Nuclear is the least-cost, low-carbon, baseload power source

This is a press release to accompany a new peer-reviewed paper by Martin Nicholson, Tom Biegler and me (Barry Brook), published online this week in the journal Energy. In subsequents BNC post, I will look at how the media has reacted so far to the story (the good, the bad and the ugly), and also explore the paper’s findings in more depth. For now, here’s the overview. If you want a PDF copy of the paper, email me.

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Nuclear is the least-cost, low-carbon, baseload power source

Climate change professor supports nuclear in newly published analysis

When a carbon price that is high enough to drive a technology switch eventually kicks in, only nuclear power will keep the lights on, keep electricity costs down, and meet long-term emission reduction targets, say three Australian authors in a paper published this week in international peer-reviewed journal Energy*.

Introducing a carbon price changes relative technology power costs because rates of carbon emissions differ between technologies.

“In order to understand where our future electricity will come from” says lead author Martin Nicholson, “we need the best possible insights into generating technologies, their costs and their carbon emissions”.


After analysing a wealth of peer-reviewed studies on market needs, technology performance, life-cycle emissions and electricity costs, the researchers conclude that only five technologies currently qualify for low-emission baseload generation. Of these, nuclear power is the standout solution. Nuclear is the cheapest option at all carbon prices and the only one able to meet the stringent greenhouse gas emission targets envisaged for 2050.

Only one of these five qualifiers comes from the renewable energy category – solar thermal in combination with heat storage and gas backup. However, on a cost basis, it is uncompetitive, as are the carbon capture and storage technologies.

Professor Barry Brook, director of climate science at the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute says: “I am committed to the environment, personally and professionally. The evidence is compelling  that nuclear energy must play a central role in future electricity generation. No other technology can meet our demand for power while reducing carbon emissions to meet global targets”.

Martin Nicholson says: “Researching for my book Energy in a Changing Climate made me appreciate the central issues in producing low-emission electrical energy. This new paper supports my view that Australia must prepare immediately for a future where most of its electricity will eventually come from nuclear energy”.

The researchers also note that, given the importance of reducing electricity generator emissions, the need to keep electricity costs down, and the expansion of nuclear power globally, it seems essential that the Australian government rethink its nuclear energy policy.

Contact: Barry Brook  0420 958 400   OR   Martin Nicholson   02 6684 5213

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*Nicholson M, Biegler T & Brook BW. (2010) How carbon pricing changes the relative competitiveness of low-carbon baseload generating technologies. Energy, doi:10.1016/j.energy.2010.10.039

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

A new paper by three Australian researchers, published in the international peer-reviewed journal Energy, looks at 16 electricity generating technologies as candidates for meeting future greenhouse emission reduction targets.

The technologies are assessed in terms of their potential to produce reliable, continuous, baseload power. The assessment covers performance, cost and carbon emissions.

Cost, and the impact of carbon pricing on that cost, is analysed on the basis of 15 comprehensive cost studies published over the past decade. Similarly the carbon intensity estimates are based on 14 published studies of life cycle greenhouse emissions from electricity generation. The comprehensive range of authoritative studies analysed (including research from the International Energy Agency, Energy Information Administration, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) means that the results that emerge are reliable, comparable and representative.

For a technology to be considered fit-for-service as a baseload generator it needs to be scalable, have a reliable fuel supply, a low or moderate emissions intensity, and high availability without the need for a large external energy storage facility.

It turns out that technology options for replacing fossil fuels, based on established performance and objective cost projections, are much more limited than is popularly perceived. The review identifies only five proven low-emission technologies that could meet this set of fit-for-service criteria for the supply of baseload power. The technologies are: pulverised fuel coal combustion (PF coal) coupled with carbon capture and storage (CCS); integrated gasification combined cycle coal (IGCC) with CCS; combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) with CCS; nuclear; and solar thermal with heat storage and gas turbines.

Of these five, the only renewable technology is solar thermal with heat storage and gas backup. However, this is the most expensive of the technologies examined and replacing coal with solar thermal power would require a carbon price of over $150 per tonne of emissions.

The paper summarises the joint cost and emissions results in the diagram below. This shows how the assessed cost per megawatt-hour of electricity varies with the technology used and the price set for carbon dioxide emissions. These prices, known as levelised costs of electricity, are the accepted way of expressing the average cost of generating electrical energy over the lifetime of a plant. They are regarded as a good indicator of the average wholesale price the power station owner would need to break even, in financial terms, and can be standardised across different technologies (and so are comparable).

In the diagram, the five fit-for-service technologies are compared with costs for conventional coal-fired generators using pulverised fuel (PF). The point where each line hits the vertical axis on the left is the cost when there is no carbon price, as happens now. It shows that a modern coal power station produces the cheapest power.

As the emission price (e.g., carbon tax) rises, so does the electricity cost. Coal-based power rises fastest because it has the greatest emissions. The points where the line for PF coal crosses the other lines represent the carbon prices where each technology becomes more economic than traditional coal-fired power.

Nuclear stands out as the cheapest solution to provide low-emission baseload electricity over almost the whole carbon price range shown. The next cheapest is CCGT (natural gas) with CCS, which needs a carbon price of just over $30. To justify building either of the two coal technologies (PF or IGCC) with CCS requires a carbon price over $40.

According to international experience, if nuclear energy were adopted in Australia its initial cost (termed ‘first-of-a-kind’) would be about $30 per MWh higher than in the diagram, but would come down to that level as more plants were built.

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97 Comments

  1. One might well expect the governments to take action to ensure that the public has access to reliable knowledge on energy subjects, but they are hamstrung by political considerations. Any move that could appear to favour nuclear power would immediately affect their popularity adversely and with it probably the next election. If it is suggested that a nuclear waste depository is built, then immediately a pressure group in that locality is organized to oppose it. The member of Parliament for that area tells the minister that if the proposed depository is built he will probably not be elected at the next election. The minister then shelves the proposal and the depository is never built.

    Governments are now concerned about global warming and convene conferences to discuss possible countermeasures. At these conferences every conceivable method is discussed except nuclear despite its being the most effective alternative. Nevertheless, the reality of the danger of climate change is increasingly realized and the leaders of several governments now declare their support for nuclear power, although they still fail to take action.

    The unfortunate reality is that this issue has never turned on the facts. If representatives of the nuclear industry, who really know what they are talking about, attempt to contribute to the debate, they are dismissed with the remark “They would say that, wouldn’t they?” In fact the nuclear industry has never even been allowed on the battlefield. The battlefield here is the media, which alone have the power to influence public opinion. The media establishment swallowed the attackers’ story hook, line, and sinker, becoming their allies. They freely and continually give exposure to the antinuclear activists and their allies, but never give the nuclear industry a chance. With constant exposure to this one-sided propaganda, the public was slowly but surely won over. The public was driven insane over fear of radiation; it became convinced by the demonstrably and utterly false notion that nuclear power was more likely to kill them than such well-known killers as motor vehicle accidents, cigarette smoking, and alcohol; that burying nuclear waste, actually a very simple matter, was one of the world’s great unsolved problems; that, contrary to all informed sources, the Three Mile Island accident was a close call to disaster and so on. Fears of everything connected with nuclear power were blown up out of all perspective with other risks. Goebbels, had shown what propaganda could do, but the nuclear industry never believed that it could succeed against the rationality of science. Yet succeed it did. The victory of the anti-nuclear activists has been complete.

    Papers and articles showing that nuclear energy is superior to other sources are valuable, but if they are not used as an element in a broad PR campaign to advance the idea of nuclear power, they will be lost in the noise, as many have in the past. The fight cannot be won by reason alone, I wish it could be, but unless we are willing to get down in the mud with our enemies we will lose again.

  2. @seth – Nuclear power meets more than 50% of Ontario’s electricity needs already, and although the government there has been pandering to the renewables crowd of late, they have run up against the fact that the Provence’s long-term energy needs cannot be met without turning to nuclear.

    With AECL up on the block the hope is that a consortium will buy at least the CANDU division, and have enough political weight to stop the regulatory excesses that the industry has faced in Canada since the Atomic Energy Control Board, was replaced by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the former having been much more positive about nuclear energy than the latter.

    The only thing I hope is that they have the brains to build two CANDU 12 reactors, rather than that damned ACR, with I believe is going to be more trouble than it is worth.

  3. “Any move that could appear to favour nuclear power would immediately affect their popularity adversely and with it probably the next election.”

    To be honest, I reckon that’s a myth in Australia. There’s more support than some people think there is. I think there is widespread support for nuclear power. Even if there is a particularly loud vocal minority of fanatical anti-nuclear activists, few taken them seriously.

    If the Labor party supported nuclear power, they would have the support of the Liberal party, and many independents, the Nationals, the Secular Party etc, and they would have the support of those Greens out there who are actually interested in rational, skeptical science-based decision making regarding environmental and energy policies, even if not everybody within the Greens thinks that way.

  4. Of the 5 technologies which are compliant with low emissions requirements the 3 fossil fuel ones can be ruled out as they depend on CCS which is not scaleable.Except maybe in the minds of the vested interests in the coal and gas industries who are determined to sell this pup.

    Outside of nuclear that leaves solar thermal (with backup and storage) which is a favourite,along with wind, of the green technocopians. The expense of this is such that it is probably not scaleable either.Also,I suspect that a large scale solar plant,thermal or PV,will have problems of maintenance which the proponents conveniently overlook or haven’t yet become aware of because it is a relatively new technology not tried under Australian conditions.

    The nuclear waste “problem” is hardly applicable to Australia.We have numerous suitable places which are in MAMBA country – Miles And Miles of Bugger All. In any case,waste from Gen 2&3 reactors which would be built first up needs to be readily accessible for fuel for Gen 4,not buried under hundreds of metres of rock.

    Indeed,the PR side of this is most important.I seem to detect a bit more pro nuclear sentiment in some of the mover and shaker class.Of course,the Caldicotts are still out there peddling their propaganda.Just what Jo Sixpack thinks about it is impossible to determine at this time.That will be where the political crunch comes from.

    Find a way of sliding a pro nuclear message past the normal Sixpack pursuits and we might be on a winner.

  5. Not forgetting the elephant (s)in the solar/ thermal room . Al Quaida ‘s natural habitat is the Sahara, and those folk are gonna be really cooperative , and allow clean electricity to be exported to the infidel pigs in Europe. As for Australia’s Pilbara , the local indigenous population will kick up an almighty fuss if anyone wants 100 square Km of desert for mirrors and suchlike.

  6. The graph doesn’t tell the whole story. It omits CCGT without CCS but we can presume that curve resembles that of CCGT with CCS ie they pay the carbon tax on the fully emitted CO2 rather than attempting to capture most of it. These air cooled, uncaptured combined cycle gas plants are springing up like mushrooms so they must have something going for them. Nonetheless for proposed new large baseload plant like Bayswater B there seems to be a preference for coal if only CCS technology was more certain.

    BTW I’d describe future carbon costs as ‘jokey’. There might be a nominal carbon tax of say $30/tCO2 but a range of tricks might enable a generator to get it down to an effective $5. However like CCS it provides no certainty. Another unknown is future raw fuel prices eg coal escalating 20% in the time gas goes up 10% or vice versa.

    If the curves are correct there must be other explanations for the dearth of NPP proposals. Contrary to some views I believe it is only the ACT that has prohibited NP by legislation. Thus if ETSA or Origin Energy said they wanted to to build a NPP using their own money they might get cautious approval. Therefore the next step in the analysis must concern several forms of uncertainty over these best case costs.

  7. I disagree that CCS is now fit-for-service except for those localities which have methane or petroleum sources which thencan be used as sinks for the cvaptured CO2; Slepnir and West Texas demonstrate the feasilibity of such geologic formations. Otherwise, while I am quite optimistic about other sequestration formations, no demonstration appears to be under way, anywhere.

  8. John Newlands

    “Contrary to some views I believe it is only the ACT that has prohibited NP by legislation”

    As far as I can tell, construction of NPPs in Australia is prohibited under both the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

    I don’t know what the States have as far as legislation on NPPs, but I think that if they were to make moves to legalise them, the Federal Government would quickly challenge it in court and disallow it. I’m no lawyer, but as far as I know State laws aren’t allowed to contain large contradictions to Commonwealth legislation.

    The Nuclear Energy Agency has a good summary of the relevant laws governing all matters nuclear in Australia, here: http://www.nea.fr/law/legislation/australia.pdf

  9. Thanks TK. Still I picture an ACT jail with murderers, child molesters and nuclear power station operators all the wing that houses hardened crims.

    More social science; currently CCGT without CCS seems to be racing ahead despite being neither the cheapest nor the best. Arguably this reflects what economists call the risk premium. I noted that the Mannum SA peaking plant will start at 250 MW then may expand to 1000 MW.

    One risk is that the govt will vacillate on the rules and rates for carbon taxes. For example people who make biodiesel at home take a punt they won’t be prosecuted for the 38c/L fuel tax. Another risk is that cheap CCS may never happen. It would be crazy to assume $100 carbon taxes then build miles of stainless steel pipes to old gas fields then to have the govt lose its nerve. It’s much safer for generators to assume that the customers will pay high electricity prices under protest rather than make multi-billion dollar investments that could backfire.

    Here’s an easy fix
    1) legislate a maximum CO2 standard (eg 50 kh per Mwh) so that CCGT must have CCS ie double expense
    2) make NP legal.

  10. I see the ARPANS Act has not one but two clauses ensuring that an NPP build must go to legislation. It’s hard to say how it might go under the current political landscape.
    Gillard – signed a uranium deal with Russia’s Medvedev
    Garrett – thinks Chernobyl killed 20,000 people
    Albanese – old school Labor
    Ferguson – disillusioned after giving $300m to geothermal for no result
    Swan – doesn’t really believe in low carbon
    Shorten – unknown, a mate of Paul Howes
    Rudd – in the Al Gore mould
    Conroy – only broadband will save us

    Most Liberals seem pro NP while all Greens are anti. Independents unknown but Windsor gets his name at the head of the carbon price report. My guess is that things will change with the next El Nino, $2/L petrol and Australia seeming like fuddy duddies compared to most of Europe and Asia.

  11. Tom Biegler has pointed out the significance of the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism holding up the release of the “Australian Electricity Generation Technology Costs – Reference Case 2010″ from February to November. Almost certainly it was because it included costs for nuclear power which was against government policy and a potential embarrassment for the election in late August.

    The fact that it has now been released suggest a shift in government policy, almost certainly driven by the responsible minister, Martin Ferguson. The worm could be turning.

  12. The Government can ignore them Fin if the Coalition also support NPP. Bipartisan support on the issue — which is absolutely essential — makes the objections of fringe dwellers like Bandt and Windsor irrelevant on this issue (unless they get a huff and use this to push a no confidence motion). Who knows, politics is a dirty game.

  13. The Government can ignore them Fin if the Coalition also support NPP.

    Now here’s an interesting question: Would the antinuke sentiments of Bandt and Windsor be strong enough for them to offer government to the coalition if labour tried on a pro-nuclear stance, and would Abbott resist the temptation to take them up in return for ruling out nuclear power for as long as those two were needed?

  14. The ALP has promised no price on carbon during this term. They will probably ditch that promise with assistance from the Greens. If they then do a deal with the Coalition to go nuclear, love her or hate her, Gillard will have proven to be be the ultimate pragmatist. If she is really smart she will then use carbon tax revenue to cut income tax and confound all her opponents. The Liberals then couldn’t bleat so hard about the carbon tax unless they oppose the income tax cuts (bad form given their ideological base) or demonstrate how they would have delivered the tax cuts without the carbon tax (intellectually not that hard, but politically quite difficult).

    However even in the feds support nuclear power the state governments can still make life difficult and may get political mileage in doing so. I’d suggest that the way around this is to build the first nuclear plants in the ACT where the feds can quash any territory legislation that opposes it. That could also mean the Jervis Bay Territory.

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

  15. p.s. The ACT is relatively easy politics on this for either major federal party. The relevant federal seat is Fraser which is held by the ALP with 64% of the two party vote. Nuclear won’t swing this to the Liberals and if the Liberals were in government they wouldn’t stand a chance of winning it anyway so it doesn’t matter.

    In terms of the senate this region currently gives one senator to each to the two major parties. There is a slight risk for the ALP that theres would slip to the Greens but it isn’t a huge risk.

    p.p.s. Yes I know I’m getting way ahead of myself here. However it is interesting to speculate.

  16. No more mention of politics. Any comment you make henceforth that mentions politics or ‘left’ and ‘right’ will be deleted. Any comment that violates BNC commenting rules, regarding questioning people’s motivations, will be deleted..

    If you don’t like it, you are of course quite free to exercise your right to leave the blog and discuss these matters elsewhere with an audience that doesn’t care about such things. That’s your choice. But I do care, and the commenting rules on BNC are MINE. The rest is up to you.

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/31/alternative-to-cprs/#comment-106761

    I notice the ‘commenting rules’ regarding talking politics apply only to talking conservative politics. Talk of Green or Labor politics is fine, in fact it is encouraged. Barry engages himself in support of these policies. Any support for a carbon price (a Labor-Green policy) is greatly encouraged :)

  17. The opening sentence states:
    When a carbon price that is high enough to drive a technology switch eventually kicks in, ..

    This statement demonstrates advocacy for a price on carbon, and by extension raising the cost of electricity.

    There is, of course, a rational alternative to raising the cost of electricity, an alternative that arguably will be more effective at cutting world emissions and much more acceptable to the voters. The rational alternative is to allow the cost of electricity from nuclear to be less than from fossil fuel. This can be achieved by removing all the irrational impediments* to nuclear energy.

    How could nuclear be cheaper than coal generated electricity in Australia? Let’s play with some figures.

    Martin Burkle @ http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/11/07/electricity-costs-exhibits/#comment-107031 mentioned that the Chinese are building their CPR1000 in 52 months for a cost of US$1,500/kW.

    Let’s assume that:

    1. the impediments to nuclear in Australia are removes so they are no greater than they are in China (that is, the IAEA requirements remain);

    2. 50% of the cost of an NPP in Australia is for imported components and 50% is for local labour during construction;

    3. Australia pays say 30% more than the Chinese for the imported components and Chinese engineering – including shipping

    4. Higher labour costs during construction in Australia add 70% to the local component;

    5. Therefore, total capital cost would be 50% higher than in China – i.e. $1,500 x 1.5 = $2,250/kW

    The capital cost of $2,250/kW is around the same cost as a new coal plant without carbon capture and storage (CCS). The fuel and operating costs of nuclear plants are less than coal plants, so LCOE of nuclear would be less than coal, and this is achieved – without any need for a carbon price and thus without mandating an increase in the cost of electricity.

    If the impediments* to nuclear are removed, such that the situation assumed above is allowed, and our federal and state governments send a clear message to investors that only low emissions electricity generation will be allowed as new builds in the future, then we could have low emissions electricity generation in Australia at a cost less than coal.

  18. You’re right Peter, it’s too restrictive to say ‘no politics’ and indeed I never wanted it to come to that, as I’d explained.

    So instead I simply reserve the right and privilege, as BNC owner/author, to tell anyone I choose, when I choose, to pull their head in, when I consider their comments on a particular topic/theme to be inappropriate, or overly repetitive, or ad hominem, or whatever.

    And since this is my little space on the net, I don’t need to justify my decision, or defend it, to you or anyone else. It just is. If you don’t like it, then tough, you either grit your teeth and continue to participate in the evolving discussion here, or you don’t. It’s entirely your choice – after all, the Internet is the ultimate domain of choice.

  19. barry, peter, et al: I read your article.

    This is not really a major issue in the article, but I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around csp as basepower, 70 CF, without “lots” of natural gas (which defeats the purpose).

    if you reduce the gas significantly and up the storage, how could you find enough excess solar (periods near I’m assuming 100 capacity) to get 700 MW on average annually?

    you can’t build redundant capacity because that reduces the capacity factor too much I would think. surely below 70.

    Is baseload solar thermal really plausible (cost issues aside!) without gas doing a lot of the work?

    what about those winter days trainer (and Lang) talks about?

    finally, the solar thermal stuff is really just a guess, isn’t it? like much of the CCS. I have a vague memory that Peter L was very critical of the studies you cite, at least one of them.

  20. Gentlemen. If we had left CCS and solar thermal out of our research paper we would have been left with one alternative for low-carbon baseload.

    On the face of it, this might sound like reasonable science, but it would have made for a rather uninteresting and very controversial paper where we were left defending our reasons for excluding CCS and solar thermal rather than showing that, based on the available research, even if they can be made to work, they won’t achieve the emission reduction targets anyway.

    I actually have no doubt that solar thermal with heat storage and gas heating when needed can deliver baseload power. The issue is cost and the amount of gas CO2 emissions – which we evaluated from the few papers available (4 LCOE and 2 LCA). CO2 storage is a more contentious issue outside depleted gas fields.

  21. martin:

    I thought your paper was great and you should not have left those various technologies out.

    I would just like to have a better understanding of how solar thermal can deliver baseload. can it do so without (or nearly without) gas backup? this is what I don’t understand.

    and again let’s take winter, where trainer argues that even in the best locations, insolation is down. how do you achieve a high capacity factor under these conditions? even with free and ample storage.

    how do you get sufficient excess power to fill storage while providing baseload without redundant generation, which, as I understand it, reduces CF.

    this is more a technical question than a criticism of the paper. in fact, it’s not a criticism of the paper.

  22. Barry, Martin & Tom, I think its great that this paper has made it into the published literature. One of the frequent easy outs I have encountered in trying to communicate this information to various sceptical audiences is that the analyses published here at BNC are not peer reviewed. That objection is now removed. This paper serves as a stake in the ground for arguing clean energy costs.

  23. “The rational alternative is to allow the cost of electricity from nuclear to be less than from fossil fuel. This can be achieved by removing all the irrational impediments* to nuclear energy.”

    To advocate the removal of all impediments is absolutely not practical in the current political/social climate, a.k.a. the real world. Therefore, this line of argument really isn’t that rational at all, as it lacks an absolutely essential element: pragmatism.

  24. Gregory, winter is indeed a significant problem for solar thermal – everywhere outside the tropics and they have different problem.

    Folks like David Mills are convinced that with 16 hours storage STE can deliver 24 by 7. He even has research models to “prove” it. You might need a solar field of a least 3 or 4 which means you need to collect solar energy for 6 to 8 hours to make it work.

    My instinct it that it can’t be done and deliver an availability factor of 90%. If Mills can build a trial plant and prove it can be done over an extended period, then he will make people sit up and listen and we can go back to discussing the cost.

    In the meantime you will need gas heating to tide you over cloudy periods – particularly in winter.

  25. okay: I need to get clear on some things so I went back to barry’s older post on andasol.

    there he notes:

    To increase the capacity factor from 40% to 90%, one would have to roughly increase the size of the mirror field by a factor of 2.25 (90/40) and the thermal storage facilities by 2.5 (18.5/7.5). The larger mirror field can be rationalised on two fronts: (1) more collecting area is required to recharge the larger volume of storage salts, and (2) the solar multiple for winter will be about twice that of summer.

    here’s what’s confusing me. when you enlarge the collecting area, don’t you change the plant’s nameplate capacity?

    the andasol plant starts out with a cf of 40–average of 20 MWe compared to peak of 49.9 MWe.

    after enlarging the collecting area, is your peak ~50 MWe, with average now 45 MWe or .9?

    or have you just doubled your nameplate, corresponding to the expanded collection area?

    The last time I got confused was on George Stanford’s plutonium mines and that got cleared up.

    Hoping for similar result here. Once again, I figure I’m missing something because it looks to me like what increases CF here could just as easily be called overbuild.

    and yet it was my impression that overbuild was a synonym for redundant generation and redundant generation didn’t increase capacity factor but compensated for it.

  26. Having read the paper I find it very interesting and have only two points to bring up.

    1. Despatchability – generally nuclear and other base-load only power plants are considered non-despatchable however looking around I could not find an authorative definition of despatchable. Generally though power plants that cannot vary their output in a reasonable time frame are not considered despatchable. Conventional nuclear is either on or off and if off take hours to days to bring back on line.

    2. There are very few CSP studies cited. One of them, ref 12, is a IEA projection of costs in 2016 and is a very high figure. The other studies are far more consistent in costs with each other and the costs in the studies in this review of the literature.

    http://www.supersmartgrid.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/csp_memo.pdf

    Which included quite a few studies that were not included and would have been far better than the last one (ref12).

  27. As Quokka says the generator capacity stays the same. The extra solar field above 1 is to charge the heat storage to extend the hours of operation.

    BTW, I wonder if we should talk availability factor rather than capacity factor. The CF is driven by the demand for energy placed on the plant. The AF is based on the amount of heat storage available to drive the generator (fuel availability plus maintenance down time). A coal plant will have an AF of around 90% (fuel always available but 10% downtime for maintenance). The CF might only be 80% because network demand requires periods of part loading.

  28. @Stephen Gloor – Despatchability means to have sufficient generating capacity on-line at all times to meet the load demand, plus system losses, plus reserve capacity for emergencies. Nuclear power plants then are despatchable as an element in any forward market. What they not dispatchable at are ancillary services, like peaking, like most big base load plants.

    The point about despatchability is that it is not load-following, (although load following generators must be dispatchable) it is that the power is there when it is promised – something that solar and wind cannot do.

    The concepts of despatchability and load following must not be confounded, although renewable supporters like to try and do just that as part of their campaign of lies and half-truths.

  29. Stephen, thanks for the link to the literature review. When looking as CSP studies it is very important that apples are being compared to apples.

    We looked at baseload plants – capacity factors above 70%. The Black & Veatch study clearly states the CF of the solar plants with 6 hours storage is 40%. These are intermediate or peaking plants not baseload plants. We chose studies that specifically included gas backup to extend the hours of operation.

  30. Martin Nicholson – “We looked at baseload plants – capacity factors above 70%”

    Reading in ref12 I cannot see where it stated that the plants studied in 2016 had a CF of over 70%.

    Also would you not assume that the 40% is solar only with the remainder to be made up by gas? Or are you only considering 70%CF solar only?

  31. DV82XL – “Despatchability means to have sufficient generating capacity on-line at all times to meet the load demand”

    Can you provide a reference for that? I cannot find anything like this definition.

    All I can find is:

    http://www.ippny.org/power_industry/glossary.cfm
    “Dispatchability is the ability of a generating unit to increase or decrease generation, or to be brought on line or shut down at the request of a utility’s system operator.”

    http://www.ceere.org/rerl/about_wind/RERL_Fact_Sheet_2a_Capacity_Factor.pdf
    “Dispatchability – Dispatchability is the ability of a power plant to be turned on quickly to a desired level of output. Wind
    power plants are not dispatchable.”

    In the paper it is defined:

    “Dispatchable Can the output be allocated by the system operator to meet the anticipated load?”

    If the load changes a non-despatchable power source cannot change to suit the anticipated load other than turning off. If a NPP turns off then it cannot turn on again in a timely fashion.

  32. The inability of a NPP to load follow is an often repeated myth. In practice, in most grids, NPPs *don’t* load follow, but it’s not because they *can’t* but because it is cheaper to turn down a fossil plant and save fuel, or a hydro plant and save the water to meet peak demand later, rather than a NPP where running at part load doesn’t save much. Nuclear only follows the load when other generators are already off, and the only place this happens regularly is France. Their electricity generation and usage is available at
    http://www.rte-france.com/fr/developpement-durable/maitriser-sa-consommation-electrique/eco2mix-consommation-production-et-contenu-co2-de-l-electricite-francaise
    in near real-time, and for the last month. You’ll need to look back to early November to see much load following, as it is unusually cold at the moment across the whole of Western Europe and they’re running everything flat out, including some old coal plants. It’s more obvious in the summer, but it’s there.

    See also http://www.areva.com/EN/global-offer-419/epr-reactor-one-of-the-most-powerful-in-the-world.html

    Ignore the marketing spin the relevant bit is:-

    Load follow: between 60 and 100% nominal output, the EPR™ reactor can adjust it power output at a rate of 5% nominal power per minute at constant temperature, preserving the service life of the components and of the plant.,

  33. As I understand it in the French reactor fleet the reactors that have been most recently refuelled have the greatest maneuverability for changes in power output while those near the end of their fuelling cycle much less so. On average the fleet is managed to retain sufficient flexibility for the needs of the grid.

  34. Martin:

    Barry, if I recall, criticized Jacobsen/Delucci for their use (misuse) of the distinction between AF and CF. If I recall correctly, J emphasizes wind’s high availability factor in order to hide its low capacity factor.

    In this context, AF would seem to refer to the claim that wind power is ready to go, available, not needing long maintenance periods.

    So if you use the term this way, you could (misleadingly) prize apart the number of hours per year an energy source is operating from HOW WELL IT’S OPERATING DURING THIS PERIOD. To a non expert like myself, CF avoids this ambiguity as it always combines time available with maximum power output. CF of 91 % or so means 8000 out of 8700 hours in a year, you’re getting full power.

    that a wind farm may be operating unreliably 8600 hours per year (I”m just making this up) is no great advantage.

    but when I read your comment, I would infer that Jacobson may have been using the term incorrectly…?

    To return to the different kinds of overbuild, if it is true that redundant generation for solar thermal (see the relevant section in trainer paper) requires both greater turbine capacity and greater collection area while upping Solar Thermal’s capacity factor means expanding the former (in tandem with increased storage) while leaving the latter untouched, doesn’t this point to the utter absurdity of the whole project?

    Normally, if you up one end of the chain, you’d want to up the other end too (generator capacity). It looks to me like the only reason not to up the generator capacity side and thus get more power is MERELY TO BE ABLE TO SAY THAT ST CAN HAVE A HIGH CAPACITY FACTOR.

    Whatever you want to call it, whether hi cf with a solar field greater than 1, or redundant generating capacity (what Peter Lang has focused on), it’s absurdly wasteful.

    Hi CF solar looks like public relations to me, and nothing more.

    is this unfair?

  35. Several media outlets have reported on this new paper published by Brook and his colleagues. Many of the news reports include a token little sound bite of rhetoric from Ian Lowe – saying that the paper is “deeply flawed”.

    But it’s just rhetoric and fluff – will Lowe or anybody else actually put up anything of substance, anything intellectually credible, to respond to this research?

  36. will Lowe or anybody else actually put up anything of substance, anything intellectually credible, to respond to this research?

    In all likelihood they’ll point to something like ZCA2020 claiming that it answers everything. That’s already been done in one of the comments threads to the article. No mention was made of the BNC critique of ZCA2020, of course.

  37. Congrats Barry and co-authors for getting your very readable paper published in the Oz.. DV , thanks for the lucid explanation of ” despatchability” . Stephen Gloor, you’re splitting hairs.

  38. Pingback: Nuclear is the least cost way to go | Eclipse Now

  39. @ Finrod:

    But ZCA does not answer it at all.

    ZCA says that it’s probably technically possible to replace all coal using solar thermal and wind, etc.

    That’s really all that ZCA says, and I don’t think any nuclear advocates disagree with the basic thesis that it is technically possible.

    But it’s far, far more expensive, more risky, less technologically mature, takes longer to deploy and has higher life-cycle CO2 emissions than nuclear power.

    ZCA does not make any attempt at all to do what Brook and colleagues do – to compare the cost and potential effective scale of coal displacement of solar thermal to nuclear energy, CCS, and other technologies which could reasonably be considered.

  40. unclepete & Stephen Gloor – Steve was not splitting hairs really. I spent most of the day running down the semantics of the terms “despatchability” and “despatchable” as they apply to the electric power market, and it would seem that they are applied flexibly, and only have meaning in context.

    The electric power market operates at several levels. There is a Long Term Contract level that arranges for power to be supplied over periods of up to five years. This may be with a multi-generator station, in which case a minimum amount of power must available or despatchable over the length of the contract, which may only be a percentage of the stations capacity.

    The Medium Term Market (Week ahead to a month) where Energy Traders, ESPs, and other authorized market participants establish bilateral energy contracts between Generation, transmission, and Loads for projected demand, driven by weather and such. The same thing as above, where the generator promises to dispatch power on schedule.

    A Short-term Corrections Market operates mostly 72 to 48 hours ahead, and deals mostly in ancillary services, the availability of which can be referred to as despatchable in that they will only be drawn upon when needed.

    Then there is the Day Ahead Market (24 hours) and the Real Time market (5 min. blocks over an hour) which can depend on peaking generators to cover shortages, which of course must be despatchable on demand.

    This is a bit of a mash up of the usage of these terms in several different electric markets. Thus the terms can be used for just about any power that is available, or so restricted that nothing except gas fired turbines and hydro qualify, again depending on context and local convention.

  41. I think it should be standard practice to divide by capacity factor when discussing intermittent energy sources. For example suppose a source with 25% c.f. claimed an LCOE of 20c per kwh. Then to get an ‘average’ 100% of the original nameplate it would need to be overbuilt 4X. Thus the LCOE would be 80c per kwh.

    Contrast that with fossil backup. Suppose we had 25% intermittent at 20c plus 75% fossil at 15c. I make that 16.3c average which would be lower if it were all fossil. The figures would be overbuilt intermittent 80c per kwh, fossil balanced intermittent 16.3c per kwh and all fossil 15c. The intention is so that the Ian Lowe and friends can’t get away with quoting incomplete costs.

  42. I think we all need to be a bit cautious when we discuss how power markets work on this Blog. It is an international discussion but market operations and use of terms varies in different countries.

    In its simplist form dispatchable means capable of being dispatched. The act of dispatching is often defined in the broad sense as the planned allocation of generating plant to meet expected future loads in the network.

    In the Australian National Electricity Market (NEM), generating capacity can only be bid into the market if it capable of being dispatched. In the NEM, baseload generators are bid into the market so must be dispatchable (almost by definition).

    To get round the issue of scheduling some intermittent generating technologies (eg wind) we now use the term semi-dispatch which puts some restrictions on the plant operation (eg it may be forced to control its output).

    So terms and markets do vary around the world.

  43. For sure Martin, I just wanted to clear up the small confusion Stephen Gloor and I were having over the term. And you are quite right, I would not have suspected that electric power market operations could be so varied around the world. I am glad this came up as it gave me a reason to look into the subject, which is as fascinating as it is complex.

  44. Martin – ” The act of dispatching is often defined in the broad sense as the planned allocation of generating plant to meet expected future loads in the network.”

    The only problem with this definition is that under this a wind farm with a pretty certain wind forecast could plan to generate to meet expected loads in the future. Does this make wind despatchable?

    However I can accept your definition as the real difference is nuclear has an on site fuel supply whereas renewables take their fuel from nature when and where they can get it. A NPP like a coal plant could be commanded to generate from its fuel supply unlike wind which has an inherently uncertain ‘fuel’ supply.

    I am still concerned about ref 12 as I cannot find justification for the almost double cost of solar thermal in this study. As you must have thoroughly read and understood it to put it in your paper can you please show me where the cost for solar thermal is derived and why a projection for 6 years into the future is valid when you do not seem to accept or put in the other studies forward projections that halve the cost of solar thermal.

    In this way solar thermal could have a FOAK column as well. Letting nuclear have a FOAK allowance is a bit disingenuous as the other technologies also have the FOAK factor as CCS is not proven anywhere as well and the first few plants, assuming such a misbegotten thing eve gets built, will be much more expensive than the production units.

  45. Pingback: The arithmetic adds up to nuclear « BraveNewClimate

  46. Tom Keen @ 29 November 2010 at 11:40 AM

    “The rational alternative is to allow the cost of electricity from nuclear to be less than from fossil fuel. This can be achieved by removing all the irrational impediments* to nuclear energy.”

    To advocate the removal of all impediments is absolutely not practical in the current political/social climate, a.k.a. the real world. Therefore, this line of argument really isn’t that rational at all, as it lacks an absolutely essential element: pragmatism.

    I must have explained a dozen times that there is a time factor. It is no more irrational to argue for getting rid of, over time, the excessive regulations that have been imposed on nuclear by decades of anti-nuclear activists than it is to talk about rolling out IFR’s by 2020 or of running out of uranium by 2100, or of catastrophic climate change. Surely you do understand the concept of time, don’t you?

    I’ve said, repeatedly, there will be a period where we move from FOAK to NOAK and during that period we will need to provide the sort of financial assistance and send the clear signals to investors in nuclear that we have been sending to investors in renewables (subsidies, legislation etc). This includes removing the impediments to nuclear. They cannot all be removed in Australia. Some require changes to IAEA regulations. This will take a long time. However, I argue we should not impose a carbon price until we have seriously addressed the issue of identifying all the Australian impediments (the Productivity Commission could do this) and then deciding how to remove all those that Australia can remove. If we impose a carbon price first, the impediments will be papered over. I’ve explained all this in previous posts.

    I’ve also argued the Western democracies will need to remove their requirements for excessive nuclear safety. That will happen over time, but I don’t know how long it will take. We will, I am sure, move to a level playing field and we will, eventually, get completely over our fears of nuclear power. We will accept a level of industrial accidents just as we accept industrial accidents in other industries, airlines, etc. I have no idea how long this will take, but it will happen faster if we point out that the requirements of safety of nuclear have made it excessively safe in comparison to the levels of safety we demand of other industries – 10 to 100 times safer than coal generation. We need to point out there is a cost penalty for this excessive safety, the higher cost will slow the rate of roll out of nuclear world wide (as it has been doing for the past 40 odd years), we pay for the higher safety in the cost of electricity and, importantly, by maintaining higher risk (higher fatalities per MWh) coal fired power stations instead. That is what is irrational

    Tom Keen, you and nearly everyone else here has studiously avoided discussing what the impediments are and of discussing how to remove them. Yet you, and the others, want to talk incessantly about imposing carbon taxes. I wonder why that is.

  47. Finally, and this is last thing that I can find in an otherwise excellent paper, the est nuclear costs seem a little low.

    In this study of nuclear generated electricity:
    http://rael.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/old-site-files/2007/HultmanetalNuclearViewpoint2007.pdf

    You can see that the very cheapest electricity in this study is 2004US$0.30/kwHr wheres the most expensive is 0.12 or 0.14 per kwHr. This would equate at a guess to .4 to .14 in 2009 dollars and yet your est nuclear costs do not reflect this much variation. The highest est nuclear cost you have is 79 and the lowest (35) is under the cheapest levelised electricity cost in the USA assuming my guesstimates of 2004 to 2008 inflation are correct.

    In fact this study states:

    “In fact, a survey reveals that 16% of the reactors delivered total costs >8 ¢/kWh and 5% were >12¢/kWh. Importantly, whereas many estimates for the costs of new nuclear technology anticipate a normal or lognormal cost distribution, this high-cost cluster exceeds significantly the prices
    that traditional financial analysis would predict for new plants (21). Financial risk is often defined as the possibility of surprise, and the historical record
    of nuclear power clearly demonstrates this
    possibility.”

    Such a small range of est nuclear cost might lead to the conclusion that you have not factored in financial risk in the prices that you have stated for est nuclear power.

    One thing that I saw in this paper is that levelised cost exclude externalities. Can you confirm that the prices for nuclear include/do not include decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal charges?

  48. Peter, it’s a chicken-and-egg problem. More sensible regulatory/monitoring systems would reduce nuclear costs. Carbon taxes would raise costs of its chief competitors (coal and gas). Which comes first? I argue that we need a circuit breaker here in Australia, and as the above paper shows, if this is applied — even at a relatively low cost — nuclear will fall seriously on the policy/planning table. At that point, there will be greater incentive to address the former problems, much as the UK is now trying to do with its revised planning/approval laws. I think we need BOTH, or else we’ll take the default ‘no option’ and continue to burn cheap coal with no price paid for its externalities.

  49. Stephen, decomm and waste management are built into the LCOE calculations. We have not factored anything into these LCOE numbers — the factoring was left to the organisations/authorities listed in Table 2. Externalities involve costs that are not currently factored into the LCOE, such as health impacts (or, in some cases, climate change damage).

    The nuclear costs are simply what falls out from an assessment of the literature. They are neither too high nor too low — they simply are. Table 4 has all the numbers — for nuclear, drawn from 8 studies. Make what you will of Table 4 — one could rationally choose to select and argue over any of those numbers for any of the technologies. In the paper, we didn’t, we used them all, took the median, and calculated the confidence bounds around the median to incorporate the uncertainty.

  50. Barry Brook – “The nuclear costs are simply what falls out from an assessment of the literature”

    OK I can accept that. It is just that the literature that you assessed seem to be the lower estimates. I have just found another authorative study here:

    http://www.keystone.org/spp/energy/electricity/nuclear-power-dialogue

    “The NJFF participants reviewed a
    number of studies that evaluated the lifecycle levelized cost of future nuclear
    power.2 We also relied on our own
    spreadsheet model to analyze the
    sensitivity of costs and price to certain
    factors. We found that a reasonable range
    for the expected levelized cost of nuclear
    power is between 8 and 11 cents per
    kilowatt-hour (kWh) delivered to the grid.”

    Thank you for sending me the paper it certainly was interesting reading.

  51. Barry,

    Carbon taxes would raise costs of its chief competitors (coal and gas).

    But only in the western democracies where it Is appled, not in the countries where it NEEDS TO BE applied. And by raising the cost of generation in the western democracies we delay the rate that low cost, low emission electricity will be rolled out to the developing countries.

    We can quickly remove most of the government imposed regulatory impediments in Australia if we wanted to. One thing that couled be done, as suggested by others on BNC, would be to include nuclear in the RET and give it all the same subsidies and other benefits as renewables. Why not? There is much else that could be done, as I’ve said elsewhere. I am actually not in favour of increasing market ditortions; I’d rather remove them than add more. For this reason I am not infavour of a government imposed carbon price in Australia – YET!. I’d prefer to apply emissions limits to new power stations for now.

    Which comes first? I argue that we need a circuit breaker here in Australia, and as the above paper shows, if this is applied — even at a relatively low cost — nuclear will fall seriously on the policy/planning table. At that point, there will be greater incentive to address the former problems, much as the UK is now trying to do with its revised planning/approval laws.

    I’d argue that the removal of the impediments to nuclear should come first. I argue this for many reasons that I have stated on many previous threads. Here are some off the top of my head:

    1. We’ve been falling for the Greenies’ game for at least 2 decades. We need to be confront not appease. If we impose a carbon price we will not address the impediments for nuclear for a long time. They will be papered over and remain in place. It will be too hard to tackle them (politically) once the carbon price is imposed.. People will say “we’ve solved the emissions problem now by putting a price on carbon. Box ticked. Don’t pester me about this any more. Get on with life.”

    2. Renewables will be closer to being competitive too. The arguments for “just a bit more money for renewables” will go on and on. I’ve seen it (David Mills, Mark Diesendorf, Kaneef, etc) for 20 years. It wont go away. It will be encouraged. It is absolutely the wrong approach in my opinion.

    3. The circuit breaker argument is always being brought up. Each new generation. Kyoto was supposed to be a circuit breaker. It was a totally wrong, bad policy.

    4. The really big issue is we do not want to raise the cost of electricity. Everything we should do should be aimed at lowering the cost of electricity. It is not just CO2 emissions. It is about health, welfare, life expectancy and the wealth to be in the best position to deal with the challenges ahead. Raising the cost of electricity is a seriously bad policy. Especially when there is a better way!!!

    5. The time to remove the impediments to nuclear is NOW!. Before we cover over the problem with a carbon price.

    6. The debate on nuclear is starting to gear up in Australia. The debate should be about giving people cleaner electricity at lower cost than if we don’t alow nucear and don’t allow it to be low cost. It should not be about raising the cost of electricity.

    7. When I talk about raising the cost of electricity, I am not talking mainly about the cost to households. I am talking about the cost to our industries, which must compete on the world market. I am talking about the cost of water and all services (health, infrastructure, everything), and higher GST on the higher costs. Raising the cost of electricity will reduce Australia’s competitiveness and that make the country less wealthy (than it would otherwise be). By less wealthy I am not referring to peoples bank balances. I am referring to less funds for infrastucture, for our cities, congestion, health system, education, Murray Darling and for whatever we have to face the problems ahead. It is bad policy, to raise the cost of electricity.

    6. Raising the cost of electricity will slow the rate that clean electricity is taken up and that it replaces fossil fuels.

  52. Peter, you said:

    “Tom Keen, you and nearly everyone else here has studiously avoided discussing what the impediments are and of discussing how to remove them.”

    The obvious and foremost impediment to nuclear in Australia is the fact that it is banned under 2 federal statutes. A price on carbon raises the cost of fossil fuels, putting nuclear firmly out the front in terms of cost and scalability as the major replacement option. You say you wonder why I advocate a carbon price. Well this is why, and I have said it before.

    “We will, I am sure, move to a level playing field and we will, eventually, get completely over our fears of nuclear power. We will accept a level of industrial accidents just as we accept industrial accidents in other industries, airlines, etc.”

    Yes, I am sure that will happen too. I simply don’t see the benefits of this as a point of advocacy. The fact that I’ve never heard anyone else use this argument anywhere else, and that not one person on BNC has voiced support for this line of reasoning should be a clue as to its effectiveness.

    You have said on numerous occasions something similar to “If we impose a carbon price first, the impediments will be papered over”. What is your basis for stating this?

    Some comments on your list of impediments here;
    - Renewables, coal and gas will not be favoured once there is a price on carbon and nuclear is allowed.
    - The quicker we get a nuclear industry started, the greater the educational facilities and the skill-base we will have, sooner rather than later.
    - Once there is a price on carbon emissions (making nuclear is the only viable alternative) and there is wide public support/acceptance, it will have support from our political leaders.

    What are the “Ridiculous safety requirements imposed on nuclear power, world wide”? You have not coherently answered this question, and it has been asked of you many times.

    So I argue that it will not “happen faster if we point out that the requirements of safety of nuclear have made it excessively safe in comparison to the levels of safety we demand of other industries”, but that it will happen faster if the cost of its major competitors is raised (i.e. coal & gas) and once there is public support for it – which will translate to political support. I also argue that this, currently, is the only viable way of getting there.

    To reiterate my main questions:
    - How will a carbon price “lock in” the impediments to nuclear? (I.e. what is the basis for this statement?)
    - What impediments (specifically) will a carbon price lock in?
    - What are the “ridiculous safety requirements” that need to be removed? (I.e. what part(s) of a nuclear power plant can be removed to lower costs?)

  53. And some more questions:

    - Why will raising the cost of current electricity generation technologies slow the rate of nuclear expansion?

    - How significantly will a modest carbon price affect Australia’s competitiveness and make the country less wealthy? Experience from the EU suggests the effects have been negligible, and it has resulted in a reduction in emissions of about 2-3 % per year.

  54. Stephen, our paper was a meta-review of the reputable and reasonably current LCOE and LCA literature. As such we accepted their results as reported. We selected as wide a group of literature as we could identify, without any bias on our part as to their results, and calculated the median of all the results for each technology to minimise any bias of any individual paper. It will always be possible to find other papers that disagree with our median.

    On the EIA solar thermal question, if we removed this result it would lower the Solar Thermal median by 16%. This would not change any of the conclusions in the report.

  55. Seeing that the French can run an efficient electrified high speed rail network, AND a standard railway , AND the Paris metro AND supply consumers and industry with the cheapest electricity in Europe , AND they export a lot of electric power AND they pay their power industry workers really high wages with lots of perks , I conclude that ergo : Nuclear Power HAS to be the cheapest…..

  56. @ Peter Lang

    7. When I talk about raising the cost of electricity, I am not talking mainly about the cost to households. I am talking about the cost to our industries, which must compete on the world market. I am talking about the cost of water and all services (health, infrastructure, everything), and higher GST on the higher costs. Raising the cost of electricity will reduce Australia’s competitiveness and that make the country less wealthy (than it would otherwise be). By less wealthy I am not referring to peoples bank balances. I am referring to less funds for infrastucture, for our cities, congestion, health system, education, Murray Darling and for whatever we have to face the problems ahead. It is bad policy, to raise the cost of electricity.

    6. Raising the cost of electricity will slow the rate that clean electricity is taken up and that it replaces fossil fuels.

    And they’re off and racing……. again!

    I thought this article was about Barry’s paper, but hey? When you’ve got a hobby horse, it’s just got to come out and train across all the ‘fields’ that BNC offers.

    Thanks for proving me right.

  57. @eclipsenow
    Even though my political position is rather closer to yours than Peter’s, I wish you hadn’t posted this. Your continuing feud helps nobody. Peter’s comments can be irritating – but sometimes in the grit-in-the-oyster sense.

    @Peter
    Coal is cheap, but only if you don’t account for externalities. Even ignoring the CO2, the costs in healthcare, lost days at work from ill health, acid rain damage to buildings etc. are just under $0.01 / kWhr for black coal, just over for brown, (ExternE figures, with the EUR 19/TeCO2 cost subtracted back off), enough to close the LCOE gap with nuclear, at least if you get a good deal. Korea would love to buy uranium without the ‘do not reprocess’ strings attached to American fuel., so you ought to be able to extract a better deal than UAE. Just let them keep the Pu for their fast reactor program.

    Could ‘coal is more expensive than you think’ get any traction? Does the fact that the market, by definition, doesn’t see externalities mean they aren’t real – to you and/or to the constituency you are trying to speak for?

    @Barry
    Meta-comment on the appropriateness of other’s comments might reasonably be regarded as the privilege of the host. I’m happy to keep entirely to technical matters, but I don’t *think* that was your requirement – just to keep it civil.

  58. Its the battle of the papers!

    NUCLEAR energy will be more expensive than most forms of renewable energy by 2020 according to a paper by the University of NSW energy expert Mark Diesendorf.

    The paper, to be given at a solar industry conference in Canberra today, finds the cheapest renewable energy sources – including landfill gas, onshore wind, conventional geothermal and hydro – are already cost-competitive with conventional nuclear energy power plants.

    The way I read this, in normal usage, a “paper” delivered at a conference is a talk, and a “paper” published in a journal is a rigorous piece of research that has passed the peer review gate. The article doesn’t give a citation, or the name of a publication. So my suspicion is that Diesendorf’s address is a “paper” in the former sense, ie. not published in a peer reviewed journal, but that he is somewhat mischievously allowing the confusion of terms to lend his position some weight, in response to Barry’s recent coverage.

    So we’re giving equal voice to a talk to an industry conference, and a rigorous peer reviewed publication.

    Can anyone offer a citation to show otherwise?

  59. @ Luke UK
    Don’t try and confuse Peter with economic data that contradicts his ideology! The externalised costs of coal are well documented. The 10′s of billions of dollars of subsidies to fossil fuels in Australia FAR exceed any rebates given to renewables (that of course we’d want to see moved across to nuclear anyway). The price of coal in Australia is artificially cheap due to these subsidies, which is why people like solar thermal developer David Mills moved across to California to push his wares. He remonstrated against the Australian government’s fossil fuel rebates on Four Corners years ago.

    This is all before the ‘externalised health costs’ and environmental costs and unbelievable climate costs of coal.

    Considering climate change, the REAL cost of coal is probably far higher than any so-called ‘carbon tax’ this chicken-excrement government would bother sticking on coal.

    But don’t tell Peter L any of this. He’ll just shout “North Korea” or something equally incomprehensible.

  60. I just wish ONE thread on BNC could discuss the actual topic without being hijacked into a Left V Right ideological battle led by guess who.

    Let Peter continue if you’re happy to indulge his games. I’m signing off.

  61. Where Diesendorf’s paper falls flat for an apples vs apples comparison is the baseload part.

    “renewable energy sources – including landfill gas, onshore wind, conventional geothermal and hydro”

    Landfill gas – very limited
    Conventional geothermal – where in Australia?
    Hydro – very limited & has a very high environmental cost
    Onshore wind – not baseload.

    Looks like the IEA executive director, Nobuo Tanaka, also thinks Australia will struggle to make 60 % emissions cuts by 2050 without nuclear. And really, we need to be cutting deeper than that.
    http://www.perthnow.com.au/business/emission-cuts-hard-without-nuclear-power/story-e6frg2r3-1225961294022

  62. Pingback: Nuclear Power: Safer, Cheaper, More Reliable and No CO2 | Energy and Metals

  63. And here is a press release from NSW Greens Dr John Kaye … responding to a 96 page
    ATSE report and not the work covered above. But
    its interesting how he just makes claims without
    offering even so much as a link to any evidence.

    ————— John Kaye Press release follows:

    The call for a nuclear power debate by federal Labor senators distracts attention away from safer, less expensive renewable energy alternatives according to Greens NSW MP Dr John Kaye. (‘Labor Says Bewdy Nuke’, The Daily Telegraph, December 1, page 1, http://bit.ly/fXfX46).

    Dr Kaye said: “Nuclear power is the most expensive and dangerous energy option and has no place in the state’s future.

    “The toxic waste that nuclear energy generates would pose a real risk to the community. In the interest of public safety and environmental integrity federal senators have an obligation to devote more time to cheaper and safer energy alternatives.

    “Many proponents of nuclear energy do not even accept the science of human induced climate change. Rather than offering a safe and legitimate alternative to coal they are pushing nuclear energy to pursue their own anti green agenda.

    “Nuclear energy would inevitably drag Australia into a nuclear arms race that could provoke unrest in the Asia Pacific region.

    “Wind and solar technologies are cheaper and avoid the threat of nuclear weapons development.

    “Nuclear energy would bankrupt Australia and devastate the environment. It has no role in a sustainable future,” Dr Kaye said.
    —————– End of press release.

  64. “The 10′s of billions of dollars of subsidies to fossil fuels in Australia”
    Can someone point me to any source for this? It’d be very useful information to be able to back it up in discussions.

    Re the Greens response: well, that was predictable. It seems some people just flat-out refuse to consider nuclear as an option. I guess 50 years of fearmongering about the possible catastrophic accidents will do that. Hmm, how many nuclear safety incidents have the French, Germans, & Brits had? Everyone can name Chernobyl & Three Mile Island, though…
    Chernobly makes a compelling anti-nuclear argument, though – or at least, a very strong argument for the safety requirements that Peter Lang finds “excessive”. One accident has the potential to render a huge area of land uninhabitable for a long period, and cause significant health problems for tens of thousands of people. Sure, it may have been an out-dated, inherently unsafe reactor design being operated with crucial safety equipment turned off, but it’s hard to swing the argument by putting cold reason up against irrational fear.

  65. Pingback: Media reactions to the Energy paper – part 1 « BraveNewClimate

  66. Pingback: Media reactions to the Energy paper – part 2 « BraveNewClimate

  67. Pingback: The Cheapest Low-Carbon Energy Source | The Pensive Primate

  68. Pingback: Länkat & kommenterat 2010-12-16 — emretsson.net

  69. Pingback: New BNC podcast series and predict millionth page view « BraveNewClimate

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