Rethinking nuclear power

Below is an article on IFR that was published on ABC Unleashed earlier this week. It’s a sensible, pragmatic look at this technology, from another person who has no vested interest in IFR other than he wishes to ensure that we have the means to fully decarbonise our economy. Geoff is a regularly contributor to BNC, where he has written about the impact of food production on climate change.

—————————————

ABC Unleashed article on IFR by Geoff Russell (Geoff is an unpaid committee member of Animal Liberation SA, also long standing member of Amnesty International, Australian Conservation Foundation and Oxfam. He is a computer programmer and mathematician who earns a living writing computer software in the transit scheduling industry. He is also a keen cyclist and food grower and and has written for The Monthly, Dissent, Australasian Science and the Independent Weekly).

I was a long-haired 18-year-old hippie student activist in 1972 and cheered loudly when Greenpeace sailed into the French nuclear pacific testing zone. A few years later I studied nuclear physics at Macquarie University as part of an Arts degree. Know thine enemy has always been a favourite motto of mine.

Decades later, I sneered at the Howard/Zwitkowski nuclear plans but still read the background report by Manfred Lenzen and the Institute of Sustainability Analysis (ISA). I ho-hummed my way through Tim Flannery’s nuclear pages in The Weather Makers. There was nothing in any of it that made me regret donating my old physics books to a trash and treasure sale.

But back in August 2008 my world view got a little nudge. NASA climate scientist James Hansen circulated a report in which he discussed a draft of a book by Tom Blees called Prescription for the Planet. Blees outlines an ambitious plan built around Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) nuclear technology. For reasons that will become obvious, this technology didn’t rate a mention in the Howard/Zwitkowski review.

My considerable respect for Hansen left me just a little shaken, but definitely not stirred. Blees must surely be a force from the dark side. But just when I thought it safe to re-enter the water, Barry Brook, the Professor of Climate Change here in Adelaide started to discuss the Blees book and the technologies on his blog, BraveNewClimate. I’ve worked on a few things with Barry and figured I really had no alternative now but to read the damn book. What a bloody nuisance.

So what’s it all about? Ask yourself these questions.

1) Are you worried about nuclear waste?

2) Are you petrified at the thought of nuclear proliferation?

3) Would you like to close down all uranium mines?

4) Would you like to shut down all China’s coal fired power stations (and those in the rest of the world) but save the power generation infrastructure?

5) Do you really believe that we only have a few years to tame our climate?

6) Do you want to both tame the climate and give those in the developing world a better life?

If you answered Yes to all (or even most) the questions in the previous paragraph, then you need to rethink your nuclear views, regardless of how deeply ingrained they are.

IFR reactors can be powered by that very waste which the nuclear industry just can’t seem to get rid of. They can digest it and burn it until it is just a shadow of its former self. The result is a tiny amount of much more manageable waste.

Once IFR reactors have finished cleaning up the mess left by current reactors (which includes the types advocated by Howard and his mates), they can run on depleted uranium – this is, among other things, a by-product of making fuel for current reactors and we have enough of the stuff to power the planet for thousands of years. Not just enough to power the rich world either, enough for everybody. All this depleted uranium is currently not doing much except hardening munitions. It badly needs a better job description and saving the climate fits the bill.

Once we have enough IFR reactors up and running, we can shut down all our uranium mines. Of course, you have to understand my very real fear of ‘being disappeared’ for making this suggestion in South Australia and you will understand why the Howard/Zwitkowski tag team conveniently forgot to mention it.

Factory-built IFR modular batteries can even be hooked up to existing coal power generation facilities so that this huge mass of infrastructure isn’t wasted.

Is IFR pie in the sky? Is it a magic bullet? Neither. These reactors have been built and operated. A US research reactor, which demonstrated most of the technology, was closed down by the Clinton administration in 1994. This reactor wasn’t just a lab toy, but big enough to demonstrate the viability of the technology.

The Russians ran a variant design for a couple of decades as did the Japanese. As for this being a magic bullet … there are no magic bullets, we still need all the renewables and efficiencies we can muster. If you want a pie-in-the-sky, dead-risky, totally unproven technology then you can’t go past attempting to bury the carbon dioxide from coal fired power stations.

Now get ready for a shock, what you are about to read represents the best available science, but is not well understood by politicians fixated upon emission reduction targets. Read the next sentence very carefully. Then read it again.

It doesn’t matter what greenhouse gas emission reduction targets we make, even if we meet them. If we don’t also leave most of currently known coal reserves in the ground, then our children’s children will be toast.

James Hansen gives the full explanation here. You need to reflect on this as you attempt to place your nuclear fears into context.

When I introspect my previous anti-nuclear position I realise it was based on two things.

First, a general distrust of big business ethics. Younger readers will not recall that the French secret service blew up a Greenpeace boat in 1985 killing a photographer, Fernando Pereira. The conspiracy machine is still making money out of that one, but you’d get good odds on the orders ultimately coming from a suit with a paunch on a nuclear board somewhere.

My view of big business hasn’t softened over the years. Having read Blees, a look at the relevant sections of the Howard/Zwitkowski report, Uranium mining, processing and nuclear energy, confirms that this was nothing more than a jobs and money exercise for mates. Greenpeace turncoat Patrick Moore similarly spruiks for nuclear but, as far as I can see, only for the problem-creating forms, not the problem-solving forms.

My second basis for opposition was based on risks, and while I had a reasonable understanding of the nuclear risks, I knew little about many other things that kill people on a daily basis, and nothing about global warming.

Global warming has changed the game and my knowledge of other risks has increased. Australians, for example, eat red meat and about half a million of the current population will get bowel cancer as a result. Note that I said will and not may.

Nuclear risks are different, they are all of the may variety and the only one worthy of a little paranoia is the risk of a nuclear war. A reactor accident, even a shocker like Chernobyl, simply doesn’t cut it beside the daily global carnage of malaria, typhoid, dirty water, car accidents, tobacco, hunger, meat, obesity and alcohol or beside the certainty of a bird flu pandemic which will kill tens or hundreds of millions. Many virologists regard this as a certainty, with the only uncertainty being when it will happen.

I don’t view my reassessment as a cop-out. Most of the current nuclear industry, the uranium miners, the coal lobby and the politicians in their sway, will fight IFR tooth and nail. But we need it, not just in a country blessed with sunshine, land and hot-rocks, but globally we need it.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Advertisements

158 Comments

  1. Nice post. I’d already read the ABC story as well.

    A question that comes to mind for Geoff follows.

    If one accepts that IFRs provide a viable back-end solution to the nuclear fuel cycle, should the world (including Australia) deploy licensed Gen III LWR designs now (AREVA EPR & Westinghouse AP1000), while the ongoing development and licensing work is finalised in support of the large scale deployment of IFRs?

    Like

  2. Geoff,

    ‘It doesn’t matter what greenhouse gas emission reduction targets we make, even if we meet them. If we don’t also leave most of currently known coal reserves in the ground, then our children’s children will be toast.’

    This is the nub of the problem. We cannot cut off coal fired now. Renewables, particularly wind, are available here and now. Energy efficiency can also be immediately implemented.

    Like

  3. Geoff,
    As more people become convinced that urgent action is required, it will become easier for a crash coal replacement program. The Obama administration seems to be moving towards starting some new reactor construction, but the main push is solar and wind energy. Both have very good momentum, creating new jobs, another 8500MW capacity wind added in 2008, another 2800MW in first 3 months of 2009. Similarly big solar “farms” being announced on a regular basis.

    For Australia to follow a crash solar and wind expansion there would be few political risks, we have a manufacturing base, we no longer have an acute labor or steel shortage, but most importantly results will occur within the 4 year election cycle.
    Starting a crash nuclear program has great risks, as well as the political risks, there are technical risks of a 8 year construction phase, with possible cost overruns. The tunnel fiascoes in NSW and QLD are warnings for any political party tying their future to one infrastructure project. At the end of 8 years at best they will have one working reactor to show coming in at budget,and a large number of expensive half completed reactor sites.

    Compare this with a solar and wind program, lots of “farm” openings, visits to wind factories with newly employed workers etc. With the nuclear option, the Prime minister makes one visit to the first nuclear site(a hole in the ground), mobbed by anti-nuclear demonstrators or visits France or Japan or US nuclear manufacturing facility to hand over $1Billion.

    Realistically, its going to be hard to even start construction of one nuclear power reactor, we should do it, the previous government could have started a reactor program but didn’t do more than talk, I can understand(but not agree) why labor will not start the first or even talk about starting the first in Australia.

    The most important decision is to start closing down brown coal fired power generation. Whatever low carbon energy is used to replace this is of secondary importance.In South Australia I think solar peak power has the best shot at doing that, in Victoria its more related to shutting down base load brown coal used for aluminium smelting.A nuclear reactor would be the best replacement. Would the aluminium industry pay for a nuclear reactor? Probably no more likely than the coal industry paying for CCS.

    Like

  4. Is it this week that Rann will announce the Olympic Dam expansion plan? My bet is that it will be half pregnant in a way that pleases nobody.

    I still think SA should build a Gen 3 reactor with adjoining desal. If that took 10 years and $10bn (as opposed to $43bn for broadband) it would doubtless become a rallying point for opponents. But in that time jobs and water supply issues will almost certainly worsen. It would be good if SA firms like the Submarine Corporation could be involved with their knowledge of pressure vessels and titanium welding.

    This may be wishful thinking but perhaps an off-the-shelf IFR could be ready by 2020. On the SA coastline with HVDC transmission a single site could combine a Gen 111, an IFR, a fuel reprocessing facility and a large desal.

    Like

  5. Neil writes: Starting a crash nuclear program has great risks, as well as the political risks, there are technical risks of a 8 year construction phase, with possible cost overruns.

    Neil, GE could build an ABWR for you in four years or less. Westinghouse could likely do the same with an AP-1000. Even the very first ABWR GE built was loading fuel just 3 years after breaking ground. I’m assuming that by “a crash nuclear program” you assume that licensing and such legal hurdles would be expedited. If so, there is no reason to believe an 8 year timeline is accurate. Half that is more like it.

    Like

  6. An off the shelf IFR could be ready by 2015 if we could get the necessary political will behind it. At this point the politics of it in the USA are as bad as anywhere, and I’m personally exploring the construction of the first one elsewhere. It would be wonderful if it could be Australia, but I suspect the politics are no better. We’ll get one built, though. Count on it.

    Like

  7. I believe that the transition phase will see the construction of many Gen III reactors, as is already happening. Given that IFRs will eventually eat up all their waste, I don’t have a big problem with that, though I’d like to be able to make that transition sooner rather than later, if only to eliminate uranium mining and fuel enrichment sooner (no offense to the uranium mining industry in Australia). For every year we keep building Gen III plants we’re pushing the end of the mining and enrichment industries another half-century down the road. But given that we absolutely should put coal out of business ASAP, building Gen III plants makes lots of sense. Don’t want to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Like

  8. David, the problem with renewable energy is that (particularly in Australia, a country where we no longer make things) it will take too long. We could probably eventually provide all our needs with wind and solar, but not soon enough.

    As an old hippy (and a member of the Greens) I am painfully coming around to the view that we need to go nuclear, and as soon as possible. I heard Barry talking about IFR a few weeks ago in an Adelaide pub, and the possibilities of the technology give me some hope that we can actually avoid catastrophic climate change if we just get over our anti-nuclear fears and prejudices.

    Like

  9. David,
    We need to replace about 25GWa of coal-fired electricity. About 4GW of that is brown coal that should have the highest priority to be replaced.

    What time frame were you thinking we could have 4GW nuclear up and running?

    I am not sure of the figures for solar energy, but for wind power, 0.5GW capacity was added in 2008 for a total of 1.3GWc( a 60%increase). There appears to be 1GW planned or under construction( Australia does make some components for wind turbines). If we say wind capacity will increase by 30% for the next 6 years( the world wide experience) we would have 7.3GW capacity( about 2.4GWaverage) by 2015. Solar is growing much faster so could have 0.5GW( capacity ) solar.

    Lets assume the next government wins with a nuclear platform(2011), and planning begins immediately, and construction of the first (1GW)reactor begins before the 2015 election, with one additional reactor per year we will have by 2019 one to three reactors running(1-3GWa) . If wind and solar continues at projected 30% rate we will be looking at 1.5GW(peak) solar and 20GW capacity wind(6.5GWa)by 2019.Two and a half years later would be another 6.5 Gwa wind and another 2-3 GW nuclear.

    You may be able to argue that the Government could order 2 reactors to be built at once starting another 2 each year, for a total of 10-12 on order before the first one is completed. Now you are really talking about a very very brave and powerful politician.

    on the other hand, any of the political parties could accelerate wind an solar to grow at 60% per year with few risks, by mandating 25% electricity from low carbon sources(10GWa by 2018), this could include one reactor completion by 2018-2019 and if all goes well on time and budget another 2 started some time after 2019.

    Like

  10. From my limited knowledge of IFR technologies it seems like the nuclear waste costs, and uranium mining costs will be lower than for a conventional nuclear reactor. However, because liquid sodium is used in the reactor, an extra heat exchanger is needed, which will mean that the capital costs of an IFR would be higher than the already high capital costs for a conventional nuclear reactor. At this stage it is uncertain how much these things will cost, but it could be that other low emissions technologies could provide energy more cheaply.

    Like

  11. Speaking strictly about Australia, there is a serious issue about how we pay for nuclear technology … do we sell more coal? run more cattle? smelt more aluminium … with coal? This is silly.

    I’d like to see us try the renewable route as a case study for the rest of the world. We are well placed for solar and thermal so if we can’t do it, then no-one can, and if we get really good at it, then who knows, we can earn some export dollars to pay for IFR. If Australia tried to go renewable and failed, that would be merely annoying, if China tried and failed, that would be a disaster.

    Like

  12. It’s heat exchanger is similar in principle to a Pressurised Water Reactor, except the sodium loop coming out of the reactor pool is enclosed rather than open. But like the PWR, the reactor coolant exchanges heat with a separate steam system.

    IFR saves money by not requiring a heavily engineered pressure vessel. Net effect is likely to be savings (potentially substantial) over PWRs — at least that is what GEH think and are willing to testify to such at a senate select committee.

    Uranium mining costs for an IFR are not lower than conventional nuclear reactors, since you cannot divide any number by zero, and zero is the mining costs for an IFR. My sister came up with a neat slogan for a T-shirt:

    “Stop Uranium Mining!” (Front)… “Build Integral Fast Reactors” (Back). Catchy.

    Like

  13. If been working on the assumption that we have good solar skills
    and poor nuclear skills. If that is wrong and places like
    the Submarine Corp and others have many of the right skills then
    we may be able to build a Gen III or IFR without ramping up
    coal/cattle/aluminium production. But I’d prefer not
    to build Gen III for reasons Tom has given about.

    Like

  14. Neil, I mostly agree with the above and think it’s inevitable that growth in renewable energy will outstrip growth in nuclear in Australia in the 2010 to 2020 period, as your numbers illustrate. Indeed, this is much as I outlined in my ‘Sketch Plan’:

    https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/01/29/a-sketch-plan-for-a-zero-carbon-australia/

    I think the key point for Oz in this next decade, from a nuclear power perspective, is to:
    1) Engage with GIF and help resurrect and stimulate GNEP (this covers the RD&D aspect that is critical for fast-tracking the commercialisation of IFRs and LFTRs etc.)
    2) Sort out the regulatory environment for nuclear power in Australia, and then
    3) Build a handful of reactors (probably Gen III, though if we can start building IFRs in this next decade, all the better).

    If we could have 3 to 5 GWe of nuclear capacity by 2020 (say for the SA mines power + desal in Ceduna or Whyalla, etc. and perhaps one or two in the La Trobe Valley), I’d be delighted.

    That way, by around 2020, we’re set to move in whatever direction is appropriate. If renewables are going great guns and energy storage is improving hand-in-hand, we keep hammering them hard, as well as continuing to roll out the nukes at a fairly leisurely pace of (say) one reactor a year (assuming a pipeline with a 36-month build time per reactor).

    If renewables are having major integration and scale-up problems, that would be a shame, but all would then not be lost. We’d still be well positioned to hammer the nuclear expansion hard in the 2020 to 2030 decade (perhaps 6 reactors in construction at any stage, so that we get around 2 GW a year for that decade).

    Either way, it’s the best way I can see to be GUARANTEED that Australia can close all of its coal-fired power stations by 2030, as it must. I think we both agree the above is realistic and risk averse (from a climate/energy perspective).

    Like

  15. David, Barry made the case some weeks ago about our ability to ramp up production on nuclear reactors on a “war production” scale.

    The same arguement applies for renewables, expect multiplication can be faster with less safety requiremenet, and more conventional engineering.

    Current production and growth rates bear little association to the potential growth rates. Change the incetives so renewables are cheaper than coal and you’ll get non-linear changes.

    Like

  16. The problem with your logic, Geoff, is that Australia is blessed with far better than average potential for making at least some power with wind, solar and geothermal and it has a low population density.

    That means that investments in rather standard technologies for capturing these diffuse and unreliable energy sources will work – after a fashion – in your country, but will not be terribly attractive in places where the resources are less suitable. Since your country is blessed with good resources, what would motivate anyone to invest money in any efforts to dramatically refine or improve upon the technology that already exists. If yours is no better than anyone else’s how would it complete in the world market.

    With technology like the IFR or other nuclear generation technologies, there is a huge potential market for systems that can serve the needs of people in distributed villages or small concentrations of people. There is also a big market for systems that can break the dependence on large water sources for system cooling and for systems that capture waste heat for useful application like water desalination. Australia also has a reasonably good engineering education reputation and could help alleviate some of the stresses on the nuclear trained workforce that will be developing as we expand.

    Of course, the IFR does not really play to Australia’s current main advantage in nuclear fission power – you have about 30% of the world’s known uranium supplies and can make serious money in an environment where there is a growing demand for that metal.

    In other words, I think there is a much more lucrative future based on investments in nuclear expertise than in wind, solar or geothermal.

    Like

  17. Neil:

    The weakness in your argument is your confusion between “capacity” and electrical power production. The coal and lignite (brown coal) plants that you want to replace are controllable by humans and operate at full power for much of the year, consuming a certain quantity of coal and lignite. (If I knew where the stats were for Australian power production, I could put numbers to those vague statements.) Talking about 25 GW of capacity is relatively meaningless compared to halting the burning of XX million tons of coal/lignite.

    Wind turbines only produce as much power as is available from whatever wind is blowing at the time. The energy cannot be stored, so fossil burning plants have to cycle to keep the grid voltage and frequency stable as the wind varies. There is no doubt that days of good wind reduce the overall consumption of fossil fuel, but the effects of idling, changing efficiency points, and start-up/shut-down overhead on the fossil plants makes its contribution less valuable than you might expect.

    There has NEVER been a single coal or gas power station that has been made redundant by the construction of wind or solar power plants. On the other hand, nuclear fission has resulted in a number of oil, coal, and gas stations being permanently retired.

    Like

  18. Ideally, no, we’d go straight to IFR. If not ready, I still suggest we go to a Gen III+ design. Why? Say IFR or LFTR, for some inexplicable reason, doesn’t work out. Gen III+ are bad then, right? (because of the HLW problem, primarily). Well, that’s quite true, but my feeling is that at this stage of the game, we’ll have so many other things to worry about, climate and energy wise, that a few extra tonnes of HLW is going to be the least of our concerns.

    Of course I see no reason whatsover why IFR won’t work and why it won’t end up being highly successful. And I’ve looked hard and critically to find those showstoppers.

    Like

  19. Neil, the politics is tough and your image of the lack of photo-ops for
    any pro-nuke politician is compelling. Which is why both small
    and large “g” greens need to work out which they hate more … changing
    rainfall distribution and disruption of the global food system, and all
    the other consequences of AGW or … risk.

    It was a little bit hard for me to change my
    position on nuclear and a little bit
    hard to put it down publicly. But not that hard because I don’t think I’ve
    had to change my basic moral principles … all I’ve done is reasses the
    most likely way of minimising global pain and suffering for humans
    and other animals.

    Like

  20. You are half-way to where I am in thinking about nuclear power. Technologies like the IFR are fascinating. Another interesting approach, also shown to be feasible long ago in the United States is the so-called molten-salt-reactor, or liquid-fluoride thorium reactor. I think the potential of these advanced technologies is amazing.

    But, I also think current technology is more than adequate. And frankly, as others have commented. Like you I am very concerned about climate change and I don’t think we have time to wait (the delays in these new technologies will be more political than technical, but real nonetheless).

    We are not going to run out of uranium any time soon (the chart notwithstanding). Uranium will follow the path of any other mineral resource. We have barely begun to look for it and every time we do, we find it (Greenland for a recent example). The problem with uranium is that because of the incredible energy density, you don’t need much, so the price stays low. For the same reason, the amount of waste is also quite small even with current technology. I recall an article in C&E news where the director the the US Nuclear Energy Institute stated that all of the waste of the 104 reactors in the US in all the time they have been running would fit on a football (American) field.

    You might try another popular recent book on nuclear power from a former sceptic—Gwyneth Cravens ‘Power to Save the World: the Truth about Nuclear Energy’. There is an incredible amount of good technical information on the website of the World Nuclear Association. I don’t think you would find that it resembles a propaganda sheet in any way. http://www.world-nuclear.org/

    Like

  21. The LFTR would have numerous advantages over the iFR including greater safety, greater proliferation resistance, less and shorter lived nuclear waste, and a simplified fuel reprocessing technology that includes the reprocessing unit as part of the reactor. If you add to this the lower future cost of LFTR development, the lower cost of LFTR manufacture, the scalability of LFTR technology, and the potential for rapid world wide deployment of LFTRs as replacements for fossil fuel technology, and there is a clear advantage to the LFTR.

    Like

  22. The first task for the government in any serious push to introduce nuclear power to Australia will be to establish a proper regulatory framework. Given that it’s going to be at least several years before any Oz nuclear power plant is ready to go, it would be wise for that regulatory framework to include provisions for all feasible reactor types. Almost certainly by the time we’re ready to build, NuScale will have a demo plant up and running. Hyperion may also have made some progress toward licensing. If the fates smile on us, we may even have some decision-making framework to apply to IFRs and LFTRs.

    That being said, the political battle in Australia will certainly be framed around LWRs in the next few years (and possibly CANDUs). There is a good deal of entrenched prejudice, opposition, supposition and ignorance which must be addressed on its home turf. Tell most people that there are ‘more advanced’ reactors in the pipeline, and they’re just as likely to think ‘more dangerous’.

    In order to prepare people for what must be done, the public education campaign had best be launched soon.

    Like

  23. Charles – I never thought the day would come when I would agree with you however after our discussions on the Oil Drum about the LFTR I do agree that the LFTR would be a better choice of nuclear than the IFR.

    Don’t worry Barry – this will be my only post on this subject as I have still failed to read the book.

    Like

  24. If you think Uranium Mining is bad or Uranium Ore is severely limited, consider the following. I will take a good look at that by comparing the Tar Sands with Northern Saskatchewan Uranium Mining. Coincidentally North America’s two biggest Energy Resources are located in adjacent Canadian Provinces – Uranium in Northern Saskatchewan and the Tar Sands in Northern Alberta.

    The Athabasca Tar Sands is the North American Petroleum Industry’s dream. When you see that lady in Oil Association Ads on prime time news claiming there is enough Oil in North America to supply are needs for the next 70 years – she is talking The Athabasca Tar Sands. The economically recoverable reserves from the Tar Sands are 75% of North America’s entire Oil Reserves and 97% of Canada’s Oil Reserves. The U.S.A. for example has 21 billion barrels of reserves vs the Tar Sands 173 billion barrels. All the press and hype is about the Athabasca Tar Sands. Very little is mentioned about Northern Saskatchewan’s Uranium production, which is about 25% of World Uranium Production.

    456,250,000 barrels = Tar Sands Oil (Bitumen) production 2006
    9465 Tonnes = Northern Saskatchewan Uranium production 2007
    427 TWh = Thermal Energy Value of Tar Sands production 2006
    1,007 TWh = Thermal Energy Value of N.Sask. Uranium prod. 2007, processed to 1392 Tonnes of 3.5% enriched Uranium and burned in standard LWR
    2.4X = Amount Thermal Energy Value of the N.Sask. Uranium production 2007 is greater than the Tar Sands 2006 production value

    63,000 million USgal/yr = Canadian Tar Sands approx water consumption
    83 million Usgal per yr of water to produce the Tar Sands 2006 Crude Oil Energy production used in a 1% grade uranium ore mine – using thermal output of Uranium burnt in a LWR – no reprocessing
    750X = more water needed to produce same amount of energy by Tar Sands than 1% grade Uranium (most N.Sask Grade is 21 % – some is 1.1%, 2.4% & 2.6%, thus uses approx 20X less water again, or about 3 million Usgal per yr)

    Exploration expenditure in 2004 in all of Canada was C$ 44 million, mostly at established projects. However, the C$26 million of this on grassroots exploration in Saskatchewan – double the 2003 level – represented a major proportion of world uranium exploration. These are amounts that the Tar Sands Companies would call “Pocket Change” or “Coffee Money” or “Chicken Feed”.

    If you went with various Deep Burn Reactor designs like the IFR, LIFTR, CANDU, Uranium Hydride or some HTPBR’s, or you did Fuel Reprocessing, you would get anywhere from 5 to 250 times more energy from the same amount of Uranium. Absolutely BLOWS AWAY the Tar Sands as an energy source.

    Furthermore, go to Google Earth, and take a look at the area north of Fort McMurray, at a resolution of about 2 miles per inch, and check out the torn up Earth and Environmental Destruction. Now do the same to McArthur River in Northern Saskatchewan, which produces double the Energy of the Tar Sands, even burned in the exceedingly low efficiency, once through LWR, with no fuel reprocessing. And compare the environmental damage – at 2 miles per inch you will have a hard time seeing any sign of the Northern Saskatchewan Uranium mines. You will also see that there is lot’s of Water available vs the severely limited water availability in the Tar Sands region.

    So anyone who thinks Nuclear Power should be curtailed, due to it’s environmental impact, should immediately quit driving, quit flying and don’t buy any imported goods.

    Like

  25. I agree we ought to pursue R&D on the LFTR, Charles. The problem is one of the current state of development. GE could start building a PRISM next week. LFTR simply isn’t nearly that close to commercialization. As I’ve said many times to Kirk, let’s build the IFRs and fund the LFTR R&D, and if LFTRs ultimately end up being advantageous, that’s fine by me. Like Geoff, I just want to fix up the planet, and I don’t think we can afford to wait for an R&D program. Let’s build IFRs in the meantime. Surely we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

    Like

  26. Capacity factors are the weak point of most renewables, as is their dispersed (low energy density) nature. However their strength is their diversity, distributed nature (not to mention factors of risk and renewal).

    Diversity mean different application for different situations. Low tech rudimentary (biogas digesters in rural china) through to nano tech. This range of tech means that millions of instillations can be developed at once.

    Distribution mean access to everyone in some form. Blees has written about the need to have restrictive control on who gets nuclear power. There are also economic barriers to entry into nuclear power.

    I’m sure you are aware that it’s not quite accurate that wind powered electricity cannot be stored. There are a range of storage options including reverse hydro, compressed air, and advanced batteries. The situation you describe (of little use of storage) is that pricing of carbon is not yet high enough to encourage extra storage investment.

    Yet diversity means that there are also complementary renewable sources many of which also have current storage (solar thermal, biogas, biomass). And gasification and bio gas mean that peaking plants need not depend on fossil fuel. Again this is a function of market failure in pricing carbon.
    Finally your point about failure to displace coal plants is a function of price. Price carbon high enough and you will get non-linear changes.
    Alternatively we could back renewables with the level of investment granted to the nuclear industry over the past 60 years.

    Like

  27. Tom, The LFTR needs somewhere between $2.5 and $5 Billion dollars of R&D to be ready for commercial development. That is at most less than half the R&D costs of the Airbus 380. i believe that the IFR with fuel reprocessing still needs considerable R&D and the IFR R&D would end up costing more than the LFTR, despite having 20 times the R&D investment already. There is also political opposition to any nuclear system that offers plutonium breeding and reprocessing. I personally think the whole proliferation concern is vastly overblown, but is is still a shebbolith. The DMSR seems to have the inside tract as anti-proliferation technology, and as much as I hate the denaturing business, it still gives the LFTR the inside tract. I assure you that the fact that my father spent 20 years researching Molten Salt Reactor chemistry has not in the slightest influenced my judgement.

    Like

  28. The critics were right; more fossil fuels to be used in uranium mining
    http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,25411526-5006301,00.html

    Roxby Downs will get a power station fired by gas from the fast depleting Cooper Basin. Only recently Santos was advertising underground space for rent for CO2 storage where natgas used to be. The Whyalla desal and pump station will be powered by a mystery energy source but it ‘could be renewable’.

    Like

  29. The political problem with nuclear I believe, is that people don’t want a nuke plant anywhere near them, which of course is where the transmission lines are.

    But I believe we are building transmission lines way out in the bush for the geo-thermal projects to be able to feed into the grid.

    How about siting IFR’s along with them and share their transmission facilities.

    That should solve the political issues. It’s fortunate that Australia is so damn big…../Chris

    Like

  30. Interesting question.

    If we are to achieve a zero coal dig target, significant energy generating technology deployment will be necessary. So for nuclear – if we accept that the capital investments are higher – extra funds will be required only to make up the resulting gap (per watt generated, not per watt of capacity). When the options are compared side-by-side, per watt generated; the financial gap for nuclear is not so formidable.

    Some ideas to bridge that gap for nuclear include:

    – Increase the sale of uranium to trustworthy countries (i.e. NPT signatories, etc.). This will have a secondary, carbon reducing benefit through the global expansion of no/low carbon energy generation technology.
    – Expanding the domestic nuclear fuel cycle industry to sell enriched uranium (using efficient technologies such as centrifuge or even Silex’s technology as opposed to energy intensive gaseous diffusion). A secondary benefit here is the development of a domestic nuclear skilled workforce and a regulatory framework moving toward the oversight of commercial. production organisations.

    We could even engage in some fuel reprocessing. I think it wise to gain some experience in the technology. I do not believe it is reasonable to expect Australia to plop an IFR down somewhere with zero reprocessing experience. But what I am not certain of is whether this could be done in a way to earn a profit.

    Like

  31. I’m wondering if the NIMBY factor and the Olympic Dam expansion could all be solved in one swoop. Instead of a gas fired power station at the uranium mine and an X-powered desal 300km away I propose this; co-locate a Gen III reactor and desal and send the water and electricity to the mine in one corridor. If the dual plant was on the Great Australian Bight it could tap into the trans-Nullarbor HVDC line proposed by Neil Howes. Unlike the announced desal site on Spencer Gulf the Nullarbor coast has strong cold ocean currents so it could one day accommodate an adjacent Gen IV plant, be it IFR or LFTR.

    People who object to desert coastline being used this way I suspect will object to anything. The money will come from halving the fibre optic broadband rollout in favour of more satellite and wireless.

    Like

  32. … 456,250,000 barrels = Tar Sands Oil (Bitumen) production 2006
    9465 Tonnes = Northern Saskatchewan Uranium production 2007
    427 TWh = Thermal Energy Value of Tar Sands production 2006
    1,007 TWh = Thermal Energy Value of N.Sask. Uranium prod. 2007, processed to 1392 Tonnes of 3.5% enriched Uranium and burned in standard LWR …

    Those numbers look about right.

    A good rule of thumb: a tonne of newly mined uranium used to fuel either light- or heavy-water-cooled reactors yields the same energy as 100,000 barrels of petroleum.

    In the heavy-water case, the uranium oxide goes in whole; in the light-water case, it is separated into enriched and depleted streams, the latter of which does not enter the reactor.

    So anyone who thinks Nuclear Power should be curtailed, due to it’s environmental impact, should immediately quit driving, quit flying and don’t buy any imported goods.

    But what should anyone do if he has long been in the habit of saying it should be curtailed, and also is a long-time habitual rider in cars and aircraft, some of them imported, and suspects if he started saying something contradictory to that, involuntary austerity would soon enter his life?

    (How fire can be domesticated)

    Like

  33. One of the most interesting things about this debate on IFR, LFTR etc is the social context. You have Greens from all over taking part in it, not necessarily agreeing but taking part. I think everyone, green or not, recognises the urgency behind debates such as these.

    However, when you go over to denialist world they are still bitterly attacking the greens as anti-nuc, anti everything. In Marohasy blog land (cue malboro man music) no one would believe me when I posted that these discussions were happening and Marohasy herself challenged me to give evidence that the ‘green’ movement was talking about nuc to various and so I was able to very quickly gather a list of greens who support new nuclear power. To her credit Marohasy thanked me while the rest of the deny,deny,deny squad completely ignored it. Interesting those denialists.

    Like

  34. So, places to watch for political activity/lobbying/planning? This sort of policy talk can set off a lot of covert scrambling to rearrange ownership and risks:

    Mining industry equipment and unions? — both coal and uranium mining are going to lose as IFR is adopted, if they haven’t unloaded their former assets and contracts.

    Waste management? — the coal ash dumps are, I gather, richer sources of fissionables than most of the ores out there. Extraction will be done using hardware and labor. Who owns the dumps? (watch out for the hazardous waste label — will that make the fly ash dumps too expensive to ‘mine’ for the uranium and thorium? Who’s responsible for the mercury and cadmium and all the other lovely things that bioaccumulation collected and stored away in the coal?)

    Like

  35. John,

    Strictly speaking, you’re right. Uranium mining may use some fossil fuels (and emit some CO2), but you have to look at the numbers, and put it into a quantitative perspective.

    The article linked below states that the current mine produces 8% of the world’s uranium, and uses 125 MWe (0.125 GWe) of electric power. The world’s nuclear power plants produce ~400 GWe of power. 8% of this is 32 GWe. Thus, it only takes 0.125 GWe to mine the uranium that produces 32 GWe of nuclear power, a ratio of 256-to-1. If (and only if) you assume the 125 MWe is fossil powered, this means that using the fossil fuel directly to make electricity (instead of using it to mine uranium and then use nuclear power) would release 256 times as much CO2.

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/ENF_Olympic_Dams_environmental_report_0105091.html?jmid=7889&j=232923332&utm_source=JangoMail&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=WNN+Daily+1+May+2009+%28232923332%29&utm_content=jhopf%40bngamerica%2Ecom

    And this analysis does not even account for the fact that the mine’s primary purpose is to recover copper, not uranium. Uranium is a by-product that comes out anyway. If there was no nuclear power, the mine might still have been there, using the same amount of fossil fuel (so the net effect could be zero).

    There are other steps in the nuclear process than can also add indirect CO2 emissions, such as uranium enrichment and plant construction. However, scientific analyses (like the one linked below) show that even after accounting for all steps in the overall process, nuclear’s total net CO2 emissions are only ~2% that of coal, ~5% that of gas, and are similar to (or lower than) renewables. One possible reason for renewables net CO2 numbers is that I’ve heard that they require even more concrete and steel, per kW-hr generated, than nuclear.

    http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Magazines/Bulletin/Bull422/article4.pdf

    All sources have some emissions of CO2. It’s a question of how much. The punch line is that the overall net CO2 emissions for both nuclear and renewables are essentially negligible, certainly compared to the fossil fuels we are using now. These slight emissions will not be an issue with respect to meeting the world’s 80% reduction goals.

    Like

  36. Chris,

    For what it’s worth, local communities around the existing nuclear plants in the US favor building additional reactors at those plants by overwhelming margins (~80% in favor). In fact, such communities are actively competing for new reactors by offering incentives (i.e., they are engaging in bidding wars). Even some towns without existing plants are trying to attract new plants.

    These communities have lived around a nuclear plant for decades, have gotten used to it, and have come to view the plants as good, safe (and non-polluting) neighbors. Many of them know someone who works at the plant. All of this helps to de-mystify nuclear. They also know that a plant is an enormous local source of high paying jobs and tax revenues. And they know what would happen (economically) if the plant shut down.

    I know it will be significantly harder to site (all greenfield) plants in a country that has never had them before. Still, the US experience shows that you should be able to find several communities that would be more than willing to host a plant. Generally, it’s not the locals, but the state (provincial) govts. that have been most of the problem. Just take the Yucca Mtn. nuclear waste repository in the US. Many may not know this, but the local (rural) folks right around the site actually want the repository. It’s just the Nevada state govt. (and people living 100+ miles away in Las Vegas) that are opposed.

    Like

  37. The only minor quibble I have with Mr. Russel’s (and Mr. Hanson’s) view concerns the level of need to used advanced (e.g., IFR) reactors as opposed to current (Gen III) reactors. I’m heartened by the fact that most on this thread seem to agree that over the near to mid-term, building LWRs is vastly preferable to extrending fossil fuels’ hegemony, if Gen IV reactors are not ready.

    The comparison between nuclear (LWRs) and coal couldn’t be more clear. Coal plants cause hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide every single year. Western, commerical nuclear plants have had no measurable public health impact over their decades-long history. Even Chernobyl is estimated to have caused a total of ~4000 eventual deaths, ~1% of fossil fuel plants’ ANNUAL total. And a release anywhere near that magnitude will never happen again (LWRs are simply incapable of it). Coal plants are also the leading single cause of global warming. Nuclear has negligible emissions.

    Nuclear waste is tiny in volume, has always been safely stored (completely isolated from the environment), and has never killed or sickened any member of the public. We can easily store it for centuries; more than enough time to develop the technology top process and eliminate it (be it IFRs or some other technology). Even if we decided to permanently bury spent fuel (no recycle), the long-term risks would be negligible compared to those associated with fossil fuels.

    Stopping uranium mining is also mentioned as a benefit of the IFR. It would be nice. Uranium mining is probably the only real, tangible environmental impact of nuclear power. The main one, certainly. However, uranium mining’s impact is fairly small, in the grand scheme of things. On a per unit energy basis, the impacts of uranium mining are significantly smaller than the impacts of coal mining, which in turn is very small compared to the impacts of the coal plants themselves.

    As with everything else, uranium mining is nowhere near a good enough reason to “hold out” for Gen IV reactor technology, and as a result burn more fossil fuels for a longer period of time. Phasing out fossil fuel plants (coal in particular) as quickly as possible is the main concern. Everything else is secondary.

    Like

  38. Building the first full-scale commercial IFR would cost a couple billion. I hope you’re right about how much the LFTR R&D would cost, because that would bode well for a near future when we could be building both and getting to the end of fossil fuel use much faster than with either by itself.

    Like

  39. Jeremy C – “One of the most interesting things about this debate on IFR, LFTR etc is the social context. You have Greens from all over taking part in it, not necessarily agreeing but taking part. I think everyone, green or not, recognises the urgency behind debates such as these.”

    You normally would be getting much more debate from me however after over-reaching myself in the last thread and earning Barry’s ire I have taken myself out of this ‘debate’ until I at least read Blee’s book as I have promised.

    I do not support nuclear power for Australia as I believe it is completely unnecessary. I also only support one form of nuclear power and that is the LFTR and that is only to dispose of the present nuclear waste. After this task is done then the LFTR’s can be phased out in most instances, only leaving places that do not have access to sufficient renewables with any form of nuclear power.

    Like

  40. Neil;

    This notion that a megawatt of installed wind or solar nameplate capacity and a megawatt of installed nuclear nameplate capacity are interchangeable is not accurate at all.

    If you consider a typical nuclear power plant, let’s suppose we have two reactors, 1100 MWe each, operating with a 90% capacity factor. If we consider typical wind turbines, let’s suppose they’re about 1.5 MWe nameplate capacity each, and operate with a 30% capacity factor.

    If we look at the energy produced in one year, quantitatively, we see that one nuclear power station produces the same amount of energy as 4400 wind turbines. We could reduce that to 2200 if we assume the wind turbines are larger 3 MW units.

    We might assume, a little pessimistically, that a nuclear power station takes 10 years to construct. Therefore, for the wind energy to be added at the same rate, 220 3 MW turbines, or 440 1.5 MW turbines, would need to be constructed every year for 10 years.

    In reality, nuclear energy is faster to deploy than wind or solar.

    Like

  41. Geoff’s article is great. Thanks to Geoff for writing it, and thanks to Barry for re-posting it.

    I like the idea of closing down uranium mines, and using existing stocks of mined uranium efficiently.

    Uranium mining is far less environmentally intensive than mining coal, of course, but it’s basically inevitable that all mining is fairly environmentally intensive, and it’s always an appealing prospect if we can mine less material (whilst still maintaining our energy supplies and our standards of living, of course.)

    I have to admit, when I first saw Geoff’s claim that we could completely eliminate uranium mining, I was skeptical. So I took a more detailed look.

    A nuclear reactor which is efficiently consuming uranium-238 and driving a relatively high efficiency engine (typically, a Brayton-cycle gas turbine) will require approximately one tonne of uranium input for one gigawatt-year of energy output. This high efficiency use of U-238 could be best realized something like an IFR or a liquid-chloride-salt reactor (the latter is essentially the fast-neutron uranium fueled variant of a LFTR). This figure of one tonne of input fertile fuel per gigawatt-year is also comparable for the efficient use of thorium in a LFTR.

    There are about one million tonnes of already mined, refined uranium in the world, just sitting around waiting to be put to use, which is termed so-called “depleted uranium”.

    According to one source, the exact worldwide inventory of depleted uranium is 1,188,273 tonnes [1].
    The total electricity production across the world today is about 19.02 trillion kWh [2].

    Therefore, total worldwide stocks of depleted uranium, used efficiently in fast reactors, could provide every bit of worldwide electricity production for about 550 years.

    That’s not forever, but it’s a surprisingly long time. And that’s just “depleted uranium” stocks; not including the stocks of HEU and plutonium from the arsenals of the Cold War, and not including the large stockpile of uranium and plutonium that exists in the form of “used” LWR fuel.

    I know some thorium proponents aren’t going to like this; but there’s a strong case to be made here that uranium-238 based nuclear energy has a clear advantage over thorium, simply became of these huge stockpiles of already-mined uranium, for which there exists no comparable thorium resource already mined. The 3,200 tonnes of thorium nitrate at NTS is tiny compared to the uranium “waste” stockpile, but they’re both really useful energy resources which can replace the need for more mining.

    [1]: http://www.wise-uranium.org/eddat.html
    [2]: From the World Factbook (jokes about the integrity of CIA’s intelligence aside…)

    Like

  42. Thanks, Luke. As long as we can power the planet for a few hundred years,
    then that gives us time to solve peak topsoil, peak phosphorus and all
    the other peak problems that will arise as we try to feed 9 or 10 billion
    people indefinitely … assuming we get through the next hundred
    years.

    Like

  43. Dear Ender,

    Do you need a renewables plan for India?

    I suggest solar, particularly CPS, in the Rajasthan desert – possibly with some wind – for a start. The Indian coastline and India’s territorial water look capable of supporting large amounts of near and deep off shore wind. Modern deep off shore wind farms are producing power at a levelized cost of about 8 to 10 US cents/kWh.

    India has a well established wind turbine manufacturing industry and engineering capabilities well suited to building wind towers.

    India’s power usage per person is about eight per cent of that of a person in Australia or the United States. So looking at the problem as an exercise in meeting an energy need of about 30 kWh/person/day seems a bit more tractable than meeting a need of 250kWh/person/day.

    I don’t think India should have too many problems meeting its current electrical energy usage from renewables. I am also not sure it is an urgent problem.

    India and many of the other under developed countries have green house gas emissions of the order of 2 (two) tons of CO2e/person/annum. The world average is about 5 tons. The world leaders are the over developed economies of Australia, Canada and the United States which have emissions in the order of 25 (twenty five) tons of CO2e/person/annum.

    If the good people of India are to behave like averagely good international citizens they may still double their consumption of fossil fuels. When the averagely good citizens of the over developed countries get down to 5 tons of CO2e/person/annum then the good people of India might want our advice in setting up a renewables plan.

    I guess, Ender, there is no need for us to make this request for a renewables plan for India our highest priority. The higher priority seems to me to be to devise a renewables program to reduce the CO2e emissions of the over developed countries by at least 80 (eighty) per cent from 25 to 5 tons CO2e. Do you think five per cent by 2020 is going to make the Indian job a very high priority?

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  44. Tom, producing cost estimates that are better than shot in the dark estimates is still problematic, but my figure is based on ORNL cost work in the 1960’s and 70’s multiplied by standard inflation multipliers, and then discounted for cost savings such as a serial production learning curve coust reduction factor, estimated labor savings from factory automarion, the reduction of on site labor disorganization, and other cost reductions due to a factory manufacture system.. Aggressive cost reduction can make a great difference in reactor power costs.

    Like

  45. Mark:

    If you price carbon at all, nuclear fission becomes more competitive and will be built faster.

    Economically speaking, connecting storage mechanisms to a distributed grid is more beneficial for those power sources that can nearly always add energy to the storage devices when they are low. If the storage device operator is a normal profit seeking business it will work to buy energy at the lowest possible cost and sell energy at the highest price. With solar thermal, the action is reversed – the operator cannot sell much of its power to the grid during the peak demand period if it is planning to sell power at night as well.

    Nuclear fission does not have to be produced in large, tightly controlled facilities. It can be pushed down in size and made more available through a number of readily available design and regulatory choices that do not increase the risk of nuclear war. It might increase the number of people who understand the basic physics, but there are plenty of those in the world already.

    I will never agreed that the way to human survival and prosperity is through ignorance or hidden knowledge.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

    Like

  46. Tom and Charles – Both the LFTR and IFR technologies show great promise. With their successful deployment, the already known answer to the long term problem of “waste” will become evident to far more people. By using the left-over material from our current generation of reactors, either or both the IFR and LFTR will show that there is far less of a “waste problem” than most people imagine.

    Because I have so much confidence in the science that underlies both proposals, I am comfortable in advocating the construction of reactors that are not only fully developed from a science point of view, but also from an engineering, supply chain, and construction point of view. If the existing nuclear industry prospers through a round of building Gen III reactors, the supplier base and the work force will be in a much stronger position to support the expansion of whatever Gen IV, V, and VI reactors get developed.

    I am also comfortable in working hard to make technologies like NuScale, Hyperion, Toshiba 4S and other systems aimed at commercial power plants that are not at the “extra large” scale that limits deployment of nuclear fission to only certain types of markets.

    If we really want fission to succeed, we have to get it moving from a business point of view. That was the natural advocates have the strength to overcome the natural opposition of people who think they have a better product – or at least work harder to push their inferior, costly product at the expense of fission.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights
    Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast

    Like

  47. Geoff:

    Since you are still following and responding to this thread, can you answer a question for me? In your original piece, you described one of your main reasons for opposition to nuclear power as a “general distrust of big business ethics”.

    How do you feel about the big business ethics of the companies and individuals that participate in all of the industries dependent on technology that competes with nuclear fission for energy market share?

    One thing that has continued to intrigue me in many years of discussions about nuclear power – and in reading about discussion that took place before I was even alive – is how successfully the opposition has been at portraying fission as uniquely big, mean business while getting greens to ‘spruik” (I am not really familiar with that word, but the context in which you applied it to Patrick Moore tells me it means the same thing as “shill” in American English) for natural gas, biofuels, wind, and solar – all of which are often produced by some very BIG businesses (ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Total, Elf, GE, Siemens, Kyocera, Sharp, etc.) Sometimes I suspect that the Green advocates of those power sources are not working for free.

    Any thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated. I suspect that you have plenty of mates in the Green community who have not experienced your conversion; do they ever talk about any discomfort at the idea that some of their efforts end up putting more market power into the hands of some very large, and not particularly ethical companies?

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights
    Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast

    Like

  48. “India’s power usage per person is about eight per cent of that of a person in Australia or the United States. So looking at the problem as an exercise in meeting an energy need of about 30 kWh/person/day seems a bit more tractable than meeting a need of 250kWh/person/day.

    I don’t think India should have too many problems meeting its current electrical energy usage from renewables. I am also not sure it is an urgent problem.

    India and many of the other under developed countries have green house gas emissions of the order of 2 (two) tons of CO2e/person/annum. The world average is about 5 tons. The world leaders are the over developed economies of Australia, Canada and the United States which have emissions in the order of 25 (twenty five) tons of CO2e/person/annum.

    If the good people of India are to behave like averagely good international citizens they may still double their consumption of fossil fuels. When the averagely good citizens of the over developed countries get down to 5 tons of CO2e/person/annum then the good people of India might want our advice in setting up a renewables plan.

    No David, I meant the ‘renewable’ energy plan which will enable per capita consumption for the population of India to reach parity with the wealthy industrialised countries, and indeed move beyond our current level to whatever the global standard will be when that parity is actually achieved. A level of consumption comfortably higher than the one we currently enjoy in Australia. That level.

    I mean the plan for that outcome. The one which will actually eventuate if the Indians can master any technology which will enable it. What’s the renewables plan for that?

    Like

  49. 1) 3 of my colleagues were sacked a while back. They were perfectly capable and productive, the company (a small Australian
    group which is owned by a quite large overseas company) was
    quite profitable. The reason they were sacked was to meet
    a profit target. A trivial example perhaps, but one that
    goes to the heart of how unethical companies can be when
    driven by a single motive.

    2) Australia’s CSIRO launched a diet book back in
    2005 based on a small clinical study of 100 women for 12 weeks
    with a 12 month follow up period. The study was totally uneventful in that both the magic high red meat diet and the
    control diet produced the same weight loss (same calories=same
    weight loss). The CSIRO misrepresented the results and
    sold a million copies of the diet. The board was
    informed (by its own researchers) that a high red meat diet would cause increased colorectal
    cancer. What did CSIRO do upon being told this? Put out
    a second edition! For some details see:

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/04/21/eating-red-meat-like-smoke-from-a-hungry-anus/

    or if they won’t let you in without a subscription, the same article is here:

    http://www.animalliberation.org.au/crikey-red-meat-houston.html

    CSIRO is a largely publicly funded scienced based organisation, but this example shows just how bad it can be. It also has
    patents on some resistant starch products … what do
    these products do … reduce the DNA damage caused by the
    main component of its best selling diet … make em sick and
    them sell em some medicine. What a great idea!

    3) Both of the above examples are from the more ethical
    end of the spectrum … my parent company isn’t a
    nasty group of people … the CSIRO isn’t a nasty group of
    people. But they can’t be trusted to act ethically.

    4) Unethical companies do good things all the time because
    good things can be profitable … just like cutting corners
    can also be profitable.

    The trick is to make them act ethically despite
    their natural inclination to act otherwise when it is
    profitable. Well its not a trick, its called “regulation”.
    Why do we regulate the temperature in frozen food cabinets? Because otherwise someone will try to save money by turning
    it down.

    Like

  50. Finrod – “No David, I meant the ‘renewable’ energy plan which will enable per capita consumption for the population of India to reach parity with the wealthy industrialised countries, and indeed move beyond our current level to whatever the global standard will be when that parity is actually achieved.”

    Have you actually calculated the amount of energy and resources required to bring India’a population up to Western standards?

    I would like to know the nuclear plan for this as you would have to add in China as well along with Africa.

    The way our society is, wealth and energy is concentrated in the hands of the minority. For your dream of equality for all we would have to drastically reduce our living standards so that there would be enough resources to go around. Do you see this happening?

    Nuclear power cannot create resources where there are not enough.

    Like

  51. There has been a lot of distrust of the nuclear industry, due to a range of factors ranging from disproven claims about promised performance through to false assurances during and following the Three Mile Island accident. Tom Blees’ experience following IFR suggests that there is still much to be sceptical about with the politics and assertions coming from many within the nuclear power industry complex.
    Yet the discussion hosted by Barry on this blog has shown me that some of the sources that informed arguments against nuclear power are not without error. (It’s also helpe that I know Barry’s motives are beyond reproach). And hence I agree with many of the nuclear proponents that the emergency is so dire that we need to be properly informed.

    IFR appears to meet a staggeringly high proportion of demands that nuclear power has previously failed, (cutting the life of high level radioactive waste to 500 years, passive safety design, dramatic improvement in energy return on energy investment).

    So I’ve moved from being someone who “knew” that nuclear power wasn’t the answer to the climate crisis, to being someone who is open to the possibility that it could have a large role.

    This is not to say that IFR have met all the criteria for a safe and just power source. I’d think that even the most optimistic supporters of IFR are concerned about the risk of human failings in a non-proliferation regime, or an economic rationale being used to continue venting radioactive gases to the atmosphere rather than capturing it.

    Like

  52. Hi Rod,
    Agreed that carbon price would also improve nuclear costs. Perhaps with this extra money nuclear industry could start to pay their full insurance costs, rather than depending on the subsidy of tax payers bearing the bulk of the financial risk of an accident.

    Remember there is no such thing a free market, nuclear development has advanced as far as it has on the back of 60 years of massive public subsidy. I would like the same for renewables (adjusted for present values, as well as a bonus factor for renewables to reflect is lower risk and renewability).

    “storage mechanisms to a distributed grid is more beneficial for those power sources that can nearly always add energy to the storage devices when they are low.”

    -Solar thermal (just one option) can allocate supply power at various times to maximise its profits.
    If there is a heavy solar profile the times of maximum market price will likely look different to the market dominated by coal (which requires cheap night tariffs to artificially shift demand to night).

    Like

  53. Luke – “This notion that a megawatt of installed wind or solar nameplate capacity and a megawatt of installed nuclear nameplate capacity are interchangeable is not accurate at all.’

    No however research and modelling shows that widely dispersed wind can replace an amount of baseload equal to the average capacity with about one third to one fifth of the installed wind capacity backed up with peaking plants.

    “Computer simulations and modelling show that the integration of wind power into an electricity grid changes the optimal mix of conventional base-load and peak-load power stations. Wind power replaces base-load with the same annual average power output. However, to maintain the reliability of the generating system at the same level as before the substitution, some additional
    peak-load plant may be needed. This back-up does not have to have the same capacity as the group of wind farms. For widely dispersed wind farms, the back-up capacity only has to be onefifth to one-third of the wind capacity. In the special case when all the wind power is concentrated at a single site, the required back-up is about half the wind capacity. (Martin & Diesendorf 1982; Grubb 1988a & b; ILEX 2002; Carbon Trust & DTI 2004; Dale et al. 2004; UKERC 2006).”

    “We might assume, a little pessimistically, that a nuclear power station takes 10 years to construct. Therefore, for the wind energy to be added at the same rate, 220 3 MW turbines, or 440 1.5 MW turbines, would need to be constructed every year for 10 years.”

    It is more instructive to look at the growth rates. Wind is growing at 30% per annum which is a doubling time of 2.5 years. We have in Australia about 1 GW of installed wind and given world rates of increase could be in 2020 approx 16 GW of dispersed wind farms. With 4 GW of peaking and storage, most of which is in place already, this would replace 4 to 5 GW of base load.

    I am sure not even the most optimistic person would imagine that we could build in Australia 5 new nuclear reactors in 10 years.

    There is currently a trend to repowering present wind farms. Because a lot of older farms were built with quite small, by today’s standards, turbines the very large new ones, 5 MW and greater, can be built in between the older turbines and still be out of wind shadow as the are much taller. This avoids planning permission for new sites and new power infrastructure.

    A lot of our earlier sites could be repowered in this way and avoid any further land use and speed up the roll-out of wind farms even further.

    Like

  54. Dear Ender,

    A very quick comment on your reply to Finrod. I addressed my reply to him to you because I wanted to be sure that you took it up.

    ‘For your dream of equality for all we would have to drastically reduce our living standards so that there would be enough resources to go around. Do you see this happening?’

    The major point of the analyses by Nicholas Stern and Ross Garnaut is that we will NOT have to reduce our consumption drastically if we adopt realistic and feasible responses. They try to put numbers on the cost – they sound big but only translate into minor reductions in growth rates of material standards over the next decades.

    It HAS to be made to happen. To make it happen it will be necessary that people accept that the costs involved are not outlandish, that a renewables solution is feasible in the time available (nuclear is too slow) and that special interest groups (like coal miners and aluminium producers) don’t hijack the decision process. I think it would have been very difficult with John Howard and George Bush calling the shots. I reckon there is some hope that it will happen now that Barack Obama is setting the framework.

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  55. Dear Finrod,

    David MacKay (Chapter 20) offers some insight into a plan which will permit everyone in the world to live at a level of 180 kWh/d/p. If you want everyone to live at the Australian and North American level of 250 kWh/d/p and allow that to increase forever then no I don’t have a renewables plan. But when everyone first follows James Lovelock’s ninetieth birthday celebration and flies into space, and then goes one up and does it regularly, your ‘infinite’ uranium supply will run short.

    I had, naively perhaps, thought that your plan for India required us to do something in the next five years and get off coal entirely by about 2035. If a plan does not do that then that plan is wishful thinking – it will not avoid the big cook up. Mine does – it also leaves open the possibility of doing something else after 2035.

    What is your plan? With dates please.

    Pre-empting your reply I don’t believe a nuclear solution for India and China and Africa can solve our serious problem in the time available to us. I note that India is not even currently considered a safe location to sell uranium to. I note that China is getting a move on with a nuclear programme. Why have they decided on twenty nine new old style reactors, but no generation IV? It can’t be the NIMBYs calling the shots. I don’t think they are conspiring with any one else on this exercise. And GE blew 29 sales opportunities on the trot?

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  56. David – my response to Finrod was to counter the argument that all the world’s inequality problems can be solved just by adding limitless energy. The idea seems to be that once the poor people get nuclear energy they will all then be able to have plasma TV sets and McMansions like we do.

    I believe that this is totally false and ignores the fact that the inequalities present in our global society exist for many reasons and cannot be solved just by adding energy, even renewables cannot do this.

    Even if they could there is not enough steel, aluminium, copper, arable land etc to allow all 6 billion of us to have the same consumption levels as the First World. Even the 20% of us that enjoy our standard of living are drawing heavily on the Earths resources.

    What renewables offer is at least a light at night for the third world that they are not in debt to the first world for, and can control themselves. If offers a path the higher living standards if all else in their country goes OK.

    We can also help by wasting less as just cutting our waste could allow 5% or 10% more people to climb the ladder without straining the Earth any more.

    What I meant by saying we would have to drastically cut living standards is for all 6 billion to have the same standard of living on a single Earth like planet each of these people would have to have far less than first world people today just to fit the resources available.

    I, like you, think that we can do a renewable society without drastic cuts to the First World living standards which seem non-negotiable and not resort to nuclear power.

    Like

  57. “Nuclear power cannot create resources where there are not enough”

    The material resources exist. It’s the energy supply which is paramount. Nuclear is abundant.

    Exactly which material resources (besides energy sources) do you percieve we are curently running low on?

    My energy plan for China, India and Africa, plus anywhere else, is to employ advanced nuclear reactors to supply the high-grade thermal and electrical energy needed for whatever purposes are most necessary at the time.

    I’d estimate that less than five thousand 1GW nuclear reactors can cap our energy requirements at a point where the human population is dropping, or obviously sustainable. That’s a bit over ten times what we have now. It’s eminently doable.

    Mind you, India might need a good 1000 of those reactors, or more.

    Will you deny them to the Indian populace?

    Or do you somehow think that the Indians will conspire with you to deny themselves?

    That is not where the thinking of their planners is trending.

    I mean… come on! This is the country at the forefront of thorium exploitation research!

    Perhaps you’ll have better luck convincing China to eschew nuclear power.

    Like

  58. As a matter of pedantry, cutting energy consumption is not the same as cutting living standards. Correlation is neither equivalence nor determination.

    Living standard is a subjective thing to measure. As Einstein is reported to have said, you can’t count everything that counts, and much of what we count doesn’t really count.

    We can make a shot at it by measuring child mortality, disease, etc. (I’ve seen estimates that the current generation will have a shorter life expectancy than the last. I’m not sure if this is true, but its worth finding out). My living standard would improve immensely if the roads were safe for cyclists. One can travel faster in peak hour on a bike, yet path dependency means people are not safe to switch to bikes.

    I’m sure you get my point.

    Regarding development and living standards in poor countries, we know what doesn’t work -leaving it up to the “free market”. This locks poor nations into low-productivity jobs. To reverse this, and raise living standards, requires investment in people and capacity; this is why rich nations send children to school rather than send children out earning their way in the “free market”.

    The benefits of wealth has diminishing returns, to put it another way, we could raise the global benefits from wealth by allocating resources more equitably – attending to basic unmet needs rather than extravagant luxuries.

    The Current economic paradigm works in the opposite way. It concentrates wealth, while foisting social and environmental costs on the poor. http://assets.panda.org/downloads/eirsalsummarydec03.doc
    [This approach even has the predictable consequence of corrupting democratic processes. ]

    The point is that China are ditching the bikes for cars. We’d all be better of if more wealth (along with a heap of our perverse luxuries) were spent meeting the basic need of the oppressed. And this could enable the poorest to shift from burning cow dung to solar stoves and gas from bio-digesters.

    Like

  59. Finrod – “The material resources exist. It’s the energy supply which is paramount. Nuclear is abundant.

    Exactly which material resources (besides energy sources) do you percieve we are curently running low on?”

    Again a little closer to the edge of the page…

    We are not running short of many except perhaps copper at the moment however we only have 1/5 of the population consuming resources at a high level. Are you proposing that all the Earths population can consume at our levels? Remember that we eat 5 times what the average African or Indian eats and use 5 times the water, 5 times the land and so on. Unless we make large cutbacks there is not enough of this to go around.

    “My energy plan for China, India and Africa, plus anywhere else, is to employ advanced nuclear reactors to supply the high-grade thermal and electrical energy needed for whatever purposes are most necessary at the time.

    I’d estimate that less than five thousand 1GW nuclear reactors can cap our energy requirements at a point where the human population is dropping, or obviously sustainable. That’s a bit over ten times what we have now. It’s eminently doable.”

    Is it really? 5000 nukes when there is currently one factory that makes the forgings, a shortage of nuclear graduates plus no workable safeguards to ensure that nuclear material gets into the wrong hands – good plan so far

    “Mind you, India might need a good 1000 of those reactors, or more.

    Will you deny them to the Indian populace?”

    Where will the Indian’s get the money to purchase the 1000 reactors. Even a bargain basement prices your plan for India would cost 2 billion X 1000 = 2 trillion dollars and that is very conservative – where do they get that sort of money? And you are casting me as the evil greenie denying the Indians energy.

    Also are you planning to drop a couple into Mogadishu and let them wire it up? How about Yemen and Syria they do get some of the nukes as well?

    How about thinking about your cunning plan for a moment and then work out where the turnip comes into it.

    (Blackadder fans will tell you where the turnip fits in)

    Like

  60. “Finrod – “The material resources exist. It’s the energy supply which is paramount. Nuclear is abundant.

    Exactly which material resources (besides energy sources) do you percieve we are curently running low on?”

    Again a little closer to the edge of the page…

    We are not running short of many except perhaps copper at the moment however we only have 1/5 of the population consuming resources at a high level. Are you proposing that all the Earths population can consume at our levels? Remember that we eat 5 times what the average African or Indian eats and use 5 times the water, 5 times the land and so on. Unless we make large cutbacks there is not enough of this to go around.

    “My energy plan for China, India and Africa, plus anywhere else, is to employ advanced nuclear reactors to supply the high-grade thermal and electrical energy needed for whatever purposes are most necessary at the time.

    I’d estimate that less than five thousand 1GW nuclear reactors can cap our energy requirements at a point where the human population is dropping, or obviously sustainable. That’s a bit over ten times what we have now. It’s eminently doable.”

    Is it really? 5000 nukes when there is currently one factory that makes the forgings, a shortage of nuclear graduates plus no workable safeguards to ensure that nuclear material gets into the wrong hands – good plan so far

    “Mind you, India might need a good 1000 of those reactors, or more.

    Will you deny them to the Indian populace?”

    Where will the Indian’s get the money to purchase the 1000 reactors. Even a bargain basement prices your plan for India would cost 2 billion X 1000 = 2 trillion dollars and that is very conservative – where do they get that sort of money? And you are casting me as the evil greenie denying the Indians energy.

    Also are you planning to drop a couple into Mogadishu and let them wire it up? How about Yemen and Syria they do get some of the nukes as well?

    How about thinking about your cunning plan for a moment and then work out where the turnip comes into it.

    (Blackadder fans will tell you where the turnip fits in)”

    Is that seriously the best argument you can muster?

    Of course India isn’t going to build a thousand nuclear reactors next year. It will take several decades to build up to that level even if they launch a crash program today. Where will they get the money? As their economy advances and develops, they shall acquire greater resources to devote to the program. That’s how economic development works. Do I really have to explain this to you?

    Now how about explaing how ‘renewable’ power sources could hope to yield equivalent results?

    Like

  61. “Is it really? 5000 nukes when there is currently one factory that makes the forgings, a shortage of nuclear graduates plus no workable safeguards to ensure that nuclear material gets into the wrong hands”

    I was under the impression that a number of industrial concerns worldwide were ramping up their forging capabilities to break that bottleneck. Your criticism on that point is highly dated.

    Technicians and engineers can be trained, and many are being trained in the developing world. Your criticism there would be more validly applied to the developed west, but even here that problem could be cured in a few years with the right political will.

    So just how many terrorist nukes have been detonated worldwide since 9/11?

    Like

  62. Dear Ender,

    ‘…research and modelling shows that widely dispersed wind….’

    There is a very neat set of comments and calculations at

    http://peakenergy.blogspot.com/ today on

    Why CSP Should Not Try to be Coal

    The essential point is that CSP should not be sold as Solar Baseload but as ‘Dispatchable Solar’ because with steam storage it can be dispatched when needed, not all the time. Likewise wind with uphill pumping is ‘Dispatchable Wind’.

    Kind regards.

    David Murray

    Like

  63. Dear Mark,

    ‘Current production and growth rates have little association to potential growth rates. Change the incentives so renewables are cheaper than coal and you will get non-linear changes’

    Absolutely 100% spot on – the little beauty.

    Geoffrey Carr, the science editor of The Economist wrote nine months ago:

    ‘If alternative energy sources can be made as cheap as fossil fuels, then people will use them. The point where it becomes unarguable is where they are cheaper than coal.’

    I owe Barry for the reference to that quote. I wish that Mr Carr had gone on to make the point that with a CO2 price of $10 the day of reckoning is closer. At $60/ton we may even be able to say Hallelujah and have a repeatedly full glass.

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  64. Dear Finrod,

    ‘China will meet its energy needs by burning uranium, plutonium and/or coal. With a bit of methane thrown in, and some other not especially important sidelines.

    Nukes or coal. What is your preference?’

    I suppose the not especially important sidelines are China’s wind, photovoltaic, plug-in motor car and CSP initiatives.

    The choice set for China is not binary. It is coal (now), renewables (in the near future – nearer than the overdeveloped countries?) or nuclear (in the when future).

    What is your preference – knowing that toasting day is twenty years away?

    Since we have solved India and China so easily I think we should move on to Pakistan and Iran. I am using their deserts for wind and CSP. What are you offering?

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  65. Dear Finrod,

    ‘How does that work/”

    Pretty easily really. In his current comments John Quiggin

    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2009/05/04/25-per-cent-by-2020/#comments
    answers a question as to the cost of the new 25% by 2020 policy
    ‘Sean, if expressed in terms of economic growth, the answer (not only from my research, BTW) is “a reduction of the order of 0.1 per cent in the average annual growth rate”.’
    That does not sound like a really, really drastic cost.
    The overdeveloped world is offering virtually nothing (0.1 per cent in the average annual growth rate) to avoid Armageddon. China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh face devastation when the glaciers in the Himalayas are gone. The leaders and negotiators of these countries are fully aware of these facts. It is a bit like MAD – the outcomes were so gruesome they could not be allowed to happen either.
    You don’t think there is the basis for a deal there. I think, perhaps surprisingly, that there is.
    Kind regards,
    David Murray

    Like

  66. ‘China will meet its energy needs by burning uranium, plutonium and/or coal. With a bit of methane thrown in, and some other not especially important sidelines.

    Nukes or coal. What is your preference?’

    I suppose the not especially important sidelines are China’s wind, photovoltaic, plug-in motor car and CSP initiatives.

    I was thinking more of their hydro investment. Of course, if they can mate their wind power to the Three Gorges project, that may actually make sense, but like everywhere else, hydro is a limited resourse. It’s becoming pretty clear from the experience of Europe that for the most part, wind is a dead end. The problems of storage, intermitancy and the need for backup from gas plants are problems that do not appear to have workable solutions.

    Photovoltaics? Forget it. I’m sure that the Chinese like the cash selling PV cells earns for them, but they are not the solution to our power needs. Their inefficiency, intermittency and expense renders them useless for anything other than low-power off-grid applications, where they do indeed fill an important role.

    I wouldn’t put too much faith in CSP until we have some verifiable hard data from the firms trying to impliment it. It is not a new idea, and it hasn’t been particularly successful in the past. Relying on it to save us is a breathtakingly dangerous act of faith.

    Plug in motor cars? Do ,you mean electric vehicles? Great idea if they can be made to work, provided that the electricity source is clean, safe, cheap and reliable. Good thing we have nuclear power for that…

    The choice set for China is not binary. It is coal (now), renewables (in the near future – nearer than the overdeveloped countries?) or nuclear (in the when future).

    What is your preference – knowing that toasting day is twenty years away?

    China needs baseload power in as great a quantity as it can achieve. Renewables, so called, cannot provide it. If Germany can’t do it (and it can’t, its attempt to go to a significant proportion of ‘renewable’ power has led it directly to the need to build more coal plants), why in the world do you suppose China could?

    Toasting day?

    Since we have solved India and China so easily I think we should move on to Pakistan and Iran. I am using their deserts for wind and CSP. What are you offering?

    I’d offer them both civilian nuclear power plants on the provision of international supervision of the fuel cycle, with any enrichment or reprocessing done elsewhere.

    Like

  67. Finrod – “Is that seriously the best argument you can muster?”

    No but it is the best for someone who thinks that India can divert 2 trillion dollars even over several decades to build 1000 nuclear reactors even if the cooling water was available for all of them.

    “As their economy advances and develops, they shall acquire greater resources to devote to the program.”

    Sure so where do they get the seed money from? No-one will sell India nukes anyway as they have not signed the NPT or is this going by the wayside as well?

    Like

  68. Finrod – “I was under the impression that a number of industrial concerns worldwide were ramping up their forging capabilities to break that bottleneck. Your criticism on that point is highly dated.’

    Not really as they have not done it yet and would not expect to for at least 5 years. Also the metallurgists that can forge 600 ton forgings do not fall out of trees. It will be at least 10 years before production starts to increase from 5 or 10 per year.

    Like

  69. I meant “what are the technical details of a ‘renewable’ power scheme?”, not the political ones. What kind of technology will be used, and how will the known shortcomings of using ‘renewable’ sources be resolved?

    I frankly cannot see how a 25% reduction is such a great achievement. Nor do I percieve how even that is to be achieved given the ‘renewable’ and efficiency fantasy strategy of the current government. Nuclear power could enable us to cut our emmissions far more in the first decade or so of build, and eliminate them altogether from the energy sector in the decades to come.

    Like

  70. Dear Finrod,

    Toasting day is 2030. If we are not off coal by then I think our time is pretty well up. The climate feedbacks will be in full force and unstoppable.

    I think we are beginning to go around in circles – and it is perhaps polite to the other users of this communication medium (which Barry has kindly made available to us)for us to desist from our mutual attempts at fighting ignorance. At least until the next time.

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  71. “Sure so where do they get the seed money from? No-one will sell India nukes anyway as they have not signed the NPT or is this going by the wayside as well?”

    Are you serious?

    You need to check the news more often.

    http://steelguru.com/news/index/2009/05/04/OTI4OTk%3D/Punj_Lloyd_in_talks_with_Areva_and_Westinghouse_for_nuclear_tie_up.html

    http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2009/05/04/stories/2009050450150800.htm

    http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/%5Cindia-can-declare-new-raps-units-under-iaea-in-two-months%5C/60365/on

    http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/quest-seeks-to-provide-support-to-n-power-plants/356970/

    Why don’t you digest those articles, then come back and tell us all about India’s inability to build nuclear power stations?

    Like

  72. Finrod.
    Lots of options, replace lignite coal generated electricity with wind, reduce aluminium refining, use more NG peaking and close down older coal fired power(there is a surplus of base-load at present). Add some solar for peak demand.
    Energy conservation: Introduce vehicle fuel efficiency targets, improve appliance efficiency especially refrigerators and washers, a phase out of incandescent bulbs is planned for 2010?
    Australia is such a large CO2 producer the 25% target is not very good, but 25% better than the previous government was planning.

    Like

  73. Mark, with IFRs you don’t have to vent gases to the atmosphere. The main issue with that, I believe, has been tritium, which is produced from the water in light water reactors. Since the IFR uses sodium there is no appreciable production of tritium except in miniscule amounts that can easily be removed with a cold trap. Other gases that some might be concerned about in the course of recycling can be formed into salts and entombed in glass like the rest of the fission products, or for short-lived ones they can simply be held while they decay. This is a very, very environmentally clean system: no venting, no mining, no enrichment, no long-lived waste.

    Like

  74. Luke writes: We might assume, a little pessimistically, that a nuclear power station takes 10 years to construct.

    There is absolutely no reason to make such an assumption, since GE has built them in 4 years from groundbreaking to power production. So your comparison to wind/solar builds just got way different. There’s every reason to believe that IFRs will build even faster than 4 years once we begin building them in earnest.

    Like

  75. Lots of options, replace lignite coal generated electricity with wind,

    This does not appear to be technically possible.

    Neil, I strongly recommend you check out the following article on Depleted Cranium:

    http://depletedcranium.com/?p=2140

    Comment #43 in the discussion thread following the article is especially interesting, don’t you agree?

    reduce aluminium refining,

    Let’s hope that wherever the Al industry and the employment opportunities it enables migrates to has nuclear power. Otherwise it’ll be back to burning coal to power the refinery.

    use more NG peaking

    I could support greater use of methane during a transition from fossil fuels to nuclear, seeing as methane burning emits about half the CO2 coal does per unit of powr generated, but ultimately we need to move away from it too.

    and close down older coal fired power(there is a surplus of base-load at present).

    I have my doubts about that assertion. Do you have any references to back it up?

    Add some solar for peak demand.

    Got a costing on that?

    Energy conservation: Introduce vehicle fuel efficiency targets, improve appliance efficiency especially refrigerators and washers, a phase out of incandescent bulbs is planned for 2010?

    Check out Jevon’s Paradox regarding the impact of greater energy efficiency. In short, overall usage goes up.

    At any rate, all that is just nibbling around the edges, pretending we can achieve large goals with small efforts. It’s just not so. If we are going to tackle CO2 emissions properly, we need to go after baseload coal with the biggest gun we have. Nuclear is the only technology up to the challenge.

    Australia is such a large CO2 producer the 25% target is not very good, but 25% better than the previous government was planning.

    We can do much better than that. To do so, we need to embrace nuclear power.

    Like

  76. As once prompted by john Mashey I think it was, I attended a lecture at Uni of Western Australia tonight, by Professor Federico Rosei, Université du Québec. Only got his PhD in 2001 and is a young bloke – rivals our own Prof Brook for meteoric rise:) His speciality is nanotechnology it appears, but has a strong interest in the looming energy crisis (and associated climate change etc).

    Anyway in his list of technologies he didn’t mention IFR, only referred to conventional nuclear (“there is no optimal solution to replace fossil fuels on a short time scale with new sources that are economically viable and environmentally sustainable in the long term”). Didn’t get a chance to raise it so I fired him an email… but Barry since he is in Australia as a visiting professor, and is lecturing on the future of energy, Barry maybe you could get in touch with him for a chat and intro to IFR… you could get his contact from UWA’s institute of advanced studies for some cross-cultural collaboration and referral to Blees’ book. (I wrote it down but incorrectly sorry).

    Here is the bio:

    “As the age of cheap oil and fossil fuels is coming to an end, humanity will face an energy crisis. Many alternative energy sources have already been identified. However, there is no optimal solution to replace fossil fuels on a short time scale with new sources that are economically viable and environmentally sustainable in the long term. History reports disastrous consequences for human societies that overexploited their resources in a non sustainable way, and arguably this is exactly what is happening today on a global scale.

    Professor Federico Rosei is Canada Research Chair in Nanostructured Organic and Inorganic Materials, Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, Énergie, Matériaux et Télécommunications, Université du Québec, Varennes (QC) Canada and 2009 Gledden Senior Visiting Fellow, UWA”

    This public lecture aims at describing a general picture of the looming energy crisis outlining some possible solutions. (mattb note – he actually didn’t have any solutions… just to point out that we really don;t have any that we know about yet… and we need to buy time by being as efficient as we can possibly be).

    Like

  77. “No-one will sell India nukes anyway as they have not signed the NPT or is this going by the wayside as well?”

    Sorry that should have read:

    No-one that is interested in not dying in a nuclear exchange will sell India nukes as they have not sighed the the NPT …..

    However of course the mighty dollar trumps common sense one again.

    Why don’t you try digesting this article and come back and tell us why it is not a really good idea to sell more nukes to India until they sign the NPT.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/05/04/mullen-pakistani-nukes-safe/

    Like

  78. Why don’t you try digesting this article and come back and tell us why it is not a really good idea to sell more nukes to India until they sign the NPT.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/05/04/mullen-pakistani-nukes-safe/

    Hmm. Ender, this is an article about the concern over the possibility that Taliban fighters in Pakistan might be able to seize Pakistani nuclear weapons. What does this have to do with civilian nuclear power in India?

    Never mind. I’m quite aware that your intent was to create generalised non-contextual fear of third-world nuclear power. Let’s have a think about what’s going on with Pakistan and India.

    I’m sure that a person as well-informed about world affairs as yourself will be aware that the real rivalry at work here is not so much that between India and Pakistan as that between India and China. Over the last several decades, China has done a good job of encircling it’s main continental Asian rival with hostile neighbours. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh… all have strong ties to China, and some are openly hostile to India’s interests. Back in the 1970s, when India was more or less aligned with the USSR, it concluded that it was not in its national interest to restrict its strategic options by signing the NPT. I believe they were correct in this assessment. They very properly did not sign a treaty which they were quite aware they would likely have to renounce to defend their nation.

    If India wanted to be a bad global citizen and proliferate its nuclear technology to other nations for whatever reason, it could easily have done so. It did not. The same certainly can’t be said for Pakistan.

    Now check this out:

    http://indiatoday.intoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20647&sectionid=4&issueid=80&Itemid=1

    Funny, don’t you think, that the current Australian government has no problem with selling uranium to Pakistan’s ally China, but balks at the prospect of selling it to India. Perhaps our Manderin (or is it Cantonese?) speaking PM can cast some light on this issue.

    You wouldn’t happen to be an adviser to the Australian government would you, Ender?

    Like

  79. OK, the ‘excess’ baseload is the *mandated* amount of spinning reserve, basically. A healthy baseload system has, under ideal conditions, a baseload capacity of about 115% of baseload. All this means is that during peak load periods, that is, over and above base, there are baseload plants running. That’s a *good thing* because they are usually cheaper to run and you don’t have to use NG or other forms of expensive peaking power.

    A nuclear system, like that in France, runs exactly like that. 1/3 of their plants at any given time do load following and can go, regularly, 20, 30% over baseload.

    So there is no such thing, for a system operator, of “excess” base load. It’s like ‘excess money’.

    David

    Like

  80. “Check out Jevon’s Paradox regarding the impact of greater energy efficiency. In short, overall usage goes up.”

    Ummmm, not really. Apparently, perhaps, in 20% of cases but the argument goes back and forth, but as Alan Pears has pointed out energy savings at one point may result in energy savings elsewhere i.e. an amplification takes place directly opposite to Jevons. One way to look at it is say you buy a replacement appliance that saves energy, the money saved then enables and encourages you to replace another appliance with an energy saving design and so on. The other limitation to the outlook on Jevons paradox is this assumption that there is a reason to expand consumption. Just because I buy an energy saving TV doesn’t mean I am going to watch it for longer just because its saving energy.

    Another argument against Jevons paradox in light of emissions reductions is that energy savings may be granted a transferrable value e.g something along the line of Victoria’s VEEC’s.

    I think energy conservation is one of Australia’s great untapped resources, the IEA certainly doesn’t regard it as ‘nibbling around the edges’. In the mental arsenal for changing people’s minds i think we can tie energy efficiency to helping nuclear along i.e. we can show dramatic results from technology for EE so helping people feel we aren’t going to die if coal gradually runs down and because EE has the potential for great success we can make people comfortable with other more dramatic changes such as replacing the remaining coal with nuclear.

    Like

  81. “Ummmm, not really. Apparently, perhaps, in 20% of cases but the argument goes back and forth, but as Alan Pears has pointed out energy savings at one point may result in energy savings elsewhere i.e. an amplification takes place directly opposite to Jevons. One way to look at it is say you buy a replacement appliance that saves energy, the money saved then enables and encourages you to replace another appliance with an energy saving design and so on. The other limitation to the outlook on Jevons paradox is this assumption that there is a reason to expand consumption. Just because I buy an energy saving TV doesn’t mean I am going to watch it for longer just because its saving energy.”

    Probably not, Jeremy. But perhaps with all your new energy-efficient appliances in place, you’ll sudennly realise that now your family budget will stretch to running that second car you always thought would be so useful. Just a thought.

    I think energy conservation is one of Australia’s great untapped resources, the IEA certainly doesn’t regard it as ‘nibbling around the edges’. In the mental arsenal for changing people’s minds i think we can tie energy efficiency to helping nuclear along i.e. we can show dramatic results from technology for EE so helping people feel we aren’t going to die if coal gradually runs down and because EE has the potential for great success we can make people comfortable with other more dramatic changes such as replacing the remaining coal with nuclear.

    Well, we all have our opinions. I think the whole idea of energy conservation is a cruel scam to perpetuate the fossil fuel industry. If we had nuclear as the backbone of our baseload, no-one would care about efficiency, unless there was a personal economic reason to invest in it… in which case people would do it anyway, without anyone having to mandate anything.

    As I’ve mentioned before, the majority of energy use in Australia is by the commercial sector, not the residential sector. The commercial sector already has a strong motive to reduce overheads as much as possible. There very likely isn’t much more to be done there in the direction of efficiency.

    Like

  82. In order to reduce the USA’s CO2 emissions by just half, carbon has to be completely ELIMINATED from the power generation industry. Carbon CAN be eliminated from power generation quite easily by adopting nuclear power plants. It can be eliminated at a massive profit, with the side-effect of freeing up most rail transport capacity from coal transport, thus making railways a viable passenger transport again. It cannot ever be eliminated by any combination of solar, wind or other ambient (what you mistakenly call “renewables”) power. The sun doesn’t shine at midnight and the wind never blows throughout the night.

    These are simple and obvious facts. Renewables are a very bad technology if your goal is to decarbonize the power industry. You claim to have that goal. And if you do not then you are an idiot. But having that goal, your proposed solution is an epic failure. Thus you are an idiot.

    It’s worse than that. You seriously propose a politically non-viable perfect solution (IFR) against a semi-viable good solution (Gen III). That makes you an idiot squared.

    [Ed: Ranting and swearing removed. Say something constructively on BNC, or don’t bother commenting here. If you, dear reader, want to engage with Richard on his level, feel free, but I’m not interested. He’s posted the full comment, vitriol included, there. His blog is http://richardkulisz.blogspot.com]

    Like

  83. Finrod,
    The commercial sector already has a strong motive to reduce overheads as much as possible. There very likely isn’t much more to be done there in the direction of efficiency.

    What about fleet vehicles ( 14l/100km commodores) being replaced by hybrids(4l/100km)? What about replacing incandescent lights?

    Like

  84. “What about fleet vehicles ( 14l/100km commodores) being replaced by hybrids(4l/100km)? What about replacing incandescent lights?”

    Plug-in hybrids are fine, so long as the power plant at the other end of the line connected to the socket you’re plugged into isn’t the sort which pumps out lots of CO2. You might want to consider nuclear for that.

    I’m all for electrified transport, but it won’t be any use in the fight against CO2 if the electricity powering it ultimately comes from burning coal.

    Are there really that many incandescent lights remaining in service? Anyway, lighting is a fairly minor portion of energy use. Heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, computing, power tools… these are your big ticket items in power consumption.

    Like

  85. Dear Ender,

    ‘What I meant by saying we would have to drastically cut living standards is for all 6 billion to have the same standard of living on a single Earth like planet each of these people would have to have far less than first world people today just to fit the resources available’.

    Reading your comments here and your reply to Finrod I agree with most of what you say.

    The argument about the fixed supply of natural resources and running out of them has a long history. For products like steel, aluminium and copper as prices go up so (i) there will be poorer quality ore bodies mined and reserves found, (ii) more recycling and (iii) substitution by other materials. All of these can only go so far, as the Peak Oil people for example argue. With 15 billion people on earth I reckon they would be hogwash as well.

    For arable land people argue that agriculture could be still more intensive, particularly if we use more fertilizers and technology and (sorry) crops that are genetically modified for drought resistance. Meat is a bit of a problem – less meat could be equivalent to more arable land for crops and grain for people.

    Water will be an issue for lots of people.

    I guess the only reason for regurgitating that stuff is the situation is not totally hopeless – there is some flexibility in it.

    I am sure however that resource prices will go up over time. I am also sure that we in the overdeveloped world will live in smaller houses, in much less suburban sprawl, use more efficient transport and eat less meat in the future – and enjoy more wine and song (don’t know about the men or women though). The Europeans could set an example to some of us for a start. Our usage of raw materials can fall a long way before our happiness, welfare or standard of living deteriorates – if at all.

    For persons in the first world their big improvements in living standards will come through some increase in material goods but also through health, education, nutrition and social structure – certainly not a movement all the way to Hummers and MacMansions.

    That sounds like a lot of waffle. But the people reading this post probably already agree that there is not a one to one relation between the amount of energy available to us and the amount of coal we burn. I am only going one step further and arguing that people’s welfare or happiness or standard of living is not in a one to one relation with the amount of energy available or the amount of raw materials (steel etc.) we use.

    So just like you I argue that we can junk coal and still get the same amount of energy using renewables. (Others seem to argue that only nuclear will allow the same amount of energy – but that is their problem). Where we disagree is that I think the supply of natural resources is a bit more elastic than you think it to be, and also that happiness is not solely dependent on the amount of resources we consume.

    My final heresy is that I believe that the market system (suitably guided) will help us to get to these positions.

    But broadly speaking I agree with your comments. Thank you for outlining them.

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    PS I obviously disagree withsom other peoples’ silly suggestion that unlimited energy would lead to unlimited happiness.

    Like

  86. Dear Finrod,

    I keep misunderstanding your questions.

    I thought Neil Howes gave a very considered reply to your comment.

    A few brief responses to your response to Neil.

    The current energy impasse in Germany is more a result of the dysfunction of their markets and institutions than technology. Our markets and institutions are more functional.

    If the aluminium refining industry relocated it would most likely be to China or Canada – and use Hydro. Is that better or worse than our brown coal? They won’t go to South Africa where coal appears to be marginally less intermittent than wind in Australia. When they go do you think they will take their plant with them? Or do you think they will continue to use it in Australia until such time as their incremental production costs exceed their selling prices? Given that they are a highly capital intensive industry with high fixed costs do you think this will be a long or a short time?

    I checked out the Jevons (not Jevon’s) Paradox (in Wikipedia).

    The standard conclusion in Modern Economics is that with greater efficiency the resource use (in your case coal) increases or decreases.

    Your confident assertion that ‘In short, overall energy use goes up’ is simply wrong. It could go up, it could go down. Remember the one handed economist?

    I guess Jeremy C made the same point. Your responses to him:

    ‘we all have opinions’ – no, Jeremy stated a fact about Jevons Paradox. A fact is not an opinion, and vice versa.

    ‘the whole idea of energy conservation is a cruel scam to perpetuate the fossil fuel industry’ – oh dear.

    ‘the commercial sector already has a motive to reduce overheads as much as possible. There very likely isn’t much more to be done there in the direction of efficiency.’ – ‘very likely, much more’. Facts again, or opinions?

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  87. finrod,
    We don’t have any PHEV’s yet I was referring to hydrids that get all energy from petrol(eg 2009 model Prius). Compared to a GMH Commodore (was the biggest selling model a year ago) that’s a 400% improvement in fuel economy.
    When PHEV’s are available these EV’s still produce a lot less less CO2 than a Commodore, even using 100%coal to generate the electricity.

    Lights are a major use of electricity in domestic and commercial, because they are on so much of the time, just like refrigerators. This is the place to start on big electricity reductions.

    Re:surplus base-load,
    I was referring to the very low price(1cent/kWH) of electric power ( see NEMMCO web site) every day from 1am to 5am, even though pumped hydro is operating to soak up some of this. The SE has 8GW of surplus hydro spinning reserve available except during peak demand. It’s a consequence of having very high proportion of East Coast power from base-load coal. We could solve the problem by adding more hydro capacity and additional reversible hydro generators especially in Tasmania with an additional HVDC Bass-link.
    When approx 4GW of lignite coal is retired, it could be replaced by 8GW wind capacity and 4GW NG peak, or 11GW wind and more hydro capacity on existing dams.
    We need more peak power not more base-load. Just the same it would be desirable to replace most of the rest of the coal fired power by nuclear providing we can build for less than the 2.2GW planned for Florida(costs now estimated at $US7,000/kWh).

    Like

  88. Finrod,
    How does the “depletedcanium ” link show that wind is not capable of replacing coal fired electricity in Australia? Germany has also spent a lot developing PV solar, does this also mean we are will also fail in using solar energy?
    Germany only has about 500km x100km North coast where wind is marginal. Australia has 4,000 km of good wind coastline from N of Perth to NSW and W Coast of Tasmania.This is top quality wind resource with capacity factors up to 0.47 compared to Germany’s 0.20.
    Similarly solar energy is 2-3 times higher kWh/m^2 than in Germany.

    In Germany the issue is coal or nuclear because they have few other choices, in Australia we have coal or wind or solar or nuclear or all 3 low carbon sources or coal! Similarly the US has these 3 low carbon options and a 4th, more hydro potential

    Like

  89. “Dear Finrod,

    I keep misunderstanding your questions.”

    Do you? Or do you just find it convenient to pretend I’d asked a more convenient question?

    “A few brief responses to your response to Neil.

    The current energy impasse in Germany is more a result of the dysfunction of their markets and institutions than technology. Our markets and institutions are more functional.”

    What the hell do you mean? They can’t fill their energy gap with renewables and refuse to abandon their stupid nuclear phaseout, so they’re going to build a couple of dozen new coal plants to meet demand. They’re not fighting against dysfunctional markets, they’re fighting against reality. And they’re losing.

    “If the aluminium refining industry relocated it would most likely be to China or Canada – and use Hydro. Is that better or worse than our brown coal? They won’t go to South Africa where coal appears to be marginally less intermittent than wind in Australia. When they go do you think they will take their plant with them? Or do you think they will continue to use it in Australia until such time as their incremental production costs exceed their selling prices? Given that they are a highly capital intensive industry with high fixed costs do you think this will be a long or a short time?”

    Why ask me? I’m not the one who suggested shutting down our aluminium refining industry in the first place, I merely pointed out that moving it away from here does not necessarily reduce the CO2 emissions associated with it. Of course, if we switched to nuclear power, then we could keep the industry and assure that those emissions were abolished.

    “I checked out the Jevons (not Jevon’s) Paradox (in Wikipedia).

    The standard conclusion in Modern Economics is that with greater efficiency the resource use (in your case coal) increases or decreases.

    Your confident assertion that ‘In short, overall energy use goes up’ is simply wrong. It could go up, it could go down. Remember the one handed economist?”

    When something extremely useful gets cheaper, people use more of it. No doubt there are exceptions here and there, but people are very creative in finding ways to exploit resources for all they’re worth.This is especially so with energy.

    We’ve had over three decades of Amory Lovins’ propaganda on the virtues of energy efficiency and ‘negawatts’. After all that time would you say that the average westerner uses more power or less than three decades ago?

    “‘we all have opinions’ – no, Jeremy stated a fact about Jevons Paradox. A fact is not an opinion, and vice versa.”

    I was responding to Jeremy’s remarks concerning energy conservation, not the Jevons Paradox. Surely this is obvious from the italicised text I’d placed immediatly above my comment.

    “‘the whole idea of energy conservation is a cruel scam to perpetuate the fossil fuel industry’ – oh dear.”

    So who do you suppose benefits when the public has been convinced that their new efficiency measures have made it all right to stay with coal?

    “‘the commercial sector already has a motive to reduce overheads as much as possible. There very likely isn’t much more to be done there in the direction of efficiency.’ – ‘very likely, much more’. Facts again, or opinions?”

    David, if you have an idea about how the commercial sector can implement some practical measure to improve their energy efficiency, go for it! Unfortunately, there are some very hard edges to thermodynamics, and we are hard up against them in most cases. It is unrealistic to expect dramatic new efficiencies in well-understood technology.

    Like

  90. I disagree with you that commercial industry has financial incentives to realise savings whever possible. Research has shown a whole lot of reasons for this not to be true.

    There are a whole range of examples of successful energy efficiency e.g. the Australian energy efficiency expert, Alan Pears at RMIT undertook a project way back in 1994 to see how much the operational energy consumption of a standard drink vending machine could be reduced. Just by changing how things were organised (e.g. pumps, inlets, outlets) and replacing some items he and his team got the machine down from 10 KWh/day to 4.3 kWh/day. But it was never acted on but, but in the past few weeks some drinks vendor company in Australia proudly announced it was ralising energy savings in its vending machines…….. in 2009! Greenwash!

    One example from my experience was researching energy use a few years back with a Melbourne council. They were obliged to provide street lighting and had a fixed supply contract with the power company i.e the council wanted to put in the new 80 Watt CFL based lighting technology to replace the power hungry merc vapour and see also if changing the lighting on-times was practical. However, the resulting power savings wouldn’t have reduced their power bills because of the fixed contract with the power company. It wasn’t in the power company’s interest to see their income reduced from a nice easy contract such as street lighting.

    This sort of split incentive is right across the Australian economy because, if memory serves me right, 70% of Australian GDP is tied up with commercial buildings i.e. running, managing, operating in and occupying factory, office space etc. Think of how many thousands of the lease agreements that underpin the energy and other management aspects of that economic activity and give me reasons as to why they contain no barriers to realising energy efficiency.

    But don’t take my word for it, have a look at this book by Sorrell. Understanding Barriers to Energy Efficiency by Sorrell S, O’Malley E, Scheich. J, Scott S, 2004, published by Edward Elgar Publishing.

    This sets out the behavioural aspects plus barriers as to why we don’t take up energy efficiency and from many yeras as an engineer facing the decision making of line managers my experience is that they take the same route to making decisions on energy and many other things as making decisions on whether to order to take away pizza at home in an evening or get out of the wifes request to take out the garbage.

    As an engineer I believe 90% of the solution to dealing with climate change is beahvioural/decision based – i.e. on this blog we know the problems behind getitng IFR tested out properly and then up and running are not technological.

    BTW I noticed you used the word ‘conservation’ wrt to energy efficiency. Dick Cheney always used the word conservation as a way of putting down energy efficiency. So in closing is your objection to energy efficiency based on work you have achieved or is it opinion?

    Like

  91. There are massive efficiencies to be made in the commercial sector. Not in terms of say Aluminium or high energy users where energy is a big $$$ factor, but in my experience with business audits there are guaranteed 20% savings to be made with very favourable payback times. Won’t save us but certainly can play a big role.

    Efficiency is just one tool of many that we need to use as well we are able. Efficiency, behaviour, renewables, nuclear, economic tools like cap and trade… we need them all. THe problem is thinking any one alone can do the job.

    Like

  92. finrod,
    We don’t have any PHEV’s yet I was referring to hydrids that get all energy from petrol(eg 2009 model Prius). Compared to a GMH Commodore (was the biggest selling model a year ago) that’s a 400% improvement in fuel economy.
    When PHEV’s are available these EV’s still produce a lot less less CO2 than a Commodore, even using 100%coal to generate the electricity.

    Really? Do you have some references and figures for that? I would have thought that you’d have to burn quite a bit of coal to provide full power to an EV battery, and if everyone’s using them…

    I’m not saying your wrong. I’m curious o see the figures.

    “Lights are a major use of electricity in domestic and commercial, because they are on so much of the time, just like refrigerators. This is the place to start on big electricity reductions.”

    I thought lighting only accounted for a few percent of power consumption.

    “Re:surplus base-load,
    I was referring to the very low price(1cent/kWH) of electric power ( see NEMMCO web site) every day from 1am to 5am, even though pumped hydro is operating to soak up some of this. The SE has 8GW of surplus hydro spinning reserve available except during peak demand. It’s a consequence of having very high proportion of East Coast power from base-load coal. We could solve the problem by adding more hydro capacity and additional reversible hydro generators especially in Tasmania with an additional HVDC Bass-link.

    So you want to shut down some coal plants to make more use of the hydro spinning reserve?

    When approx 4GW of lignite coal is retired, it could be replaced by 8GW wind capacity and 4GW NG peak, or 11GW wind and more hydro capacity on existing dams.
    We need more peak power not more base-load. Just the same it would be desirable to replace most of the rest of the coal fired power by nuclear providing we can build for less than the 2.2GW planned for Florida(costs now estimated at $US7,000/kWh).”

    What? 4GW of coal has to be replaced by a 12GW mix of renewables, NG and/or hydro? I’d rather see 4GW of nuclear built, with the excess out of peak hours devoted to something like desal, or synfuels.

    Like

  93. Neil, if you are advocating wind power technology, the onus is really on you to demonstrate that the idea is workable. I claim that wind’s intermittency, storage requirements, overbuild requirements aand general unreliability make it a dead end. Can you show me this is not the case?

    Like

  94. I disagree with you that commercial industry has financial incentives to realise savings whever possible. Research has shown a whole lot of reasons for this not to be true.

    I said ‘reduce overheads’, not ‘realise savings wherever possible’. I doubt that maximising energy efficiency is usually the best way to design something. Energy efficiency is nice when it can be achieved, but it shouldn’t be considered the be-all and end-all.

    I confess deep ignorance on the sayings of Dick Cheney.

    So in closing is your objection to energy efficiency based on work you have achieved or is it opinion?

    Are you questioning my credentials, Jeremy? I don’t have any of those, I’m just an ordinary member of the public who likes to keep up with this topic.

    I say again that with regards to CO2 emissions, a drive towards energy efficiency as a major energy policy strategy is only relevant if your intent is to keep on burning fossil fuels.

    Like

  95. This is an engineering question to Tom Blees.

    Tom,

    wrt to IFR, what are the engineering aspects and technical logistics of taking spent fuel from, say, a gen II reactor, or similar and rejigging it for IFR? If I have understood the postings this is one of the crucial advantageous of IFR.

    What sort of handling, processing set up would be needed and chain of supply e.g. are we going to remove fuel rods from a reactor, load them straight onto a truck and drive them over to the IFR facility or leave them for a couple of years in a cooling pond?

    If I’ve missed info on this in previous posting etc forgive me.

    BTW I think this stuff on IFR is a public service so congrats all around(and I am enjoying immensely how the denialists keep studiously ignoring IFR because greenies are taking part in the debate).

    Like

  96. Finrod,
    In your reply to David Murray you said:

    Unfortunately, there are some very hard edges to thermodynamics, and we are hard up against them in most cases. It is unrealistic to expect dramatic new efficiencies in well-understood technology.

    So are you saying that most refrigerators or A/C in use are operating at maximum efficiency or are there no new high efficiency models now available?
    What are the thermodynamic principles that prevent more than 5% of electrical energy being converted to light?

    What is preventing vehicles using <500J/km(160Wh) with electric motors rather than the average 2500J/km(10l/100km) we have now with ICE burning petrol?

    Like

  97. Rod, because of the relatively small investment required to develop either the LFTR or the IFR, there is no reason why both should not be rapidly developed. i would like to see another project that my father did pioneering research on during the 1950’s, the Liquid Chloride fast reactor also developed. The Licker has great potential as a uranium cycle reactor.

    Like

  98. Pingback: Discussion Thread: Should Gen III nuclear power precede Gen IV in Australia? « BraveNewClimate.com

  99. Dear Neil,

    The whole terminology of baseload, spinning reserve and peak power has confused me and I think it might be useful if you could help me and others to sort these out.

    I got some guidance from comments at

    http://www.altenergystocks.com/archives/2009/04/why_csp_should_not_try_to_be_coal.html

    and have tried them to get some explanatory comment from there. Their comment seemed to have been sparked by Joe Romm’s insistence on using the term baseload solar for CSP with storage. They suggest we should use the terms baseload and dispatchable.

    I think that by baseload they mean low cost power which cannot vary in a reasonably short period of time – typically this would have been coal or nuclear. By dispatchable they mean power which is effectively instantly available – typically this would have been hydro or (I think) peaking gas. The latter traditionally is more costly than baseload.

    My understanding is that baseload can become dispatchable if we incur transformation and storage costs, e.g. pumped hydro and batteries or steam.

    Dispatchables could in principle become baseload – but in our coal/gas world this did not make sense because of the cost disparities.

    Renewables in their pure form are neither baseload nor dispatchable. With storage they can become dispatchables, usable whenever you like. Without storage they are a bit like baseload – you use them or you lose them.

    It seems to me that we have fairly good handles on the costs of traditional baseload and dispatchable power, and with some mental effort these costs can give us useful general solutions, rules of thumb, to the design of a power system supplying to a demand which has reasonably predictable fluctuations.

    We don’t yet have robust measures of the costs of intermittents or the appropriate storage (steam or pumped hydro) to turn them into disposables. Further I guess that solving the problem of an optimal mix of nuclear or geothermal baseload with intermittents as pure intermittents and intermittents as dispatchables is beyond mental gymnastics or rules of thumb. It probably is a programming problem of a sort with shadow prices to provide a guide to the value rather than the cost of the various resources.

    I would appreciate your comments at some stage. Also David Walters. And Enders’, if he is not on a self enforced exile from the discussion.

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  100. Dear Jeremy C,

    “BTW I think this stuff on IFR is a public service so congrats all around (and I am enjoying immensely how the denialists keep studiously ignoring IFR because greenies are taking part in the debate).”

    The congrats are in place.

    I was not sure whom the denialists ignoring IFR are.

    The pretty sound set of rules/framework that was originally set for this discussion seem to have been:

    1. Renewables are critical until 2015
    2. Education about IFR is critical now so that
    3. From 2015 (at the latest) the nuclear revolution can be speeded up so that
    4. We achieve the common goals of 30/30 and 350/350

    To advance the discussion on 1 does not obligate the individual concerned to advance the discussion on 2. And vice versa.

    Advancing 1 by knocking 2 is counterproductive of 4, and vice versa for 1 and 2. So I guess denialists about IFR can still contribute productively by advancing 1 and keeping silent about 2. Denialists about 1 can still contribute productively by advancing 2 while keeping silent about 1. Silence does not signify consent, or dissent.

    Doubters are different. Doubters about 1 can obviously comment and help the proponents of 1 to strengthen their case. Likewise for doubters about 2. Doubt is not denial.

    That was a pretty fine sermon.

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  101. Dear Barry,

    The government currently (I believe) has an enquiry going on into Australia’s future energy needs and supplies which is pretty well packed with the usual suspects.

    I wonder whether either you or any of the other readers of this have any information on the status and or/progress of this exercise?

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  102. Hi Tom,

    I was under the impression that the potential for capturing radioactive gases (cold trapping) was also avaliable to current generation nuclear power, but that they haven’t bother to use it?

    Is that right?

    Hence my concern that economic factors could be used to excuse its use with IFR.

    Like

  103. I’m not an expert on this, but I believe that a considerably greater amount of tritium is produced by light water reactors because water is used as a moderator. So it may not be practical (or economical) to capture it the same way it would with the trace amounts that an IFR would produce.

    Like

  104. Dear Finrod,

    I have tried to understand your questions and statements and why you ask and make them.

    1. Concerning Pakistan and Iran and “I’d offer them both civilian nuclear power plants on the provision of international supervision of the fuel cycle, with any enrichment processing done elsewhere.”

    I think you are insisting that nuclear power could meet the energy needs of all countries in the near future.

    I obviously disagree. Timing, security and technical competence figure in my list of concerns as to why nuclear power alone will not meet the stated objective. I hope that they can be addressed. You would like to offer France, Japan and Taiwan as examples of nation states where the issues have been addressed. I would offer Australia and Germany, and Pakistan and Iran, and Tonga and Tanzania as examples of nation states where at least one of the issues has not been addressed.

    In reply I think you would argue that international monitoring and administration of their programs would suffice to address my issues. I think I would counter with the statement that international trade is less intrusive than international blue capped monitoring. Australia could easily meet Indonesia’s needs with a couple of HVDC cables, likewise Myanmar’s needs. Germany could be powered from Libya in the same way.

    Maybe the WTO is a less costly solution than GREAT?

    2. You put a lot of emphasis on the irrefutable evidence of the technological problems of wind power apparently provided by Germany’s current debate on alternative power sources.

    This seems to me to be part of a more general hypothesis that (a) a country’s usage of different energy sources depends on (b) the characteristics of the technology set they can access, (c) their energy resources and (d) the institutional and political structures which enable the country to adopt the appropriate technology.

    I think you see (a) being determined solely by (b) – (c) and (d) are at best trivial factors.

    Different countries have different penetrances of renewable energy. As the same technology is in principle available to all countries you provide me with no guidance as to why these differences occur. Some countries have a higher penetrance than Germany – your version of the general hypothesis is not consistent with this, since Germany has reached the upper limit.

    Neil Howes argues correctly that resource endowments are likely to influence the uptake of different energy sources – with evidence on Germany’s poor solar and wind resources and abundant coal. I would further argue that it is relevant to note that Australia, China and the United States are highly dependent on coal as an energy source. New Zealand and Iceland are more dependent on geothermal sources. The resource explanation has more predictive power than the technology explanation.

    I argued that institutions and politics have some explanatory power. The strength of Nimbyism, democracy and of coal and green lobbies explain some of the differences in the energy sources of the UK, Germany, the United States and China. I also think the contestability of markets has some important influences.

    These observations help me to understand different penetrances of renewables in New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia. They have the same technology – why the differences in use of coal, gas, diesel and renewables in these jurisdictions?

    At the risk of providing you with a red herring I would argue that in part at least Germany’s energy debate is a result of the weakness of the European Union in enforcing a common energy market. If there were a common energy market then we might expect France to export energy to Germany (along with baguettes). The question we might wish to think about is why France has never fought for its right to export its (cheap?) energy to Germany and Holland and so on. It fought for the baguette, why not for nuclear?

    In summary my protracted response to your assertions is that a=f(b,c,d) – and a lot of doubt about the importance of b.

    3. (i) Significant energy efficiencies do not exist, and if (ii) they did, exploiting them would only benefit the coal industry.

    An interesting piece of evidence that I recently saw which is relevant to the discussion was in the SMH:

    http://business.smh.com.au/business/bluescope-scraps-plans-for-cleaner-greener-power-plant-20090505-au0y.html

    The salient facts for this discussion are that Bluescope appeared to have at least one well designed investment opportunity to increase its energy efficiency in the face of expected CO2 cost increases. It could spend approximately $1 bn on cogeneration facilities to reduce CO2 emissions by 800,000 tonnes (about 6% of its total emissions). The interest only cost of this exercise (at 10%) is $100,000 – or 12.5 cents per tonne of CO2. The total net cost after allowing for replacement costs and the reduction in costs due to reduction in power purchased from the grid would arguably be less than $1/tonne.

    To me 800,000 tonnes is a significant amount and the cost of reduction of $1 ton of CO2 is insignificant. Furthermore this investment opportunity would have resulted in a reduction in energy sourced from the grid and therefore coal use. I fail to see how the coal industry would have benefitted, or how it would have reduced employment at Bluescope or driven it offshore.

    My conclusion is unambiguously that there are some energy savings available which have a significant effect on CO2 emissions at a trivial cost and which do not benefit the coal industry.

    I think I have found a Black Swan.

    4. You refer to the slogan “No Nukes = Coal”.

    It is only a slogan, it is not a statement of fact. It might be occasionally true. So are the slogans ‘Reeboks Rule” and “Coke is King”.

    If you think the use of the slogan for advocacy or advertising purposes is productive then please use it in that way. But it is not productive used in the sort of debate that is needed to persuade me that using renewable energy sources is incapable of reducing coal production and usage.

    5. “The hard edges of thermodynamics”.

    I think you want me to go to the second law to find the hard edges:

    “The second law of thermodynamics is an expression of the universal law of increasing entropy, stating that the entropy of an isolated system which is not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.”
    I extracted that from Wikipedia.
    I know Australia is isolated and that we live on a lonely planet but I do not think either of these are isolated systems of the sort needed for the application of the second law.
    I don’t think I intentionally or unintentionally misinterpreted your question. If I did would you please correct me and let me know where else to locate the hard edges.
    6. I know that you are interested in China’s role in this whole issue and the ways in which it has attempted to influence India’s behavior. The article below:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/19/china-environment-kyoto
    suggests that China is considering replacing it energy reduction targets with emissions reductions targets.
    Joe Romm goes further and quotes a Reuters report suggesting that China may be beginning to study the mechanics of a carbon trading system.
    http://climateprogress.org/2009/05/06/china-carbon-tax-carbon-intensity-target/
    I know that these are only straws in the wind. But at least the winds are blowing, if only intermittently and diffusely.
    I don’t want to apologize for the length of this comment. The issue of 350/350, 30/30 and 50/50/50 deserve our full attention. Further I would argue that an unreasoned denial of the usefulness of renewables does not help us to achieve the triple targets.
    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  105. David,
    you are probably correct that we can’t generalize, every energy source has it’s own unique characteristics, ranging from wind energy ( almost no marginal costs) nuclear ( very little marginal costs) all the way to NG and hydro where the biggest cost if fuel(NG) or water(dam costs). Add into the mix the limitations of transporting electricity to consumers and there is a complex interaction between capital and operating costs.

    Like

  106. Hello David. My apologies for the delay in replying to you, but it took some time for me to recover.

    Dear Finrod,

    I have tried to understand your questions and statements and why you ask and make them.

    Once again we find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue… because I find you to be thoroughly transparent.

    1. Concerning Pakistan and Iran and “I’d offer them both civilian nuclear power plants on the provision of international supervision of the fuel cycle, with any enrichment processing done elsewhere.”

    I think you are insisting that nuclear power could meet the energy needs of all countries in the near future.

    I obviously disagree. Timing, security and technical competence figure in my list of concerns as to why nuclear power alone will not meet the stated objective. I hope that they can be addressed. You would like to offer France, Japan and Taiwan as examples of nation states where the issues have been addressed. I would offer Australia and Germany, and Pakistan and Iran, and Tonga and Tanzania as examples of nation states where at least one of the issues has not been addressed.

    In reply I think you would argue that international monitoring and administration of their programs would suffice to address my issues. I think I would counter with the statement that international trade is less intrusive than international blue capped monitoring. Australia could easily meet Indonesia’s needs with a couple of HVDC cables, likewise Myanmar’s needs. Germany could be powered from Libya in the same way.

    Maybe the WTO is a less costly solution than GREAT?

    You have an annoying habit of trying to put words in my mouth. Kindly cease this practice.

    I am painfully aware that there are issues to be addressed before nuclear power can fully take on the burden of providing the power necessary for our global civilisation to thrive and expand. My interest is in addressing these issues, not using them as an excuse for inaction. Nuclear power has the ability to grow to meet global energy demand in the medium term (over a period of several decades), and to sustain it into the extremely distant future. ‘Renewables’ do not have that ability.

    Interesting how so many anti-nuclear commenters have recently discovered the sanctiy of the free market and global trade when applied to the nuclear sector. Pity they don’t seem to extend that thinking to the ‘renewables’ sector.

    Like

  107. 2. You put a lot of emphasis on the irrefutable evidence of the technological problems of wind power apparently provided by Germany’s current debate on alternative power sources.

    This seems to me to be part of a more general hypothesis that (a) a country’s usage of different energy sources depends on (b) the characteristics of the technology set they can access, (c) their energy resources and (d) the institutional and political structures which enable the country to adopt the appropriate technology.

    I think you see (a) being determined solely by (b) – (c) and (d) are at best trivial factors.

    Your psychic insight into the contents of my mind is failing you. If I didn’t think that politics was an important factor, we wouldn’t be having this exchange.

    Different countries have different penetrances of renewable energy. As the same technology is in principle available to all countries you provide me with no guidance as to why these differences occur. Some countries have a higher penetrance than Germany – your version of the general hypothesis is not consistent with this, since Germany has reached the upper limit.

    Neil Howes argues correctly that resource endowments are likely to influence the uptake of different energy sources – with evidence on Germany’s poor solar and wind resources and abundant coal. I would further argue that it is relevant to note that Australia, China and the United States are highly dependent on coal as an energy source. New Zealand and Iceland are more dependent on geothermal sources. The resource explanation has more predictive power than the technology explanation.

    I argued that institutions and politics have some explanatory power. The strength of Nimbyism, democracy and of coal and green lobbies explain some of the differences in the energy sources of the UK, Germany, the United States and China. I also think the contestability of markets has some important influences.

    These observations help me to understand different penetrances of renewables in New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia. They have the same technology – why the differences in use of coal, gas, diesel and renewables in these jurisdictions?

    I’m not going to waste my time analysing why every jurisdiction on Earth has such and such an energy policy. If you think you’ve found one that supports some point you want to make, go ahead and use it.

    At the risk of providing you with a red herring I would argue that in part at least Germany’s energy debate is a result of the weakness of the European Union in enforcing a common energy market. If there were a common energy market then we might expect France to export energy to Germany (along with baguettes). The question we might wish to think about is why France has never fought for its right to export its (cheap?) energy to Germany and Holland and so on. It fought for the baguette, why not for nuclear?

    Check this out:

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf40.html

    The relevant paragraph is just below the map showing the sites of French nuclear reactors:

    “In 2007 French electricity generation was 570 billion kWh gross, and consumption was about 447 billion kWh – 6800 kWh per person. Over the last decade France has exported 60-80 billion kWh net each year and EdF expects exports to continue at 65-70 TWh/yr, to Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and UK. Imports are relatively trivial.”

    France is the single largest exporter of electricity in the world, and a good deal of that goes to Germany.

    Like

  108. In summary my protracted response to your assertions is that a=f(b,c,d) – and a lot of doubt about the importance of b.

    You doubt the importance of technology to energy production. So noted.

    3. (i) Significant energy efficiencies do not exist, and if (ii) they did, exploiting them would only benefit the coal industry.

    An interesting piece of evidence that I recently saw which is relevant to the discussion was in the SMH:

    http://business.smh.com.au/business/bluescope-scraps-plans-for-cleaner-greener-power-plant-20090505-au0y.html

    The salient facts for this discussion are that Bluescope appeared to have at least one well designed investment opportunity to increase its energy efficiency in the face of expected CO2 cost increases. It could spend approximately $1 bn on cogeneration facilities to reduce CO2 emissions by 800,000 tonnes (about 6% of its total emissions). The interest only cost of this exercise (at 10%) is $100,000 – or 12.5 cents per tonne of CO2. The total net cost after allowing for replacement costs and the reduction in costs due to reduction in power purchased from the grid would arguably be less than $1/tonne.

    To me 800,000 tonnes is a significant amount and the cost of reduction of $1 ton of CO2 is insignificant. Furthermore this investment opportunity would have resulted in a reduction in energy sourced from the grid and therefore coal use. I fail to see how the coal industry would have benefitted, or how it would have reduced employment at Bluescope or driven it offshore.

    My conclusion is unambiguously that there are some energy savings available which have a significant effect on CO2 emissions at a trivial cost and which do not benefit the coal industry.

    I think I have found a Black Swan.

    Indeed. Please note the links below:

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,22155611-2702,00.html

    http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2008/08/better-than-smoking-gun-straightforward.html

    I think Tony Maher put the matter very succinctly:
    “As his union launched an advertising campaign attacking the Howard Government’s greenhouse policy, Mr Maher said: “The real threat to coal miners’ job security and power workers’ job security is 25 nuclear reactors in Australia.

    “That’s the harsh reality. A solar farm down the road is not going to close down a coal-fired power station. But 25 nuclear reactors will,” he told the Ten Network’s Meet The Press program.”

    Yes. Quite.

    Given the passion with which the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union brings to bear on any threat to its sacred coal mining jobs, I imagine that they’re up in arms over this whole ‘efficiency’ thing. Perhaps you could post a link to some article where the union raises the alarm about how many coal mining jobs are going to be lost to the energy efficiency program (if you can find any).

    Six percent, you say. I can imagine the union regarding that as an acceptable compromise to avoid the threat that nuclear power will render coal obsolete.

    Like

  109. 4. You refer to the slogan “No Nukes = Coal”.

    It is only a slogan, it is not a statement of fact. It might be occasionally true. So are the slogans ‘Reeboks Rule” and “Coke is King”.

    If you think the use of the slogan for advocacy or advertising purposes is productive then please use it in that way. But it is not productive used in the sort of debate that is needed to persuade me that using renewable energy sources is incapable of reducing coal production and usage.

    I’m not trying to persuade you. I believe you to be among the ranks of the unpersuadable. You’re more useful as someone to debate for the purpose of demonstrating the paucity of your arguments to the audience.

    5. “The hard edges of thermodynamics”.

    I think you want me to go to the second law to find the hard edges:

    “The second law of thermodynamics is an expression of the universal law of increasing entropy, stating that the entropy of an isolated system which is not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.”
    I extracted that from Wikipedia.
    I know Australia is isolated and that we live on a lonely planet but I do not think either of these are isolated systems of the sort needed for the application of the second law.
    I don’t think I intentionally or unintentionally misinterpreted your question. If I did would you please correct me and let me know where else to locate the hard edges.

    I was speaking of the thermodynamic limits of the devices we use, of course… power stations, cars, washing machines and so forth.

    I don’t doubt that certain improvements can be made, but at this point they’re likely to be incrimental, shaving a few percent here and there. Sometimes there may be a breakthrough which delivers considerably more than this, but given the likely expansion of demand over the coming century, it’s pretty clear that any efficiency dividend is going to be swamped by effects leading in the other direction.

    6. I know that you are interested in China’s role in this whole issue and the ways in which it has attempted to influence India’s behavior. The article below:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/19/china-environment-kyoto
    suggests that China is considering replacing it energy reduction targets with emissions reductions targets.
    Joe Romm goes further and quotes a Reuters report suggesting that China may be beginning to study the mechanics of a carbon trading system.
    http://climateprogress.org/2009/05/06/china-carbon-tax-carbon-intensity-target/
    I know that these are only straws in the wind. But at least the winds are blowing, if only intermittently and diffusely.
    I don’t want to apologize for the length of this comment. The issue of 350/350, 30/30 and 50/50/50 deserve our full attention. Further I would argue that an unreasoned denial of the usefulness of renewables does not help us to achieve the triple targets.
    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    If the Chinese do decide to set voluntary emission targets, you can be sure that their massive nuclear build will be a great help in reaching them.

    An unreasond denial of the usefulness of renewables isn’t much use, agreed. There needs to be a fully reasoned denial, so people will understand the matter.

    Like

  110. OK. Breaking my post into smaller parts has enabled it to go through.

    [Ed: Yeah, posts with lots of links tend to get caught in my spam queue. It was still there, but I cleared it as you’d posted in segments. Such posts won’t usually get ‘lost’ but they do have to wait for me to check]

    Like

  111. Finrod,
    It’s a bit sad that your argument has to be supported by quoting a statement from a coal miners union.

    Has anyone ever suggested that one solar farm is going to replace a 100 coal fired power stations?
    Would one nuclear plant replace 100 coal fired power stations? Would one wind turbine? or one solar panel on one home?

    These are silly comparisons. What about comparing $200Billion worth of wind turbines(100,000 turbines) or CSP solar farms(?) or nuclear power stations(25? )

    Like

  112. Would make a good show for mythbusters though!

    BTW was solar power or Nuclear power ever thought to be “over unity”?

    I’ve previously wondered how easily E=mc^2 fitted with the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Was there ever a tweak thought necessary?

    If we ever do find a genuine “over unity” machine, we will have really found an aspect of energy that we misunderstood and (unless we ditch the first and second laws of thermodynamics) it will be reclasifed as subunity like every other machine.

    Like

  113. Charlotte,
    I’m not wanting to be rude, but there are thousands of similar claims about free energy on the net. They usually don’t work are pinching energy from another system(magnetism/induction), usually in tiny quantities.

    I’ve not yet looked at your youtube but I imagine it shows a generator running for 2 hours (or a sample of 2 hours). If that is the case, how can we be convinced about this from watching a generator runinng?

    Your inventor should show the mechanisms that works and invite replection. If he wants to monopolise the profits then where can I buy one with a money back guarentee?

    He’s either got to have it peer reviewed or he’s got to get cracking on his own without the need to convince others using youtube.

    Like

  114. Yes, if you like. Its a bit semantic, but I think what was reconsidered was the meaning of mass, not the meaning of thermodynamics. Classical thermodynamics was used by Einstein in deriving his famous equation – the thermodynamics was the primary, unchanged concept, what got rethought was the concept of mass.

    Like

  115. Dear Finrod,

    I am glad that you are aware that there are issues to be addressed before nuclear power can fully take on the burden of providing the power necessary for our global civilization to thrive. I too am aware of that and I am trying to probe what those issues are and see whether there is any agreement between us on what they are.

    “Renewables do not have that ability”. With respect I do not think you have argued that very broad sweeping assertion very clearly. A more reasoned denial is needed.

    “Interesting how so many antinuclear commentators have so recently discovered the sanctity of the free market and global trade when applied to the nuclear sector. Pity they don’t seem to extend that thinking to the ‘renewables’ sector.”

    That is an ill directed side swipe at a straw man.

    Like

  116. “You doubt the importance of technology to energy production. So noted.”

    This is a (I assume) deliberate distortion of some very clear statements I made.

    I stated very clearly “that (a) a country’s usage of different energy resources depends on (b) the characteristics of the technology set available to them ..” and (c) and (d).
    You have serially made the statement that Germany’s use of renewable resources has reached some sort of limit imposed by the nature of renewable technologies. Because of Germany’s aversion to nuclear this forces it back to coal.

    I have tried to tidy up your statements into a form which can be usefully discussed. I go on to point out that since most countries have access to exactly the same set of technologies the variable (b) alone cannot explain variations in (a). Variables (c) and (d) seem to be the most important variables which vary between countries and can usefully explain the variations in (a) in different countries.

    You will have to do better if you wish to encourage me to consider your ideas sympathetically.

    Your two web addresses and the associated reference to depletedcranium tell me little other than the fact that the CFMEU opposed the Howard Government by waving a nuclear red flag. The CFMEU had no realistic possibility of persuading the Howard government to protect their members. A Rudd government would probably reject the nuclear option and would probably be much more open to influence on the renewables issue and its effect on the employment of miners.

    Like

  117. “I’m not trying to persuade you. I believe you to be among the ranks of the unpersuadable.”

    This is psychic stuff. It also makes (by your earlier comments) unacceptable guesses about other people’s opinions.

    “The hard edges of thermodynamics”

    by which you are in a verbose way referring to energy efficiency. A spade is a spade, neither an agricultural implement nor a (expletive) shovel. The hard edges of thermodynamics may be a good debating strategy called verbal bullying. It only confused me. Others got to it faster and dealt with the now weak and unfounded statement in the appropriate way.

    “An unreasoned denial of the usefulness of renewables isn’t much use, agreed.”

    Fantastic.

    “There needs to be a fully reasoned denial so people will understand the matter.”

    It has taken lots of words to get there – but it was worth it.

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  118. “Finrod,
    It’s a bit sad that your argument has to be supported by quoting a statement from a coal miners union.”

    For my part, I don’t doubt that the executives of both coal mining unions and coal mining corporations are very practical, tough-minded people who have spent a lot of time thinking about possible threats to their power base.

    “Has anyone ever suggested that one solar farm is going to replace a 100 coal fired power stations?”

    Not to my knowledge. Where in the world did you get that from?

    “Would one nuclear plant replace 100 coal fired power stations?”

    Would one? Probably not. There probably isn’t a good justification at this point for constructing such a powerful nuclear plant in one location. Unless you invest in HVDC transmission, it makes more sense to build smaller nuclear plants close to their markets.

    Could one? Almost certainly. That is, it is probably possible to engineer a nuclear plant with 100X the generating capacity of a typical coal plant… there’s just no pressing reason to do so.

    “Would one wind turbine? or one solar panel on one home?

    These are silly comparisons.

    Yes they are. Why are you making them

    What about comparing $200Billion worth of wind turbines(100,000 turbines) or CSP solar farms(?) or nuclear power stations(25? )

    What is the capacity of the wind turbines and nuclear plants in question? How many MW does $2 million get you if you purchase a wind turbine with it?

    I think it is highly likely that once construction operations are underway for a few years and a base of experience is established, the price of a nuclear plant will be considerably less than you suggest.

    Like

  119. “You doubt the importance of technology to energy production. So noted.”

    This is a (I assume) deliberate distortion of some very clear statements I made.

    I stated very clearly “that (a) a country’s usage of different energy resources depends on (b) the characteristics of the technology set available to them ..” and (c) and (d).

    So you did. Then you went on to clarify your position with this:

    “In summary my protracted response to your assertions is that a=f(b,c,d) – and a lot of doubt about the importance of b.”

    If by this you did not mean that you doubted the importance of technology to energy production, could you let us know what you did actually mean?

    “I have tried to tidy up your statements into a form which can be usefully discussed.

    So that’s what you’ve been doing. OK.

    I go on to point out that since most countries have access to exactly the same set of technologies the variable (b) alone cannot explain variations in (a). Variables (c) and (d) seem to be the most important variables which vary between countries and can usefully explain the variations in (a) in different countries.

    I agree with this statement to a point. (c) is valid in a sense. That is why geothermal power is extensively utilised in Iceland, but has proven to be (so far) of limited utility in most other places. Likewise, investing heavily in Hydro made a lot of sense for Norway, but India might have trouble meeting all its needs with it.

    The thing is that places like Iceland and Norway are the exception. The great majority of regions on this planet simply do not have those kinds of high-return non-nuclear sustainable power generation options in sufficient quantities to meet local needs. Hydro and geothermal power are usually lumped in with ‘renewable’ power sources such as wind and solar, but the outcomes wind and solar deliver are not comparable to those of hydro and geothermal.

    So if you just consider renewables, then (c) has validity. The problem is only a small fraction of global production is sourced from them.

    You are claiming that (c) and (d) combined are the main factors, but you do not discern which one of those claims the lion’s share of influence. You want us to believe it’s (c). I claim it’s(d). I suspect you of attempting to conflate these seperate issues in order to overemphasise the significance of renewables.

    My position is that of the three you listed, the two main factors of which determine the issue are (b) and (d). (b) is of fundamental importance to everything else, but as you point out, the majority of nations have approximately the same level of access to the current technology set, which makes (d) the variable which needs to be focused on.

    Like

  120. Dear Finrod,

    Thank you for your reply to my earlier comment.

    “If by this you did not mean that you doubted the importance of technology to energy production could you please let us know what you did actually mean?”

    When we talked about energy production initially there seemed to me to be the possibility of some confusion with three possible meanings of the term. One is total energy production measured in kWh, one was energy production per head (kWh/person) and the third was the proportion of energy production generated from renewables.

    I don’t think the first is really of concern to us.

    If we are concerned with energy production per head then technology is maybe of fundamental importance. If we try to explain the differences between all 200 or 300 countries in the world then the access to technology or technological sophistication would in some sense explain a lot of the differences. But even for this second definition of energy production per head I think technology differences are of little importance for the thirty most developed countries – because there are no technology differences between them.

    I thought we were discussing the third meaning of energy production in some sense – and taking messages from the German experience to warn us of the limits to adoption of the renewables technologies in other countries. If this is what we are discussing then there are (as we seem to agree) no meaningful differences in technology available to the advanced countries and hence no way in which technology differences can explain differences in relative production of energy from different renewable resources.

    That is what I meant.

    “I agree with this statement to a point. (c) [resource endowments] is valid in a sense.”

    I think if I were treating this a serious scientific to find a testable hypothesis I would look at each resource separately and for example test whether the proportion of energy derived from say hydro was related to the length of rivers and the up and down nature of the country, likewise thermal and volcanic activity Testing the appropriate hypothesis for wind and solar might not be too useful because the technology has not been around long enough with new threatened higher prices of fossil fuels to let us get to the likely usage of these resources. But using it to project the future is still useful – and it is what I have been trying to do.

    I don’t think we have a useful resource endowment argument for nuclear.

    If we treated energy from different resources separately it would I think reduce your reluctance to accept this proposition.

    “You are claiming that (c) [resource endowments] and (d) [politics and institutions] combined are the two main factors, but you do not want to claim which one of these claims the lion’s share of the influence.” That is correct in its entirety. I think the relative influence will vary from place to place and time to time.

    “My position is that of the three you listed the two main factors which determine the issue are (b) [technology] and (d) [political and institutional factors]. (b) [technology] is of fundamental importance to everything else, but as you point out, the majority of nations have approximately the same level of access to the current technology set…”

    I think we really are at the point where we agree that for the important question of the relative proportion of energy derived (or derivable) from renewables technology differences are irrelevant – because there are none. We are back to (c) [resource endowments] and (d) [political and institutional factors]. You cannot explain the patterns of renewable energy usage in New Zealand, Finland and Norway (or South Australia and NSW) without some consideration of resources. Energy production differences related to resource endowments of solar and wind are less obvious as of now because these technologies have only become readily available recently and there has not been enough time or incentives to adopt them.

    My argument has been that for Germany resource endowments could be expected to cause problems in the transition to renewables. The politics of no nuclear and no coal exacerbated their energy supply problems. The difficulties involved in importing energy (a European institutional factor) left them with few options. Hopefully other countries with a more favourable resource endowment and a more robust approach to free trade won’t have the same problems

    Your argument is that (d) [political and institutional factors] is the most important determinant of the proportions of energy generated from different renewable resources in Germany and other developed economies. If so we should be looking at Germany to see what these political factors are. It is only if they are common to Germany and the other countries that we are able to argue that the other countries will also be prevented from increasing the proportion of renewables in their energy mix.

    I have looked for such factors but cannot identify them. This probably reflects in part my limited knowledge of German environmental and energy politics.

    Thank you for taking the time to work through these issues.

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

    Like

  121. Pingback: Red Necked Aussie Greenies « BraveNewClimate

  122. IFR has enemies everywhere, where big money is made.

    Even in nuclear business: mining, building old fashioned nuclear plants, operating nuclear waste deep in the ground.

    The old greenies, without science, of course.

    All “new” energy business.

    Vested interest, idiocy of our species. What to do with them?

    Like

  123. Pingback: Greenjacked! The derailing of environmental action on climate change | Brave New Climate

Comments are closed.