SNE 2060 – thermal reactor build rates, uranium use and cost

Read this for the context.

The first set of scenarios looks at the possible build out of Gen II+/III/III+ thermal reactors (i.e., current and advanced water-moderated reactors: PWRsBWRsHWRs etc.), over a 50 year time frame (2011 to 2060). The focus of this exercise is not to predict which reactor type(s) will predominate. In the next 1-2 decades, I suspect (given current and announced installation schedules) that it will be dominated by a mix of monolithic designs, such as the AP1000, APR-1400, CPR-1000, EPR, ABWR, PHWR, VVER-1000, as well as some small modular reactors like the mPower and NuScale.

The starting installed capacity in 2010 is set at 376 GW (all power rates are expressed as electrical rather than thermal output). The projection model is based on 5-year blocks (2011-2015, 2016-2020, etc.), for which a growth rate (multiplier) is specified, through to 2056-2060. Four scenarios are considered:

1. NCOL: WNA Nuclear Century Outlook (NCO) Low (anchoring to 602 GW in 2030 and 1140 GW in 2060)

2. NCOH: WNA High scenario (1350 GW in 2030, 3688 GW in 2060)

3. TR1: A mid-growth scenario that tracks between NCO Low and High, but which peaks at around 2050 and slowly declines thereafter

4. TR2: A high-growth scenario that is identical to NCO High through to 2030, after which the relative growth rate slows only gradually (absolute number of GW per year continues to increase).

The following table summarises the four scenarios:

Here is a plot of the four scenarios, in terms of GW of installed capacity, for the period 2011 to 2030 (recall that NCOH and TR2 are identical for this period):

Extending the projections for another 30 years, through to 2060, we get this:

As you can see, the TR2 scenario reaches nearly 10,000 GW (10 TW) by 2060, so is obviously highly ambitious. But it matches the probable global electricity need, justified here. (The charts are not completely smooth because of the assumption of discrete 5-year blocks, rather than some continuous time function for growth rates.)

Here is a tabulated form:

The remaining energy gaps will be filled by other technologies, including existing coal and gas, fossil fuel plants with CCS, hydro, geothermal and new renewables. I don’t propose to speculate on what their relative proportions might be, although I expect hydro to maintain about its current level and coal to play the largest role through to 2030.

Other parameters:

Annual fuel use is set at 170 tU (tonnes of uranium metal) per gigawatt year (GWy). Sufficient depleted uranium (DU) is assumed to always be available for initial loadings. The annual production of plutonium (Pu) in the spend fuel is set at 0.25 t/GWy. If used in mixed oxide fuel, is is assumed to reduce uranium usage by 15%. For justifications of these parameters, read this.

Capital cost in 2011 is set at $4 billion/GW, and projected to decline linearly to $2 billion/GW by 2031, and fixed thereafter.

This analysis is run on an Excel spreadsheet (download Excel 2010 or Excel 1997-2003 compatible versions). I will continue to update these as I proceed with the modelling. You can use this to add other scenarios, or tinker with other input parameters, create extra plots, etc.

Scenario outputs: The following table summarises the key outcomes of the four scenarios (click it for an enlarged version; the units of columns 2-5 are in tonnes, c6 is GW installed):

Mined uranium ranges from a little greater than today identified reserves of 5.5 Mt (at <$130/kg U), through to over 30 Mt cumulative use by 2060. Between 9 and 45 kt of Pu will exist in the used thermal reactor fuel by 2060 — this has significant implications for later projections that involve IFR or LFTR build out schedules. The maximum number of 1-GW plants that would be built in a given year ranges from a low of 23 for the NCOL through to a little over 1 GW a day for TR2 (this peaks in 2040, and has declined to 286 by 2060; the 2030 rate was 130 GW/yr).

Capital costs for the NCOL average at $35 billion/yr for 2011-2030, and $37 B/yr for 2031-2060. For TR2, which has reached a vast capacity of 9,835 GW by 2060, the average cost is $122 B/yr to 2030, and $570 B/yr.

Some justifications:

To put the plausibility of these scenarios under the spotlight, I’ll reiterate what I said here. (These are the real-world facts as they stand).

In the short term, a total of 26 gigawatts (GW) of new nuclear plant will start operation in 13 different countries in the 2010 — 2012 period – that’s within the next 3 years (average reactor size is 880 MW). Nuclear power is being most actively pursued today in China (25 reactors currently under construction), India (4), South Korea (6) and Russia (8), and in terms of forward projections through to 2020, China plans to expand its nuclear generation capacity to 70 GW (up from 8.6 GW in 2010), South Korea to 27.3 GW (up from 17.7 GW), and Russia from 43.3 GW (up from 23.2 GW). Looking further ahead, India’s stated goal is 63 GW by 2032 and 500 GW by 2060, whilst China’s 2030 target is 200 GW, with at least 750 GW by 2050.

The two leading reactor designs now being built in China are the indigenous CPR-1000 and the Westinghouse AP-1000. Reported capital costs are in the range of $US 1,296 to $1,790/kW. Korea has focused attention on its APR-1400 design, with domestic overnight costs of $2,333/kW. A recent contract for $20.4 billion has been signed with Korean consortium KEPCO to build four APR-1400 reactors in the United Arab Emirates, at a turnkey cost of $3,643/kW (i.e., $3.6 billion per GW). This price is notable considering that it is offered under near-FOAK conditions, because these will be the UAE’s first nuclear plants.

——————————-

In the next few SNE2060 posts, I will examine some of these assumptions and constraints in a little more detail, before moving on to Gen IV possibilities. Particularly: (i) Are the build rates implied here plausible?; (ii) Is there enough uranium to fuel the sort of growth in thermal reactors and what will these demand curves do to fuel price? and (iii) What are the implications for repositories for the spent fuel? and (iv) How sensitive are these results to the various assumptions (including the results of some sensitivity analysis).

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73 Comments

  1. Barry:
    . Very interesting.
    BTW, depleted uranium availability is irrelevant for thermal-rector deployment.
    . And I suggest that your10,000-GW TR2 scenario for 2060 is so “ambitious” that it is not at all realistic (if all the reactors are LWRs @170 tonnes of Unat per GW-yr). That implies a mining rate of 1.7 million tonnes of Unat per year, along with enrichment capacity to handle that much input — almost 30 times today’s enrichment capacity — a serious proliferation concern.
    . And by 2060 roughly 25 x 1.7e6 = 42 million tonnes of Unat will have been needed, with another 50 million or so tonnes committed, for a total Unat requirement of something like 90 million tonnes. That’s some 20-30 times today’s estimates of Unat reserves at less than $130 per kilogram.
    . Which anticipates. I’m sure, the point that you will be making later — the world’s energy requirements for the next 100 years and beyond cannot be met without breeders.
    — George

  2. Barry,

    You suggest that, by 2060, it would be desirable(essential?) to be generating 10000 GWe-years of electricity. You go on to suggest that the vast bulk of this will come from once through reactors because iso breeders or breeders won’t be deployable in time to make much difference. It would seem that this is also the position of the UK’s DCC. However, George Stanford is pretty categoric in stating that this level of generation from existing reactor technologies is not even close to being attainable. He thinks, therefore, that you are setting up an Aunt Sally which you can subsequently knock down. While this be be correct, it risks giving ammunition to those who argue that nuclear energy can’t be rolled out in time and that, instead, we must also go hell for leather to roll out all the renewables we can think of.

    If you are as pessimistic about the prospects of timely rollout of 4th generation technology as implied in this post, it seems to me that there will probably be a massive population cull in the next 50 years.

  3. While this be be correct, it risks giving ammunition to those who argue that nuclear energy can’t be rolled out in time and that, instead, we must also go hell for leather to roll out all the renewables we can think of.

    While I have sometimes been critical of Gen IV advocacy which dumps on current NPP designs, I think in this case the criticism is dead right. By mid-century, breeder reactors are going to start looking like a great bargain compared to the Unat extraction infrastructure we would otherwise need.

  4. You have totally misinterpreted the purpose of this projection, Douglas. This current post says nothing about Gen IV rollout. I’m NOT saying that we’ll have 10 TW of once-through nuclear power by 2060. I’m saying that under such a scenario, these are the implications (build rates, uranium use, Pu stockpiles, cost, etc.). Future scenarios will look at alternatives, e.g. large amounts of IFRs and/or LFTRs. I’m quite surprised you missed this fundamental point of this exercise.

    George Stanford has it correct, by contrast. This is anticipating, and a necessary framework, for discussing the role of breeders and converters.

  5. George, note that the rough numbers you calculate for uranium demand in comment #1 are actually already given in the final table of the post. It comes to 30 Mt of U by 2060. The further commitment to about 2100, without breeders, is correct.

  6. It’s now official. UFO’s have been invading earth’s air space at least since the 30′s. Governments having been covering this up for decades. Back engineering downed UFO’s from places like Roswell have advanced our technology and will give a new clean power source beyond anything anyone has openly talked about. So relax, everything will be fine.

  7. Wouldn’t once-through reactors have the same problem as oil refineries do now? Once supply difficulties are on the horizon it may be more prudent to extend the life of existing plants rather than build new ones. The bean counters would look at probable fuel costs, possible electricity prices and whether the whole project payback (capital outlay and desired profit) can be recouped.

    Suppose a new Gen 3 plant took 20 years to make an adequate return on capital. If say by 2040 it looked like available fuel would deplete by 2050 on the then projected growth rates then Gen 3 construction would halt. Existing plant would then use up the remaining fuel but would take longer. Of course electricity prices could rise to make even a short lived Gen 3 plant profitable.

    What I’m trying to say is that new Gen 3 may have outlived its financial attractiveness well before available fuel depletion was imminent. Same reason almost no new conventional oil refineries are being built.

  8. Barry’s rate of increase in NPP capacity seems optimistic for technical reasons but I suspect this will not be the main constraint, given the very unfavorable political situation in the USA and many first world countries.

    When NPPs and renewables fail to keep up with demand it is pretty obvious what will happen. Coal will fill the gap.

  9. Barry,

    I’m delighted that George’s interpretation of your post was the correct one. (You may note that I did admit that it may or may not have been an Aunt Sally).

    However, it would be very easy to interpret your wording to imply that, in your view, we would be unlikely to have access to significant amounts of Gen 4 technology by 2060 (regardless of what you intended to imply). Possible reasons for my misinterpretation are as follows:
    1) Your suggestion a week or two back that several hundred LMRs would probably need to be built before the full IFR saw the light of day.
    2) The UK Department of Climate Change’s recent Pathways Analysis Report, stating that no Generation 4 construction was considered likely up to 2050.
    3) The fact that fears over peak uranium have recently been subsiding and there are those who claim that breeding won’t be necessary to achieve even the high energy scenario from nuclear.

    I accept that, having re-read the final part of your post, your true purpose does become clearer. The sentence that concerned me was this: “I suspect it (nuclear build to 2060) will be dominated by a mix of monolithic designs as well as some small modular reactors.”

  10. Douglas, yes, on re-reading your comment I see that you do provide that ‘out’. I admit that an individual post is open to misinterpretation, but the point of this new exercise is to carefully and systematically lay out all of the scenarios, and then evaluate their relative feasibilities, desirabilities, assumptions and constraints. So once all the links of the chain are in place, the purpose should be quite clear. Thanks for the comments.

    And you missed my key lead in to that sentence (bolded here for emphasis):

    In the next 1-2 decades, I suspect it (nuclear build to 2060) will be dominated by a mix of monolithic designs as well as some small modular reactors

    So I don’t think this statement is open to misinterpretation.

  11. If say by 2040 it looked like available fuel would deplete by 2050 on the then projected growth rates then Gen 3 construction would halt

    You’d think so John, but that is not necessarily the case, as I will illustrate a little later in this chain of posts. They key is when the breeders become available for creating ‘spare’ fissile, which can be downblended with DU to create fuel for LWRs. I’ll explain more soon – the timing is key to this argument.

  12. @ Steve Darden I thought TOD’s restored search engine would have some figures on new refinery construction. Alas not. However http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_refinery says that no new refineries have been built in the US since 1976 and there are only half the number of US refineries compared to 1981. Globally any new petro facilities seem to be for gas condensates, ethanol blending, distilling Canadian tar sand crude or other heavy or high sulphur oils previously shunned. I note Adelaide’s former refinery at Pt Stanvac is now a desal plant so the real estate is very useful.

  13. They key is when the breeders become available for creating ‘spare’ fissile, which can be downblended with DU to create fuel for LWRs.

    I have often supposed that PWRs capable of 60-80-100+ year operational lives would be a natural market for the fissile output of the FBRs of the late 21st-early 22nd century.

  14. It would be great if you could get some realistic input on likely scenarios for uranium production (which I an unqualified to do). However, if you listen to a lot of commentary on ‘peak’ uranium, then applying a similar logic means we would have run out of copper, tin, iron, etc. a long time ago. Without even talking about things like extracting U from seawater, a realistic approach to the history of mineral resource extraction would suggest that there is a LOT of U left to be found, since in a historical sense we haven’t even begun to look for it.

    I’ve read commentary here and there by a geologist (?) named James Hopf that makes a lot of sense to me, and he does not seem to be worried about running out of uranium.

  15. I think what’s intereting on the WNA list if you dig into it a bit are the *plans* for new builds, not just costs and the like. What struck me is how FEW nuclear plants Russia has planned out over the next 30 years or so. I would of expected a much higher state investment, more along the lines of, but perhaps not quite as much as, India and China.

    David

  16. Please put out of your minds any thought about the world running out of uranium.

    As I’ve said in various threads here before, the known “reasonably recoverable resources” of uranium are a function of the success of geologists in discovering it. That in turn is a function of how much “looking” has been done. Between about 1990 and 2003 there were very few companies exploring for uranium, and the vast majority of the world’s currently-known resources reflect discoveries that were actualy made made in the 1960′s, 70′s and 80′s.

    Companies are now back out exploring for uranium, and they are adding resources all the time. Check out, for example, the rise in resources for Namibia over the last 10 years.

    Only some of the world’s newly-discovered resources will become economically-extractable reserves but the proportion will be largely a funtion of predicable demand and hence long-term uranium price.

    If we are prepared to entertain a price of $500/lb then my guess is that recovery from seawater will be economic even at 3 parts per billion, when combined with desalination (I admit it is a guess but a reasonably educated one). Bardi (2010 http://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability) quotes uranium content in the world’s oceans as 4.9 BILLION tonnes.
    This is more likely than recovery from average crust (about 3 parts per million) because there is no necessity to liberate from a silicate matrix.

    However, we are a long way from needing to resort to seawater extraction. At anything above $50/lb there are plenty of sandstone-hosted deposits in Kazakhstan, Australia, Niger and elsewhere that will be highly economic for ISR (In-situ-recovery), and many more still to be found.

  17. Leigh Bettenay,

    Please put out of your minds any thought about the world running out of uranium.

    I agree. Australia’s economically recoverable reserves of uranium doubled in the past 20 years and we haven’t even been looking. Most of Australia’s land mass is excluded from uranium exploration. As far as I am aware, all the world’s known uranium ore bodies have been discovered from surface indications. We have done no exploration over most of the Earth’s surface. We have done no exporation for the probably millions of high grade uranium deposits that are hidden below the surface with no surface expression.

    There is no shortage of uranium for the forseeable future. It is not a priority issue. It is just a distraction to cause us to deviate from what we should be doing right now.

    What we should be doing right now is persuading
    1. at least one environmental NGO to change its policy and become strong advocates of implementing least-cost nuclear power in Australia as soon as possible; likewise for
    2. Labor Party policy makers
    3. Greens Party
    4. Media
    5. public

    This is where our emphasis should be.

    BNC is inhabited mainly by supporters of Labor and Greens. I’d urge us all to focus on getting them to vchange their policy as the high priority task.

    I’d also strongly urge us to stop advocating ETS and carbon tax. No one has provided a persuasive argument that these can significantly cut our emissions in the absence of nuclear power being allowed, and strongly encouraged, in Australia. So a carbon price will damage our economy for no significant gain. We are being distracted aznd wasting our effort arguing for a symbolic gesture. Carbon tax and ETS are being advocated largely by the gas industry, renewables, banks and traders and the government which wants more revenue to dole out as suits its political agendas (for ever more!). These are the groups to gain from an ETS or carbon tax.

    An ETS or carbon tax mostly favours the gas industry. Gas generation and renewables will be favoured for a long time. Much longer than if we make our strongest case, NOW, that we need to adopt low-cost nuclear asap.

    The carbon tax or ETS should be put on the backburner until we’ve got all the impediments to nuclear removed.

  18. David B Benson,

    ETS = Emissions Trading Scheme. It is the equivalent of what you, in the USA, call a cap and trade scheme. The Europeans call it an ETS too. However, our Labor party decided to call it a CPRS (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme), for spin purposes.

  19. Peter Lang I thought I’d look again at ACIL Tasman’s report to AEMO on new generation costs to see if gas had a clear advantage. With an assumed $23 carbon tax CC gas appears to appears to be about line ball with conventional black coal, say around the 6.5c per wholesale kwh mark. Without poring over the tables again I’d guess that probably only applies to NSW and Qld since Vic will always have very cheap brown coal and WA has the most gas.

    Therefore gas is not the clear financial winner since lower carbon tax is offset by higher fuel cost. However gas doesn’t seem to have the image problem of coal (or nuclear) plus they have advantages like quick construction and air cooling. I’d expect them to get a charmed run for the next decade or so before other problems arise. One such problem is that gas is a prime replacement for oil in transport and petrochemicals.

  20. George Stanford,

    Before your arrival, “DV8″ was our technical guru (second only to Barry Brook). DV8 is taking a well deserved rest so I have to thank you for stepping up to the plate and giving us some serious mental stimulation.

  21. John Newlands, once we legislate carbon tax or ETS it will continue to rise indefinitely, just as is done with other taxes. So the starting value of $23/t is irrelevant. From memory that applied in the first year and rost to about $50+ by 2030. The tax will not be confined to replacing other taxes and will not be used only for what the governments argues as part of the spin to get it implemented. It will become a source of general revenue, just like the petroleum taxes did.

    Gas and renewables will definitely be the favoured electricity generator in Australia and this is why AGL, Santos, Origin Energy, etc. are pushing so hard, including through the Business Council of Australia (BCA), for a price on carbon.

  22. Peter Lang wote:

    I’d also strongly urge us to stop advocating ETS and carbon tax. No one has provided a persuasive argument that these can significantly cut our emissions in the absence of nuclear power being allowed, and strongly encouraged, in Australia. So a carbon price will damage our economy for no significant gain.

    . Certainly a carbon tax will not further the nuclear cause where reactors are prohibited. Regarding damage to the economy, however, I’d like to call attention to James Hansen’s version of the carbon tax.

    [Hansen's] proposal calls for a “simple, honest” carbon fee, collected from fossil-fuel companies upon the first sale at the mine, wellhead or port of entry. The money collected via this fee would be distributed to the public as a monthly “dividend” or “green check.” Distributing all of the revenue equitably to households will ensure that families can afford the energy they need during the transition to a clean energy future, and it should help win public support for a rising carbon fee.

    [From http://snipurl.com/1935on ]
    . Seems to me that with the distribution as he suggests, the economy would not be damaged, but instead stimulated (by putting money in the hands of those who would spend it). Realistically,m of course, it would never fly — steps on too many toes.
    . Just a random musing.
    . — George

  23. The idea of revenue neutrality for carbon tax highlights some of the problems compared to other approaches. Not only Hansen but the CEO of BHP Billiton has made this call as well. He sells coal, uranium, oil and gas so he has all bases covered.The problem is that there has to be some pain to make change happen. If a household paid an extra $1,000 a year on their electricity and gas bills then got the $1,000 back from the govt there is little incentive to do anything different. What might be better is targeted givebacks like rebates on efficient appliances.

    PM Gillard has appointed a committee to investigate the implementation of a carbon tax. I’m almost certain the end result will be more giveaways and exemptions so the whole exercise will prove pointless. One certain giveaway will be increased subsidies and mandates for renewables ie Australia will follow the disastrous German model. What I fear if they do essentially nothing for the next decade then coal and gas will get expensive on their own due to depletion. By that time the global economy may be too weak to fund real alternatives.

  24. George S. Stanford and John Newlands,

    Thank you for your comments rethe carbon tax and/or ETS and/os James Hansen’s alternative. All of these have been discussed at length before on BNC, including James Hansen’s alternative.

    I am a lone voice, on BNC, arguing against pricing carbon for electricity generation – yet. But a large proportion of the population is against it, and I suspect an even larger proportion will be opposed when and if we get closer to implementing it. I’ve explained my reason on many posts on BNC, and some of them are in the article and the comments on this thread: http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/

    Believing the government will keep its promises of revenue neutrality, or any other promise the government makes, over the long term is naive. It has never happened in the past and wont in the future. Carbon Tax, in any form, would be another half-baked idea for political gain and special interests. It is not a good, economically efficent tax. It will not fix the climate, nor cut emissions significantly while nuclear is banned. So we need to focus totally on the real problem: nuclear is banned, and even if lifted we need to implement low-cost nuclear not high-cost nuclear. This is where our total effort should be focused, not on another symbolic gesture – a carbon price.

    You also say:

    Seems to me that with the distribution as he suggests, the economy would not be damaged, but instead stimulated (by putting money in the hands of those who would spend it.

    .

    Increasing taxes and redistributing wealth is not the way to grow the economy. It does the reverse. Reducing tax is the way to grow the economy. Everyone benefits from growing the pie, as opposed to simply spreading the pie more equitably. However, discussions of economics 101 cannot be conducted sensibly here. I do recognise the need for taxes, but do not support the nanny state we are moving to.

    I repeat these ten questions and would urge readers to consider them seriously; they are not intended to be frivolous or trivial questions.

    Before we implement a massive new tax scheme, such as a carbon tax or ETS, we should be sure that such a scheme will achieve the desired objective(s).

    Which leads me to ask, what is the objective of the proposed ETS or carbon tax? Is it to:

    1. Raise revenue?

    2. Redistribute wealth?

    3. Create wealth and prosperity?

    4. Help poor countries to improve their standard of living?

    5. Change the world’s climate?

    6. Change Australia’s climate?

    7. Lead the world by example?

    8. Cut GHG emissions?

    9. Win and hold power?

    10. Act as an agent of change to help impose other agendas (hidden) on society?

    I suspect the answer to these questions is:

    • YES to questions 1, 2, 9, 10

    • NO to questions: 3, 4, 5, 6

    • The answer to question 7 is: that may be the intention of a few, but they are naive in the extreme.

    • The answer to question 8 is: That might be the stated intention, but it is not demonstrated it can work. I seriously doubt the intention would be achieved, without seriously damaging our economy, while we continue to prevent the least costly way to reduce emissions, nuclear power.

    Please do not impose a carbon tax or ETS/CPRS on Australia before:

    1. the world has agreed a mechanism to price carbon emissions and

    2. Australia has removed all impediments to cheap, clean electricity generation (i.e. nuclear)

  25. Peter Lang,

    You are not alone! US presidents John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan lowered taxes and government income soared owing to the job growth that was stimulated.

    Every time governments impose major tax burdens, two things happen. Jobs are lost and government income falls.

    Even so, increasing taxes is very popular in government circles because some minority always benefits and then feeds money back into the coffers of the politicians. It is simply a matter of cost/benefit analysis; the average citizen gets the cost and a privileged elite (with their lobbyists and politicians) gets the benefit.

  26. Not true. Clinton *raised* taxes on the wealthiest and the economy grew even more than it did under Reagan. What you do have, however, is the *lowering* wages overall as US manufacturing delocalized it’s way too first Taiwan and China (steel, semi-finished products) and commodity production to Mexico, then to China.

    Now…when you lower taxes on the wealthiest 2% of the population, they go on luxery vacations, by foriegn luxery automobiles and invest overseas.

    The US needs a massive *direct* hiring-by-the-gov’t like FDR did with the WPA, but with an eye toward 100% infrastucture development.

    David

  27. Peter I doubt that the proposed $23 /tCO2 carbon tax will be implemented without massive giveaways. The drift to combined cycle gas continues and power retailers are getting price increases to pay for infrastructure. Even without a carbon tax retail power prices could double from say 2005-2015 and the public won’t be in the mood for any other increases.

    What I fear is a worst of both worlds scenario with token carbon pricing and more heavily mandated and subsidised renewables. Politicians could play that line for another decade perhaps. Outside the ACT I don’t think nuclear is actually prohibited by legislation. I think opposition to nuclear is as much due to large capital cost and construction delays as it is to green chic. I also suspect the public realises that wind and solar are limited. For now the public is unconcerned because the weather is in La Nina phase and energy is affordable. Something will eventually change that, perhaps 47C in Sydney, a bleached Barrier Reef or $3 petrol.

  28. The upper tax bracket under Eisenhower was 90%.

    Of course, the wealthy had tax shelters but it’s hard to believe they had more shelters than exist now, with offshoring (tax havens), etc. Perhaps there was massive job loss under Eisenhower, but I don’t think so. The massive rate reductions in the top tax brackets began, I think, under Reagan yet the sixties and seventies are widely regarded as the “golden age of u.s. capitalism,” for low unemployment and manufacturing prowess. The serious problems of stagflation occurred in late seventies.

    It’s pure ideology to make blanket statements about low taxes causing job growth, etc.

    On the other hand, massive government hiring almost surely won’t happen (which doesn’t mean I’m not for it). And it solved unemployment in the past only when the war economy got going after the 1938 recession and FDR turned from New Deal President to War President (Dr. Win The War) at a time when the U.S. was a leading if not the leading creditor nation. The U.S. is not the leading creditor nation anymore, in case someone didn’t notice.

    I agree with David though (I assume David thinks this) that nuclear won’t get built in U.S. without massive state commitments–due to the combination of global warming skepticism, the dogma of free market ideology, and the low cost of nat gas.

    Maybe that film will do some good.

    In the U.S., the nuclear power forces have just about zero public presence (either in the form of PR or in the form of articulate defenders with significant media power).

    There are no commercials for clean nuclear power in the U.S (I haven’t see any). Not one. It’s hard to imagine such a thing, unfortunately.

    There are dozens for “clean coal” but for the most part “clean” means those stupid spinning windmills (I asked my students why the commercials never show windmills that aren’t moving or solar panels in the rain).

  29. I also think that nuclear won’t get going without gov’t support because no large projects like this EVER get going without lage gov’t financial support. Not outright grants (which i’d before under a public power scheme) but cheap loans.

    Why is this? In a fantasy world of ‘free market everything’, investors themselves see no point in investing in something that could take a decade or more to give a return, and a return of questionable amounts. It just doesn’t happen because NO one would invest in nuclear (we’re talking now about Gen III reactors not faster built, factor modular LFTR or IFRs, altogether other ball of yarn.)

    The capitalist investor is part of a class. Finance capital basically rules countries like the UK and USA. That is: The Banks. OK, so…what DO countries that have this sort of system in place do about it? Exactly what the US did for the 30 years of the Great Depression, Post War Boom and Eisnehower Yawn years into the Kennedy Admin: exactly what Japan and Germany and France and UK did to develop their massiv infrastructures: state/tax supported projects in energy, rail, and highays. For the US this also included aerospace/avaiation.

    That’s the only *historcial* way nuclear energy ever got built (or other large civil engineering projects). There is simply no getting around the profit motive and short term interest of capitlaist investors. The ‘state’ can rise above this in the general interest of those investors (and presumably the people the gov’t is supposed to represent). This does work as the payoff, includng new markets and areas for more investment are multiplied by the structural investment made by the state.

    The Free Marketeers don’t like to hear this, generally, as it flies in the face of their ideology. It doesn’t, however, fly in the face of how capitalism actually developed.

    David

  30. BTW it’s really only the US and Australia that are freely moving to increased gas generation with about 30% and 15% of the respective mixes if I recall. Even Gulf states like KSA and UAE now want to use less gas in desalination. Norway will soon face local peak gas. In the UK the boss of Centrica nervously said there will always be Siberian gas provided we pay the bills on time. Germany seems headed for increased dependence on Russian gas as a matter of pride.

    I’ve said before that gas generators want to pay $4-$8 per GJ or million btu’s. When diesel hits $2/L or 6c per MJ truckers will happily pay $60 per GJ for CNG. They will start outbidding the stationary gas customers.

  31. While we’re at it, Charles Barton regularly brings up the Manhattan Project as a model for massive government cooperation.

    but that was the war against the Nazis!! when the U.S. had credit.

    People who hope for a big government infrastructure build often point to the new deal or the manhattan project, but the analogy is likely inapt .

    Politicians and others can call for a world war two like effort, but the U.S. (elite) has never mobilized for metaphorical wars (war on poverty etc.); only for real ones. and more real wars won’t solve the energy problem, that’s for sure.

    Of course, you can never rule out seismic change due to grassroots efforts, but the current tragedy is that there is no pro nuclear grass roots in the U.S.

    Maybe peak oil will change something. It’s by no means a trend, but oil prices in last week or so have gone up even as the market declined and the dollar (slightly) appreciated relative to Euro.

    ominous were it to become a trend.

    But even if the u.s. state were to somehow commit tens of billions to a nuclear build, there would be the problem (would there not?) of the U.S. nuclear infrastructure itself–from the absence of enrichment facilities and vessel core production to educational infrastructure.

  32. John Newlands,

    Peter I doubt that the proposed $23 /tCO2 carbon tax will be implemented without massive giveaways.

    The $23/t figure is for 2010-11. It rises to $55/t by 2030. But these are Treasury projections based on their modelling assumptions which included that that the Australian scheme would be part of an economically efficient, international carbon trading scheme. This is not going to happen in the foreseeable future. So the carbon price would have to rise much higher than these projections if it is to make the deeps GHG emissions cuts envisaged. It would send us into a deep, long term depression. It would wreck our economy. Every way we look at this issue of pricing carbon, it is economic insanity while we retain the opposition to low cost nuclear power.

    You are right about the massive give aways. So why not, you and the others arguing for a carbon price, give way on this and put all our effort into convincing the pollies, media, public, Labor and Green’s policy councils and at least on environmental NGO to change their policy to being strong advocates for low cost nuclear. We are wasting our efforts arguing for a price on carbon.

    The drift to combined cycle gas continues

    True. But so what? Does that mean we shouldn’t be educating and advocating for better policy, rather than simply accepting more bad symbolic gestures to appease the ignorant and those who are locked in to supporting whatever it is there political party position is?

    Even without a carbon tax retail power prices could double from say 2005-2015 and the public won’t be in the mood for any other increases.

    True. But so what? The carbon price will double or quadruple or mor the cost of electricity if it is going to significantly cut GHG emissions in the absence of nuclear power. The $23/t is more than double the current cost of coal fired power so will triple cost of power now. And $55/t is more than double the projected cost of new coal fired power in 2030 (ACIL Tasman). Every way we look at it we should be working to remove the impediments to low cost nuclear, not raising the cost of electricity while nuclear is banned.

    What I fear is a worst of both worlds scenario with token carbon pricing and more heavily mandated and subsidised renewables. Politicians could play that line for another decade perhaps.

    Good point. I agree. That is exactly what we are heading for. So, how can we convince the BNC contributors to stop wasting our time agitating for a price on carbon and instead embrace action and effort to get the relevant players to change their policy? Any suggestions? Any one else prepared to take the lead on this?

    Outside the ACT I don’t think nuclear is actually prohibited by legislation.

    Have you checked. I’d be interested to know/ I understand, perhaps misunderstand, nuclear is prohibited in Australia by laws passed by Bob Hawke’s government and is prohibited in most states.

    I think opposition to nuclear is as much due to large capital cost and construction delays as it is to green chic.

    That is not what other BNC contributors have been arguing. They’ve been arguing that we must change the public’s perception of safety and proliferation issues. I agree that the capital cost is a problem. That is why I continually say we have to agitate for “low-cost nuclear” not “high-cost nuclear”.

    I also suspect the public realises that wind and solar are limited.

    Some do. Most don’t. Most of the politicians continually repeat statements like “I accept the environmental credentials of renewables”. The ABC continually equates renewables with stopping climate change as if these are synonymous. The government advertising continually reinforces the same message. The government advice on wind farms, for example, is that every MWh of wind energy avoids a tonne of GHG emissions.

  33. David Walters and Greg Meyerson,

    Your ideal utopia of a state owned electricity enterprises and bureaucracies is not going to happen.

    We are moving to reduce government ownership of those enterprises that can be better managed by the private sector. This frees up capital for things that are better managed by the public sector. In Australia we are moving progressively to sell off state electricity assets and now we are moving to privatise the water supply system as well. This trend will not be reversed. The state cannot get the funds to pay for these assets any more. It has better places to spend the revenue it can collect.

    BNC certainly is an enclave of some extreme Left ideological views. Surely you must acknowledge that every $1 pulled from the economy in taxes is then largely wasted in supporting ever growing bureaucracies which are a dead weight on the economy. However, this is a pointless discussion, given your persuasions. We may as well leave that aside. Can you accept that we should put our effort into convincing the groups I’ve identified to change policy and advocate low-cost nuclear, instead of wasting our effort advocating a carbon price?

  34. David Walters and Greg Meyerson,

    I posted this article some time ago:

    Electricity – Social Service or Market Comodity?
    The importance of clarity for decision-making
    on nuclear build

    http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/16899_0610pp_grimston.pdf

    I post this for information, but I hope we can movce onto addressing the fundamental issue of us putting our effort into educating, advocating and agitating for low-cost, clean electricity rather than for a price on carbon (yet). We continually get distracted onto discussing side issues (and ideoligical issues).

  35. Hi Peter: welcome back.

    I never said anything utopian, much less your pleonastic “ideal utopia.”

    I don’t think a carbon price is a particularly good idea. I don’t think a high enough price will be agreed upon globally to encourage a massive investment in nuclear; I think there would be cheating, bullshit offsets, etc.

    Increased costs would be onerous for many people (I would not mind paying them because I can bike to work) given the state of public transport in many places in U.S. and given the very high real unemployment rate.

    The Hansen idea (fee and dividend) sounds much more equitable but big business I assume would be so opposed to it that it will basically be a non starter. and I don’t see how it by itself would encourage massive investment in nuclear. It might encourage green consumers to insulate their houses and maybe buy a more fuel efficient car, if they have the money. but that ain’t good enough obviously. Especially given the seeming truth of Jevons paradox.

    I haven’t thought enough about this; what’s the best article or two critiquing carbon prices you can recommend? I would like to read it/them.

    On the other hand (your idea), in the U.S., as I mentioned before, natural gas is plentiful and likely to become more so if “fracking” takes off. Maybe the green movement can help stop what sounds like a very dirty and dangerous process, the ng version of mountaintop removal. I don’t know enough about it.

    Nukes in the U.S., with their upfront costs, will not be cheaper than natural gas. I mentioned this before. Two engineers at my University (one a nuclear engineer) thought it was obvious that natural gas plants would be built, not nuclear. I fail to see how your low cost scenario will deal with their point.

    One of the two engineers, btw (not the nuke engineer), was a major climate denialist who was pro nuclear before gas prices started falling. Now he does not think nukes are necessary in the U.S.

    as others have noted, including my nuclear engineering colleague, many countries are not in the situation of the U.S. and for them, nukes are necessary.

  36. Greg,

    Often contributers (including me) jump back and forth between arguing about ‘what is happenning and will happen’ on the one hand and ‘what we should do on the other’.

    I agree with ‘what is happening and will continue to happen’ if we do nothing to change direction. That is not really worth discussing.

    But if we want to cut GHG emissions by the amount being advocated, then we need to promote the least cost way to achieve the required outcome. That is what I feel we shoud be putting our effort into. Simply,, I see we have two options:

    1. symbolic gestures like price on carbon (it is a symbolic gesture in the absence of an international agreement about how to price carbon and in the absence of nuclear being a viable option); or

    2. substantive, achievable policy changes such as doing whatever is necessary to introduce low-cost nuclear to Australia.

    By the way, by ‘low-cost nuclear’ I mean not what USA, UK, EU and Canada have. These countries’ nuclear programs are not the role model I want to see introduced to Australia. If UAE can introduce nuclear to its country, and get its first 5400MW built for $3600/kW including initial fuel load etc, then we should be able to do better. And that is for the first ones in a country. The price should come down as more are built. By removing many other disincentives (some are listed here http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-86256) we should be able to get nuclear cheaper than coal within a decade of the first NPP being commissioned. Until then there will have to be public subsidies of the type you and David Walters are suggesting. But that is acceptable as a public expense; it the cost of meeting the community’s demand for cleaner electricity. And the precedent is well established by our massive subsidies (per MWh) for renewables.

  37. Peter, thank you so much for replying. I promise I will read the link you posted here (I think I may already have another time?).

    Say, you didn’t really respond to what I wrote. The reason I don’t think *our* side of this discussion (tangent really, the Left side, obviously) is that I noted that throughout history ever great project had massive state intervention if not outright ownership. It doesn’t seem to have slowed the Chinese down a bit, all three of their big nuclear entities are all mostly state owned.

    My point is that in terms of THIS kind of generation, given the longness of return on investment, you will never, ever, see totally private investment come into play. Even in the highly private generation business almost without exception, even privately funded nukes (there is ONE merchant plant I’m aware of) can only do this based on some loan guarantees and a mandated return on the dollar for payoff of the investment based on the ratepayer having to pony up the money for the new build. On the local level, this is the single biggest obstacle to new builds in the US. Again, government intervention all over the place…no free enterprise.

    Secondly. the fact that companies in the state run utility business are beginning to go private is *wholly* one of politcis, not practical policy. For example, EDF, which itself is going through a form of privatization, has opened up bidding for sub contracts on their new plant. It’s a *disastser* as the French tax payer (or course!) has to foot private contractor overruns in costs. When EDF built their highly efficient nuclear system it did it as a wholly vertically integrated industry from building contacting to transportation to operations. It worked well and it could work again. But *politics* intervened.

    Assie privatizations is completely a function not of lack of investment, which is ridiculous as the US shows since public power entities are actually *cheaper* to run and have a *greater* reliability than investor owned ones, I would think one has to be insane in a country like Australia to turn water distribution over to *profiteers*! It was a disaster in Latin America when they tried it (it lead directly to the Morales government coming to power in Bolivia during the Water Wars around 2000) with higher rates and *less* people being served. Privatization occurrs because it is both an ideological imperiative by some and, because the rich always look for ways to get richer. If they could privatize air they’d do it.

    In California today there are only two communities served by private water companies: the Island of Catalina and the seacoast town of Montera. In both places (obviously the island) they pay the highest rates in the state. No one in this state ever turns on the water and nothing comes out and cost is minimal (albeit higher than wetter states back east).

    My POV is, obviously, is a socialist one. But I also understand that we need nuclear, especially gen IV nuclear and we need by any safe means necessary. This is why I support investor owned utilities building out nuclear with government loans even though it is not my preferred way. If Warren Buffet wants to build a plant. I’m fine with that. And I’m fine and especially hopefully when public entities like the TVA want to build nuclear. The planet can’t wait for *any* ideologically driven prejudices to dictate *how* these plants are to built.

    David

  38. David,

    We’ve discussed much of this before. I disagree with much of what you believe on this, but it is a side issue.

    I argue that we need to focus our efforts on exactly what we need to do and what policies we need to implement to bring low cost, clean electricity to Australia as quickly as possible.

    I also strongly urge us to stop agitating for price on carbon (yet!). We are wasting our time and resources on arguing for this. It won’t solve the problem. It is another delaying tactic. It suits the gas industry especially and also the renewable industries. It diverts attention and delays action on what we really need to address.

    I advocate that we shold present strong arguments to the media and politicians arguing for cheap nuclear, explaing how it can be done, and arguing to leave the price on carbon until the big emitters have agreed a workable scheme.

  39. Peter I must admit it is tempting to call the bluff on the wind and gas industries by asking them to live up to their best case claims. For wind that would be a high capacity factor, say 25%, and for mixed cycles gas it might be half the average emissions of black coal. Gas could then provide only 3X as much power as wind (ie 75:25) and no more. That should get average emissions intensity down to under 400 grams of CO2 per kwhe.

    If that seems like a tough requirement remember the coal industry can no longer dominate. At the same time open up the generation market to anything that can meet that standard, for example hamsters on treadmills. It goes without saying there can be no carbon credits or subsidies because all the revenue is up for grabs.

    A tough but consistent portfolio CO2 standard sidesteps an explicit carbon price, could save gas for higher priority uses and will force renewables proponents live up to their claims without fudging or unfair financial help.

  40. John Newlands

    You say:

    If that seems like a tough requirement remember the coal industry can no longer dominate. At the same time open up the generation market to anything that can meet that standard, for example hamsters on treadmills. It goes without saying there can be no carbon credits or subsidies because all the revenue is up for grabs.

    A tough but consistent portfolio CO2 standard sidesteps an explicit carbon price, could save gas for higher priority uses and will force renewables proponents live up to their claims without fudging or unfair financial help.

    I think I agree with what you are saying here. I think you are suggesting that regulating emissions may be preferable to a carbon price (for now). I’d agree with you on that. I think it shoud be tightened over time and the timeline for the tightening should be specified in the legislation. Do you recall my suggestion on doing just this:http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/
    See specifically the sections titled:
    ‘Electricity’, and
    ‘Level playing field for electricity generators’

  41. David Walters,

    My previous reply to you was a bit short because I had to go out.

    I think we would never agree on whether public sector or private sector is best to manage our businesses and industries. So I think it is a distraction to argue about this. It is distracting us from working on the main issue, which I believe is: should we be agitating for:

    1. symbolic gestures like price on carbon (it is a symbolic gesture in the absence of an international agreement about how to price carbon and in the absence of nuclear being a viable option); or

    2. substantive, achievable policy changes such as doing whatever is necessary to introduce low-cost nuclear to Australia.

    If it is the latter, then how can we make the fastest progress. If it is the former, then we can lie low because there are many others arguing for this (but they do not advocate low-cost clean nuclear power).

    I was a bit short on my answer previously regarding public and private sector. For others, I will paraphrase what I said in our previous discussions on this subject:

    1. I don’t see how a mix of public and privates sector can be viable. I don’t see how we could have public sector owned and operated NPPS competing fairly with private sector gas, coal and renewable generators. It wouldn’t work

    2. Therefore, if we want to return to government owned electricity industry, the government would have to buy back the existing assets.

    3. This is not likely to happen. It has taken 20 years so far to privatise most of our electricity industry and the trend is continuing. The present intention is that all the electricity industry assets will be privatised. I expect it will be completed during the next 5 to 10 years.

    4. The current trend towards privatisation is not going to change direction. And if it did, it would take 2 to 3 decades to return to public ownership. That would cause further delay. Therefore, I suggest that arguing for it would further delay progress on getting cheap clean electricity introduced to Australia. It is another distraction and one we do not need.

    5. I also do not agree that public sector ownership and operation of industries is necessarily preferable. I believe that industries tha can be operated by the private sector should be. We need the available public funds to be invested in services that the private sector cannot operate as well. I’d include: Health, Education, public transport, highways, law and order, defence, and environment as issues that are better operated by the public sector.

    6. If we spend $43 billion on a nationalised broadband network (which could better be operated by the private sector) and $120 billion buying back the electricity industry, for exanmple, that is $163 billion we cannot spend on the essential public services that we need to be managed by the public sector. Of course we can argue about details, but I am trying to keep it simple and keep to a relatively short comment. The point is, that there is a limit on the public funding available and if we spend on one thing we can’t on another, unless we raise taxes. In that case we slow the economy – higher taxes takes funding from the wealth generating part of the economy and spreads it to the unproductive part of the economy.

    7. Electricity, water, telegraph, telephone, railways, highways had to be built by the public sector long ago because the private sector did not have the expertise and could not raise the funds to build these massive schemes 50 years ago. Now it has the expertise, (more so than the private sector in fact), and it can raise the funds, (better then the public sector in fact).

    8. For those who argue that electricity should be owned and operated by the public sector, I ask: if that is true for electricity why isn’t it also true for banks, food and groceries, telephone and broadband, mail and other essential services?

    9. A major problem with electricity, is bad regulation. Bureaucratic control and interference so that there is a high risk to investors from ever changing rules by governments and politicians with short term agendas. This does not fit well with an industry that has a 40 to 80 year investment time frame.

    I do agree that there will have to be a significant government intervention to overturn the approximately 50 years of bad regulations and cost imposts we created in the electricity industry. That is the role we need from government: to turn over the damage that has been done by 50 years of bad policies. That will cost us (society) and society will have to carry the bill to overcome this. So, I agree with you and Greg on the role that government will have to play until we get the cost of nuclear down below that of coal.

    In short, I urge us to leave alone discussion or a return to public ownership. It won’t happen and arguing for it is another diversion that will divide our resources and delay progress. I urge us to focus on convincing all we can that we need to move as quickly as possible to remove all the impediments to low cost clean electricity. This will require government guarantees, subsidies or whatever to enable clean electricity to be cheaper than coal until such time as all the impediments have been removed. That may take a decade or more. I urge that we do not advocate for a price on carbon, yet, for the reasons I’ve stated previously (although admittedly they are dotted throughout multiple comments on multiple threads on BNC)

  42. Peter,

    “1. symbolic gestures like price on carbon (it is a symbolic gesture in the absence of an international agreement about how to price carbon and in the absence of nuclear being a viable option); or”

    I agree 100%. I am against carbon taxes as it’s a *fake* way of passing on the costs, won’t work, and, as you point out, it’s hardly enforceable and easy to get around.

    “2. Therefore, if we want to return to government owned electricity industry, the government would have to buy back the existing assets.”

    Agreed. This is what would have to be done, or, depending on historical return, nationalization without compensation, depending on accumulated profits and costs etc. But yes, municipalization actually in the US was quite common and it’s worked out with full compensation to stock holders. It has been done. It’s how SMUD was set up.

    “3. This is not likely to happen. It has taken 20 years so far to privatise most of our electricity industry and the trend is continuing. The present intention is that all the electricity industry assets will be privatised. I expect it will be completed during the next 5 to 10 years. ”

    As I noted, in Australia, the only interest this is for are the people who want to invest capital. It is not in the interest of the public and a strong enough public outcry and union backed campaign can *easily* reverse this. Privatization in neither a mlignant or benevolent virus, it is one human intentions and *policy*. It is actually quite easy to reverse.

    “5. I also do not agree that public sector ownership and operation of industries is necessarily preferable. I believe that industries tha can be operated by the private sector should be. We need the available public funds to be invested in services that the private sector cannot operate as well. I’d include: Health, Education, public transport, highways, law and order, defence, and environment as issues that are better operated by the public sector.”

    Exactly, this is *your* position. It is not that of a large % of your countrymen. The ‘criteria’ that something should be privatized has always been that it can be made profitable. I pointed out in the US that public, not private electrical distribution and generation are actually completely competative with private investor owned untiities (don’t have to return a profit, don’t have nearly as many legal fees, don’t advertise, don’t compete and on average are cheaper for the rate payer).

    “8. For those who argue that electricity should be owned and operated by the public sector, I ask: if that is true for electricity why isn’t it also true for banks, food and groceries, telephone and broadband, mail and other essential services?”

    We can take those one at a time or collectively. Either way, it’s whats in the public interest. I’d put up US Postal Service against any private corporation in the US, including the much vaunted and overpriced Federal Express. Municiplal owned broadband is *excellent* in the US btw. Again, generally cheaper AND they are usually union, which makes for better working conditions for the workers.

    On the rest of the points, I only bring this up because I think you did, or, because of the issue specifically of nuclear energy where it’s hard to argue for a laizze faire approach. I’m with you that we need regulations that insure both safety and an expiditious new build set of government regs that encourage, not discourage, the rapid expansion of nuclear power plants (be they investor owned, public/private or public entities…I simply don’t care).

    In the US we are constently bombarded by anti-Socialist propaganda aimed at government initiatives around anything. It’s used, I might add, by Libertarians who argue that the gov’t should NOT put out loans for new nuclear or guarnantee private ones. this is where the issue really hits and what we in the US are up against.

  43. Peter I’m saying the portfolio CO2 standard should be based on the claim that a one Mwh of wind energy displaces exactly one Mwh of fossil energy. I have been following the Master Resource threads. Obviously not everybody reads them since new Holden cars boast they can run on ethanol.

    As a general point about wind power I don’t object to the inability to achieve 1:1 output displacement. What I object to is subsidies and mandates which force wind power into the mix when it might be rejected under a CO2 minimisation approach.

  44. John Newlands,

    As a general point about wind power I don’t object to the inability to achieve 1:1 output displacement. What I object to is subsidies and mandates which force wind power into the mix

    What I object to is mandates and subsidies for wind power on the basis of a falaciaous (or at least the massively exaggerated) claim that it avoids CO2 emisisons! It’s not that wind power may be not doing quite as much as claimed; it is that it does nothing or next to nothing to avoid GHG emissions, yet we are paying massive subsidies which are justified on the basis of a lie.

    The population is being misled. Investors are being misled. Governments are lying. The ACCC should step in and stop it. They began to investigate before the 2007 election. When the Labor government was elected it stopped the investigation, whitewashed what had been done so far, and refused to publish the submissions. Their answer is that we can trust “Green Power” to be giving reliable guidance. We can believe what “Green Power” says. But Green Power is the one saying wind energy displaces the emissions from coal generation on a 1 fo 1 basis. This is a lie. Our government is lying to us.

    If a director of a public company was involved in such a scam they’d be sent to jail, and rightly so.

  45. David Walters,

    As I noted, in Australia, the only interest this is for are the people who want to invest capital.

    That statement is totally wrong. It is a belief based on a leftist’s ideology. The reason water and electricity are being privatised is because it is a better use of the nation’s capital. It is a better way to run these essential services. It was the Australian Productivity Commission that drove these reforms. It was part of the suite of reforms introduced by the Hawke-Keating government in the 1980’s and 1990’s to get Australia freed from the destruction of our wealth caused by the total domination of our economy by unions. It was essential reform. We were stuffed and getting ‘stuffeder’ year after year, decade after decade. Only Labor could have introduced those essential reforms which required us to get out from under the total control of the self-serving, short-sited union movement.

    It is not in the interest of the public

    Dead wrong! No point discussing this further.

    Privatization is neither a malignant or benevolent virus, it is one human intentions and *policy*. It is actually quite easy to reverse.

    The evidence of Russia, Cuba, China, Venezuela and all the EU states that have emerged from what you would like to see imposed on your country is proof of just how wrong the Left ideology is on this matter. The near total collapse of cooperatives is another example. It is communism and public control of peoples’ lives that is the forced *policy*, not the natural tendency towards free enterprise. Private enterprise is what gives the world the best outcome. It allows and encourages innovation, rather then policy driven research to support compliance with the government of the day’s ideological beliefs.

    Exactly, this is *your* position. It is not that of a large % of your countrymen.

    I don’t know what you base that statement on. The vast majority of the population do not want to head down the slippery slope of a return to union control, high taxes and high government spending, more nanny state, loss of individual freedoms and all the rest that the Left stands for. Australians do not want that.

    Either way, it’s what’s in the public interest.

    I agree. And it is absolutely clear that private enterprise trumps public sector in all the cases we are talking about. No point us batting this back and forth any further. For evidence, just look at the Gapminder charts to see the difference in the UN Human Development Indices to see the effect globalisation, freeing up of trade, private enterprise, etc are having to improve the life of humanity. Of course there are some areas that we need public sector involvement because we haven’t yet got to the point of it being better for the private sector to handle these. Examples are: health, education (not even sure about that given the teachers are mostly left wingers and indoctrinating the young with complete rot), environment (certainly, this is where the telegraph and railways were in the 1800’s so this must be handled by the public sector at this stage).

    I’m with you that we need regulations that insure both safety and an expeditious new build set of government regs that encourage, not discourage, the rapid expansion of nuclear power plants (be they investor owned, public/private or public entities…I simply don’t care).

    So we agree on this. Although I must clarify two points:

    On safety, I advocate we need to move to consistent safety regulations for all industries, not special safety regulations for one industry, such as nuclear.

    Second point: I argue that mostly we need to remove all the regulations that are impediments to nuclear. Many of these are regulations that favour other generators (fossil fuel and renewables). In this article http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/ I suggested:

    “4.Ensure that regulations apply equally for all types of generators. Set up a system to allow electricity generator companies to challenge anything that is impeding a level playing field.”

    In the US we are constantly bombarded by anti-Socialist propaganda aimed at government initiatives around anything.

    True, But you, like us, are also bombarded by pro-Socialist propaganda aimed at government initiatives around anything. Some that come immediately to mind are the ones that forced the banks to lend money for houses to people with no chance of repaying the debt – NINJAs (no income, no job, no assets). This was a fundamental cause of the GFC. The financial mess Europe and UK is in is because of socialist policies forced on the population by the Left.

    It’s used, I might add, by Libertarians who argue that the gov’t should NOT put out loans for new nuclear or guarnantee private ones. this is where the issue really hits and what we in the US are up against.

    Now we are getting to the real point we should be discussing. How can we in Australia, avoid the problems that USA, Canada, UK and Europe are encountering with financing a new roll out of nuclear power plants? I am still pretty keen on my proposals. They are centred on giving certainty to investors that their investment will not be at risk from future governments’ change of mind, and that they will get the return on investment they need to justify them making the investment.

    To achieve that we will have to provide guarantees of a floor electricity price they will be paid and a guarantee that they will be fairly compensated for any changes of laws and regulations that adversely impact the financial return from the investment.

    As well we need to remove all the impediments that are currently stacked in favour of fossil fuels and renewable energy.

    Lastly, we will have to subsidise, in some form, nuclear until we have removed all the higher costs that nuclear has to bear that have resulted from 50+ years of stupidity by society. This is a cost society must bear for following stupid policies – as we still do thanks mostly to the policies forced on us by you can guess who !! :) :)

  46. Peter, as we wind of up what is clearly an *ideological* ‘battle’ and not one science or technology.

    On Venezuela, which i have first had experience with…the PSUV gov’t nationalized the remaing private electrical companies perciesely because prviate industry had underinvested in the grid for decades. And, secondly, because the almost unanimous *demand* by the workers: power plant operators, mechanics, grid operaters, linemen and so forth that the companies BE nationalized. So where exactly is ‘natual tendency for prviate enterprise’? This doesn’t exist: politics exists and its politics why privatiation or nationalization is implemented. Thus in the Latin America the tendency is toward MORE, not less, State control.

    But keeping it nuclear…we need to parse out regulatory policies if we want it to suceed. I’m NOT for downgrading nuclear regualatory policies to that of the steel industry…or electronics industry. We are dealing with potentially hazardous and, in the minds of the publc (again, ‘politics’) very scary scenerios.

    What I’d like to see is a total ratinalization of all regulations that involve the actual and real safety protocols for nuclear world wide in place, the fluff and nonsense gone, and other *similiarly* dangerous industries in terms of *operations* brought UP to nuclear standards. And by this I do not mean other energy industries but rather industries like refinery and chemical processing. I’m for things like N-Stamp Standards from AMSE (but used world wide) EXPANDED not shrunk, to include things like blow-out preventers for deep sea oil platforms. I’d like to seen ALL power plant controls tested to the same standards as NRC mandated testing in nuclear plants.

    I’m actually for MORE, not less regulations, but in nuclear we can probably see where a large part of the rgulatory envriornment can be cut down by about 60% (o some I’m told by some LWR operators).

    There are also two aspects of this.

    1. Regulations over new builds. There is no reason to wait 4 years for a new build with standarization in place. No more reviews of equipment. Only site location and grid integration are what matters and this could be decided within the parameters of new regs within 18 months after public comments. Things like that.

    2. Operations. This is the real big one. Paper work, overreporting, over oversight on non-radioactive aspects of BOP, and so on. All can get cut down and should.

    DAvid

  47. David Walters,

    We are so far apart on our approaches to getting clean energy implemented there is little common gound.

    Most of what you argue for I just cannot see being possible in decades. Any attempt to push for these things will be strongly resisted. We need to find the shortest way through to a least cost solution.

    Least cost is what we need to aim for. Anything else is the opposite of what is needed. Therefore, I really cannot agree with nearly all you are advocating. I covered the reasons in previous comments on other threads, and you may have missed much of it.

    Your point about regulations over new builds taking 18 months indicates no understanding of the processes involved in making such changes. In Australia the State and Federal governments would take many years to reach agreement on what you advocate. They can’t agree to standardise the simpless and silliest of differing road rules between states or workplace health and safety regulations or just about anything else. It is a continuous battle of egos.

    (The NRC would take decades)

    You seem to be thinking of imposing US or EU nuclear regulatory environment on Australia. If we intend to do that, then all I’ve been arguing for (low cost nuclear) goes out the window.

    If we go the high cost nuclear route that you seem to be advocating, then I agree with the mass of people who are not prepared to support it. That is absoluetely the opposite of what I am seeking. For the potential benefits to be realised, not only for Australia, but also for the developing countries, we need to implement low cost clean electricity, not high cost clean electricity.

    Did you see the first 16 minutes of this video? http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-102439

    Do you agree or disagree with the argument as to why we need low cost electricity?

  48. I was enjoying the good clean fight between Peter Lang and David Walters. Both were making good arguments for and against the role of government in electricity generation. It was not my intention to join in until David Walters landed a low blow when he said:

    “In the US we are constently bombarded by anti-Socialist propaganda aimed at government initiatives around anything. It’s used, I might add, by Libertarians who argue that the gov’t should NOT put out loans for new nuclear or guarnantee private ones. this is where the issue really hits and what we in the US are up against.”

    This is false on several levels. For example, the house, senate and presidency are now in the hands of the party that favors more government involvement in everything. To blame any problem relating to energy policy on the tiny Libertarian minority is absurd.

    While my sympathies are with Peter Lang’s preference for private ownership of the means of energy production, there is a role for government as argued by David Walters.

    The US government has encouraged emerging technologies that industry was not prepared to invest in. For example:

    1. Integrated circuits. The US government subsidized Texas Instruments to develop this technology for military applications. Today, government subsidies are no longer needed owing to the wide range of civilian applications.

    2. John Kennedy’s space race. Without huge government investments this technology would have taken much longer to develop. Today, Obama is cutting back government involvement and the private sector will pick it up.

    When it comes to NPP technology, the government still has an important role to play if it will concentrate on emerging technologies. Instead, the intent is to invest in improving a proven technology (LWRs). Investing in proven technology is better done by the private sector and there will be plenty of money available if the government will clear the licensing minefield.

    The government should be investing in advanced reactors such as IFRs, ORNL’s LFTR and ADRs. Unfortunately the “Blue Ribbon” task force can be relied on to support the status quo (LWRs) with the result that the USA will relinquish any hope of regaining leadership in NPP technology.

  49. I don’t want, and I suspect Peter as well, to turn this all into a ‘socialist vs capitalist’ arguement.

    I put this out because *historically* I’m factually correct about the role of government in big engineering projects. The debate of course isn’t here, it’s over the *current* trend. This is where Peter and I are both correct: in some places, especially in developing countries, the trend is toward privatization. In the developing world, most notably Latin America, their is a *reaction* to this w/ the election of socialist or pro-socialist but all anti-neo-liberal (anti-”libertarian”?) governments…and democratically elected at that.

    NAFTA and WTO has been an unmitated disaster for both the US and Mexico…especially Mexico as literally thousands have died *directly* because of NAFTA economic policies, the destruction of whole industries and mass unemployment higher than that of the US. Half the states of Michochan and Oxaca LIVE in California. Not good. But this is where Peter and I would simply never agree and it veers way off the issue of nuclear.

    My remark about Libertarians is that while very small, they are very influential “philosophically” among Republicans and, the Tea-Party. Yes, anti-gov’t loans come from the Democrats because of it’s *anti-nuclear* positions, generally. But even among Republicans, back benchers so to speak, Tea Party folks, there is strong opposition to gov’t loans becasue…they are ‘government’.

    In fact, the Senate will now lose one of the most intellectually gifted (with regrds to nuclear) Senators percisely because of the libertarian laning Tea Party: Lisa Murkolowsky of Alaska who lost the Repubican Primary a few weeks ago to a Tea-Party Republican.

    Everywhere in the world today, whether Peter likes it or not, it is the STATE and bascially only the state, that is detmining the economics of new-build nuclear. Be it the highly anti-Communist S. Korean’s state owned electrical company or the Chinese state owned utilities.

    In the US today…public corporation that run water and electrical utilities *thrive* because they always have a positive *revnenue flow*. This is why there is not one move, anywhere in the US, to privatize electrical utility corporations owned by the people, even those with heavy generation capability. Why? Because they make money for the municipality, the state or the Feds (as in Federal dam projects).

    But my appologies to pro-nuclear liberterians…no malice intended, I just think they live in a HUGE historical and economic contridiction with regards to nuclear energy.

    David

  50. Gallopingcamel

    When it comes to NPP technology, the government still has an important role to play if it will concentrate on emerging technologies. Instead, the intent is to invest in improving a proven technology (LWRs). Investing in proven technology is better done by the private sector and there will be plenty of money available if the government will clear the licensing minefield.

    I agree. (my bold added)

  51. David Walters,

    I put this out because *historically* I’m factually correct about the role of government in big engineering projects.

    The discussion is pointless. You are being selective, just like machiavelli is about the dangers of radiation.

    There is no point us continuing. If you could take me through the steps that Australia would need to follow to get least cost, clean energy in Australia, and a roll out plan to achieve the maximum impact for least cost over the coming decades, then this would be a much more valuable discussion. If you can show that the least cost solution involves public ownership, or whatever else it is that you are advocating, and can show how it could be achieved in Australia, then this would be also be valuable, however, I’ll take some persuading that a move to reintroduce public ownership of the electricity industry has any chance at all of getting off the ground.

    NAFTA and WTO has been an unmitated disaster for both the US and Mexico…

    This statement is absloute rubbnish and illustrates extreme left ideology. No point discussing it. The disaster is the protectionist policies of the EU and USA (and also Japan and others).

  52. “This statement is absloute rubbnish and illustrates extreme left ideology. No point discussing it. The disaster is the protectionist policies of the EU and USA (and also Japan and others).”

    actually, peter, when you make statements like this, you are “arguing” like machiavelli, without his hyperlinks.

    NAFTA is directly connected to forced labor migration to the U.S., exploitation in maquiladoras, elimination of environmental protections, and indirectly all the nasty racist anti immigrant ideology in the u.s. consequent upon the aforementioned forced migration.

    You’re right about one thing. U.S. agribusiness is protectionist so they are subsidized, and can dump cheap food in the mexican markets which then leads to the displacement of small farmers, who then go to the u.s. in a process no one in their right mind can call uncoerced.

    No need to respond, Peter. I can do it for you.

    “aspolute lumacy coming from the loonies.”

    yes, right.

  53. Peter, you should relax. Really. I am no more ideologically driven than yourself. Unlike you, I’d say, I’ve stated on several occasions I don’t *care* who builds nuclear energy, as long as it’s built.

    Of the 400 plus commercial nuclear reactors in the world today…how many were built by totally or even mostly private investments, how many built by State, or State financial input into? How many have *ever* been built purely by investments dictated by the market economy? Were Mexico’s two reactors? How about Sweden’s? Is France a sort of big ‘blind spot’ for you?

    I detailed in other threads how and *why* the French built their quite state owned, financed, operated, and constructed 50 reactors. The envy of the world. Do you *deny* these facts? As Rod Adams, one of the few real ‘nuclear entrepreneurs’ who is now working for SMRs, noted upon his return from France “if this is ‘Socialism’ then call me a ‘Socialist’”. Rod’s commitment to free enterprise is hardly diminished. I think he understands the role of the state in developing nuclear energy.

    Unlike you I seem to be more tolerant of different modes of production to achieve generation IV (and further Gen III) fission energy. I think when a system works to do the kind of heavy engineering required happens to be “The State” then I’m all for it. If it is only private investment guided by the invisible hand of “The Market”, then I’m “for it” if it works.

    I’ve yet to EVER see one proposal (including the UK’s rather fake “private capital only” nuclear plan) that *excludes* the role the state in financing or loan guarantees.

    As to your proposal. I know how to *start* a nuclear kick off in your country, under a State utility scheme. The same way *every* country has done it in the past, including the U.S.: invest in it. The Aussie economy right now is tied down spending a little over $20 Billion (in USD) on “defense”. Take half that and start a State Nuclear Corporation. Put out tenders, say, to the S. Korans, perhaps Westinghouse/Toshiba, and *just build ‘em*. They will be cheaper than relying on coal, something I think you and I both agree on.

    Peter, even if I drop my own socialist leanings and advocacy of total state control over energy (and water!) resources the *historical* facts are still on the heavy State involvement. There is no one, for example, who advocates nuclear energy in the US that doesn’t see at least the role of loan guarantees (for *many* a form of ‘socialism’) as needed to even get private financing. Such libertarian zero-tax dollar proposals for nuclear are advocated by no one in Congress, among groups, scientists or economists.

    But where could they exist? Well, the SMRs might be able to parlayed into 100% private financing. As of now, as far as I know…that is what is happening. That is completely on the R&D level. Beyond that? We’ll see. Again…I don’t care. Just get it done.

    David

  54. Greg,

    NAFTA is directly connected to forced labor migration to the U.S., exploitation in maquiladoras, elimination of environmental protections, and indirectly all the nasty racist anti immigrant ideology in the u.s. consequent upon the aforementioned forced migration.

    This is an example of what I mean by being selective. You choose to judge good and bad based on your ideology – what you think is most important. However, if you use indicies such as the UN Human Development Index, you will see that, over all, free trade and globalisation is benefiting humanity enrormously. Of course nothing is perfect, but overall, we are better off with free trade, globalisation, capitalism etc etc. We need to weigh the most important parameters, not just the politically correct ideals of the Left. For the link you asked for, go to GapMinder. I’ve posted the link so many times previously, there should be no need to do it again. I even described how to choose the axes to chart, etc, but I am sure you can work that out.

  55. David Walters,

    Peter, you should relax.

    I will, when we have reached the point that the major contributors here agree:

    1. we need low-cost not high-cost nuclear in Australia

    2. what we need to do get there

    3. that is the major issue that we should be discussing

    4. carbon price is not what we should be advocating (yet); it is a distraction, it is another symbolic gesture. It is the exact opposite of what we should be arguing for now.

    5. We are well organised, using or various skills like a well oiled team and getting the message out to media, public and politicians.

  56. David Walters,

    Unlike you, I’d say, I’ve stated on several occasions I don’t *care* who builds nuclear energy, as long as it’s built.

    You’ve misunderstood me. This is unfortunate. You appear to be reading into what I say wht you want to interpret.

    Please try nto understand this. I don’t care who builds it either as long as it gets built. But it is a distraction and a waste of time to argue for public ownership. It is just not going to happen. It is wasting time and effort continually arguing about trying to introduce arguments that were lost two decades ago. It is not going to happen. If you think you have a viable option, plan, please lay it out in detail. We are wasting outr time on this rubbish instead of working on developing a way forward.

  57. David,

    I find your post very frustrating. I’ve addressed all your points many times. You keep stating “state ownership is the way forward”. You need to explain the plan for how this could be done in Australia, now, not 40 years ago!!.

    How could we do it. How would it be financed. How would we change the direction of increasing privitisation. You are not answering any of those questions. Give us a plan. Lay it out.

  58. Peter: short comment about being selective.

    You made a comment about NAFTA not backed up by evidence. My comment was about NAFTA. You then switched to trade and globalization overall.

    who is being selective?

    I am not a protectionist anymore than I’m pro free trade. and I can envision different forms of globalization.

    I am utopian; you can rightly call me that. but the way things look right now, we’re all looking pretty utopian, even the pragmatists.

    btw, the reason I don’t agree with carbon pricing is because I don’t think the capitalist market can be globally regulated in the interests of most human beings. The competitors will not play by the rules.

  59. Greg,

    Selecting NAFTA is being selective in the first place. then selecting certain stats that suyit your case is selective. The point is that globalisation is good for the vast majority of people, as is free trade, as is capitalism, as is free enterprise (together with appropriate, but lighjt regulation). That is what is best overall, but nothing is perfect. If you remove your idelogical glasses it is absolutely clear. But a pointless discussion and a distyraction from where our effort would be most usefully directed. If you want to continue, can I suggest again that you lay out your plan as to how to make your way work in Australia (as I suggested in a previous post).

    I agree that the carbon market cannot be regulated because it is an unmeasureable substance and we could never get a suitable accounting system. But that is just one of many reason as I’ve said before.

    Raising the price of electricity is also exactly the wrong approach if we want the world to lower GHG emissions. Raising the price of dirty electricity will also raise the price of clean electricity (as I’ve explained before) and this will slow the rate of uptake of clean electricity and slow the rate of electricity’s displacement of fossil fuels for heat and land transport. Raising the cost of electricity also damages our economy relative to others. That creates many disadvantages which are much worse than sticking with dirty electricity until we can agree to get low cost clean electricity implemented. That is a key point that many seem to not appreciate. Putting a price on carbon will delay rather than accelerate the implementation of low cost clean electricity. See the comments on the “alternative to CPRS” thread for more on this.

  60. I’ve also opposed the carbon tax continue to do so. I don’t believe it will work, but worse, it will increase, not decrease, the cost of power generally. It’s possible that if people were allowed to chose where the electrons they purchase come from, it ‘could’ work, but not until fossil is on it’s way out for *other* reasons, namely an increase in nuclear.

    For me the biggest reason, and it’s an area Peter and I agree, that for nuclear to be effective and worth investing in (by anyone or thing) it needs to provide abundant and *cheap* power. I think sometimes we lose sight of this issue. Costs have meaning and any form of energy production has to be seen as a social investment that provides the foundation for further expansion of the productive forces, for future applied technology, and so on. If energy is seen as a huge expense that drags down the economy (any economy) it becomes a hindrance to economic expansion and thus should be opposed or worse, conservation for financial reason starts put on the brakes to economic expansion.

    I *suspect* peter is very concerned about this and thus his focus on costs.

    Australia can shift a lot of it’s public and private money toward nuclear. I don’t see *why* individual and institution would do that now with no chance of return for a decade or longer. But that nation should take a page out of their own history and apply it here: the Snowy Mountain Water Project Scheme. If approached from THAT angle, Australia can become nuclear and get rid of coal in 2 decades *easy*. The payback in that sort of *social* (public, private, public-private) investment would be immense and parallel the sort of development spur the Snowy Mountain project did for Australia.

    David

  61. Peter, you made a very good point above I didn’t address: raising the price of dirty power raises the price of clean power. This is very true and is one of the major pieces of ignorance the Greens brush over, at least in the US where various forms of market and consumer ‘choice’ exist. There are actually those that believe that buying ‘wind power’ from Texas gets you wind generated electrons in California. I kid you not.

    Perhaps the only place this is true is the very cheap (cheapest in the nation) Federal hydro power from the BPA in the Pacific Northwest but then that IS the market.

    At any rate if nuclear energy is *tied* to an increase in prices for power generally, people will reject it (we are talking “price” here, not “costs” an altogether different discussion and one for the Open Thread Barry posted today).

    Peter makes an important *political* point: people’s perception of, and the reality of the price of power has to be low enough for people to get ‘buy in’ to use corp. speak. This is why the strongest, by far, anti-nuclear propaganda surfaces around cost and price of new nuclear in the US. It is by far the most *effective* form of anti-nuclear propaganda.

  62. Hi Peter:

    I agree with David that this is not the place to have he said she said arguments about capitalism.

    but when you make unsupported assertions about free market capitalism as the best of all possible worlds, I sometimes feel inclined to offer up my own unsupported assertions.

    You say I’m blind; I say you’re blind. pretty tedious.

    as for a plan for nuke rollout in Australia, I don’t have the knowledge to do that.

  63. Pingback: SNE 2060 – are uranium resources sufficient? « BraveNewClimate

  64. David Walters and Greg Meyerson,

    I’ve only just seen these comments that were posted on 10 October. Thanks for these. I agree with most (perhaps all) of what David said on 10 October.

    Greg,

    I don’t accept your comment that you don’t have the knowledge to offer up a plan. It is all very well saying that public ownership is the way we should go but if you cannot suggest a practicable way that this could be achieved, then there is little value in suggesting it. It just becomes a debate about ideology. I see insurmountable issues involved with returning to public ownership of electricity generation in the forseeable future.

  65. Pingback: SNE 2060 – can we build nuclear power plants fast enough to meet the 2060 target? « BraveNewClimate

  66. Pingback: SNE 2060 – a multi-source energy supply scenario « BraveNewClimate

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