Science Show – Nuclear power plants – now safer and cheaper

In Part Deux of my ABC Radio National spree on nuclear power, I spoke with The Science Show presenter Robyn Williams. This interview was actually recorded a few weeks before my Counterpoint gig, live with Robyn when he was visiting Adelaide, but it was ultimately scheduled to run afterwards. It was a thrill to get a run on this great programme — it’s my favourite weekly radio slot, and Robyn’s a really switched on kinda guy (if you want to hear me talking on The Science Show a few years ago about two totally different topics, listen here and here).

scienceshowlogoThe slant was this time focused on the history of nuclear power deployment, and the many benefits of 4th Generation Nuclear Power, epitomised by (but by no means exclusive to, ye Thorium buffs), the Integral Fast Reactor.

Below is the transcript of the interview, broadcast on 18 July, and a link to the original .MP3 audio of the broadcast. As with the previous interview, I’d be interested in any feedback from BNC readers. Note that there was one error I made, three times, in the audio, which I have corrected on the transcript — see if you can pick it. I put it down to Gremlins dancing in my head, because I really do know the difference between “x” and y” and have never made that slip when writing here on BNC — at least as far as I’m aware.

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Barry Brook traces the history of nuclear power. Today, about 440 nuclear power reactors are in use, known as Generation 2 reactors. These were designed between 1960 and 1980. Recently, Generation 3 reactors have adopted a standard design, allowing for faster approval. 45 are being built. 350 are planned. Chernobyl was a cheap design. There was no containment building. Barry Brook describes Chernobyl as an accident waiting to happen. Newer reactors are orders of magnitude safer than the older models. Generation 4 is the new excitement. Efficiency is much higher meaning uranium supplies will last so much longer. They can burn a range of isotopes of uranium and other elements producing short-lived waste.

Download audio (ABC Radio National, The Science Show, 18 July 2009)

Transcript

Robyn Williams: The nuclear power stations some of us grew up with are now over 50 years old. The next, the fourth generation, represents a whole new prospect, one which may have influenced environment minister Peter Garrett with his go-ahead for another uranium mine this week. Here’s Professor Barry Brook with a brief history of nukes.

Barry Brook: Well, the very first generation, I guess you’d call generation zero, was Fermi’s graphite pile under the basketball court in Chicago as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb during WWII. And from that technology spun out the reactor program for US submarines, and so there was a big push by Admiral Rickover to develop the pressurised water reactor for US submarines. Then they basically took a submarine reactor and put it on land in Shippingport and it was the generation one nuclear reactor. And then they built one in Calder Hall in the UK…

Robyn Williams: Calder Hall in the north, that’s right. I remember that was opened over 50 years ago.

Barry Brook: Yes, that was in the early ’50s, about 1952 Calder Hall was opened. From that then it was a rapid phase of research and development and refining the technology. From the 1960s through to the 1980s is generally what’s called generation two nuclear power, and that involves a whole raft of different designs. Most of the nuclear power that’s delivering today…so there’s about 440 reactors delivering today and all of them use water as a moderator and a coolant, and so they’re called light water reactors. They can either be pressurised water reactors or boiling water reactors, but they’re the same fundamental technology.

Recently, in what’s being called an evolutionary advance in nuclear power, there are these generation three nuclear reactors, and they’re basically like generation two but they’re less costly, they’re more modular, you can build a lot of the components in a factory. Importantly there’s a standardised design that they’re trying to develop, which means you can get certification for just one design and then plonk it down in many different places without having to seek independent certification in every new reactor, which was a big stumbling block, especially in the US, in the 1970s. China, for instance, is building 12 nuclear power plants right now, all of the same model, called the AP-1000, which is one of those generation three units developed by Westinghouse.

So that’s the thing that’s happening right now, and I think there’s about 45 nuclear power plants under construction, about 350-odd in planning stages around the world, so that’s taking off. But that’s still basically the nuclear power that everyone thinks about. It is certainly much safer technology than those earlier reactors and certainly the reactor that had a steam explosion and a graphite fire in Chernobyl was a funny sort of Russian design, was very cheap to make, didn’t have a containment building, would never be built in a western country. Essentially as an accident it was, whilst appalling, just can’t happen in any western reactor.

But even from there the design safety has gone orders of magnitude further. And so the most recent model developed by General Electric Hitachi called the Economic and Simplified Boiling Water Reactor had a thorough risk assessment done on it and they estimated the chance of a Three Mile Island style meltdown (which was that accident that happened in Pennsylvania in 1979, it didn’t kill anyone but it wrecked the reactor) about once every 29 million reactor years for these new designs, so that’s a pretty unlikely prospect.

Robyn Williams: But these ones because they’ve really got built-in safety, they’re really carefully designed and so on, they’re really expensive, aren’t they. They take a long time to put up and cost a fortune, so that’s why so many people are reluctant (even the Americans) to put them up.

Barry Brook: That’s the popular opinion, that they’re very expensive, but most of the expense in the US comes from the complicated certification rules right now. Japan, for instance, is building a lot of nuclear reactors and in the late ’90s they built two advanced boiling water reactors which were one of these first of the generation three design, and they built them for a cost of less than $2,000 a kilowatt installed, which is highly competitive. Coal, you might bring it in at $1,500 a kilowatt installed, so it’s very close to that sort of price range.

Similarly, the AP-1000s, the whole idea is that you have the standardised, modularised designs. A lot of the components can be factory built, they’ve been simplified in many ways, inherently safe in that their safety systems rely on the basic laws of physics to shut them down, so it’s often called walk-away safety. There’s so many redundant back-up systems and physical systems that need to fail and essentially can’t fail unless Newton and Einstein are wrong, that they’re inherently safe. So I think the costs of nuclear power are vastly overplayed in the argument about whether we should take it up.

Robyn Williams: What about generation four, using up some of the old waste?

Barry Brook: Yes, generation four is a big excitement I think in nuclear power, and that is often called a revolutionary design. So generation three is evolutionary, the same sort of technology just done better. Generation four looks at it in a completely different way, although ironically most of the technology for it has been developed quite consistently over the last 50 years. The very first experimental reactors used a system called a fast spectrum, to have really fast neutrons that could break up not just what we think of as enriched uranium, uranium-235, but also uranium-238, depleted uranium. So instead of getting less than 1% of the energy out of uranium, these fast reactors get about 99.8% of the energy out of it which means they’re incredibly more efficient in terms of using the uranium resource. And actually we’ve mined enough uranium already to run the whole world in these reactors for about 500 years.

Robyn Williams: So the old argument about running out of uranium isn’t on any more?

Barry Brook: We may run out in 50,000 or so years if we powered the whole world by uranium, but then we’ve got about four times as much thorium to use as well. So the argument that we’ll run out of uranium is a dead duck.

Robyn Williams: And what about using the old waste stuff that we’ve got stored away?

Barry Brook: That’s the really exciting prospect, that these fourth generation reactors, because they can burn all sorts of transuranics, so not just uranium but plutonium and americium and curium, and they can burn the fertile isotopes as well as the fissile isotopes, so they can burn uranium-238. It means that what is generally considered spent fuel, which is about 1% plutonium, about 98% uranium and a bunch of transuranics, all of that can be burnt in these reactors. So something that would have to be stored for around 100,000 years because of their long half-lives (plutonium is 24,500 years, for instance, it can take quite a while to decay) these can all be consumed in these reactors, generate electricity and then the fission products, the result of smashing these large atoms into smaller ones, highly radioactive which is a good thing actually because it means that their half-lives are very short and within less than 300 years they’re below the radioactive level of the original uranium ore. So all of the fuel that’s currently being produced by the current generation of light water reactors will go into fast reactors and be totally consumed. So there is no long-lived radioactive waste problem.

Robyn Williams: But 300 years is more than my lifetime and it’s still going to be around. Doesn’t that worry you a bit?

Barry Brook: It produces about a tenth the waste of the current generation reactors, so it’s a very small amount of waste. It comes in a vitrified form which is a type of rocky glass that locks up these fission products for about 1,000 years.

Robyn Williams: Like synroc?

Barry Brook: Very similar to synroc. And of course 1,000 years if you’ve got to wait 100,000 years isn’t sufficient, but if you’ve only got to wait 300 years then that’s fine. So we’ve built places like Yucca Mountain. We’ll need geological storage areas for this waste, but managing it for 300 years is clearly not a problem. We’ve managed many structures built by humans for 300 years, and it will be about a tenth of the waste, and frankly it’s also the only possible solution for getting rid of that long-lived waste. And so I think for all of the huge benefits that using this sort of power source brings, the small cost of storing about a tenth the amount of waste that comes out of current reactors is a tiny price to pay.

Robyn Williams: How much do they cost and how long does it take to put them up?

Barry Brook: That’s a question that can only really be answered by building a commercial scale demonstration. The Russians are building a reactor called the BN-800 right now, which is a sodium cooled fast reactor, it’s one of these generation four reactors, currently under construction. The Chinese are looking at building one too. The Indians are building a fast breeder reactor. So we’ll know within the next couple of years about how much they cost and about how quickly they can be built.

General Electric Hitachi, one of the major world producers of nuclear power stations, has got a model blueprint called the S-PRISM which is one of these integral fast reactors that they say can be built for about $1,500 per kilowatt installed, which is extremely competitive. And the design of these plants is such that they’re very modular. Each reactor is about 300 megawatts, and so you might have them in double loops and about four of these reactor loops within a plant, so a total plant of about 2.5 gigawatts, which is considerably larger than any coal-fired power station. The economics of doing it that way means that most of it can be built in a factory and then brought on to site, and so that reduces costs. You can actually build them on sites where coal-fired power stations currently are. Even in some cases there’s the prospect of ripping out the coal burner and whacking in one of these fast reactors. And frankly if we’re going to replace the 500-plus gigawatts that are being built in China right now and that have been built in the last ten years, all of that coal that we’ve got to shut down, I see this as being by far the best most economic prospect of convincing China to do that.

Robyn Williams: Barry Brook, who is the Sir Hubert Wilkins Professor of Climate Change at the University of Adelaide, Wilkins a legendary explorer. The fourth generation of nuclear power, perhaps that why Peter Garrett gave the nod to another Australian uranium mine this week.

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175 Comments

  1. Barry,
    Two errors of fact, Calder Hall was operational in 1956 not 1952.I thought Calder Hall was a graphite reactor cooled by pressurized carbon dioxide(MAGNOX), not pressurized water, so the Calder Hall would be considered a generation I reactor based on the Windscale pile used for plutonium production since 1952

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sellafield

    I heard your program last Saturday, well presented.

  2. Thanks Neil, that wasn’t what I was thinking of either. I said ‘about’ 1952 so consider myself covered, and I definitely indicated that I was talking about Gen I there, so no problem with it not being a PWR or BWR (which almost all Gen II are, barring the HWR [CANDUs] and a few SFRs, such as Dounreay, BN-350, and later, Phenix).

    So I feel somewhat relieved, because if Neil of all people didn’t pick up my error, then perhaps most other won’t either. :)

  3. Some of the tests by the Brits in the 1960s were balloon launched dirty bombs using 22kg of plutonium.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_nuclear_tests_at_Maralinga

    A decade later Olympic Dam was discovered not far away. Oil was discovered not far from their other test site off WA.

    A misgiving I have about IFR and Gen IV generally is the line that ‘it has to work’. That’s what coal interests say about CCS. What if IFR also has unsolvable problems?

  4. Not exactly. The Windscale fire was in a reactor with no attached heat engine, so at that time it was all weapons all the time. I seem to recall the reactor was actually air-cooled, with the air passing through once, nitrogen turning into carbon-14.

    The derivation of a power reactor from that design — coolant gas changing to CO2, closed cycle, steam generators etc. — doesn’t amount to a sideline, I think, so much as a change of focus. Lots of weapon-grade plutonium already in hand, why not just close the place?

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  5. Well… maybe Lovelock is right (what does he know that we didn’t??) – build more nukes.

    This is a very interesting, confronting, concerning and disturbing slug of information -

    1) – anything that gets rid of the vast stocks of high-level nuclear waste and depleted Uranium – has to be a GOOD THING.

    2)If they can, as Barry suggests, be retrofitted to existing fossil fuel power plants – then that’s a good thing too – forget carbon sequestration – leave the fossil fuels in the ground.

    3) High levels of safety (assuming that that is an actuality) then the objections to their siting near population centres will be easier to overcome. (hey – you could even have co-generation – heat for Finnish homes!)

    4) small volumes of very short lived (but I suspect very intensely radiating) isotope waste will greatly reduce waste storage issues – also a GOOD THING.

    however…

    5) availability of such reactors – means that the pressure for Business as Usual will be intense – as we will have, for all practical purposes, a perpetual supply of electric energy.

    6) This could I suspect defuse the drive for renewables (although the energy could be used to create and manufacture renewable technologies).

    7) It also has the potential to defuse the increasing drive for a rational world population strategy – as energy will no longer become the limiting factor. Living space (and perhaps food) will be.

    8) None of the Gen 4 have been completed and are operating – so we don’t know how long it will take for a world-takeup of the technology (or the costs – both financial and in resources) – it may be too late.

    So – basically, as a medium term solution to CO2 emission – it has merit – but I see it basically as KY jelly for mankind – it makes the slide-down into future chaos easier…

    Hugh

  6. Darn….. I was looking forward to humanity running out of excessive energy! But as Hugh said, food could still prevent us from totally ruining the Earth. The best part of having adequate electricity is that we will be able to have electrified transport, but electricity cannot produce living soil, though it could produce water out of the oceans. We certainly live in interesting times.

  7. Well… maybe Lovelock is right (what does he know that we didn’t?? …

    small volumes of very short lived (but I suspect very intensely radiating) isotope waste will greatly reduce waste storage issues – also a GOOD THING.

    Lovelock probably knows a lot about isotope waste, since he has declared his willingness to have a big load of it buried on his property.

    A fairly accurate formula for the radiation from any spent nuclear fuel, in its first century of retirement, is the … now I’m just not remembering those two names … the Untermyer, or Untermeyer, and Weills formula, as I noted in this previous BNC posting.

    That means if a spent IFR fuel rod had produced heat at the same rate as a CANDU fuel bundle, for the same time, it would be equally radioactive. The difference is that the Integral reprocessor in an IFR will separate the fission fragment nuclei, which dominate the first-century radioactivity, from the heavy unfissioned ones that, because of this separation, can return and be fissioned on a second or later try.

    If they return and burn, they don’t dominate the post-100-years radioactivity as they do in unseparated spent fuel. But that’s dominating a comparatively small quantity.

  8. Just visited

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/07/14/counterpoint-nuclear-power-and-the-low-carbon-economy/

    in which Barry is interviewed by Counterpoint (ABC Radio National)..

    >Paul Comrie-Thomson: Many will say that this is all very well but renewables are the answer. But what role do you see wind and solar playing over the next decade?

    Barry Brook: I think in Australia they’re going to play the primary role in trying to reduce our dependence on carbon based energy for the simple fact that it’s going to take ten years to get nuclear power here, and that process will involve getting public support, discussions on the merits of nuclear power and the potential problems (I don’t think we’re having that educated debate in Australia right now), right through to setting up an organisation that can certify reactors and getting the first ones built, which might take four or so years. So that’s a ten-year process, in which case we can give our attention to wind and solar and see what they can achieve.

    My pessimism of wind and solar is not that they won’t have a role in our future energy supply but that they are not able to supply sufficient energy to power an industrial economy or indeed to allow the economy to continue to grow in that way. There are many problems with back-up, with storage of energy, with the sort of grid connections you’re going to require to remote areas to harness energy from these areas, because of course because of the diffuse and variable nature of these technologies they require a continental scale deployment to provide enough power for all of society. We’ve only done them on a very small scale so far. If you look at all of the power generated in Australia, it’s only just over 1% now that’s generated by the sort of renewables that we’re talking about which are wind and solar, what is often termed techno-solar, as opposed to other forms of renewable energy that we do rely on quite a lot which is hydro power and biomass burnings, burning wood and other forms of animal and plant generated produce<

    The tragedy here – is that Barry is supportative of the BAU model – the non-negotiable need for continued growth, no matter what – a totally unstainable attitude, which does him no credit at all.

    but see this excellent piece by Clive Hamilton – and the BAU,obsession with maintaining a "Growing Economy"

    http://www.clivehamilton.net.au/cms/media/documents/articles/The_Scary_Politics_of_Climate_Change.pdf

    which (although written prior to the last Federal election, reveals the nature of folks like Michael Duffy (and presumably Paul Comrie-Thompson) of Counterpoint – and their position in the denialists camp (Hamilton doesn't mention Plimer – as he hadn't comeonto the scene yet).

    Hugh

  9. Hugh, I have not yet read the pdf you linked to in your reply to Barry. However…I’m not sure why you respond with:

    “the non-negotiable need for continued growth, no matter what – a totally unstainable attitude, which does him no credit at all…” to his statement that:

    “My pessimism of wind and solar is not that they won’t have a role in our future energy supply but that they are not able to supply sufficient energy to power an industrial economy or indeed to allow the economy to continue to grow in that way”

    For whatever you reason both you and Barry have distilled the essence with the “renewable vs nuclear” debate. You seem not to contridict what Barry says, but rather you add credit to it by suggesting we don’t want to do what he suggests… “supply sufficient energy” to maintain an industrial economy. My, this is a bold statement.

    You, Hugh, are then part of the ‘energy starvation’ crowd? Who believe we shouldn’t be industrial at all because it’s ‘not sustainable’?

    The pro-nuclear crowd would say it’s not a question of pure raw materials but one of energy and, it’s efficient use (as in nuclear).

    This is the planetary paradigm we find ourselves in.

    I will read the report and…report back here.

    I will leave you with my conclusion from my own assessment of this and, of history: every advance in human culture was predicated upon an *increase* in the use of energy per capita. Any reversal of this, on our planet with almost 7 billion people, is a prescription for what Rosa Luxembourg noted: “A return to barbarism”.

    David

  10. David,
    The problem I have with “unlimited energy” is that it could cause “unlimited damage”. So far into the human experiment, I see an awful lot of mismanagement, along with, of course, all the good stuff “progress” has given us. I happen to be of the opinion that the damage bit so far outweighs the progress bit that I would rather do without industrialism. Yes, I know that is a “bold statement” as you say, but since abandoning affluence slowly over the last five to seven years (including abandoning my car) I believe my quality of life has improved beyond any expectations I might have had before I started….
    We live in a fully solar powered house that on average operates on 4 kWhrs a day. Seeing as the average QLD household electricity consumption hovers around thirty of those energy units, it could be misconstrued that we “do without” a whole of things. But you’d be wrong. Here I sit sending you this mail by satellite, we watch a bit of TV, and we freeze all our own meat. The beer’s cold in the fridge (I make it myself too!)
    We now save so much money by NOT consuming what the industrialised world has to offer, we live on four working days a fortnight between us…! The rest of the time we spend gardening, socialising, and I spend too much time at this computer reading interesting stuff like this and then reporting it in a couple of newsletters I publish, it’s great having spare time!
    But now look back at how society has been behaving as we have had more and more cheap energy: wanton waste and consumption.
    Do you think this is good? Who will police how this cheap nuclear power is spent to ensure we don’t wreck what is left of this poor planet?

  11. First, on the PDF…I was mislead to think this had to do with over consumption instead of climate change. In fact, this had nothing to do with how much energy we use but was rather dealing with climate change deniers.

    @mikestasse, thanks for responding.

    I think you live quite the utopian existence. I live in a *city* that gets about 100 days of sunlight a year, at best. I won’t ask how much your solar system and, I assume you are off grid, those lead-acid batteries cost you.

    Your life style advocacy requires ‘catholic’ adoption. Catholic with a small ‘c’, universal adoption of a kind of ‘back to the land’. Where I live in California, the vegan capital of the world (OK, second to Kerala state in India), advocating animal husbandry is likely to get you stewed.

    I doubt the population of Australia, let alone the U.S. can adopt such a low energy lifestyle. And that’s the point…you need a religious conversion to ‘abandon our way of life’. It’s not going to happen anytime soon, nor is it even trending in that direction. A favorite writer of mine, and pro-nuclear progressive is nnadir on the Daily Kos. He detests the ‘carCULTure’ as he calls it here in the US.

    He loves mass transit. As do I, in fact. But, the fact is that most of us live in the suburbs and only 6% of the US population using mass public transit. What to do? While decrying such a lifestyle (and I do) I also seek remedies based on the ability of people in their present lifestyle to do so without gassing the atmosphere. This can be accomplished with Barry’s IFR or my LFTR or, LWR’s in general.

    The people of Asia, Latin America and Africa don’t want you lifestyle, or if they do, they would probably like to the *choice* of this lifestyle. In the mean time, they would like to have a light switch, maybe a TV, any TV, access to the Internet and, perhaps most importantly, a refrigerator. Not a big Sub-Zero Yuppie SUV of a refrigeration, but a small, maybe 8 cu ft one.

    To do *just this* for the planet’s population means a *massive* increase in overall per capita use of energy. Used wisely? Yes, absolutely. But a GRID. You TV you claim to use, the factory that produced those solar cells and the access to internet you proudly proclaim is attainable is completely *unattainable* using solar cells and wind turbines. This, I suspect, is the heart of Barry’s statement: that even YOUR lifestyle is impossible without a HUGE industrial complex that relies on massive amounts of cheap abundant energy. See?

    David

  12. Wow… where to start replying David..? I’m surprised anywhere in California has so few sunny days.
    Our solar power system cost less than a car. In fact, we put it on our new house instead of having a second bathroom, which would have cost the same. It’s all about priorities. How quickly did the last car you bought pay for itself? We are on the grid in fact, but WITH batteries. The battery bank cost us $1300, and we have power 24/7 come hell or high water or the frequent blackouts. What we don’t use we sell to the grid.
    You say: “I doubt the population of Australia, let alone the U.S. can adopt such a low energy lifestyle.”
    I doubt it has any choice in fact. You should visit http://www.chrismartenson.com/crashcourse You don’t think it’s about to happen anytime soon, I predict it will happen by 2012/2013….
    Then you say: “The people of Asia, Latin America and Africa don’t want you lifestyle”. Are you kidding me? Why? Wouldn’t they like a TV and a computer and a fridge? and all the sustainable food abundance we have? What’s wrong with them?
    Oh, and if it came to the crunch, and it will sooner or later, then I’d have no great worries giving up electricity altogether. We all do what we do because we can, and if I no longer can, well I’ll just have to go to bed earlier and find new ways to amuse myself! :-)
    How’s the California economy going BTW…?

  13. Hmmm, David.

    We may not WANT to adopt such a simpler lifestyle – but we are gonna have to.

    (By the way, the link to Clive Hamilton – was to underscore the distortions produced by the organised denier’s lobby in the rational discussion of this issue – and that Barry seemed to be sympathetic to the growth imperative – which basically is a total ‘no-no’ – as has been said many times – “unlimited growth is the philosophy of the cancer cell”. As a conservation biologist, I see the cycle of population peaks and crashes everywhere – and we, as biological organisms are no exception to the implacable rules of nature.

    Like Mike – I live in an energy constrained environment – on solar in the wet tropics. It really focusses your awareness.
    Yes,I use solar cells (50 of ‘em) – have a computer (Mac Powerbook 10 yrs old) – and internet -plus operating a reasonably complex research lab.
    Without the technology that has been developed – that wouldn’t be possible – and nor would our conversation here.

    Mankind has for millenia operated on a very (VERY) much smaller energy budget than the present – and once this fossil fueled ‘blip’ is over – will continue to do so. Having been bought up in the late 40′s and 50′s in country Australia – I have no problems with a reduced energy lifestyle – and yes, modern technology and understanding allows us to live far more comfortably per unit energy than was possible then.

    Far more.

    So,to say that Australia,USA or Vladivostok can’t live at lower energy levels, is completely ridiculous. What’s missing is the will to learn that the change isn’t lethal – and it’s not all that uncomfortable either. Largely a change in expectations, knowlege and preparedness to make changes.

    Aye, there’s the rub.

    What is totally lacking is any sort of government leadership – primarily as the Government now consists of folk who have probably never encountered any real environmental or living stressors, so it is just not part of their consciousness.

    OK – for urban dwellers in modern mega-cities – the situation will be more dire.. but people have lived in cities for millenia as well – we just have to change our expectations and our ways of doing things.

    Remember – we in the Western World are convinced that our reality is the ONLY reality – phooey – talk to a Kurdish tribesman.

    Hugh

  14. But now look back at how society has been behaving as we have had more and more cheap energy: wanton waste and consumption.
    Do you think this is good? Who will police how this cheap nuclear power is spent to ensure we don’t wreck what is left of this poor planet?

    Um … the police?

    If the price paid by consumers for cheap nuclear power included a substantial gratuity for government, and therefore for the police, they would, of course, tolerate its wanton waste.

    So, for instance, if direct nuclear propulsion of cars were possible, and most of what motorists paid for nuclear fuel for their cars went to government, speed limits might not be enforced. And not only not enforced, but someone who, by driving exactly at the speed limit, prevented a number of drivers behind him from speeding — prevented them from burning more nuclear fuel, paying more tax — might be charged with creating a public nuisance, or dangerous driving, or some such thing. (How do you suppose I came up with that example?)

    Do you agree that disproportionate taxation of energy has, so far, applied only to fossil fuel energy, and therefore governments have pushed it in ways that they won’t ever push energies that are not disproportionately taxed? Why would we ever fall into the trap of disproportionately taxing nuclear energy?

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  15. Let’s see… With a project this ambitious (assuming it was shovel ready, to use the vernacular) it would either eventually succumb to resource constraints (e.g. peak oil/peak fossil fuels) or climate constraints. Imagine the warming effect of building hundreds, let alone thousands of such reactors, since each would require the involvement of fossil fuels throughout their life cycle. The longer the cycle the dirtier the fuels would become, as rich seams and soaks give way to less productive ones, all the while needing more and more embodied energy to construct and maintain the show. Seems pretty futile, since all we are really attempting to preserve by going down the technofix path is our right to choose from one of the dozens of underarm sweeteners on display on the supermarket shelf. :)

  16. Why is it indefensible? Can you show me the nuclear reactor that can build another nuclear reactor and still have enough useful energy left over to run society with?

    And pray tell what would Homo Sapiens do with even more dollops of energy but complete the destruction of Mother Earth? After all look at what all the nearly free fossil fuel energy has accomplished in just a few brief centuries. A biosphere and civilisation on the brink of collapse from too much consumption, production and reproduction.

  17. Agreed — this is a total furphy. The energy payback period for the construction of a 1 GWe nuclear power plant is roughly 4 months:

    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c24/page_169.shtml (from David Mackay, U Cambridge)

    Mythconceptions

    Two widely-cited defects of nuclear power are construction costs, and waste. Let’s examine some aspects of these issues.

    Building a nuclear power station requires huge amounts of concrete and steel, materials whose creation involves huge CO2 pollution. The steel and concrete in a 1 GW nuclear power station have a carbon footprint of roughly 300 000 t CO2. Spreading this “huge” number over a 25-year reactor life we can express this contribution to the carbon intensity in the standard units (g CO2 per kWh(e)),
    carbon intensity associated with construction

    = (300× 109 g) / (106 kW(e) × 220 000 h)
    = 1.4 g/kWh(e)

    …. which is much smaller than the fossil-fuel benchmark of 400 g CO2/kWh(e). The IPCC estimates that the total carbon intensity of nuclear power (including construction, fuel processing, and decommissioning) is less than 40 g CO2/kWh(e) (Sims et al., 2007). Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to be pro-nuclear. I’m just pro-arithmetic.”

    You can debate about extra inputs required for mining, milling and enrichment, but these arguments will be irrelevant for Gen IV nuclear for a few centuries, by which time all the mining processes will be electrical power (by nuclear power) anyway (and there will be no need for enrichment).

  18. Sydney University’s ISA report’s nuclear spreadsheet shows construction as producing 5.2 Mt (CO2-e), not 0.3 , for a nominal 1.3 GW, = real 1.0 GW.
    Then before it produces any power you need to load it up with fuel.
    A fuel rod lasts about 3 years or 10% of the life of the reactor.
    That’s another 2.5 Mt(CO2-e) .

    It is not meaningful to spread this out over the lifetime of the reactor, as the impact on the environment happens before the reactor starts up, starting perhaps 10 years before the reactor starts.

    ISA’s base case scenario has a greenhouse intensity of 57.8 g(CO2-e) / KW.h(el) but that is based on a uranium ore grade of 0.15% and a lifetime load factor of 85%.
    If you reduce those to more realistic 0.08% and 75% the ghg intensity goes up to 63.9 ( compared to 40 below).

    And so on, and so on.
    I’m tired of this argument.
    Let them go ahead and waste the energy.
    See if I care.
    No, I don’t mean that.
    Protest, object, get arrested, write submission, blog, blockade the site, blow it up,
    hijack a plane and crash it into the fucking thing.
    I think I’ve got the flu.

  19. For the ISA intensity you are talking about plant construction + mining, milling and enrichment. With Gen IV, you only need to consider the initial plant construction. Fretting about ore grades becomes an irrelevant distraction. The only meaningful emissions for Gen IV nuclear will come during plant construction — and once this is mostly electrified (cranes, vehicles, steel manufacture etc.), then it’s really only the concrete that needs to be accounted for. The start charge of fissile material will come from reprocessed LWR spent fuel and HEU/Pu from bombs.

    As to your final few sentences, I’ll pass on commenting.

  20. In reply to Mikestasse all the more reason to power the Olympic Dam expansion and desal with a nuke not coal, diesel or gas. Better still make an industrial estate with a Gen III, desal, hydrogen generator and explosives factory. Set aside an adjoining vacant block for an IFR.

    Barry could the reply indents be made smaller? [Ed: no power to change this, alas]

  21. @ Barry Brook;

    You are assuming that the fossil fuels necessary to generate such a profoundly huge build-out of nukes will still be available in the quantity, quality and affordability we have enjoyed these past several decades. When even the International Energy Agency (IEA), no peak oil alarmist, is warning of an oil supply crunch around 2012, then you can be sure that the free energy bonanza that built the framework that made nukes even remotely possible – fossil fuels, is approaching the end of its heroic phase of expansion. From that point on there is only the increasingly yawning chasm of contraction – of energy use and everything that is reliant on it, like the economy and its attendant infrastructure, including nukes.

  22. You’re assuming that fossil fuels are perpetually necessary. They are not. Electrical equipment and nuclear power derived synthesised chemichal fuels can take care of any shortage of fossil fuels, and even if the oil dries up in an unreasonably short timeframe, coal and coal-derived liquid fuels will still be available (although it will of course be desirable to replace them with nuclear-derived alternatives as soon as feasible).

    As for the idea that nuclear power is somehow dependent on fossil fuel infrastructure… absolute rubbish. You’re grasping at straws to justify your doomer fantasies. Grow up.

  23. Here’s the thing, Mike. We’ve got very little time effect a global transformation to a zero carbon civilization, or suffer ecological catastrophe. Unfortunately, your lifestyle doesn’t scale to the current global population, so its not an option for the global transformation required.

    If the roughly 17 million or so Australians who live in cities were to migrate to the countryside and attempt rural self sufficiency over say 20 years, it would utterly devastate our environment, and most would wind up starving because they’ve never tilled a field.

    Wow where to start replying to David (Walters)? How about with his main point that the whole of Australia, let alone the US, can’t take up the lifestyle you advocate? Which is my point as well. Don’t dodge the question and flick us to a website – tell us how _you_ think a global de-urbanization is going to play out, without widespread starvation and conflict.

    People engaged in the discussion on this blog are trying to figure out how we manage this transformation, preserve our natural estate and a habitable climate, and avoid societal collapse. Most have come to the conclusion, after considerable thought and debate, that some form of Gen IV nuclear power is a critical element in achieving this goal. You haven’t understood why we (I) think this, or that the Syd Uni study you cite is simply not relevant. Have a read around on this site, particularly the expositions and discussion of the IFR, to understand why.

    Your closing comments are frankly strange and a little unbalanced. If you’re tired of the argument now, imagine how exhausted you’ll be when you actually think it through.

  24. Fossil fuel supply also constrains the build out of, say, wind power or solar power. We’re forced to transition to a new energy infrastructure, and if energy investment is a constraint the best choice for that investment is the least resource intensive power source. That would be breeder reactors first, and daylight second.

    Literally.

  25. “Why is it indefensible? Can you show me the nuclear reactor that can build another nuclear reactor and still have enough useful energy left over to run society with?”

    Current PWRs can do that easily.As Barry pointed out, construction energy payback time is on the order of a dew months. Decommissioning adds another couple, I believe. As for fuel refining, note that the French have two reactors dedicated to refining fuel for their fleet of 58. Nuclear power plants, even the Gen II variety, are a robust and self-supporting technology. The above quote from Theodorou’s post is almost Stormsmithian in its dishonesty and stupidity.

    “And pray tell what would Homo Sapiens do with even more dollops of energy but complete the destruction of Mother Earth? After all look at what all the nearly free fossil fuel energy has accomplished in just a few brief centuries. A biosphere and civilisation on the brink of collapse from too much consumption, production and reproduction.

    What do you think seven billion homonid apes are going to do to Mother Earth without lots of cheap energy? Don’t bother wondering. I’ll tell you. They will, in such a desperate plight, devour the animals, burn the forests, and fight to the death over the last of the food. And they will have rendered themselves utterly helpless in the battle against climate change.

  26. Wrong, John Theodorou.

    Peak oil simply means the point at which production will peak. There will be plenty of oil left, for decades to come, for relevant construction projects like nuclear power stations, which will help build the post-oil economy. A quadrupling of the oil price will have big implications for the average motor vehicle user, yet would only add at most a few tens of millions of $$ to the construction cost of a 1 GW reactor. When the overnight construction price is already $2-4 billion, that’s peanuts.

    Sorry, but I’m totally over the peak oil doom-and-gloom pessimism. The future is all electric, and the 2nd half of the oil curve will get us there with plenty to spare.

  27. @ Finrod;

    Yes Fossil Fuels are perpetually necessary for an economic system that has been phase dependent on them since the Industrial Revolution, and becoming even more, not less so.

    You’re the one that’s grasping at straws if you think that synthesizing crude from coal, which at present supplies less than a few hundred thousand barrels of “oil” per day, at enormous financial and environmental expense, will be available in sufficient volumes to help mitigate the decline in conventional oil before the onset of peak.

    @ John D Morgan;
    The building of all that new electric powered infrastructure will require lots of fossil fuel which just won’t be as cheap and readily available post-peak.

    @ Barry Brook;
    Nice to know you have a crystal ball. How do you know what the rate of decline will be post-peak? Seeing the world has never arrived at this moment before isn’t it a bit premature to suppose that the rate will be mild?

    Even if it is please take heed of the lesson of the recent world economic meltdown, (which, and despite all protestations to the contrary as voiced by the mainstream media and other assorted cheerleaders for perpetual economic growth etc, is still unfolding), where record high oil prices due to years of stagnant oil supply growth helped provide the mortal wound.

    Imagine Barry just based on your supposition of mild annual decline rates, year in, year out, what devastation would be wrought on world capitalism and the industrial project as a result of actual oil shortages, rather than merely stagnating production.

    I understand the whole idea of energy/economic contraction brought upon by resource, environmental and climate constraints pains and scares you but the truth is that the whole human enterprise in its current guise hangs by only a gossamer thread. Cheap energy, in the form of fossil fuels has gotten us into this position. How will more cheap energy bail us out of it? The mess is already here.

  28. At every stage of the nuclear process, carbon free nuclear electricity can generate it. The CO2 output is statistically irrelevant. As more nuclear takes on a greater and greater % of out put, CO2 levels fall.

    Barry…you have a bunch of Mad Max worriers on this forum. All “preparing”, like our old “Millenium-the-clocks-will-all-start-stopping” in 2000. Most of the world rejects such doom and gloom but understand the problems of climate change and want to do something about. The energy starvation activists think a Beyond-Thunderdome scenario is inevitable. How sad. I’m far more optimistic.

  29. “@ Finrod;

    Yes Fossil Fuels are perpetually necessary for an economic system that has been phase dependent on them since the Industrial Revolution, and becoming even more, not less so.”

    What an appalling example of crystal sphere thinking. What we need is useful power in various forms. Nuclear power can provide all of that once the infrastructure is up and running, and while the investment won’t be minor, it is eminently achievable. There is no reason why electric machinery and vehicles, plus synthetic liquid fuels derived from nuclear power (or GRL’s solid-fuel concept) cannot support our civilisation indefinitely.

    “You’re the one that’s grasping at straws if you think that synthesizing crude from coal, which at present supplies less than a few hundred thousand barrels of “oil” per day, at enormous financial and environmental expense, will be available in sufficient volumes to help mitigate the decline in conventional oil before the onset of peak.”

    Germany switched to such fuel very swiftly during WWII. There’s no reason why we couldn’t do the same. I would not want to see it become necessary, and I only mentioned it to demonstrate the worthlessness of peak-oil doomer rhetoric. Of course we have a much better option than coal-derived fuel (nuclear).

  30. Can the editor please remove the above initial reply from me?

    @Finrod;
    Ever since we commenced down the path of industrialization, fossil fuels, and in particular oil, have been expanding in their use, as has the volume of total energy. The more expansion of an economy and population based on the ready availability of cheap oil and other fossil fuels begets the need for even more of the same. All other energy sources, including nuclear are just a footnote to this fact.

    This trend is unlikely to abate before the onset of peak oil/fossil fuels which means there will be not the time, money or cheap, abundantly available fossil fuel energy to build all that shiny new electric infrastructure and keep the existing economy intact during the decades it might take to make the switchover. Rolling economic crises and growing geopolitical tension over the remaining oil/other FF resource kicks in are also a cinch to occur as a result of this.

    So if Germany was able to easily produce synthetic crude from coal (CTL), then why was it so fixated on capturing conventional oil fields in the Caucasus? Because, and despite the use of slave labour to do the heavy lifting, they were only able to synthesis a few hundred thousand barrels of CTL before they were defeated by an Allied force that easily produced during that same time at least 10 times the volume of cheap conventional oil. The Germans were starved for liquid fuels, the Allies weren’t. Any wonder why they lost. Oil is a flow, Coal is a mining operation.

    As to powering civilisation indefinitely I’m sure, according to your faith-based logic, the damage caused to the climate, the environment and the rest of the physical world by the use of so much cheap fossil fuel energy, will be magically reset by the availability of another source of cheap and abundant energy! Resources will amazingly be replenished, habitats restored. The lion will lay down with the lamb, and all pain and suffering will be banished.

  31. How do you justify that statement?
    Well lets see, with the use of copious amounts of cheap energy we manage to ravage the environment from too much industrial production and consumption (q.v. the affluent world).

    Even without access to copious amounts of cheap energy we still manage to ravage the environment due to overpopulation (q.v. poor places like Madagascar).

    That clear things up for you?

  32. John Theodorou,
    There is some truth in what you are saying, oil and coal are now accounting for a high portion of energy in BTU or MJ. Converting coal to oil would create great climate/CO2 problems and would take 10-20 years, so has to be off the table.

    What you may be missing was stated by Barry a few days ago above; we are moving to an electric society, energy in one kWh is much more valuable than the 3.6MJ of energy content in a similar amount of oil or coal. Almost no oil is used to generate electricity and the small amount used in coal transport will be displaced when coal is replaced by nuclear and renewable “electricity”. We only need to replace the 180EJ of oil energy with 30EJ of non FF electricity
    We haven’t made the transition away from oil and coal yet because they are abundant and cheap, this is going to change very soon and fortunately we have some good alternatives for most oil uses.
    Replacing coal used to generate electricity while technically easy is going to take time due to the magnitude of coal use, and the time it will take to build nuclear power stations. One solution is to develop a lot of wind and convert coal fired to NG powered electricity until nuclear can replace NG.
    Electric vehicles being charged overnight make good use of off-peak nuclear and wind power, and NG is a cheap peak power option until solar becomes competitive with NG.

  33. @ Neil Howes
    Thank you for your reasoned response :)

    I’d like to say that the scenario(s) you’re painting imply a continuation of BAU (business as usual) into the foreseeable future which is highly unlikely because of the ramifications of peak oil on the health of future economies coming from the lack of fuel in the quantities required to generate growth. Moreover increasing geopolitical tension (i.e. resource wars) would likely also play havoc with such plans, not to mention the increasing toll of environmental damage from climate change and other physical limits.

    We should have commenced down this path 30 years ago. But as a society we squandered that time and energy on get rich quick schemes, consumer contraptions and cheap holidays abroad. Soon is the time when the Piper will come calling…

    Best Regards,

    John

  34. Believe whichever expert you wish

    “..the prospects for nuclear energy as an option are limited, by four unresolved problems:
    1. high relative costs;
    2. perceived adverse safety, environmental, and health effects;
    3. potential security risks stemming from proliferation; and
    4. unresolved challenges in long-term management of nuclear wastes.”

    A little more on costs:

    “The estimated cost of constructing a nuclear power plant has increased at a rate of 15% per year heading into the current economic downturn. This is based both on the cost of actual builds in Japan and Korea and on the projected cost of new plants planned for in the United States

    The track record for the construction costs of nuclear plants completed in the U.S. during the 1980s and early 1990s was poor. Actual costs were far higher than had been projected. Construction schedules experienced long delays, which, together with increases in interest rates at the time, resulted in high financing charges.”

    From the Update of the MIT 2003 Future of Nuclear Power Study (2009)

    Even more on costs:
    “…a report from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation finds the Government would have to foot 21.4 per cent of electricity bills for the first 12 years and contribute (an unspecified amount) to the cost of building the plant. “If the owner takes the entire financial risk, then the nuclear station produces electricity at a cost that is significantly higher than would a new coal-fired or gas turbine power station,” (as reported in The Australian, based, I believe on this report: http://www.ansto.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/38975

    On AGW effect:
    “The researchers also point out a flaw in the nuclear energy argument. Although nuclear power does not produce carbon dioxide emissions in the same way as burning fossil fuels it does produce heat emissions equivalent to three times the energy of the electricity it generates and so contributes to global warming significantly…”

    from: Global energy accumulation and net heat emission. Int. J. Global Warming, 2009, 1, 378-391

    Some of you may wish to proliferate the risks of nuclear terrorism etc for whatever reason but the economics and environmental benefits are still not obvious.

  35. Whether the capital cost problem can be resolved by Gen IV is unknown. However fuel costs for inhouse coal for mine mouth generators could more than double under the ETS. The internal transfer price could be as low as $20 per tonne of coal. However if the ETS floor price is $20 per tonne of CO2 that could add $50 to the cost. A life cycle analysis is needed that covers construction costs, fuel and decommissioning.

    I recall someone on this website saying that a nuclear plant with 1 GWe output had 1.8 GW thermal losses. Is coal any better? I presume we’re talking baseload here which disqualifies wind power.

  36. I’m not very keen on coal either! I think that overall the risks are too high with nuclear but these are not our only options.
    I take your point about wind although like the current head of FERC I think the baseload issue is overstated. However, there are some other technologies that we are well suited to exploit: Solar Thermal springs to mind first and I also do not rule out wave power – as in the Oceanlinx plant, the Pelamis and such-like.
    Although only about 500 megawatts of solar-thermal has been built to date about 12GW of capacity is being planned worldwide. Because heat can be stored they are suitable for baseload – and, since they use a turbine to generate electricity from heat, they can be easily and inexpensively supplemented with natural-gas boilers where any back-up is felt to be necessary.

  37. Ludwig,
    Unless the plan is to go >90% nuclear, the costs while potentially high are not as relevant as the value of starting up and having a nuclear construction program. When 5 or 10% power comes from nuclear it can be compared with other low carbon alternatives. Comparing to coal is not an option unless CCS is going to be a lot cheaper than the $100-150 estimates and all coal is fitted with CCS not just talked about for the future.

    We may end up with 90% nuclear and 10% solar or 10% nuclear and 90% renewables, but we have to have the capacity to expand the best options at the time, relative price can change with changes in technology. If one resources is twice as expensive the extra cost of having 10% in the mix will be minor.

    Waste heat from a nuclear power plant is only relevant for local effects,for a few hours, while CO2 will heat the atmosphere for thousands of years.

  38. It’s fast becoming obvious that the cornucopians on this site have little understanding of the complexity of the world we currently operate.

    THIS modern civilisation was built one brick at a time as and when it was needed/wanted. All the way along this path, energy in the form of oil and coal and then gas, and yes, even nukes, got more and more plentiful and also ever cheaper (except, oddly, NUKES!). Most of it was also built with energy that had huge Energy Return on Energy Invested. In the 1930′s, for every barrel of oil invested into finding and exploiting oil, 100 barrels could be expected in return. This, BTW fully explain how so much of it was squandered building huge gas guzzlers and sprawling suburbia. Today, the ERoEI is already under 10, and many wells produce at under 5. There may be a lot of oil down there, but much of it (1/3 to 1/2) may never be pumped out because it will take more energy to extract than it contains….

    If you want an example of how rapidly oil depletion can occur, read this:

    Much of Mexico’s recent oil success is owed to the giant offshore Cantarell field. Cantarell grew to be one of the top producing fields on the planet, but, like all non-renewable resources, limits started to bite and it began declining at the end of the 1990s. The world’s largest nitrogen separation plant was built and with nitrogen being pumped in staggering quantities, production rose back to a new high of over 2 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2003 and 2004, making it the second largest producing field in the world, after Saudi Arabia’s famous Ghawar. Much of this nitrogen-pressured oil was of great help to the US and its legions of thirsty three ton vehicles carrying lone humans (average weight 150lbs; a 40 to 1 ratio of wasted energy).

    Then suddenly the fairy story started going wrong in a big way. All the nitrogen injecting seemed to have over-stressed the reservoir and in 2006, two years after the field peaked, the Mexican government was forced to admit that the field was not only declining, but was doing so at a rate of about 14%, making it one of the fastest declining in the world. There might be a revival in the next few years as a new complex is brought onstream, but it will not come close to two mb/d. And then again, there might not because the main production area suddenly fell off the cliff in July 2008, crashing down 35% to less than a million barrels a day. As the graph above shows (http://www.postcarbon.org/mexico-oil-cliff-diving), Mexican petroleum and petroleum products exports into the US are falling precipitately.

    As this is happening, the optimists here want to build a completely new electric future, ie a new infrastructure, in no time flat (we at least all seem to agree AGW is dire and needs immediate solutions) just as the cost of the energy needed to do this is going up, and its availability is going down. Well, we all like a challenge I guess!

    Your new world won’t just need a whole bunch of new whizz bang power stations. It will need a whole new fleet (which today stands at nearly one billion) of cars and trucks, which will ALL need up front fossil energy to build. To build even a small car requires ~ 90 barrels of oil… Which, you might like to be reminded will also exacerbate CO2 emissions. Then we’ll need a whole lot of new transmission likes to feed all the energy to where it’s needed, the homes of the owners of electric cars and the businesses of fleets of trucks which presumably will all run on errrr batteries? All done with up front fossil fuels.

    We could of course convert freeways to rail, with much modification because rail requires far better gradients than oil powered machines.

    Worse, you want all this to happen just as we are confronting the realities governments can’t even keep up with the maintenance of what’s already here! Many cities will have to have their sewerage systems replaced and or upgraded, AND all the current nukes need replacing while you want to build new ones, all at the same time.

    Oh and I nearly forgot, nearly the entire system of oil rigs needs replacing, RIGHT NOW, because it’s so old, and oil was sold so cheap for so long that the oil companies have totally failed to keep them maintained or replaced as needed. The cost is evidently in the trillions, and it will need to happen before you could ever consider building hundreds or thousands of new nukes..

    The problem lies in the fact that the great majority of people have no understanding of the exponential function. If we are to continue growing even at 3.5% (which we absolutely will not, mind you..) we would need twice as many of everything (schools, hospitals, roads/rail, houses, cars, power stations, etc etc etc) within 20 years. Just as much of the developed world is BANKRUPT.

    Will California pay for ITS new nukes with IOU’s? I’ll bet very few of you even understand where all the money to do all this stuff comes from. It’s called DEBT, and to pay off debts and the interest on those debts, you MUST HAVE GROWTH…. that is how Capitalism is designed. You can’t spend your way out of bankruptcy…

    Sorry, but you lot need to wake up to yourselves and look at the BIG PICTURE instead of sticking your head down a U shaft…. Welcome to the Limits to Growth.

    Oh, and I am VERY optimistic there is a solution to all this mess…. we just pull all collective heads in and start living within our and the Planet’s means. We already have everything, so why should we want more? This is as good as it gets, get over it.

    BTW, I don’t buy the idea that “my lifestyle” isn’t scalable to city size. They did just that in Cuba when the USSR collapsed and stopped supplying them with subsidised oil.

  39. Sorry Neil I fail to see how any of that makes sense.
    The value of having an uneconomic industry start up is something I find hard to measure favourably.
    The comparison with coal and gas was just ANSTO and was at least instructive as to how much and for how long nuclear remains uneconomic – I would rather they did a comparison with my preferred options Solar-Thermal, Wave and Wind Power.

    You need to read Bo Nordell & Bruno Gervet “Global energy accumulation and net heat emission.” Int. J. Global Warming, 2009, 1, 378-391. It addresses you mistake about waste heat.

    While you’re at it this little reflection on Australian History is also instructive. In particular note his comments on the relationship with weaponry! http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1491985.htm

  40. Pointing out home truths to the Big Science addicts is unlikely to evoke a worthwhile response:-)
    You could try sending them to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-QA2rkpBSY
    “The greatest short-coming of the human race is the inability to understand the exponential function”
    In my experience the idea that we should replace our energy producing plants with renewable energy systems, using technologies that are scalable – not to mention orders of magnitude safer than their big toy syndrome – is usually answered with incoherent ramblings that eventually come back to “We must have Big Science – it’s the Future!”.
    I enjoyed your polemic:-)

  41. Ah deary me. Barry, I admire your patience. What’s going on in this thread is a prime example of why I changed my tactical thinking on pro-nuke advocacy some time ago, and why I believe that internet-based advocacy, while a good thing, has essentially reached the limits of its effectiveness. Here in this thread we have all the same tired old arguments rearing their heads again: Arguments and propaganda peices which have long and often been utterly discredited, and any honest person would acknowledge it. Our opponents are not of that type, though.

    To the doomers and neo-Malthusian energy conservation pushers: Do not imagine that your case has any merit, or that your lies are not seen through. I have had more than my share of battles with your ilk over the internet in the past, and I am confident that you could not stand against me if I chose to engage you now. You have not raised one single point which cannot be addressed to its utter defeat. To do so would take valuable time which I am devoting to more certain means of eliminating your threat to the human future.

  42. Ditto to you to. Your tirade cuts both ways.
    There is plenty of well credentialed bodies, such as MIT and Stanford, FERC, NAS etc etc along with economic analysts ranging from Moody’s Investor Services to the Wall St Journal and the Economist that think nuclear does not measure up. The pro nuclear propaganda pieces are tiresome in their repetition of their mantra that “no-one will give them a fair hearing”. They have had it and they have failed to make their case. I do not write off some nuclear solutions in the future but nuclear energy has a long way to go before it has made a serious business case addressing the 4 issues that MIT raised.(see above)

  43. Mikestasse,

    You describe many contributors to this site as cornucopians. Have you considered the possibility of there being a possible, though admittedly unlikely-to-be-implemented technical fix that might prove you wrong? I have to agree that exponential population growth is clearly unsustainable. For the sake of all other species, I would like global human population to fall back to 2 billion. However, we are on our way to 9 billion and, without a massively increased death rate (double that of the Black Death and far greater in percentage terms than that effected in any war in history), we’ll probably reach this level before, hopefully, dropping back to longer term sustainability. Given that it is scarcely politically correct to consider ways of eliminating two out of three fellow humans while protecting one’s own genes, we tend to confine our thinking about the future to any solution that might get us through this “hump” and allow a soft landing. I wouldn’t describe such thought processes as representative of a cornucopian and nor would I consider that it represents a bau position.

    I accept your comments relating to falling ERoEI ratios of fossil fuels and have severe misgivings that renewables will have any realistic prospect of getting us all through “the hump” to which I referred above. They will certainly be capable of getting all of the populations of some nations and a varying percentage of the populations of others through.

    The ONLY solution that I have so far read about that gives me the slightest cause for optimism relates to fourth generation nuclear power. This is predicated on the hope that it will deliver as much energy as needed to “get through the hump” at a price cheaper than that from coal. This hope may be wishful thinking but, surely, there can be no excuse not to try. If commercial demonstration units fail to live up to the expectations of their proponents, so be it. We will have no recourse but to fall back on renewable technologies and hope that something better may turn up.

    I don’t believe that I’ve said anything that conflicts with the need to use less energy on a personal and national level and to use it more efficiently. However, I think you’re being extremely naive if you regard this as a total global solution.

    Finally, I fully accept that, should energy cease to be constraining, we will meet other constraints unless we can find a solution to continuing population growth.

  44. “Finally, I fully accept that, should energy cease to be constraining, we will meet other constraints unless we can find a solution to continuing population growth.”

    Why is the bogeyman of exponential population growth considered credible? All the demographic evidence indicates that modern western living standards results in a reversal of the growth trend. Some western countries are actually declining in population, and many others would be too if not for immigration from the underdeveloped world.

  45. Finrod,

    I’m not sure we necessarily disagree that much. You refer to the bogeyman of population growth and point to the declining populations of some materially affluent states. It is often claimed that this so-called demographic transition requires a certain level of affluence/materialism. Do we have the time/available energy to increase the affluence of developing nations until they naturally reach a point where the demographic transition occurs (fertility rate drops) or would you prefer to allow those nations the privilege of paring down their populations by starvation or fighting to levels low enough to permit the necessary affluence of the survivors to encourage them to breed less?

    I hope that gen 4 nuclear might permit the former scenario. I suspect a renewable only approach will ensure the latter and take down many Europeans as well.

  46. You are wrong. MIT does seen nuclear as worth perusing. See their 2009 update of their Keys report.

    But taking groups like Moody’s or the WSJ as good coin (“credentialed bodies”???) and I have some TARP funds to throw your way. They are the LAST people who look at energy for human needs; indeed, they only look at it from the POV of profit. They are the ones who wrecked the worlds economy we are living through now.

    Non of which doesn’t explain the huge PRIVATE investment in component factories around the world and the clearly real start of the Nuclear Renaissance does it? The day anyone can make a “clear business” case for nuclear will be the day I turn my back on it.

    The ISSUE is carbon and coal specifically. How to phase it out? How to get rid of it? The coal industry, *especially in Australia*, runs full page adds in leading daily newspapers attacking nuclear energy as a “Threat to the coal community”. Indeed it is. Nuclear energy? See it’s enemies.

    David

  47. The MIT study “The Future of Nuclear Power” updated in 2009 said their were four *unresolved* issues. Cost was the first of these.

    It is interesting that you say: “the day anyone can make a “clear business” case for nuclear will be the day I turn my back on it”. So this is an admission the NE is uneconomic? Or what?

    You also misquote me when you attached credentialed to Moody’s etc – the sentence read: “…credentialed bodies, such as MIT and Stanford, FERC, NAS etc etc *along with* economic analysts ranging from Moody’s Investor Services to the Wall St Journal and the Economist”. And the point is that a wide range of financial and economic analysts are dubious about the economics of NE. When the 4th Gen stuff is REAL that might change, but I think the boosters are getting ahead of themselves.

    As for the “huge private investment in component factories” etc. Yes and there is also ongoing huge investments in many things that come to nothing. Movies,music, cars, new engines – orbital anyone? People will punt.

    Part of what I would like to get across is that, far from producing power too cheap to meter, NE has been expensive and its costs are rising. The 4th Generational stuff is on paper. Meanwhile Solar-Thermal, Wind and Wave power are all coming down in cost.
    Forget coal (I am entirely sceptical about the idea of “clean coal” – I am NOT a coal booster but, like MITs interdisciplinary group, I think there are number of issues to resolved before we can legitimately boost nuclear. We need to look at inspection protocols – Pakistan and China and probably India do not report all incidents. How do we deal with terrorists? Suicide bombers with NE plants in hand sound rather disturbing to me. How is the situation in Pakistan, by the way?
    Meanwhile Solar-Thermal, Wind and Wave power do not have these issues attached. Nor do they produce excess heat; require ongoing mining. Their environmental impacts are pretty much all at construction stage.

  48. Douglas, thank you for your measured reply. I can sound impatient with people, because I AM impatient, we are wasting time to solve the world’s inumerable problems, and running out of it apace. Even you state that Gen IV nukes are “unlikely-to-be-implemented”. I happen to feel the same way about renewables by the way, I am NOT a green cornucopian either! I used to be, I even retrained in Renewable Energy way back in the 90′s naively thinking I could help save the world. Unfortunately, the renewable lobby is just as good as the nuke lobby when it comes to spin!
    There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since the 90′s, and now that I fully understand the problems besetting the economy as well (you really must ALL do Dr Chris Martenson’s Crash Course, it is a true epiphany http://www.chrismartenson.com/crashcourse) it is obvious to me there is no more scope to do anything to solve the problems we face without a totally new and revolutionary system of governance and management. We have totally screwed up basically…
    You also said “I don’t believe that I’ve said anything that conflicts with the need to use less energy on a personal and national level and to use it more efficiently. However, I think you’re being extremely naive if you regard this as a total global solution.”
    We actually have no choice at all. Society will go down screaming, but that’s how it will all end. I don’t believe for one second it is the end of the world though, because my family and I live a life of abundance on barely 10% of the energy/resources the average family consumes. The way we do this is by no longer consuming all the things industrial society has to offer.
    Consumption IS the problem. We all easily forget that civilisation runs on natural resources, most of which are non renewable, and yet, we could run it entirely on the renewable ones, and sustainably.
    Yes, life would be simpler, we would have to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, we would all have to run on SOLAR time. Is that so bad? We were doing this for 99.99% of history after all… and we are a whole lot cleverer now….. we have even invented PERMACULTURE (which is way more than gardening you may be surprised to discover).
    All the solutions are at hand, we just have to change our ways, there are waaaaay too many of us on this Planet to continue on this merry way.
    And to Finrod’s “Why is the bogeyman of exponential population growth considered credible?”, well mate, it’s because the third world wants everything you’ve got! AND they’re coming over here to get it! So just triple the number of those Gen IV’s you want to build.

  49. Oh by the way if you want credentialed in economics how about “there are problems with nuclear we need to resolve: not just disposal of radioactive waste, but vulnerability to terrorist attack. In fact, as nuclear power becomes more common around the world, the possible misuse for weapons, terrorist or otherwise, will be a big problem. So unless there are some breakthroughs, nuclear power is only a piece, and maybe not a big one, of the solution.” Pal Krugman, MIT, Ford International Professor of Economics – Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences 2008.

  50. Ludwig, “Meanwhile Solar-Thermal, Wind and Wave power do not have these issues attached. Nor do they produce excess heat; require ongoing mining. Their environmental impacts are pretty much all at construction stage.” is not entirely correct…
    MINING is necessary for all those things, steel, aluminium, copper, silicon, even the lime sand and gravel needed to make the (massive) concrete footings of wind turbines.
    Consumption is consumption, period, and consumption, excessive consumption, is why we have climate change. And too many people, waaay too many people.

  51. mikestasse said

    ‘Ludwig, “Meanwhile Solar-Thermal, Wind and Wave power do not have these issues attached. Nor do they produce excess heat; require ongoing mining. Their environmental impacts are pretty much all at construction stage.” is not entirely correct…

    MINING is necessary for all those things, steel, aluminium, copper, silicon, even the lime sand and gravel needed to make the (massive) concrete footings of wind turbines.
    Consumption is consumption, period, and consumption, excessive consumption, is why we have climate change. And too many people, waaay too many people.’

    Alright, let me re-phrase that: “Their environmental impacts are pretty much all at the pre-construction and construction stage.”
    I am not denying their impacts but I am saying their impacts are less and their PROBLEMS are much less. Even if we do not increase our current supply we will still need to replace it as plants go out of capability.
    As it happens, I agree with you that rampant consumerism and the idea that we must promote this internationally by increasing power supply is silly.
    I am in favour of a 3 fold approach: Energy conservation, renewable energy systems and education. But I also know that if everyone in the world lived at my level of consumption we would need 3 more planet earths. So some of that education has to be of academia and policy makers. They have to realise that choice is not everything; there is also responsibility. Here in Canberra I have difficulty finding a house to rent that is not an environmental nightmare. Why is modern, efficient, environmentally sensible housing stock not being created?

    Finally I never claimed that Solar-Thermal, Wind and Wave power are perfect only that they represent a safer and more sensible direction than nuclear.

  52. I worked at Port Augusta power station one summer. The ash levees were enough to put me off coal as a fuel. I don’t buy 95% of the alarmist nonsense in the climate debate, but surely nuclear with a 300 year waste cycle is far better than burning all the coal?

  53. But Ludwig, “Alright, let me re-phrase that: “Their environmental impacts are pretty much all at the pre-construction and construction stage.” I am not denying their impacts but I am saying their impacts are less and their PROBLEMS are much less.” is only a valid statement whilst we only use renewables at the rate of 0.1% (or whatever the real figure is) of total energy consumption. I don’t think people realise here the ENORMITY of the task of changing systems…. the CURRENT system is so huge, THAT is the problem, and people want to grow it?
    Re your comment about “finding a house to rent that is not an environmental nightmare”, I couldn’t agree more… after retraining in Renewable Energy (in which one of the core subject was energy efficient house design) I attempted to kick start GREENhouse Design (http://www.greenhousedesign.green.net.au) but the building industry was not the least bit interested… most of the houses I designed were NEVER built, because builders would continually tell my clients “why do you want to build it like this for” and then talk them into their totally useless versions. In the end I just gave up…. which was just as well because I wouldn’t like to face Peak Oil AND the looming depression with a new business!
    I actually built this place (and I mean MYSELF, stuck all the nails in, lifted the sheets of iron onto the roof, etc etc etc) as a display of what could be achieved, because no one, NOBODY would believe me that it’s possible to build a house requiring neither heating nor cooling in SE Qld…. You can see some of it on my blog at http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/ You’ll notice there is no driveway, and no garage/carport!

  54. Lud, what I’m saying is that the *argument* that you have to make a ‘business case’ for nuclear is lame. People do it but it misses the point.

    Of course it makes economic sense…which is why there are a 100 plants right now either under construction or being planned for. You haven’t been paying attention to what is going on, which is real, massive expansion of component manufacturing. Plants are starting construction…which is about as real as you can get, don’t ya’ think?

    Yes, MIT said there are still issues, just like with wind and solar. Yes economics is one of them. They didn’t say, did they, that nuclear won’t work or shouldn’t be perused?

    In fact, what did Krugman say? “…In fact, as nuclear power becomes more common around the world, the possible misuse …”. Indeed. As it becomes more common…. Exactly, is going to be. MIT knows it. There is no debate about this.

    David

  55. Barry, the big bottle neck, again, something that is hinted at in your interview and something I bounced off with in reply to Ludwig: The AP1000 is currently the most popular new build ‘wannabe’ in that the Chinese want like 100 of ‘em. Probably mostly of their own version, but the technology will essentially be the same but scaled up another 300MWs.

    You mentioned that the components are built in factories or a lot of them are assembled as modules on site. I agree, it’s a complete shift away from what drove up construction costs in the 1970s. However, it IS the biggest bottleneck: components. I noted to Ludwig, polemically-wise, that expansion of components for heavy items, in the 300 tons and above, might become constrained. All the news groups that follow this closely have commented on it. But it’s big, quite big, and issue. It’s actually more of an issue than the economics because the “economics” of nuclear is a place like India or China is very , very different that than the US.

    It was announced today, in fact, that even Rolls-Royce is setting up a components division. Companies like Japan Steel Works, the big Korean group, Babcock & Willcox, Sheffiled Forge, Bethleham-Lehigh Forgemasters, are some of the companies building and expanding plants right now. But it still looks like, because there are so many plants being ordered, money changing hands, etc etc that this will put a big crimp into the world nuclear expansion. Your thoughts on this?

    David

  56. David Walters makes a few points – not too well and a bit condescending in tone I thought. Too condescending for me, other than to say “Obviously you have never been in business” especially subsidised ones…”

    Meanwhile what I am saying is:

    It is expected that a generation IV reactor will be in operation by around 2020. They *promise* to increase safety and reduce radioactive waste production and proliferation risks.

    Plenty of broken promises in the nuclear industry.
    Still no measure on total AGW effect – read Bo Nordell & Bruno Gervet “Global energy accumulation and net heat emission.” Int. J. Global Warming, 2009, 1, 378-391 then let me know if Gen.IV fixes this issue.

    The nukes hiding out as Environmentalism is cute but it needs to show why we should put our resources there rather than in a know entity like solar-thermal

  57. @ Finrod
    Oooh, so very chivalrous of you to smite us evil doomers! Is that Wagner I hear in the backround? No, its just Finrod waving his mighty ‘Rod’ as he whistles past the graveyard. What you know about the laws of ecology and biology wouldn’t fill a thimble by the sounds of it. But boy you sure know how to talk fierce…

  58. “And to Finrod’s “Why is the bogeyman of exponential population growth considered credible?”, well mate, it’s because the third world wants everything you’ve got! AND they’re coming over here to get it! So just triple the number of those Gen IV’s you want to build.”

    I am your adversary, not your mate.

    I conclude from your comment that you think that I had not considered the implications of the aspirations of those of us born in the underdeveloped world. You seem to think I was only considering the currently developed world’s people. You are mistaken. I fully recognise the necessity to bring as many people on this planet up to basic decent first-world living standards as quickly as practicable. I also recognise that we must in fact go far beyond that level. We will need vast quantities of power to support all humanity in a decent lifestyle. We will need power for artificial food production. We will need power for large-scale geoengineering projects. We will need power to properly manage the wilderness to which I would like to see our current sprawling agricultural lands returned. Triple? You think WAYY too small.

  59. Ironic. I am an ecologist and biologist who understands natural laws, and I agree wholeheartedly with Finrod. There are deeper perspectives at work here, and acknowledging environmental constraints in some areas does not prohibit the acceptance of ‘effective cornicopia’ in other realms. Finrod and I are being rationalist and practical, not ideological or fanatical as you seem to believe.

  60. Mikestasse,

    Thank you for replying to my previous response to you. If I may, I’d like to return to the debate. It is correct that I prefaced my positive comments on 4th generation nuclear with the words “unlikely-to-be-implemented”. The reason for stating this is that I suspect that there is the lack of political will and leadership to make it happen, not because I doubt the technology per se. Like you, I think we may need a new and revolutionary system of global governance to get us out of the hole we’re in. However, I really do think that, should we get the leadership I’d hope for, a Manhattan-style approach to 4th generation nuclear might just do the trick.

    You refer me to Chris Martensen’s Crash Course. I have read it and asked my children and friends to read it (some obliged). I have also visited Argentina post crash and read about the 2001 situation there. Outwardly, things now look good. I fail to understand why you cite Martensen’s thesis as evidence of the economic hopelessness of our situation. The Crash Course suggests that money is a means of distributing wealth between nations and individuals but wealth is not money. Wealth increases in line with increasing availability of resources (and knowledge), ultimately driven by availability and quantity of affordable energy supplies. If one replaces existing energy supplies with alternatives that are more expensive to produce (have lower ERoEIs), which is the case for renewables and ccs coal, wealth will decline. However, if 4th generation nuclear meets its claims, economic growth can continue.

    It seems to be that a pre-condition of avoiding catastrophic climate change is continuing economic growth. This might allow developing countries to afford to buy into the solution and allow its global roll out, even though, in the meantime, the developed world would still need to learn to use energy much more efficiently. People, as you suggest, may have to be less materialistic and think of other things to do rather than making, advertising and transporting tat to each other. The obvious drawback of a potentially unlimited and affordable energy supply is that our species would continue with BAU and displace all other species.

    Upthread, you stated that you were very optimistic about the future – all we needed to do was to live within our means. Frankly, I am almost certain that there are already far too many already on the planet to make this a viable sustainable solution. It may be possible in Australia or the USA but certainly not in Britain, where I come from.

  61. Yep, in Australia mining uses a whole 5% of our energy, and we are one of the largest mineral exporters in the world. I am only guessing but the EU and US probably use less than 1% of their energy on mining and the US more energy on a 3 day long weekend holiday than mining uses in a year.

  62. Mate, give it a shot. What harm is there? After all, no matter the outcome of our debate, guess what? Nothing that you or I do will stop any of the following things from unfolding to their natural conclusion;

    1) The rate of fossil fuel use will continue to increase relative to other sources as long as there is life in the present system. Nothing, not even climate change, can be allowed to get in the way of short-term profit which is best served by burning fossil fuels.

    2) No developed country will ever voluntarily allow its population to decline placing unbearable strain on the environment worldwide as more species are driven to extinction, the atmosphere polluted, rivers and aquifers sucked dry and topsoil depleted, by the need for resources to feed, house, clothe and employ all these additional people. After all, more people means more GDP.

    3) Industrialisation, at the expense of the planet and all human generations to come, will continue unabated as those in positions of influence draw their wealth and power from this arrangement.

    These trends, long entrenched by human biology and culture,(Rampant industrialism, massive drawdown of critical, non-renewable resources like oil, the destruction of habitat, overpopulation), either singly or in combination spell disaster for Industrial Civilisation, and the bloated populations which depend on it for their every need.

  63. Hey Barry I’d like you to share these insights with us. I’m not being ideological and fanatical either – just realistic. Please explain how this technology can be made to serve in a benign way under a system which is wedded to the continuation of exponential economic and population growth at all costs?

  64. “1) The rate of fossil fuel use will continue to increase relative to other sources as long as there is life in the present system. Nothing, not even climate change, can be allowed to get in the way of short-term profit which is best served by burning fossil fuels.”

    France.

    “2) No developed country will ever voluntarily allow its population to decline placing unbearable strain on the environment worldwide as more species are driven to extinction, the atmosphere polluted, rivers and aquifers sucked dry and topsoil depleted, by the need for resources to feed, house, clothe and employ all these additional people. After all, more people means more GDP. “

    Religious psychobabble. Your fundamentalist position requires that you ignore the potential of nuclear power to solve the environmental issues you wring your hands over (if you do, if you do not rather celebrate your expected eschaton), and the demographic data from all over the world is unanimous. Higher living standards reduce population growth rates to below replacement levels.

    “3) Industrialisation, at the expense of the planet and all human generations to come, will continue unabated as those in positions of influence draw their wealth and power from this arrangement.”

    Planetary industrialisation is a good thing, and the higher our level of technology, the better.Some of our current practices have problems, and it is imperative that they be replaced with sustainable ones as soon as possible (nuclear power, GE crops), but opposition from people like you delays their implimentation. You are working for all that you say you are against, and opposing the remedy for all you claim to oppose.

  65. 100, 000 L A DAY! WOW THATS A LOT OF DIESEL!

    I wonder how we could reduce our diesel usage? Maybe we could transition our power generation from coal fired to nuclear? Luke Weston had a look at the Ranger uranium mine and the Queensland Blair Athol coal mine, which is about three times the size. The uranium mine produces about nine times as much energy as the coal mine. Making naive scaling assumptions that would be roughly 30 times less diesel used in nuclear power production.

    Thats using our existing nuclear technology, which gets about 1% of the available energy from the fuel. In the gen IV technologies broadly advocated here, the recovery is about 99%, so were now talking about 1/3000th as much diesel per joule than our current system.

    And if the reason you care about diesel use is its CO2 emission when burnt, then you have enormous reductions in CO2 going the gen IV route that what we do now.

    But based on what you’ve written here, I suspect you don’t care about this. I think what you’re saying is, its not the energy production that matters, clean or not, its the energy, full stop. That its the use humans make of whatever energy resource that does the damage, and that the sooner our civilization hits its inevitable limits and collapses in a Malthusian catastrophe, the better for the globe, because there’ll be a whole lot fewer humans using a lot fewer resources.

    Have I got that roughly right?

    So lets try a thought experiment. Suppose the omnibenevolent saucer people land during their once per galactic rotation visit, and offer us their crystal sphere technology, which channels zero point energy from another dimension, and delivers it in whatever form we like – heat, electricity, or motive force. Pure, clean, inexhaustible. Offered to us now, when we’re desperately trying to get off coal. And they won’t be back this way for another rotation.

    Do we take it?

  66. Douglas, you say you’ve ‘read’ the Crash Course…. I’m puzzled, because it’s a 3 1/2 hour video presentation. Have you actually watched it, in its entirety? What is truly extraordinary about the CC is that Martenson ties in ALL the problems we face (except climate change, a frustratingly contentious issue in the US) in one masterpiece.

    Then you say “The Crash Course suggests that money is a means of distributing wealth between nations and individuals but wealth is not money. Wealth increases in line with increasing availability of resources (and knowledge)”

    I agree, HOWEVER, just what kind of wealth do you think the designers, engineers, builders, and operators of your Gen IV nukes might want in exchange for doing the work? It won’t be jars of marmalade or DVDs containing all the world’s knowledge…..

    The complexity of the system requires a simple and universal means of exchange, and we call it money. The money supply system is in deep trouble, and so is the complexity aspect. If you’re willing to work in my garden, I could pay you in food, and you might accept the exchange, but if I want to buy a million tonnes of concrete from you… all bets are off! Can you see my point here?

    Continuing economic growth CANNOT possibly avert catastrophic climate change…. how do you work that out? Growth = consumption, and consumption means growing energy use, and that use means growth in emissions, even if that energy comes from nukes. Every stage of consumption, whether you buy a lettuce or a case of beer, has embodied CO2 emissions in it.

    And besides, growth is ALWAYS exponential, by DEFINITION…. even 0.1% growth is exponential, it is simple mathematics. I can’t but wonder if you REALLY have watched the Crash Course, because if you had, you wopuldn’t be writing this stuff!

  67. I am still puzzled as to why Brook et al think this is a reasonable solution.
    Even according to the Generation IV International Forum these designs will not be finalised – let alone costed – until about 2020.
    They are unlikely to be in production, according to the same source, before about 2035.
    Now I am happy to see how they go at meeting their targets – in terms of economics, safety and environmental impacts, but in the meantime we need to be converting to lower impact systems now. Despite the shills and boosters for Gen II & III plants I think there is enough weight against them as a solution.
    I am particularly interested in what Prof. B.Brook has to say about this.
    Is he supporting Gen II & III plants or is he limiting his support of nuclear plants to the promised Gen IV systems?

  68. There are two specific articles here that directly discuss these issues you raise.

    In A sketch plan for a zero-carbon Australia, Barry proposed as a discussion piece a broad timescale for transition to zero emissions that, roughly, goes:

    2010-2019 Hit efficiency and renewables as hard as we can, while laying groundwork for a nuclear rollout
    2020-2029 Some Gen III reactors running, laying groundwork for a transition to Gen IV
    2030-2050 Phase out coal completely and large scale rollout of Gen IV

    This is actually quite consistent with the timescales you note. So I think you’re in broad agreement on the timing constraints, and probably the overall goals. There’s a good deal of discussion there and I’m sure you’d find much of it of interest.

    On the question of whether we should construct Gen II plants or wait until Gen IV is available, there is this thread: Discussion Thread: Should Gen III nuclear power precede Gen IV in Australia?

    Again, there’s robust discussion in this thread, and well worth reading to come up to speed with the various issues and positions.

  69. I also recognise that we must in fact go far beyond that level. We will need vast quantities of power to support all humanity in a decent lifestyle.

    We need no such thing…. in fact, I believe we could waaaay better, more healthily on 10% of the current energy consumption.

  70. 2010-2019 Hit efficiency and renewables as hard as we can, while laying groundwork for a nuclear rollout

    Australia could be TOTALLY out of oil by 2013. Now mgine the chaos when NO ONE can drive to work… and what happens when the nations that sell us oil want to keep it, because THEY want to use it themselves?

    Too late…. missed the boat.

  71. Mike,

    I can assure you that I have read (or looked at) Martenson on screen and I know that you’re talking 3.5h because I’ve been through it more than once. I also looked at your website out of curiosity. Congratulations on your zero energy house – pity you had to use so much concrete (I would have thought natural stone might have served the same purpose and discharged less CO2). I accept that you can go low tech as long as you have high tech suppliers to fall back on. Congratulations, too, on your food patch. We should all probably try to grow more for ourselves – my contribution is to encourage my wife to do so (I spent some time in Africa). It might make you feel good now and, when push comes to shove, you might still be able to eat your own produce. However, in the UK, it is likely that our home grown produce will be pilfered by the landless after my ammunition has run out or the police have confiscated my means of self defence.

    Sorry to be flippant. You are clearly an extreme doomer, hoping to survive in power down mode. The optimism you claim to have is clearly based on a belief that the planet will self cure when only you and your ilke survive and the rest of us perish. Of course, you could be right but I’d bet heavily against it.

    Where I know you to be totally wrong is your assertion that increased energy use, even from nuclear power, will inevitably lead to emissions increases. Given sufficient extra energy, carbon capture (and other emissions capture) becomes possible. I think what you really meant to say was that, because of peak oil and economic recession, we don’t have any time left to arrive at this stage and, anyway, in the short term, emissions would go up before going down. However, I think that you are wrong over this as well, provided we have good leadership. Furthermore, a good leader has a much better chance of selling a Blees/Brook-type solution to the one you appear to espouse.

  72. “1) The rate of fossil fuel use will continue to increase relative to other sources as long as there is life in the present system. Nothing, not even climate change, can be allowed to get in the way of short-term profit which is best served by burning fossil fuels.”

    France.
    Exception does not disprove the rule as the world is increasing its incidence of fossil fuel use. Alternatives are just an added extra. Besides, and relating to France again. I haven’t noticed too many electric cars or trucks on French roads, have you? The French are as overwhelmingly reliant on oil for their liquid fuels as any other country.

    “2) No developed country will ever voluntarily allow its population to decline placing unbearable strain on the environment worldwide as more species are driven to extinction, the atmosphere polluted, rivers and aquifers sucked dry and topsoil depleted, by the need for resources to feed, house, clothe and employ all these additional people. After all, more people means more GDP. “

    Religious psychobabble. Your fundamentalist position requires that you ignore the potential of nuclear power to solve the environmental issues you wring your hands over (if you do, if you do not rather celebrate your expected eschaton), and the demographic data from all over the world is unanimous. Higher living standards reduce population growth rates to below replacement levels.
    How can another technofix solve the problems caused by previous technofixes instituted by an economic system that desires infinite growth?

    What demographic data are you talking about? The ones that show that the countries with the highest per capita consumption like the U.S. and Australia are still increasing in population, and in fact are experiencing a new baby boom. In the US in 2007 the number of births broke records. American women may be having fewer of them than their mothers and grandmothers, but guess what? There are far more of them around today than ever before!

    As for you claim that a demographic transition solves environmental problems this is false. Fewer children may be born to wealthier educated women, but these children also consume far more resources per head than poorer ones, as do their mothers, so the burden of their weight is so much greater on the environment as a result.

    Concerning religious psychobabble and the eschaton, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick – again. The immutable laws of physics, ecology and biology bends no knee to a higher force, and unlike the eschaton, which presupposes that the righteous (which I take you count yourself amongst by the tone of your conversation) will somehow be saved from the evildoers (which I take is people like me *raz*) by some benevolent agent. Unfortunately the fate which awaits humanity is more akin to the following passage from the bible;

    For the Lord makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.

    “3) Industrialisation, at the expense of the planet and all human generations to come, will continue unabated as those in positions of influence draw their wealth and power from this arrangement.”

    Planetary industrialisation is a good thing, and the higher our level of technology, the better.Some of our current practices have problems, and it is imperative that they be replaced with sustainable ones as soon as possible (nuclear power, GE crops), but opposition from people like you delays their implimentation. You are working for all that you say you are against, and opposing the remedy for all you claim to oppose.

    Rampant industrialisation benefits only the wealthiest 20% of the world’s population who consume more than 80% of all resources. The poor get to fight it out amongst themselves, the environment and occupying affluent world armed forces who are busily securing the last of the easily accessible resources of things that really matter to the wealthy elite – like conventional oil. Even now the Rudd government is working against you by calling for support of the coal industry on the one hand, whilst pretending to address climate change on the other. As I said, nothing will be done that gets in the way of making profits, not even the future of the planet.

    I’m not working for anything. As mentioned in my previous post nothing you or I can say or do will change the trajectory of this culture which is hell bent on self-destruction, at all costs! Sustainability, (which is the maximum number of a species that can be supported by its environment indefinitely), if its attainable, is something for our descendants, however many remain of them, to figure out.

    Buddy I thought you said you were good at this?

  73. You haven’t shown me anything to change my viewpoint. In fact you’re reliance on sniping, innuendo and other ad hominem style attacks only underlines the the poverty of your position. Just the same tired old argument that “technology will save us”, blah, blah blah, blah blah, when it is obvious that technology in the hands of a psychopathic civilisation, like ours, will be twisted every time for sort term gain, against the long term prospects of the earth, all the generations to come and the other species.

    So Barry when will you enlighten us with the post-modernist viewpoint of the laws of biology and ecology as they pertain to nuclear energy? I’m sure mother nature has been very busy revising these just for the benefit of the nuclear and pro-growth lobbies.

  74. To John D Morgan.
    Thank you for the reply; I have looked at those threads.
    In the light of all I have read, here and elsewhere, I don’t think Gen II & III is either politically or environmentally plausible.
    I can agree with all of Barry’s timeline up to the point where he says deploy the older technology. I think from my reading that that is just not good enough for Australia in particular and even globally I think there are a lot of doubts about its efficacy in reducing co2/heat sufficiently to warrant the expenditure.(See my earlier post on heat issue – I did not bother to go into its other issues)
    I can agree that we should have “Active international engagement with, and support of, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) , Generation IV International Forum (GIF), and their inevitable successors…” Then if the Gen IV works out – and we need it – then by all means deploy.
    At the risk of boring you I will repeat what Hansen said: “Energy efficiency, renewable energies, and a “smart grid” deserve first priority in our effort to reduce carbon emissions. With a rising carbon price, renewable energy can perhaps handle all of our needs. … Fourth generation nuclear power (4th GNP) and coal-fired power plants with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) at present are the best candidates to provide large baseload nearly carbon-free power (in case renewable energies cannot do the entire job).”
    Well maybe they can’t but neither 4th GNP or coal-fired power plants with CCS actually exist. So we should not “bet the farm on them”. Our main bet should be on the priorities he (and Barry) mentioned.

    It has been instructive and interesting.
    Once again thank you.

  75. “You haven’t shown me anything to change my viewpoint. In fact you’re reliance on sniping, innuendo and other ad hominem style attacks only underlines the the poverty of your position. Just the same tired old argument that “technology will save us”, blah, blah blah, blah blah, when it is obvious that technology in the hands of a psychopathic civilisation, like ours, will be twisted every time for sort term gain, against the long term prospects of the earth, all the generations to come and the other species.”

    Of course I haven’t bothered with trying to apply reason and fact to change your position. You are impervious to such, and I refuse to honour you by pretending otherwise. You and your ilk have made a fine living as intellectual parasites for far too long.

  76. I just quickly scanned the commentary in the Gen III or not Gen II thread, and it doesn’t really discuss a constraint on the expansion of Gen IV reactors, which is that they require a startup charge of fissile material. You either get the fissile material by enriching natural uranium, or by using the waste from Gen II or Gen III reactors.

    This is really a significant constraint on the rate at which we could grow Gen IV output. My view is we should roll out Gen III now, because it is available now, the need to reduce CO2 emissions is urgent, there’s no problem with the waste if its just going to turn into fuel for the later Gen IV reactors, and they are in any case required to start up a fleet of IFRs.

    I did have a quick look at the heat paper you referenced, and the argument seems, well, pretty iffy. But some of the climatologists would be better able to critique it than me – the numbers just don’t feel right at all.

  77. I’m a bit stressed for time and can’t reply in detail right now, but on these two points:

    1) Fissile start charges for IFRs — and important point. I’ll do a post about it in the near future. In short, will not be a constraint on reaching 10,000 GW or so of installed nuclear capacity by 2050, provided there is a reasonable ongoing contribution from Gen III over the next few decades. By about 2030 there will be no need to *build* any more Gen III plants (all construction will be on Gen IV), but neither will there be any reason to retire the few thousand in operation at that time.

    2) Global heating via direct thermal exchange between power plants and the atmosphere. This issue was considered and put to rest by climatologists about 40 years ago. It turns out to be a relatively trivial concern, even with a major expansion of thermal power plants (nuclear, solar thermal, geothermal, etc.).

    A simple but good layman’s explanation as to why this is irrelevant to global warming was given by David Mackay of University of Cambridge in his excellent book “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air”.

    The result 0.1 W/m2 (worst case) is relatively trivial in terms of climate forcing – total post-industrial GHG forcing is about 2.5 W/m2 (some of which is offset by aerosol cooling and OHC lags).

    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c24/page_170.shtml

    Here is the quote:
    QUESTION: If we got lots and lots of power from nuclear fission or fusion, wouldn’t this contribute to global warming, because of all the extra energy being released into the environment?

    That’s a fun question. And because we’ve carefully expressed everything in this book in a single set of units, it’s quite easy to answer. First, let’s recap the key numbers about global energy balance from p20: the average solar power absorbed by atmosphere, land, and oceans is 238 W/m2; doubling the atmospheric CO2 concentration would effectively increase the net heating by 4 W/m2. This 1.7% increase in heating is believed to be bad news for climate. Variations in solar power during the 11-year solar cycle have a range of 0.25 W/m2. So now let’s assume that in 100 years or so, the world population is 10 billion, and everyone is living at a European standard of living, using 125 kWh per day derived from fossil sources, from nuclear power, or from mined geothermal power.

    The area of the earth per person would be 51 000 m2. Dividing the power per person by the area per person, we find that the extra power contributed by human energy use would be 0.1 W/m2. That’s one fortieth of the 4 W/m2 that we’re currently fretting about, and a little smaller than the 0.25 W/m2 effect of solar variations. So yes, under these assumptions, human power production would just show up as a contributor to global climate change.

  78. There is another broad political point to this. Any Gen IV is going to rely on the success of the Gen II+ (VVER, ABWR) and Gen III. That is if these reactors *fail* to deliver (financial, safety, etc etc) then there will likely be no GEN IV anytime, not 2020, not 2050.

    Therefore, the success of the IFR (and other Gen IV reactors: PBMR, LFTR, etc) is wholly *politically* dependent on Gen III etc. That’s just the way it’s going to work out.

    There simply is more and more interest in the various Gen IV models out there than ever.

    David

  79. Of course I haven’t bothered with trying to apply reason and fact to change your position. You are impervious to such, and I refuse to honour you by pretending otherwise. You and your ilk have made a fine living as intellectual parasites for far too long.

    I have offered you an invitation to put you case; with citations, twice and have provided a rebuttal to your comments above (with relevant citations) yet you have not responded with anything other than “holier than thou” sniping innuendo, which leads me to conclude that you are only a garden variety techno-optimist. Repeat after me; technology will save us, progress is good, more is double-plus good, the market knows best, blah, blah, blah blah…

  80. Douglas wrote “Congratulations on your zero energy house – pity you had to use so much concrete”

    Thank you for the compliment. Yes, it was a pity I used so much concrete, but trying to build out of earth, which was my favorite alternative would not only have cost me more, but the certifying authorities would also have undoubtedly given me heaps of curry….. I had quite enough trouble getting my greywater system accepted…! They won’t “pass” it, but they’ve decided to “let me use it”. It’s a bugger being ahead of your time..

    For me, cost is an important issue when it comes to sustainability. I built the house for under $100,000 (incl ALL the solar gear. That means we own it outright, and so I don’t have to go to work (in a car, because public transport is non existent) to perform work that itself would be almost certainly unsustainable, to pay for it. Growing your own food, BTW, is one of the VERY BEST ways of reducing your CO2 emissions….

    Then you wrote “in the UK, it is likely that our home grown produce will be pilfered by the landless after my ammunition has run out or the police have confiscated my means of self defence”

    Well, they might nick my peas and broccoli, but most of the food on our place wouldn’t be recognised by any pilferer! Have YOU ever seen Arrowroot, BicBic Grass, Cassava, Brazilian Spinach or Pigeon Pea (a shrub) and do you even know how to prepare it?

    I sleep well at night… and History will prove me right, I’d just about bet my house on it…

  81. In the UK this week the National Grid reported an oversupply of generating electricity capacity due to a 6% fall in demand. With prices and energy company profits down, there is a risk that shrinking demand could lead to delays in renewables projects, further jeopardising the government’s 2020 targets. http://us.mc01g.mail.yahoo.com/mc/welcome?.gx=1&.rand=eirsh57e743d0#ar8268

    Just another sign of things to come….. a depression would put paid to any attempts at building new nukes, Gen IV or whatever…

  82. I’ve actually read what Hansen said, unlike you obviously. “Energy efficiency, renewable energies, and a “smart grid” deserve first priority in our effort to reduce carbon emissions.” He then goes on to say: “Fourth generation nuclear power (4th GNP) and coal-fired power plants with carbon capture and
    sequestration (CCS) at present are the best candidates to provide large baseload nearly carbon-free power (in case renewable energies cannot do the entire job).”

    Notice that line “in case renewable energies cannot do the entire job”. From other interview Hansen thinks they can do the entire job and has also expressed doubts about the optimistic promises of Gen IV. He is, however, pragmatic and so refuses to rule it out at this stage.

  83. By the way Barry
    Point 2 in your reply is a touch snide

    “2) Global heating via direct thermal exchange between power plants and the atmosphere. This issue was considered and put to rest by climatologists about 40 years ago. It turns out to be a relatively trivial concern, even with a major expansion of thermal power plants (nuclear, solar thermal, geothermal, etc.).”

    There are a few peer reviewed papers saying that that is not the case. They are probably wrong but not being a climatologist I don’t make that call. I ask the questions.

    And if I wanted to be snide I could just as easily say that nuclear energy was put to rest 20 years ago by economists:-)

  84. I’ve read Hansen’s Sundance Kid too, and I happen to disagree with his optimism on the capability of renewable energy to fulfill a major role. I used to believe this were so, but I’m now thoroughly unconvinced. Indeed, the more I research the issue, the less confident I am that technosolar will play any notable role in decarbonising the global energy supply. I also know Jim rather better than you might suspect.

  85. “I have offered you an invitation to put you case; with citations, twice and have provided a rebuttal to your comments above (with relevant citations) yet you have not responded with anything other than “holier than thou” sniping innuendo, which leads me to conclude that you are only a garden variety techno-optimist. Repeat after me; technology will save us, progress is good, more is double-plus good, the market knows best, blah, blah, blah blah…”

    You can conclude what you want, Doomer. The next debate I launch into will not be of this kind, and will have considerably more moment. I’ll see you there.

  86. Mikestasse

    Firstly, it’s amazing how quickly a hungry person can work out whats edible. It’s pretty simple really, you just watch, then copy.

    Secondly you seem to assume that being self sufficient will somehow protect you from the effects of climate change; but climate change will ruin you food crops just as surely as it does the rest of the environment. I know this from experience.

    I live in Victoria in SE Australia which is currently enjoying the driest start to the year on record, preceded by the hottest, driest year on record, during the longest drought on record, with conditions predicted to worsen. Can you blame me for suspecting climate change at work?

    I have always grown much of my own fruit and vegetables, but in recent years it has become more and more difficult to do so. Basically, my food garden (along with everyone else’s here) is dying. I lose about one fruit tree a year, and only the most cosseted produce a good crop. My quota of annual veg has shrunk to cover an area no more than 10 m2. I just can’t keep the water up to anything more. There is no longer any rain worth mentioning in summer, it’s all hand watered, all summer long. And then, can you imagine what these veggies taste like after they have been dessicated by desert hot, dry winds, and frazzled by day, after day, after day, of 40 plus degree temperatures?

    Of course I could just go and forage amongst the blackberries, wild apples and cherry plums (all of which used to grow so rampantly around here they are considered noxious weeds) except that they are all either dead, dying or failing to produce. I could also teach my young daughter how to catch yabbies in the creek…but for the fact that the creek doesn’t run any more.

    I can see a time in the not to distant future when the supermarket will be our only recourse; when trying to grow or gather our own food will be even more soul destroying than queuing at supermarket check out. Still, I guess I needn’t worry about that, chances are the bushfires will get us first.

    I envy you your good nights sleep. Me? I sleep with one eye open.

  87. Regarding me being a doomer, I prefer to think of myself as an agent of change.. a bit like you really, except I have zero faith in [western] technology coming to the rescue. Change is upon us, I’d expect everyone in this forum would agree. Powerdown? You betcha! Have you read the book by that tile from Richard Heinberg?

    Furthermore Douglas, with regard to ‘pilfering’, I’m way ahead of you… my wife and I started a Transition Town Initiative in our little town, and as a Briton you must have heard of this movement, it started in Totnes. There are DOZENS of people here starting to see the light, and we trade in labour and produce already.

    To Marion, Climate Change works differently in different places. I know you are experiencing drought conditions, but here it’s the opposite. We had two floods in May! It’s getting so warm here that I may have to dump the idea of growing European crops altogether and switch to sub-tropical varieties.

    Regarding your lack of water and losing trees, I suggest you make the effort to learn PERMACULTURE, the technology of the future. Watch these little clips, and then tell me you can’t grow stuff in Victoria!

    http://permaculture.org.au/

  88. I get up when the rooster starts crowing, make a cuppa organic coffee (grown down the road) and cut a slice off my own bread with lashings of home made marmalade. I sit here for a while harassing you on the internet, then go out to feed the ducks, check to see how many eggs have been laid and count the ducklings. I then empty all the ducks’ water into buckets, and water my plot with the liquid fertiliser thus produced.
    Then I feed the chooks, collect the eggs and go back inside for some deserved scrambled eggs for a proper breakfast. More coffee.
    Then I go to the goats’ paddock, check to see if they’ve kidded yet (due any day, no luck yet). Soon, we’ll have fresh goats’ milk and I’ll be busy making cheese. Once a week, I rake out their litlle shed, and spread the half composted hay onto the garden for mulch. The worms love it. Might come back here for more harassing of the non believers :-)
    If I fancy a roast chook for dinner, I’ll go and fetch one I prepared earlier, break its neck and kill it, pluck it, and dress it. Aaah, organic chook, nothing like it. Will go a treat with some fresh organic broccoli and kale…
    Lunchtime.. salad time. Pick some fresh lettuce and tomatoes, no cucumbers yet, too cold…
    Now the solar heated water is boiling hot, I’ll wash up from last night’s dinner.
    Back to the computer, to read all the doom’n’gloom
    Might go for a walk (300m) to my other doomer neighbour, see how his garden’s going, share another cuppa, and work out what event we’re going to plan for the coming weeks with Transition Town Cooran.
    Go home, back to the computer, and do some more editing on the next newsletter. Go check the birds, make sure they’ve got plenty of water etc…
    Cook dinner while I watch all the doom’n’gloom on SBS news. Now let me see…. the ducks’ bathtub will need emptying tomorrow, let’s run a nice hot tub I can share with the wife, then tomorrow I can syphon all the water into the ducks’ bath.
    Bedtime.
    No…. not telling!
    Geez all this doom’s hard to take!

  89. I don’t think we’ll make the RET. If I recall IEA’s Australian figures for 2006 wind, solar and biomass were 4,000 Gwh and hydro was 16,000 probably as high as it will get. If the 2020 RET is 45,000 Gwh we need to find another 25,000 from wind and solar. I doubt we’ll even come close at the present rate of investment.

    What’s the bet that coal stations that promise to think about CCS will be deemed as ‘honorary renewable’? We’re already doing it for non-solar water heaters.

  90. An average family car uses 2,500 litres of fuel per year, a dump truck 27,000 litres per year, an ordinary bus 43,000 litres per year and a semi-trailer 80,000 litres per year. Then we come to the mining industry.

    One of the large trucks that removes huge amounts of iron ore in Western Australia or shifts coal around at Leigh Creek uses 1.5 million litres per year. Members should consider how that will impact when we have peak oil. The Queensland Vulnerability to Rising Oil Prices Task Force report of April 2007 indicates that a Caterpillar 777D, capable of hauling 95 tonnes at any one time, consumes 77 litres of diesel per hour—which is an extraordinary amount. When the government is talking up mining, it needs to recognise that it will not be as easy as that when so much of the mining will require oil or diesel.

    We need to consider also that most of the mining is in remote regions, and the mining personnel and their families will be heavily dependent on oil to get the staples to them for housing and food so they can live on those sites, plus the enormous amount of fuel that will be used not just in removing the overburden at Roxby downs but also in milling and processing.

    extracted from http://www.sa.democrats.org.au/html/print.php?sid=1615

  91. Finrod said
    30 July 2009 at 2.59

    “1) The rate of fossil fuel use will continue to increase relative to other sources as long as there is life in the present system. Nothing, not even climate change, can be allowed to get in the way of short-term profit which is best served by burning fossil fuels.”

    France.

    As it happens ‘rod, I’m French born. I still have family over there, who report some interesting things sometimes! A few years ago, the electricity sector was deregulated in such a way you could buy power from any company anywhere in the EU. My acquaintances discovered that they could buy wind power from Germany cheaper than what EDF could sell them… so that’s what they did.

    France may be 80% nuclear powered, but it’s THE exception, and proves nothing. Moreover, a couple of years ago when they had those horrendous heatwaves that killed thousands of people, EDF was forced to shut down several nukes, because the water in the rivers they were using for colling was getting too hot, killing the fish even!

  92. That’s how I feel about your nuclear solution. I notice the dishonesty of your headline “Nuclear plants now safer and cheaper” which is based on what? The future as yet unwritten! The promises of Gen IV. Yes, I happen to think that we should (internationally) continue to explore the Gen IV technologies but it is a bit a a long stretch to say that nuclear is “now” safer and cheaper.
    As for the “bait and switch” tactics, i.e. we need to buy into Gen II & III now so that we can get into Gen IV when it arrives – I think that is nonsense and only detracts from the Gen IV case.
    I really don’t care how well you know Hansen; it is immaterial to the argument. I was responding to Finrod cherry-picking from his letter.

  93. I didn’t make the headline, The Science Show producers did. If it had been up to me, it would have been “Nuclear plants always the safest form of reliable energy generation”. I didn’t realise you were responding to Finrod, apologies. When I read comments in bulk via WordPress Dashboard, I occasionally miss the indented reply mode.

  94. mikestasse, you relatives are misinormed. At no point did “wind power” make it into France. They may believe they did but they generally don’t wheel wind power south and west, there isn’t enough of it to do so. French power, your relatives includes, bought atomic power. They paid a wind company but it was fission.

    Secondly, the reason they could buy it ‘cheaper’ is because to START with, every wind produced is *guaranteed* 8 cents euro per kWhr! This means they can sell below market costs, in fact they can sell below production costs, and under cut any form of real on demand power. This is called, there, the “feed in tariff”. If you removed the tax payer tariff, wind would vanish.

    Lastly, during those hot summer days (and it just happened again last week) happens to coincide with *zero* wind days. So while about half of Frances nuclear plants had to curtail their power, there was almost NO wind power *at all*. The other half of Frances nuclear fleet are ocean based and so don’t have the very strict regulations on water discharge. They use once through cooling from rivers to avoid building cooling towers. They will probably raise the outlet limit on nuclear plants to allow them to operate during these few hot spells they get. It was never a technical issue.

    David

  95. In fact it is ‘cheaper’ as prices for existing nuclear have fallen and it’s certainly more reliable than any known source of base load energy I’m aware of, except maybe geothermal. Hydro is seasonal in many places. The cost of nuclear in the US has fallen and is now below that of coal. Helps when the plants run past their due date on paying off their commerical paper. Then the prices keeps falling and falling…

    Safer? They are safer. Current ones. And, future ones can be determined to be safer if they add more safety features, change the safety paradaigm from active to passive, etc. So, yes, you don’t need a crystal ball to tell that the from a reliability standpoint (always getting better) and a safety one, indeed, nuclear is safer and more reliable.

    Costs. That is where no one can really say and won’t for a years. But since new nuclear is no longer manufactured the way it was, interest rates are lower, it is a good ‘guess’ that it could well be cheaper. We know that plants are brought in cheaper, under budget and on schedule when going with standardized designs. The Japanese proved this in the 1990s with their ABWRs they brought in under budget and ahead of schedule.

    Can we learn from this? I think so. Watch China and see how they are doing it.

    David

  96. Mikestasse – “I suggest you make the effort to learn Permaculture…”
    How arrogant of you!
    I suspect Marion, like most people trying to grow their own food, would have read about Permaculture and incorporated the principles in their garden however, even Mollinson would agree that you can’t practice Permaculture without rain. I also am from Victoria and, although I live near the coast and not in the bush, I can confirm what Marion is saying. I actually have a native bush garden and many of these hardy, drought tolerant plants expired under last summer’s withering heat.
    Do you want us all to migrate North? If that becomes necessary maybe your idyllic haven would quickly become overpopulated and your ability to feed yourself diminished. Hell, you might even need to take up arms to defend your patch!
    As for reducing the population, a solution advocated by several on this blog, just how do you propose we do that? Kill off the Baby Boomers maybe? Or put down any but the first born child? Tragically, Climate Change will cause the death of millions worldwide, but I am guessing that, as long as you and yours are OK, you and others of like mind will welcome this reduction of the “excess population”.
    Appealing as it may seem, it is impossible for us all to live the life you suggest so your answer to the diabolic problem of Climate Change is no answer at all.
    Get real and try to come up with feasible solutions able to be applied to the current mode of life in the modern World.

  97. “Hansen is a Gen IV supporter.”

    Hansen IS a Gen IV supporter.

    So what is it you support again?

    Massive short-term reduction of the human population, or something like that, wasn’t it?

    No wonder you want to talk the competition down. The only product you’re really peddling here is death. Bit of a difficult sell, once people work that out.

  98. Actually, if you’d bothered to follow the links I gave Marion, you’d see it’s not only possible to grow stuff with only six inches of rain a year, but you can rehabilitate the soil at the same time. I don’t think you can put words in Mollison’s mouth…

    I don’t believe I was being arrogant. I have seen lots of people “doing permaculture” who unfortunately “don’t get it”. I was one such person for a long time, so I know how easy it is to think you understand when you don’t.

    Now I’d agree that it’s easier to do any kind of horticulture with lots of water, but one of the REALLY IMPORTANT things PC teaches is how to harvest water and use it efficiently. Peter Andrews is one such person, though he may not even realise he’s practicing PC!

  99. Mikestasse

    Well, I’m actually overhauling my garden along dry land farming principles at the moment, but thats beside the point. The point is that things are only going to get worse, a lot worse, unless we, as a human population, start doing something different.

    The difficulty here is humans have a real problem with big societal transformations. They will resist them until they can be resisted no longer, often times to their eventual demise. History is replete with societies who failed because they refused to change their behaviour in time. Easter Island is a good example.

    The next problem is, you can explain this to people until your blue in the face, but they won’t take it on board, because nobody really believes it can happen to them.

    For a society to change fundamentally, it seems to me they have to be in the middle of a crisis. A looming crisis is just not impetus enough. Think of Cuba; it didn’t transform into the low carbon society it is today until after the oil/ trade crisis forced them to change. The communist revolutions in Russia and China were born out of the unendurable inequality most of their population was forced to live under for generations. Nobody has ever had a revolution over something that they thought was going to happen…one day…maybe.

    So while a complete societal overhaul may be a good solution theoretically, in practical terms it’s got to be the most unlikely solution to succeed. Where there is doubt, people will resist.

    What we need are solutions that do not require any (or at least many) major changes in the way society operates. The less perceived sacrifices, the better. For our society, we need to be able to say, hey, you can use all the energy you want, we just have to change it’s source. And it seems to me we can say that, if we go nuclear.

    Marion

  100. Can you hear the bugles…..? This is definitely my last post here. I’ve spent way too much time on this blog, the wife’s on my back, and we have a Permablitz working bee to go to at 8AM. If you don’t know, a Permablitz is a bunch of Permaculture activists getting together and helping some other poor soul get their garden or lifestyle design into shape. It’s called co-operation, it’s the way of the powerdown future, it’s how you avoid the Mad Max scenarios some of you seem to believe I espouse. To Marion, YES, it will get worse before it gets better. But we have to make it better, and going nuclear is not only not the way to go…. it will NEVER happen. Oh and Marion, there’s two acres of undeveloped land next door to us, if you come up here we can help you settle it sustainably!

    Just how many nukes do you think need to be built globally to achieve zero Carbon emissions? Ten thousand? Twenty five? A hundred? (I mean THOUSANDS of course…!)

    Where are all the people with the expertise to build these things? I can build a house, and I have done so in fact, and even that is way more than most people are able to do, let alone build nukes…..

    Where will the money come from? Civilisation is already out of control, growing exponentially. As Dr Martenson says in the Crash Course, “if you feel like your life is spinning out of control, that’s because it is…”

    Spinning out of control because we need exponentially more of everything, and we can no longer keep up. We are already in overshoot mode, doing an Easter Island on a global scale.

    Then, to my utter amazement, I’m attacked for being Utopian, and told that my downsizing ideas are not scalable. Hullo? Don’t you think it’s your exponential growth that isn’t scalable?

    Capitalism is bankrupt. All the talk of the recession being over is just so much crap, you ain’t seen nothing yet! America is on the verge of the second wave of foreclosures, this time commercial properties. Once it is in full swing, the last and final wave will hit the non sub-prime mortgagees, and it’s all over Rover. America won’t be able to pay its debts (and neither will the UK, Spain, and all of Eastern Europe. China holds all the debts, and it will go belly up too.

    There’s no way chaotic economies will build the nuclear future. Nor the renewable one.

    But we could remodel society instead to live within its means, and downsize. We are absolute proof it can be done.

    So how do we make it better? By living more simply so we may simply live. Google Transition Town. It’s the fastest growing movement in the world. The Transition Handbook is one of the most read books by British politicians.

    Good luck. You’ll need it. I know some here won’t miss me.

    Mike

  101. “Oh and Marion, there’s two acres of undeveloped land next door to us, if you come up here we can help you settle it sustainably!”

    And what happens to the other seven billion people on this planet? Are they all going to be fed by this method?

    “Just how many nukes do you think need to be built globally to achieve zero Carbon emissions? Ten thousand? Twenty five? A hundred? (I mean THOUSANDS of course…!)”

    You’re in the right ballpark for various levels of build as we move from phasing out fossil-fueled electric power, then fossil fueled tran sportation, heavy industrial and chemical processing, water desal and so forth, raising the living standards of the whole world to our current level, then going beyond it.

    “Where are all the people with the expertise to build these things? I can build a house, and I have done so in fact, and even that is way more than most people are able to do, let alone build nukes…..”

    They’re in the heavy construction industry. It should only take a few years to train up the necessary cadre of blue-collar skilled workers to undertake the construction. This can be done easily over the decade or so it will take to fully get the ball rolling on this.

    “Where will the money come from? Civilisation is already out of control, growing exponentially. As Dr Martenson says in the Crash Course, “if you feel like your life is spinning out of control, that’s because it is…”

    Spinning out of control because we need exponentially more of everything, and we can no longer keep up. We are already in overshoot mode, doing an Easter Island on a global scale.

    Then, to my utter amazement, I’m attacked for being Utopian, and told that my downsizing ideas are not scalable. Hullo? Don’t you think it’s your exponential growth that isn’t scalable?

    Capitalism is bankrupt. All the talk of the recession being over is just so much crap, you ain’t seen nothing yet! America is on the verge of the second wave of foreclosures, this time commercial properties. Once it is in full swing, the last and final wave will hit the non sub-prime mortgagees, and it’s all over Rover. America won’t be able to pay its debts (and neither will the UK, Spain, and all of Eastern Europe. China holds all the debts, and it will go belly up too.

    There’s no way chaotic economies will build the nuclear future. Nor the renewable one.”

    I’m not a financlial expert, but I note that this is not the first time that the global financial system and economy has gone through this sort of cycle, nor will it likely be the last. There are more than sufficient resources to undertake the nuclear build.

    “But we could remodel society instead to live within its means, and downsize. We are absolute proof it can be done.

    So how do we make it better? By living more simply so we may simply live. Google Transition Town. It’s the fastest growing movement in the world. The Transition Handbook is one of the most read books by British politicians.”

    What you are talking about is mass-starvation. Please also note that any nation foolish enough to attempt such a ‘remodeling’ will place itself utterly at the mercy of those which do not. This fact alone will ensure the failure of your program.

  102. Mikestasse -I didn’t need to follow your links because I have read the books – along with many copies of Earth Garden – and have seen a couple of videos of his work, including that of his African sojourn. What we are seeing in Victoria are record long periods without any, or minimal rain – predicted to worsen with climate change. To fully implement Permaculture is very labour intensive and most working people simply do not have the spare time to do it. Are you suggesting that we all return to subsistence living? If so, even using Permaculture methods, there won’t be enough food for all of us and people will die from starvation. Is that your answer to climate change? If so it is, at best naive and , at worst, dangerous.

  103. Its a mistake to imagine Mike is advocating a return to simplicity as a solution to climate change. Its not his solution, its his lifeboat, and he’s happy to damn everyone else to perdition. Though its a very fine life boat, and he quite likes to show it off to those who will drown ..

  104. “I’m not a financlial expert, but I note that this is not the first time that the global financial system and economy has gone through this sort of cycle, nor will it likely be the last. There are more than sufficient resources to undertake the nuclear build.”

    It’s a very good thing you don’t advise people on their finances finrod… because THIS cycle is terminal, and there are NOT the resources you need… Just in from the Independent Newspaper this morning (extracts) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/warning-oil-supplies-are-running-out-fast-1766585.html

    In an interview with The Independent, Dr Birol said that the public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilisation depends is running out far faster than previously predicted

    But the first detailed assessment of more than 800 oil fields in the world, covering three quarters of global reserves, has found that most of the biggest fields have already peaked and that the rate of decline in oil production is now running at nearly twice the pace as calculated just two years ago. On top of this, there is a problem of chronic under-investment by oil-producing countries, a feature that is set to result in an “oil crunch” within the next five years which will jeopardise any hope of a recovery from the present global economic recession, he said.

    The IEA estimates that the decline in oil production in existing fields is now running at 6.7 per cent a year compared to the 3.7 per cent decline it had estimated in 2007, which it now acknowledges to be wrong.

    “It will be especially important because the global economy will still be very fragile, very vulnerable. Many people think there will be a recovery in a few years’ time but it will be a slow recovery and a fragile recovery and we will have the risk that the recovery will be strangled with higher oil prices,” he told The Independent.

    Even if demand remained steady, the world would have to find the equivalent of four Saudi Arabias to maintain production, and six Saudi Arabias if it is to keep up with the expected increase in demand between now and 2030, Dr Birol said.

  105. Well – if we can change the mind of the Finrods of this world -we can change anything….

    Go and google Prof.Albert Bartlett (U Colo at Boulder)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Bartlett

    If he can’t explain the unshakeable limitations to growth (population, energy, whatever) to you – then I guess no one can…

    An unfortunately – humans are no different toother organisms – given the right conditions and energy inputs – they will grow exponentially …and when conditions change … they will collapse.

    QED

    and it won’t be nice… nature seldom is. We CAN however avert some of the unpleasantness – by drastically reducing birthrates – but, yep, it’s a divine human ‘right’ … so we won’t.

    Hugh

    oh – a ‘housekeeping’ request Barry, – can we just stop nesting replies – the latest contribution should land on the bottom automatically (but perhaps with a link to the contribution that sparked the response)..otherwise responses get lost in the nested boxes -

  106. Perps….. why are you so obtuse you won’t look at what I’m trying to point to? Jeff Lawton’s “Greening the Desert” is truly inspirational, and if he can turn salt encrusted Jordanian desert into an oasis, then I would assume that Victoria is NOT beyond salvation. You once referred to me as arrogant, but YOU are the one now saying you know everything…!

    And what makes you think “working” people are not doing “subsistence living”? Isn’t the reason for holding a job to “subsist”? And Permaculture is no more labour intensive than any other activity carried out without fossil fuels. You’re making out that “labour” is a bad thing, but “labour” is what stops me getting obese!

    Am I “suggesting that we all return to subsistence living?” Well yes, but it’s up to you….. you won’t have any choice soon, so the earlier you learn to do it well the better. Permaculture CAN feed everybody, it is the ONLY way to abundance. I will never forget having a well established Permie on my land when all that was here was my house slab and half a dozen citrus trees. I complained to Mark how fast and furious the Kikuyu grass was growing here and how much mowing I had to do. He just stood on the edge of the slab with his arms crossed and as he scanned my land he turned to me and said “I see food everywhere….”

    And he was right….. our first kid was born yesterday evening…. what an amazing experience. I feel sorry for people “with jobs”!

    To John D Morgan, you are so wrong… How can you possibly perceive that I want to “damn everyone else”? As the saying goes, “my name is Mike, and I’m here to help”. I’m not so much building a lifeboat as a whole fleet of them, but if you’re beyond saving, well that’s your problem, not mine.

    Gotta go back to that subsistence living, gotta kill another chook.

  107. Mikestasse – It is absolutely impossible for us all to suddenly give up our homes and take up a few acres somewhere to “work” at being self-sufficient. There simply is not enough land available for that to happen and anyway it couldn’t be done in an orderly fashion, quickly enough to avert catastrophe.
    You seem to imagine that you and your fellow self-sufficient folks will be immune fron the horrendous outcomes of climate change. Don’t you understand that society will break down, anarchy will reign and it will be everyone for themselves. If you have food and others don’t it won’t be long before you are relieved of it.Even a fleet of “lifeboats” won’t be enough – there are just too many people to support.
    Incidentally, when I was young I lived a carefree self sufficient lifestyle – in a tent on the opal fields. The drawbacks of the barter system in conjunction with producing food finally became apparent when we had our children. Congratulations on the birth of your first child ! Let us hope that he/she will grow up to share your enthusiasm for the alternative lifestyle because your choices may not be his/hers and you won’t have the resources to support those different dreams. I wish I could share your idealistic optimism but I am now too old and too weary and arthritic to labour in the fields so I will continue to pursue a sensible, workable option which allows for the current, varied lifestyle choices open to us.Good luck!

  108. Mikestasse – sorry – old news here!
    You seem to think regular readers of this blog are unaware of looming peak oil (and coal and gas).
    If you cared to check other entries you would see that this has been dealt with many times.
    This is one of the reasons(the main one being CC) why Barry is pursuing an alternative source of baseload power, nuclear IFR,(plus renewables) which won’t run out and won’t produce ongoing CO2.

  109. Birthrates in Western countries are already reducing rapidly, some countries e.g. Italy not even replacing themselves. Access to contraceptives along with education and good health care for children and financial support of the elderly, allows for this to happen. People in poorer countries have more children because of lack of contraception, the need to have support in their old age and help with their subsistence lifestyles and the insurance against some of the children dying before adolescence. The only other option is, like China, to enforce abortion of all children after the first and maybe euthanase the old for good measure.
    Don’t you think it would be better to increase living standards with plentiful cheap power to enable the first scenario for population reduction to occur everywhere? Win win I would say. Bring on new nuclear!

  110. The kid’s a GOAT! I’m absolutely certain it will love the lifestyle.

    Our “other kids”, the human ones, are 21 yo twins who ALREADY know your cornucopian future won’t happen. Our daughter has done a PDC and regularly helps out in the yard, her twin brother helped me build the house. They’re far more aware than you.. We built the entire project for…. THEM.

  111. Humans are not bacteria. We change our behaviour and survival modes according to changing conditions. In times of stability and plenty, population levels plataeu, then drop. This is known andd demonstrable.

    Of course, none of these facts will ever shake the mindset of the Hugh Spencers of the world, who once saw an exponential curve on some Club of Rome release and taake it as Holy Writ.

  112. I have never assumed that our future prosperity will be based on long-dead forests.

    As I have said before, even if the oil runs out tomorrow, we would rapidly transit to coal-derived liquid fuels… VERY rapidly if absolutely necessary… but our ultimate power source must be nuclear.

  113. So that instead of Peak Coal occurring ~2026, it occurs ~2016? THEN what energy will you use for building your nukes? Did you even know that in the USA peak coal ENERGY was 20 years ago? Then have a look at http://www.theoildrum.com/files/CC3_EROI.JPG where you will see that CTL has maybe 10% of the ERoEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) of oil. That means we will be expending TEN times as much of our existing/yet to be built energy sources to make your precious CTL oil. Just how much do you think THAT will cost, especially if we have to build a nuke for every CTL plant? Hit;er lost the war because CTL could not compete with the USA’s [then] vast oil sources.

  114. Hi Barry, fascinating stuff.

    Just found this on SCIAM and wondering what you’re reaction is?

    “One of the main arguments against such reactors is cost—a fast reactor is cooled by molten sodium rather than water, and the advanced design is estimated to cost anywhere from $1 billion to $2 billion more per reactor than a similarly sized conventional reactor [see “Rethinking Nuclear Fuel Recycling,” by Frank N. von Hippel; Scientific American, May 2008]. Democrats in Congress blocked most funding for fast reactors late in the Bush administration, and President Obama does not favor them.”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=is-there-a-place-for-nuclear-waste&page=5

    Also, wikipedia seems to imply economical Gen4 is decades away and we don’t have that time?

    I’m of the opinion that we’ll need some Gen4 just to help shrink the old waste piles, but that it will be too expensive to roll out on a large scale. Whereas a dencentralised, diverse renewable grid seems to be coming, with solar thermal baseload, geothermal baseload, super-sized wind grids, CETO wave power etc all becoming more and more economical.

    PS: Agreed on the peak oil doomerism, and don’t bother with Mike Stasse. Don’t expect rational debate from Mike. He’ll recycle the same tired old doomer arguments repeatedly, ignore anything you say, and rinse and repeat. He’ll point to the low grade uranium ore left in the ground, you’ll respond with all the material we can recycle, he’ll ignore that, move onto something else, and before long redirect you to the fact that whatever you’re proposing CAN’T happen because… the ore in the ground is, you guessed it, low grade!

    Regards.

  115. Pingback: Nuclear « Eclipse Now

  116. But John this is where I both agree and disagree.

    Yes peak oil could be rough, especially considering the fact that the global annual decline is just one figure to watch. Is it 7% per annum, 8%? What will it be? But REAL question could fall down to how the global oil MARKET is doing, which is a totally different thing. Consider the “Export Land Model” (google it) where exporting nations suddenly, post-peak, become importing nations because they have too much consumption at home. The wiki has some fairly alarming examples of this.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Export_Land_Model

    Hopefully it will be in the main exporting nation’s economic interest to both sell “some” oil while rationing at home and scaling up the electric transport systems we’ll need for the future.

    However, arguing that there won’t be ANY money to build nukes / solar / what have you in a post-peak Greater Depression world is counter-intuitive to me.

    Right when the world has finally “Got” that we are running out of oil, gas, and coal, the doomer argues that there won’t be any money for it? Amazing. Yes there may be oil rationing, emergency government aid to building programs, and general “nasty times ahead” but the one thing I can’t imagine society doing is failing to dig in and find the money and do whatever it takes to keep the electricity flowing.

    This kind of emergency economy could also alleviate the unemployment crisis. When was the Hoover Dam built? ;-)

    Sure we might hit a “Greater Depression”. But consider WW2 and how quickly the USA government turned their whole economy into the mighty military industrial complex. Wasn’t their military budget down in single digits of GDP before the war, which then exploded to something like 38% of GDP by the end of WW2? In just 4 years?

    I’m expecting something similar if depletion get really funky, but geared to a “war” on our dependence on oil. And once the government marches in saying “THIS” is what we are doing (whether cheap Gen4 — which I still need to be convinced IS cheap considering the recent SCIAM article — or baseload solar thermal with graphite block backup, or what have you), then the market adjusts and employment is created and money starts flowing again and we adjust.

    So hard times yes, but you can’t deny that:
    1. Electric transport systems are on their way (check this peaknik site’s rave about trolley buses being 5 times cheaper than trams and FAST to put up, and an interesting historical piece on trolley trucks)

    http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2009/07/trolleytrucks-trolleybuses-cargotrams.html

    2. Alternative baseload renewables or nuclear are not only fantastic sources of electricity, but will create jobs and gear the economy in a new direction, and are improving all the time.

    I think you could do with downloading iTunes and subscribing to the free, Melbourne based “Beyond Zero Emissions” podcast, and especially the episode on graphite block baseload solar thermal. (Which can also be geared up for making wind baseload as well — but storing wind’s electrons as heat and then converting back to electrons is not as efficient as the way solar thermal stores the heat DIRECTLY into the graphite blocks.)

    http://beyondzeroemissions.org/lloyd-energy-systems-graphite-block-storage

  117. As I said above, wind can be as baseload as anything you want to compare it to. The wind turbines on King Island were previously backed up by diesel, which was too expensive. Now graphite heat blocks are going to store excess electricity as heat, store it for a LONG time (better than liquid salt) and then reliably turn that back into electricity through a steam turbine. The only question I have is how this will scale economically, and whether it or liquid salt heat will win.

    This system is being rolled out in a country town in Qld instead of the usual liquid salt backup. Check it out.

    http://beyondzeroemissions.org/lloyd-energy-systems-graphite-block-storage

  118. Ah, Mike, the “debt = whole economy GDP MUST grow to pay back the debt” thang. It’s amazing how many times I’ve seen this pushed by total non-economists. Chris Martenson is a great guy, a very smart guy, a scientist / business entrepreneur and now really sincere environmentalist, and I loved his course.

    I’m just not sure he’s right on the money thing! Is it that the way we create money is broken, or was it just being used poorly to create the world financial crisis? I think my mate Neil gives the answer a good go. Note: Neil is concerned about peak oil, population, and global warming and is a bit of a doomer lately, but it’s not because of your dodgie economics. He totally busts the ‘exponential debt = economy MUST grow or bankrupt’ myth.

    From my mate Neil:

    ******

    “Okay, I want to quote Wikipedia at you. Whoever wrote the opening
    paragraph to the “Steady State” article got it in one. It’s really
    important that you read it:

    “The steady state is a condition of the economy in which output per
    worker (productivity of labour) and capital per worker (capital
    intensity) do not change over time. This is due to the rate of new
    capital production from invested savings exactly equaling the rate of
    existing capital depreciation. Exogenous growth models show how
    economies will naturally tend to a steady-state. The steady-state is
    generally associated with the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert
    Solow, who created the Solow Model in 1956.”

    Look at this sentence again:

    “This is due to the rate of new capital production from invested savings
    exactly equaling the rate of existing capital depreciation.”

    The phrase “new capital production” refers to businesses borrowing money
    to invest in growth-producing economic activity.

    But note that this equals “existing capital depreciation” – in other
    words, investment in a profit-making enterprise is balanced out by
    NON-INVESTMENT.

    This seems to be a really hard concept for scientific non-economists to
    grasp, but indulge me.

    Let’s pretend we are in our steady state economy. Within this economy
    there are businesses who are investing in order to profit and grow. Yet
    at the same time there are businesses that are decaying and closing
    down. The profit of the new businesses ends up being matched by the
    losses of the old businesses.

    (Steady state doesn’t imply that the economy is static. It’s still
    dynamic, but the losses end up balancing out the profits)

    So what’s happening to money at this point? With the fractional banking
    system in place, the commercial banks are lending out money to the
    profitable businesses. Money circulates around.

    But at the same time, commercial banks are NOT lending money to the
    businesses that are decaying.

    Now this might confuse everyone. So let’s add numbers to it.

    Let’s say that the amount the commercial banks lend out to the growing,
    profitable businesses is $1 million. So what we have is $1 million that
    needs to be paid back in interest later on. Let’s say the final figure
    ends up being $2 million coming back by the time the debts are paid off.

    So. We have to find an extra $1 million in the economy. Where does it
    come from? This is the problem that seems to confuse people.

    So. Profitable business = needs $1 million added to money supply.

    But now let’s go to the decaying and shrinking businesses. What’s up
    with them? What are they doing? Actually the important thing is what
    they’re NOT doing. They’re NOT borrowing and they’re NOT spending.

    And with all this NOT borrowing and NOT spending going on, their capital
    deteriorates.

    But what about money? If these businesses aren’t doing anything with it,
    then they’re not adding to the money supply are they? That’s true, sort of.

    And now for the whammy:

    Profitable business = needs $1 million added to money supply.
    Non-profitable business = adds zero money to money supply.

    Therefore we have inflation of $1 million.

    Right? No. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

    The real equation is:

    Profitable business = needs $1 million added to money supply.
    Non-profitable business = causes $1 million to be subtracted from money
    supply.

    And that’s how it works.

    Money is created by the actions of central banks and commercial banks.
    Commercial banks create most of the economy’s money, but whenever a bank
    decides to NOT lend it out they are NOT having a neutral effect on the
    money supply but a NEGATIVE effect. Holding money and doing nothing with
    it CAUSES THE MONEY SUPPLY TO SHRINK.

    IN a steady state system, therefore, any lending to businesses at an
    interest rate ends up being balanced out by the effects of NOT lending.

    Here’s an adage I made up – if money is loaned into existence, then
    logically it can be saved out of existence.”

  119. Mike, the mine *HAS* to use diesel to move those trucks does it? Scan about half way down and look at the big yellow truck. On wires. Which could be retrofitted to existing mining situations fairly quickly.

    http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2009/07/trolleytrucks-trolleybuses-cargotrams.html

    As to the same old economic argument against rebuilding… WW2!

    “But Mr President, we can’t go to war with the Japanese, that might require us to ration some lifestyle choices, regear the economy to be grossly military… maybe even 38% of our GDP! Car companies wouldn’t be able to build cars, they’d have to do the IMPOSSIBLE and retool to build tanks! Stockings companies would have to build parachutes! Toy companies build compasses. Mr President, it CAN’T be done!”

  120. Douglas, the key to me is clean energy systems, electric transport systems, and the gradual revolution in “Industrial ecology” or “Cradle to Cradle” designed systems for everything from food to consumer goods. Right now we build consumer “bads”, but when everything is cradle to cradle, we’ll finally have “consumer goods” guilt free.

    It will radically improve the IPAT equation maybe we won’t have to go through dieoff after all! ;-)

    http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm

    In a world where wind turbine blades could one day be built from a mix of charred chicken feathers and soy-bean glue, anything is possible. Well, almost. ;-)

    http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/chicken-feathers-soy-beans-wind-turbine-blades/

  121. Storing thermal energy from solar mirrors (CSP) makes sense, but it would be an absolutely crazy thing to do for wind turbines. To convert electrical energy (high quality) to thermal energy (low quality), and then back again, involves horrendous conversion losses. The only sensible ways to store wind energy (IMHO) is to use mechanical force to store potential energy (e.g. compressed air — but suffers from an extremely low energy density), or pumped hydro (taking the hits involved in the conversion losses from electricity –> mechanical energy –> potential energy –> mechanical energy –> electrical energy).

  122. Yes, there is a cost involved in pyroprocessing, and a cost involved in getting the SFR design right. No argument there.

    But to work out whether a fast reactor would cost MORE than a LWR, you have to balance this against the cost of long-term management of spent fuel (HLW), the cost of enrichment of U-235 (not required for HWR like the CANDU (or fast reactors), which are more expensive to build than LWR but cheaper to fuel), the cost of U-mining and fuel supply for LWR, the cost of building a pressure vessel rather than a reactor pool at ambient air pressure, etc.

    So it’s not at all obvious which would win in the cost stakes. GEH are quite confident that the S-PRISM would be highly competitive with current Gen III designs, at <$2,000/KW overnight cost. See here:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/02/21/response-to-an-integral-fast-reactor-ifr-critique/#comment-7782

    By the way, Gen IV nuclear can only work in time to seriously mitigate carbon emissions if it does it in synergy with Gen III. That much is now abundantly clear to me. I’ll have to blog about it soonish.

  123. Yes, but according to the podcast they’re doing it anyway on King Island. If you have an independent grid on an island with no hydro dam around to store that energy, then maybe this is the most cost effective way to do it even if it is not the most energy efficient.

    I don’t know, I haven’t seen a paper on it.

    But if it is technically feasible and it is not TOO expensive, then even WIND can become baseload! Given that the USA has enough potential cheap land wind power to supply its electricity needs 40 times over, and given HVDC lines open up the possibility of continent-wide grids, then even a wind powered super-grid becomes possible (even though countries would “mix and match” with complementary renewables supplying a mix of peak output times).

    So, it’s now down to the economics of renewable baseload v nuclear. Have you found a reply to that SCIAM paragraph I linked to?

  124. There is a rather astonishing article (the first of four parts) over at theoildrum.com at the moment:

    http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/5631#more

    The article is the first of four parts that examines the potential of nuclear energy to contribute to our future energy needs. Here is a quote that explains the layout:

    “This analysis is split into four parts:
    (I) the nuclear reality of today and its short term perspectives;
    (II) the situation concerning secondary uranium resources;
    (III) the existing data about “known” exploitable uranium resources;
    and
    (IV) status and perspectives of fast breeder reactors (fourth generation reactors) and why commercial fusion reactors will always be 50 years away.”

    The author is “Dr. Michael Dittmar. Dr. Dittmar is a researcher with the Institute of Particle Physics of ETH Zurich, and he also works at CERN in Geneva.”

    The first part indicates that there is a current and worsening shortfall in world uranium production that is only being balanced by use of fissionable material from other sources such as decommissioned nuclear weapons. The author also points out that this supplementary source is set to decline rapidly soon and that the USA is in an extraordinary state of dependence on Russia for this source. No wonder Obama was over in Russia talking about increased nuclear disarmament recently!

    It is rather amazing how similar this story of wonky future estimates of uranium production sounds to the predictions of the IEA on oil and gas.

    Check out the uranium price history at:

    http://www.uxc.com/review/uxc_g_hist-price.html

  125. Yes Mike Stasse, Michael Lardelli sent the above to me. Strange, I thought he wrote the above words, not you, yet no quotes are indicated.

    Anyway, it just goes to show (i) that we’ll have more U mining in the near-future, not less (if it’s cheaper to make MOX from weapons Pu, then why mine it?), and that (ii) fast reactors that use depleted uranium and thorium as fuel are the way of the future, which allows nuclear power to be a million year+ power industry. Do you imagine this is something that is a revelation to us here? Pathetic.

  126. Congratulations on your new kid. It certainly won’t expect much of you! How long have you been living this lifestyle? Did you raise the children in this place and in this fashion for all their 21 years? They may “help out in the yard” and “helped to build the house” but what do they do for the rest of the time? Are they currently living with you in your Utopia? Be honest with your answers. If this is the case then you are lucky that you haven’t had to make choices between your lifestyle and your child’s dreams. Not everyone would be so fortunate.

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