimes rewarding. (If you publish or want to in that particular journal you can hardly refuse to review when they ask you.) Oh, and any really special paper/result is usually subject to a separate “News & Views” or Review that is commissioned by the sub-editor and published in the same issue. This is to summarize the paper, discuss its implications (and sometimes its likelihood) and importance/context etc and is intended to be comprehensible by a wider set of readers not just the specialists. Then there can be letters to the ed. responding to all this; and of course these days online comments.

    It can be brutal. And exhausting. At least for the journals worth publishing in. After all this, are low-quality papers still published? Of course. But everyone assesses a paper/study on its journal (top journals have absurdly high standards; Nature publish only a few percent of submitted papers) and then on its content. If a particularly challenging conclusion is reached then you weigh the evidence, but also you almost always say “it will be interesting if it is reproduced”. The scientific review process is astoundingly thorough. It is the explanation as to why there are so few scientific frauds (that almost always get uncovered; look at the process described above and understand why). The truth will out. But not in Murdoch rags or anonymous blogs.

  39. Muzza

    How you got to assume what you do about me amazes me. It’s all wrong – for a start I have a strong background in science and published peer reviewed papers. I am very aware of the process. So I reckon you should give it up too. However, there is no point in expanding on this as it serves no great purpose in the conversation here. You come across as a kind of scientific know it all to me. It is really boring having you spell out all this stuff.

  40. Dave Burraston

    In the paper referenced by Simon Chapman,

    Health effects and wind turbines: A review of the literature
    Loren D Knopper and Christopher A Ollson
    Environmental Health 2011, 10:78

    the full quote without the bit removed and replaced with …. the complete sentence is:

    “In the peer reviewed studies, wind turbine annoyance and some reported health effects (e.g., sleep disturbance) have been statistically associated with wind turbine noise especially when found at sound pressure levels greater than 40 db(A), but found to be more strongly related to subjective factors like visual impact, attitude to wind turbines in general and sensitivity to noise.”

    Some other quotes from the Conclusion of the paper Simon Chapman references not mentioned in his article:

    “Assessing the effects of wind turbines on human health is an emerging field, as demonstrated by the limited number of peer-reviewed articles published since 2003. Conducting further research into the effects of wind turbines (and environmental change) on human health, emotional and physical, as well as the effect of public consultation with community groups in reducing pre-construction anxiety, is warranted.”

    “We believe that research of this nature should be undertaken by multi-disciplinary teams involving, for example, acoustical engineers, health scientists, epidemiologists, social scientists and public health physicians. Ideally developers, government agencies, consulting professionals and non-government organizations would form collaborations in attempt to address these issues.”

    As well as the all important :

    “Competing interests
    In terms of competing interests (financial and non-financial), the authors work for a consulting firm and have worked with wind power companies. The authors are actively working in the field of wind turbines and human health. Dr. Ollson has acted as an expert witness for wind power companies during a number of legal hearings. Although we make this disclosure, we wish to reiterate that as independent scientific professionals our views and research are not influenced by these contractual obligations. The authors are environmental health scientists, trained and schooled, in the evaluation of potential risks and health effects of people and the ecosystem through their exposure to environmental issues such as wind turbines.”

  41. michael r james

    RUSSELL at 10:18 pm

    Cate Blanchett’s house at Hunters Hill is covered with solar panels, as is the STC which I believe is now supposed to be carbon neutral (I don’t know if that is true). I suspect there are not too many city locations that are efficient for wind turbines. I do not think that stuff is too significant but it is something an individual can do, or the director of the STC can do. Or influence the political process, which is more important. But in 20 years every of our city structures will have solar built into it.

    Muzza.
    Believe me, no credible scientist believes that “radiation” from mobile phones represent a cancer risk. As it happens I once was a radiation biologist and it never made sense. The “radiation” is not of the kind (ionizing radiation) that can cause DNA damage. The arguments you might be reading about are the few papers that claim a statistically significant excess of cancers associated with mobile phone use. Note, not “caused by”–ie. there might be obscure reasons for the association that have nothing to do with the function of the phone; eg. some scientists wondered if there was a user-selection bias happening (the studies utilize handedness and location of brain tumors, ie. left or right side of brain etc. Even if true (and the stats are shaky) the actual population risk is so miniscule I am sure there are more accidents and deaths caused by people using mobile phones walking into street furniture, or of course causing car accidents. The risk is so small (and personally I do not believe real) it is not worth worrying about given all the other risks with a zillion times the statistical likelihood.

    And if you didn’t think the NHMRC conclusion/summary was worth anything then why cite it? (This is just a tiny sample of the brutal review process we scientists get, anytime we want to make some conclusion public. Get used to it.)

  42. Bill Parker

    This conversation has proceeded with some interesting thoughts.

    Am I right in thinking that little acoustical data has been generated that will answer the proverbial question of proximity?.

    Anyone have a citation/reference I can look up?

  43. michael r james

    DAVE BURRASTON at 11:09 pm

    It is not clear to me what your point is. From my reading Simon Chapman has accurately summarized and presented the results in that paper.

    Incidentally, there have not been many detailed studies into the effects of wind turbines on human health because scientists or institutions or funding bodies do not initiate such work when there is no obvious basis for the study. It is like the mobile phone thing: there is no rational basis to expect any effect, not least on cancer rates. There are plenty enough of very obvious medical and health issues without chasing our tails on phantom menaces. (In the case of mobile phones with billions of people using them, it was justified doing the studies but those studies now have told us the risks are not worth fretting about. It doesn’t really matter how many more studies are done, this conclusion cannot materially change. The risk is either zero or so trivial as to be effectively little different to zero. This is not remotely like smoking or asbestos where the lifetime risks are 50 to 100% and still that doesn’t stop people from smoking.)

  44. Muzza

    Michael

    I really can’t just “believe you” when a pile of scientists in the medical, biophysics areas etc. say exactly the opposite of what you do. Check out the BioInitiative report, and a whole issue of the journal Pathophysiology 2009 vol 16 on this topic. There are a good few credible scientists on to this. It looks like a case of not trusting necessarily what you read in your textbooks.
    The NHMRC rapid review I never supported in statements I made, and the NHMRC Scientific Forum held about a year later demonstrated widely diverging opinions between the “experts”.

  45. Dave Burraston

    Michael R James:

    An accurate summary of the paper Chapman references would include the important bit about the need for more research as I quoted above:

    “Conducting further research into the effects of wind turbines (and environmental change) on human health, emotional and physical, as well as the effect of public consultation with community groups in reducing pre-construction anxiety, is warranted.”

    The way Simon summarizes, it leaves people like you echoing his words, which are unfortunately incomplete.

    Suggest you read, for example:

    Evaluating the impact of wind turbine noise on health-related quality of life
    September 27, 2011 by Daniel Shepherd, David McBride, David Welch, Kim N Dirks and Erin M Hill
    Noise & Health, September-October 2011, 13:54,333-9

    I posted the link earlier it is awaiting moderation. I’ll quote the abstract:

    “We report a cross-sectional study comparing the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of individuals residing in the
    proximity of a wind farm to those residing in a demographically matched area sufficiently displaced from wind turbines.
    The study employed a nonequivalent comparison group posttest-only design. Self-administered questionnaires, which
    included the brief version of the World Health Organization quality of life scale, were delivered to residents in two
    adjacent areas in semirural New Zealand. Participants were also asked to identify annoying noises, indicate their degree
    of noise sensitivity, and rate amenity. Statistically significant differences were noted in some HRQOL domain scores,
    with residents living within 2 km of a turbine installation reporting lower overall quality of life, physical quality of life,
    and environmental quality of life. Those exposed to turbine noise also reported significantly lower sleep quality, and
    rated their environment as less restful. Our data suggest that wind farm noise can negatively impact facets of HRQOL.”

    This paper also contains plenty of references to other peer-reviewed research on wind turbine noise & health, here are a few quotes:

    “We also observed lower sleep satisfaction in the turbine group than in the comparison group, a finding which is consistent with previous research.[2,4,17] One study directly related to wind turbine noise reported that 16% of respondents experiencing 35 dB(A) or more of noise suffered sleep disturbances due to turbine noise.[4] Another study investigating the effects of wind turbine noise on sleep showed that 36% of respondents who were annoyed at wind turbine noise also reported that they suffered disturbed sleep (versus 9% of those not annoyed).[15] A case-study approach examining exposure to turbine noise likewise identified turbine noise as an agent of sleep disturbance.[11] In relation to turbine noise levels, one study reported that even at the lowest noise levels (≈25 dB(A)), 20% of respondents reported disturbed sleep at
    least one night per month,[17] and that interrupted sleep and difficulty in returning to sleep increased with calculated noise level. Demonstrably, our data have also captured the effects of wind turbine noise on sleep, reinforcing previous studies
    suggesting that the acoustic characteristics of turbine noise are well suited to disturb the sleep of exposed individuals.”

    “Our results suggest that utility-scale wind energy generation is not without adverse health impacts on nearby residents. Thus, nations undertaking large-scale deployment of wind turbines need to consider the impact of noise on the HRQOL of exposed individuals. Along with others,[31] we conclude that night-time wind turbine noise limits should be set conservatively to minimize harm, and, on the basis of our data, suggest that setback distances need to be greater than 2 km in hilly terrain.”

  46. michael r james

    Muzza, you are misreading what is being said. Some might discuss “risks” but what is the level and what is its statistical support (square of stuff all, and v. poor; which is why different studies differ so much). So, if the risk is one thousandth of the risk of you dying in a car accident tomorrow when you go about your business, would you recommend some kind of action on mobile phones?

    Dave B.
    There is no bunch of scientist who will never say that “more studies should be done”. It is practically de rigeur. You are reading way too much into it. And I am not sure if those papers being cited do not refer to ancient turbines, for example the ones that used to turn at high speed (and be at lower altitudes etc.) and the 35 dB ain’t gonna be at 2km or even 200 m. Everything cited is not much different to saying that when I lived in Paris the sound of motorscooters at 3 am caused sleep disturbance–they did and I would have banned the bloody things. But serious health effects (well it is true that Parisians are particularly neurotic, it may well improve if you put better silencers on scooters).

  47. Bohemian

    Wind farms without government subsidies would be exposed for the ineffectual generators of power that they are. The scandal is vast in the US and wind and solar for other than your or my house will gradually disappear after massive taxpayer dollars have been extracted from us by rent seeking oppotunists. Wind like solar may be able to power the local mill or farm on certain days, but it cannot meet the massive power demands of industry and, for the foreseeable future will not do so. At this stage only uranium (unstable), coal, gas and oil can do this. The oil and coal industry should be spending time and money working out how to clean these industries up themselves and governments should stop cynically subsidising the chasing of butterflies with my taxes.

    Oil is going to be around for at least another 100 years..there is no peak oil..that is just the oil companies running the De Beers scarcity play. The Bakken basin alone under North Dakota and Montana is bigger than all of Saudi. The oil companies are the banks and the banks are the corporations and they aren’t about to let that change.

    Climate change caused by CO2 emissions is a play designed to allow the UN to impose its first global tax to be collected by one of JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs HSBC or other of the inner circle. Why else would an Australian puppet government be so anxious to curry favour with the global elite at the expense of a complete rout at the next election. As the former NSW Govt discovered you dont come back once the public spots the sellout. Unfortunately, I am unconvinced that the other side won’t simply fall into line if they are elected. I guess we must remain ever hopeful that one day some couragious politician will serve our interests.

  48. Dave Burraston

    MICHAEL R JAMES

    These are the ref’s from the paper. They are not “ancient turbines”.

    2. Pierpont, N. Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment. Santa Fe, New Mexico: K Selected Publications; 2009. 25.

    (Yes I know you’ll say Nina Piepont is crank so dont bother, on with the other references)

    4. Pedersen E, Waye KP. Perception and annoyance due to wind turbine noise: A dose-response relationship. J Acoust Soc Am 2004;116:3460-70.

    11. Berglund B, Lindvall T, Schwela DH. Guidelines for community noise. Geneva: World Health Organisation; 1999.

    17. van den Berg F, Pedersen E, Bouma J, Bakker R. 24. Visual and Acoustic impact of wind turbine farms on residents. FP6-2005-Science and Society-20, Project no. 044628. A report financed by the European
    Union; 2008.

    15. Pedersen E, Hallberg LR, Persson Waye K. Living in the Vicinity of Wind Turbines – A Grounded Theory Study. Qual Res Psychol 2007;1:49-63.

    31. Pedersen E, van den Berg F, Bakker R, Bouma J. Response to noise from modern wind farms in The Netherlands. J Acoust Soc Am 2009;126:634-43.

    “The Makara turbines, operational since May 2009, have measured levels that are consistent with levels reported in European
    studies,[17] in which typical noise exposures from wind turbines ranged from between 24 dB(A) and 54 dB(A). Long-term measurements undertaken by the wind farm developers at various residences show that while average outdoor levels (L95 (10 min) dB(A)) are largely compliant with consent conditions, they still range between 20 dB(A) and 50 dB(A) depending on meteorological conditions.[22]”

    22. Botha P. Wind turbine noise and health-related quality of life of nearby residents: a cross-sectional study in New Zealand. ; INCE Europe. ISBN: 978-88-88942-33-9. Rome, Italy: Proceedings of the 4th International Meeting on Wind Turbine Noise; 2011. p. 1-8.

    A more recent paper on wind turbine noise of modern turbines:

    Low-frequency noise from large wind turbines. Henrik Møllera and Christian Sejer Pedersen
    Section of Acoustics, Aalborg University, Fredrik Bajers Vej 7-B5, DK-9220 Aalborg Ø, Denmark
    J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 129 (6), June 2011

    Abstract

    “As wind turbines get larger, worries have emerged that the turbine noise would move down in frequency and that the low-frequency noise would cause annoyance for the neighbors. The noise emission from 48 wind turbines with nominal electric power up to 3.6 MW is analyzed and discussed. The relative amount of low-frequency noise is higher for large turbines (2.3–3.6 MW) than for small turbines (<=2 MW), and the difference is statistically significant. The difference can also be expressed as a downward shift of the spectrum of approximately one-third of an octave. A further shift of similar size is suggested for future turbines in the 10-MW range. Due to the air absorption, the higher low-frequency content becomes even more pronounced, when sound pressure levels in relevant neighbor distances are considered. Even when A-weighted levels are considered, a substantial part of the noise is at low frequencies, and for several of the investigated large turbines, the one-third-octave band with the highest level is at or below 250 Hz. It is thus beyond any doubt that the low-frequency part of the spectrum plays an important role in the noise at the neighbors."

    And from the conlusion:

    "Under certain atmospheric conditions, e.g., temperature inversion, the noise may be more annoying and—in particular the low-frequency part—propagate much further than usually assumed. More knowledge is needed on such phenomena and their occurrences."

    Regarding your statement about motorscooters. It is well known in all the literature cited, and Simon knows this as well, because it has been pointed out to him on numerous occasions: wind turbine noise is more annoying (in the health related meaning of the word annoyance) than any other form of transport noise e.g. trains, planes, motor vehicles. You also make another error, known as the "ecological inference fallacy", from the wikipedia page:

    "An ecological fallacy (or ecological inference fallacy, also referred to as the fallacy of division[1][2][3][4][5]) is a logical fallacy in the interpretation of statistical data in an ecological study, whereby inferences about the nature of specific individuals are based solely upon aggregate statistics collected for the group to which those individuals belong. This fallacy assumes that individual members of a group have the average characteristics of the group at large. However, statistics that accurately describe group characteristics do not necessarily apply to individuals within that group. For a mathematical explanation of this see how variability of individuals is much greater than the variability of their mean.
    Stereotypes, which assume that groups are homogeneous, are one form of ecological fallacy. For example, if a particular group of people are measured to have a lower average IQ than the general population, it is an error to assume that all members of that group have a lower IQ than the general population. In fact, any given individual from that group may have a lower than average IQ, average IQ, or above average IQ compared to the general population."

    To quote Dr Shepherd from his submission (540) to the recent Senate Inquiry regarding why some people are affected and others not:

    "As with other noise sources there is individual variation in regards to the effects of wind turbine noise. However, it is a fallacy to argue that because only some suffer symptoms while others do not then those who claim to be suffering the symptoms must be making them up. In the field of epidemiology the differential susceptibility of individuals are known as risk factors, and assuming that individuals of a population can be represented by the average characteristics of the population is known as the ecological inference fallacy. In terms of wind turbine noise these risk factors are still under study, and one important risk factor is noise sensitivity."

    "Noise sensitivity, considered a stable personality trait that is relatively invariant across noise level, is a strong predictor of noise annoyance and is correlated with sleep quality. Noise sensitive individuals can be described by two key characteristics. First, they are more likely to pay attention to sound and evaluate it negatively (e.g., threatening or annoying). Second, they have stronger emotional reactions to noise, and consequently, greater difficulty habituating. My own research concurs with international studies estimating the prevalence of severe noise sensitivity to be between 10 – 15 percent of the population."

  49. michael r james

    BOHEMIAN at 12:37 am

    Make sure you carefully check under your bed before retiring tonight, now.

  50. Lord Barry Bonkton

    Bohemian , what about the $10 Billion given to the poor miners so they can get the tax payers to fill their tanks up ???
    Muzza sounds like a broken Liberal record.

  51. Peter Ormonde

    Folks, there are actually much better reasons to be skeptical about Australia’s current flirtation with wind turbines.

    Leaving aside what appears to be a physiological symptom of NIMBYism, I am actually far more concerned by the location decisions being made and the sort of technology being employed.

    Australia has a spectacularly variable climate – hour to hour, day-to-day, season to season, year to year. One of the most variable things we have is wind. Recognising this, the proponents of land-based wind power blithely explain that this intermittency problem can be solved with 10,000 turbines scattered all along the east coast. That way, even when we are in the doldrums, enough turbines will be turning somewhere to provide something like 20% of the power we guzzle. And, even with that, we will also need some proportion of back-up gas generators for those really really slow days. We need new gas-fired set-ups because you can turn them on and off as needed.

    Now the reason we are sticking these things in paddocks – stripping out the trees planted by the good farmers and landcare outfits and reducing the place to some sort of tellytubby astroturfed landscape – is because this is all actually a bit cheaper than sticking them where the wind is more reliable and consistent – that is offshore.

    These problems are arising because we are settling for a cheap, second best approach to producing power efficiently and cheaply over the long term.

    There are good solid engineering and economic reasons for siting turbines offshore. They have not been considered – not by the proponents, not by CSIRO, not by the government. It was all assumed to be too expensive for a bit of tinkertoy technology like windpower.

    Actually I don’t agree with that. I take it seriously. Seriously enough to say we should be building wind-power into the mix – and making sure it is the most reliable and productive use of our investment we can obtain. And that folks is both offshore and on top of skyscrapers in the cities.

    There are some slightly better alternatives than paddocks with nice tall straight trees in them as well … those majestic headlands we have declared as little monuments to terra nullius – National Parks.

    The best determinant for siting a wind farm on land is flat windsheared trees… mother nature’s anemometer. Coming to a headland near you….

    And incidentally the Chinese magnetic levitation (friction free) vertical axis turbines will be much much more efficient, productive and variable than these fan contraptions we are currently being offered by the European tax farmers that currently infest the industry.

    Either way we should avoid adopting the attitudes of coal seam gas and mining companies when dealing with local opposition. Environmentalists should have some respect for the locals who are being asked to live with the adverse effects of our urban addictions.

  52. simon.chapman

    @John2066 — don’t despair, claims about turbines causing cancer are already out there. Here’s one about cows! http://wind.netwny.com/issues/health_risks_of_wind_power.html There’s almost nothing not attributed to them, although the 7.30 Report’s piece on crook wool in sheep just had to be satire, surely?

    Overnight, the Waubra Foundation website has been edited to remove Sarah Laurie’s non-existent MD degree. Her on-line bio was also edited a month or so back after she received a letter in July from the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine that reference to ACRRM should be removed from the website “as a matter of urgency”. The word “Past” has now been inserted before “Fellowship” on the website.

    This raises an important question. Inaccuracy in the WF website’s biography of Sarah Laurie was drawn to her attention in July and corrected. Given the opportunity to correct the false MD entry then, why did it remain on the website until yesterday?

    Can we get a complete statement on this from Sarah Laurie and/or whoever it is who edits the website?

  53. SBH

    Peter Ormonde that is an interesting set of comments. This thread had become very narrow.

  54. Roger Clifton

    @Steven Warren says that electricity from wind is cheaper than electricity from nuclear. Sure it is, while the wind is blowing. Then on long still winter nights, as it seems Michael R James imagines, large-scale storage will continue to draw gigawatts of baseload from its four-week capacity. However, the cost of that not-yet-invented storage is not-yet-known and is unlikely to be cheap enough to allow baseload renewables to compete with baseload gas, coal, nuclear, or prayer wheels.

    Michael R James quoted the loan guarantee of 8 G$ for 2 GW of nuclear, (that is, 4 $/W) as if that is expensive. But it only sounds big when said quickly to people who can’t do arithmetic. Renewables-plus-storage cannot compete with such baseload prices.

    Don’t let anyone argue that renewables-plus-gas is a transition to renewables-plus-storage, as it is much more likely to be a transition to gas-plus-junk with a visual pollution of idle equipment littered around the countryside.

    Renewables schemes are just green camouflage for Big Gas. If you really imagine you are doing your duty by the environment, check out what methane does to the greenhouse .

  55. Dave Burraston

    NH&MRC testimony to Senate Committee Perth Transcript 31st March 2011
    Some short but important extracts From CEO Professor Warwick Anderson’s Oral Testimony.
    (see the online file at Inquiry website for full transcript)

    Comments Re Adopting Precautionary Approach:

    P 87 Professor Anderson

    We regard this as a work in progress. We certainly do not believe that this question has been settled. That is why we are keeping it under constant review. That is why we said in our review that we believe authorities must take a precautionary approach to this. That is what we do say in medicine anyhow, but this is very important here because of the very early stage of the scientific literature.

    NH&MRC “We do not say that there are no ill effects” :

    P 88 Prof Anderson

    The main thing I wanted to say is that, if there are ill effects, that is a very important thing for the NHMRC. We have not done something and walked away, we are keeping it under review and we would expect that as the literature matures and becomes more advanced and there are better studies that the possible ill effects will emerge strongly.

    Senator FIELDING:

    It is of huge concern and you are making some, I think, rightly qualified statements that we have to take a
    precautionary approach. It seems to me that that precaution may not be being taken because everyone is putting a very large weight on the NHMRC’s rapid review statement and saying that there are no adverse health impacts from living near wind turbines and everyone is just approving them on that basis. That is of huge concern to me.

    Prof Anderson:

    I know that the headline on that public statement says that, but the document does not say that. It did say that there was no published scientific evidence at that stage to positively link the two. That is a very different thing to saying that there are no ill effects and we do not say that there are no ill effects. We definitely do not say it that way.

  56. Mark Duffett

    @MRJ not sure why you went on about solar thermal and all the other cans of worms, when the article and thread topic was clearly about wind. But anyway. Gemasolar has yet to add a ‘365’ to the ’24/7′ (i.e. it hasn’t been through a winter yet), and no one is saying just what level of power was being produced over that much ballyhooed (midsummer) 24-hour period. A AA battery can produce power 24/7 if the output is low enough.

    Having said that, it’s absolutely wrong to claim that “close down all renewables…in favour of an all-out nuclear build” is BNC’s position. Certainly the principal there, Prof. Barry Brook, has categorically stated that that is not the case, and indeed it would be a tiny minority there, if anyone, that might say that. The overwhelming majority position there is ‘we need all the decarbonisation tools at our disposal, whatever works, just do it already’. To the extent that you see anti-renewables rhetoric there, it’s usually a reaction against the blind faith leading us up a blind alley that is the status quo, from someone who cares too much about the climate to do otherwise. My own position is that, after unshackling nuclear, we should simply jack the carbon price sufficiently high, and may the best technology win. And I’m still betting that that will be nuclear. Even at $11 bn a pop, that still works out considerably cheaper than any 100% renewables plan.

    You disparage nuclear on the grounds that it’s had 50 years to prove itself. Well, 15% of the world’s electricity is hardly to be sneezed at, I’d have thought. But interestingly, the first solar electricity was generated at about the same time as the first nuclear power. So solar has had over 50 years as well, and wind well over a century, and those put together are not within a bull’s roar of 15%.

    Ah, but nuclear’s had more subsidies, you say? Be that as it may (and I’m skeptical of the larger estimates; I suspect a lot of funding for military-related research and applications is being lumped in), it’s all the more reason not to throw away that investment.

    But the bottom line is this: nuclear has demonstrated the capability. It exists, at scale, i.e. supporting a national grid. No ‘belief’ required. Moreover, contrary to what you imply, it’s still far from mature, as even the most cursory examination of projected Generation IV performance indicates. And most prototypical elements of Generation IV nuclear technology have already been built. Certainly there’s much more basis for ‘believing’ that improvements in nuclear technology have much further to run than there is for solar and wind.

  57. Mark Duffett

    Postscript: Renewables advocates are invariably anti-nuclear. But, just in case I didn’t make it perfectly clear above, the converse is not true. Pro-nuclear does not mean anti-renewable. Accordingly, if anyone deserves the ‘luddite’ appellation, it’s certainly not nuclear advocates.

  58. Dan Cass

    My issue is that when Barry Brook (who is not academically qualified on renewables) talks down renewables, he does the bidding of the polluters, Tony Abbott and News Ltd.

    I don’t question his intelligence nor good faith in nukes, nor that he thinks he might actually bring the global public along with him one day LOL.

    The point to Brook and the little trickles is just this – every time you talk down solar and wind, someone in an evil PR firm working for big coaloilgasnukeindustries smiles a little smile.

    Doen’t that make you feel like a shmuck?

  59. Mark Duffett

    Here’s the thing though, Dan (nice ad hominem, by the way). Whenever solar and wind are talked up, the likes of Origin, Santos and AGL break into a wide grin, because they know they’ll be on the gravy train for decades building and supplying backup gas plants. That’s why you don’t see them talking up nuclear, quite the opposite in fact. Even renewables academic Mark Diesendorf admits that 900 MW (for instance) of peak wind must be shadowed by 225 MW of gas backup. At a 30% capacity factor (which is typical), that’s 300 MW of delivered wind + 225 MW of gas. Not such a great deal for the climate, or for the electricity costs arising from all that sunk and often-idle investment. And you can take that as a generous estimate – many calculate a considerably lower wind:gas backup ratio.

    LOL, hey? How’s that Gandhi quote go? “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Looks like we’re up to phase 2. See you on the streets then, Dan.

  60. Dave Burraston

    @Dan,

    Except that many wind farms are owned by gas companies e.g. Origin, AGL, even Pac Hydro have links to gas through them being a wholly owned subsidiary of Industry Funds Management.

    Also, Areva for example, have interests in nuclear, solar thermal, wind, biomass.

    Also your claims about coal. What about coal fired power station owner CS Energy? They are also involved in the Solar Dawn project (solar / gas hybrid), as are nuclear company Areva.

  61. Peter Ormonde

    Geez Dan … hopefully I’m misunderstanding you… but are you saying that any criticism of existing solar or wind policies and efforts is serving the forces of darkness, namely the dinosaur sector? You’re either with us or against us????

    That would be a difficult position to maintain I think mate …

    As for nukes … only the most arrogant of engineers or acolytes would dare be suggesting such an approach after recent and indeed current events in Japan … aside from that the economics are just getting worse and worse every day. The nukes stuff is just a distraction. Far more important that we get the renewables right, don’t you think?

  62. Bazza Smith

    Anti-wind-farm lobby?

    The real story is that geothermal hasn’t been given a far greater level of support – the technology has far more real world applications than wind, produces cheaper and more reliable power and doesn’t chew up prime agricultural land (largely because we don’t like them in our backyard, otherwise by the coast atop buildings would be better).

    Instead of a ‘for every dollar you invest, we’ll invest a dollar’ policy the government should invest in one or more appropriate drilling equipment (leased for example) and allow geothermal companies to sub let that from them – that would both reduce the main expense of start up companies and at the same time allow access that is all too often being denied due to ownership of most of the owners of these drills being involved in the petroleum industry. This would only really correct a distortion of the market caused by a monopoly on this equipment and the entrenched and established nature of existing industry.

    Hell the government could actually make money this way – allow access to drilling equipment for a short term profit share once the thing is up and running, do this for multiple sites and companies and the money would far exceed the initial investment.

    Oh yeah and Enhanced Geothermal is cheaper, even despite the problems it faces in these forms, than “clean” coal or nuclear, also safer and cleaner. Also uses far less water. Also uses far less land. And doesn’t rely on weather conditions like wind or solar.

  63. Bazza Smith

    Oh yeah, also by getting ahead in geothermal tech you provide jobs for Aussies that are far harder to replace – design a better solar panel or wind turbine and other countries can knock that off, geothermal takes expertise and rather a lot of knowledge to do properly so there will be a market for siting, set up and running them properly which Australia, if it had the vision, could easily fulfill.

  64. Dave Burraston

    Dan,

    Another example of IFM (who own PacHydro) & gas:

    IFM Debt team clinches major deal

    Posted by IFM on 24 September 2010
    Tags: Debt Investments
    Last week the IFM Debt Investments Team closed a substantial investment in the A$550m bond refinancing for the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline (DBNGP), a major infrastructure artery underpinning the economy of the Perth region of Western Australia (WA).
    The DBNGP feeds domestic and industrial gas consumers in and around Perth; it also supports the WA bauxite mining and alumina refining industry as well as providing a vital energy source for electricity generation.

  65. Muzza

    Peter Ormonde

    I’m glad you joined the conversation here. Great to have some antidote to the wild polarisation that Simon Chapman promotes.

    Re your earlier comment: “There are good solid engineering and economic reasons for siting turbines offshore. They have not been considered – not by the proponents, not by CSIRO, not by the government. It was all assumed to be too expensive for a bit of tinkertoy technology like windpower.”

    I’m inclined to agree, but do you have any comments on the effects of these on sea life. I have seen a number of references and studies to the impacts of noise and vibration there, particularly during the building and pile driving phases.

    Also, given that noise travels well over water, they need to be built a long way out. I have seen concerns expressed about potential wind farms planned for the Great Lakes near Ontario etc. for this reason.

    Do you have any comments on this?

  66. Peter Ormonde

    G’day Muzza,

    Haven’t read much on the immediate impact of offshore installations … but would anticipate it would be similar to putting in an oil platform – essentially the same technical approach. With these there tends to be an immediate impact and then a rather rapid recovery – and in fact the pylons can serve to attract fish and other organisms over time like any structure down there. Depends where, depth and water temp etc.

    The yanks are doing a bit of work on integrating wind and wave power via barges/pontoons which don’t involve pylons. Can move them around too. No pylons but presumably anchor chains.

    The actual construction depends a lot on water depth and substrate … Denmark sets them up in clusters each turbine being a pylon. The UK is using platforms with several turbines on each.

    As for the vibration I’d suspect that there isn’t much transmitted down the pylon and from experience … fish actually like it … think it’s food on the move…. brings in the predators. Would need to have a look at the studies done on oil drilling platforms which would have similar impacts I’d imagine.

    I’m also far from enthusiastic about these fan arrangements – horizontal axis turbines… far more excited by the high efficiency gadgets the Chinese are developing … magnetic levitation – friction free – no gear box and crank out power at lower and more variable wind speeds… They look like giant milkshake containers upside down … estimated to be about 10X more efficient and productive than conventional horizontal fan blades.

    So the short answer is that I’m not sure of the immediate impacts of putting in pylons and platforms – but I’d be pretty confident that the studies on oil rigs would give an excellent model of the likely immediate and longer term effects. I’ll have a bit of a hunt around when I’ve got more time.

  67. Dave Burraston

    Dan,

    And as for oil, every wind turbine needs oil to work. But if you want a more solid connection consider General Electric. They manufacture industrial wind turbines, gas turbines, nuclear power plants, solar, & are involved in oil …

    You imply that somehow wind has nothing to do with “coaloilgasnukeindustries”. You logic is incorrect, the facts show otherwise.

    This article above is fundamentally flawed & just a poor bunch of ad hominem’s.

  68. Dan Cass

    Wow, you nukes guys are touchy.

    I won’t offer advice any more, promise.

    BTW, the debate really has moved on, so you should catch up – http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/10/14/latest-wind-farm-research-is-a-load-of-hot-air/#comments

  69. Andybob

    I’ve met people affected by the wind farm at Waubra. They are not crazy nor are they the pawns of some anti-wind farm conspiracy. They are ordinary people who had no objection to the turbines until they started feeling sick. Some actively supported construction of the wind farm. Their symptoms preceded their annoyance. The symptoms include heightened blood pressure when the turbines are operating. It is not correct that hosting farmers never get sick. They, or members of their families, do. But the public never hears about them because they have signed agreements with the wind developers not to make public comments negative to the wind development.

    Studies need to be done to find out what is causing people to feel sick and in particular whether people are suffering heightened blood pressure while asleeep when the turbines are operating. Since you can’t be annoyed when asleep, that would seem to be a good test. Those studies have not been done. The wind farm developers resist such studies. I would have thought they should support them.

  70. Frank Campbell

    I don’t have any connection with any “web of vested interests” (and have been a Greens voter since the founding of the party in 1992),yet it is patently obvious from interviewing many people affected wind turbines that they cause great distress- severe economic loss, noise etc.

    Propagandists such as Chapman smear the victims. I hear no call from him for research into the physiological effects of industrial wind. Quite the reverse.

    Industrial wind traduces basic human rights. The hypocrisy of Chapman and the Greens is sickening- they belatedly championed the movement against Coal Seam Gas- but the principle is the same as industrial wind. Industrial wind is worse in many respects- large landowners are secretly signed up and then contractually gagged. The beneficiaries are few, and they are typically the most reactionary elements in rural society. The losers are many.

    And all for what? At least gas is functional. Wind energy is a fraud on the environment. The standard lie is that “wind farm X will power X thousand houses”. This is patent rubbish. Wind turbines can’t power a single light bulb 24/7, and wind turbines have not prevented or even delayed the building of a single fossil fuel baseload power staion anywhere. A massive scam.

    If the infestation is spreads, entire regions will suffer economic loss. What fool would move to or invest in a wind turbine province? Not Chapman, that’s for sure.
    Industrial wind is touted as “development”, when it merely wastes scarce capital and causes capital flight- from backward regions which need both population and capital. There is net job loss, as several studies have shown in Europe. Wind “creates” the most expensive jobs in the world- over a million $ per job.

    Meanwhile, Australia’s fossil fuel bonanza continues apace- and will do so regardless of the “carbon tax”. Gillard was right to say “coal has a fantastic future”.

    I predicted the collapse of the ALP/Green vote in 2009, right here on Crikey. Repeatedly. The noxious combination of rank hypocrisy and callousness makes the simian Abbott and the Toorak Toff Baillieu look like defenders of common sense and fundamental rights. Chapman, Hamilton and Crikey all have a share of the blame.

  71. Frank Campbell

    I don’t have any connection with any “web of vested interests” (and have been a Greens voter since the founding of the party in 1992),yet it is patently obvious from interviewing many people affected wind turbines that they cause great distress- severe economic loss, noise etc.

    Propagandists such as Chapman smear the victims. I hear no call from him for research into the physiological effects of industrial wind. Quite the reverse.

    Industrial wind traduces basic human rights. The hypocrisy of Chapman and the Greens is sickening- they belatedly championed the movement against Coal Seam Gas- but the principle is the same as industrial wind. Industrial wind is worse in many respects- large landowners are secretly signed up and then contractually gagged. The beneficiaries are few, and they are typically the most reactionary elements in rural society. The losers are many.

    And all for what? At least gas is functional. Wind energy is a fraud on the environment. The standard lie is that “wind farm X will power X thousand houses”. This is patent rubbish. Wind turbines can’t power a single light bulb 24/7, and wind turbines have not prevented or even delayed the building of a single fossil fuel baseload power staion anywhere. A massive scam.

    If the infestation spreads, entire regions will suffer economic loss. What fool would move to or invest in a wind turbine province? Not Chapman, that’s for sure.
    Industrial wind is touted as “development”, when it merely wastes scarce capital and causes capital flight- from backward regions which need both population and capital. There is net job loss, as several studies have shown in Europe. Wind “creates” the most expensive jobs in the world- over a million $ per job.

    Meanwhile, Australia’s fossil fuel bonanza continues apace- and will do so regardless of the “carbon tax”. Gillard was right to say “coal has a fantastic future”.

    I predicted the collapse of the ALP/Green vote in 2009, right here on Crikey. Repeatedly. The noxious combination of rank hypocrisy and callousness makes the simian Abbott and the Toorak Toff Baillieu look like defenders of common sense and fundamental rights. Chapman, Hamilton and Crikey all have a share of the blame.

  72. Frank Campbell

    Bazza: “The real story is that geothermal hasn’t been given a far greater level of support – the technology has far more real world applications than wind, produces cheaper and more reliable power and doesn’t chew up prime agricultural land ”

    Have you actually examined the annual reports and analysts comments on geothermal companies in Australia? So far, it’s been a total disaster- a billion dollars down the drain. Read Flannery’s 2009 “Now or Never”, in which he spruiks Cooper Basin geothermal (in which he has an interest)…compare that infantile hype with the reality of the last three years…

  73. Russell

    I’ve enjoyed (most of) the discussion here, particularly Frank Campbell and Peter Ormonde’s contributions.

    I was in the UK recently, and I can assure (someone who said there were no issues) that wind farms are hotly contested there. Most of the opposition comes from people we call “greens” here, plus the countryside heritage lot. NIMBY battles were raging in Cumbria and Wales, and most people were upset by the overhead transmission lines, and the coercive, secretive way the energy companies conducted their business.

    The Cumbrian coast has many turbine on its headlines. They are generally despised by the “country” folk. There is also a large offshore farm underway, and the Tories are coping lots of flack for building them.

    Thats right, Tories…

    Discussion and argument is all very well, but rationality has little to do with the way this is all playing out. Wind farm have become part of a religion. Faith is driving the expansion, fear the opposition.

  74. Dave Burraston

    Dan,

    What do you mean: “I won’t offer advice any more, promise.” You haven’t offered any!

  75. Flower

    The transnational Barry Brook brigade on the nuclear bandwagon creeps forward with all main political lobbyists on board and unsurprisingly a good number of climate sceptics among them. The idea is that mitigation of CO2 emissions and windfarms will harm them but nuclear energy won’t.

    I’m alright Jack since it’s only billions of marine life in all forms, from endangered manatees and sea turtles to essential microscopic organisms that are being harmed and killed every year by once-through cooling systems, used to remove waste heat at nuclear power stations. A typical once-through cooling system draws into each reactor unit more than a billion gallons of water a days.

    The heated water is discharged at temperatures up to 25 degrees F hotter than the water into which it flows and it is most unlikely that any of these reactors will be decommissioned anytime in the near future, considering the majority of reactors are once-through cooling monsters. US EPA directives to nuclear operators to reduce their fish kills is being vigorously resisted by the greed merchants in this industry.

    A recent blast at France’s oldest nuclear site in Marcule which killed one person and injured four has reignited the debate on nuclear safety in France.

    The U beaut EPR plant under construction at Flamanville in northern France has seen interminable delays and a massive cost hike. Two persons have died on the construction site and the plant is not expected to go on stream before 2016 at the very least. EDF, supposedly the most experienced constructor in the world, has admitted it has not mastered the engineering techniques. And they’re only Gen III+ reactors though an amazing amount of nuke proponents refer to them as Gen IV which don’t exist anywhere.

    “Clean and green, emissions free,” they say? Since the advent of the nuclear age in the mid-1940s, the mass of radioactive Iodine 129 circulating in the Earth’s hydrosphere has increased nearly forty fold from its natural background level of 140 kilograms. Yeah well thanks a lot but when has this bunch ever taken responsibilitiy for externalities – the hideosity of this beast?

    ‘Safe’ management of uranium mines in Australia? Oh my…. Don’t even go there – shudder!

    Don’t buy it, don’t build it – there’s already an Australian answer to Australia’s energy issues.

  76. Dan Cass

    @Dave Burraston: You’ve got a lot to say. You should write a blog.

    BTW, what’s your technical speciality?

  77. michael r james

    @MUZZA Posted Friday, 14 October 2011 at 1:04 pm

    This article specifically was addressing the hysteria around wind turbine health issues.
    On offshore installations, been there, done that:

    [MICHAEL R JAMES Posted Saturday, 3 September 2011 at 7:10 pm | Permalink
    Peter O. at 6:12 pm
    …..
    But I can agree with you about offshore installations. I believe I discussed that in a Crikey article I wrote on renewables. Offshore wind is both stronger, more reliable and blows longer. Thus offshore turbines have tended to be bigger capacity (4.8 MW; now 7.5 MW is available and Vesta are working on their next advance, 20MW!). The problem of course is that they cost a lot more; and while the Europeans (Denmark, UK, Nederlands, Norway) can build on relatively shallow continental shelves that extend a long way offshore, I am not sure we can do that in many places. So they will be even more expensive.
    .
    And we should wait for the next generation of wind turbines that are far more suited to Australia’s variable climatic conditions.
    .
    Or, heaven forbid, we didn’t wait and actually did some R&D ourselves. (No, of course not, Denmark with one quarter of our population and one sixth of our GDP is obviously much better placed…….).]

  78. CliffG

    Go South Australia! Quietly showing the backward eastern states how to do things yet again!

  79. Flower

    Oh the treachery of it:

    http:// www.

    sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ABARE_April_2010_major_projects_list#Western_Australia (open and cursor up)

    Anyone for the “Wall” Street Walk?

    “Occupy Perth – People’s Assembly tomorrow, Saturday October 15th
    1pm, Forest Place

    “Hi to all on the Safe Climate Perth mailing list.

    “As I write, the Occupy Wall St movement is spreading to cities around the US and going global.

    “Kicked off by a call-out from the radical Canadian magazine Adbusters, and inspired by the Arab Spring struggles for democracy and dignity, the Occupy Wall St movement has done a radical thing: it has ignited hope in growing numbers of people that the 99% can challenge the power of the 1% who currently wields it. The twin crises of the global economic crisis and the numerous interlinked ecological crises, of which climate change is the most stark and urgent to solve are having such devastating impacts on the majority – even while the biggest corporations have climbed out of the financial crisis with record profits. People are standing up because there’s something wrong with this picture.

    “For those who see unfettered corporate greed behind the expansion of the fossil fuel industry and forest destruction, and who see the corporate manipulation of government decision-making, this movement is a breath of fresh air.

    “For the climate movement, this is an opportunity to seize with both hands. People participating in the Occupy movement have a range of grievances, and for some, climate change isn’t even on the radar – but for many, the threat of unchecked corporate pillage stopping global and local action on climate change is integral to the sense that the “99%” need to call the “1%” to account.

    “The movement is going global, with solidarity actions planned around the world tomorrow, October 15th. Here in Australia, Occupy! is the call in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, and tomorrow at 1pm in Forest Place there’ll be a first public event – an open assembly of those inspired by OWS to stand up for the 99%.

    “It’s a first action, and all in its infancy. People have a lot in common and a lot of diverse views and backgrounds. But if you think the corporations that are riding roughshod over Margaret River and the Kimberley shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it, if you think that corporations should stop holding the world to ransom over binding climate agreements, so they can continue fossil fuel extraction and expand their profits, then come take part in the assembly that is all about people power and democracy instead of boardroom power and plutocracy.”

    So please come if you can!

    Kamala Emanuel
    Safe Climate Perth

  80. Frank Campbell

    Safe Climate Perth: ” if you think that corporations should stop holding the world to ransom over binding climate agreements, so they can continue fossil fuel extraction and expand their profits, then come take part in the assembly that is all about people power and democracy instead of boardroom power and plutocracy.”

    Infantile- corporate capitalism is already milking the various scams, frauds and failures which comprise the “transition to clean green energy”. Wind, geothermal, solar- the lot. Right down to the low-life small-town cowboys who rorted the Pink Batts scheme.

    Ask yourself why the global climate movement crashed: not because of corporate sleazebags (though they speeded it up)- it crashed because of premature, exaggerated claims wrapped in self-righteousness and blinded by class myopia. Hyperbole driven by fundamentalism. Just examine Flannery’s predictions ( in his own words) for a classic local example. Or professional mouths like Chapman- author of perhaps the most ignorant article ever on Crikey on wind turbines (earlier this year)- a subject of which Chapman is profoundly ignorant.

    The central deception is precisely that slab of cant emerging from every Gillard minister: the brave new world of “transitioning to clean green energy”.

    So don’t corrupt the global anti-capitalist movement with this garbage, or you’ll ruin that too.

  81. AR

    As depressed as I am by the state of the world & this country, I am far more concerned by the awful place that must be FrankC – so sad, so angry, so hopeless and so angry that the world/Oz doesn’t recognise his brilliance.
    There, there, have some warm milk and a lie down, tuck up your fluffy bunny blanket, we can manage without you howling from the chimney tops.

  82. Dan Cass

    @AR: Bless you for your compassion to those who know not what they do and require some wise counsel from time to time, on this, or other portals of the great, democratic interwebs. avagoodweekend

  83. Russell

    “Time, gentlemen, TIME”

  84. Frank Campbell

    AR: pale abuse compared to what the Crikey Knitting Circle used to dish out…reality seems to have chastened them….

    ask yourself why you and progressives generally (not least Crikey) have gone from being masters of their puniverse to irrelevance in only 30 months…

    Your hubris and incompetence is delivering power to the Right.

    Why are there cattle in the Alpine national park?

    Why is every redneck in the country salivating?

    Note the historic moment last week (two years behind all other media)- Crikey permitted an article critical of the “clean green energy” fraud (on “Rooted”)….cracks appearing in Fortress Zealot….

  85. Flower

    You’re in trouble now Frank. The states of NSW and Qld have a combined total of 68 additional coal mines under construction or under consideration as of 2010. Then there’s the coal infrastructure projects and the frakkers and you know what Frank? You’re downwind of all of them.

  86. Peter Ormonde

    Muzza…

    Had a bit of time to hunt around for ecological impact assessments of offshore windfarms – not much about … the best I could find in English was from a Dutch site OWEZ … fairly readable (for science stuff) ….

    http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/3/035101/pdf/1748-9326_6_3_035101.pdf

    The long and short of it is that there doesn’t seem to be much impact at all beyond the initial construction stage – and in fact some positives longer term. Anticipated impacts on certaceans (dolphins in this case) and seals from noise seem negligible if any. Some changes in the dispersal of fish species between pelagics and demersals which would be expected because of structural changes in the environment I’d imagine.

    Have been looking also at oil rig evaluations – but pretty much everything I’ve found so far concentrates on the impact of the drilling (mud, water, leaks etc) and the impacts of blowouts and oil slicks … nothing specifically on construction and installation of pylons.

    If it stays rainy today I’ll have a bit more of a hunt about after lunch.

    P

  87. Fran Barlow

    Disclosure: I am amongst those who regard the inclusion of nuclear power in the energy mix as indispensible to low-carbon-intensity industrial economies. Nuclear is undoubtedly the cheapest stationary source of fully despatchable power that could be implemented almost everywhere on the planet. It is also the power source with the smallest footprint per GWhe delivered. I am also an active supporter of The Greens, notwithstanding the party’s strongly anti-nuclear stance. Plainly, I disagree with my party on this matter. I also disagree with claims that scepticism over the potential contribution of some intermittent sources of energy inevitably serves the big polluters.

    That all noted …

    The campaign against wind energy installations on the basis of health effects lacks credibility. As someone who, intrigued by the prospect of such a ubiquitous and low cost source of energy who spent very considerable time poring over these matters, I’m yet to see a study that shows clear causality between “infrasound” and negative health impacts.

    While I believe that wind energy will not be a cost-effective or technically feasible solution in most settings most of the time for most power demand, but that’s no excuse to admit baseless claims about harm to health to the table.

  88. Peter Ormonde

    Ms Fran …

    You should be wary of making such embarrassing disclosures in print and in public.

    Nukes are only -only – feasible where enormous subsidies are made available from the public in particular for the storage of medium and high level wastes. Once you factor that in, you’ll realise that there’s no such thing as a free lunch on this matter Fran … no magic bullet – no sources of cheap unlimited energy … it’s a myth and it always was.

    So get yourself off and buy a donkey… that’s about as close as we’ll get nto unlimited free energy …. peasant farmers have known that for centuries. Very sensible lot your average peasant.

    On the other hand – in the spirit of crushing NIMBYism underfoot – I’d wholeheartedly support the development of a teensy weensy fast breeder reactor that can fit under Briony and Rochester’s bunk beds that could run the air con, the plasmas and power up the electric car. Long as you promise to look after it … forever and ever and ever.

  89. Fran Barlow

    Peter … I really don’t want to be party to a threadhijack, so I’ll be brief …

    Subsidies

    I’m against what most regard as subsidies — i.e. general payments to support recurrent operation or capital outlays associated with a technology. Outside of that, I’m open to argument on specific state initiatives. I am technologically neutral on the matter.

    Right now, storage of hazmat in the US is not subsidised — quite the reverse — companies like Westinghouse are paying into an escrow fund controlled by the US government to cover provision for decommissioning and hazmat storage. The government has promised since the 1990s to get this matter resolved. It hasn’t but Westinghouse is still paying while storing their hazmat on site. This is already factored into the price of power.

    Nuclear power plants in commercial operation pay taxes at the same rates as other commercial companies. Hydro aside, renewables in the US do not. Of course, they too will need one day to be decommissioned. Let’s hope provision has been made.

    Donkeys don’t give unlimted energy (or even power, or better yet work if we are being really pedantic) and what they give isn’t free either. You have to supply them with protein and carbohydrates and fats and water and health care. Those inputs have their own footprint and if you tried it at industrial scale, it would not be small.

  90. Peter Ormonde

    Ms Barlow,

    I am outraged – no filled with fulminations – at this unwarranted slur on that most noble and humble of creatures – the ass. The carbon footprint of a pixie I promise and can pretty much take care of itself food and waterwise, as long as you keep them somewhere dry. Do an excellent job on blackberry infestations to boot. Plus they run a serviceable if small freight system that keeps much of the third world afloat, carrying people and commodities, pumping water and serving pretty much all the purposes of a small and rather cute tractor.

    But yes, you are right, as a useful instrument for our industrial purposes they are probably passe – more’s the pity. Says more about our industrial scale purposes than the donkey in my opinion.

    Now as for who gets to pick up the tab re Nukes… let’s just watch how much of the clean up and damages bill is carried by Tepco in Fukashima. To be honest I’m not even sure how you start to work out the bill for a slightly glowing kids’ playground.

    The windpower discussion is now free to clamber back onto the rails and resume its journey.

  91. Muzza

    Peter O.

    Thanks for chasing up the offshore info Peter. Have a number of those building phase impact studies on my home computer too, but not there at the moment. Perhaps the magnetic levitation ones might be better too, although I note reference in earlier discussion here to strong resistance in the UK after the offshore ones have been built. I know Prince Charles, in spite of his strong environmental interests, considers the ones onshore to be a “a horrendous blot on the landscape”, but is able to cope apparently with them offshore. Distance from shore also seems important from what I’ve read, depending on how many turbines are running.

  92. michael r james

    Fran. & Roger Clifton & Mark D.

    I don’t think any of you have added in the $100 billion (so far..) bill to Tokyo Electric for the Fukushima meltdowns, and the on-going (probably for another 20 years) costs of stabilizing and cleaning up the site. In all likelihood the government will have to nationalize the company to avoid its bankruptcy.

    The $8 billion dollar loan guarantee by the US government is not the construction cost of those two nukes in Georgia. The estimated construction cost is between $11 to $12 billion; then again final construction costs have historically overshot any estimate (pace Flammanville and Okiluoto).
    .
    Then there are the end-of-life costs which inevitably will be borne by governments (anyone imagining that the puny amounts the companies pay into a fund is anywhere sufficient is either ignorant or economical with the truth).
    .
    Then there is insurance which is impossible to obtain commercially (if it already was impossible pre-Fukushima how do we describe it today?) so again what happens is that the companies pay a certain amount for limited liabilities–inherently meaning, as in the Japanese case, government will have to come to the rescue.
    .
    Then there is just regular insurance for the construction phase–essentially nothing intrinsically related to nuclear, just the sort of insurance (for the banks providing the funding) against the very complex and expensive construction getting completed. (By comparison insurance for $12 billion of wind turbines would be minimal, solar a bit higher.) Well, again as 50 years of history shows (and the last few years: Flammanville and Okiluoto) only a fraction of nuclear projects that manage to begin construction actually get completed, so even this insurance is an issue. Indeed it is this that has stopped the Georgia project despite the government loan guarantees; this is because when no commercial insurance is available the GAO (Gov Accounting Office) steps in, but they wish to charge for this insurance. Quite a lot (though the risks are totally real, see above), I think $800 M. This might seem a bit circular: the government provides a loan guarantee then charges for the construction/completion risk of the project but it is perfectly appropriate accounting. If not, it would mean, yet again, the companies would be getting an awful lot for nothing. (What kind of moral hazard is involved if the companies involved have no cost and no repercussions for delayed or more expensive construction?) It really shows how the real costs are always a lot more than the nominal construction costs (which always blow as well).

    The sleight of hand with nuclear that is easy to be fooled by is that once the things are constructed and running, they produce nominally cheap power. So this is why the companies exert huge effort into getting all those pesky construction costs, construction/completion insurance costs, decommissioning costs, accident insurance costs and probably several I have omitted (oh yes, waste disposal) subsidized by you know who. But as I have written many times the real cost is the opportunity cost of all this money going into this form of energy generation. Someone has estimated that the US has put $600 billion into subsidies of the industry–and this does not include the actual construction costs and the returns on selling power. If some of this had gone into renewables and the storage problem where would we be today?

  93. Fran Barlow

    Michael R James

    Just as it’s a category error to infer from my support of licenced acess to motor vehicles that I approve all motor vehicle-related provision, so too it’s a mistake to infer from my support for nuclear power political support for all instantiations of nuclear power. What was considered by the corrupt, ignorant, US-backed Japanese one-party state in 1960 to be suitable in terms of the design and siting of Fukushima is nothing like what a non-corrupt, accountable, state taking into account all we have learned from 50 years+ of commercial nuclear power plant operation would do. We would do modern plants far better. Fukushima was slated for closure in the next 12 months.

    You mention the $100bn clean up bill from Fukushima. I would point out that in a country as tiny as Australia we’ve put a cost on a tiny fraction of our CO2 emissions of something like at 12bn per annum. Frankly, that’s unlikely to be even 20% of the community cost of our Co2. What do you suppose that the cost to the world of 47 years of coal or gas at Fukushima would have been? $100bn sounds pretty cheap.

    In any event it’s hard to unpack the costs of the nuclear clean up from the clean up from the tsunami. Natural disasters are very very costly. This clean up was made massively more costly by natural devastation.

    The other problem with your advocacy is that if one is to be consistent, one cannot merely oppose the building of nuclear plants here. One must favour their decommission everywhere. Putting aside that we have no means to compel such a program, this would not address the cost-of-decommissioning you raise. All those costs would be almost entirely the same as if we waited a further 25 or 30 years. What would change of course would be the carbon footprint of the replacement technology — which as things stand would almost certainly be gas or coal. In Japan, that would absolutely be the case for the bulk of their load. That would be a disaster.

    Of course, that is simply not going to happen. The nuclear plants will continue, and we will continue to explore the most efficient and effective ways in which to manage/re-use the resultant hazmat. That is wise, regardless of how troubled one may be about nuclear power.

    [Then there is just regular insurance for the construction phase — essentially nothing intrinsically related to nuclear, just the sort of insurance (for the banks providing the funding) against the very complex and expensive construction getting completed.]

    Subject to apt due diligence, and the general question of public utility I see no problem with this. If it serves the public interest to build a piece of infrastructure — it doesn’t matter what it is — provision of certainty lowers costs and these savings are returned to the public. That’s what a responsible state should do.

    As to Olikiluoto, the problem here was with the imposition by the local state of local labour content as well as general mishandling of the project by the state. Nothing to do with Areva. You might be aware that a new plant has just been commissioned by the regime, so they obviously aren’t bothered. They are keen for, amongst other things, energy independence from Russia.

    I don’t accept your “$600bn subsidy to nuclear without compelling and robust modelling either. I’ve seen some utterly dreadful handwaving in this direction, motivated by little more than the idea that using the word subsidy will prejudice the technology in the eyes of the right. Let’s see some serious cost accounting before such outlandish numbers are adduced.

    I’m not against or in favour of any particular energy technology in all circumstances. I’m against technologies that can’t do the job we need them to do, on the timelines and scale we need, at a cost in ecological footprint we can accept, for outlays most people will live with.

    Show me a suite of options that ticks the above boxes, and I’ll support it in principle. Show me that it is the best of all the plausible suites of options, with a weighting in favour of low footprint and sustainability, and I’ll not only support that one, but defend subsidising it.

    What we need is good data, due diligence and low footprint technology. Let’s have that and forget the jockeying over which technologies are ethically robust.

  94. Fran Barlow

    Peter Ormonde said:

    [But yes, you are right, as a useful instrument for our industrial purposes they are probably passe – more’s the pity. Says more about our industrial scale purposes than the donkey in my opinion.]

    When the world had lots of arable land per person and only 500 million or so, each demanding a very low level of ecological service and averaging life expectancy of 50, donkeys were viable. At 7bn going on 9bn all of us demanding a dignified existence, not so much.

  95. Peter Ormonde

    Ms Barlow!!!!

    Not satisfied with casting your nasturtiums upon a humble beast of burden you now assault us with this – “instantiations”!!!! My flabber is totally and irrevocably gasted by such cruel and inhumane treatment of a perfectly good language. There should be a language footprint.

  96. Peter Ormonde

    Ah Ms B… you again lure me into a siding with your inflammatory teasing.

    Were it only so that our global ecological footprint arises from the 7 billion mouths all demanding a “dignified existence”. Sadly, if one looks at the numbers carefully the lives of most have remained rather brutal and short and the vast bulk of our global footprint comes from us obsese resource guzzling white fellas with our SUVs, airconditioners, dishwashers and plasma TVs … you know, the essentials of our dignified existence.

    In fact it could be argued that we are only as diabetic as they are malnourished…we are so fat because they are so thin, that the world’s poor pay the price of our wealth and comfort through environmental degradation in particular… think of Nigeria’s contribution to our oil supply, or Indonesia’s donation of its forests to our furniture industry or Malaysia’s provision of palm oil for our fat drenched snacks, or Vietnam’s contribution to our morning coffee.

    Our “dignified existence” is built on the backs of the world’s poor. We are stealing their future.

  97. michael r james

    FranB, you are a trained sophist, yes? Plenty of strawmen and false imputations there.

    “We would do modern plants far better. Fukushima was slated for closure in the next 12 months.”

    Hmm, like Flammanville and Okiluoto perhaps? Or Georgia and any planned nukes in the US (which are mired in all the usual delays and uncertainties of old; the design they want to build has not even received certification and will not for another 2 years; btw this is what China is building, government certification being no issue there). I do not accept your arguments about delays behind the Areva reactors in both France and Finland; one issue was to do with the massive concrete base (not exactly cracks but obviously this item is a crucial part of primary safety and is quite tricky because of its gigantic size (presumably no leak-prone expansion joints allowed; I have no idea how they do it but can understand it ain’t trivial).

    And Fukushima had received 10 year extensions to their operating licenses. And B Brook and BNC wish that existing regulation could be waved away (err, one party states can do that) so that this “unnecessary burden” could be removed allowing much cheaper construction etc.

    The post-hoc argument about carbon saved from nuke operation simply means that we should have been serious about low-carbon alternatives (remember this was a hot issue way back when Maggie Thatcher was elected). I have no idea of the validity of the $600 billion figure but actually could imagine it could easily be bigger. This includes all the government R&D on nuclear power generation, waste disposal etc. Considering that at least one trillion dollars has been invested in the existing nuclear capacity in the US–and just look at Obama’s program, the $8B loan guarantee was just the beginning, there is another $32B he wants to spend on nukes, this is just in one presidential cycle, so what would it have been over the 60 years (the spending began a long time before the first commercial nuke producing power). My substantive argument is that all this money should have been spent more wisely in better more sustainable alternatives.

    And incidentally I am on record at Crikey for believing that Germany should not prematurely close down their young nukes. (On the other hand sometimes the emotional and political commitment to alternatives might justify what is otherwise an non-rational response. It really does put the gun under the need for alternatives.)

    As to your closing comments, you won’t get any objections from me. However there seems to be an unrealistic demand from you (and Barry Brook and followers on BNC, which logic they do not apply to their own rose-tinted nuclear scenarios) that the alternatives prove all these things NOW. At the end, a certain amount of what might be called “faith” or intuition, (really it is a difficult-to-define assessment of the different technologies by the scientifically informed) that some of these renewable (and storage) technologies will deliver. And to repeat: the same cannot be said for nuclear after 50 years of over-promising and under-delivering. To me it is a no brainer that the storage problem will be solved–there are just so many possibilities and it is a question of R&D and motivating industry. Likewise with solar-PV even if it takes 20 years. But we need to fund the R&D seriously, similar to the way nuclear was hugely funded (partly for military reasons including nuclear power subs not just bombs).

  98. michael r james

    FranB.
    Here is part of my post on Chapman’s second article:

    [(crikey.com.au/2011/10/14/latest-wind-farm-research-is-a-load-of-hot-air/#comment-164132)
    MICHAEL R JAMES Posted Saturday, 15 October 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink
    Anton Lang.
    …………………..
    And BTW (Fran Barlow et al.) you would find if you applied the same 24/7/365 100% of grid arguments to nuclear it too would falter. Nuclear is not good at providing peak power but only baseload — which of course is the cheapest (ie. the market price is lowest so nuclear power is “cheap” partly because it sells it when the market is only willing to pay the least). Nuclear economics is predicated upon extremely high capacity factors — 90 to 95% — for these reasons but when the grid has “too much” nuclear, as in France, then they are forced into load-following; ie. reducing output at offpeak. (Or of course importing power from neighbours which is what they do.) In consequence France is the only country in the world that runs their nukes at far lower than the ideal, often lower than 70%, and to do load-following (no one, engineers, economists, investors are happy with ramping up and down). Then there is the unintended effect of all this “abundant cheap” power: governments get up to all kinds of tricks behind the scenes to encourage energy-intensive industries (alumina, cement etc) to use all that “too cheap to meter” power, and then force those users to do the “load-following”. In France they encouraged everyone to change over to electric space heating (ie. homes/office central heating) which is something they now regret (they also did not emphasise building thermal efficiency, another regret today; by comparison neither Germany nor UK did this.).]

  99. Muzza

    For an overview of the web of vested interests behind the pro-wind farm lobby in Australia, check out the presenter line-up at this wind energy conference in December 2011:

    http://www.informa.com.au/conferences/energy-utilities/power-electricity/australia-wind-energy-conference

  100. Flower

    Fantastic Muzza. Looks like the benefits of clean energy is getting through.

    And nuclear? Fluff and nonsense. As Barry Brook rightly points out (constantly) operators of coal powered energy don’t even have to control their radioactive emissions.

    Keep your hazmat gear on standby since Senator Scott Ludlam warns that the Olympic Dam expansion will see the mine generate at least 4.1 million tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, with four years of digging and billions of litres of diesel fuel before BHP is even scheduled to hit the uranium ore body.

    The most heinous act of vandalism in mining history will take place down under at the world’s worst-practice uranium mine. Instead of burying the radioactive tailings waste in a properly lined pit, BHP Billiton will dump 70 million tonnes of finely powdered tailings each year over an area of 44sq km.

    The desalination plant in the Spencer Gulf will supply 280 million litres/day and a surplus to BHP’s requirements, but they don’t plan on sharing it with anyone else. The company will still hog up to 45 million litres/day from the GAB despite levels falling with some bores already failing to flow.

    Ten years after closure BHP will do a runner bequeathing the legacy of hazardous waste to the taxpayer. In contrast, the licence conditions of the Ranger U mine at least state the tailings must be physically isolated from the environment for at least 10,000 years. The licence condition for Ranger assures the prevention of detrimental environmental impacts and public health impacts to the present and future generations of having tens of millions of tonnes of carcinogenic powder hitching rides on prevailing winds and blowing around the nation and beyond.

    Standby for the greatest environmental sham in Australian history – a sure sign that human evolution in this “first” world country is going backwards.

  101. michael r james

    @Muzza at 10.09 pm

    Alas, you genuinely do not realize how ridiculous your statement is. It is equivalent to Bolt and Monckton complaining about the thousands of scientists who publish on AGM and work on the IPCC documents. The only way to resolve this in their minds is to invoke absurdist international conspiracies between thousands of scientists, all international science journals, editors, reviewers and funding organizations. And then to organize their own “international conference” such as the Heartland Institute conference, funded by Big Oil and attended by a bunch of unpublished, non-scientist conspiracy theorists–and throw in a few Na*i slurs for good measure.

    As I wrote much earlier, give it up Muzza, you are just digging a deeper hole.

  102. michael r james

    Don’t worry Flower at 1.18 pm, Fran Barlow (somewhere in a post above) assures us it is ok because of all the CO2 emissions saved by the subsequent nuclear power plants which the world will be stuck with for the next 30-50 years.

    Oh, and maybe the permanently contaminated 44 sq km would be ideal for a nuclear waste dump for the world? And don’t let any greenie whinge that Australia is a carbon criminal and does not pull its weight in this world. We have and gladly will stuff up a significant fraction of our country servicing the needs of the rest of the world. (By “we” of course I mean letting the multinationals do it on our behalf.)
    Am I getting too paranoid? No, you can never be too paranoid.

  103. Peter Ormonde

    Michael…

    “Am I getting too paranoid? No, you can never be too paranoid.”

    That’s just what they want you to think!

  104. Fran Barlow

    Michael R James said:

    [And BTW (Fran Barlow et al.) you would find if you applied the same 24/7/365 100% of grid arguments to nuclear it too would falter.]

    I’m not aware of anyone suggesting that a NPP should operate for 8760 out of every year. NPPs in the US are available for something like 8000 hours each year on average. Importantly, there down times are overwhelmingly scheduled well in advance and their return to service is equally punctual — not so with intermittents.

    Flower said:

    [Keep your hazmat gear on standby since Senator Scott Ludlam warns that the Olympic Dam expansion will see the mine generate at least 4.1 million tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, with four years of digging and billions of litres of diesel fuel before BHP is even scheduled to hit the uranium ore body. ]

    Firstly, it is possible to run nuclear plants today without mining more uranium. That aside, Olympic Dam is a copper mine that has a very signiciant uranium oxide ore deposit, (as well as some gold and silver) rather than a uranium mine with some copper. But for the 220Mt of copper, the 4.5Mt of uranium would not make the mine economic. Uranium simply isn’t valuable enough. Not even close. Do you also oppose copper mining? Why did you not mention the copper?

    [ Instead of burying the radioactive tailings waste in a properly lined pit, BHP Billiton will dump 70 million tonnes of finely powdered tailings each year over an area of 44sq km. ]

    Let’s be clear. I’m strongly in favour of doing whatever is needed to keep sites such as Olympic Dam stable and isolated until they are ready for remediation. As noted though this is principally a copper mine. I would note though that the radioactive tailings just aren’t that radioactive. Scott Ludlum claims they have a half-life of 4.3bn years. That would make it about as radioactive as lead. I wouldn’t receommend ingesting either lead or uranium, but contact is not likely or particularly hazardous. The longer the half life of an isotope the less dangerous momentary contact is. Hang about with it for 4.3bn years though and you could be in a lot of bother. I’d caution against that.

  105. michael r james

    @FRAN BARLOW Posted Sunday, 16 October 2011 at 11:45 pm

    One has to smile at your reply. You really are a sophist (that’s an almost complement except I would rather have dialecticians arguing the case). The reason I talked about “24/7/365” is because it is the specious argument that wind turbine sceptics almost always turn to. Or they choose a day, or a part of a day, when the wind was not blowing to make some specious statistical point.

    As to your argument about reliability and scheduling of downtime of nuclear power, it is only partly true. In the past ten years (with some of the hottest days ever recorded, longest and driest summers) nuclear plants worldwide, including in the US and France have been forced by cooling issues into shutdown or reduced power. In France it has the biggest effect because of their reliance on nuclear power. (At such times they import power from neighbours, shutdown/slowdown large industrial users, and urge the public to reduce consumption.) Turns out nuclear could also benefit from large-scale storage technologies! And of course with global warming this is only going to get worse.

    I am still curious about why so many of Japan’s n plants were shutdown at the time of the quake (prior to, not in response to); I couldn’t find the figure in a quick search but recall it was 30 of the 55. I do not know if this is similar to the French situation–Japan has the second highest fraction of their grid power from nuclear and in the off-season, ie. mild winter, do they close a lot of them so the ones remaining can still be run at 90%? Whichever way one looks at it, having >50% of such huge capital plants non-operational does not look like a model of efficiency, does it? Do the 24/7/365 crowd cite efficiency figures for that?

  106. michael r james

    Here is a little vignette that demonstrates the “reliability” of nuclear power:

    [(climatespectator.com.au/commentary/can-nuclear-take-heat)
    Can nuclear take the heat? Alyson Kenward Published 10:22 AM, 12 Apr 2011

    On July 8, 2010, as the temperature in downtown Decatur, Alabama climbed to a sweltering 98°F, operators at the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant a few miles outside of town realised they had only one option to avoid violating their environmental permit: turn down the reactors. For days, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which owns the nuclear plant, had kept a watchful eye on the rising mercury, knowing that more heat outside could spell trouble inside the facility. When the Tennessee River, whose adjacent waters are used to cool the reactors, finally hit 90°F and forced Browns Ferry to run at only half of their regular power output, the TVA hoped the hot spell would last just a few days.
    Eight weeks of unrelenting heat later, the plant was still running at half its capacity
    , robbing the grid of power it desperately needed when electicity demand from air conditions and fans was at its peak. The total cost of the lost power over that time? More than $US50 million dollars, all of which was paid for by TVA’s customers in Tennessee.]

  107. Mark Duffett

    The above vignette demonstrates exactly nothing about the technical reliability of nuclear power. The only question it raises is whether the people of Alabama would have preferred a few kilometres of the Tennessee River to be 33C instead of 34C, or would they rather have fifty million dollars.

  108. Flower

    @ Michael R and Peter: “No, you can never be too paranoid.” Indeed not gentlemen for the precautionary principle (written into the farcical environmental protection acts) is a scarce resource in the mining of uranium. The revelations on the public record reveals that U mining is a “hit first, ask questions later” industry.

    Fran asks: “Why did you not mention the copper?” Well perhaps I should have mentioned the gold (in equal amounts to OD’s copper) and silver too except these metals are not relevant to the topic that Fran raised and that is nuclear energy.

    More relevant to the catastrophic risks that occur in the nuclear cycle is the Masher Fault which sits under the ore body at Olympic Dam. Seismologist, Edward Cranswick, who investigated earthquakes for the US Geological Survey for twenty two years, thinks it’s very relevant. He also claims that mining and seismicity is obscured in Australia particularly the seismic hazard of the Olympic Dam project. Of course that’s not all that’s obscured in OD’s U project.

    http://
    cranswick.net/Kalgoorlie/KalgoorlieEarthquakeOlympicDamMine.pdf

    Inland waters near uranium mines reflects the sorry chronology of decisions made through avarice and ignorance of the ecological functioning of outback Australia, and the carnage continues. Last June – some 40 years after the closure of the U mine at Rum Jungle, it was revealed that yet another $7 million of taxpayers’ funds has been allocated just to assess how best to clean up the radioactive mess at RJ even though the public were duped into believing the site had been “rehabilitated” years ago.

    Fran’s claim that “ it is possible to run nuclear plants today without mining more uranium” is…..well, misleading. There is no commercial reactor anywhere in the world that supplies nuclear energy without the use of uranium and the lobbying, allocation of taxpayers’ funds to miners of ill repute together with the frenzied exploration activities of multinational corporations (and junior miners) to discover new U ore bodies supports that conclusion.

    Fran’s trivialization of the longer half-life of U238 is vacuous since the decay chain is an insidious mutagenic, carcinogenic and environmental threat to all living things. The decay chain of U238 produces radium 226 (the parent of radon 222 with a half-life of 3.8 days), which continues to generate radon 222 through its much longer half-life of 1602 years. The hapless Litvinenko took a hit of radon’s progeny, polonium 210 and went to God in agony.

    http://
    http://www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/radiological/radon/chain.htm

    The so-called environment conditions for BHP are hopeless. There is no requirement for the tailings to be covered while the mine operates and it is to operate for at least another three decades. Waterways, fish species, plants, native and food animals and humans at the top of the food chain will take the insidious hit from BHP’s radioactive dust dumped over 44sq kms. BHP will not be held responsible for its ecocidal insanity and the duplicitous nuclear lobby will continue sabotaging the windpower industry and other clean energy groups that threatens the industry’s capacity to bludge off the environment with impunity.

  109. michael r james

    Mark, I saw on the news tonight (SBS) showing a very popular swimming place in Sweden. In the Baltic countries the water is only warm enough for swimming for a few weeks of the year. Not this location. You can guess why. The local Swedish nuclear plants warm the local water ten degrees above normal; and this is quite cold ocean water and no doubt quite diluted at its outlet.
    You cannot seriously believe that the effect of nuclear power stations using inland rivers for their cooling water during an American or French summer is warming of one degree?
    Do you think the French government closed down one third of all their reactors in the summer of 2003 for trivial reasons?

  110. Fran Barlow

    Flower said:

    [Fran asks: “Why did you not mention the copper?” Well perhaps I should have mentioned the gold (in equal amounts to OD’s copper) and silver too except these metals are not relevant to the topic that Fran raised and that is nuclear energy. ]

    The gold is neither equal with the copper by volume or potential value. Like the uranium oxide, it is a predisposing factor in the viability of the mine but not its reason for existence. This is a copper mine that as a bonus, has uranium, gold and silver available.

    Copper, as you’d know, underpins the viability of industrial-scale electrical systems. If you want solar thermal or win or highly distributed energy, you will need lots of copper. That copper however, is the main reason for any distrubance to the enviornment by Olympic Dam. Failing to mention that is … err … hmmm … let’s call it “disappointingly misleading”.

    [Fran’s claim that “ it is possible to run nuclear plants today without mining more uranium” is…..well, misleading. There is no commercial reactor anywhere in the world that supplies nuclear energy without the use of uranium]

    It is technically quite possible though to build thorium reactors, and to maintain them through spallation. Thorium is a by-product of other rare earth ming. Do you support this? It would alwo be possible to run reactors on fuel from decommissioned weapons. Would you support this? Gen IV reactors that can run on once used nuclear fuel are also technically feasible. Do you support development of such reactors?

    In all these cases, no further mining of uranium would be required, and there would ba a draw down in weapons grade materiel, existing hazmat or both. Would you support this?

    [the decay chain of U238 produces radium 226 (the parent of radon 222 with a half-life of 3.8 days …]

    Alpha particles though dangerous if ingested, won’t penetrate paper or even the skin.

    [The hapless Litvinenko took a hit of radon’s progeny, polonium 210 and went to God in agony. ]

    He ingested some, which was of course, fatal.

    The broader point though is that all of these radioactive ores are already at the Olympic Dam site. Some of their radioactivity is harvested, so, post-mining, there is less radioactive materiel there.

    [There is no requirement for the tailings to be covered while the mine operates and it is to operate for at least another three decades. ]

    Here you are on much stronger ground, and if your advocacy were purely bound up with ensuring the effective sequestration of the tailings from the surrounding area and contact with life, I’d have no problem with it.

    @Michael R James

    There is not, sadly, a shortage on the Internet, or at Crikey of people who are ignorant, deceitful, angst-ridden and generally lacking in the ability to argue a case without resorting to uncivil attacks on others. In my experience, your posts distinguish you greatly from such folk. In almost every case I have found you to have reasonable things to say. Accordingly, it’s disappointing that the sharp exception you take to my views on nucelar power seeme to have prompted you to narrow this diffference. Would it not be better to focus on substantive matters rather than attempting to characterise me personally?

    [In the past ten years (with some of the hottest days ever recorded, longest and driest summers) nuclear plants worldwide, including in the US and France have been forced by cooling issues into shutdown or reduced power.]

    This has had nothing to do with the safety of plant operation and everything to do with the operating plants’ environmental constraints, which require the plant to avoid releasing water at a heat that would raise the temperature of the river downstream above predetermined limits, since this would affect the marine ecology.

    This might be an argument for siting plants at the ocean, or having artificial lakes as heat sinks, but it’s not an argument against the feasibility of nuclear power during heatwaves. All water-cooled thermal plants have this feature.

    As to the broader question of the deliberate shutting of plants in Japan to allow others to run, I’ll take that as a quistion without notice. The exact mix of nuclear in any industrial energy system is something one could only determine on a case by case basis, but in our case, the plants you’d take offline would be coal and gas plants.

  111. Peter Ormonde

    Fran,

    I’d echo the comments made about Michael R and would also apply them to your good self.

    So I am at a bit of loss as to this apparent faith in corporations to manage such things over the timeframes required. Most uncharacteristic.

    I’m sure we humans are clever enough to manage just about everything we can imagine – possibly even earthquakes and tsunamis – but not the things we cannot envisage. And over these timeframes, with this level of risk – unforeseeable things will happen. Not might – will.

    Everywhere around us we see the short-term self-interested thinking of corporations. Our governments regard 10 years of post-life management/reclamation of mine sites as a major breakthrough. Alan Joyce cries crocodile tears for the future of QANTAS while putting out his hand for a 71% pay rise.

    We are just not capable to manage these timeframes, Fran, to anticipate the challenges of the future and to make provision for these costs. I can see evidence in history that we could – in fact the reverse. The earth is littered with the ruins of unplanned events and unpredictable contingencies.

    So, for me at least, the nuclear option is not a technical question about the design of this or that plant or stage of the process – some smart bugger with glasses and a white coat will work out some apparently feasible answers to these sorts of gadgety questions – it is about our limited social and economic capabilities and the obvious shortening of both our memories and our planning horizons.

    In short, it is the hubris factor that concerns me: the Icarus factor. And combined with greed and self-interest, I think it is too great a risk, not just for us, but for everything else and the future. I’m not that big a gambler. And I didn’t think you would be either.

    It’s not just a technical issue – it’s a political and economic one. I’d be interested in your response. But please leave the burros alone.

  112. Fran Barlow

    Peter Ormonde said:

    [I’m sure we humans are clever enough to manage just about everything we can imagine – possibly even earthquakes and tsunamis – but not the things we cannot envisage. And over these timeframes, with this level of risk – unforeseeable things will happen. Not might – will.]

    On the contrary, I am far from sure we humans are clever enough to manage evweruything thrown our way. yet we have little good alternative but to do so as best we can, learning from our errors and building upon our strengths. We humans are traders in risk, and when we trade well there is progress. When we trade badly, we learn and then trade better.

    You can’t choose to live without accepting the risk of injury or death. One cannot collaborate with another person without making guesses about the quality and longevity of their collaboration.

    There are no risk-free choices at all. What we must do is assemble the best evidence we can, apply the best models of process available and apply these to the besty specification of human need we can put together and warrant over time. If we do all those things and unanticipated and negative consequences follow, then we need to respond and create a new cycle of development and system improvement.

    Humanity today stands on the shoulders of all those who took risks, whether they lost or whether they won. We owe it to those who will follow us to continue to trade wisely in risk and reward and avoid being paralysed by unreasonable fear of failure.

  113. michael r james

    Fran, sorry but I am not going to be flattered into any kind of acquiescence to your sophism. I don’t have the energy to go through all your arguments (this is part of your strategy isn’t it, wear’em out). But some of the worst:

    FB: “all of these radioactive ores are already at the Olympic Dam site”

    This is precisely as absurd as saying Australia has masses of salt below the surface so why can we not redistribute it to the surface? The ore seams are extremely deep at Olympic Dam and it was deemed by the companies ages ago that the only “economic” mining method would be open-cut which would require some of the deepest open-cut mining in the world. So this mining is going to bring to the surface and apparently leave forever spread out on the surface, stuff that has been deep underground for aeons. And your comment about there being less (radioactivity) after the mining removes most of it is a nonsense. It is what depleted uranium is except perhaps worse. Depleted uranium is “only” dangerous when vaporized whereas all those uranium tailings will be spread out in powder form on the surface of the driest continent on earth. Having said that the uranium risk is tricky and I wrote on this in Crikey a while back. Here is just a bit.

    [(crikey.com.au/2011/05/20/emissions-impossible/)
    The chemical toxicity of depleted uranium is about a million times greater in vitro than its radiological hazard.
 Normal functioning of the kidney, brain, liver, heart, and numerous other systems can be affected by uranium exposure, because in addition to being weakly radioactive, uranium is a toxic metal.]
    ………………………………
    FB: “but in our case, the plants you’d take offline would be coal and gas plants”

    Alas, the exact opposite is what happens unless there is powerful carbon price or regulation in place. Our world’s-worst-practice brown coal plants produce some of the “cheapest” power in the world and in Victoria the few (open-cycle) gas plants sit idle most of the time because they are uncompetitive with brown coal and are only fired up at peak, peak times.
    ………………
    FB: “This (hot summer nuclear shutdowns) has had nothing to do with the safety of plant operation ”

    I never said it had anything to do with safety, rather it is relevant to the “reliability” (the exact term I used) of nuclear which is what you and other advocates argue as a strong point but which I believe is an exaggeration. It is not some theoretical or extreme argument. The coastal regions of the world are the most populous so building nuclear plants there is increasingly difficult (err, Japan) and anywhere else is going to either be impossible (China’s interior, Australia’s vast open spaces) or increasingly subject to these heatwave problems. Like the energy storage problem for some renewables, it can be solved but requires massively costly low-water cooling systems.
    ……………….
    FB: “We humans are traders in risk”

    Alas, our perception and weighting of risk is utterly out of whack with the real statistical likelihoods of all the risks in our world. From smoking to riding motorbikes to spending on lottery tickets to pokie addiction etc etc. To burning fossil fuels. Evolution only selected for traits that are mostly no longer relevant.

    I think your risk argument, unresolved as it is, is the weakest. I would say my judgment on opting for renewables (and betting one or several will come good on technology/costs) over nuclear is exactly based on assessing the risks. Not only can nuclear not deliver despite the rosiest scenarios of BNC but clearly there are real risks, and worse, the risks just accumulate: if the USA is going to go nuclear, it would need to build 500 new nuke plants (today it has about 100 which provide less than 20% and most will be retired soon) but, guess what, in the middle of this century it would need to build another 500, then at the end of the century another 500 etc etc. Then factor in China, and India…. It is not remotely sustainable because the sites and waste keep building and the risk of accidents is relentless.
    ……………..
    FB: “It is technically quite possible though to build thorium reactors”

    That is a meaningless statement. You may as well say it is technically possible* to build fusion reactors (there have even been positive energy events I think, ie. when for x milliseconds more energy was released than was input). But they are perpetually described as “30 years away”. My response to the thorium scenario is: ok, let’s wait until they are a viable proposition. Meanwhile, in the real world…..

    (*””We could produce net electricity right now, but the costs would be huge,” says Professor Steve Cowley, director of JET at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, Oxfordshire.)

  114. michael r james

    @PETER ORMONDE Posted Tuesday, 18 October 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    [So, for me at least, the nuclear option is not a technical question about the design of this or that plant or stage of the process – some smart bugger with glasses and a white coat will work out some apparently feasible answers to these sorts of gadgety questions … ]

    No Peter, and it is almost the heart of the argument. Because BB and BNC try to make that case for nuclear (the next-gen reactors will be much cheaper to build, much faster to build, much safer and will burn their own waste blah, blah). But as is painfully obvious, without even invoking the scary mismanagement by even the likes of the most technologically competent society on the planet, Japan, the nuclear industry has had 50 years of overpromising and undelivering.

    The same argument applied to renewables is much more convincing with very few downsides and nothing to compare to catastrophic failure or waste storage requirements for a thousand human generations. I do believe “some smart bugger with glasses and a white coat will work out” solutions to one or more renewable technologies.

    When you weight these two arguments, as I wish people like FranB would, there is only one conclusion.

  115. Mark Duffett

    @MRJ, cooling the discharge water obviously isn’t a priority for the Swedes (if I lived around latitude 60, I’d be taking all the heat I could get too), otherwise they’d build cooling towers, as the Tennessee Valley Authority is now doing (extra and improved ones, in the latter case). This is not a difficult problem. Nor is it unique to nuclear – all thermal power plants including coal, gas and solar (basinandrangewatch.org/Water.html) face similar issues.

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/cooling_power_plants_inf121.html
    bravenewclimate.com/2009/11/20/tcase6/

    @Flower, it seems to have escaped you that radon from U238 decay is going to escape to the environment whether it’s in the ground or in tailings. This is why radon sniffers have been used as an exploration technique (not all that successfully; it disperses too quickly and there’s just not that much of it). Not, for the reasons Fran points out, that it’s much to worry about in any case.

    I think it’s fair to say that Edward Cranswick is to geophysics as Roy Spencer is to climate science – not a fruitcake, but not mainstream either. And unfounded dark hints of conspiracy theories such as “Was the (Olympic Dam main shaft ore skip) accident preceded by a seismic event?” do not belong in even non-peer reviewed scientific communication, and detract from his credibility.

    (reposted as original is yet to emerge from over four hours in moderation)

  116. Mark Duffett

    @MRJ, cooling the discharge water obviously isn’t a priority for the Swedes (if I lived around latitude 60, I’d be taking all the heat I could get too), otherwise they’d build cooling towers, as the Tennessee Valley Authority is now doing (extra and improved ones, in the latter case). This is not a difficult problem. Nor is it unique to nuclear – all thermal power plants including coal, gas and solar (basinandrangewatch.org/Water.html) face similar issues.

    world-nuclear.org/info/cooling_power_plants_inf121.html
    bravenewclimate.com/2009/11/20/tcase6/

    @Flower, it seems to have escaped you that radon from U238 decay is going to escape to the environment whether it’s in the ground or in tailings. This is why radon sniffers have been used as an exploration technique (not all that successfully; it disperses too quickly and there’s just not that much of it). Not, for the reasons Fran points out, that it’s much to worry about in any case.

    I think it’s fair to say that Edward Cranswick is to geophysics as Roy Spencer is to climate science – not a fruitcake, but not mainstream either. And unfounded dark hints of conspiracy theories such as “Was the (Olympic Dam main shaft ore skip) accident preceded by a seismic event?” do not belong in even non-peer reviewed scientific communication, and detract from his credibility.

    (reposted as original is yet to emerge from over four hours in moderation)

  117. Peter Ormonde

    Yes Michael,

    That’s why I said “apparently”… far from convinced myself but it is possible to “fix” little problems when viewed in rarified isolation or in a laboratory… so for example some “sensible scientist” will one day realise that the heat wasted by a reactor’s cooling system is actually a potentially valuable resource and will find something apparently useful and productive to do with it. Problem solved? Not bloody likely – not the real one.

    I’ll leave it to others more literate on the engineering of the industry to battle these things out – but despite my enthusiasm for climate science and most other forms of rational impartial observation – I am most unwilling and unlikely to accept the assurances of nuclear science and engineers that they have “solved” this or that problem and have – at last – designed the peaceful atom so long promised.

    The areas I do know something about – enough to venture an opinion – are on the economics and political systems that are required to manage and run these things and their legacy in effective perpetuity. And I can’t see anyone solving that – and particularly while we are talking of debt laden states that cannot educate their kids or keep their hospitals open, or private enterprise where three years out is a long term plan.

    I have a mate who almost bankrupted himself with a roulette strategy …. doubling up on the losing number every time he lost. He was a mathematician and to him at least the numbers looked conclusive – except…. that in order for it to work he needed an unlimited capacity to absorb losses until it all came good in the end.

    I really wouldn’t be advocating doubling our stakes on these gadgets Fran. I’m not a gambler but I can spot a flawed betting system when I see one. There is no reason to opt for nuclear power – no reason to double our bets and put our renewed faith in corporate power, government regulation the honesty and long term view of the board room…. Not based on our history. Not when the stakes of failure are so high. Not when there are workable alternatives. Not when there is no pressing need. Not just to keep our airconditioners running all summer and winter long.

  118. Fran Barlow

    Peter Ormonde said:

    [Fran, sorry but I am not going to be flattered into any kind of acquiescence to your sophism.]

    I wasn’t flattering you, but making an observation about your posting pattern, nor asking you not to criticise arguments you found unacceptable.

    [So this mining is going to bring to the surface and apparently leave forever spread out on the surface, stuff that has been deep underground for aeons. ]

    And I’m in favour of adequate provision to sequester the tailings from contact with the environment. I’ve made that clear. It remains true that what is left over is less radioactive than what was already there.

    [ It is what depleted uranium is except perhaps worse. Depleted uranium is “only” dangerous when vaporized whereas all those uranium tailings will be spread out in powder form on the surface of the driest continent on earth.]

    This is nonsense. Tailings are not “depleted uranium”. Depleted uranium is uranium with most of the U235 removed from it, post enrichment. Tailings are the residue from removing U3O8 to form “yellowcake”. While it is important to keep these tailings from being inhaled or ingested by living things, providing that is done, they aren’t a serious health hazard. You seem to be confusing two different things here.

    [I never said {the summer shutdowns} had anything to do with safety, rather it is relevant to the “reliability” (the exact term I used) of nuclear which is what you and other advocates argue as a strong point but which I believe is an exaggeration.]

    So that would be an argument against siting them on rivers or natural bodies of water where release of heated water could unacceptably prejudice the local aquatic biome, or for having air-cooled plants.

    In any event, in 2009-10 plant capacity factors in Japan varied between 65% and 75%. Compare this with that of wind farms which typically operate at about half that level or less. Moreover, the loss of CF in nuclear plants is almost all scheduled or deliberate whereas that in wind farms is largely unpredictable. Capacity credit for wind in South Eastern Australia is between 3-8%.

    [The coastal regions of the world are the most populous so building nuclear plants there is increasingly difficult (err, Japan) and anywhere else is going to either be impossible (China’s interior, Australia’s vast open spaces) or increasingly subject to these heatwave problems.]

    I don’t see that as a problem. One should build plants as close to major load as possible. In the case of Japan, their three largest sources of supply pre-Fukushima were nuclear, coal and gas, (each about 27%). Take out nuclear and it’s clear the other two will have to pick up load. There is no way in the short term that you can find anything like a quarter of Japan’s supply from renewables, even were one willing to pay exorbitantly for the privilege. Of course we want Japan to cut its emissions, so what we are really talking about is replacing the coal and gas in their system. In short, absent nuclear power, we’re pitching for 81% of their existing capacity not allowing for growth in demand.

    [ I would say my judgment on opting for renewables (and betting one or several will come good on technology/costs) over nuclear is exactly based on assessing the risks.]

    Based on what is knowable now, or probable on the timelines needed, I disagree, but even if it turns out that I’ve been much too pessimistic about renewables and much too optimistic about nuclear power, this is a matter that needs to be resolved not by ruling one thing in and another out, but rather, something that needs detailed rigorous analysis. What we need, in my opinion, is a kind of “IPCC” of energy options, that can evaluate the feasibility of the options for industrial scale power supply taking into account all the matters that concern people. I am as you know, a strong supporter of an explicit price on emissions, and I support a much stroner price signal than has been proposed. I believe that all of the externalities should be factored in for all energy options. Then let us devise a suite of options that fits into that price.

    [if the USA is going to go nuclear]

    It is already using nuclear. You mean, if it is to replace existing coal and gas with nuclear power.

    [it would need to build 500 new nuke plants (today it has about 100 which provide less than 20% and most will be retired soon) but, guess what, in the middle of this century it would need to build another 500, then at the end of the century another 500 etc etc.]

    I’m not persuaded that this is so. Many of the coal and gas plants are quite small, old and inefficient. I’m also not sure what the trajectory will be in the latter part of the century. It may well be that by then we have solved the fusion challenge, or have found some way of making renewables work at scale and at acceptable cost. The key issue is to abate sharply over the next 50 years.

    [Then factor in China, and India…. It is not remotely sustainable because the sites and waste keep building and the risk of accidents is relentless.]

    I don’t think you can make that claim. Firstly, it is very likely that if we attach a serious value to minimising hazmat (as we should), then GenIVs will become a dominant modality within nuclear power. Existing once used nuclear fuel will be reprocessed and reused, until it is below commercial worth. Right now, uranium is very cheap, which makes reprocessing uneconomic (though not unviable because the fuel is a minor expense in plant operation).

    Secondly, new passive safety systems can ensure that all plants are fail safe i.e. when the plant encounters an emergency shut down, it remains safe. Neither Fukushima nor Chernobyl were designed in this way. Fairly simple measures could have made both these plants fail safe, but for a variety of reasons, they weren’t. In Fukushima’s case, it seems clear that the approaching retirement of the plant prejudiced the operators against major safety upgrades.

    [ You may as well say it is technically possible* to build fusion reactors ]

    I wouldn’t say that because that would be wrong, at least, if we are talking about plants that would be capable of producing net power at industrial scale. It is likely that the Russians will have a propotype GenIV plant by 2015-17. Apparently, they are planning to use it, inter alia, to pump gas to Western Europe.

    The basic point is this. Here in Australia, it’s unlikely indeed that either party will take a proposal for nuclear power to any election this side of 2020. Both sides would fear being wedged. And it is also unlikely that here in Australia our attitudes to nuclear will make the slightest bit of difference one way or the other to the uptake of nuclear power by any of the major powers. So arguing the toss here, while interesting, needs to take account of what may be available in the years after 2020 at the very earliest. Arguing that plants built in the 1950s and 1960s are any kind of guide to what we might choose in 2022 is silly.

    The problem here is — what do we do about the coal plants we have now that are in need of replacement? What do we do about proposals to build newer and even larger coal plants to deal with new demand for supply? We can fudge for a while with energy efficiency but sooner or later, a whole new generation of coal plants is going to be commissioned all of which will be built on the assumption that their capital costs will be recovered over 40 years or more. Unless we come up with some serious alternatives for places like Hazelwood, PlayfordB and Muja we are going to be stuck with very modest onshore abatement. And coal, as you would know, is also a source of radioactive waste, this time, near major population centres.

  119. Bohemian

    Listen… the wind lobby is the oil lobby. Al Gore’s investments are heavily oil and gas as well as carbon credits trading and government subsidies – as per any rent seeker.

    These folks have no vested interest in moving the agenda forward since they make so much money out of scamming the exisitng system that they so elegantly modeled to optimise a massive return for them and minimal return for the rest of us. It’s abit like medicine – there is no money in getting people better…the money is in keeping them alive to extract the maximum amount from them before you turn of the respirator.

    There is a reason that expectations for oil to hit $200 continue to be voiced and there is lots of interst in going long on oil and coal. The reason is faux fossil fuel such as oil/gas and real fossil fuels such as coal can’t be bettered with the existing technology or any time soon unless the aliens help us. Since they don’t exist we are stuck with oil. We all know we will blow ourselves up with uranium so that is not a long term option. They only way nukes will work is if we discover an element that is considerably more stable than the big U.

  120. Bohemian

    You can’t lose betting on a horse race if you know for sure who is going to win or you bet on all the horses.

  121. michael r james

    @MARK DUFFETT Posted Tuesday, 18 October 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    @MRJ, cooling the discharge water obviously isn’t a priority for the Swedes

    Sheesh, Mark, are you just being obstreperous (or worse) with that comment? Obviously the point is that all nuclear plants put out humungous amounts of waste heat (there is nothing unique about the Swedish ones). Especially when you consider that most nuclear plants are minimum of 1GW (Areva’s are 1.6 GW) and are often built in clusters on the one site eg. 6 at Fukushima) and designed to run at 95% most of the time. I said that there are technological partial solutions (but not so you can build nukes in deserts) but it costs a lot (hundreds of millions of dollars). So my point is that Barry Brook or any of the advocates ignore this aspect of the technological and operational limits of nuclear power. Just arm-waving to say just build them on the coast cannot work in our crowded world; it won’t even work on Australia’s east coast due to our “human donut” pattern of habitation and the sea-change/nimby factor.

    (Diversion: is this a potential weakness of geothermal or can they be made close-loop? There are no obvious adequate water supplies near the Paralana Petratherm Hot Rocks Project?)
    …………………
    PETER ORMONDE Posted Tuesday, 18 October 2011 at 4:54 pm | Permalink
    ” one day realise that the heat wasted by a reactor’s cooling system is actually a potentially valuable resource and will find something apparently useful and productive to do with it…”

    My comments were of course really directed to FranB. I used your comment just to bounce off.

    Re the waste heat, actually in many parts of the world it is put to use. Those close to big northern American cities (NYC certainly, fed by Indian Point; Chicago I think) provide central heating (the classic steam venting from footpath grids we see in the movies set in NYC). I don’t know if the Japanese do this but surely they do. In the middle east waste heat is used in a desalination plant (by distillation). I have read that in principle it could be uses in the same way to provide cooling for air-conditioning too but don’t know if that is done anywhere.

  122. michael r james

    FranB: Re Thorium reactors:

    By chance I came across this:

    [Indian Point 1, built by Consolidated Edison, was the first of three reactors at this location. It was a 275-megawatt pressurized water reactor and was issued an operating license on March 26, 1962 and started operations on September 16, 1962. The first core at the Indian Point power station used a thorium-based fuel, but it did not live up to expectations. The plant was operated with uranium oxide fuel for the remainder of its operations.
    The Unit 1 reactor was shut down on October 31, 1974 because the emergency core cooling system did not meet regulatory requirements. All spent fuel was removed from the reactor vessel by January 1976. The licensee, Entergy, plans to decommission Unit 1 with Unit 2. ]

  123. michael r james

    Not clear if nuclear waste heat is much used in the US, probably because the plants tend to be too distant to the big cities. I thought Indian Point would be an exception (38 km north of NYC and plenty of population even closer) but no mention of it. On the other hand, and one would have to say, typical, that the Scandinavians and Swiss are big: almost 50% of Swedish homes use nuclear waste heat (CHP, Co-generation Heat & Power). Denmark 60%, Finland 49%, but UK 1%. (USA not listed!).

    [The Helsinki district cooling system uses otherwise wasted heat from summer time CHP power generation units to run absorption refrigerators for cooling during summer time, greatly reducing electricity usage. In winter time, cooling is achieved more directly using sea water. The adoption of district cooling is estimated to reduce the consumption of electricity for cooling purposes by as much as 90 per cent and an exponential growth in usage is forecast. The idea is now being adopted in other Finnish cities. The use of district cooling grow also rapidly in Sweden in a similar way.]

  124. Peter Ormonde

    Fran Barlow ….

    “Peter Ormonde said:

    ” Fran, sorry but I am not going to be flattered into any kind of acquiescence to your sophism.””

    Did not! Did not! It was that other bloke what done it missus! Call off the hounds!

    I confess here and now that I can be flattered into all sorts of acquiescence … including sophism. In fact I’m a total sucker for a decent splash of well-argued sophistry, specially if its couched in completely undeserved flattery.

  125. michael r james

    Fran, as usual your responses are either disingenuous or dishonest. I don’t know if you think you adequately responded to a single of my points, but IMO you didn’t. And the world doesn’t care whether Fran Barlow and Michael James are “n favour of adequate provision to sequester the tailings from contact with the environment”. Only whether the companies actually do it. Or the government regulations insist on it. The signs for Olympic Dam do not look good.

    The point about depleted uranium is that it is depleted in the radioactive element but still considered dangerous if vaporized and inhaled: just like tailings which are depleted in (all isotypes) uranium and obviously much much more dilute than depleted uranium but with square kilometres of the stuff in our dry windy deserts, do you want to live downwind of it?

    In response to my comments about renewable technology you wrote:
    [Based on what is knowable now, or probable on the timelines needed, I disagree, but even if it turns out that I’ve been much too pessimistic about renewables and much too optimistic about nuclear power, this is a matter that needs to be resolved not by ruling one thing in and another out, but rather, something that needs detailed rigorous analysis.]

    This is a basic misunderstanding of technological development. What we do know is that if we put lots of R&D into renewables we will achieve great advances–we just cannot be sure of exactly which one and of what nature. I repeat, the same cannot be said of nuclear. Even of Thorium (see earlier post, as you must know thorium is no new kid on the block). Even for the so-called gen IV there is no agreement among the actual nuclear technologists which of dozens of different combinations of technologies and approaches to take–and here is a fundamental difference: nuclear is fantastically expensive to do the R&D and scaled-up plants do not always work according to prototypes (see thorium post). We’ll see about the Russian gen IV when it is delivering. I mean I seriously wonder how you and Barry Brook et al can maintain this kind of aphasia. What has been going on in the past 50-60 years that should suddenly change in the next decade? It appears to be entirely wishful thinking and selective data picking.

    And my other point: nuclear research is fantastically expensive which is partly what creates the bottlenecks in advances. You could put a trillion dollars into next-gen reactor design and quite feasible not make enough advances. This would not be the case for renewables (which can chase any number of false leads or alternative methods without either losing masses of time or costing zillions); the entire drawdown on government grants for geothermal in Australia is so far a measly $11M –despite the headline figure of $200M being made available).

  126. AR

    PO – surely the better classical reference is Ozymandias? Icarus was just yer av’rge dumb, arrogant kid (though come to think of it that does align with what passes for the current movers’n’shakers..).
    His dad, Daedalus, landed safely after their escape. Would that we had some such magic wings.

  127. Peter Ormonde

    AR

    Yes much better of course …

    “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

    Far more apt, if disturbing…

    And I did feel on reflection that the role of solar power in poor old Icarus’ sorry demise was even less heartening.

  128. Flower

    @ Mark Duffett: “I think it’s fair to say that Edward Cranswick is to geophysics as Roy Spencer is to climate science – not a fruitcake, but not mainstream either.”

    Mark Duffett – your unsubstantiated character assassination of Edward Cranswick reflects more about your ignorance and your dodgy nuclear spin than it does about a highly respected geophysicist and seismologist:

    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/research/structure/hiresimg/pubs.php
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/1982/JB087iB06p04595.shtml
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/1990/GL017i010p01793.shtml
    http://bssa.geoscienceworld.org/cgi/content/abstract/84/4/1089

    @ Mark Duffett: “it seems to have escaped you that radon from U238 decay is going to escape to the environment whether it’s in the ground or in tailings.”

    Mark Duffett – It seems to have escaped your repository of knowledge on radiation that exhalation and release of radon from different uranium deposits will vary considerably, depending on local geologic structure and environmental conditions.

    The generation of highly radioactive radon gas is through the decay of radium 226, which in turn is governed by the residual thorium 230. Given that the half-life for Th230 is 80,000 years, it would take at least 10 ten half-lives, or some 800,000 years for the Th230 to decay sufficiently to the reduced radioactivity level of its parent U238.

    Further the elevated radioactivity in Olympic Dam tailings is extremely rare in the global mining industry (outside of the uranium sector), and is some 200 times natural background levels so that completely demolishes your nonsense about radon – natural and human induced.
    .
    Considering the half-lives of the various radioactive decay products range from days to
    millions (or even billions) of years, this means that the tailings at the Olympic Dam project (potentially some 9 billion tonnes left on the surface) will remain radioactive above normal background levels for considerable periods of time – far longer than any realistic human, biological or ecological time scale.

    Fran’s interest in nuclear is clearly about the filthy lucre – the economics and certainly not about multinational corporations and ignorant governments running rough shod over a fragile environment to produce uranium which Fran Barlow says is not required in nuclear reactors anyway. But hang about for a sec. Since challenging Fran, her misleading present tense claim that “ it is possible to run nuclear plants *today* without mining more uranium” has now turned to future tense – the distant future, I daresay.

    The disputes, delays and ballooning costs of the Gen III+ Finnish Olkiluoto reactor (4 years behind) will, by some miracle, go critical in 2014 and the Flamanville reactor in France, in 2016. Perhaps Fran should cease the Barry Brook spin about Gen IV nuclear reactors that are non-existent and reflect not only on the urgency for action on climate change *now* but also on her snide attack on Crikey opponents whom she condescendingly claims are “ignorant, deceitful, angst-ridden and generally lacking in the ability to argue a case without resorting to uncivil attacks on others.” And no names – huh? In her poorly disguised innuendo I think she’s referring to me. Wow now that’s some polemic. Pot/kettle?

  129. Peter Ormonde

    Gee you lot like to go the fang on each other dontcha?

    Less heat more light por favor.

    Think twice before peppering up your contributions with personal slurs and inferences please. It is just getting in the way of those poor innocent bystanders like myself who are trying to follow this stuff and make some sense of it all.

    Yet – to be honest – I keep coming back to this deep seated concern in my soul that we are talking about entrusting these things to governments to regulate, oversee and control. That could mean Barnaby Joyce – perish the thought – or one of his distant descendants in the parliament of 2758. Are we serious? Or is this just a theoretical point-scoring exercise?

    Yes, perhaps theoretically these things can be done on a technical level – I’m not sure and most unconvinced. Would I trust Barnaby Joyce or Steve Fielding to protect and preserve us all? Not on your life! And not on mine either! Or the lives of my great great great grandkids.

    Those with an enthusiasm for engineering theory should address themselves to engineering a system that eliminates the clunks, whirrs and shudders that erupt in our political machinery and our economic systems with disturbing regularity. Good luck with that.

  130. Mark Duffett

    @MRJ ‘obstreperous or worse’? To recap, you used the Swedish example to infer that bath-temperature water is necessarily discharged to the environment from nuclear reactors, and therefore I ‘cannot seriously believe’ a reactor might only raise an inland river by one degree. All I did was rebut that assertion.

    As you largely went on to say yourself, the Swedish instance merely indicates that waste heat is not a problem if you have better things to do with it than stick it up a cooling tower. Which is not a ‘massively costly’ solution; by your own figures what the TVA is doing amounts to less than 2% of the total cost of the plant.

    “Barry Brook or any of the advocates ignore this aspect of the technological and operational limits of nuclear power” No they don’t: bravenewclimate.com/2010/02/26/nuclear-wont-cook-earth/

    “What we do know is that if we put lots of R&D into renewables we will achieve great advances” Do we? How do we know that? I’ve seen nothing here, repeated or otherwise, to counter my contention above that “there’s much more basis for ‘believing’ that improvements in nuclear technology have much further to run than there is for solar and wind”, never mind that the current nuclear contribution remains miles in front of solar and wind put together.

    Flower, two points. One, saying a scientist is ‘not mainstream’ is not a character assassination, indeed many of us would take it as a compliment. Two, as a practising geophysicist, I could flatly assert that your ‘complete demolition’ of my statements on radon is nothing of the sort. But there’s no need, because anyone looking at your post with a reasonable comprehension of English doesn’t need me to spell it out.

  131. Flower

    @ Mark Duffett: ” Two, as a practising geophysicist, I could flatly assert that your ‘complete demolition’ of my statements on radon is nothing of the sort. But there’s no need, because anyone looking at your post with a reasonable comprehension of English doesn’t need me to spell it out.”

    I’m a poor “Englisher.” Please explain?

  132. Fran Barlow

    [ Perhaps Fran should cease the Barry Brook spin about Gen IV nuclear reactors that are non-existent and reflect not only on the urgency for action on climate change *now* but also on her snide attack on Crikey opponents whom she condescendingly claims are “ignorant, deceitful, angst-ridden and generally lacking in the ability to argue a case without resorting to uncivil attacks on others.” And no names – huh? In her poorly disguised innuendo I think she’s referring to me.]

    I wasn’t actually. I was reflecting on the TTH/SB/Michael troll especially when I composed that.

    I’m not sure why you’d assume I had you in mind.

    [Fran’s interest in nuclear is clearly about the filthy lucre – the economics and certainly not about multinational corporations and ignorant governments running rough shod over a fragile environment to produce uranium which Fran Barlow says is not required in nuclear reactors anyway.]

    Me? Interested in ‘filthy lucre’? Hardly (Though I do have the book by Joseph Heath). I have no interest in the mining industry, direct or otherwise, AFAIK. (Not sure what my super fund is up to). I favour a very robust windfall profits tax on mining, for the record. As I said, ideally, we’d have reactors that required no further mining of uranium. In general, I’d like to see as little mining as possible.

    Taking coal and gas mostly out of the mix would help that a lot.

  133. Flower

    Ok Fran – a teensy apology coming your way. So why are you on the psychos’ side? Bad company corrupts good character:

    http:// www.

    smh.com.au/news/national/campaign-to-discredit-wind-blows-to-nsw/2006/05/18/1147545460756.html

    (PS: De-mangle link)

  134. Fran Barlow

    Flower said:

    [So why are you on the psychos’ side? Bad company corrupts good character:]

    I don’t see that I am on the side of any ‘psychos’. Please understand that my first interest in this matter is to reduce radically reliance on the combustion of fossil hydrocarbons for energy supply, in particular, coal — an energy source which, as part of its normal cycle of harvest, transport and combustion harms people — including by exposure to radioactive waste. Combustion of coal is the single largest source of release of radioactivity to the biosphere. Coal plants are not subject to the same restrictions as nuclear plants.

    I want the package of measures that gets us there quickest. As I said above, if someone can devise a package that meets that test and has no serious undesirable environmental consequences, I’m for that.

  135. Flower

    @ Fran: “Combustion of coal is the single largest source of release of radioactivity to the biosphere. Coal plants are not subject to the same restrictions as nuclear plants.”

    Same dog, different haircut:

    Coal Energy:

    ”Over the years there have been many occasions when it was asserted that coal-fired power stations emitted more radioactivity into the environment (from NORM) than was released anywhere in the nuclear fuel cycle. While having some basis in fact, the claim is generally not correct now where deployment of emission reduction technology – scrubbers, filters and flue gas desulphurization –acts to capture this material.” (Source: World Nuclear Association)

    Tell Barry Brook to call off the vampire bats.

    Not happy Doris.

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