Is Our Future Nuclear?

Transcript: Is Our Future Nuclear?

Broadcast: 28/08/2009 [YouTube video here], Reporter: Mike Sexton

IAN HENSCHKE, PRESENTER: At this week’s AGM, the State Liberals voted to debate nuclear power’s potential the cut carbon emissions. But with Labor demanding debate be shut down and the Liberal leader saying the vote wasn’t binding, discussion seems doomed. But while the politicians won’t debate, others will, with some senior academics saying the future depends on nuclear power. Mike Sexton reports.

MIKE SEXTON, REPORTER: Australians are using more and more electricity, most of it created by coal generators that emit carbon. In simple terms, most scientists believe the more air conditioners in use, the hotter the planet gets.

BARRY BROOK, UNI. OF ADELAIDE: That obviously leads you to consider well, what are the possible solutions? We can look at adaption to climate change, but ultimately we’ve got to stop the process from running out of control.

MIKE SEXTON: Professor Barry Brook is director of the Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability at the University of Adelaide. He’s running his slide rule over the options Australia has for generating electricity while reducing emissions, and believes despite the abundance of wind, sunshine and hot rocks, renewable energy will not power us through the 21st Century.

BARRY BROOK: Looking hard at renewable energy, there are a lot of limitations, especially in terms of energy storage and energy back up that make it extraordinarily implausible, according to my view and that of many others, that it could supply most of our power needs in the future, which, for someone who’s really concerned about climate change impacts is a pretty disappointing conclusion.

MIKE SEXTON: Which is why Professor Brook believes the answer lies in that other abundant South Australian resource: uranium.

BARRY BROOK: We need to find a technology that has the characteristics of coal but is cheaper than coal. Nuclear power, especially fourth generation nuclear power, offers that prospect. Now if we can’t find, develop, commercialise and deploy on a large scale that sort of technology, I think we have a very slim chance of avoiding major climate change impacts.

DAVID NOONAN, AUST. CONSERVATION FOUNDATION: Nuclear is first far too slow and far too expensive. It would be the least effective option for Australia to look to in terms of addressing climate change and greenhouse gas emission issues. We are now on the path toward a renewable energy future.

MIKE SEXTON: Barry Brook isn’t alone in his view. Others such as Tim Flannery agree with him. But the opinion has opened a divide among the environmental movement comparable to the one among scientists who are climate change believers or sceptics. David Noonan from the Australian Conservation Foundation has long campaigned against nuclear power and uranium mining and believes he represents the views of most environmentalists.

Have you seen a shift in this debate?

DAVID NOONAN: No I haven’t, in the sense that there is no group environment group, state, national or international, that’s supporting nuclear power. Some individuals have expressed a view, but that’s not reflected by the environment movement.

MIKE SEXTON: Opponents of nuclear power point to the catastrophes at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl as reasons why the technology shouldn’t be used. But proponents argue those plants were so called first and second generation reactors and that new technologies make repeats unlikely.

BARRY BROOK: It’s a bit like, to take an analogy, comparing the A 380 aircraft to the Hindenburg and saying well, Hindenburg blew up in 1933, therefore aviation is an inherently unsafe technology and we shouldn’t pursue it. I mean, technologies move on; people learn from their mistakes.

MIKE SEXTON: While Australia has no plans for nuclear power, according to Australian Uranium Association, 50 other countries do, and that’s on top of the 31 countries that already have reactors.

MICHAEL ANGWIN, AUST. URANIUM ASSOC: We had some economic research done for us a year or so ago and that showed that an increase in the demand for nuclear power using some fairly conservative assumptions would increase demand for Australia’s uranium to somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 tonnes a year. And that’s three to four times what we currently export. And you put that together with the expansion of South Australia’s uranium industry and there’s a very significant opportunity there for South Australia.

MIKE SEXTON: At the moment, nuclear power station don’t just use what is mined in South Australia. Unlike coal, which is mined and used in a power plant, unprocessed uranium known as yellowcake, has to be enriched overseas, with only about three per cent of it ending up as fuel rods. Some in business believe Australia should build an enrichment plant to value add to the uranium export. But the industry itself says for a number of reasons including security that’s unlikely.

MICHAEL ANGWIN: Most of the world’s thinking these days about enrichment in fact is not to spread it round further, but to concentrate it.

MIKE SEXTON: Many planned new reactors are so-called third generation models which last longer and are more efficient. But Barry Brook says the revolution he hopes will cool the planet will come from so called fourth generation nuclear power plants, which are still a theory, as one is yet to be built.

BARRY BROOK: This is the technology of the future. And it solves a lot of other problems that are currently associated with nuclear power. One of the biggest is, we’ve generated all of this nuclear waste in the form of spent fuel that we have to manage for 100,000 years. Well the rather neat thing about the new technology, which is called generation four nuclear power is that it takes that waste and uses that as fuel.

MIKE SEXTON: Generation four reactors would also run on mined rather than enriched uranium of which there’s a global stockpile. So if they would come online, the need for yellowcake would diminish dramatically.

MICHAEL ANGWIN: At first as we have to go through generation three technology, and as far as we can see at the moment, the demand for uranium consequent upon the demand for nuclear power makes the outlook for our industry very good.

MIKE SEXTON: David Noonan believes there are security concerns about generation four reactors because they produce and use plutonium, which is also the principal ingredient in nuclear weapons.

DAVID NOONAN: These are breeder reactors; they produce plutonium and that maximises the risks of weapons and of nuclear proliferation. And we can’t be proposing to address the hazards of climate change by introducing and relying on the risks in nuclear weaponry.

MIKE SEXTON: Whether Australia ever embraces nuclear power remains to be seen, but the debate at least is generating plenty of heat.

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122 Comments

  1. Good timing. Along with tonight’s Four Corners questioning clean coal it should create a one-two punch. Before long the local Peak Oil people should chime in along with the water lobby to convince the public almost nothing is being done. We can only hope the real power brokers the Federal cabinet don’t harden their anti-nuclear stance.

  2. what did people think about David Noonan’s last statement? [and what is being maximised?]

    It is like saying car engine factories produce engine blocks and this maximizes the risk of guns.

    To work in that context, there would have to be a single word for any round channel in which expanding combustion gases propel a slider. He’s counting on the single word “plutonium” to mean two different things, without his audience knowing that it means two different things (a fallacy of equivocation).

    I doubt Noonan expects any country or group to get nuclear weapons because it has power reactors. None ever has. Power reactors, if fed 238-U, make power reactor plutonium. Much cooler, smaller, simpler, cheaper reactors make weapon-grade plutonium, as different from the other kind as is a gun barrel from an Ecotec engine block.

    The theoretical usability of the engine block as a multibarrel cannon represents a very long way around to a very inferior result, weapon-wise. Using power reactor plutonium for weapons is similarly believed to be a long way around to an inferior result, and so has apparently never been tried.

    (When the American gas industry’s Hazel O’Leary was in public office, her government published a claim to this effect, but acknowledged that the yield of the bomb that was produced may have been zero, and did not acknowledge that the supposedly power-reactor-derived plutonium was quite unlike any being made today. More at Jeremy Whitlock’s “Canadian Nuclear FAQ”.)

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  3. Plutonium doesn’t bomb people, people do. Seriously you are up against the same logic that gets people hysterical about guns. Evidence doesn’t matter when people have fear to cling to. Like guns plutonium can be useful. Just because a device or substance can be used for evil does not mean it is evil. However your opponents will perpetually seek to make the linkage. Welcome to politics.

  4. Do you really need to ask?

    This is a tricky one to respond to though – there’s no soundbite to counter “plutonium equals weapons”. The shortest statement of the error would be something like:

    Its not the plutonium, its the plutonium extraction process that enables weapons production. Gen IV reactors don’t need to extract the plutonium, so they don’t add to the proliferation risk.

    I love the ACF, so its a shame that Noonan makes the following points, all of which are objectively false:

    * Nuclear is far too slow [compared to what effective alternative?]
    * and far too expensive. [compared to what effective alternative?]
    * It would be the least effective option for Australia to look to in terms of addressing climate change and greenhouse gas emission issues. [Simply false, and not just by a little bit if Peter Lang is correct]
    * We are now on the path toward a renewable energy future. [Not that I've seen to date, and even if we were, Lang's analysis suggests very little emissions abatement]
    * These are breeder reactors; they produce plutonium and that maximises the risks of weapons and of nuclear proliferation. [False, see above]
    * We can’t be proposing to address the hazards of climate change by introducing and relying on the risks in nuclear weaponry. [climate change is the proximate threat, in fact its not a 'threat', its a disaster already realised]

  5. Political correctness is a very hard ship to turn. People quite like their beliefs. Most people won’t give you the time needed to challenge their beliefs let alone actually changing them. And most people don’t want to change their beliefs ahead of the crowd.

  6. I think we need short simple messages like the myth of all wind-and-solar prolongs the reality of coal. Or that other countries have been there and failed.

    If plutonium has to be mentioned at all why not give equal time to heavy metals and radionucleides in coal ash? I’d also stress the connection between Gen III and low emissions desal. I think it may be better to allude to IFR as a follow up to Gen III which comes across well in the ABC clip.

  7. “what did people think about David Noonan’s last statement? [and what is being maximised?]”

    It’s a commonly used and believed story. It’s possibly the key emotional argument used by the non-nuclear activists. And it strikes a chord or it wouldn’t be used.

    I think the message is that in future the issue can’t go largely unanswered in interviews. Possibly by raising it and countering it yourself?

  8. It was a good piece Barry.

    However the journalist’s statement, “But the opinion has opened a divide among the environmental movement comparable to the one among scientists who are climate change believers or sceptics.” was a bit inaccurate, not the divide but the second bit of the statement.

  9. Noonan’s last statement doesn’t make much sense; but it doesn’t have to to achieve his ends. It was designed to make a connection – in the publics mind – between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. That connection is plutonium. Nuclear power stations can breed it, bombs are made from it. As Daz said it’s a common strategy which needs to be addressed.

    Why not fight fire with fire. Using much the same strategy (only without having to lie) you could create a positive connection in the publics mind. This needn’t be done with anything very technical, it’s just the connection thats important. How about –

    Since Gen IV eat waste plutonium, they can significantly reduce the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.

    Or

    Because no plutonium need ever be extracted during gen IV power production, they can significantly reduce the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.

    Just an idea.

    Marion

  10. Daz says,

    It’s possibly the key emotional argument used by the non-nuclear activists. And it strikes a chord or it wouldn’t be used.

    I think the message is that in future the issue can’t go largely unanswered in interviews. Possibly by raising it and countering it yourself?

    One wants to be very careful about how, and whether, one declares innocence in advance of an anticipated allegation that beloved neighbourhood pets that go missing are ending up in one’s freezer. One doesn’t even have a freezer! One loves puppies and kittens! In a non-culinary sense! But then what if the allegation never comes.

    Whack all the moles at once: note that since nuclear power began, it has consumed about half a pound of uranium for each person now in the world, about $30 worth, and governments and oil and gas vendors are sorry about the hundreds of dollars this has cost them. Sorry, angry, and willing to say anything, or pay to have it said, in a vain effort to prevent still worse future losses.

    Then, if the proliferation lie does pop up, mention Hiroshima, suggest that the attacker is saying “Ban nuclear reactors to prevent future Hiroshimas”.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  11. Why not fight fire with fire. Using much the same strategy (only without having to lie) you could create a positive connection in the publics mind. This needn’t be done with anything very technical, it’s just the connection thats important. How about –

    Since Gen IV eat waste plutonium, they can significantly reduce the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.

    That implies that waste plutonium is a significant proliferation risk. One must not lie, and one certainly must not imply that the adversary’s lies are true.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  12. I know that the LDP and the Liberal Party are sympathetic to nuclear as an energy source. I know the Greens and the ALP are currently opposed although the ALP does support uranium mining. Where do the Australian Democrats, Family First, the Christian Democrats and other parties stand on this issue?

  13. I thought the take home message from Four Corners is that Big Coal is laughing at us. They know they have both the public and politicians over a barrel and will call the shots for the foreseeable future.

    Still if CCS is now a dud in the public’s mind the next step will be to convince them that coal won’t be displaced by token renewables. I have the feeling if the ETS had started 2 months ago (as envisioned by Garnaut) we would already be finding ways to achieve low carbon.

  14. But the opinion has opened a divide among the environmental movement comparable to the one among scientists who are climate change believers or sceptics.

    When reporters use language like this it makes me sick. WTF does it mean?

  15. Graham Cowan says more isotopes, not just those of hydrogen, should have their own names. Helium-3, for instance, is as different from helium-4 as chalk from Thursday. Likewise boron-10 and boron-11 … nitrogen-14 and nitrogen-15 …

    Will lurkers please suggest a good name for plutonium-240. It is the isotope that is in plutonium that has been subject to long neutron irradiation and energy extraction, and does not prevent the stuff from being still good fuel for reactors that naturally burn slowly and evenly, but does interfere if people try to extract the same energy in a microsecond.

    If it were widely understood that a percent or two of today’s nuclear power comes from X fission, where ‘X’ is the sensible, yet non-tongue-twisting name you propose for 240-Pu, then the disinformative “plutonium means bombs” meme might be defanged.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  16. Pingback: Nuclear renaissance faces typical misinformed opposition. « Enviralment

  17. Memo from the real world:
    Gen III is still in the future!

    The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 8, 2009
    The New Nukes

    “… The next generation of reactors—so-called Generation III units—is intended to take everything that’s been learned about safe operations and do it even better. Generation III units are the reactors of choice for most of the 34 nations that already have nuclear plants in operation. (China still is building a few Gen II units.)…
    … none of the Generation III designs have been cleared for construction by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Some Generation IV concepts haven’t even been presented to the NRC for review, and they still are years away from crossing that threshold.”

  18. GRL Cowan proposed

    Will lurkers please suggest a good name for plutonium-240?

    Given that for weapons proliferation you need Pu240 at less than about 7% and spent fuel rods typically contain about 26% Pu-240 perhaps it should be called neutralonium

  19. The choice of who gets the last word is generally a pretty good indication of
    the journalist’s position. With more than a few journalists happy to quietly assert
    of-the-record agreement privately with both sides of a debate!

    Noonan’s last word will resonate because he is right that anti-nuke is
    still the standard view amongst environmentalists in Australia … and it takes
    considerable time and energy to reevaluate long held views and a preparation to
    alienate some friends. Its easier to just fit in with your mates. Those of you
    who doubt the influence of peer group pressure should pretend to have turned vegan
    during the upcoming holiday BBQ season.

    Happily it doesn’t matter much whether Australians remain stoically anti-nuclear,
    just as long as the US, China and India think rationally.

  20. Geoff #32, that’s spot on. It would be nice if Australia was leading from the front on this issue, but ultimately, it’s what happens in Asia, US and EU that will count, for good or ill. That 4-Corners episode on the potential future of coal was pretty depressing, and if you want to appreciate the magnitude of the challenge ahead for places like China, check out uvdiv’s post on China 2020 and weep at that final figure.

    Hank #27: That WSJ article is generally good, but that statement is false. The ABWR is Gen III and plenty have been built, and China is building a bunch of AP-1000s, which has also been certified by the NRC. The GEH ESBWR (Economic and Simplified Boiling Water Reactor), the successor to the ABWR (Advanced …) is currently undergoing certification and I think will be the next big thing in the Gen III+ line.

  21. I can think rationally all right, but how does it help without data? To make up my mind on nuclear, I need to know:

    For ALL threats — proliferation, theft, accident, sabotage, leakage from repository, whatever — an estimate of their frequency of occurrence per reactor-year, and the ensuing damage in dollars, so that the corresponding externality, in cents per kWh, could be computed.

    Can someone here help please.

  22. Happily it doesn’t matter much whether Australians remain stoically anti-nuclear,
    just as long as the US, China and India think rationally.

    I strongly doubt that the broader Australian populace is as staunchly anti-nuclear as the ‘environmental organisations’ and the ‘activist community’ like to pretend. I am convinced that there is sufficient latent support for nuclear power in this country to utterly overshadow any political leverage those clowns think they have, and once that support is actualised and organised, the mendacious anti-nuclear pseudo-environmentalists and the precious ‘activist community’ can go hang.

  23. I strongly doubt that the broader Australian populace is as staunchly anti-nuclear as the ‘environmental organisations’ and the ‘activist community’ like to pretend.

    I’m prepared to allow myself some hope on that front. I’m also prepared to hope the opposition to nukes is softer than you might imagine – the antis aren’t all hard-core antis.

    Possum analysed polling on Australian support for nuclear power back in January here:

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/2009/01/27/essential-report-nuke-edition/

    The key finding is that while the support for nuclear power is roughly steady at about 40%, the undecideds have been growing while the antis have been falling. The split for the last poll in January is 43% for, 35% against, and 22% undecided. Not a hopeless position, and I don’t think the climate change argument for nukes has really hit the mainstream yet.

    Meanwhile, in the US, Eclipsenow has just linked to polling in the Wall Street Journal that tells a similar story (thanks EN).

    Since 2001, anti/pro has gone from 48/46 to 59/37. In particular, the strongly opposed have fallen from 20% to 14%, while the strongly in favoured have increased by the same amount from 20% to 27%.

    I wonder whats behind this shift, and speculate that it might be:

    * distance in time from Hiroshima, the Cold War, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and the protest movement of the 70’s (in the main)
    * aging population, meaning many younger respondents don’t have personal experience of this negative history
    * immigration (in Australia particularly), from countries with nuclear power already, or which didn’t have strong antinuclear movements
    * willingness to reconsider the option, based on both climate change, and the increasingly visible decline of fossil fuels
    * smarter, better educated population

    Hmm. Maybe not the last one.

    I think there’s a good chance many now opposed could be persuaded by climate and resource arguments. If only there were someone who could clearly link the climate research to the energy situation and make the connection to nuclear power and take that to a popular audience through tv appearances, maybe a blog ..

  24. For the life of me I don’t really understand how some of the well known environmental groups that are pessimistic on forward AGW projections aren’t “warming” (no pun) to nuclear energy.

    Finrod:

    It actually does matter what we do, as our energy supplies and therefore our living standards are very much tied to energy production…. industrial civilization depends on it. Hobbling the ETS by not having nuke as an option really does put the economy in difficult position over time.

  25. To answer Ziggy’s rhetorical question

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP_Why_not_90_nuclear_for_Australia_0909091.html

    I think the answer is that available money will be spent in small amounts in lots of places for political pork barrelling. Big ticket items go on hold. We’ve just seen carbon pricing waived because of the global financial crisis. The next excuse will probably be second stage Peak Oil with 9% annual production decline. There may be very little public or private capital left for big ticket spending, of the order of say 20 GW X $5/watt.

    I think the debate needs to be reframed in terms of 20 year time paths for different policy settings. The paths would contrast capital costs and CO2 reductions. The public needs to be convinced that investment in low carbon energy needs to be greatly increased and wind and solar can only make a limited contribution.

  26. John D Morgan # 36

    “I wonder whats behind this shift, and speculate that it might be:

    * distance in time from Hiroshima, the Cold War, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and the protest movement of the 70’s (in the main)
    * aging population, meaning many younger respondents don’t have personal experience of this negative history…
    * willingness to reconsider the option, based on both climate change, and the increasingly visible decline of fossil fuels”

    I have wondered much the same and have come to similar conclusions re your above points.

    Baby Boomers lost grandparents in the first world war, parents in the second world war and had the cold war threatening peace for their generation. They therefore grew up in a climate of fear, fear that another world war would erupt and fear that that war would involve nuclear weapons.

    For the children of the Baby Boomers however, the world war generational link was broken, and despite the fact that there have been many smaller wars since “the bomb” was first used, the threat of nuclear destruction never eventuated. I think a lot of kids (as we were then) saw world nuclear disarmament as a pipe dream. Nice in theory, but never going to happen. Our parents in that respect were dreamers. We saw our selves as a little more pragmatic. For us MAD didn’t seem so mad. Regrettable? Certainly. Reversible? Not likely. While our parents generation bemoaned our lack of revolutionary zeal, we rolled our eyes at their naivety. Nuclear war became a theoretical possibility rather than an imminent threat.

    Amongst the environmental movement some of us became disgruntled with the anti-nuclear crowd – who being older and more firmly entrenched unfortunately carried more power within the organisations. We saw them as using these organisations as a front for pushing their one line agenda at the expense of the ‘real’ issues – pollution, habitat destruction, and the ensuing loss of bio-diversity. For me and many others the pursuit of renewables was to reduce our impact on the environment, not solely to rid us of nuclear power. I believe this sentiment is growing. There are a lot of younger environmentalists out there who refuse to join an environmental organisation for that very reason.

    It seems now, our suspicions have been borne out. Greenpeace, FoE etc have said they would rather see whole Deserts covered with solar arrays, effectively wiping out whole eco-systems, than countenance nuclear energy. Hell, they’d rather risk a planetary melt down!

    Well, I think some in my generation and certainly the generation coming up behind, are on to them. The threat of climate change has not only surpassed the old threats it’s also forced us to look realistically at how far renewables can take us and what their true environmental impact would be when scaled up to the level needed to halt climate change (economics aside).

    Lastly the younger you are, the more likely it is that you will be directly effected by climate change, the more realistically and pragmatically you must approach the problem. The shift is happening, but as is often the case, it’s happening most swiftly in the younger half of the population, the half that has less power and therefore a smaller voice, but who none the less can sway the polls.

    Marion

  27. John Newlands in #39 said:

    “… and wind and solar can only make a limited contribution.”

    Oil company ads also say that wind, solar, and the rest are needed in an energy mix.

    What bothers me is why wind and solar have ANY contribution at all to provide given their orders of magnitude cost over nuclear.

  28. Marion@40 …

    I suspect that you and John are in the right place. In a recent thread on Deltoid, I gave my own account, which is too long to reproduce here, but if anyone want a look, here it is.

    I can’t but also think that in large part no nukes was a logicval part of the broader counterculture movement which pretty much embraced anyone who had some objection to the dominant culture (or as it came to be satirised later, the dominant paradigm). As I note in the post linked above:

    We lefties (no less than our right of center counterparts) are to a greater or lesser extent, the result of a whole range of cultural and aesthetic mores. I’m a late baby boomer, coming of pubescence on the cusp of the 60s and 70s. This was a time when a gee-whiz fascination with what can be broadly called scientific progress jostled with counter-cultural angst over authority, elites, notions of the natural and a more fluid notion of what it was to be truly human. The world of moon landings and the bomb ran up against Woodstock, Timothy Leary and the notion that contemporary life was analogous to the narrative in The Sorcerers Apprentice. Slogans such as Stop the World, I want to get off and The Kinks track “Ape Man” were profoundly resonant. While not all that was countercultural was left, and not all that was left was countercultural, the overlap was large and we were all forced to respond to it, one way or another. [...]I do rather suspect that if nuclear energy could have been seen as natural and not possessed by large corporations that I, along with much of the left, would have found ways of shrugging my shoulders. There is something very culturally and aesthetically pleasing to us leftists in the notion of community owned wind-turbines or wave machines or in everyone pitching in to recycle waste into biofuel. There’s a huge warm inner glow factor. It conforms marvellously well to that simplest of leftwing secular humanist notions of a better world — one in which everyone should play nicely with others.

    Self evidently, what is seen, pragmatically, as a disadvantage in renewables — geographic dispersion, site-dependence, the need to be nothing more than a small part in a larger network, is a positive boon to those who feel angst towards centralised and remote power (literally and figuratively). Small is beautiful, or so the mantra goes so a wind turbine, or even better, a solar panel, the concept of microgeneration, straddles that divide between the left-of-centre idea of people collaborating over distance (think globally/act locally) and your right-of-centre parochial conservatives who don’t trust stuff from ‘out there in the big smoke’. Both sides can stress the personal responsibility dimension of their choices. In PR terms then, renewables are far more saleable that some big throbbing power plant that is full of energy most people don’t really understand and that produces waste reminiscent of bombs and connected with cancer.

    I do believe things are moving on from these views, but I believe we need to be careful in how we engage people who hold the old cultural prejudices. Environmentalists claim the colour green, which is iconic in the most positive of senses, being bound up with life and growth and ideas of naturalness. Hell, it even rhymes with clean. The green light is progress. If we are going to pitch nuclear, we probably need to explicitly pair it with things that are green, or at any rate, with things that are not brown emphasising the removal of life- and nature-destroying pollution, cleaner air, regrowing forests, the fact that hazmat and waste are not the same thing, and the role this energy could play in underpinning biodiversity in the developing world. Maybe we whould use the slogan give nuclear power the green light

  29. In the broadcast, Prof. Brook sounds as convincing as his opponent. Maybe more convincing. Yet even that is not enough. The onus of proof in this debate is on him. If the debate stays on the qualitative level, no proof can emerge.
    Reasonable people will be convinced if they can compare between n.p.’s benefits and its perils. A way to do it is to reduce all aspects of nuclear power — including, most challengingly, its irregular externalities (accidental releases, dirty bombs, etc) — to a price per kWh.
    Am I asking too much, that this blog provide such data?

  30. Jc@37:

    The italicisation was intended to indicate that I was quoting someone… in this case Geoff Russell from comment #32.

    As it happens, I completely agree with your point, and n uclear power is the obvious answer.

  31. Alexei, that challenge sounds to me much like the climate change sceptics’ hue and cry for ‘proof’ that human-caused CO2 is causing global warming. You are grasping for something that can never be delivered to complete satisfaction or agreement, because to do this properly, you must cost EVERYTHING, from every power source, PLUS the consequences of NOT taking a certain energy route. Quite a task…

    But not to deflect the question entirely, let me direct you here. It’s as good an attempt to address your proposition as I’ve seen. I certainly couldn’t hope to do better. Here is a snippet:

    The Worst Possible Accident
    One subject we have not discussed here is the “worst possible nuclear accident,” because there is no such thing. In any field of endeavor, it is easy to concoct a possible accident scenario that is worse than anything that has been previously proposed, although it will be of lower probability. One can imagine a gasoline spill causing a fire that would wipe out a whole city, killing most of its inhabitants. It might require a lot of improbable circumstances combining together, like water lines being frozen to prevent effective fire fighting, a traffic jam aggravated by street construction or traffic accidents limiting access to fire fighters, some substandard gas lines which the heat from the fire caused to leak, a high wind frequently shifting to spread the fire in all directions, a strong atmospheric temperature inversion after the whole city has become engulfed in flame to keep the smoke close to the ground, a lot of bridges and tunnels closed for various reasons, eliminating escape routes, some errors in advising the public, and so forth. Each of these situations is improbable, so a combination of many of them occurring in sequence is highly improbable, but it is certainly not impossible.

    If anyone thinks that is the worst possible consequence of a gasoline spill, consider the possibility of the fire being spread by glowing embers to other cities which were left without protection because their firefighters were off assisting the first city; or of a disease epidemic spawned by unsanitary conditions left by the conflagration spreading over the country; or of communications foul-ups and misunderstandings caused by the fire leading to an exchange of nuclear weapon strikes. There is virtually no limit to the damage that is possible from a gasoline spill. But as the damage envisioned increases, the number of improbable circumstances required increases, so the probability for the eventuality becomes smaller and smaller. There is no such thing as the “worst possible accident,” and any consideration of what terrible accidents are possible without simultaneously considering their low probability is a ridiculous exercise that can lead to completely deceptive conclusions.

    The same reasoning applies to nuclear reactor accidents. Situations causing any number of deaths are possible, but the greater the consequences, the lower is the probability. The worst accident the RSS considered would cause about 50,000 deaths, with a probability of one occurrence in a billion years of reactor operation. A person’s risk of being a victim of such an accident is 20,000 times less than the risk of being killed by lightning, and 1,000 times less than the risk of death from an airplane crashing into his or her house.

    But this once-in-a-billion-year accident is practically the only nuclear reactor accident ever discussed in the media. When it is discussed, its probability is hardly ever mentioned, and many people, including Helen Caldicott, who wrote a book on the subject, imply that it’s the consequence of an average meltdown rather than of 1 out of 100,000 meltdowns. I have frequently been told that the probability doesn’t matter — the very fact that such an accident is possible makes nuclear power unacceptable. According to that way of thinking, we have shown that the use of gasoline is not acceptable, and almost any human activity can similarly be shown to be unacceptable. If probability didn’t matter, we would all die tomorrow from any one of thousands of dangers we live with constantly.”

  32. Alexei@#44:

    The events you’ve mentioned are so rare (in the cases of ‘dirty bombs’, practically non-existent) that there hasn’t been enough time so far (~50 or 60 years) to build any sort of meaningful statistical basis for determining the issue. This tends to indicate that the risk of such things is so low as to be negigable when compared with the known risks from other power sources (including ‘renewables’).

  33. Fran #42

    Nuclear sells itself once one understands the limitations of our currently available renewables.

    What the public needs to know, perhaps before the subject of nuclear need even be broached, is why renewables can’t answer the call. They need to know that solar and wind are an unreliable power source; that without massively expensive overbuild they require backup; that currently that back-up is fossil fuels and therefore they fail to provide any meaningful reduction in GHG emissions; and this despite the fact that we are paying through the nose for them. Once they understand that, they’ll be crying out for a new solution. The public needs to know and understand the choice they are making when they ‘choose’ renewables. They need to know they are trading a reliable, affordable option for a foreseeably unreliable, needlessly expensive option. At that point, I believe, most people, environmentalists included, will be open to the nuclear debate.

    BTW, great post at Deltoid.

    Marion

  34. “We could bring jobs back to Detroit if we get them making wind turbines and not cars!”

    http://www.thefuelfilm.com/

    You guys have got a lot of work to do if you are right, because the renewable propaganda is out there BIG TIME.

    The good news is I think they ARE right. By the time wind is a big enough percent of our power to become the problem you think it will be, battery and smart grid technology will have evolved to the point where it can cope. When the blades of wind turbines can be made from charred chicken-feathers and soy-beans, then we’re in a whole new world of lower energy materials and higher net EROEI from renewables.

  35. Barry, thanks. I followed the link, and found the sort of data I’m after – alas, for reactor accidents only.

    (For bystanders, I’ll summarise: 400 lives plus $100 mln dollars lost in average “meltdown”, “meltdown” to occur once per 20 000 reactor-years. This works out to roughly 0.0001 cents per kWh. — 1975 U.S. dollars, and I valued a life lost at $2 mln. Alternative estimates will add some orders of magnitude to this; but it can hardly be more than 3 orders of magnitude – so still negligible.)

    I went, briefly, through the whole book. Cohen doesn’t seem to address non-reactor accidents, or terrorism. Would be good if you had a reference for those as well.

  36. Finrod, thank you for your answer.
    That dirty bomb didn’t happen in 60 years tells us something. A risk analysis might tell us more – alas, all useful ones are probably classified.

    What would be your estimate of the frequency of dirty-bombing of, say, Australian capital cities, with and without nuclear power production in Australia?
    What is your estimate of the damage from one such bombing?
    If you do not have these estimates, how can you be sure the “dirty bomb” risk is negligible?

  37. Alexi,

    Have you looked at ExternE. It is one of the most authoritative analyses of risks and externalities of the electricity generation technologies.

    http://www.externe.info/

    The figures on Sever accidents in the energy chain, and deatuhs per TWh that asre included in the threas “Wind and carbon emissions – Peter Lang Responds” are from the ExternE study. There is a lot to go through on that web site.

  38. Marion, Fran, on the question of the drivers of changing attitudes to nuclear power, it looks like we might soon have some answers:

    Federal funds to test popular opinion on nuclear power

    “THE federal government will fund research to test public opinion on nuclear power, despite Kevin Rudd’s implacable opposition to it as an energy option.

    “The study, bankrolled by the Australian Research Council at a cost of $133,500, could expose new pressure points to shift public sentiment in favour of the controversial energy option.

    “”It seeks to gain a deeper understanding of how various attitudes from various sectors have formed, how they have connected or alienated other attitudes … and how future trends may shape future patterns of national response to the issue of nuclear power,” the ARC says.

    “.. it seeks to undertake critical ground-clearing work about the debate thus far so that a more mature and productive discussion may proceed in the future.

    “.. Australians tended to equate nuclear with negative connotations, such as the atom bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II, or nuclear power plant accidents at Three Mile Island in the US and Chernobyl in the then Soviet Union.”

    Its almost as if they read my post and funded it ..

  39. Thanks Peter, that certainly helps. The whole cycle is covered. But, not terrorism:
    From their FAQ:
    [Nuclear proliferation and security] are not included in ExternE’s external cost estimates and have to be treated as gaps.

    (How does one treat gaps?!)
    Makes me realize how much I am actually asking for.

  40. Alexei, the most ‘plausible’ terrorist threat to reactors seems to be aeroplane strikes. Few other scenarios seem even remotely possible. The Union of Concerned Scientists, one of America’s leading anti-nuclear campaign organisations, recently refer to a terrorist scenario where UCS claims a terrorist can cause $1-2 trillion worth of damage by ramming a large jet into a nuclear reactor at Indian Point.

    http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_risk/sabotage_and_attacks_on_reactors/impacts-of-a-terrorist-attack.html

    Yet studies have been done to show that containment buildings would withstand the impact of a fully fueled jet aircraft. This scenario involves essentially a hollow tube of aluminium and steel, holding a few hundred thousand litres of gasoline, colliding with a heavily reinformed concrete dome designed to contain extreme internal steam pressure. Some relevant comments re: that particular Indian Point scenario are here:

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2008/08/indian-point-worst-case-nuclear.html

    The $2 trillion figure, even if you accept their assumptions (which are highly disputable), is the 99.9th percentile — that is, this cost would be incurred once in every 1,000 plane hits to a reactor like nuclear point (95% was $1 trillion). Of course if you bury an IFR, the risk is virtually zero. This is an example of disingenous people taking advantage of the general populace’s gross ignorance on the matter of risk and probability.

    This is what a friend of mine with 40 years in the nuclear power industry in Canada said on the matter:
    “Barry: Some years ago, we at Ontario Hydro did that sort of study – a fully loaded 747 in a 30 degree dive impacting the weakest containment wall of our nuclear fleet — at Pickering A. Main conclusions:

    (I) Engines are the only components of the aircraft that have the potential for penetrating the concrete wall of the containment building. The hollow aluminum tube is as soft as Jello by comparison. Military data from testing of the performance of large artillery shells tells us that no penetration of the wall by the engines is possible. The largest effect is from spallation missiles from from the inside surface of the dome — and that is shown not to damage equipment inside.

    (II) Combustion of aircraft fuel – assuming worst possible accumulation in the control room – is the main damage mechanism, and the effects of the fire on electronic and electrical gear cannot be determined precisely. However, given the fact that all safety systems are designed to operate in the safe direction on loss of electrical supply, it is virtually certain that reactor shutdown would be an early result of the fire, but the shock of the aircraft impact would almost certainly cause shutdown within one second of contact with the wall. Given reactor shutdown, the worst consequence is destruction of the facility without a major release of radioactive materials.

    (III) Momentum transfer – This is a large effect, but not large enough to do any substantial damage.

    A thousand assumptions and judgements went into this work, and a million objections could be raised in detail. But the work was done by an experienced and careful team of safety engineers and reactor designers, and I feel comfortable with its overall findings. Several other studies of this kind have been done around the world — and I haven’t heard of any study that produces a worse case than the one outlined above.”

  41. Barry, maybe “proof” was a misleading term for me to use. Sorry.
    (I spoke of “onus of proof” to underline the asymmetry: if Greens make plausible noises and you, as far as the public can work it out, offer equally plausible arguments, Greens win: the reasonable choice is to reject nuclear, according to the precautionary principle.)

    What I’m after may be better called “assessment”. With a bottom line, like maybe “all nuclear dangers together are only worth 0.01 cents per kWh, or only 100 times more if you believe our opponents”. And with enough details to make the bottom line look credible.

    I am only asking for as much as would convince a reasonable person.

    This kind of PR would be rather novel, I own. The intuitive approach is to be vague about the downside (or best not mention it at all). The sausage industry doesn’t try to convince us that slaughterhouses and industrial farming aren’t bad; it relies on us not even thinking about these things. Yet nuclear power is different. Say “sausage” and you think about food, not slaughter. Say “nuclear” and the associations are more with invisible death and mushroom cloud than cheap electricity. Greens needn’t even mention it! – so deeply is it ingrained in the public psyche.

    So I suggest being up-front about the downside. “We kill, just not as many.” (Recall that mortality rate in heavy industry is 10 in 100 000 per annum; in power line workers, twice as much — U.S. data; if renewable option is expensive, that means more people working in such jobs.) Maybe that’s going too far. I am not in PR, I don’t know. I know that for someone like myself this will work. I will happily embrace the lesser evil.

  42. Barry, my last comment was done before my seeing your last one. (So might look slightly weird, in context.)
    Now having seen your latest one —
    Few other [terrorist] scenarios seem even remotely possible

    –I have to ask about damages per kWh. For these other scenarios, together, to an order of magnitude or whatever accuracy applies. Not that I don’t trust you. You say “negligible”, so negligible it must be. But I want to be able to make an air-tight case for nuclear. To me, a number is 100 times more convincing than a qualitative assertion. And if this number is not merely negligible, but negligible by a good margin, that would be so much better still.

    When a source perceived as partisan says “negligible”, people take it to mean: just barely negligible under the lowest estimates. But order-of-magnitude disagreements are the norm in nuclear issues. Something just-about negligible, multiplied by 10, will be non-negligible! So if our number is better-than-negligible, the correct PR is to say so.

  43. Finrod,
    I sought to be laconic and might’ve ended up sounding abrupt. Sorry; may I try again.
    Rarity of an event of itself is not enough; it must be combined with its magnitude. There were 20 000 reactor-years without a dirty bomb. Approximating these as 1 GW reactors, that’s 1 mln times 7000 times 20 000 equals 140 trillion kWh. Let’s say a dirty bomb is now due. How bad can it be? My highest stretch of imagination goes to $1 trillion (a large city, 4 mln people, to re-settle, compensation $250 000 per head, including commercial property losses.) That works out to nearly 1 cent per kWh, not negligible.

    Could you justify a lower upper bound for the damage?

  44. “Barry, maybe “proof” was a misleading term for me to use. Sorry.
    (I spoke of “onus of proof” to underline the asymmetry: if Greens make plausible noises and you, as far as the public can work it out, offer equally plausible arguments, Greens win: the reasonable choice is to reject nuclear, according to the precautionary principle.)”

    Thats all nonsense and occult-epistemology. There is no onus of proof. The allegation of an onus of proof is a request for a handicap. The very request for a handicap is evidence that the person making the request is on the side of irrationalism.

    No greenie who is anti-nuclear ought to be taken seriously. Thats got to be the cutoff between who is serious and who isn’t. The anti-nuclear greenie is either 1. scared of everything and ought to see a psychiatrist 2. against the aspirations of the people who pay for his government job. 3. against humane-civilisation as such. Or 4. He cannot believe the things he is claiming to do with the CO2.

    Those of you who do have concerns about CO2 and are pro-nuclear have to draw a line in the sand against globalists and primitives in your camp who are against the broad mass of people being able to have a decent standard of living.

    “So what did people think about David Noonan’s last statement? [and what is being maximised?]”

    I was disgusted with everything he said. Is he worried about US AUSTRALIANS getting nukes? And if not how plausible is it that someone will get nukes from the plutonium generated in Australia that is produced and consumed on the same site? This is crazy-talk. What are you going to do with a lump of plutonium if you lack the capacity to so much as generate it yourself? Madness.

    Yes it does mean that Australia would be closer to be able to make its own nukes. But with the US out of the picture some minimal capacity for our submariners may be critical. Since water is such a great shock-absorber and we need to be able to prevent a foreign power from massing its forces for an amphibious invasion. We don’t need to go bloody Robert Strange McNamara on everyone and propose to kill civilians as deterrence. But by the same token we don’t want to be sending the lads out in subs that are a coffin if they come up against nuclearised opposition.

    From any sane position, whether you are concerned about hydrocarbons or not, the nuclear reactors have to be built so we have to get them built. What is the point of an enquiry into peoples public opinion into the matter? A decent Prime Minister would be talking to every mayor in the country and getting land voluntarily categorized as that which might be bought for this purpose by the willing investor. And we need many thousands of times the land needed for ultimate use so classified so that it is a buyers market for the investor who is interested.

    There is all this nonsense-talk about nuclear being more expensive then coal. Never have I seen this claim made along with estimates as to what its cost would be if all artificial encumbrances have been stripped away. Above I refer to one such cost-addition which is not natural to the market. And that is the reality that land bought for this purpose would be inflated in price thanks to the lack of options for locating the nuclear site.

  45. “Could you justify a lower upper bound for the damage?”

    How is a terrorist going to get hold of the gear for a dirty-bomb if the plutonium is produced and used on site?

    For our practical purposes the sources of terrorism are internal. That is to say they come from internally generated stupidity, gutlessness, and energy-dependency.

    1. Are we going to have some politically-correct brigade making sure that high-risk categories of people are to be employed one these nuclear sites?

    2. Are we to continue allowing various spies (agents of influence) on our side of the moat?

    3. Are we going to proceed with the delusional point of view that fighting terrorism is doing pointless things in Afghanistan rather than building up a surplus energy and military capacity so that we are in a position to put soft power to use against terrorist sponsoring countries who are energy rich?

    The terrorism since the early 70’s has come about largely because of the Wests hobbling itself energy-wise. The Sauds would not have been able to spread mayhem if we were able to take or leave their chief export.

    Always we see that the risk of terrorism comes with gutlessness, stupidity and energy-dependency. And has nothing to do with us having domestic nuclear generating capacity.

  46. People are thinking that maybe someone is going to fly planes into one of our nuclear plants. But when you have a lot of energy you can have directed energy weaponry. If you see a fighter jet flying about on youtube twenty years from now and one of its wings mysteriously falls off well thats directed energy or alternatively simple laser.

    Laser takes a lot of juice if it has to be chemically generated in the field. You can match one weapon against another but nothing matches speed, and no weapon known can outrun laser. But laser is expensive and so bullets and shells and bombs and things still have a long future ahead of them.

    So yes laser or directed energy is best but is inherently expensive to take into the field. No such problems presents itself to the large stationary nuclear power plant. Not only can they defend themselves with laser. It is cheap for them to be able to do so. Their armoury is in place already with the giant walls to be there as the last barrier to all these neutrons and other radiation they have to catch should something go wrong. Not only are they a breeze to defend under conditions of civilian rule. They are a positive asset in full-scale war.

    Don’t concern yourself with security problems when it comes to large nuclear power plants. Thats the least of our worries.

  47. “How is a terrorist going to get hold of the gear for a dirty-bomb if the plutonium is produced and used on site?” (Alfred)

    Admittedly that’s not easy. A straightforward way is to have a number of the employees in the plot. A rare case for sure. But still could this possibly happen once in 100 000 years per reactor, what do you think?
    If that’s how often it happens and if we take my (inflated?) $1 trillion estimate for the damage, that’s $10 mln per reactor-year, 0.1 cent per kWh. Were it 10 000 years instead, that’s 1 cent per kWh.

    Ways and means are not always obvious.
    Here’s an example:
    I had known of the aircraft impact analysis for a while. Plane’s engines were identified as the part that most damage would come from, so that was the basis for the assessment. Yesterday I discovered a simple idea that never occurred to me: the plane could carry something strong and heavy, maybe a piece of machinery, as a load – thus boosting the impact.

  48. “Admittedly that’s not easy. A straightforward way is to have a number of the employees in the plot. A rare case for sure. But still could this possibly happen once in 100 000 years per reactor, what do you think?”

    It could if we are employing Chinese nationals, muslims, Cubans, communists, and people in other high-risk groups in sensitive positions. But if we are going to be stupid there is no helping us no matter what. You best not go outside on a clear day lest you be struck by lightning. There are far worse worries to contend with now that the Americans are cutting their own wings off. We could be put into organ donation camps if we fail to progress as an economy and are not in a position to defend ourselves.

    You find when there have been disastrous penetrations of the sort you are talking about its due to leftist smugness actually going so far as to ridicule and humiliate people who want to take normal and standard precautions. Getting a known communist to head up the Manhatten project was pretty stupid. But the left brings down a sort of zeitgeist where it becomes embarrassing and a social faux pas to so much as point this stuff out.

    So no there just isn’t a problem here. The problem lies in being sheep-like. Suppose you want to see a candidates birth certificate. And everyone forms a group and heaps ridicule on you for just wanting normal precautions to be taken. Well a society that promotes such idiocy and smugness has a short future with or without nuclear reactors. So it is this sort of conditioned behaviour we have to obstruct. And not nuclear electricity investments.

  49. Its objectionable that the ABC referred to three-mile-island as a Catastrophe. Its hardly a catastrophe when no-one is injured and back-up procedures work as they are supposed to. This was even a way overblown description for Chernobyl. 55 people dead. Perhaps a few more over time. Very sad but hardly a catastrophe. Where is the trillion dollars damage in all that? Its make-believe. It likely has its origins in cold war propaganda meant to cripple the US long-term. This is not to say that foreign propaganda is all powerful. It just adds wind to the sales of some of our natural tendencies.

    Why are people so scared of neutrons? They are made up of them. Matter of fact I was trying to convince some girl that her cellulite was mostly neutrons and that she ought not be concerned with them. But then I got into a bit of a fix estimating if I was right or not. Perhaps protons and electrons outweighed the neutrons in her cellulite. Its a close call and not anything I resolved in the end.

  50. Barry, thank you for aircraft impact references and quote. Have you worked your way through the stuff? I am trying to find my way there, and getting confused. It seems that UCS are using “95th percentile weather conditions” and “95th percentile” to mean the same – to refer to the statistics they computed over weather conditions. Fine, but what about the uncertainty about the impact’s effect on the reactor and hence the magnitude of the release? Their text is written as if this uncertainty didn’t even exist.

  51. OK, got it now. UCS’ paper isn’t about aircraft impact really – it is about the consequences of a massive release, as massive as a team of terrorists in possession of the Indian Point reactor can engineer in a few hours.

    It is only incidental to their analysis that a VERY lucky aircraft strike could possibly generate a comparable release. Just how lucky it has to be? Is it possible at all? That’s beyond their scope.

  52. Right. Its just a gyp. They come up with an impossible outcome, and mentally associate it in your minds with this aircraft business. They have the verdict of death against nuclear in their back pocket already.

    We’ve got to get moving with this. We want a 50 year tax exemption for energy production so that the investors will be confident with the big projects. Maybe even with solarising stretches of road. The power lines are already there on either side of the road. But definitely with nuclear. I would say with syngas and liquified coal as well.

    Such a long-term tax exemption is no windfall for the bigshots. Since it will lead to over-capitalisation and massive price falls from then on. Now if after 50 years we find there really is a serious hydro-carbon problem one could extend the exemption for renewables and nuclear and just let the hydrocarbons fall into disuse. Thats not going to happen that we find some CO2 problem. But if we did we could handle it this way.

  53. Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

    PS: My (then) 5 year year old nearly died from Leukaemia back in 2004. Nasty business. He’s OK now 5 years on, but I’ll never be the same. 7 months on the Oncology ward at Westmead hospital changes you. The lack of sleep, being around so many other dying kids, seeing the fear in your own eyes mirrored in friends and family eyes… the sheer lack of sleep with the midnight blood work and the constant noise… the machine that goes ‘ping’. It changes you. It was partly that experience that propelled me into peak oil activism.

    If the following statistics are true, then I just can’t imagine many parents going for nuclear.

    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=9422

    ON LINE opinion – Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate
    The medical and economic costs of nuclear power

    By Helen Caldicott
    Posted Monday, 14 September 2009

    Jennifer Nordstrom, co-ordinator of the Carbon-Free Nuclear-Free project has noted “Telling states to build new nuclear plants to combat global warming is like telling a patient to smoke to lose weight.”

    A recent study sponsored by the German government (the KiKK study – Kaatsch P, Spix C, Schultze-Rath R, et al. Leukemia in young children living in the vicinity of German nuclear power plants. Int J Cancer. 2008; 1220:721-726,) examined children who lived near 16 of the country’s commercial nuclear power plants. The results revealed a strongly increased risk of all childhood cancers, particularly leukaemia, the closer the proximity of the children’s residence to the reactor. In particular, the study found that children less than the age five years, living within a 5km radius of the power plant exhaust stacks were more than twice as likely to develop leukaemia compared with those children residing more that 5km away. The KiKK team studied other carcinogenic factors which may be responsible for the cancer clusters but none were found.

    [Ed: {SNIP} As I said earlier, don't reproduce whole articles in comments]

  54. PS: My (then) 5 year year old nearly died from Leukaemia back in 2004. Nasty business. He’s OK now 5 years on, but I’ll never be the same. 7 months on the Oncology ward at Westmead hospital changes you. The lack of sleep, being around so many other dying kids, seeing the fear in your own eyes mirrored in friends and family eyes… the sheer lack of sleep with the midnight blood work and the constant noise… the machine that goes ‘ping’. It changes you. It was partly that experience that propelled me into peak oil activism.

    If the following statistics are true, then I just can’t imagine many parents going for nuclear.

    Nor should they, if the statistics were true. They aren’t, of course.

    Recall, or learn, that (1) it’s not just nuclear utility employees who keep their families nearby. On-site regulators do so too.

    Also, (2) the quoted claims are like saying children are getting altitude sickness because fossil fuel revenue-threatening powerplants have raised the terrain 1 inch. The topography varies by much more than that.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  55. I think you’ll have to do more work to debunk these studies than a silly metaphor like that.

    I think you’ll have to do more work to establish that the analogy is silly than just saying so.

    And how is it that we are “you guys”? If fossil fuel money is using a silly old woman to preserve its privilege of killing children by getting her to say, falsely, that the competition does it too, don’t you have some obligation to debunk the phony studies it uses?

    Answer this honestly, now: do you think, if those “researchers” had found places within 5 km of nuclear power stations where, due to the high variability of small samples, a sample had fewer leukemias than expected, they would acknowledge this? Or would they find it more rewarding just to exclude that sample, and never mention doing so?

    After all, from their point of view, there’s obviously something wrong with it …

    (Secrets for sale)

  56. I’m likely unsure why we are referred to as ‘you guys’. What does this mean? Also, what do you mean ‘hit the airwaves’? I’m doing that already.

    As to the Caldicott article, let me put it this way. You live in Australia, Eclipsenow, and so there is no chance that your child developed leukaemia as a result of nuclear power. Yet, if you had happened to live within a few miles of a nuclear power plant in the US, Caldicott would have assured you that this was the cause. That is the nature of her deception, just as is her discussion of a 1-in-a-billion meltdown event as thought it where the only event that could ever occur.

  57. It’s also remotely possible, Barry, that if you live in a less developed country and you immunise yourself and your child against the major diseases there that you may suffer a negative side effect –perhaps even a seriously life-altering one.

    Doubtless anyone would feel dreadful if they were this unfortunate but in this as in all things, a calculus applies. Which risks are you trading? Soundly conceived risk management does not ensure good outcomes for all who adopt it, but it predisposes them making it irrational not to follow it whenever this is possible.

  58. Fran #76 and others,

    The risks of nuclear accidents are negligible compared with other industrial accidents. And, yes, the consequences are too.

    Could I suggest you and other readers look again, and carefully, at the two charts in the article at the top of the thread “Wind and carbon emissions – Peter Lang responds”. If you want more on the risks, the ExternE study is one of the most thorough and authoritative studies on the matter.

  59. The risks of nuclear accidents are negligible compared with other industrial accidents. And, yes, the consequences are too.

    Precisely my point. Risk is everywhere. Those of us who do well in life by and large make rational well-informed choices about the risks that are acceptable, eschewing activities where the risks are relatively unacceptable compared with other alternative options.

    It is certain that large numbers of people will suffer if coal continues to be mined, transported and burned. It is certain that orders of magnitude fewer people per unit of power will suffer if the power produced by the burning of coal is undertaken by resort to the best available nuclear power. Unless there is some other option that is as good as nuclear power in a given setting, all things considered, resort to nuclear power is sound risk management.

  60. Couldn’t agree more with Fran et al re making rational choices whilst being aware of the potential risks. What better example than getting in the car everyday, knowing the risk of death or disability is high, by comparison with other modes of transport, but deciding convenience is more important. The risk of us dying, or becoming ill, from living near nuclear power pales into insignificence! However, the risk of ill health/death of ourselves and our children, from the effects of AGW on the planet’s systems, is extremely high if we continue to burn fossil fuel or rely only on alternative energy to power our civilisation. Nuclear power provides the best chance for the survival of the planet, in a habitable form for the human race, and to maximise biodiversity.

  61. And remember, we are talking about an additional radiation exposure in the realm of 0.0002 mSv for those living near a nuclear power plant, versus a background level of 2 to 4 mSv (depending on where you live) due to everything from cosmic rays to ground-derived radon emission to eating bananas (this last one gives you more radiation than the NPP). That’s 1/15,000 of your total yearly dosage from nuclear power (in the US). Living near a coal-fired power station would give you 100 to 300 times more radiation exposure than living next to a nuclear power plant, and even that is trivial and not the reason coal burning is damaging to your health. To consider the annual radiation caused by routine emissions from nuclear power stations as anything dangerous is a gross form of public deception.

  62. Eclipsenow @ 69
    How horrendous for your child and your family to go through such a distressing period while being treated for leukaemia. I sincerely hope your son continues to be well.
    However:-
    Helen Caldicot is disingenuous. She clings to her outdated beliefs despite being aware of subsequent research into new gen NP.
    Barry says it all @ 80. Unfortunately the general public (and Helen Caldicot?I don’t think so!) have no idea of the everyday radiation we are all exposed to, and why would they since most of us seem to suffer no ill effects from naturally occuring background levels of 2 to 4 mSv.
    Our best hope of protecting our children from the horrors of societal meltdown, and ensuing ill health and death, due to AGW/CC, is to embrace nuclear power.
    Barry -if we live next to a NPP we should give up eating bananas ;)

  63. Eclipsenow,
    this data is less convincing than it may seem.
    Studies of this kind are many. Some find a (normally small) correlation, some don’t.

    You’d think in our civilized world, and given the importance of the issue, someone would take the trouble to collect ALL data: the location of every leukemia case recorded, or as many as possible; then get a celebrity international team, with researchers who have a reputation to lose, to work on it; then publish – not merely a “paper” but rather a book, with all the raw data and all methodology and analysis, for everyone to scrutinize.

    Instead, the work proceeds in bits and pieces. A research team, one of dozens, grabs what data they can get, computes some correlations, publishes some of them. In this KiKK study they compare “within 5 km” to “outside 5 km”. In another, it will be something else. When correlation is positive (higher leukemia near reactors), there’s a higher chance to get published. Zero correlation, that’s less interesting. Negative correlation will be dismissed as fluke or error, no chance to get published.

    The total gets skewed towards a positive correlation.

    Furthermore. A researcher finding zero correlation, might seek more data – with luck, new data happens to make the correlation positive. Or he could put aside some of the data. There are always reasons to believe/disbelieve some of the data more/less. Evaluation of these reasons is not exact science. Researcher is under pressure to get a publication out, having invested the effort into data collection. With negative correlation he won’t get it out. With zero, some chance. With positive, better chance.

    There needn’t be a conscious choice on the part of the researcher to fudge data. He can believe sincerely his reasons to set some data aside. Alas, when he was evaluating these reasons, he was subconsciously influenced by his expectations of what the correlation should be. Note that a person believing in positive correlation is more likely to be working in this line of work.

    With the above in mind, when I see this (from your link):
    Another large study (Baker PJ, Hoel DG. Meta-analysis of standardized incidence and mortality rates of childhood leukemia in proximity to nuclear facilities. Eur J Cancer Care. 2007:16:355-363) – a meta-analysis of the incidence and mortality rates of childhood leukaemia in children living near 138 nuclear facilities in Britain, Canada, Spain, Germany, the US and Japan also demonstrated a statistically significant rate of leukaemia in children less than nine years of age.

    — I interpret it thus: there is a slight positive correlation (“statistically significant” formally speaking can mean anything from slight to giaint correlation; however were it more than a slight correlation, the wording would be different.) It could result from selective publishing, as described above.

    Alternatively, the correlation could be real. There are reasons for it other than radiation. I’d bet there are a lot of things being different for children living that close (5 km and closer) to nuclear (or any other) plants, compared to children living over 5 km away from industry.

    But, Caldicott says (about another study, KiKK): “The KiKK team studied other carcinogenic factors which may be responsible for the cancer clusters but none were found.”
    Fine. “None were identified with any certainty,” that’s what it means. (Of those they bothered to check for.) It doesn’t mean “all and any other factors were excluded” — to do so is impossible. Not just because there are too many, but also because some factors always come together. Like, living 5 km from n.p. plant and living not far from heavy industry and probably not far from a big city (but, not IN a big city!)

    The KiKK study seems to stand out also in that it “found strongly increased risk”, rather than just being “statistically significant”. Let’s believe “strongly” means “strongly”. Even then, so what. She has picked one study from among hundreds.

    Finally, why this focus on the correlation between proximity to plant and leukemia? It is more straightforward to see if total radioactivity in an area, including natural radioactivity, correlates with leukemia. Natural background variation is much larger than the contribution by n.p. plants. But this analysis stays low-key, because it shows no higher correlation than the leukemia-to-proximity correlations, and that over radioactivity variations that are orders of magnitude larger. Not what spin-doctors want.

  64. But, let’s be prudent and assume the correlation is real.
    How many leukemia cases per reactor per year that amounts to? How many deaths?

    ***
    From Wikipedia, statistical significance:
    A common misconception is that a statistically significant result is always of practical significance[...] Given a sufficiently large sample, extremely small and non-notable differences can be found to be statistically significant…

  65. Be interesting to see how Masdar goes with only renewable energy.

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

    Of course, if everything you guys say is right shouldn’t this project just crash and burn? ;-)

    “Renewable resources

    Masdar will employ a variety of renewable power sources. Among the first construction projects will be a 40 to 60 megawatt solar power plant, built by the German firm Conergy, which will supply power for all other construction activity.[9][16] This will later be followed by a larger facility, and additional photovoltaic modules will be placed on rooftops to provide supplemental solar energy totalling 130 megawatts. Wind farms will be established outside the city’s perimeter capable of producing up to 20 megawatts, and the city intends to utilise geothermal power as well.[9][17] In addition, Masdar plans to host the world’s largest hydrogen power plant.[6]

    Water management has been planned in an environmentally-sound manner as well. A solar-powered desalination plant will be used to provide the city’s water needs, which is stated to be 60 percent lower than similarly sized communities.[6] Approximately 80 percent of the water used will be recycled and waste water will be reused “as many times as possible,” with this greywater being used for crop irrigation and other purposes.[9][13]

    The city will also attempt to reduce waste to zero. Biological waste will be used to create nutrient-rich soil and fertiliser, and some may also be utilised through waste incineration as an additional power source. Industrial waste, such as plastics and metals, will be recycled or re-purposed for other uses.[13]“

  66. For those enamoured with the analyses of Dr Mark Diesendorf, and who make claims that they are a dispassionate view of low carbon energy options, read no further than his recent comment on Opinion Online:

    Several commentators have made the invalid assumption that we have to choose between nuclear power and coal. To the contrary, the real choice is between dirty and dangerous energy sources (coal and nuclear) on one hand and sustainable energy sources on the other. Sustainable energy includes the myriad of technologies and practices of efficient energy use, solar hot water, wind power, solar thermal power with thermal storage, solar PV, and very soon hot rock geothermal power. We already have the technologies to begin a rapid transition to a 100% renewable electricity system, given the political will. Last year, the technology that added the most generating capacity to the European grid was wind power. Further down the track are wave and ocean current power.

    Sustainable energy technologies and the policies needed to implement them are discussed in my book Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy (UNSW Press, 2007). However, federal and state governments in Australia have been captured by the Greenhouse Mafia and are failing to implement the necessary policies. Strategies and tactics for the climate action movement to overcome government inertia are discussed in my new book Climate Action: A Campaign Manual for Greenhouse Solutions (UNSW Press, 2009).

    By insinuation, I am part of the ‘Greenhouse Mafia’ because I am advocating a ‘dirty and dangerous energy source’. Give me a break, whatever credibility he had left in my mind is now gone.

    Eclipsenow, there is a test that Masdar must pass. It must not be connected to the fossil-fuel-based electricity grid for backup. Is that the case?

  67. Alexi, you’re so called ‘debunking’ of these Leukeamia studies amounts to mere assertions on your part, with absolutely no actual evidence our counter-studies. EG:

    “Instead, the work proceeds in bits and pieces. A research team, one of dozens, grabs what data they can get, computes some correlations, publishes some of them. In this KiKK study they compare “within 5 km” to “outside 5 km”. In another, it will be something else. When correlation is positive (higher leukemia near reactors), there’s a higher chance to get published. Zero correlation, that’s less interesting. Negative correlation will be dismissed as fluke or error, no chance to get published.”

    I could just as easily counter-assert “No, they’ve published these in the context of countries that LOVE nuclear power and so these are disturbing reports indeed! If anything, there is probably pressure to NOT publish reports of this nature”. It still remains just an assertion, with no evidence either way as to the possible bias in overall reporting. If you’re going to assert a bias on nuclear reporting, how about proving it? Otherwise these reports stand.

  68. Hi Barry,
    I see plenty of passionately anti-renewable anti-wind rans on this blog, and plenty of equally passionate pro-renewables anti-nuclear rants back. Could it be that passion is not the issue here but the truth of the matter is?

    Again, we’ll see how Masdar and Cloncurry and other such baseload renewables places go within the next few years.

    Another potential curve-ball in the technology is Moore’s law in batteries. Never forget that all those pro-nuclear arguments about economies of scale and modular design also apply to the ever-decreasing cost of batteries and battery technologies. Just wait till the exponential growth of EV’s brings REAL demand for super-battery technologies to the table! How soon will batteries be so cheap that every home and business could potentially have their own, as well as every domestic car being fully electric? Old arguments about baseload power supply could one day simply become irrelevant.

  69. EN, Moore’s Law has not operated on batteries to date, and there is no prospect that it will not work in the future, for solid physical science reasons, as John Morgan has previous explained to you. Cloncurry’s solar power towers are not ‘baseload renewables’ as has been previously explained to you by a number of people on this blog, and Masdar has no indication of how it will make use of backup and energy storage to cover its needs. Truth is based on evidence linked to science and engineering, not speculation.

    As to radiation, how can one take these arguments seriously? Can you explain to me how something with adds 0.007% to an existing effect is somehow important, when adding 100 to 300% (or more) to an effect by simply moving from a house build on sedimentary rocks to one built atop granite, or moving from New York to Colorado, is irrelevant.

  70. Eclipse Now #87,

    We don’t have to waqit to “see how Masdar and Cloncurry and other such baseload renewables places go within the next few years.”

    Why don’t you simply look and see how France has been doing for the past 30 odd years. (see: http://air-climate.eionet.europa.eu/docs/meetings/061212_ghg_emiss_proj_ws/FR_power_system_061212.pdf )

    France has the lowest CO2 emissions from electricity generation of any of the EU countries. (see: http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/cI/page_335.shtml )

    On the other hand, the countries with the highest penetration of wind power have the highest emissions.

    Get it?

  71. Barry, you’d better tell Shai Agassi that Moore’s law isn’t working in batteries. He’s basing his whole case for the 2 cents a mile around it (by 2020). He presents a “moore’s law” (of its own speed, maybe slower than the “moore’s law” traditionally thought of in computers) mapped out in the TED talk.

    http://www.abc.net.au/tv/fora/stories/2009/08/14/2656263.htm

    Peter, I’m not responsible for Masdar and Cloncurry being built, or for the fact that the scientific and engineering community seems to enjoy the idea of a diverse supply of clean energy, or that IRENA says we simply CAN do it on renewables.

    It’s not my fault they are building these towns and facilities.

    Get it!?

  72. PS: Peter, that’s a classic case of “Post-Hoc Ergo Propter hoc”.

    Please reconsider such a blunt and flippant argument tactic next time.

    You seem to be implying that because one country might have achieved lower Co2 through the brute force of government subsidies to nuclear power and legislation, that therefore advancing renewable technologies and a more flexible future “Smart Grid” are therefore impossible.

    Simplistic and irrational, but to be expected from the author of a paper that tries to simplify all Solar power costs down to a comparison with solar PV. Blaaargh! Leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

  73. Eclipse Now,

    I can’t believe you actually said this: “…achieved lower Co2 through the brute force of government subsidies to nuclear power and legislation…”

    Do you have any idea of the level of subsidies nuclear generated power is providing to renewables? And the subsidies to coal in Germany?

    Have you any idea that the trend I just mentioned is not just one country. It is across the EU. Did you look at the two links I posted? Did you understand them? (I know the answer to that. You didn’t.)

  74. EclipseNow #91 and Barry Brook #92,

    EclipseNow said:

    Simplistic and irrational, but to be expected from the author of a paper that tries to simplify all Solar power costs down to a comparison with solar PV. Blaaargh! Leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

    Further to Barry’s comment, solar thermal is higher cost than PV and is not yet capable. It is a long way from having the capability. For more on this, refer to the paper “Solar Power Realities – Addendum” and to the references provided in that paper. This paper was prepared to address the very point that you made, Eclipse Now.

  75. Apologies Peter, I forgot about the Addendum. However I’m only too aware of the subsidies to coal etc, and find it revolting and illogical. I’m totally with you on that one.

    The main comment I am trying to make is that the future smart grid is an evolving set of various components where incremental advances in a variety of technologies has overlapping benefits to other technologies. So “Better Place” means 50 thousand cars becomes a gigawatt of “grid smoothing” and storage, but also means there’s an exponential increase in wind power bringing down the per unit cost. That’s just cars + wind, let alone increases in battery life, new CSP materials, new CSP fluids or solids for storing heat energy, etc.

    I remain agnostic about which energy mix will come to dominate. The passion for nuclear on this blog seems to take anecdotal evidence from past energy regimes as normative for all time, where these things are actually fluid and changing as we scan the immediate future, let alone advances 10 years out.

    Also, I can’t keep up with all the competing claims. Just yesterday Beyond Zero were interviewing another wind author saying the American grid could easily accommodate 50% wind penetration. How was he proposing they deal with intermittency? A super-grid? I don’t know… and don’t have time to investigate it, but it is another claim that is ‘out there’.

    So again, you guys have a real fight on your hands if your energy policy is the only viable solution. You’ll need professionally produced movies that can demolish the upbeat, sexy claims of movies like the following.

    http://thefuelfilm.com/

  76. Eclipsenow, agreed, forget my rant and let’s have a rigorous argument.
    Where do you stand? From the data available to us, how many deaths, how many non-lethal cancers, among children under 5, per reactor-year?

  77. Meanwhile, here’s what I found.
    One analysis, over Germany 1980 to 2003, works out at 30 early cancers per 21 reactors (?-or plants?) in 23 years.
    That’s under 0.1 cancer per plant per year.
    Another, over several countries, works out to one-tenth as much.

    German study – sources:
    Kaatsch P, Spix C, Schulze-Rath R, Schmiedel S, Blettner M. Leukaemia in young children living in the vicinity of German nuclear power plants. Int J Cancer (2007), doi:10.1002/ijc.23330.
    Spix C, Schmiedel S, Kaatsch P, Schulze-Rath R, Blettner M. Case-Control Study on Childhood Cancer in the Vicinity of Nuclear Power Plants in Germany 1980-2003. Eur J Cancer (2007), doi :10.1016/j.ejca.2007.10.024. 2007

    As summarized by timeforchange.org:
    –According to the normal statistical values, there should have been 48 cases of cancer and 17 cases of leukemia within the above mentioned circle of 5 km around the atomic power plants.
    –However there were 77 cases of cancer (60% more than expected) and 37 cases of leukemia (117% more than expected).
    –A person directly involved in the study mentioned to Spiegel online, that there might be a higher risk for leukemia even within a circle of 50 km around nuclear power plants.

    Second study, as relayed at http://www.salem-news.com:
    Study authors were epidemiologist Joseph Mangano MPH MBA, Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project and toxicologist Janette Sherman MD of the Environmental Institute at Western Michigan University. They analyzed leukemia deaths in children age 0-19 in the 67 counties near 51 nuclear power plants starting 1957-1981 (the same counties in the NCI study). About 25 million people live in these 67 counties, and the 51 plants represent nearly half of the U.S. total).

    Using mortality statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mangano and Sherman found that in 1985-2004, the change in local child leukemia mortality (vs. the U.S.) compared to the earliest years of reactor operations were:

    * An increase of 13.9% near nuclear plants started 1957-1970 (oldest plants)
    * An increase of 9.4% near nuclear plants started 1971-1981 (newer plants)
    * A decrease of 5.5% near nuclear plants started 1957-1981 and later shut down

  78. Alexi #97 and EclipseNow,

    I haven’t been following this discussion so may be about to suggest something that you have already gone way beyond. Did you see the figure comparing deaths per TWh from various electricity generation trechnologies. The figure is included in the “Wind and carbon emissions – Peter Lang responds” thread. The link to the source is included. It is a presentation of data from the ExternE study.

  79. Peter, Eclipsenow barged in with his private tragedy, child lost to an early cancer. He reckoned parents would never allow nuclear power, for this reason. Some people responded including myself, he wasn’t impressed. That’s where we are now.

    There is a controversy here. Eclipsenow referred to Caldicott and to what I would call “correlation” studies.
    I just found one such study, their numbers work out to about 0.1 early cancers (not necessarily lethal) per reactor-year; compared to areas away from reactors, 60% higher for all early cancers, 117% higher for leukemia.

    But reactors’ impact on the total radiation levels is minute, as Barry pointed out. Just 0.1%. So reactors shouldn’t be responsible for more than 0.1% of all early cancers in their vicinity – even assuming that all these cancers are due to (natural or man-made) radiation.

    Admittedly there may exist some way for reactors to cause cancers by means other than radiation. Highly unlikely, but who knows! I’d say these correlations are way more likely to be due to confounding factors – but selling this to Eclipsenow may be tough.

  80. “your so called ‘debunking’ of these Leukeamia studies amounts to mere assertions”
    (Eclipsenow)

    Admittedly, Eclipsenow, your references were not debunked by us here. But they were thrown into doubt. Barry pointed out how hard are they to reconcile with other knowledge: reactors’ contribution to the radiation levels is too small. I pointed out a plausible mechanism whereby those studies could have gove off.

    In response, you proposed a mechanism that could do the reverse — produce a systematic bias in the other direction. You imagine that the two, yours and mine, cancel each other out. No. Were none of the two available, it would be hard to imagine these studies being wrong. With both present, it is easier to imagine them wrong, in either direction. While the two mechanisms MAY cancel each other out, they also MAY NOT.

    What deserves debunking, and can easily be debunked, is your interpretation of these studies. How can I claim that? While I cannot know the details of your reasoning, I know your conclusion – that n.p. is unnaceptable. This conclusion doesn’t follow from those studies, taken collectively. Even looking at them one by one, I challenge you to point out any one of them that supports that conclusion.

    How do I know, not even having read them? Because I know Dr. Caldicott’s agenda and spinning skills. Whatever in those studies serves her agenda, would be quoted, embellished, spinned for best advantage. I read her story that you linked to. Then I read up on just one study, the one she made the most fuss about. I found 0.1 cancer cases per reactor per year. That’s the best she could find to support her case. End of story.

  81. I’m sorry, but to even *begin* to understand how repulsively TRITE your arguments sound to someone who has spent a few years on a kids cancer ward, I suggest you go do the same.

    “I found 0.1 cancer cases per reactor per year.”

    Yeah, nice way to spin it. Just flow your hypothetical numbers out to infinity and then retro-spin them back to minimise childhood Leukaemia deaths to “0.1 cancer cases per reactor year”. My boy is not a 0.1 anything, get it?

    Now I’m aware that coal does the same crap, and that this could just as easily have come from coal. All the more reason to head into a CLEAN renewable energy era. If it costs a *bit* more, so be it. I think the public will put up with that.

    (And Peter Lang’s “20 times more expensive” still sounds ridiculous when solar thermal can be backed up with Co2 free biogas. And Barry, “PV == CST” just ain’t so when there are so many ways of both storing heat and even alternative means of generating heat for those few days we need to.)

    The image problem is that you’re pushing something with connotations to bombs, radiation poisoning, childhood cancers, nuclear waste, nuclear accidents, terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

    Renewables draws upon the imagery of blue skies and fresh breezes and the ocean spray. I mean, the “Fuel” movie even has a guy tasting algae fuel and claiming it tastes like peanut oil! Gonna take a nice sip of Mox to demonstrate the health benefits? Give me a break.

  82. Eclipsenow, it is extremely unlikely that, given the absolutely miniscule additional radiation above background level that a nuclear plant puts out at the site perimeter, any of the cancer clusters resulted from radiation exposure.

    If you insist that there must be a connection, the only reasonable one I can think of (and it’s not very reasonable, given the tiny radiation levels involved) is that there are likely less coal emissions near nuclear plants, so on average in the industrialised world, those places are likely to be slightly less radioactive than places near coal plants. As the radiation hormesis effect is pretty well established, the extra radiation from coal may actually confer some protection against the development of cancer. I don’t believe it though… the effect is likely far too small either way.

  83. The image problem is that you’re pushing something with connotations to bombs, radiation poisoning, childhood cancers, nuclear waste, nuclear accidents, terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

    The image problem is, you poisoned your own child (Munchausen by proxy). Fortunately he recovered. Did you stop poisoning him when the oil companies stopped paying you?

    Isn’t this fun? One can say anything if one says one isn’t saying it, just acknowledging that it’s being said, somewhere … somewhere out there… as an image problem.

    When I asked you to answer a question of mine honestly, a question that did not seek facts, but rather a declaration of your own beliefs, why did you avoid giving any answer at all?

    (Secrets for sale)

  84. EclipseNow,

    You said

    Now I’m aware that coal does the same crap, and that this could just as easily have come from coal. All the more reason to head into a CLEAN renewable energy era. If it costs a *bit* more, so be it. I think the public will put up with that.

    Why do you believe this?

    Why do you believe that renewable energy is only a “bit” more costly than nuclear?

    What do you believe the cost of that “bit” more would be in deaths per head of population? Have yoyu considered that?

    Why do you believe renewables are cleaner than nuclear? Have you looked into it? Are you aware of the orders of magnitude greater quantities that are required for renewables to provide the equivalent of nuclear’s energy output? Do you recognise that all of these materials must be mined, transported, processed, transported, milled, transported, fabricated, transported, constructed, transported, maintained, ongoing transport requirement, decommissioned, transported, disposed of transported? Do you understand the amounts of toxic material released to the environment in all those process? Do you realise how much greater they are for r4enewables than for nuclear?

    Lastely, and most importantly, do you know would be the total deaths and health effects from renewables compared with nuclear for a system to provide our electrcity generation.

    Could I suggest that you attempt to partition the analysis of the electricty generation options from the emotional response to your admittedly dreadful personal experience.

  85. Eclipse now, how do I divine your meaning?
    “Just flow your hypothetical numbers out to infinity and then retro-spin them back to minimise childhood Leukaemia deaths to “0.1 cancer cases per reactor year”. ”
    I did as told. Well, I tried. Nothing happened.
    What are YOUR numbers?

    “My boy is not a 0.1 anything, get it?”
    I am only trying to give everyone – including your boy – a better chance. Why not work together. What are your numbers?

  86. Cowan, dry up. Nuclear has all sorts of interesting image problems in the mass culture and case studies like these. Some of your pro-nuclear friends above even admit they will not read ANY reports referred to by Caldicott. Way to demonstrate an objective approach to the data!

    In the meantime I wake up and hear ABC news reports to the effect that Italian Mafia have been dumping radioactive waste straight into the ocean. Talk about an image problem! (Yes human greed and cost-saving is an issue across all technologies, but applied to nuclear it just ain’t pretty.)

    So rather than pretending I’m referring to some mythical slander out there in the culture, how about addressing the actual papers involved and leave my son out of it?

    ****
    Barry, can you please delete everything from this line and following and delete the offensive crap from Cowan’s post above?

    The image problem is, you poisoned your own child (Munchausen by proxy). Fortunately he recovered. Did you stop poisoning him when the oil companies stopped paying you?

    Barry, this is too much. What kind of retarded and personally offensive attack is this? What place does this have on this list? This is a new low for this list, and that’s coming from someone who once made some fairly strong statements against Mike Stasse’s doomerism.

    Don’t forget I warned Mr Stasse of the potential outcomes of pushing his doomer philosophy, I was on his email list, and then met up with the father after that tragedy. I was INVOLVED!

    Mr Cowan has just made unbelievably strong accusations without ever knowing me personally or being involved. I understand he was trying to make a flippant little point about “people not really saying these things” but as I already pointed out, he should be directing his Munchausen’s comments to the ABC this morning as they are the “nobodies” spreading these anti-nuclear memes this morning. Please delete Cowan’s comments and mine from the asterisks down.

  87. Sorry I blundered in #99. The boy lives! “Nearly lost” perhaps, but definitely not “lost”. My apologies to Eclipsenow, and to anyone I might’ve misled.

    Also a blunder in #97. Not “several countries”, but 67 U.S. counties.

  88. Concerning the controversy:
    GRL Cowan clearly meant to give an example of absurd, out-of-thin-air, unsubstantiated assertion.
    Understood thus, the comment is not at all offensive. Cowan (or Barry? – whomever Eclipsenow’s challenge is aimed at) can “stand by it” without descending to a “new low”.

    I wouldn’t stand by it, though, for another reason. I disagree with Cowan’s point. Eclipse correctly indicated existing image problems for n.p. Whether based in reality or not, image problems for nuclear power do exist.

    ***
    Eclipsenow, will you please start answering at least some of the questions other commenters ask of you?

  89. I don’t have to answer a thing here. It makes no difference what I think. You’re the ones proposing nuclear power is the answer, so you’re the ones with the burden of proof in debunking these papers to the general public.

    You can rant all you want about Caldicott’s writing, but the papers she quotes will seem more solid to the court of public opinion. And after the wonderfully *sensitive* comments about childhood cancer above, as they say, good luck with that.

    Barry’s in the media a fair bit, and if this Munchausen’s retort gets out in the context of a public interview, it’s game over.

  90. Eclipsenow,

    On nuclear power PR, I absolutely agree with you, there is a huge image problem to overcome, certainly in Australia, and I presume elsewhere. There’s a lot of work to do to counter a lot of misinformation out there, which is one reason I try to engage these discussions. Hopefully the fact that a lot of the discussion is now being driven by environmentalists unconnected to the nuclear industry will at least get some information past the ‘its all an evil capitalist corporate conspiracy to poison us for profits’ types.

    On the reactor epidemiology study, this reminds me of studies on cancers from living near high tension power lines, or using cell phones. The pattern is similar, an invisible miasma orders of magnitude smaller than the environmental background that sometimes shows up in a population study, but not always, and has no physiological mechanism for causing the purported effects. Reports of a measured effect must be treated with a high level of skepticism, and in the epidemiological literature, rightly are.

    On Moore’s Law and batteries, I did have a quick look for historical trends in battery power densities and energy densities but came up short, though the information is out there. My expectation is that advances will be depressingly linear, not exponential. But even just googling ‘Moore’s law for batteries’ throws up as the first result an explanation from a battery manufacturer as to why Moore’s law doesn’t work for batteries:

    “.. Battery technology can not keep up with Moore’s Law in the same way semiconductors can. Batteries are miniature chemical engineering plants, producing electrons at the expense of electrochemical reactions with their own behavior and as such, these active systems do not scale in the same manner as passive semiconductors. This is because battery technology is a prisoner of physics, the periodic table, manufacturing technology and economics. ..”

    This is very close to what I wrote earlier on this topic. That line about being a prisoner of physics and the periodic table, thats real.

    If Agassi did indeed predicate his business model on the operation of Moore’s law on battery technology, I would regard that as a reason for being very skeptical of his plans, since it would display a failure to grasp critical factors in technology evolution.

  91. http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,26083777-2682,00.html

    SOUTH Australia would need to rely on nuclear power to meet its green energy targets if predicted problems with solar, wind and geothermal alternatives come to pass.

    The Government released its 33 per cent green power target in the State Budget.

    However, an independent report by consultants McLennan Magasanik Associates, commissioned to set the target, shows nuclear power would be “likely” if geothermal could not deliver its promises, wind reached its limits, and solar stations proved too remote to be cost effective.

    “The adoption of nuclear power as a solution seems a low-probability scenario that is only likely if geothermal power does not live up to its promise, wind power reaches its limits and solar thermal power is constrained,” the report states.

    Geothermal Energy Association chief executive Susan Jeanes said the public should be aware that nuclear power was an option for future electricity if the development of geothermal continued to be disadvantaged in Federal Government development funding.

    The State Government has rejected nuclear power as not economically viable.

    However, the Liberal Party’s annual convention last month voted in support of a debate on the topic.

    And without increased interstate electricity connectors driven by geothermal or nuclear power, a renewable target of only 30 per cent would be reachable, the McLennan Magasanik report has found.

    University of Adelaide climate change expert Professor Barry Brook said the report, given to the Department of Premier and Cabinet, made it clear nuclear power would be necessary because wind, solar and geothermal energy would not live up to expectations in future decades.

    “The opinion is significant because it reveals a high degree of uncertainty about energy planning and unless we look critically at that we don’t know what are the best options,” he said.

    He said his research suggested that the predicted problems with wind, solar and geothermal were “more likely than not to occur”.

    “It is a dangerous and short-sighted strategy to plan ahead without having in mind nuclear power as an alternative ,” he said.

  92. Hi John,
    On the reactor epidemiology study, this reminds me of studies on cancers from living near high tension power lines, or using cell phones.
    Harry’s specialist, a world leader in childhood Leukaemia research, assured us that power lines etc were completely within the bounds of normal probability EG: The normal rate of Leukaemia might be something like 14 per 100 thousand people and then families living under powerlines might be 15 or 16 per 100 thousand people. Not “statistically significant”. But imagine if it were 30 or 32 per 100 thousand, consistently, within 5km around nuclear power plants? The report indicates double the rates of childhood cancers under 5 years within 5 km. According to those reports, it IS a “statistically significant” issue, and laden with emotional baggage people just don’t want to go near.

    Hi Barry,
    The State Government has rejected nuclear power as not economically viable.

    Do you know what this is based on?

  93. EN: http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,,25821928-5006301,00.html

    Uranium-mining champion Premier Mike Rann is almost as adamant. “Neither National ALP policy, nor the State Government would embrace Rio’s reported position,” he says.

    “I’ve spent a great deal of time with resources and energy industries, including uranium mining companies. No one has ever proposed nuclear power for SA. We do not have the population to sustain that level of baseload power.

    “In any case, it would massively force up the price of electricity in South Australia.”

    So Rann’s view is that it would produce too much baseload power. Hmmmm, gets me thinking about this thing call the National Electricity Market, another thing call mine expansions, another thing called desalination, and finally, small reactors. One can but work at overturning misconceptions.

  94. Interestingly barry, one of the people writing his opinion stated that he’d only support nukes if they weren’t those old outdated ones but 5th generation …

    Why settle for 3rd or even 4th?

    he’s a slacker. give me 10th gen or give me nothing …

    ;-)

  95. 10th gen… that’s Bussard’s Polywell Fusion running anything from super-jumbo’s to mega-tankers? ;-)

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

    Sign me up for that! I’ll even throw in a few 4th gen just to eat the old waste and nuclear warheads in a productive manner. In fact, I’d be happy for America, France & Russia to go ahead and get on with the 3rd gen mox reactors as a matter of dealing with the waste they’ve already created. Better than letting the stuff just sit there till kingdom come.

    But I’m still agnostic as to how economical nuclear power will be as renewables are refined into the super-sized-smart-systems grids of the future. “Better Place” subsidising gigawatts of grid smoothing as part of the car market is just one example. Who knows what some kid in a laboratory is cooking up with new super-cap materials? Who knows how geothermal, CETO, OTEC, and solar-updraft towers (rain, hail, or shine, summer or winter) will scale economically? Maybe a *bit* more expensive than nuclear but no waste issues, no proliferation, no terrorism issues, etc. In other words, politically viable.

  96. Rann seems to like being half pregnant. He supports the mining front end of the nuclear fuel cycle but not the important part, electrical generation. He may be confusing SA’s nameplate windpower (800 MW?) with average output. That power is conspicuously lacking in the height of summer when ETSA plans to turn off air conditioners by remote control. It was thought necessary to create a second gas pipeline to Victoria to back up the dwindling Cooper Basin. That gas feeds the 1280 MW steam cycle plant in Adelaide. Leigh Creek coal (780 MW at Pt Augusta) has another 30 years but is very poor quality. Sunny SA I believe has 2,000 rooftop PV systems; you’d think it would have 200,000. Geothermal (Petratherm and Geodynamics) isn’t working out.

    Then there’s the problem of finding 690 MW for Olympic Dam. That’s presumably the average power requirement that can’t be postponed to when the wind is blowing. I suggest Mr Rann you won’t last long as the premier of a very dry and energy starved State.

  97. I was confused by Eclipsenow, on leukemia. Maybe others were too.
    He argues two propositions:
    1. This is an image problem. (true)
    2. This is a real problem. (false)

    (admittedly “image problem” is also real, in a sense. And admittedly statistics can never give us a strict upper bound. Early cancers MAY CONCEIVABLY be a real problem. But, applying the same standard as we apply to everything else, we should be happy to live with this rather remote possibility.)

    He also misleadingly insisted that we “debunk” the papers. Impossible and unnecessary. All we need, explore what the papers really say.

    Then compare to what Caldicott says (referred to by Eclipsenow’s #69). “Strong” effect – yes, in percentage terms, “strong”; but it’s 77 early cancer cases where statistically 48 were expected! Over whole of Germany, 400+ reactor-years! (under 0.1 per reactor-year.) That’s the study she cherry-picked as her Exhibit A (she calls it “KiKK”) Then she quotes other studies, no longer saying “strong” – presumably because she can’t – but mentioning “statistical significance”. Yes, but statistical significance of what? Of, I guess, something between 0.01 and 0.03 cases per reactor-year?

    And we don’t have a clue where the cases came from! KiKK checked for “known carcinogens”. How far did they go with their minuscule sample, 29 cases against 48 as background? Did they check for “being in the social category of people living within 5 km from nuclear plant”? “Living not far from heavy industry”? Etc etc.

    PS: note the insinuation in #114. “Imagine … were consistently…” Implying, that it is indeed consistent. It isn’t. How I am sure? Because Caldicott would’ve told us.

  98. Pingback: Radiation – facts, fallacies and phobias « BraveNewClimate.com

  99. Sorry, a blunder in #119. Second-last paragraph.
    “Check for known carcinogens” they could just fine. Smallness of the sample is no problem.

    That shot misfires, and I didn’t need it in the first place. They checked, in effect, that nuclear plants are “clean”, at least as far as known carcinogens go. This bit is on our side.

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