Short hiatus (gone south…)

Well, it’s come at last — I’m currently in the throes of my move (southwards retreat!) to Tasmania. Such is the upheaval involved in a large inter-state move (from the mainland to an island, no less!) that I will be unlikely to be in a position to post any new material on the BNC blog for a few weeks. But be assured, once I’m settled in my new deep-austral abode, I should once again be able to give due attention to this domain!

Destination: southern Tasmania!

In the meantime, a few interesting things to read, in case you’ve not already caught these:

  1. Think we’ll ever run out of nuclear fuel? Think again… http://www.journalogy.net/Publication/50514377/nuclear-fission-fuel-is-inexhaustible
  2. Prescription for the Planet book is now FREE (the whole book as one PDF): http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/pdfs/P4TP4U.pdf

  3. “Technical rationale for metal fuel in fast reactors” — read this to better understand why the IFR offers such outstanding benefits for sustainable energy. Despite the title, it’s actually quite readable (!), and lots of useful diagrams: http://www.kns.org/jknsfile/v39/JK0390161.pdf?PHPSESSID=2d3b18b9d415e3c564b40853e16fe3d7

  4. The Australian Academy of Technology Sciences & Engineering has released an action statement on nuclear power. There is also a WNN editorial that discusses it in some detail.

See you when I get to the other side of ‘The Ditch’!

Deep Space

Now for something different…

I’ve always been an avid astronomy hobbyist, ever since I spent my teen years at Siding Spring Observatory — Australia’s largest professional site for optical observations. My Dad worked (and we lived) onsite, as an electronics technician keeping the critical equipment running. As a consequence, I got to live on a mountain, in a national park, and be exposed to real science from an early age!

Anyway, I’ve recently had a chance to take up my amateur astronomy pursuits again, and this time to try my hand at some astrophotography. I own good-quality but relatively inexpensive equipment right now (most of my imaging to date has been done through an 80mm ED refractor and either a Sony NEX-3 DSLR camera or an Orion StarShoot G3 monochrome CCD). Apparently astrophotography is a bottomless money pit — there is always the next upgrade to look to! But one step at a time.

Anyway, here are a few of my recent images that I thought you might enjoy — or want to critique. They were taken in the relatively light-polluted skies of suburban Adelaide, but I’ll soon (in one month, in fact) be moving to a much darker site in southern Tasmania. Did I tell you all that I’ve taken a new job at the University of Tasmania?

Here is the selected gallery, with full capture details and higher-rez versions in the link to the Astrobin AP hosting website.

NGC 253, the ‘Silver Coin’ galaxy in Sculptor (http://www.astrobin.com/118924)

NGC253_ED80TCF_SSG3_Sept14

M42, the Orion Nebula (details here: http://www.astrobin.com/117345)

M42_ED80T_SSG3

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Germany’s ‘Energiewende’ as a model for Australian climate policy?

Guest Post by Graham Palmer. Graham recently published the book “Energy in Australia: Peak Oil, Solar Power, and Asia’s Economic Growth” (“Springer Briefs in Energy” series).


Germany’s Energiewende as a model for Australian climate policy? A critical review.

Graham Palmer, June 2014

The Energiewende is the world’s most audacious energy policy experiment and comprises Germany’s biggest infrastructure project since post-Second World War reconstruction. No other national energy policy has attracted such international interest, nor polarised opinions. Energiewende – literally translated as “energy turn” or “energy transition” – has two main elements – a withdrawal from nuclear power and an increase in the penetration of renewable energy via a feed-in tariff (FiT) system. The FiT scheme, originally introduced in 1991 and enshrined in the EEG Act, is based on the principle of protecting renewable investors with a guaranteed grid connection and revenue, with differing returns based on the type of renewable generator. In theory, this was also supposed to encourage innovation, although most of the benefits have come through volume manufacture driving prices down the cost curve, and the benefits of “learning by doing”.

But for Germany, this is about much more than their national energy policy. This is Germany’s Apollo space program. If it were to work, Germany would be the world leader in renewables integration with a potential multi-billion Euro export industry. But unlike the essentially technical challenge of putting man on the Moon, the Energiewende faces unprecedented challenges beyond merely the technical. A nation’s standard of living is underpin by the capital and labour productivity of its energy systems, along with a sufficiently high net-energy.

While the planned German nuclear exit following Fukushima was, at face value, an over-reaction given the lack of seismic and tsunami risk, German ambivalence towards nuclear has been building since the 1970s. The student protests of the late 1960s produced a fusion of anti-Americanism, anti-capitalism, and anti-nuclear, where nuclear power became aligned with distrust of capitalism and militarism. The “laughing sun” symbol appeared everywhere – Atomkraft? Nein Danke (Nuclear power? No thanks!) – and became recognizable as an expression of “polite dissent” as it became cool to be anti-nuclear [1].

This alignment was not altogether surprising – the legacy of the Holocaust and the Second World War, West Berlin as the focal point of the Cold War, with Germany hosting NATO Cruise and Pershing missiles along with American, British and French forces. These fears became entrenched through anti-nuclear activism by scientists such as Klaus Traube Traube, who was originally a proponent of nuclear power, but became one of the most prominent and influential critics [2]. And it was also the local “Citizens’ Initiatives” organised around local issues that formed the basis of the grassroots campaigns, such as opposition to the siting of a new nuclear power plant in the wine-growing village of Wyhl in 1975 [2].

Similarly, the Australian anti-nuclear movement grew out of the 1960s protest movement but had a unique Australian flavour [3]. This was the period of the Vietnam War, land rights for Aboriginal people, French nuclear testing at Mururoa atoll, the aftermath of Maralinga weapons tests, and the hero of the left, Gough Whitlam. This was also the period before the functional separation of state-sponsored weapons programs and commercial nuclear vendors – the choice of the British Steam Generating Heavy Water Reactor (SGHWR) for the proposed Jervis Bay nuclear power plant (NPP) in the late 1960s, together with the reluctance to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, suggested a strategy of retaining a future option for dual-use capability [4].

Upon winning government in 1972, Whitlam signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), banned nuclear power, and introduced universal higher education. Suddenly, it became de rigueur in academia and the political left to oppose nuclear power.  This earlier period defined Australian anti-nuclear canon, which remained as unchallenged doctrine for decades. Jim Green’s [5] introduction of the term “radiation racism” in the late 1990s, representing a drawing together of Green-left activism, uranium mining, Aboriginal land rights, weapons testing, and nuclear power, typifies this enduring but now archaic narrative.

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BNC Discussion Forum updates

In response to feedback, the structure of the BNC Discussion Forum on ProBoards has been greatly simplified. The revised forum looks like this:

Logically (in my mind, and that of the BNC Moderator), it made sense to give people a robust classification structure. But in practice, such an approach is NOT user friendly.

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Off to Russia

Well, I’m just about to hop on a plane to Russia to visit for a week — destination Moscow. This is part of my duties as a member of the International Awards Committee for the Global Energy Prize (see here for details).

Whilst in the heart of the former Soviet Union, I’ll hook up with Tom Blees (President of SCGI) and Evgeny Velikhov (President of the Kurchatov Institute), among others. It’s going to be my first trip to the country, and although I’ll only get to see Moscow this time around, I’m returning to the country in again June (partly for the GEP awards ceremony, after which I go directly to the U.S. for lots of other exciting activities); on the June trip, I’ll go to the wonderful old city of St Petersburg. Lucky me, eh?

Anyway, I hope to be able to post one or two updates on BNC during the trip, provided I can hook up to the internet from time to time.

In the meantime, here is something that will be of interest to many readers, given recent discussions on the blog. Apologies if you’ve seen it before.

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Economic/Business Case for the Pyroprocessing of Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF)

While many still claim that conservation together with wind and solar will solve the world’s energy problems, they are dead wrong. Nuclear power is the only proven alternative source of carbon-free energy that can be developed rapidly enough and to sufficient scale to meet the world’s growing need for energy. This report outlines the actions which must be taken; both to reduce the amount of troublesome nuclear waste called Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) and simultaneously create the fuel needed by Fast Reactors. The authors are certain the use of Pyroprocessing to close the nuclear fuel cycle, and Fast Reactors, particularly in the form of Integral Fast Reactor (IFRs), are inevitable in a fossil fuel-free world.

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