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Climate Change Nuclear

Hypocrisies of the antis

I was recently alerted to a brilliant post on the blog WAG. It’s called “Climate of Hypocrisy“. I’ll quote the lead in…

For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him?

-Job 27:8-9

Deniers of climate change like to castigate Al Gore and others for the supposed hypocrisy of preaching the benefits of CO2 reductions while flying on jets, living in big houses, etc. I won’t defend the big house (although Gore did respond to accusations by installing renewable energy onsite), but there’s no problem with jetting around to climate conferences, because those trips result in net CO2 reductions.

But those are technicalities. The real problem with gloating over climate activists’ small specks of hypocrisy is that it ignores the hypocritical planks inherent in the philosophical underpinnings of opposition to CO2 reductions. Here are some ways in which deniers are hypocritical (feel free to add suggestions in the comments):

1. They profess that markets can solve all problems while simultaneously preaching that businesses will never be able to adapt to higher energy prices.

2. They argue that siting problems (e.g. urban heat island) render temperature data useless, while simultaneously arguing that adjusting for those problems constitutes scientific fraud/ fudging the data.

Great concept! Head over to the WAG blog and contribute your own examples — their list is building (43 so far).

This also gave me an idea for a blog post here at BNC — why not do the same to reveal the hypocrisy of the anti-nuclear ‘environmentalists’? (Actually, it was my sister, Marion, who made the connection, and who came up with much of the below, to which I added a few extras. Thanks Mazz).

I’ve been thinking about this yin yang problem for a while. For instance, back in early November 2009 I wrote the following in the Adelaide Advertiser:

…Lazy, recycled objections to the UK nuclear plan come from the usual suspects – Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

I’ve been forced to conclude that these so-called environmental organisations are not actually interested in climate change mitigation or clean energy supply.

Their founding principles are to oppose nuclear technology in all forms. They are immune to arguments based on logic or scientific evidence.

They ignore technological developments that solve the long-lived nuclear waste problem (it is burned as energy in fast spectrum reactors).

They can’t seem to accept the fact that there is enough uranium to provide the whole world with zero-carbon power for millions of years.

All they care about is being anti-nuclear…

Tom Blees has tagged these people ‘environists‘, because they are environmentalists with the ‘mental’ part taken away. I say it’s time high time that their hypocrisy was exposed — in the same way that the hypocrisy of climate change denialists ought to be laid bare — for the good of human society and environmental sustainability. In that spirit, here’s a starting list. Please help me add to it — I might make up a poster of it one day.

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Hypocrisies of the anti- nuclear power/renewables advocates

1. They claim renewables can replace fossil fuels, then can’t see the problem with leaning on fossil fuel gas to back them up when they fail to do so.

2. They claim nuclear can’t load follow, but ignore the fact that renewables can’t supply on-demand. (They also say nuclear can’t load follow, but forget that nuclear submarines… work).

3. They excuse gas for emitting 50% less CO2 than coal when producing electricity, but won’t accept nuclear, which emits 100% less CO2 than coal.

4. They claim we don’t need baseload power, then eagerly promote renewable baseload alternatives e.g., geothermal and solar with heat storage.

5. They argue that nuclear power takes too long to build (France = 38 reactors in ten years, don’t think so), then point to undeveloped, future technologies — like wave power, solar thermal and vastly improved storage systems — as an alternative.

6. They support subsidies for renewables but not for nuclear power. Yet they claim in the same breath that renewables are economic and nuclear is not.

7. They point to nuclear power’s embodied emissions, but ignore the fact that renewables have embodied emissions equal to, or greater than, nuclear power and a track record in the negative for emissions avoided when gas backup is realistically considered.

8. They claim renewables can meet our power needs both now and in the future, then say it can only be done in concert with energy conservation. Which is it? Can they meet our growing energy needs or not?

9. They accept the weight of scientific evidence for climate change, but ignore it when it comes to the safety and effective CO2 abatement of nuclear power.

10. They argue against the environmental impacts of uranium mining, while ignoring the mining for material inputs and industrialisation of vast tracks of often wild and beautiful land that will be required for wind/solar to supply the equivalent energy.

11. They argue that climate change is the biggest threat to humanity in the world today, then by discounting nuclear power’s role in the fight against CC, they imply nuclear power (not weapons – power!) is the bigger threat.

12. They complain that nuclear power uses too much water, but ignore the fact that many renewables use just as much if not much more, e.g. geothermal, hydro.

13. They claim nuclear power is too expensive, but ignore the impossible costs involved in scaling renewables to the point where they can deliver the same amount of power.

14. They argue against the recycling of nuclear waste, but promote it (as they should) as a solution to their own toxic waste.

15. They say that improvements in energy storage will make renewable energy ‘dispatchable’, yet neglect to mention that any advantage it confers to renewables will be equally (if not more) beneficial to nuclear power.

16. They worry about the radiation from nuclear power stations, but not from other more common sources, like the stone/concrete they promote for use in their passive solar houses.

17. They say we can’t manage the long half-lives of nuclear waste (not relevant if we recycle it anyway) but ignore the fact that much of the waste from renewable energy systems, such as arsenic and cadmium, retains its full toxicity forever.

18. They dismiss as unreliable those papers from climate sceptics that have not been peer reviewed, yet are happy to quote nonsense studies like SSL as gospel!

19. They disregard conspiracy theories about statements from the IPCC, NASA, Hadley Centre etc., yet consider economic assessments of nuclear energy from the OECD (and similar agencies) to be biased industry shilling, preferring instead to latch onto gross outliers like the Severance ‘study’. (Incidentally, the Severance study is very much against government subsidies; wind power would collapse in Australia without RECS.)

20. If someone like me comes out supporting nuclear power, then I’m no longer worth listening to because I’ve become an ‘uncritical advocate’, whereas if someone like me comes out promoting solar power I’d be one of those brave and righteous voices supporting a clean energy future.

21. They ignore all information published on the web site of the Nuclear Energy Institute – no matter what the real source, yet often quote statistics and projections into the future from the American Wind Energy Association (Rod Adams).

22. They claim to be very concerned about CO2 emissions and then cheerfully align in political battles with the natural gas industry (Rod Adams).

23. They claim that nuclear is bad because it takes too long and then use the legal system to impose delays and additional levels of reviews (Rod Adams).

24. They claim that wind and solar systems, once installed, will run forever (whereas nuclear reactors apparently have short lifespans), but ignore the track record indicating that weather exposed systems last for a couple of decades at the most (Rod Adams).

25. They claim that wind and solar energy are new, while nuclear is obsolete. That ignores the many millennia of human history of collecting wind and solar energy while also ignoring the fact that at least some of the early pioneers who developed fission ARE STILL ALIVE today (Rod Adams).

26. They claim that nuclear energy, which has already demonstrated its utility in electrical production, ship propulsion and district heating systems will not do much to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but wind turbines, geothermal and solar collectors will create energy independence (Rod Adams).

27. They claim that safe, clean nuclear needs more research, but we should accept renewables that haven’t been proven yet at scale or long-term are the solution. i.e. that one might need research is bad, but that another is getting it means it is good (Tony Wildish).

28. They claim radiation from nuclear is damaging to ecosystems and the environment, but ignore the effect of wind-farms on migrating birds, of solar-farms on desert ecosystems, of bio-fuels on biodiversity, or just of the amount of land that needs to be trashed to put up things that don’t work (Tony Wildish).

29. They complain that NPPs lead to ‘centralisation’ while ignoring the enormous centralised infrastructure which would be needed for any serious attempt to scale up their favoured ‘renewable’ source (Finrod).

30. They claim that the security measures taken for NPP safety would represent a great encroachment on civil liberties, but then advocate implimentation of ’smart grids’ and/or mandatory energy efficiency and conservation programs (Finrod).

31. They highlight resource constraints in the finite supply of uranium (ignoring IFR reactors) that would make nuclear unviable as a long term energy source, yet they disregard the much greater resource constraint in the small amount of Lithium available for Lithium – Ion bateries that would be essential as part of large scale renewable power. (Unless we can find a better way of storing energy, large scale renewable power alone is not a long term solution, because we would run out of battery components long before we would run out of uranium under a nuclear energy scenario) (Scott Elaurant).

32. They claim that no one wants nuclear power in their backyard, but dismiss the fact that no one wants huge wind turbines next to their house (inspired by Frank Kandrnal’s comment).

33. They constantly talk of “the unsolved problem of what to do with nuclear waste”, yet oppose the construction of modern nuclear power plants (such as integral fast reactors) – the ONLY way to get rid of this “waste” (TeeKay).

34. The claim that nuclear energy is slow to construct ignores the size of the contribution. Looked at per MW of average power, nuclear energy build times are much better than wind or solar, even on the inflated timescales that antis offer (Joffan).

35. They point to a limited uranium supply as a constraining factor in nuclear expansion, (further exploration, IFR aside) but ignore the fact that renewable fuel supplies are limited to a much greater extent both by their geographical constraints and/or by their diffuse, intermittent, variable nature (Marion Brook)

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Put your thinking caps on, and let’s build the list together! (and fine-tune on the existing entries). I’ll be sure to acknowledge you (in brackets).

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

157 replies on “Hypocrisies of the antis”

Scott also remarks on the newly formed WA Nuclear Free Alliance, whose contact I see is Jim Green. Go check it out if you feel like lending Jim a helping hand ..

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Kevin Rudd confirmed that nuclear weapons are the most inhumane, indiscriminate and unnecessary weapons ever devised,

This is debatable at best, even allowing that one can scale weapons for their ‘inhumanity’.

Biological weapons are surely at least as nasty as nuclear weapons and potentially could be made a lot more so. Chemical weapons are capable of very long term effects.

I don’t endorse deployment of nuclear weapons, and would like to see them decomissioned as soon as possible, but this kind of hyperbole is unhelpful.

That they were ever used is most regrettable — shameful even. Then again, the real failure surely lies in the flaws in human systems that create a context in which violent conflict at industrial scale seems reasonable to so many people.

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Hi Ewen,

Could you please post a link(s) to the best references you have seen on solar thermal hybrid (especially if they include cost information).

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Here is the real foundation of the Antis motivation, from the FOE website:

“Friends of the Earth has been campaigning for clean energy solutions and against uranium mining and nuclear power for 35 years. With our allies, we’ve been an important part of some great victories such as stopping the Jabiluka mine, limiting the expansion of the uranium industry in Australia and scuttling proposed nuclear waste dumps.
Now we face major challenges with plans under development for at least five new uranium mines. With your support we can repeat past successes and stop the expansion of the dirty and dangerous nuclear industry. Please support the campaign.”

It is all about money. You can get people frightened and they will send money. Even though Boeing is horribly behind in the production of their 787 (Dreamliner) aircraft because of structural problems and other issues, no one would start an anti aviation or a stop Boeing fund raising campaign it would be unpopular and unsuccessful. People just accept that Boeing will in time work out the technical problems and the regulatory agencies would not allow an unsafe aircraft to fly. But, Nuclear Energy like immigration and gay marriage is one of those hot button topics and therefor profitable to be against.

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Click to access 0426s05sol_therm.pdf

The following are short on numbers but include some. The argumentaiton sounds like that used by Stephen Gloor:

http://climateprogress.org/2009/05/13/concentrated-solar-thermal-power-csp-with-storage/

http://climateprogress.org/2009/08/18/hybrid-csp-concentrated-solar-natural-gas-power-plants-provide-power/

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/solar-and-gas-together-at-a-power-plant-near-you/

Solar thermal, by the way, is living up to its claims. The two decades-old solar thermal plants in California’s Mojave Desert “have not missed one hour of peak output in their lifetime,” Morse said. “When Mt. Pinatubo blew ash into the sky, they just burned a little more gas.”

Last year, California experienced six days of peak demand. The solar thermal plants produced at 110 percent capacity at that time. Wind turbines produced a measly 3 percent.

Some numbers on specs on this one below, but again, clear financing details are not in evidence.

http://www.ecoworld.com/energy-fuels/solar-thermal-power-in-india.html

This comment on the coal-CSP interface is interesting …

But the overall efficiency of retrofitted hybrid solar-gas plants is still limited. That’s because a gas steam turbine that has been modified to accommodate waste heat plus solar heat will suffer an efficiency penalty from running at partial load whenever the sun goes down. This is part of the reason why none of the solar-gas hybrid plants under construction rely on solar for more than 15 percent of their power.

This is the Desertec site … surely the one people here most like to quote:

http://www.desertec-australia.org/content/concentratingsolarpower.html

As my last post implied, numbers on everything one would want are hard to come by. Many of the references I had come acorss were quite old — up to 14 years old … I was actually hoping you had better ones.

Wouldn’t it be nice if somewhere there was an accurate $ per Kw Installed chart for the various options, with allowances for grid connection, storage (various kinds) etc?

I’d also like some modelling on recurrent costs. After all, if these installations are going to be on heavily insolated land, one would expect that maintaining them would be costly as environmental conditions would be harsh. There seems also to be an asumption that rapidly ramping up and backing off gas plants would be cost-free to the gas plants, but is this so? Not as I understand it.

Perhaps if there were offsets — e.g. using waste heat to do desal or water treatment that you were going to do anyway with fossil fuels, then the costs might come down a bit, but without hard numbers it’s just impossible to know.

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Ewen Laver,

Thank you for your comments and references. I haven’t looked at your links yet. But your questions made me realise you may have missed my first post at: January 19th, 2010 at 18.22 (it was held in Barry’s pending tray)

The NEEDS report is a 2008 report and does have much of the information you are seeking. However, I beleive the projected costs and development rates are highly optimisitic. And the material quantities and build rates needed in the Australian deserts are not properly accounted for.

You are absolutely correct that actual output and cost figures in commercial operation are not available. Solar is in the early part of the technology development cycle – its in the RD&D stage which is before “bleeding edge” in the Technology Development Life Cycle:

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

From a layman’s perspective, the technological maturity can be broken down into five distinct stages.

Bleeding edge – any technology that shows high potential but hasn’t demonstrated its value or settled down into any kind of consensus. Early adopters may win big, or may be stuck with a white elephant.

Leading edge – a technology that has proven itself in the marketplace but is still new enough that it may be difficult to find knowledgeable personnel to implement or support it.

State of the art – when everyone agrees that a particular technology is the right solution.

Dated – still useful, still sometimes implemented, but a replacement leading edge technology is readily available.

Obsolete – has been superseded by state-of-the-art technology, maintained but no longer implemented.

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The Proceedings of the 2008 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “Scoping Meeting on Renewable Energy Sources” contains the IPCC’s look at renewables :

Click to access proc-renewables-lubeck.pdf

This document reports ongoing research and investment into all renewable energy sources, conducted by Working Group III, and will conclude with a Special Report in December 2010. This report discusses renewable
energy options and issues, in parallel with the IPCC’s other documents leading up to the 5th Assessment Report in 2014.

Not sure how much credibility the IPCC has these days with all this climategate business, but its got some interesting stuff. Of course not everything is in there and there is some obvious bias in some areas. It will be interesting to see the content of the updated Dec 2010 report, but it is certainly worth a read in readiness and for pointers to ref’s.

The ANU Solar page also contains all their pubs as freely downloadable pdf’s :

http://solar.anu.edu.au

Interestingly though I cant find any Solar Thermal papers published after 2007, it is mainly PV pubs. This may change with the recent influx of gov money, $5M last year, although methinks they will need more than that to kick solar research up a notch. Perhaps there is some more in the pipeline.

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Not sure how much credibility the IPCC has these days with all this climategate business …

Nobody outside of the teabagger/birther fringe is taking the ‘climategate’ meme seriously. The whole thing was a red herring contrived for Copenhagen by those opposing mitigation policy.

Pachauri has to go through the motions of course — PR and all that — but it’s a beat-up.

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I generally agree with all these arguments about hypocrisies, but would like to make a correction about natural gas.

Yes, natural gas emits 1/2 the CO2 of coal. BUT it can be burned in a combined cycle generator, such as the GE Model H, with a thermal/electrical conversion of 60%, 2X the efficiency of a coal plant.

So, a natural gas generator emits 1/4 of the CO2 per kWh generated.

Of course, we’ll have peak gas, just like peak oil.

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I don’t think we should burn gas for electrical generation if the nuclear option is available. Currently Australia consumes 954,000 barrels of oil a day, 60% imported. That’s about 47 Mt a year or 954,000b X 159 L/b X 365 X .85kg/L. While some of that goes into plastics not fuel if we wanted to replace that with natural gas we are talking about a comparable weight of gas, allowing for differences in energy density.

High end estimates of Australia’s natural and coal seam gas reserves are up to a billion tonnes or 500 trillion cubic feet. I think for practical purposes that may be an order of magnitude too high due to problems like saline water discharge and the need for enhanced recovery techniques. I believe Australia’s LNG exports are currently around 20 Mtpa which could double once Gorgon and CSG liquefaction get going. Demand for compressed natural gas as transport fuel at home seems likely to go prime time within a decade or when diesel hits $5/L. First trucks and buses then cars and farm tractors. I suggest electric cars will be a urban status symbol, shunned by ‘battlers’.

Therefore I suggest that the transport sector must be given priority of gas supply over stationary generation. We will end up with both expensive transport and expensive electricity if the sectors have to compete. Better to generate as much electricity as possible with nuclear and save gas for transport. Don’t increase LNG exports.

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Ewan
I’m disappointed in your post January 20th at 15.36.
I thought you were an objective type of person, not given to “ad hominem”. You did pull me up for an attack on the “Friends of the Earth” earlier, and I apologise for that.
You said:
“Nobody outside of the teabagger/birther fringe is taking the ‘climategate’ meme seriously. The whole thing was a red herring contrived for Copenhagen by those opposing mitigation policy.
Pachauri has to go through the motions of course — PR and all that — but it’s a beat-up.”

I have read some of them and it seems to me, that even if the e-mails were not proof of fraudulent behaviour, and I believe they were, then they are at least proof of poor scientific practice.

Lord Monckton of Brenchley says the following about these e-mails:

* The Climate Research Unit at East Anglia had profited to the tune of at least $20 million in “research” grants from the Team’s activities.
* The Team had tampered with the complex, bureaucratic processes of the UN’s climate panel, the IPCC, so as to exclude inconvenient scientific results from its four Assessment Reports, and to influence the panel’s conclusions for political rather than scientific reasons.
* The Team had conspired in an attempt to redefine what is and is not peer-reviewed science for the sake of excluding results that did not fit what they and the politicians with whom they were closely linked wanted the UN’s climate panel to report.
* They had tampered with their own data so as to conceal inconsistencies and errors.
* They had emailed one another about using a “trick” for the sake of concealing a “decline” in temperatures in the paleoclimate.
* They had expressed dismay at the fact that, contrary to all of their predictions, global temperatures had not risen in any statistically-significant sense for 15 years, and had been falling for nine years. They had admitted that their inability to explain it was “a travesty”. This internal doubt was in contrast to their public statements that the present decade is the warmest ever, and that “global warming” science is settled.
* They had interfered with the process of peer-review itself by leaning on journals to get their friends rather than independent scientists to review their papers.
* They had successfully leaned on friendly journal editors to reject papers reporting results inconsistent with their political viewpoint.
* They had campaigned for the removal of a learned journal’s editor, solely because he did not share their willingness to debase and corrupt science for political purposes.
* They had mounted a venomous public campaign of disinformation and denigration of their scientific opponents via a website that they had expensively created.
* Contrary to all the rules of open, verifiable science, the Team had committed the criminal offense of conspiracy to conceal and then to destroy computer codes and data that had been legitimately requested by an external researcher who had very good reason to doubt that their “research” was either honest or competent.

I know that many scientists do not agree with the IPCC’s reports and conclusions, even some that were contributors to the science behind them. I can give references if required.
The IPCC is not a scientific organisation, it is a political one.

As a final remark, although I am an “AGW sceptic”, I support wholeheartedly the advancement of nuclear power, as I believe that coal should be kept for use as a valuable store of chemicals for future generations.

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Another one.

They point to a limited uranium supply as a constraining factor in nuclear expansion, (further exploration, IFR aside) but ignore the fact that renewable fuel supplies are limited to a much greater extent both by their geographical constraints and/or by their diffuse, intermittent, variable nature.

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Kevin B

Some questions without notice

1. Would you [include yourself in/exclude yourself from] the teabagger/birther fringe? (Choose one)
2. Would you [include Monckton in/exclude Monckton from] the teabagger/birther fringe? (Choose one)
3. Do you believe that the AGW-based explanation of the 20th and 21st century climate anomaly is the result of some sort of conspiracy or wholesale academic fraud?

Just wondering. Just yes or no will suffice.

For the record, the points you raise have been dealt with here comprehensively debunked on this blog. I don’t propose to participate in a thread hijack. As I understand it, the moderator of this site, Professor Barry Brook, will shortly be debating the curious Mr Monckton.

What has been dubbed the Swifthack scandal at East Anglia (who the criminals were and their motives) is still being investigated. The email contents show that the scientists are human beings who are troubled at the constant assault by intellectual Lilliputians, psychotics and advocates for the interests of polluters.

That’s hardly surprising and no scandal.

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Quiggin seems to be arguing exclusively on the ground that nuclear power is too expensive, relative to other options and that the settled costs can never come down enough to be competitive with coal, barring a very significant carbon price and that at the moment, it’s as expensive as wind and solar.

Quiggin is amongst those who speak of “the baseload myth” his view that much of the power being produced is “artificial” in that demand for it would not exist but for the low price it is offered for. This allows him to write down the costs of redundancy since during the post-dusk off-peak (when solar can’t supply)little power is actually needed.

His past view on this (see the baseload myth) is that baseload of 25% (presumably largely gas) would suffice and that renewables could supply the other 75%.

He relies on Diesendorf 2007 for his analysis so this is the one people who want to challenge him need to have in mind.

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Diesendorf’s paper is so flawed it is laughable. His “key logical steps” are nothing more that a list of unsupported assertions and the rest of it shows a pathetic lack of understanding of how power systems work.

It reminds me of the sort of rubbish one used to find in a science/engineering undergraduate’s private journal, you know the one they kept with all their word-changing ideas. That is before they learned just how little they really knew.

Personally I don’t think we should grant the whole idea any legitimacy by acknowledging its existence. It is so utterly flawed that there is little danger of it ever becoming a foundation for any energy policy. The same cannot be said for some of the other ideas floating about like Smart Grid. We should focus our efforts elsewhere. This piece of nonsense will choke to death on its own premises in due time without any action on our part.

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It is so utterly flawed that there is little danger of it ever becoming a foundation for any energy policy.

That’s true — as you couldn’t run an energy policy that way, but the fantasy possibility is strong enough to hold off serious discussion of viable nuclear options and so support the business as usual position.

Really, it ought to be debunked as misconceived and misleading.

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There are some fights we can win without going into too much technical detail, but others we cannot. Already this idiocy is being called The Baseload Fallacy (note the caps) as if it was already an established thing instead of a conceit.

William James (1842-1910) The father of modern Psychology is quoited as saying: “There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it.” (He seems to have been the first although similar aphorisms have been attributed to Goebbels and Lenin)

It is operative here because to debunk this to those without a minimum technical background will be extremely difficult. We both know the fallback position of those that support it is that baseload is just propaganda, and few will take the time to analyze the arguments. The more we argue it, the more it gets repeated, and the more it will be believed. If we don’t fight it every time it comes up, we don’t provide them with a platform to proselytize it.

Our biggest and most important tool in the fight with renewables is cost. Everyone understands it, everyone thinks it’s important, and we can call them out on it because all of their costings are a tissue of lies that can’t stand up to any sort of scrutiny. In my opinion the bulk of our efforts should be focused on this, because it is the opposition’s weakest flank.

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Ewen Laver,

I’ll give a short answer. Please also look at the section here titled: The fallacy of Dr Mark Diesendorf’s “The Base Load Fallacy”:
https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/13/wind-and-carbon-emissions-peter-lang-responds/

1. We do not have economic energy storage at the scale required.

2. There are occasions when there is negligible wind over large regions, for example all of south eastern Australia.

3. Any wind power system that is required to provide base load power would need to have the full capacity installed in every region so that there is sufficient electricity on the occasions when only that region is generating.

4. Now lets us consider the case where we are drawing 25 GW of power in the Eastern States and only south west Western Australia has significant wind.

5. Assuming a capacity factor of say 50% (while the wind id blowing strongly), we would need 25 GW / 50% = 50 GW of wind capacity.

6. The current average capital cost for wind farms in Australia is $2.6/W. So the cost of $50 GW would be $130 billion. (Just for interest that is higher than the cost of sufficient nuclear capacity to power the whole NEM)

7. But that’s not all. We need transmission to get all the 25 GW of power from WA to Eastern Australia. Assume $0.6 million per MW.km. The transmission line cost from WA would be about: 4,000 km x 25,000 MW x $60,000/MW.km = $60 billion

8. But there’s more. We need the wind generating capacity and the transmission capacity in every region. Let’s assume ten regions would give us a reliable wind energy. The total cost would be 10 x $130 billion + say 10 x $20 billion (because the average transmission line length would be less than to WA) = $1.5 trillion. For comparison, nuclear could supply 25 GW reliably for about $120 billion.

9. So what about the option of using gas for occasional back up to reduce the amount of wind over build and transmission required?

10. The cost of wind power with gas back up, transmission and grid stabilisation is roughly:

a. $2600/kW for Wind capacity
b. $1000/kW for gas capacity
c. $1000/kW for the extra transmissions and grid stabilisation capability
d. $4600/kW total

11. Compare this with a probable settled down cost of nuclear of around $3000/kW.

12. Add to this, the much higher emissions from wind when the gas back up is included, the much greater land area required (even comparing only the wind turbines’ foundation areas and access roads), the greater material quantities required, which means more mining, more land area disturbed, more transport between all the production steps: mining, milling, processing, manufacturing, fabricating, constructing, decommissioning and waste disposal.

Wind power makes no sense. The Diesendorf “Base Load Fallacy” is a fallacy.

See:

https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/13/wind-and-carbon-emissions-peter-lang-responds/

And (for transmission costs):

https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/10/solar-realities-and-transmission-costs-addendum/

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John Newlands and DV82XL

Gentlemen, you both seem to share the view that natural gas should, in the medium term, be reserved for making liquid fuels for the transport sector because making them from CO2 and water would be uncompetitive, almost regardless of energy source used.

I am in no position to challenge this view but wonder whether I could ask you to look at http://www.dotyenergy.com (technology section) and let me know what you think. There are claims that the Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis has been made significantly more efficient such that fuel can be manufactured competitively using wind energy (and presumably also nuclear energy). I have not managed to gather whether there the company is claiming that stranded wind would be OK to produce the hydrogen in the improved electrolysers or whether the power supply would need to be constant/continuous. If the former, perhaps Tom Blees’ suggestion that wind might, after all, have some use should not be as denigrated as it was on the thread to his post on the subject.

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Bluntly Douglas, I have little confidence in the information contained in this sort of website. They simply don’t have any credible backing for their claims, expecting us to take what they say at face value.

Even if they are legitimate, (which is not a given) they are not going to release any proprietary information on their web page, and will make any potential investor sign non-disclosure agreements. Consequently there is no way to evaluate their claims.

In general however I find it somewhat implausible that a small group can beat out the major players fine-tuning a well known processes like Fischer-Tropsch and the Reverse Water Gas Shift, and more importantly, being able to scale it to an economically size.

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DV82XL

Thanks for your quick response which, I must say, didn’t surprise me. I accept that you areone almost certainly correct to be sceptical of the claims. I suppose it is also correct that ,in the unlikely event that the claims were justified, there is no way, at this stage, to validate them because of commercial confidentiality.

One does wonder, at times, the extent to which commercial confidentiality/competition is slowing the roll out of nuclear energy.

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Douglas, one other consideration on these types of projects is that we are talking about a significant piece of industrial infrastructure which we are then proposing to run part-time, either 15% (wind-powered) or 50% (nuclear-powered). Now the costs of such infrastructure – the effort and resources – will be balanced against the effective operation of such a plant. The current equivalent industrial plants are usually run flat out round the clock – how will it be found effective to run these part-time, and especially on doubly-scavenged wind-power (that portion of already-intermittant wind-power which is surplus to grid requirements), with its uncertain scheduling?

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Joffan,

An excellent point. I’m afraid I know so little about the operation of chemical plants that I don’t know which need to run continuously to make profits and which, if any, can make economic sense if run only intermittently. If there are any of the latter, they could be matched with stranded wind as an energy source. If there aren’t, then wind seems to make little sense. Notwithstanding, many more governments appear to be backing/subsidising wind than nuclear.

It would also be instructive to hear your views on suitable/efficient uses of off peak baseload power.
I have read about the virtues of battery charging and desalination in this regard. May I take it, therefore, that desalination can be a 12h/day process and still make sense? Does it also apply to electrolytic hydrogen production?

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Douglas Wise I’m no chemist but I have been regularly brewing up 50-100L batches of biodiesel since 2005. I think the key to synfuels is getting the cost of hydrogen down and hoping the carbon side of things pays for itself in some sense. Synthetic (Sabatier) methane at 40 MJ/kg is energy dense. We may be able to get hydrogen at say $3/kg. Based on relative atomic weights in CH4 of carbon 12 to hydrogen 4 we could combine 3kg of hopefully near free carbon with that 1 kg of hydrogen to get 4 kgs of fuel, averaging 75c per kg. That could be equivalent to 65c for a litre of petrol which allows a good margin for inefficiencies or further conversion to methanol or dimethyl ether. So on paper the numbers look doable but the practicalities may not work out.

I think research should establish least costs of
1) combining H2 with waste CO2
2) producing H2 via wind and solar
then combine the two. Doty’s claims will then be confirmed or disproved.

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Have you noticed how we are all getting very excited about electric cars? Of course they will only make sense in an economic AND CO2 ABATEMENT way ,IF we can charge their batteries off peak. Gee I wonder which sort of powerplant would be perfect for that purpose??
(Also then the Euros could stop lighting up their freeways at night to virtual daylight intensity in order to provide baseload for nukeplants , but that’s another story)

Don’t know if you can use that argument in your list barry and Marion , but feel free .

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Douglas,

In Sydney, the Desal plant is claimed to be powered by wind from Capital windfarm. A quick look at the AEMO data for Capital windfarm will show such claims are false / misleading.

This data can be obtained from here :

http://www.landscapeguardians.org.au/data/aemo/

or

http://windfarmperformance.info/

or if you want to wade through the AEMO data directly :

http://www.aemo.com.au/data/csv.html#nsgendata

On the day the Capital was opened by Kevin Rudd et al it was running at 2MW, the Desal requires 40MW (continuous).

You can examine the Desal agreements here ->

http://www.sydneywater.com.au/Water4Life/Desalination/overalldocumentation.cfm

Basically there is a clause in the agreements so they buy Renewable Energy Certificates or GHG abatement certificates for when Capital is not operating at 40MW or above. Based on the AEMO data of Capital’s performance, Sydney Desal would be doing this a lot. It cannot work by the windfarm powering the Desal directly, otherwise you only get water when the wind is blowing. Also note the 3 times overbuild required for the REC’s i.e. Capital is a 132MW wind farm. There is also the distance, Capital windfarm is in Bungendore on the ACT border. If they had built the windfarm at the Desal plant they would have needed a huge land area, and because of the number of people living nearby there would have a been a massive number of objections to the 67 wind turbines.

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I think that may have been a lightbulb moment for the PM when he opened the Bungendore wind farm on a day it was becalmed. After 12 months of simultaneous operation the number of Mwh used by Kurnell and the number of Mwh supplied by Bungendore should be compared. If by chance the numbers are comparable then an estimate needs to be made of how much additional CO2 was needed to keep Kurnell in continuous operation vs CO2 displaced when Bungendore was going full tilt. Note the Greens now want a minimum CO2 price of $20.

I’ll even write a headline for the tabloids ‘Greenwash – wind farms do not offset desal carbon power use’.

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I recommend setting the CO2 emission costs high enough so that coal burning is more expensive than natgas burning (of course using lifetime total costs).

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John,

Include in your tabloid piece :

For Bungendore the Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)and embodied energy payback have not been worked out at all. Capital needs to run for the payback period first before it can even be considered to be supplying electricity to Desal, to offset the emissions for its construction / operation / decommissioning. This point seems to have been missed in the documents & press trumpeting.

Reports from the locals say that a number of the turbines are not working, and at least 6 have had to have the gearboxes replaced. There are also reports of transformer problems at both turbines and substations. If you look at the data you can see this quite clearly. Also there are people suffering from noise problems.

All of these (including the noise issue) will affect the LCA. A detailed LCA for Capital/Bungendore I have yet to see. Simply quoting manufacturers and other limited studies is misleading. All those studies contain many caveats & a detailed LCA for the “complete project” is necessary to obtain the correct payback figure. This has still not happened. Until such a detailed study takes place any embodied energy payback figure is pure speculation / spin / greenwashing.

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John,

Also any figure for a full LCA will need to include the embodied energy in the construction / operation / decom of the Desal plant itself.

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Also meant to add :

It is not clear at all whether the LCA / embodied energy payback time is included in the REC allocation. I would be grateful if someone could give me a heads up on that. If this time is not allocated, then it means that REC’s are generated as soon as a windfarm or whatever (e.g. solar panels) goes online. Which would mean that any emissions reductions are over estimated.

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Bryen I searched REC on the DCC website. For starters REC can mean Renewable Energy Certificate which I presume is a brownie point towards the 2020 MRET. It can also mean Renewable Energy Credit which I presume is an offset that can be sold to an emitter to get off the hook. I also see weird stuff about solar credit multipliers. Can the ETS be ready to hit the ground running in just 5 months time? That’s assuming the legislation will be passed.

I have this feeling that having failed to start 1/7/09 the teething problems will be too vexatious for a 1/7/10 start. That’s partly because nobody understands the FUBAR legislation.

Re wind power offsetting desals I wouldn’t worry about LCA just yet over say a 20 year time period. When Kurnell officially opens later this year I think we should just analyse its energy use from that date. Sydney Water are adamant in their PR that the Bungendore wind farm completely offsets their energy use. In that case they won’t mind careful scrutiny or benchmarking against other desals in case a few porkies slip through.

I remember a time when we trusted government announcements. Now we have to check everything.

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They constantly talk of “the unsolved problem of what to do with nuclear waste”, yet oppose the construction of modern nuclear power plants (integral fast reactors) – the ONLY way to get rid of this “waste”.

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The hypocrisy here is astounding and endemic. Once more folk are insisting on one way or the highway to the detriment of all. Yes, we need nuclear, but we also need wind and solar and efficiency, and even natural gas, all as replacements for coal and petroleum as energy sources. AND we need whatever we can get to produce energy NOW, not five years from now or later. Greenhouse gases are an accumulating problem

The circular firing squad is every popular.

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Eli Rabett – do you have anything except your own ill-considered opinion to back up what you are asserting?

We have discussed at length why wind and solar are not going to meet a fraction of our energy needs and that without contributing any reliable capacity, they will nonetheless make nuclear, by far our most practical and reliable form of zero carbon energy, less profitable.

Existing plants will be caught in a trap and new construction will be discouraged entirely. Already the British Nuclear Group is complaining that it can’t build any new reactors if they have to compete against subsidized wind farms. Anti-nuclear activists are turning handsprings, claiming joyously that wind is finally replacing nuclear. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, nothing will be replacing existing capacity–namely, the coal burning plants that are one of the largest sources of carbon emissions–as demand increases in years ahead. That means carbon emissions won’t be meaningfully reduced, since coal plants will have to stay on line to provide backup.

It would be best if you showed us the consideration of reading what has been discussed, on this very thread, before extending your views on the subject.

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Douglas, I too know very little about the economics of chemical plants beyond the fact that they are fiendishly expensive and they make economic sense to run continuously.

Off-peak power (surplus to baseload, since we are already using that!) might well make sense for desalination, especially in conjunction with some solar heating for the day phase.

If EVs do become common, “smart” overnight charging will be a great way to level electrical demand, with suitable pricing. I could even imagine batteries using strategic algorithms to charge as cheaply as possible for a given full-charrge deadline… :-) probably just a techie’s dream.

More interestingly on batteries, clearly any easily-deployable energy storage system that could smooth and spread the unpredictable inputs of wind and solar will even more directly benefit nuclear power, using predictable off-peak nuclear power to respond to daytime peaks.

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Making mortar (or at least concrete) releases a lot of CO2. The point is that the problem is cumulative, so things done NOW which CAN be done now considerably reduce what will have to be done later. Thus, it makes sense to deploy efficiency, gas, biofuel, wind and solar right now. They probably won’t do the whole job, but they will have significant, although fractional effects. Some of the these are no to low cost and they make the most sense.

Eli has always said that nuclear will have to play an important role, but, as a nuclear engineer told him a few years ago, “Yeah, pebble bed reactors are great, but no one knows how to make the pebbles.” which is Jim Green’s point. OTOH, we do know how to make pretty good standard vanilla systems (see France and Japan for examples and look at the improvement on the up time for the US ones).

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Eli Rabett – You are making statements that are not backed up by anything except your opinion. Just saying wind and solar can contribute does not make it so, you have to back it up with some analysis. Many on this site have, and found these modes wanting, when not actually contributing to the CO2 problem.

If you want to argue otherwise, you need to bring some supporting evidence to the table.

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Nos Lapre, Sydney Australia.

Why use all those technical jargons and claims, that AGW sceptics all work for the big oil-/auto- and power-companies etc. , but use simple, common-sense. I am now 76 years of age and I have heard many, many doomsday predictions in my life and sofar nothing has happened! The pseudo-scientists from the Left have since the late 1940’s predicted, that those “horrible bombs” on Hiroshima and Nagaski would render those cities uninhabitable for many thousands of years and there were huge demonstrations everywhere in the West until the 1970″s. Alas for those activists, only 26 years after the bombs were dropped, the American occupying forces with the help of Japanese labour, managed to clean up, rebuild and repopulate those 2 cities, with the result, that they have now more, than double to original populations, are healthy, prosperous and visited by tens of millions of tourists from all over the world! No demonstrations anymore, but the silence from those doomsayers was and is, deafening! As survivors from the brutal Japanese occupation in the former Dutch East Indies, all our families, together with billions of people around the globe, were all too happy, that because of those 2 bombs, the Japanese had to surrender and millions of lives were saved, because of the shortened duration of that terrible war. Doomsayers also managed to stop the use of DDT, with which I myself and all my family and millions of people in the 1940’s/early 1950’s were treated to eradicate our head-lice and get rid of many insects and I am still alive and kicking, while the abolishment of DDT has sofar caused the death of 100 million of innocent people in the 3rd world countries and each year 3 million more are killed by malaria and thypoid (mostly little babies and children). I even see a parallel between environmental doomsay and the communist ideology, when Marx and Lenin warned the working-class of the world, that only by following their manifesto, could they exist. The result: more, than 100 million lives were lost and are still being lost at the present. It is a worrying phenomenon, that so many millions of people are so easily conned into fanatically following demagogues with very slick tongues (especially when they were trained as lawyers). We are not sheep and should learn how to use common sense. Also worrying is, that doomsayers do not like open debate on national or international t.v. and insist, that their word is the bible and that there is consensus among all scientists! And they have a knack to call everybody, who does not follow them, working for those big, polluting companies, even while all my dozens of friends and relatives and I, have never worked for any of those!
And is it not true, that the new fangled “alternative power-industry”, is now worth some one trillion dollars and growing?
And do not those ugly, metal wind-turbine monsters, pollute the air, when being manufactured at great cost in electricity and infra-structure, that needs the building of access-roads (ruining the habitat of ground-dwelling birds and other animals), maintenance etc. etc. Plus the horrible killings of tens of thousands of migrating birds (many are endangered species)!
Doomsayers: please grow up!

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A really interesting and useful blog|! My own experience with a local activist drumming up opposition to a new plant near me in the UK is shown in his reply to my mail….
‘Like you believe I am wrong, I believe and know that nuclear is wrong!’.
Because he ‘knows’ he is beyond science and beyond reason and therefore we waste our time trying to argue with him directly.
I think the thoughts here should be put into ordinary folks language and be pushed out to the general public through every channel possible to counter the purely religious fervour of the antis. How can we get this into the british tabloid press??? Do we have our own PR experts??

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David C,
Please check Why Patrick Moore, founding chair of Greenpeace quit that organisation.He’s actively promoting nuclear power and so is James Lovelock for that matter. And Jim Green, check why Bishop Hugh Montiefore was sacked from the board of FoE.
Thanks everyone for a stimulating conversation. Ewen, in the light of what has been coming out around the world, are you still absolutely certain about AGW. Apparently Jones reckons the science is not in

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Please check Why Patrick Moore, founding chair of Greenpeace quit that organisation.

There’s no such possition asd “founding chair” in Greenpeace and Patrick Moore was not a founder member, though scandalously, he allows others to claim this on his behalf without contradicting them. He didn’t quit as much as he was asked to leave when he became involved in endorsing development for personal profit, tainting Greenpeace.

He was and is very close to fishing, forest and other anti-environmental interests so Greenpeace is well rid of him.

Ewen, in the light of what has been coming out around the world, are you still absolutely certain about AGW.

Absolutely. The most reliable data recently to emerge simply affirms what previous analysis has revealed, though here and there, it seemsd that some IPCC estimate may have been optimistic.

Apparently Jones reckons the science is not in.

That’s one of the sillier claims by the proponents of b-a-u, as you would surely know if you’d troubled to pay attention.

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Ewen, you obviously know the truth about Bishop Hugh Montiefore and his sacking from FoE. Although I wanted Jim Green to comment, perhaps you could enlighten us with the truth. You are obviously the fount of ALL wisdom on this AGW etc issue. I await your expose of Montiefore.

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THORIUM–try a nuclear power plant powered by thorium rather than uranium. It solves most (maybe all) of the objections of the antis.

As an ex soft-core anti, I sugget that the main objections revolve around the disposal of waste–it will take 100,000 years or so to decay–and the hazards of the plant malfunctioning–witness Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. For all the inefficiencies and difficulties of renewables and oil, their risks are on a much smaller scale.

But thorium solves it! It should appeal to both sides of the debate. Google it; you’ll find lots of cool websites. It’s made a convert of me.

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mary:

if you read the entries in this blog, you will find people up on thorium, and you will find much material to calm your fears about the 100,000 years (and other writers who will try and scare you shitless).

the radiation we have to worry about is the radiation with a shorter half life, and radiation that has a significant “body burden.” (you can have the former without the latter but the latter normally implies the former).

CANDU reactors in canada emit seemingly huge quantities of curies legally and safely (I think CANDU reactor Bruce B is allowed 60 million curies of tritium annually though it emits a fraction of this amount). Other substances that emit this amount would be lethal if you happened to be in the same room with it–cobalt 60 for example, since it emits hi energy gamma rays, not tritium’s low energy beta rays.

Tritium thus carries a low body burden, as do radioactive inert (they’re inert, thus don’t react with your body) gases sometimes vented by power plants. Iodine 131, on the other hand, is readily absorbed by the body and has a short half life.

Fears over radiation are often completely irrational, or at least based on lack of information. the consequences are huge, like shutting down perfectly clean energy sources for no reason (see rod adams blog on vermont yankee).

I am an english/philosophy professor who knew little about nuclear power before I started perching here. stick around and you will learn a lot.

Graham, if I’ve said anything in error about radiation, please correct me.

gm

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6 months late to the debate (great list, and site, by the way, thanks).

So on to more hypocrisies:
They happily promote biomass-burning powerplants (at least here in Finland) to replace nuclear power, when there are still lots of coal/peat-powered plants pumping fossil CO2 to the atmosphere.

They also forget to mention that biomass has other uses (like biodiesel to replace oil or timber for building-materials), is harvested and transported (and therefore subsidied) with oil and that growing biomass will reduce biodiversity due to landuse. Of course they also demand that there should be more natural forests that are not use for industrial sector. (which I support, to an extent)

And they rarely remember to mention that according to a recent study, small particles kill around 2000 people in Finland every year (even though there is lots of other sources for these, like diesel-powered cars and forest fires). What would be the outcry if Nuclear killed even 1 person a month?

Given that Finland is not totally deforested and has only 5+ million inhabitants, biomass is actually of some use here and has a sizable portion of the energy-production.

Rauli @ http://kaikenhuippu.wordpress.com (blog in finnish)

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