Open Thread 2

It’s the Christmas and New Year season, and that means general festivities, good food and drinks, and lots of time in the pool with the kids (remember, it’s the height of summer in Australia). I also make it a rule at this time of year to try to stay away from anything serious on the computer, at least for a week or so. (For those who care about my other life, I’ve been catching up on season 4 Doctor Who and old Poirot episodes, as well as leveling up to 70 in CoD:MW2 multiplayer).

But, as a hat tip to my mentally evolutionary year (in terms of my thinking on climate solutions), I’ve got one last post lined up to close out the Noughties. It’s a brief review of the sustainable energy and climate change books that I read in 2009 (…stacking them up on my table, there is a disturbingly large number). Expect that post to be up on 31 December.

Meanwhile, I’ll be in-and-out of BNC, keeping up with the comments. I really love the active community that’s built up here — it’s got a real life of its own. In that spirit, I thought it was probably time to post up another Open Thread.

The Open Thread is a general discussion thread where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the broad theme of the blog (climate change, sustainability, energy, etc.). You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the left sidebar.

I’ll start a new thread every once in a while when the old one drops out of view.


  1. I too will take this opportunity to wish all the best of the season, however you celebrate it , and good health for the new year.

    Bonne Année et Bonne Santé
    Plus qu’un désir pour nos aimés
    Le choix d’une future réalité.


  2. In 2010 I don’t think much will change on the ground, just a realisation that things will have to be done differently. If the ETS legislation gets up the $10 a tonne CO2 price will apply from July 1. It’s hard to think how they could water it down any more. I don’t know how power companies wangled price increases from January 1. Perhaps they were hoping to orchestrate a pre-emptive backlash. The price increase for conventional black coal fired electricity should only be 1c per kwh.

    In addition domestic water charges will go up heavily to pay for all the RO desal plants springing up. Almost certainly global crude oil production will decline further. That will push up fuel and food prices. More voter backlash. Demand for coal imports by China seems set to increase strongly with Australia unable to plug the gap. Approval for the Olympic Dam expansion will probably be couched in so many conditions it effectively means no.

    Since the stimulus money has dried up I don’t see 2010 as a particularly happy year for the discretionary retail economy. I think public opinion polls will show more people see nuclear power as the great white hope. Noting that Areva failed to get the UAE contract on perceptions of cost and slowness it is possible nuclear could also fall out of favour. Gas will probably emerge as the winner for 2010 at least.


  3. I wish someone, anyone, would build a damn algae farm so we can get this overwith.

    There are nice, used, 50 MW GTs around by the *thousands*. I think 100 million USD would satisfy the R&D expensives and building costs. Just do it and lets see what happens for goodness sake.

    Then we can get on to building nukes the way God wanted us too!


  4. John Newlands,

    You said “The price increase for conventional black coal fired electricity should only be 1c per kwh”

    I’ve been trying to find an authoritiative source for the long run marginal cost for electricity from the existing black coal and brown coal power stations. Do you know of an autrhoritaitve source where I can get these figures. This is the most recent authoritiative reference I have and it is now 5 years out of date.

    Click to access Pubvers_Rev_Reg_Ret_IES010304.pdf


  5. David Walters, on December 29th, 2009 at 9.40 — Almost free 50 MW gas turbines? Then a mere 140 ha algae farm would do for a pilot study. Doubt the construction costs would be as high as you estimate, but whatever. I happen to think Australia has several suitable locations for such a pilot study. The question is whether the biomethane can be cost competative with natgas; too close for me to call. If it is then such an arrangement provides an interim (30 years) solution until NPPs come on in a big way.


  6. Peter Lang, on December 29th, 2009 at 11.39 — Not exactly “authoritative”, but I have it from a relaible source that Portland, Oregon’s, PGE coal burner in Boardman produces close to 600 MW (nameplate) at $0.2/kWh (busbar), with coal coming from either Wyoming or Utah, not sure. It is up for relicensing soon and PGE plans to spend slightly over US$1/W to put on the emission controls to keep it going. I suppose just now that is less expensive than replacing the coal burner with some gas turbines.


  7. @Peter Lang I don’t know of a single source for emissions data. They seem to be cobbled together from different sources perhaps not always reliable. Since David Mackay uses kwh as the energy unit I tend to think in kgCO2/kwhe rather than tonnes per Mwhe. Figures tend to differ depending on who is telling the story eg
    Hazelwood brown coal fired; some say 1.25 kg/kwh others say 1.40 kg CO2.
    Kogan Ck coal fired supercritical water; CS Energy says 22% less CO2 than conventional coal but ACIL Tasman says only 5% less due to air cooling.

    See also for an international perspective. If I recall I got the 1kgCO2/kwhe for pulverised coal off the Gristmill website. I’d also like to know how poor quality ‘black’ coal compares with brown coal. Are the Pt Augusta SA power stations that use poor quality ‘black’ coal really worse than the brown coal burners in Latrobe Valley Vic? Another mystery is the multi-fuel Swanbank power station Qld. I suspect that coal seam and landfill gas are not as energy dense as most natgas and may generate more CO2 per kwhe. See also


  8. Hi John Newlands,

    Thank you for your reply, but you mis-understood my question.

    I was asking about cost of electricity, not emissions. I was asking about the long run marginal cost of electrcity from the existing black coal fired power stations in NSW and Qld. Look at Exhibit 1.1 in the link I provided as an example. I am looking for a more recent, authoritative source, like this one.

    For others, a current, authoritiative source of emissions for all the fossil fule power stations in the NEM is provided here:

    Click to access 419-0035.pdf

    And DCC provides this:


  9. Barry, you should think of the potential energy of high mountains, there you have instant emission free electricity.

    Loading down 1 km3 of Himalaya 4 kilometres makes 30 – 40 TWh. And Andies, Rocky Mountains, Alps, Caucasus etc.

    You get all energy needed for humankind for tens of thousands of years with The Mountain Energy.


  10. Barry, you should think of the potential energy of high mountains, there you have instant emission free electricity.

    Loading down 1 km3 of Himalaya 4 kilometres makes 30 – 40 TWh. And Andies, Rocky Mountains, Alps, Caucasus etc.

    You get all energy needed for humankind for tens of thousands of years with The Mountain Energy.

    Also… dropping rocks from the moon down earth’s gravitational well should release quite a bit of energy at the bottom…


  11. When I’m more with it I’ll view the DCC slideshows to see what the bureaucrats think the future holds eg plenty of carbon capture but no nuclear. AEMO seem to think that compensation to to brown coal burners or those over .86kg CO2/kwh will take the form of free permits. The Age newspaper talks about cash to build gas fired plant. Note that neither asbestos producers nor the Human Carbonsink get any compensation for loss of business.

    Dropping moon rocks onto the Earth would be a good example of not-in-my-backyard.


  12. RE: NPP beauty contests

    DPA, German Press Agency, carries a story today as below.
    A photo of the blonde winner was included, in black bikini in front of various NPP towers

    Salient points:

    – Rosatom has been running the Miss Atom contest for 6 years.
    – Masha Poshtarenko is in IT at a research reacter on the Volga; 95-69-97.
    – a Rosatom spokesman said the idea is to show that normal people, indeed even pretty women work in the industry
    – her prize is a week on Cuba
    – a Russian Internet blogger wrote that he keeps his bedside lamp on 10 minutes longer to ensure that the girls keep their jobs

    —The question arises of whether such atomic beauty contests in the West would be giving a hostage to PC fortune?

    Russland kürt die “Miss Atom”

    (dpa) – In Russlands üppiger Natur posieren die Schönheiten des Landes gern am Wolga-Strand, in den Wäldern Sibiriens oder an der Schwarzmeerküste. Die blonde Mascha Poschtarenko (23) hat dagegen als Kulisse ihre Arbeitsstelle gewählt – ein Atomkraftwerk im Gebiet Twer bei Moskau.

    Die Computerspezialistin stellt ihren Charme bei einer landesweiten Wahl zur “Miss Atom” in den Dienst der Branche. Weil die Atomindustrie auch 23 Jahre nach der Katastrophe von Tschernobyl nicht den besten Ruf hat, sollen liebreizende Kolleginnen wie Mascha dringend benötigte Spezialisten anlocken.

    Rechtzeitig zum Internationalen Frauentag verkündete die nationale Atomholding Rosatom auf ihrer Website nun das Ergebnis der Miss-Wahl. Die Siegerin, eine 25-jährige Angestellte eines Forschungsreaktors an der Wolga, hatte mit ihrem branchenkompatiblen Lebensmotto (“Ich lebe energiegeladen”) und ihren Maßen (95-69-97) geworben. Als Geschenk darf sie nun für eine Woche die Energiewirtschaft in der Provinzstadt Dimitrowgrad gegen die Kraft der Sonne auf Kuba eintauschen.

    Die Organisatoren der bereits zum sechsten Mal durchgeführten “Miss Atom”-Wahl werten die große Resonanz in den Medien als Erfolg. Seit der Katastrophe von Tschernobyl geisterten “so viele falsche Vorstellungen über unsere Branche” in den Köpfen der Mitbürger herum, sagt Ilja Platonow. “Der Wettbewerb zeigt doch, dass hier ganz normale Leute und sogar ziemlich hübsche Mädchen arbeiten.” Doch auch ohne die AKW-Schönheiten stehen die Russen mehrheitlich hinter der Kernkraft.

    Im Internet schrieb ein Blogger dazu, sein Nachttischlämpchen brenne täglich zehn Minuten länger, um den Arbeitsplatz der Mädels zu sichern.


  13. Finntotal, perhaps you’ve been watching too much Magic School Bus?, in particular:

    Episode 23: “Getting Energized”. At the Walkerville carnival the kids are running the Ferris wheel; however, it doesn’t work for some reason. Mikey, Carlos’ little brother who is wheelchair bound comes to the rescue. Since electric power doesn’t work, they decide to use the energy of falling rocks. If the people ride in one side of the Ferris wheel and the rocks land on the other, than it will cause the wheel to turn without hurting anyone. The problem is how to get the rocks to the Ferris wheel.


  14. @Geoff Russell

    1. I am afraid I don´t see how a billabong can be located in a river.

    2. I take it that the sanity you refer to is your belief that those on this blog judiciously weigh evidence before formulating NPP policy, and do not act in a pre-rational collectivist manner. Do I assume you are referring here to renewables advocates or natgas proponents or adherents to LNT or to those who raise WMD proliferation issues or indeed any issue outside those amenable to a quantitative solution.

    3. I submit that the preponderance of bloggers here appear to have power engineering or similar knowledge which leads them to view all NPP issues as technical issues only. Which is why I said previously that if you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That is, the geopolitics of nation states and “who gets what” inside those states remains unmentioned and unanalysed. This appears to be why the only qualitative, as distinct from quantitative, comments made display contempt for/dismay at those of the public perceived to be innumerate and in need of “education” towards the desirability of Gen III-IV. In this mindset, politics and politicans just stand in the way of what any reasonable person, whose right to conduct policy is based on superior knowledge of technical issues, must want once s/he has run the numbers.

    One blogger seems to envy China’s one-party state being able to implement NPPs at will; another welcomes Canada’s clandestine atomic waste transports.

    The ire displayed by many bloggers against Green Renewabilists, who appear to be seen as the main enemy, fits awkwardly with the fact that those people are driving desirable direct action against eg coal mining. So I ask if this ire caused by the neoliberal or Keynesian ideology of NPP proponents inclining them to basically favour Big Coal practitioners over Renewabilists, because the former are perceived as potential NPP converts sharing the same hi-tech, hands-on, can-do, growth-oriented outlook that NPP supporters have?

    4. It is curious that the (GREAT) political observations/suggestions of T Blees in his book, which appear to run counter to current commercial Anglosphere political practice and also those of S. Kirsch in his recommended paper on the IFR, in which he places US political interests front and centre, are not addressed in by blog contributors.

    This blog is hosted in AU, a satellite state of the USA hosting a couple of dozen US facilities, and within AU, at the centre of the AU weapons sector, Adelaide. That centre hosts various non AU corporations. The files released on the Maralinga incidents in the 1950s showing security state cooperation between the UK and the AU at the time should thus give food for thought to those on this blog who conceive of AU as an entirely autonomous political entity when claiming that future NPPs in AU would have no proliferation issues attached. The history of AU since 1945 would seem to indicate a potential for developments.

    Concluding, the evidence weighed in this blog appears severely circumscribed in scope due to the outlook and prior expertise of contributors. Assuming that Gen IV is the solution, the political issues mentioned above have to be tackled.


  15. “… another welcomes Canada’s clandestine atomic waste transports.”

    There is a difference between not making the schedule for the transfer of radioactive materials public, (thereby turning it into a traveling circus) and clandestine which characterized by surreptitious concealment for purposes of subversion or deception. It is excursions into hyperbole like this that makes it hard to determine if any of your arguments have merit.

    Elsewhere, in another forum I am debating with an FoE mouthpiece who is trying to claim that because Australia once considered both a nuclear power program and a weapons program simultaneously this is proof positive that civil nuclear programs lead inexorably to military nuclear programs. This contention echoed by Lalor, immediately up-thread as his point 4, draws on policies and events now 60+ years in the past, I’ll say again what I wrote in the other place:

    “As for the Australian example, leaving aside for the moment that this country is a well established, responsible democracy, and that it experienced a very real threat of invasion during the Second World War, and can certainly be trusted with nuclear weapons, as well as having a legitimate reason at one point for wanting them, it still doesn’t show how any country with a nuclear weapon capability used their civil sector to make one.

    Politicians are often as stupid as the general public about these matters, and my well have believed they were going to make bombs with a power reactor, however that doesn’t make it so. Bottom line: Australia has no nuclear weapons, they cannot be used as an example of a perverted civil nuclear program.”


  16. Peter Lalor: You are right of course, BNC isn’t permanently isolated from
    the main river. China is a thug of a country, but that doesn’t mean it is
    stupid and it is wisely investing in a range of technologies. If it transpires
    that NPP doesn’t scale well and solar thermal does, then I am confident
    that many at BNC will switch allegiances, despite currently betting
    that this won’t be how it turns out.


  17. “You know who else liked to give speeches? HITLER!’

    That was way out of line man. I don’t like it ether when I see smoke coming up from the Kennedy shrine, but that was a bit too much.


  18. 40C = 104F here in supposedly cool SW Tasmania. Since there are no decent land masses between here and Antarctica that leaves few migration options for cold seeking species. If it’s going to get worse then I’d say some iconic plants and animals won’t be able to adapt, not sure about humans. No doubt Liberal Senators have their air cons on full blast since coal fired electricity is our friend. When we have to form a breeding colony in Antarctica the senators can be our genetic starting material.


  19. Oh no! 40C in previously cool SW Tasmania – that was to be my bolt hole from the increasing temperatures here in South Gippsland – normally the coolest area of Victoria.
    Guess it will be “man the boats” for New Zealand then :)


  20. Peter Lalor – there are many regulars of BNC who are not from an engineering background (including the host) and were previously anti-nuclear. Barry has provided detailed assessments of the impossibility of using renewable technologies for the baseload power the World needs. I, and many others have been convinced by these logical arguments.Please do him the courtesy of reading these posts before making unfounded assumptions about BNC, its host and its commenters. Check the top of the blog page and click on the heading “Renewable Limits” for this information. To discover the path that led Barry to his current position read


  21. What happens when NZ gets too hot? I think we should geo-engineer an island the size of France at about Latitude 55 South in the Southern Ocean. The pygmy possums and sub-alpine rain forest plants will get a reprieve. Corals won’t bleach. We’ll all be climate refugees and boat people so that should prevent squabbling about who arrived first. We won’t need desal unless there is a Venus typing warming scenario.


  22. To all the contributors here who have informed and enlarged my understanding and worldview this last year, thank you, merry Christmas, and happy new year. Thanks especially Barry, for taking us along on this rollercoaster with you. For now I’ll lick my wounds from the Great Renewables Wars of ’09, and look forward to what 2010 will bring.

    DV82XL, I once spent Christmas in Quebec under heavy snow and -25 C and below outside. A fabulous place, this time of year I envy you, a far cry from my surf and sand.

    Peter Lalor, for providing some much needed levity to the discussion, happy new year to you as well.


  23. From Know nukes @ Yahoo Groups:

    Helen Caldicott ignored at Copenhagen

    “The nuclear power industry is wicked. The nuclear
    power industry was formed by the bomb makers – it’s the same thing.
    Nuclear power plants are bomb factories – they make plutonium. Two
    hundred and fifty kilos a year of plutonium that lasts for 250,000
    years. You need five kilos to make a nuclear bomb. Any country that has
    a nuclear power plant has a bomb factory.

    If the Second World War were fought today in
    Europe, none of you would be here; Europe would be a radioactive
    wasteland because all the nuclear power plants would melt down like

    …Dr. Caldicott was a Cassandra crying out at the Copenhagen conference
    with little or no attention from the major government and media players

    From Nobel Laureate to Nobody. I couldn’t be more pleased


  24. sternglass letter in nation:

    anyone see this scare letter about fission products being far more dangerous than other kinds of radiation?

    is there significant peer reviewed literature on these claims? bernard cohen says no.

    at any rate, can someone respond? it might be of interest that, while the nation blog printed many rebuttals to christian parenti’s idiotic article on zombie nukes, the only letter in the magazine comes from sternglass, who, Tom, calls for natural gas to replace coal.



  25. Boiled down to its fundamentals the fear of nuclear energy has its roots in the fear of radiation. Invisible, silent, and thus undetectable by human senses, it is the bogeyman of all things atomic. Fear feeds on ignorance. When X rays and nuclear phenomena were discovered at the end of the last century, they were seen as great benefits to medicine—the near-magic sight of the living skeleton, and the first means to palliate and cure cancer. But sure enough, there was a dark side also, and too much radiation means a lingering death. But even sunlight, (also in fact a form of radiation,) can kill with too much exposure.

    High-level Waste from the used fuel, while only 3% of the volume of all radwaste, it holds 95% of the radioactivity. It contains the highly-radioactive fission products and some heavy elements with long-lived radioactivity. If the used fuel is reprocessed, the separated waste is vitrified by incorporating it into borosilicate (Pyrex) glass for eventual disposal deep underground.

    While this material is dangerous, the dangers are well known, the volumes are small, and the processes and procedures of safely disposing of it are well known and proven. Nuclear power is the only energy industry which takes full responsibility for all its wastes, and costs this into the product. When I see other fuels doing the same thing – and that includes gas – we’ll talk, until then va donc !


  26. @DV82XL: (so how are “les habs” doing these days?)

    1 you write on 31.12.:
    “Politicians are often as stupid as the general public about these matters, and may well have believed they were going to make bombs with a power reactor, however that doesn’t make it so. Bottom line: Australia has no nuclear weapons, they cannot be used as an example of a perverted civil nuclear program.”

    (I bracket the implications of your contempt both for the elected and the electorate: are you a fan of Plato’s The Republic? is democracy anarchy for you?)

    You do realise that UAE found it necessary to disclaim any intent to enrich, according to Financial Times, before buying the Korean NPPs just now? And that S. Kirsch (see his writings on this) is not the only pro-nuke to urge the USA to take the lead on the IFR for reasons of geopolitics i.e. WMD proliferation, and not merely on the grounds of fighting AGW or in the interests of energy supply security ?

    2. you write on Jan 3:
    “Boiled down to its fundamentals the fear of nuclear energy has its roots in the fear of radiation. Invisible, silent, and thus undetectable by human senses, it is the bogeyman of all things atomic……Nuclear power is the only energy industry which takes full responsibility for all its wastes, and costs this into the product. When I see other fuels doing the same thing – and that includes gas – we’ll talk, until then va donc !”

    But bureacratic malfeasance means that Gen II plants are on or near fault lines, e.g. the oldest French NPP at Fessenheim near the Rhine fault, 20 km on a SW prevailing wind from Freiburg across the border. Paris has itself admitted that this NPP is in jeopardy in an earthquake. But you are among those (eg Peter Lang, etc). who allege mere barratry (your word) has been driving up NPP costs over the years. Others of you claim that Toshiba’s Gen. III AP 1000 can safely take a direct aircraft hit, if I recall rightly. So assuming you concede that 1. fallout 2. bad uranium mining practices are risky, do I get the impression that you refuse to accept that there is any other NPP-related risk to people at all? For example, if an Indonesian or a Chinese NPP sitting on a fault line falls into it, are you happy with the result?

    On p. 118 of Lovelock’s Revenge of Gaia, Penguin, he writes that he is happy to use the cubic metre of annual waste from an NPP in a concrete pit in his garden to heat his house. Are you? if not, why would you disavow Lovelock? By the way, given the half-life of the waste from NPP Gens l-III, is it not disingenuous of you to write about “full responsibility for all its wastes”, especially as a USP, unique selling point, for the IFR is supposed to be that its waste is hazardous for centuries only, rather than millennia?

    3. on Jan 3 you write:
    “…Dr. Caldicott was a Cassandra crying out at the Copenhagen conference
    with little or no attention from the major government and media players there…From Nobel Laureate to Nobody. I couldn’t be more pleased”

    If I may refer to your classical mythology: the point about Cassandra is that she was right in not wanting to have Helen of Sparta achieve critical mass with Paris in Troy, but nobody in Troy believed her doomsaying. Cassandra ended as Greek war booty. So I suggest you choose some false prophet who turned out to be as wrong as you claim Caldicott is. How about “an Ian Plimer crying out…”?


  27. @Peter Lalor

    The less said about les Habs these days the better, having won Lord Stanley’s Cup almost one year out of every four in the past century, they are celebrating the club’s centennial year by consistently preforming below .500. The current squad is an embarrassment to the uniforms.

    1.) The first quote of mine you chose to take out of context was preceded by the lines:

    As for the Australian example, leaving aside for the moment that this country is a well established, responsible democracy, and that it experienced a very real threat of invasion during the Second World War, and can certainly be trusted with nuclear weapons, as well as having a legitimate reason at one point for wanting them, it still doesn’t show how any country with a nuclear weapon capability used their civil sector to make one.

    I hardly think that shows contempt for democracy, and at worst it is only speculative of the motivations of the people in the Australian federal government at the time.

    I have written elsewhere, (the latest essay in my blog) that several countries examined the question of obtaining nuclear weapons in the Fifties. Many, including Australia and Sweden very seriously, and understandably, given those countries experiences during the Second World War. In fact one could make a convincing argument that those governments would have been derelict in their duty to their nations had they not.

    Within that context some politicians at the time, it would seem, confounded the technologies of nuclear power with nuclear weapons, and acted accordingly in some cases with policy ramifications that have lasted to the present. Perhaps I should have used the word ‘ignorant’ rather than ‘stupid’ to describe this.

    In most cases, having given the issue due consideration, those countries chose not to build weapons, ether because of the expense, or because nuclear weapons were a poor strategic fit for them, or because of other valid reasons. Canada, for example accepted so-called ‘dual-key’ arrangements with the US, wherein we were armed with American devices that were deployed in both in our NORAD and NATO partnerships. Australia apparently chose not to participate in the dual key system although they were invited.

    Nevertheless it stands as fact that no weapons program was ever a direct spin-off of a power program which was the thrust of the passage in question.

    I would direct you to my essay on proliferation for a more detailed treatment of the subject, rather than repeat myself at length here.

    2.) I could respond by asking if would you care to live in the flood-plain of a major hydro-electric dam, or next to the waste pond of a large coal burning power plant, however I will only point out that these can and have caused more deaths per megawatt-hour generated than nuclear power.

    “So assuming you concede that 1. fallout 2. bad uranium mining practices are risky, do I get the impression that you refuse to accept that there is any other NPP-related risk to people at all?’

    Fallout is the result of the detonation of a nuclear or thermonuclear device close to the ground, where radioactive debris is lofted into the atmosphere by the force of the explosion. The term itself cannot be used to describe a potential loss of containment due to an aircraft strike on a NPP. Even a hot core of a working reactor is producing only a tiny fraction of the energy released by a nuclear weapon, and modeling shows that even in an ideal strike by conventional military weapons on a NPP, the amount of material released, and its dispersion would be very limited.

    As for uranium mining I wrote in the comments of a latter thread:

    Unfortunately uranium has been mined in the past, as well as many other minerals, with poor attention paid to miner’s health. This is as much due to the fact that it is an activity with a long history, as it is due to the fact that it was carried out underground by humans deemed disposable by other members of society.

    Conditions, awareness and technology have improved, and continue to improve in this sector and as a consequence it is difficult to get a clear picture of what the actual risks today are. However it remains a job that is hard and dangerous, but no more so that winning any of the other materials we use.

    I might add that coal mining and oil drilling are not considered safe jobs ether, yet very rarely do we hear calls for the elimination of those fuels for that reason alone. It also might be the time to point out that most of the ruckus around the health hazards of uranium mining comes from North American native groups that have realized that they sold mining rights to the uranium on their land for much less than they could have and are now fighting a rearguard action to recover some more money.

    As far as other potential risks from NPPs they are well within the risks we accept in several other technical domains. Aircraft overfly cities, railroads pull long drags of tankers cars full of extremely dangerous and volatile chemicals through populated areas and most countries set a very low bar for licensing people to drive automobiles at lethal speeds on the highways shared by everyone else. Within this context the risks from a NPP are minimal.

    The question of radioactive half-life and danger is probably the most misunderstood aspects of the whole nuclear issue. The bottom line, (and I think we have covered this before on this site) is that the longer the half-life of a radioisotope, the less radiative flux it is producing per unit time. Consequently the hazards of radioisotopes with very long half-lives are minimal and without exception, nuclear waste containing such material will be near or below background levels within a reasonable period.

    As for Lovelock’s central heating idea, even though I am sure he was illustrating a point, I would not be so much concerned with such an arrangement on safety grounds, as I would be for the waste of good fuel that should be reprocessed.

    3.) The quote about Caldicott was taken from an entry at Know nukes @ Yahoo Groups, and I attributed it to that place at the beginning of the comment you saw it in. On reflection it would be somewhat inappropriate had it come from me, however it was made by an antinuclear commenter who no doubt sees the parallel with Cassandra better from his (or hers) perspective.

    – DV8 –


  28. There’s an interesting analysis of polling data up at Possum’s Pollytics, measuring the effect of global warming scepticism on support for a CPRS. Basically, for every percentage point increase in global warming scepticism, there’s an equal decrease in support for a CPRS. ie sceptics don’t support the CPRS. Its a bit of a truism, but the correlation turns up as a direct 1:1 relationship. Possum’s commentary is interesting:

    Around nine and a half points of the 12 point growth in disapproval levels of the CPRS legislation can be explained by the from growing global warming scepticism in Australia.

    In a political nutshell – Labor is losing the ground war on generic global warming opinion in this country.

    The battle for climate change policy will not be won or lost on the public battlefield of the detail of carbon abatement policy, it will be won or lost on the size of the majority that believe in the weight of evidence of climate science. It will be won or lost on the numbers of people that the government can convince to believe in the data.

    Global warming scepticism has more than doubled (13% -> 31%) since 2006, and its growing. So if the political strategy is develop a policy on global warming, we’re going backwards fast, and a much more effective response to the sceptics is critical. Its just not looking good. And its not just party political Labor thats losing the war, its everyone who believes that this is an issue that matters. With a bloc of sceptics of that size, which is still trending up, I just can’t see any effective CPRS on the horizon. With the utter debacle at Copenhagen the issue has lost all momentum. There’s nothing more than 5% emissions reductions / niche renewable deployments / talk of efficiency / greenwashing / denialism ahead, at least for a time, now.

    So what to do? I think the political debate needs to move to pure energy policy – how do we create an energy infrastructure that will sustain us through peak oil / peak gas? Global warming has been the prominent energy story, but I’ve heard very little about peak oil. Instead of asking politicians ‘what will you do to cut co2 emissions’, maybe we should be asking, ‘what is your plan for when the oil and gas run out’? I might have missed it, but I just haven’t heard this discussion in the polly-sphere. Asking questions like,

    – how will we power personal transport, in 5, 10 years time
    – how will we power small commercial transport (builders, plumbers, florists etc.)
    – how will we power road transport?
    – how will we power heavy industry?
    – how will we power agriculture, food transport, food storage
    – how will we power our desalination plants?
    – what will declining oil do to job security?
    – how will declining oil limit the quality of employment available? For you? For your kids?
    – how will declining oil affect your super?
    – how will our fossil fuel powered economy stand up to competition from neighbours, India in particular, who are cutting the tether to fossil fuels and building a nuclear economy?
    – etc.

    These issues are much more immediate and more easily apprehended by an electorate that substantially doesn’t trust climate modelling and doesn’t want to suffer inconvenience now to avoid possible future catastrophe. That fossil fuels are diminishing is just not in question in the same way global warming is. The rhetoric of energy security, water security, food security has bipartisan appeal. The nature of the problem is not polarized along left/right liberal/conservative lines. The politics is in the implementation of solutions, which will of course be polarized, but at least can be dealt with in objective debate. This is where there is the possibility of getting some traction.

    If debate around energy leads us to nuclear power, we will have achieved a better climate change outcome by mistake than emissions control legislation will achieve by design.

    Sorry for the blather. Great cartoon, Barry.


  29. @Peter Lalor

    Let me enumerate my “issues” with Mr. Lalor’s post, mainly from the perspective of ethical/rhetorical concerns:

    (1) Arguments based in extremes or absurd extrapolations are pretty satisfying emotionally, but not very productive when it comes time to make a decision. I will grant that it may be somewhat excessive to claim that elected officials and citizens are “often” (important qualifier) ignorant on the subject of nuclear power and its benefits and risks. Nevertheless, however excessive that might be, Lalor only compounds the problem by asserting in response that the remark suggests a “contempt for both the elected and the electorate,” and beyond that smacks of neo-Platonism. Any objective analysis of the initial statement and the response will reveal that the former is much closer to the truth than the latter is likely to be, both as a function of logical deduction and empirical common sense. People, politicians included, are generally ignorant about nuclear power, as they are about any complex subject, in comparison to those who study the subject carefully. If DV82XL can be accused of anything, it would be of stating the obvious. The simple fact is that it would be relatively easy to demonstrate DV82XL’s premise. Think about a questionnaire answered by a valid cross-section of the population that shows two pictures: a 55-gallon drum with glowing green liquid sloshing around in it, as one might see on The Simpsons, and a picture of a fuel assembly. If the question is, “Which one of these is radioactive waste?” I think we all know what the majority of respondents would answer.

    (2) Arguments that clearly resort to “straw-man” characterizations don’t do much to clarify the debate, having instead a calcifying effect that, to a careful eye, soon reveals a strategy premised entirely on defending a pre-given position irrespective of opposing viewpoints, which is an operational definition of prejudice. To suggest, for example, after claiming “malfeasance” in the siting of nuclear plants near or even on fault lines, that such evidence logically leads to the conclusion that pro-nuclear bloggers like DV82XL “refuse to accept that there is any other NPP-related risk to people at all” is a serious leap. Even worse, it attempts to divert us from the real issue, which is both implicit in the argument and all the more damaging to the anti-nuclear position in general. I’m speaking here of the simple concept of relative risk and risk management.

    I seriously doubt that anyone who has studied nuclear power thinks that it is risk-free, or that it doesn’t pose any “risk to people at all.” Rather, what most nuclear power proponents seem to grasp (which often sets them apart from their adversaries) is that the risks must be weighed against alternatives. Given, for example, that seismic events have had little appreciable impact on nuclear plants in terms of public health and safety, and that other forms of energy production have demonstrably higher and far more immediate risks, it is perfectly reasonable and fair for nuclear advocates to argue their position from this context, as opposed to the straw-man caricature Lalor tries to impose on them.

    Moreover, their willingness to argue from this position is a clever ethical/rhetorical move insofar as it reveals by contrast the absolutist/idealist bent of nuclear opponents. Talk about your crypto-Platonism! As environmentalist nuclear supporters such as Stewart Brand have suggested, it is typical of nuclear opponents to confine their arguments to this crypto-Platonic realm of absolutes, all the while ignoring the demands of the reality principle. Hence the many logical inconsistencies pointed out by Prof. Brooks on this blog, which don’t need to be repeated here.

    In short, it boils down to a frame of mind more than the particulars of the debate. Time and again, opponents of nuclear have revealed an unwillingness to abandon their addiction to Platonism, whereas supporters of nuclear more typically take the path of Aristotle. For the opponents, it’s the “friendly confines” of Popper’s non-falsifiable, as when Goffman predicted half a million would “eventually” die from the accident at Chernobyl. For supporters, it’s the realism of the actual record, as when Cohen reports the results of 50 years of research on the radiogenic effects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as studied by the ABCC and RERF. Similarly, opponents would seize on the testimony in Hope and Reay v British Nuclear Fuels and abstract it to realms of the absolute, carrying on the familiar cry, enabled by the acceptance of the LNT model, that no level of radiation is safe (“Martin Gardner is right!”). Supporters, on the other hand, would likely remind us that LIFE in general is carcinogenic, and rightly wonder why nuclear opponents obsess over one alleged cause of a very small percentage of cancers while completely ignoring alleged causes of the remaining majority. Relativism and realism versus absolutism and idealism, plain and simple.


  30. I’d like to expand on my last post, and this time I’ll try not to play fast and loose with complex conceptual systems like Platonism.

    I think most people would agree that any pursuit of an ideal that unintentionally produces tangible harm is nevertheless unethical. One could also argue, by rough analogy, and in the broader sense sanctioned by the concept of “ethos,” that any pursuit of an alleged “social good” that ignores more urgent or substantial social needs likewise verges on the unethical, especially when the alleged good is uncertain and poorly established in relation to obvious needs.

    A classic case (again, as discussed by Stewart Brand and other pro-science environmentalists) would be the traditional opposition to genetically modified foods on the part of environmental organizations such as FoE and Greenpeace. Though the science on this subject may be “unsettled” (as is the case for most issues analyzed by science), the preponderance of scientific evidence, as well as the consensus amongst experts in the field, clearly suggest that genetically modified crops are not nearly as dangerous as many environmentalists claim, not even potentially. In fact, many supporters of genetically modified crops have pointed out to environmentalists, to little avail, that such crops might actually be better for the biosphere (e.g., enabling no-till farming and thus reducing soil erosion and its attendant contribution to CO2 levels in the atmosphere).

    But where environmentalists really cross an ethical line is in their well-documented interventions to keep genetically modified crops out of African nations even when these nations are stricken by famine. Many an observer has argued that, to whatever extent environmentalists succeeded in keeping GM crops from reaching famine victims, they bear responsibility for the resulting, completely avoidable deaths, many of them suffered by children. Which brings me to my original point: Even if anti-GM environmentalists could demonstrate that GM crops pose a significant threat, which they have not, they would have to weigh that threat against the immediate and reasonably predictable risk of starvation, which apparently they did not.

    How is one to deal with this kind of idealism pushed to the extreme? How does one counter idealism that refuses to relativize and weight risk, or prioritize the pursuit of social good?

    Here’s another example from my own “backyard,” Nevada, which has resoundingly declared “NIMBY” with respect to the Yucca Mountain Project. I will concede that we have a right to be angry about the political string-pulling that led to the siting of this “proposed repository” in our state, but the environmentalists who oppose the Project seriously claim to be concerned about potential radiological consequences 10,000 years in the future. They are actually worried that, millennia from now, radionuclides will leak from the waste canisters, percolate through the mountain, and contaminate the water table. Never mind the implications of the time frame; we are talking about a water table used by virtually no one, and that dead ends in Death Valley, and that happens to be under the very same land that was used to conduct around 900 atomic bomb tests, above and below ground (the Nevada Test Site).

    Now, it is true that one can come up with theoretical objections and point out imperfections in the plan, but all the while, the environmentalists virtually ignore the immediate problems everywhere around them. There was no outcry on the part of environmentalists, for example, when a train tanker car carrying chlorine broke free and careened down the tracks in downtown Las Vegas at 35 mph. There was no call for a moratorium on such shipments, no discussion of the potential and immediate loss of life that could result from a release of easily aerosolized chlorine in a heavily populated area. But tell them that a heavily shielded 50-ton cask full of metal and ceramic (spent fuel rods) will be transported via train through northern Nevada, and they start frothing about “Mobile Chernobyls” and “Glow Trains.” Likewise, when a truck carrying ammonium nitrate crashes and spills its contents at a busy intersection, and then leaks fuel all over it, no one bats an eyelash. But raise the remote possibility of terrorists firing an RPG at a nuclear waste transportation cask, and it’s “pandelirium” amongst the environmentalists (to quote Jeff Foxworthy). The sad part is, you could have gone to that very intersection and asked a bystander if he or she felt threatened by the proposed repository 90 miles away, and there, only several yards away from a potential catastrophe, they would have said “yes.” And so would say the typical Nevadan chain-smoking in front of a slot machine, or abusing Las Vegas’ already endangered water supply, or driving around in their mega-SUV, or voicing uncritical enthusiasm for a risky solar project. Mention Yucca Mountain, however, and suddenly every Nevadan is an “environmentalist.”


  31. Some documentation, for the record:

    “In 2006, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Institute for Security Studies conducted a vulnerability assessment of threats to Nevada. It found that the most deadly of all natural or man-made disasters for the state was a chlorine gas accident.

    “Such a disaster would cause between 74,000 and 91,000 fatalities under the worst-case scenario, the report found. That would be triggered by a spill of 34,500 gallons of chlorine, the amount contained in an average railway tanker.”


  32. @Darrin Sideman

    An interesting and accurate analysis of what seems to be going on in this debate. I too have long railed against the inherent hypocrisy of the antinuclear movement’s practice of fixating on the assumed risks of nuclear technology while ignoring the far greater ones presented by the chemical industry, among others.

    However I think you are letting these groups off the hook too easily by implying that their error is largely philosophical. I believe that one must separate the rhetoric out and examine the motivations that are driving them. When that is done, it can clearly be seen that crypto-Platonism is not what is underpinning this movement, but that they are simple propagandists, using standard manipulative techniques.

    The thing is that with few exception, none of the people at the forefront of the antinuclear movement, and most of the apologists for it that are regular commenters, in forums like this one are stupid. It’s not that they cannot follow the pronuclear arguments, or even that they cannot see the flaws in their own. No they are driven by other agendas, and use the tools of propaganda to generate support among the unsophisticated and those lacking knowledge of the subject.

    That is often why I advise against debate with these types in public – in general they stand to gain, having their ideas gain credibility simply by being seen to be taken seriously by nuclear supporters. I have come to the conclusion that we must accentuate the positive aspects of nuclear technology and avoid confrontation. The public is slowly being won over to the advantages of nuclear power more or less on its own, and can be trusted to weight the facts themselves.


  33. Are there any BNC readers in the vicinity of Sydney who would be interested in a tour of the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor?

    Its seems to me at this point of the discussion it would be helpful to get a bit hands on. I’m not associated with ANSTO at all, but I’ll organize a tour with them if there’s any interest.


  34. OK, sounds like a quorum. If you log your interest in this thread I’ll track it.

    Numbers are limited to 20. Let me know if you can manage a weekday, or if you absolutely can’t do a weekday. I’ll find out possible dates from ANSTO tomorrow, after Feb 25. Lets aim for a window from Sat 27th Feb though to end of March, so let me know if any time in that window is not available for you.

    Tours can be run weekends or weekdays. The advantage of doing a weekday is the scientific and engineering staff will be there, whereas on weekends tours are run by Education Officers (who I’m sure do a fine job, but might not be right into the research detail). I also would prefer a weekend, but I’d to burn a day’s leave to go during the week.

    OPAL is obviously a small research reactor, not a power reactor, so we’d be seeing quite a different beast to what we’ve been discussing here. Nevertheless, I think a visit would be very useful. I’ve suggested to an education officer that areas of interest for a tour would include:

    The fuel cycle
    – Fuel forms
    – Fuel fabrication
    – Used fuel
    – Processing to waste forms
    – Waste storage

    The reactor
    – Reactor design
    – Reactor and containment construction
    – Unloading and loading operations
    – Operating conditions and control
    – Safety features
    – Antiproliferation features

    So we can arrange to have the tour focus on aspects of interest for power generation, rather than SANS, nuclear medicine, etc, as much fun as they are. Tour content is open for discussion and will be tailored to our interest so far as possible.

    So, counting:

    1. John M
    2. Peter L (not available 14/2 – 25/2)
    3. Finrod
    4. Ewen L (prefers weekend)

    First possible date: 27/2


  35. Tom is giving a talk at ANSTO on that day and we’re having a chat with Adi Patterson etc. I’ll check re: the exact scheduling and post back here. Actually, I’ll do a post about Tom’s trip late next week, letting everyone know about the timing of events etc.


  36. OK, great. Let us know soon though whether gatecrashing Tom’s ANSTO talk is feasible. So currently:

    1. John M
    2. Peter L (not available 14/2 – 25/2; prefers week)
    3. Finrod
    4. Ewen L (prefers weekend)

    Before 14/2 or after 25/2
    Note: Barry & Tom at ANSTO on 9/2.


  37. Hi Pip, that’s great. Current list and constraints:

    1. John M
    2. Peter L (not available 14/2 – 25/2; prefers week)
    3. Finrod
    4. Ewen L (prefers weekend)
    5. Pip (not available 10/2 – 24/2; prefers week)

    Before 10/2 or after 25/2
    Note: Barry & Tom at ANSTO on 9/2.

    I should mention at some point I’ll need to provide real life names and contact details to ANSTO, I’ll request that later.


  38. Nobody is likely to read my blog post ( so here it is. [Also I’d be interested to go to ANSTO: preferably between 1030-1430]

    Nuclear in the Middle

    Nuclear Power is caught between two stupid opponents that dominate the debate on the future.

    On the Green-Left the tactic is to ignore Nuclear. Pretend it isn’t there. And then statements like “growth can not continue” make perfect sense. I have a lot of sympathy for this position. Harnessing E=mc2 gives man ever greater power for good or ill, and it is hard to be confident about how that will turn out in the end. And it promises to move humanity even further away from its natural position as part of nature. But its too late. We couldn’t support the current 6 billion people with environment-friendly energy sources, even if the energy sources proposed fitted that bill, which they don’t. Too many environmentalists dream of a world with 1 billion people, and are sanguine about the process to get there.

    On the other side we have the “market is God” Right. They don’t have a tactic. They just actually believe that money is important and will solve everything, while energy is just another commodity. They accidentally satirize their own position, as Glen Stevens did when responding to parliamentary questions he said “If the price of eggs gets high enough the roosters will lay”. For them Nuclear isn’t necessary. The market will provide. The GFC has really brought them out of the woodwork with a huge range of opinions about why the GFC was caused by money going around in the wrong circles. A funny thing is that they never consider the possibility that financial crises might be caused by real world events (like running out of cheap energy), even though every one of them would probably agree that if there was a sudden increase in the real cost of energy then that would have to effect the real economy, and the mechanism of that effect would be through the operation of world finances. They just assume that any gradual change can be accommodated without impacting “sustainable growth”.

    The reason we need to move to Nuclear Power is that there are too many humans on Earth. The only way that we can continue without massive loss of life, or massive environmental destruction, or both, is to utilize the one energy source that the rest of the natural world doesn’t use.


  39. OK, we’re up to six:

    1. John M
    2. Peter L (not available 14/2 – 25/2; prefers week)
    3. Finrod
    4. Ewen L (prefers weekend)
    5. Pip (not available 10/2 – 24/2; prefers week)
    6. Robert S (prefers 10:30 – 14:30)

    Before 10/2 or after 25/2
    Note: Barry & Tom at ANSTO on 9/2.


  40. John, I appreciate that a weekday tour is a bettter option than one on the weekend, and if it is at all possible, catching up with Barry Brook and Tom Blees would be the ideal, but there is a question as to whether I can get a weekday off to attend. If I am unable to do so, would you consider giving my place to someone else from The Nucleus 92 Executive Committee (N92 is the pro-nuclear advocacy organisation my friends and I have established)?


  41. Finrod, yes of course. Bear in mind I haven’t negotiated the content of the tour yet (the tour officer has been on leave till this week), so I don’t rule out a weekend tour yet – I’ll try to accommodate all expressed interest.

    1. John M
    2. Peter L (not available 14/2 – 25/2; prefers week)
    3. Finrod (prefers weekend; possible delegate for weekday)
    4. Ewen L (prefers weekend)
    5. Pip (not available 10/2 – 24/2; prefers week)
    6. Robert S (prefers 10:30 – 14:30)

    Before 10/2 or after 25/2
    Note: Barry & Tom at ANSTO on 9/2.



    Peter, I believe you are located somewhere in or near the ACT. If my belief is correct, I would like to invite you along to the next meeting of Nucleus 92 Inc., which as it turns out, is 7.00pm on Tuesday 2nd February (next week). Please let me know if you are interested.


  43. Hi Peter. The meeting is being held in Meeting Room 1 of the Belconnen Community Centre, which is on Swanson Court, just down from the Belconnen Labour Club on Chandler Street. I look forward to meeting you!


  44. I’ve just posted some details on Tom’s ANSTO talk in the other thread. The talk seems to be open entry, no special arrangements needed, just turn up if you can.

    Unfortunately, they can’t arrange a tour for us on that day though. There is a big school group going through and another group from USyd engineering. February is generally a busy time for school groups and it gets quiet afterwards. So it looks like the original plan of late Feb / March is more plausible.

    If you’re interested in turning up for Tom’s talk, I’ll track it here as well, just so we know.

    I should also add, lurkers are welcome, not just regular commentors!


  45. Joel, I will, but not a blow-by-blow account. In an upcoming post I’ll talk about my new theory on the climate change sceptics, and use the debate as an example.

    Actually, I’m quite positive about this ‘problem’, whereas previous I saw it as a major stumbling block. I’ve passed through the place where the eye cannot see.


  46. Hi,

    I am at the moment in a debate about possible limitations to global warming due to lack of fossil fuels or rather how fast it can be converted to oil. The “opponent” is Kjell Aleklett stating that we bearly/mambye can reach the lower scenarios if we put in a lot of effort.

    It would be interesting to hear how you look at this.

    Some references: Long term prediction of unconventional oil production by S.H Mohr and G.M. Evans

    Implivations of “peak oil” for atmospheric CO2 and Climate by Pushcker A. Kharecha and James E. Hansen

    Emission scenarios in the face of fossil-fuel peaking by Robert J. Bercha


  47. On Abbott’s climate plan: (1) it is not designed to do more than the 5% target [though I doubt it would get there], so to get further without CPRS he might be forced to explicitly support nuclear; (2) Rudd reminding everyone of Abbott’s “Climate Change is crap” comment is a tactical error, because that’s what the struggling voter would like to believe, but Abbott can’t himself say it again.


  48. Richard Heinberg always seems such an intelligent reasonable chap on TV. It is shocking to read his insane attacks on Nuclear Power in “Searching for a Miracle” ( Consider: “nuclear plants are not economically competitive with similar- sized fossil-fuel plants”. Of course!! If there was something cheaper than coal we wouldn’t want to burn coal. Later he quotes Hall et al “There may be no resolution to the nuclear question that will be politically viable.” I guess he reckons we shouldn’t like it because we’re never going to like it?? The Heinberg prescription (in the Post Carbon Institute’s new Letter to Obama) is that we need to return to a simpler, poorer, lifestyle. Well that should be politically viable! When the people finally realise the choice we’ll see what they prefer.


  49. Try here AdamB:

    In short, it’s initiated when you amass sufficient fissile material (which is undergoing natural nuclear disintegrations) to ensure that fewer neutrons are lost/absorbed than are required to keep the chain reaction going (remembering that >1 neutrons must be liberated per fission for it to propagate). Neutron absorbing control rods are used to initiate/mediate the reaction.


  50. Uh, Gregory Meyerson… I don’t speak for BNC or anyone else here, I’m just a lay-observer (work in IT, studied natural medicine, welder by trade), but … your friends might want to start with, well _everything_ in this blog. The TCASE series would be a good place to start

    Why would that Lovins’ piece, specifically, deserve a response? All of his claims have been refuted many times over by any number of people equally, or more so, qualified to have an opinion.

    I’m just totally blown away by what I _didn’t_ know about nuclear, and how it compares to scaled-up renewables (in existing real world installations), and that I’ve been basing my opinion on misinformation for the past decade.

    I’m so glad an Adelaide Uni student friend of mine said “you should check out this blog.” That was two months ago. 10 years of ill informed opinion changed, totally changed, in 2 months.

    The word ideologue comes to mind when I attempt to talk about any of this to my anti-nuclear friends. Zealot works well too.

    Sorry if I’m carrying on. I’m just still totally shocked I could be so ignorant. I feel like I need a support group for ‘recovering anti-nukes.’ I’d love to come out to the debate tonight but I work evenings.


  51. hi adam:

    ditto on your sentiments. I think Lovins needs a response for the same reason Jim Green needs one and Jacobsen.

    People believe this stuff; Lovins Lovins Lovins oh my.

    btw, one of these friends of mine (an evolutionary biologist working on scenarios for global solar) read Barry’s response to Jacobsen and thought J’s fictional scenario for nuclear ghgs based on periodic nuke bombs was right on the money! Lambasted barry for trivializing the proliferation issue (I’m beginning to think the proliferation issue is largely a diversion). I’m trying to get him to post here.

    His response took my breath away. disoriented me for a whole day. Then I responded (in further comments he gave credence to planes cracking open containment domes, releasing godzilla from his cage etc. etc., practiced the usual double standards etc etc by failing then to incorporate attacks on natural gas refineries every 10 years in his assessment of wind–I’m joking of course).

    My question could be answered with yet another reference to appropriate pieces here, all of which I’ve read, several more than once. But, damn, I forget a lot.

    Here’s another question for people: there’s a nation article advocating for the midwest massive combined heat and power, turning ohio’s rust belt into plentiful green energy.

    How does chp sequester carbon? what are the limits of chp? I think Monbiot had some worthwhile things to say about this but I’d be interested in what people here say.


  52. “any other critiques of smith/van leeuwen in addition to the NEI one cited in the hypocrisies post?

    is this study in fact considered ridiculous?”

    The Storm van Leeuwen and Smith piece (aka as the Strawman van Der Luddite anti-nuclear propaganda) has been debunked several times.

    For detailed critiques of the Storm van Leeuwen and Smith studies see: UIC, Energy Analysis of Power Systems, Nuclear Issues Briefing Paper No. 57, UIC, Melbourne, 2006,

    Another one by physicists at Melbourne University available online at, NuclearpowerTheBenefitsOfNuclearPower

    Then there is: Critical note on the estimation by Storm van Leeuwen J.W. and Smith P. of the energy uses and corresponding CO2 emissions from the complete nuclear energy chain – by Roberto Dones, a LCA researcher at the Paul Scherrer Institute, in Switzerland:

    Click to access Critical%20note%20GHG%20PSI.pdf

    While the hyperbole of Storm van Leeuwen and Smith and sheer scale of their exaggeration makes ad hominem attacks attractive, pointing out that they are solar power proponents who conducted their initial study at the behest of the ideologically anti-nuclear Green parties of the European Parliament on the other hand is only the truth


  53. gregory, the EROEI calculation is just what you think. On the assumption that a gen 4 plant has the same embodied energy as a current design, then on your figures the EROEI is 16 x 160 = 2560.

    If a gen 4 plant is more compact and represents less embodied energy, then the EROEI increases accordingly.

    If the plant allows the fuel cycle to move to depleted uranium, or thorium, where we’ve already got large stocks above ground, then for the time it takes to burn through those, you might choose to discount the mining and processing energy input as already written off, in which case the EROEI goes up again by another factor.

    Depending on the technology used and how broadly you define your system, you could cite EROEIs north of 10,000. The only real problem is that your friends will flat out refuse to believe you.


  54. Yeah:

    I read em and am preparing to send these to my friend (actually 3 adversarial friends).

    I skimmed the relevant sections of the Van Leeuwen material and it’s fantastic.

    Thank you. This list has been ridiculously useful to me.


  55. Peter Lang

    I’ve been reading the UK White paper you linked to. You were citing it to justify criticisms of the conclusions of Leeuwen and Smith concerning lifetime CO2 emissions for nuclear. By page, I think, 51 the White Paper’s authors were comparing LCEs of wind and nuclear and finding them to be similar. Initially, I assumed that they hadn’t factored in the CO2 needed to compensate for intermittency but they claim to have done so.

    I may have been misled or failed to read properly but, at first sight, the Paper’s conclusions on wind are at extreme odds with your own. I would be reassured if you could report back on this apparent divergence of opinion.


  56. The antinuclear movement will try and leverage whatever hot-button item they think will get them an audience, and then they will flog it without pause. Obviously FoE Australia thinks that the proliferation issue, is the one they can make the most headway on, and they will not engage in any real dialog on the subject.

    One of the effects of having rational environmentalists revisiting the nuclear topic, and giving it their support, is that the only ones left on the other side are going to be the doctrinaire and the ideologues, who see this as a personal battle. They have become irrational as they see what they thought was the truth crumbling out from under their platforms. They have thrown their lot in with renewable energy in a last ditch hope that it will keep nuclear at bay, and thus they will never have to face the fact they were dead wrong.

    It’s egos we are fighting now from that side, at least among the rank-and-file of the movement. I still contend the much of the leadership are sock-puppets of fossil-interests.


  57. DV82XL

    You very kindly answered a question I had relating to Iran’s nuclear activities. I have been brooding on it and wonder whether I could trouble you for more explanation. You made two statements that appeared to be at odds with each other. As they almost certainly weren’t, could you sort out my state of confusion? The two statements were as follows:
    1) It would be a huge and costly undertaking to build a nuclear arsenal and most unlikely that it could be achieved in a surreptitious manner.
    2) Iran could still get regional traction without having a nuclear arsenal and would only have to reach “breakout capability”, which you defined as being able to weaponise in a few months.

    How can one reach “breakout capability” surreptitiously? This was the inference I took but , probably, wrongly.


  58. Douglas Wise,

    Yes, the UK White Paper does claim that they have included the emissions from back up in their figure of 11-37 kg CO2-e/MWh (I am writing all this from memory, so correct me if I am wromg).

    However, that statement is plainly not correct. The figures for wind power from all the studies are the life cycle emissions for wind alone, not including the emissions from back up. The emisisons in the UK white paper are consistent with the ExternE figures and most other studies all of which do not include the emissions from back up.

    Here is a summary of the most authoritative studies, including links to the sources.

    A great deal of work is going on to determine the emissions penalty for fossil fuel shadowing and back up for wind power. This provides a calculator and references to the recent work:

    There is a new version of thie calculator about to be posted. It shows that for realistic input variables, wind power saves no GHG emissions, and perhaps causese more than with no wind power.


  59. Douglas Wise – No the statements are not at odds with each other.

    It is not possible to hide a nuclear weapons program, because of the size of the undertaking, and the particular technical requirements that such a program entails. This doesn’t mean just facilities on the ground, but also trafficking in certain specialized material and equipment, which was the way the Pakistani program was exposed.

    However, and this is the point I was trying to make when I referred to a breakout capability – many of the steps needed to make nuclear weapons, can be carried out to a certain point, while still remaining within the letter of the NPT. Japan has done just this and made no bones about it, there is some suspicion that South Korea has done the same, (or is moving towards it) such a posture was at least considered by the then West Germany, and is considered as a serious option by Brazil (among others) to-day.

    It is a huge loophole in NPT that lets this happen, and efforts to close it have been stymied by members of the G20 who see more restrictions on nuclear tech at best as efforts to keep them dependent on the Five for nuclear energy, and at worst, as a potential loss of sovereignty. So protected behind this loophole Iran could come within a few months of deploying a weapon, and still keep their hands clean.

    Now this is going to be quite obvious to an outside observer, not only is there no hiding it, the country doing so would want everyone to know how close they were, because that’s how the threat/deterrence is projected. Thus the two statements I made before are not mutually exclusive.


  60. Peter et al:

    I’ve read from Lightbucket among other places that wind power has a generally favorable EROEI number. But at one wind site, I found the caveat below. I’m wondering what else wind eroei leaves out.

    How would wind accommodate the gas backup issue? would the numbers include penalties for pollution due to the gas use?

    It just seems to me that without massive demonstration projects, EROEI numbers can be pretty easily fudged.

    Much of the wind resource base is located in remote locations, so there are costs of getting the wind from the local point-of-generation to a potentially distant load center. This cost is distinct from the cost of simply interconnecting the site to the nearest transmission line. Even at the relatively low current levels of wind penetration on regional grids, long-distance transmission has already proven to be a significant issue for new wind development in some regions. For example, wind plants in Texas have had to curtail output during hours when regional trunk lines are at physical capacity, and Minnesota and California are currently examining ways to alleviate transmission congestion as more development is proposed in their best wind resource areas. These costs are not reflected in most EROI analyses.


  61. DV82XL

    Thanks. I understand. Iran could get to “breakout ” without breaking any current rules but couldn’t get there without intelligence services of other states knowing what was going on.

    If I’ve still f….ed, let me know.


  62. That’s the gist of it Doug. Article IV and to some extent Article V of the NPT have loophole so large that one could drive a truck through them. I suspect at the time they were worded in this way so that the major powers would tie their own hands too much, thinking that smaller nations wouldn’t be in a position to exercise their Art IV rights, and and so the major powers neglected their obligations under Article III, to transfer nuclear power tech to non-weapon states. Now its come back to bite them in the ass, and the minor powers are in no mood to tighten the treaty now.

    What goes around, comes around.


  63. Great new article by Martin Nicholson here:

    Dash for gas in the wrong direction
    Gas and renewables may seem like energy solutions, but nuclear is the only technology to meet our needs and our international obligations.

    With Copenhagen been and gone and emissions trading in Australia snagged in parliamentary disagreement, now might be a good time for a reality check on emissions abatement…

    Read full article here.


  64. A colleague of mine recieved this email today and passed it on to me. Here it is for anyone in or near the ACT who might be interested, especially Peter Lang, given Peter’s excellent work on analysing the efficacy of ‘renewables’.

    Have your say on Canberra’s energy future
    The ACT Government has recently launched two major discussion papers in the energy sector – the proposal to expand the electricity Feed-In Tariff Scheme and the Draft Sustainable Energy Policy 2010-2020

    The Feed-In Tariff discussion paper deals with a possible expansion to include installations beyond the existing capacity limit of 30kW. The draft energy policy sets out a proposed framework for reducing the ACT’s reliance on fossil-fuel powered electricity while making Canberra’s energy supply more secure and sustainable.

    You are invited to attend a public information session to be held at 7.00pm on Tuesday 16 February at the Belconnen Premier Inn, 110 Benjamin Way, Belconnen.

    We welcome community views on these two important topics that will shape Canberra’s energy sector future.

    Light refreshments will be served.

    RSVP: or contact Mayumi Smith on 6207 2464 by Monday 15 February 2010.

    Consultation on the proposal to extend the Feed-in Tariff closes on 28 February 2010 and on the Draft Sustainable Energy Policy on 5 March 2010. For more information on either policy, visit

    Authorised by Geoffrey Rutledge, Director, Ministerial and Corporate, Department of the Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Water.


  65. Finrod I won’t be making any submissions to the ACT even though I lived there one time. I think they are kind of flakey with their ban on uranium mining when none has ever been found. Next will they will deny landing rights to UFOs.

    Now I’m in Tas I get no feed-in tariff for my PV, just 18.5c net metering. A neighbour who is about to install 14 kw micro hydro will get the same. I think the reasoning behind FIT is weak and could be used to justify any form of vote buying. So if I was going to make a submission it would be
    1) cut the feed-in tariff back to standard rates
    2) accept that ACT will be an energy importer
    3) encourage the national grid to adopt low cost low carbon reliable electricity
    4) if some bugger finds uranium let them dig it up.

    The third criterion rules out much wind or solar.


  66. The official line at BNC on Chernobyl seems to be

    1. that it is quite irrelevant to the safety of NPP Gens II, II and IV elswhere because it was such an irresponsible design AND

    2. that it killed only ca. 55 anyway and will be giving rise to a probable 4,000 cancer cases (source: , which is competitive in deaths per clean gigawatt of power per annum compared to anything fossil, especially coal, AND

    3. that the Greenpeace study and the IPPNW study do not comprehend the statistics of epidemiology, hence are hysterical rubbish and typical of those organisations, headed up by paid agents of Big Fossils (are you with me so far, DV28XL?)


    discusses a new publication of the Annals of the NY Acad. of Sciences, vol,, 1181 by Yablokov, and Nesterenko and Nesterenko.

    The IAEA, WHO and UNSCEAR line taken by BNC hence appears based on a mere 300 Western papers, omitting 30,000 papers written in the territory of the ex-USSR.

    “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment is wrtitten by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenk and Alexey Nesterenko. The senior author, Alexey Yablokov was head of the Russian Academy of Science under Gobachev – since then he receives no support. Vassily Nesterenko, head of the Ukrainian Nuclear establishment at the time of the accident, flew over the burning reactor and took the only measurements. In August 2009, he died as a result of radiation damage, but earlier, with help from Andrei Sakarov, was able to establish BELRAD to help children of the area……The government of the former Soviet Union previously classified many documents now accessible to the authors. For example, we now know that the number of people hospitalized for acute radiation sickness was more than a hundred times larger than the number recently quoted by the IAEA, WHO and UNSCEAR. Unmentioned by the technocrats were the problems of “hot particles” of burning uranium that caused nasopharyngeal problems, and the radioactive fallout that resulted in general deterioration of the health of children, wide spread blood and lymph system diseases, reproductive loss, premature and small infant births, chromosomal mutations, congenital and developmental abnormalities, multiple endocrine diseases, mental disorders and cancer….This book is a “must read” for all of those bureaucrats currently promoting nuclear power as the only “solution” for climate change. Those who seek information on the disaster only from the official documentation provided by the IAEA, WHO and UNSCEAR need to broaden their reading to include the reality check from those scientists who have access to local findings and are simply telling the truth, with no hidden propaganda agenda. ”

    May I assume that BNC will now retreat from points 1-3 above and rest its case on point 1 only, ie that Chernobyl is merely irrelevant to Gens II, II and IV? Or can somebody show me a Nukie refutation of Yablovo and Nesterenko (x2), which appeared 12.2009?


  67. The following main lessons can be deduced from the Chernobyl accident:

    (1) Ionizing radiation killed only a few occupationally exposed people. Due to rapid decay of short-lived radionuclides, the Chernobyl fallout did not expose the general population to harmful radiation doses. Near the burning reactor, the area covered by the dangerous radioactive fallout where, on April 26 1986, the radiation dose rate reached 1 Gy per hour (after one year it had decreased by a factor of about 3000), was limited to two patches totaling together about 0.5 km2 in an uninhabited location, and reaching a distance of 1.8 km from the burning nuclear reactor. Several hundred meters outside the 1 Gy isoline the dose rate dropped by two orders of magnitude, to a level of 0.01 to 0.001 Gy per hour.

    (2)Psychosomatic disorders and screening effects were the only detectable health consequences among the general population.

    The reported excess of thyroid cancers in children and in adults exposed to Chernobyl fallout is not consistent with current knowledge on effects of medical use of iodine-131. Reports of an “excess” appears to be an artifact of screening, and is only a small fraction of the normal occult thyroid cancers incidence occurring in populations unexposed to iodine-131.

    What I find particularly glaring is the lack of controls for other insults given that the area around the nuclear plant was a well known industrial wasteland before the accident. In other words no steps were taken to eliminate the potential influence of chemical or heavy metal contamination in the soil and food chain on the initial health of the human population.

    I also find it disingenuous to continue to invoke latency every time actual results fail to meet the dire predictions made previously. We were told shortly after the event, when the immediate death toll was found to be minimal, that the full impact would not be felt for twenty years. Twenty years later, the Cassandras are now saying it could be as much as sixty years before the damage appears, or maybe several generations in the future. At what point do we accept the fact that the impact of this accident has not been anywhere as serious as it was assumed it would be?

    (3) Radionuclides were injected high into the stratosphere, at least up to 15 km altitude, which made long distance migration in the whole Northern Hemisphere, and a penetration over the Equator down to the South Pole possible . With the extremely sophisticated radiation monitoring systems implemented to assure compliance with test-ban treaties, even the most tiny debris from the Chernobyl reactor were easily detected all over the world. No such system exists for any other potentially harmful environmental agent. Ironically, this network’s sensitivity ignited mass anxiety, and contributed to the strangulation of nuclear energy development all over the`world.

    (4) Finally, and this bears repeating; the event at the Chernobyl reactor was caused by an inherently poor design, shoddy construction coupled with a criminal lack of good judgment.

    This was a complete meltdown of the reactor core, followed by ten-days of free emission of radionuclides into the atmosphere. Nothing worse could happen. It resulted in a comparatively small occupational death toll, hundreds of times lower than that of many other industrial catastrophes, and it is unlikely that any fatalities were caused by radiation among the public.

    There is simply no rational grounds for continuing to hold this event up as an example of the potential for an accident at any modern nuclear power plant. In fact if anything it demonstrates just how small the overall impact of a worse-case power excursion and critical loss of containment is even under the poor emergency response conditions that were in place at the time. In centuries to come, the Chernobyl catastrophe will be seen as a proof that nuclear power is a safe means of energy production.

    Unfortunately the cranks that continue to beat the Chernobyl drum lack the scientific background to properly evaluate the material that has been published on this matter, nor are they able to put the political biases of the authors of these papers into perspective, or check their credentials.

    One of the most reliable indications of this effect, (and this is not limited to this debate, but is true across many contentious scientific issues), is flinging out raw counts of publications, in the erroneous assumption that somehow shear volume will carry their point.

    Many of us have been looking very carefully, and very critically at the Chernobyl data for years, there is much to be learned from this accidental experiment that is of great scientific value. Other than the survivors of the nuclear weapon attacks on Japan, there has not been a large exposed population to follow, and the results show here as they did there that the effects of radiation on the general health of a population are nowhere near as bad as previous models indicated it might be.


  68. @DV82XL: a not atypical answer in the usual attempt at an ex cathedra, magisterial and utterly unsourced mode, in which you fail entirely to address this study released in English in 12-2009.

    Your attempts to denigrate the authors by comments on political bias and scientific credentials are routine, and used in all cases of disagreement eg Brooks as recently treated by Diesendorf; Monbiot as treated by Plimer; questioning of Lovins’ claim that he is a “physicist” , etc. However, they do not advance the argument materially.

    This is not wise nukie tactics. I don’t think a corporate advisor on PR in crisis management would approve of you.

    The reason is that in terms of logic, the nukie case for building Gens III or IV does not stand or fall by the number of deaths from Chernobyl. Because the higher the death level you admit from a bad Russian design in 1986, the more you can emphasise the superiority of modern western designs and stress how safe they are.

    A corporate PR man would say that the study of 12-2009, which is not dependent on WHO, IAEA or UNSCEAR, is now in the public domain and your refusal to deal with it is detrimental to the nukie cause. I would predict that this study is going to run and run, esp. in the USA, as it was translated into English there.


  69. One of the things I find getting tiresome in debating nuclear energy on the web is the endless capacity of cranks to upbraid everyone for using the same tactics they do.

    To date you have not engaged in anything that even approaches rational debate. I have seen nothing from you except sweeping and bombastic opinions and demands that we answer other critics regardless of their standing or credibility, but nothing in the way of cognizant counter arguments.

    You make pompous demand that we collectively withdraw statements or repudiate positions that you seem to think we have taken, yet ignore any calls to make your own position on key points known.

    You have not advanced the discussion here one iota, and I am beginning to suspect that you are little better than a troll. From now on I intend to treat you as such.


  70. It’s not for me to declare these threads a place where anti-nuclear nuts aren’t welcome, but I must say I moved here from other places because it seemed mercifully free of them. This post isn’t addressed to them, and the best chance to make them go away is to ignore them. Which is not to say that we shouldn’t at times legitimately discuss some of the issues they raise. Those who wish to discuss the future with them in other forums should adopt an innocent air and try to find out what they really think. They pretend on the surface that there will be enough renewable energy. But when you dig you find that: (a) They think the world would be a nicer place with only 1 billion people [nobody would argue with that]; and (b) They accept the widely quoted estimate that the Earth’s carrying capacity after fossil fuels run out is 1 billion. Yes, the fact is that these people who claim to be so concerned about “safety” are sanguine about the possibility of billions of people starving to death. They are relaxed about it. They think it is worth it to bring us all back into contact with nature (if you ignore the windmills everywhere).


  71. Soon after my intemperate post I made one of my occasional visits to Kjell Aleklett’s blog ( to look for English translations (I wish he’d run a separate RSS feed for them). The latest “We need global ‘energy miracles’” is very relevant. A snippet: ‘In the last month the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated 10 billion dollars for vaccines for children in developing nations. Now it appears they are changing their focus to a new area, ”Finding a cheap and clean energy source is more important than creating new vaccines and improving farming techniques”.’


  72. @DV28XL and R. Smart:

    I detect a certain and risible panic (the “trolling” allegation of the former) on your part at the English-language release of studies in 12-2009 by engineering men who you would presumably fall over yourself to quote given their “standing or credibility” had they not worked in a Communist state:


    You refuse to address this publication, even though it appears to supersede the Nukie adherence to the IAEA, WHO and UNSCEAR line. That is, the raw data on which that line is based massively understates those data which are available, now in English. And why would men in managerial positions at the time of a disaster have an interest in falsifying the record, ie “overstating” the effects of Chernobyl to the detriment of their country’s reputation?


  73. I maintain Australia still suffers from cultural cringe that defers to the northern hemisphere. If Obama can be regarded as centre-left by US standards then his Down Under counterparts may be influenced. Those who find fault with the nuclear loan guarantee should remove the indemnity for 120 million tonnes of CO2 leaking from under Barrow Island.

    If the US and Europe have a hot a summer then we skippies might finally start thinking GW is a problem.


  74. Here’s an update on the Australian government’s attitude concerning nuclear power:

    I especially note this quote from Rudd:

    He said the people of Australia could debate anything they wanted.

    And also:

    “On the question of a debate in the community, we will happily debate this until the cows come home.”

    In other words, Rudd will oppose nuclear power no matter what the merits of the case in favour of it. Isn’t that nice?


  75. Thats a rather discouraging update, Finrod. Its all the way with CCS, and he’s making it a partisan issue, noting that the Opposition has a policy that embraces the possibility. If so, maybe its time to break the voting habits of a lifetime.


  76. In my view Rudd has bean dishonest and misinformed on carbon mitigation. Some 28 months ago he rode to victory largely on a promise to ratify Kyoto. He took all the plaudits and even gave a lead speech at Copenhagen. The one initiative he did take with home insulation now looks wonky. Meanwhile Australian coal, brown, black or exported generates about a billion tonnes a year of CO2, way out of proportion to our population.

    In practice he has ensured the longevity and profitability of the coal industry. To wit the clean coal delaying tactic, high immigration, unmerited industry compensation, new coal loaders and a pathetic CO2 reduction target. This is fundamentally dishonest and perhaps even creepy given the rhetoric. When challenged he trots out the standard fantasies about wind, solar and geothermal.

    If Rudd is re-elected he will continue to give free rein to the fossil fuel industry, all the while spouting delusions that he is somehow turning the problem around. In my opinion he doesn’t deserve another chance.


  77. Combine this fanciful appeal to CCS with the expectation that we can ignore our 2020 target by buying overseas permits. We realise the government is not serious about any of this. What it is serious about is stuff it doesn’t talk honestly about: making a BIG Australia; and stopping us watching naughty things on the Internet (not illegal stuff, just anything the government thinks that we, or they, would be better off if we didn’t see).


  78. I’d go further than ‘not serious’ and suggest the government is slightly unhinged. You can’t talk carbon cuts for over two years then suddenly advocate a 70% population increase. The disconnect is kind of chilling in the sense of Captain Queeg or GW Bush justifying the Iraq invasion. IMO Rudd has had his chance and blown it.

    On the State govt front if Rann gets re-elected in SA I believe he will effectively stymie the Olympic Dam expansion. Some of these centre-left politicians live in a kind of dream world frozen in 1980s thinking. They haven’t grasped that we now need to push the limits of what is physically possible.


  79. Barry Said:

    It seems I will also have to change the voting habits of a lifetime. Such is the brave new world we face. Damn populism.

    I’d be disappointed that you could reason to this position Barry. Firstly, as strongly as most of us feel about putting nuclear power at the centre of our response to climate change, the attitude of Australian governments to nuclear power will not greatly affect the way this matter is dealt with internationally. While the failure of governments here to address this matter seriously and take a positive lead is shameful, embarrassing and subversive of good international policy, in the end, it will probably make little difference to policy in practice.

    Secondly, there is no prospect that the Opposition will be have differently on this matter than the government. They will not propose even discussing nuclear power at any election where the matter is in the balance, or at any election where they don’t think it’s a done deal for them. That is entirely for populist reasons, just like the government we have now. They no more want to be wedged than do the ALP, and can afford it less.

    What they will do is to try to play the patronage game that Rudd is now, probably with even worse consequences for policy. So voting for them on this issue gets you either no difference or something even worse — what Garnaut called Soviet-style central planning. Abbott is positioning himself as a critic of Garrett over insulation (and presumably now solar panels), but Garrett was doing the kind of “no regrets” direct action that Abbott proposes. It turns out there are some regrets after all.

    So if you end up giving your effective preference to the Liberals, what you are really supporting is the differential policies — a return to the retrograde Howard-era industrial policies of pre-September 2007. Demonising irregular immigration arrivers, moral issues over stem cell research and so forth. You surely couldn’t be relaxed about that.


  80. Whatever the dismerits of the current Labor Party policy concerning nuclear power, I reason that the key to nuclear power’s acceptance in Australia is to capture the sympathy of a respectable chunk of Labor’s heartland voters for the nuclear cause. Coalition supporters will likely support their party eiother way, and the Coalition is on occasion publicly sympathetic toward nuclear. The occasions when they are not are those when they believe they must follow Labor’s populist stance to retain support. Break the ALP’s demographic support for anti-nuclear policy, and we’ve broken the anti-nuclear cause in this country. Be prepared for a massive disinformation campaign from fossil fuel interests in the course of this crusade.


  81. Actually Ewen, I was more thinking of the “Beam me up Scotty, there’s no intelligent life here” approach to the ballot paper.

    The primary impact the current crop pro-nukes will have on future policy mwill not be through their own voting patterns this coming election, but on the effectiveness of their public advocacy in leveraging the voting patterns of the larger community.


  82. @Ewen Laver
    I’d be disappointed that you could reason to this position Barry. Firstly, as strongly as most of us feel about putting nuclear power at the centre of our response to climate change, the attitude of Australian governments to nuclear power will not greatly affect the way this matter is dealt with internationally. While the failure of governments here to address this matter seriously and take a positive lead is shameful, embarrassing and subversive of good international policy, in the end, it will probably make little difference to policy in practice.

    Australia has arguably been one of the strongest pillars of the international anti-nuclear community of first-world sovereign states. The fall of anti-nuclear policies here would have a much greater international impact than our small population size would initially suggest.


  83. Finrod said:

    Australia has arguably been one of the strongest pillars of the international anti-nuclear community of first-world sovereign states. The fall of anti-nuclear policies here would have a much greater international impact than our small population size would initially suggest.

    I’m not so sure about it. I kind of see Australia as one of the last holdouts, and I’m not sure the handful of others would pay much attention. Of course I agree that we shouldn’t be holding out and it is damned annoying that we are. When you look around at the general political process in this country, it is, regrettably, not all that surprising. Hardly any big policy gets discussed on its merits or even in ways that are consistent with some vision of political philosophy.

    Barry said:

    Actually Ewen, I was more thinking of the “Beam me up Scotty, there’s no intelligent life here” approach to the ballot paper.

    Oh well, that’s different. Been there and done that plenty often enough. I wish there were something better though.


  84. @ EL
    I’m not so sure about it. I kind of see Australia as one of the last holdouts, and I’m not sure the handful of others would pay much attention.

    The impact would be in first world countries dush as US, Germany and the like where the local anti-nukes may be pointing to us as an example of a modern 1stworld nation that won’t play nukeball (no doubt aluding to our ‘renewables’ policies as a prime example of how the rest of the world should proceed). We need to take our name of the list of supporters of their hideous fraud.


  85. It shouldn’t be hard to remind the gloaters that Australia’s per capita emissions are an appalling example to the rest of the world. Secondly we are hypocrites mining so much of the uranium which (currently) underpins the nuclear fuel cycle.

    I hereby call on the Federal and State governments to show leadership. Cut domestic emissions by 60% to developing world standards and stop uranium mining. Then we will be in a position to lecture others.


  86. Democracy now just had an interesting day:
    I’m not real happy that Democracy now keeps being anti-nuke. They’ve had Wasserman on several times recently.

    In the first interview, Stiglitz argues:

    “In Copenhagen, if we had succeeded in raising the price of carbon—the cost of carbon emissions that pollute the atmosphere are going to impose enormous costs all over the world. If we had succeeded in doing that, that would have provided a market signal. It would have told firms, you have to invest to reduce your carbon emissions. There would have been this retrofitting of the global economy to meet the needs of global warming. That would have stimulated an enormous level of investment and stimulated a lot of spending. And that would have been the critical thing that could have gotten us out of the current Great Recession.
    But as it is, what we did is left even greater uncertainty. Where are we going? The result of that is that—greater hesitancy even to make the kinds of investments that we were in the process of making. So, in fact, the failure in Copenhagen has its economic consequences right now. ”

    I take it that Stiglitz, who is a pretty good economist, thinks we need to increase the cost of carbon, which sounds like the opposite approach to Peter Lang’s recommendation.
    Is it?


  87. Frankly, the jewel would be Germany, Finrod. If they moved on nuclear power, with the acquiesence if not the active support of the German Greens, then Greens everywhere would be hard pressed to hold the line. A restart in Sweden on new builds would be excellent, precisely because Sweden is widely seen on the left as such a progressive country.

    While a victory here would be something, Australia is not really much of a trendsetter in world affairs.


  88. Ewan, I dont expect any European Green party to support nuclear power, they’ve invested too much political capital in opposing it. The German phaseout is already on hold, though, and the Swedish phaseout is dead in practice as well. We are just about the last holdout in the western world.


  89. @DV28XL: you wrote about CANDU here

    so I have a question about the Maples, based on

    With regard to the mysteriously inexplicable positive PCR, power coefficient of reactivity, which caused these medical isotope reactors to be rendered investment ruins in 2008 because nuclear regulator CNSC did not like the “safety story”, I am sure you agree with those (Nathwani of U of Waterloo; Daniel Meneley previously of AECL, etc.) who are quoted as seeing that positive PCR as being unproblematic. After all, CANDU is allowed to have one. And that you are enraged that CAD 350m was wasted on these 2 reactors and that diagnostic medical tests and treatments for millions of patients are thus endangered, because NPP Petten in Holland goes offline in March for 6 months maintenance.

    However what is your view on Jean Koclas of Montreal Ecole Polytechnique, who said to the committee of investigation that if one cannot even predict a simple measure like a power coefficient, can you be sure that the nuclear safety analyses based on calculations are correct? And what about Jean-Pierre Labrie who had been Maples project director and said in the Toronto “National Post” in 2009 that the positive PCR was a potentially insurmountable hurdle?

    You will gather that we thus have at least two men here who are what you approvingly designate nuclear-type numerate experts (another long-term Anti would be Canadian nuclear physicist and author Walt Patterson, b. 1936 and who worked for FOE, as you know).

    Your view on this blog seems to be that decisions on NPPs are, however, best left to men like the above, whereby I assume you like to reserve the right to define what you accept as “training”: I don´t think it includes much outside nucleonics and nuclear engineering, if I recall some of your writings on BNC.

    Now Labrie and Koclas as the trained numerate are taking a stance which in your view will be indistinguishable from that of your bete noire Caldicott…or is it?


  90. The MAPLE reactors are not NPPs, they were designed to be isotope production reactors, and one is running just fine in South Korea.

    The MAPLE issue, is not a technical one, but a political one. Any discussion of the problem would require a detailed background on the internal workings of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, its relationship with Canadian party politics, the problems inside AECL, and the corporate games being played by MDS Nordion. While I know some of this information, I am not sufficiently confident of the details, to start airing them in this forum.

    It is also obvious that you have done little in the way of research on this topic, with any other objective but to skim off something that you could post here out of context, in an attempt to sling mud at me, only underlining that you are nothing more than a troll.


  91. DV82XL (and anyone else who knows about it – GRLC comes to mind):
    For what little it is worth, I would like to know the story behind the MAPLE reactors too.
    What little I could find out was that there was a positive coefficiency problem/characteristic, but the CANDUs have the same characteristic, and they are run everywhere.
    So I can believe there might be some non-nuclear-concerns impinging upon the startup of these reactors, but on the other hand it seems amazing that even the Harper government would happily besmirch Canada’s nuclear expertise, and it’s position as pre-eminent supplier of medical isotopes to the world, over a technicality.
    How would they account for it in Dog River?


  92. Lawrence – It is not just a technical issue of a slight positive coefficient, it is an issue that cuts to the very heart of the future of the industry in Canada and is much more than a furious row over who is to blame for this costly and embarrassing debacle.

    The Nuclear Safety and Control Act in 2000, created a political monster in the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, that is so out of control that Linda Keen, a political hack with no background in science, who served as the CNSC first president, had to be sacked by an emergency Act of Parliament over the first NRU shutdown. Making major changes at this point is not possible for the minority Conservative government now in power, and Keen, a long time Liberal is still out there bashing the decision to dismiss her in the media at every opportunity.

    AECL is on the block and is going to be sold piecemeal, and this was known to be in the works for several years in advance. According to AECL, uncertainty about the cost of solving the MAPLEs problems was a key factor in the project being scrapped. However refurbishment of the NRU is not going to be cheap ether, the difference being that the overhauled NRU will still be there even if the CANDU division is sold. Stripped of its isotope mission, there would be few reasons to fix the aging reactor, or consider building a replacement, if testing CANDU components were no longer being done. Had the MAPLEs been released and licensed, they would have passed to MDS Nordion, and AECL would be hard pressed to justify a new research reactor.

    Meanwhile MDS Nordion, which by this time had invested approximately $350 million in the MAPLE project, commenced arbitration against AECL and filed a $1.6 billion court claim against AECL and the Government of Canada to compel them to return to work, and fulfill their contractual obligation to bring the MAPLE facilities into service. Among other things they are demanding that AECL contract with another organization to fix the MAPLE reactors, if it does not have the necessary in-house technical expertise or resources to do the work itself. Naturally this has not been met with much enthusiasm at AECL, given the iffy status of the company at the moment.

    As I said above, there is more than meets the eye going on here, and much of it is being played behind closed doors. I doubt that a full accounting will be available for public scrutiny for some time. But for sure the technical issues are an excuse, not a reason for the project’s current status.


  93. It’s hard to know what to make of it. Who wins out of all this?
    I can’t see how it’s good for AECL, or Canada, or the nuclear industry, or the provision of medical isotopes. Was it all a secret plan by OPAL?
    A followup question (if you can stand it) – was Linda Keen following the rules when she shut it down? Are those rules in the Nuclear Safety and Control Act? If so, it sounds like the new act is not an improvement on the old act.


  94. When Mulroney decided to privatize the isotope business and gave MDS Nordion the profit, it left AECL with having to build the reactor for MDS Nordion while not getting any proceeds from the profit. It eventually lead to AECL having to shoulder a bigger percentage of the cost for building the MAPLE reactor with MDS Nordion still getting all the profit from the isotope business. So when AECL decided to shutdown MAPLE, there’s speculation that it was a strategy to avoid having to shoulder all extra cost when there’s no benefit to be had. Which means taxpayers won’t be shouldering the extra cost while MDS Nordion continue to profit from it. So in some respects it could be said that AEDL wins.

    The CNSC has acted by the letter of the law in this matter, and yes I think the new act was a mistake.


  95. Not to confuse things – Linda Keen shut down the NRU not MAPLE right?
    If AECL was contractually obligated to finish MAPLE how can they just stop? I dislike socialising cost and privatising profit but it’s a big protest to make.


  96. Keen was president of the CNSC during both decisions. Her dismissal was a bit more complicated than being fired for following the law. She was dismissed for having lost the government’s confidence, because it was clear that she had let the situation get out of control during the NRU fiasco.

    When the Minister responsible stepped in to try and deal with the situation, Keen publicly accused him of interfering. It became very clear very quickly to even her own officials and AECL and independent experts that, in fact, this was not about safety. This was a potential difference in opinion between the two, even CNSC’s director general of nuclear cycle and facilities regulation indicated the reactor was as safe as ever.

    She threatened to take the government to court over this, and also said she was going to file charges of interference, with the Parliamentary Ethics Committee, but I guess she talked to her lawyers, because she never has.



    Peter Lang said:

    16 canisters hold all the used fuel from 32 years of nuclear power generation from the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant. 99% of the available energy in that fuel has not been used yet. The fuel is available for use in the future. Why would anyone want to dispose of it?


  98. Am I correct in thinking that LWR spent fuel has approximately 95% of the original energy content, still unused? I always thought the 99% figure came included DU left over from enrichment?



  99. Scott, correct.

    In rough terms, per gigawatt year one needs about 200 t of natural uranium to deliver 20 t of 4.5% enriched U, of which about 1 t of the LEU is fissioned. So about 99.5% of the energy from the natural U remains, but the once-through used LWR fuel has 19/20 or 95% of its energy content remaining. All in very rough terms — the details of enrichment, burn-up etc. depend of a variety of factors.

    Some details here:
    IFR FaD 3 – the LWR versus IFR fuel cycle


  100. One thing about these figures that may be confusing is a bit of vagueness about how much U-235 is left (or consumed):
    “After a year of operation, the following ‘waste’ results: 18.73 t of uranium (mostly U-238),”.
    When people read that 99% of the energy remains I think people wonder if that means only 1% of the U-235 was fissioned, since the input was also “mostly U-238”.


  101. Mr Abbott said that if “the most urgent task confronting humanity is to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions” the “only realistic way to do that in ways which maintain living standards” was to move to nuclear energy. However, he will not be taking it to the next election.

    He should take it to the electorate. (1) He’ll get Peter Cosgrove on his side; (2) Isn’t it better to take a policy that maintains living standards, rather than taking Lib’s current plan, which they are now admitting doesn’t. [Of course their actual plan is not to reduce living standards, but to not reduce emissions, but they can’t admit that.]


  102. Thanks Finrod. He’s arguing nuclear power is too expensive in the US and therefore no one should be building them, and that loan guarantees are ‘subsidies’. A pretty tired old argument. He also concludes by saying we should build renewables, but completely ignores the cost of this approach. Breathtaking.


  103. Thanks Finrod. He’s arguing nuclear power is too expensive in the US and therefore no one should be building them, and that loan guarantees are ’subsidies’. A pretty tired old argument. He also concludes by saying we should build renewables, but completely ignores the cost of this approach. Breathtaking.

    I’ve left a couple of comments in the comments thread there. It seems I have a jousting partner. I’ll just have to see if he replies to me again.


  104. Dr Hansen, Ziggy Switkowski and Erica Smyth will debate Molly Harriss Olson, Mark
    Diesendorf and Jim Green tonight at Melbourne Town Hall from 6.30pm on whether Australia
    should embrace nuclear power. The Age is a partner for the IQ2 debate.


  105. Pingback: Open Thread 3 « BraveNewClimate

  106. Could someone please give me a link to the comments on the debate between Hansen, Switkowski and Olson versus Mark Diesendorf et al. Several people attended and posted their comments on one of the threads, but which thread was it?


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