Nuclear safeguards and Australian uranium export policy

Guest Post by Dr Jim Green. Jim is the National nuclear campaigner for Friends of the Earth, Australia.

Thanks to Barry Brook for the opportunity to contribute a post on the topic of nuclear safeguards.

Why should nuclear power proponents involve themselves in advocacy to strengthen the safeguards system? Perhaps the strongest argument is that public concern about weapons proliferation shapes as a significant constraint on the expansion of nuclear power. Here are some relevant considerations:

— Opinion polls repeatedly demonstrate a high level of public concern about WMD proliferation and national governments routinely cite WMD non-proliferation as a top-shelf national priority.

— Daily media reports about the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran reinforce public concerns about the links between the peaceful atom and WMD proliferation.

— A 2005 survey of 1000 Australians found that 56% believe that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections are not effective while barely half as many (29%) believe they are effective (1).

— A 2008 survey of 1200 Australians found 2:1 opposition to uranium exports to nuclear weapons states (2).

— The US National Intelligence Council argued in a 2008 report that:

The spread of nuclear technologies and expertise is generating concerns about the potential emergence of new nuclear weapon states and the acquisition of nuclear materials by terrorist groups.

The Council also warned of the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and noted that a number of states in the region…

are already thinking about developing or acquiring nuclear technology useful for development of nuclear weaponry. (3)

Nuclear power advocates who accept the need to strengthen safeguards can act individually by making submissions to relevant government inquiries, writing to government ministers, writing letters to newspapers, etc. Better still, a loose coalition of nuclear power advocates could be established to work on safeguards and related issues. It would also be welcome if the Science Council for Global Initiatives and other such organisations would take up these issues (Ed: we are, see here).

Safeguards – a snapshot and some modest proposals

The IAEA is responsible for the international safeguards system. Visits to nuclear facilities by IAEA inspectors are the cornerstone of the system. At best it is an audit system involving periodic inspections of some nuclear facilities. At worst, IAEA safeguards are tokenistic (e.g. in China) or non-existent (Russia). In addition to physical inspections, other safeguards measures such as 24/7 live video monitoring have been introduced but only at a small number of facilities. For more information on the safeguards system – and protracted efforts to strengthen it – see the ‘further reading’ section below.

Recently-retired IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei has summed up the problems with his observations that the IAEA’s basic rights of inspection are “fairly limited”, that the safeguards system suffers from “vulnerabilities”, that efforts to improve the system have been “half-hearted” and that the safeguards system operates on a “shoestring budget … comparable to a local police department”. South Australian Premier Mike Rann succinctly explained the problem in 1982:

Again and again it has been demonstrated here and overseas that when problems over safeguards prove difficult, commercial considerations will come first.

Readers interested in and concerned about safeguards could consider the following, modest proposals as a starting-point for your new career as a part-time safeguards activist!

1. The IAEA safeguards department is seriously underfunded (4). The problem is widely acknowledged yet it persists year after year, decade after decade. Perhaps the Australian government could be persuaded to kick in some more money and also to pursue this issue seriously in international fora.

2. Basing the IAEA safeguards system on periodic audits seems inadequate. Perhaps a minimum requirement ought to be that all nuclear facilities of any proliferation significance have a couple of IAEA inspectors permanently stationed on-site. Nuclear facilities typically employ hundreds of people so the additional costs associated with that proposal should not be prohibitive. Alternatively, permanent on-site inspectors or 24/7 live video monitoring might be set down as a minimum requirement.

3. All nuclear facilities processing Australian-Obligated Nuclear Materials (AONM – primarily uranium and its by-products) ought to be subject to IAEA inspections (i.e. the IAEA ought to have the authority to carry out inspections of those facilities). At the moment, it is a general rule that all facilities processing AONM must be subject to IAEA inspections but exceptions are made for the flimsiest of reasons.

4. Important information about safeguards is kept secret by the Australian government and there is a compelling case for greater transparency. Examples of unwarranted secrecy include the refusal to publicly release: country-by-country information on the separation and stockpiling of Australian-obligated plutonium; Administrative Arrangements, which contain important information about safeguards arrangements; information on nuclear accounting discrepancies; and the quantities of AONM held in each country.

5. Something needs to be done about the stockpiling of ever-growing amounts of plutonium as plutonium separation at reprocessing plants continually exceeds its limited uptake in fast spectrum reactors and MOX-fuelled reactors. The problem could easily be addressed by suspending or reducing the rate of reprocessing such that stockpiles of separated plutonium are drawn down rather than continuing to expand. Failing that, one modest reform would be for the Australian government to revert to the previous policy of requiring permission to separate Australian-obligated plutonium on a case-by-case basis rather than providing open-ended permission.

6. A credible safeguards regime for Australian uranium exports depends on having a credible safeguards agency. Sadly, the federal government’s Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) is anything but. For example, during the 2008 Joint Standing Committee on Treaties inquiry into the Howard-Putin uranium export agreement, ASNO conspicuously failed to inform the Committee that there has not been a single IAEA safeguards inspection in Russia since 2001 and instead misled the Committee with the indefensible claim that (non-existent) safeguards would “ensure” peaceful use of AONM in Russia. (Obviously the weapons genie is out of the bottle in Russia but there are other reasons for concern such as the frequency of nuclear theft and smuggling.) A detailed EnergyScience Coalition critique of ASNO concludes with a call for an independent inquiry (5) and the Australian Uranium Association has also called for an inquiry into the role and resourcing of ASNO (6). Changes are in train at ASNO with the imminent departure of its head and deputy-head. Now is an ideal opportunity to bring about much-needed reform so readers might consider writing to foreign minister Stephen Smith calling for an inquiry and for reform of ASNO.

If you want to argue for more radical reforms than those listed above, by all means go ahead! In his book ‘Prescription for the Planet‘, Tom Blees argues that:

Privatized nuclear power should be outlawed worldwide, with complete international control of not only the entire fuel cycle but also the engineering, construction, and operation of all nuclear power plants. Only in this way will safety and proliferation issues be satisfactorily dealt with. Anything short of that opens up a Pandora’s box of inevitable problems.

He also argues that:

The shadowy threat of nuclear proliferation and terrorism virtually requires us to either internationalize or ban nuclear power.

Blees also argues for a radical strengthening of safeguards including the establishment of a strike-force on full standby to attend promptly to any detected attempts to misuse nuclear facilities or to divert nuclear materials.

References:

(1) IAEA, 2005, ‘Global Public Opinion on Nuclear Issues and the IAEA – Final Report from 18 Countries’

(2) Australian Conservation Foundation, November 2008 media release

(3) US National Intelligence Council, 2008, “Global Trends 2025 – a Transformed World”

(4) See for example Mohamed El Baradei, 2009, ‘Intervention on Budget at IAEA Board of Governors’

(5) EnergyScience Coalition, ‘Who’s Watching the Nuclear Watchdog?’, briefing paper #19

(6) See p.12 of the AUA’s submission #45 to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties

Further reading on safeguards:

* IAEA: <www.iaea.org/OurWork/SV/Safeguards/index.html>

* Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office <www.asno.dfat.gov.au>

* Medical Association for Prevention of War <www.mapw.org.au/nuclear-chain/safeguards>

* Friends of the Earth safeguards section: <www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/oz/u/safeguards>

* Medical Association for the Prevention of War and Australian Conservation Foundation, 2006, “An Illusion of Protection: The Unavoidable Limitations of Safeguards”, <www.mapw.org.au/download/illusion-protection-acf-mapw-2006>

* Non-Proliferation Policy Education Centre, 2008, “Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom”, <www.npec-web.org>.

* Nuclear Power Joint Fact Finding Dialogue,  June 2007, <www.keystone.org/spp/energy/electricity/nuclear-power-dialogue>

Information on the interconnections between civil and military nuclear technologies and programs:

* See the country case studies and other literature posted at: <www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/nfc/power-weapons>; <http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Nwfaq/Nfaq7.html>; <http://isis-online.org/nuclear-weapons-programs>.

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104 Comments

  1. There is an ambiguity in Jim Green’s post. Green states, “Something needs to be done about the stockpiling of ever-growing amounts of plutonium as plutonium separation at reprocessing plants continually exceeds its limited uptake in fast spectrum reactors and MOX-fuelled reactors.” I agree that something should be done, simply because the plutonium represents an opportunity that should not be passed up, but Green fails to explain the urgency of the situation. Why does Green think that something needs to be done? Does Green believe that that the stockpiled Reactor Grade Plutonium represents a Weapons proliferation threat, and if so why. Nuclear arms control expert Alexander DeVolpi has argued citing nuclear weapons designer Carson Marks, that RGP is not weaponizable. Thus RGP stockpiling does not constitute in itself a proliferation threat. Plutonium is scarcely the only or even the most dangerous material that is stockpiled, Compared to Plutonium, tobacco represents a far larger threat to human health and well being, so why is Green so worried about plutonium?

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  2. First, it is great to have Jim Green here to argue his points, “officially” that is. Welcome.

    Secondly, Jim, you need to redo the map a smudge: Bangladesh is not a nuclear capable country. I suspect you are using a VERY old map that has Bangladesh as the former pre-1972 “East Pakistan”.

    Thirdly, Canada should and Australia should probably be included as countries that ‘considered’ or ‘participated’ in developing nuclear weapons *at some point*.

    Fourthly, just to spice it up a bit…Japan *could* build a nuclear weapon within a year “or so they say”. No doubt Germany could as well. Speculative.

    More on the content later.

    D. Walters

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  3. Direct quotes from J. Carson Mark, Director of the Theoretical Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, 1947-1972:
    * Reactor-grade plutonium with any level of irradiation is a potentially explosive material.
    * The difficulties of developing an effective design of the most straightforward type are not appreciably greater with reactor-grade plutonium than those that have to be met for the use of reactor-grade plutonium.
    * The hazards of handling reactor-grade plutonium, though somewhat greater than those associated with weapons-grade plutonium, are of the same type, and can be met by applying the same precautions.
    * This, at least, would be the case when fabricating only a modest number of devices. For a project requiring an assembly line type of operation, more provisions for remote handling procedures for some stages of the work might be required than would be necessary for handling weapons-grade material or for handling a limited number of items.
    * The need for safeguards to protect against the diversion and misuse of separated plutonium applies essentially equally to all grades of plutonium.
    http://www.ccnr.org/Findings_plute.html#cm

    And to respond to Barry’s brief editorial comment, which refers to a Science Council page on IFRs, this quote from George Stanford highlights the ongoing importance of safeguards: “IF NOT SAFEGUARDED, they could do [with IFRs] what they could do with any other reactor – operate it on a special cycle to produce good quality weapons material.” (my emphasis)
    http://www.thesciencecouncil.com/index.php/george-stanford/36-integral-fast-reactors-source-of-safe-abundant-non-polluting-fuel

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  4. hi David

    For a better map try this:
    http://isis-online.org/nuclear-weapons-programs

    And for a better list, including summaries:
    http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Nwfaq/Nfaq7.html

    And from a FoE paper: A list of countries where peaceful and WMD programs were entwined: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, and Yugoslavia. Other countries which could be included in the list (but are not discussed in this paper*) include Norway, Sweden, and Syria.
    * Case Studies: Civil Nuclear Programs and Nuclear Weapons Proliferation
    http://www.foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/nfc/power-weapons

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  5. DW, the choice of graphics was mine (as is the case for most guest posts).

    JG: The primary reason RGP is a poor weapons material is that it will cause the Pu implosion to ping prematurely, causing a low-yield fissle as the sphere gets blown back outwards before it has time to fully compress. There are other reasons, of course, such as heat dissipation and radiation exposure of bomb makers/maintainers.

    Care to clarify what FoE means by ‘entwined’?

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  6. Thanks for clarifying.

    Jim…on the Friends of the Earth link, the case for the development of nuclear weapons from commerical nuclear power is very, very weak. The focus, correctly, on most of the papers tends to be around research reactors. For example, how does Spain’s 9 or 10 reactors lead to “proliferation”? Or Canada’s?

    What we see, historically, is that there is no ‘organic’ relationship between commercial reactor projects and WND even if there is a front end tie in with U235 enrichment. WMD has, and continues to be produced in R&D reactors or larger military reactor of which the MAGNOX and RMBK reactors were originally conceived for but no longer provide weapon grade Pu.

    For me this all misses the point anyway: that it is a question of politics and policy, not ‘if they build it it will create WMD’ sort of inevitability. As Charles Barton is fond of saying, the ‘cat is out of the bag’ and countries that want nuclear WMD will get it, regardless of the existence of a civilian commercial program…as was the case with India, Pakistan, SA, Israel and so on.

    The question therefore is how address proliferation *directly* by changing policy and not arguing that countries should get rid of their carbon-free nuclear energy or not development it because it will “lead to proliferation”. It is such a specious, Western liberal argument to make otherwise that will always fall on deaf ears. We need a kind of massive CND campaign, internationally, that completely cuts the issues of nuclear weapons from nuclear energy.

    Respectively,
    D. Walters

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  7. Jim, I have discussed the difference between a device and a weapon on Nuclear Green and the energy collective. RGP is somewhat explosive, but typically produces far smaller explosions that Weapons Grade Plutonium. Furthermore radiations from RGP makes it far more difficult to work with than WGP, and the heat and radiation produced by by RGP will rapidly degrade high explosives and electronic parts required for the functioning of a nuclear weapon. Finally if explosive effects are desired, a similar effect to the explosion of a RGP nuclear device can be accomplished with a high explosives device that would pose far fewer technological difficulties, would cost far less, and would be far less likely to be detected. No nation has ever built a nuclear weapon using RGP, and Carson Marks had good reasons for never recommenced that the United States do so.

    You simply cannot make the case that the simple existence of rGP stockpiles will lead to nuclear proliferation.

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  8. Frankly, point #5 feels specious. Specifically:

    “Something needs to be done about the stockpiling of ever-growing amounts of plutonium as plutonium separation at reprocessing plants continually exceeds its limited uptake in fast spectrum reactors and MOX-fuelled reactors. The problem could easily be addressed by suspending or reducing the rate of reprocessing such that stockpiles of separated plutonium are drawn down rather than continuing to expand.”

    Or, we could expand the use of MOX fuel in reactors to accelerate the burnup of existing Pu stockpiles and reduce demand for raw uranium. I am left to conclude that given FoE’s rather hostile stance toward nuclear power in general, this point is brought up not as one of outward concern as it is to sabotage efforts to close the nuclear fuel cycle and hence obviating one of the major objections to an expansion of nuclear power.

    Calling for a slowdown of reprocessing quite clearly has a negative impact upon waste management issues, something that I hardly believe FoE is unaware of. One could also suggest limiting the rate of dismantlement of weapons stockpiles, hence reducing the throughput of Pu stockpiles to be downblended – a position I would disagree with, but one almost as ludicrous.

    Furthermore, while proliferation is a genuine matter of concern for Pu stockpiles, I would argue as one who actually works on the problem of evaluating proliferation in facilities that industrialized nation Pu stockpiles are hardly the largest threat, compared to other matters such as diversion attempts by non-weapons states – which is why we seek to control the spread of sensitive technologies such as enrichment and reprocessing.

    Finally, as for this point:

    “Nuclear power advocates who accept the need to strengthen safeguards can act individually by making submissions to relevant government inquiries, writing to government ministers, writing letters to newspapers, etc. Better still, a loose coalition of nuclear power advocates could be established to work on safeguards and related issues”

    I would suggest that the author avail himself to the numerous organizations devoted to this very purpose, including such organizations as the Institute for Nuclear Materials Management, non-proliferation / safeguards chapters of professional nuclear societies (such as the American Nuclear Society), etc. Even a cursory search would reveal that they exist and in fact are quite active on many of the topics he lists.

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  9. “Perhaps the strongest argument is that public concern about weapons proliferation shapes as a significant constraint on the expansion of nuclear power”

    Maybe that’s an argument for strengthening public education about nuclear power and its capabilities, rather than for strengthening the constraints themselves?

    Even if that is considered an argument for preventing expansion of nuclear power elsewhere (wherever ‘elsewhere’ is for you!), is it really an argument to prevent expansion of nuclear power ‘at home’? Over half of Americans favour building more nuclear power plants, for example (http://www.publicagenda.org/pages/energy2009-finding2#chart4), so why aren’t they doing it?

    I see time and time again that FoE and other ‘green’ groups refer to coal and nuclear in the same sentence, as though they were two halves of the same thing. I find it difficult to trust someone who uses that level of spin. If Jim really wants to open this discussion, let’s hear what criteria FoE would accept before they would promote an expansion of nuclear, as part of the climate-solution, instead of denigrating it. I’m sure that would be enlightening.

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  10. Thanks to Jim for the post. I welcome the constructive, sensible dialog on these issues.

    “Reactor-grade plutonium with any level of irradiation is a potentially explosive material.”

    A nuclear explosive can potentially be made from reactor-grade plutonium, but doing so would require considerable experience in the practical issues involved with designing, assembling and testing nuclear weapons. It is plausible for an established nuclear weapons state to do so – it is not realistic for a nation to “enter the nuclear weapons club” using reactor-grade plutonium.

    For an established nuclear weapons state with the base of experience in designing nuclear weapons well, assembling nuclear weapons, manufacturing and handling the appropriate materials, and testing the weapons, they have a choice of either using RGPu or using weapons-grade plutonium manufactured specifically for that purpose… and of course none of the nuclear weapons states ever actually builds weapons from RGPu even if they could technically do so, since it is so undesirable, relatively difficult to handle and inefficient for that purpose.

    “Daily media reports about the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran reinforce public concerns about the links between the peaceful atom and WMD proliferation.”

    Does that mean that there really are concerns about links between the “peaceful atom” and nuclear weapons proliferation on a technical level… or does that simply mean that public concerns develop where they’re largely unfounded, due to the questionable effectiveness of daily media reports in communicating a good public understanding of technical political and scientific issues?

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  11. Barry:
    — regarding the list of 15-20 countries where peaceful and WMD programs were ‘entwined’, usually i say that is a list of countries where peaceful nuclear facilities have been used for weapons research or (in a few cases) full-scale weapons production. But better to use a more general term like ‘entwined’ to account for cases like Australia where several steps were deliberately taken to bring Australia closer to a weapons capability under cover of peaceful nuclear development, but those steps couldn’t neatly or accurately be described as weapons research, for example the planned Jervis Bay power reactor which definitely had a weapons agenda as John Gorton later acknowledged.
    — the list does not include countries where peaceful nuclear development lowered the technical barriers and lead-time for weapons if that was nothing other than an inadvertent and unavoidable consequence of the peaceful program.

    David
    — you ask how do Spain’s 9 or 10 reactors lead to “proliferation”? I didn’t state or imply that Spain’s reactors do lead to proliferation and didn’t include Spain in the list of 15-20 countries.
    — There is a long history of nuclear power facilitating nuclear weapons programs. The direct use of nuclear power reactors to produce nuclear materials for weapons is by far the smaller part of the problem and has been limited to a few examples. The larger part of the problem is real or feigned interest in nuclear power providing a rationale for the acquisition of enrichment plants, reprocessing plants AND RESEARCH REACTORS as well as a rationale for the development of cadres of nuclear scientists and engineers whose skills can be put to use in weapons programs. Keeping that in mind, half to three-quarters of those 15-20 countries illustrate the connections between power and weapons in one way or another.
    — To give one example, Iraq clearly illustrates links between power and weapons even though power reactors have never been built in Iraq let alone used to produced fissile material for weapons. According to Khidhir Hamza, a senior nuclear scientist involved in Iraq’s weapons program: “In 1973, we decided to acquire a 40-megawatt research reactor, a fuel manufacturing plant, and nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, ALL UNDER COVER OF ACQUIRING THE EXPERTISE NEEDED TO EVENTUALLY BUILD AND OPERATE NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS and produce and recycle nuclear fuel. Our hidden agenda was to clandestinely develop the expertise and infrastructure needed to produce weapon-grade plutonium.” (my emphasis)
    — To give another example, Yugoslavia pursued weapons from 1974-87 under cover of a power program. There were 11 project components including design of a plutonium production reactor (referred to as an experimental research reactor), uranium metal production, development of an expanded plutonium reprocessing capability, design and construction of a zero power fast breeder test reactor, and heavy water production.
    — There are numerous other examples illustrating the connection between power and weapons.

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  12. Jim, you must think that would be proliferators are going to stupidly spend large amounts of money on a civilian nuclear power program when they can develop nuclear weapons programs for far less without a civilian nuclear program. South Africa developed its bargain basement weapons program before it had civilian nuclear power. North Korea had no civilian nuclear power program, but developed a weapons program using a very small reactor. Pakistan had no civilian nuclear program before it developed nuclear weapons. Clearly then would be proliferators do not need civilian nuclear power programs to develop nuclear weapons. and may well regard civilian nuclear programs as expensive and unneeded luxuries.

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  13. Charles – in all the countries you mention, and some that i’ve mentioned, real or feigned interest in nuclear power provided the rationale to pursue a raft of weapons-related projects – or at least a major part of the rationale. You seem to be deliberately missing the point.

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  14. Jim, The sort of safeguards which you advocate will not and cannot prevent nuclear proliferation. In the three cases I have mentioned, South Africa, North Korea, and Pakistan, your safeguards would not have prevented their development of nuclear weapons, so what good are they. the case of Pakistan, a nation which arch proliferator A.Q Khan observed, “could not make sewing needles, good bicycles or even ordinary durable metalled roads . . .” yet was able to develop a nuclear weapons program.

    You do not appear to have a very good grasp of what the proliferation problem is. You don’t understand the actors in proliferation, their motives, or what their resources might be.

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  15. David Walters,


    Secondly, Jim, you need to redo the map a smudge: Bangladesh is not a nuclear capable country. I suspect you are using a VERY old map that has Bangladesh as the former pre-1972 “East Pakistan”.

    No the map is correct. You have your geography wrong. The parts east of India which are colored belong to India – states like Assam and Manipur – not Bangladesh.

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  16. Charles: Illicit diversion (theft). Keep in mind that I agree with your contention that RGP is an inferior choice of materials for a weapon, and that in general a plutonium-based weapon would require significantly more sophisticated talent than say, a simple HEU weapon.

    My point is that someone who is interested in simply constructing a crude device (i.e., a subnational actor who would steal the material) with little regard to its total yield (i.e., to simply instill terror, rather than accomplishing maximum destruction) might consider such stockpiles an attractive target for theft (although obviously, the above disclaimer in the unsuitability still applies) – and thus common sense seems to indicate that such materials should be considered “sensitive.” But as far as any proliferation attempts by a national actor goes, one will observe that it is rarely through the RGPu stockpile approach; rather, it has been through other dedicated means of other, dedicated means of subverting safeguards – or in several cases, outside of the NPT framework entirely.

    One thing that I think is forgotten by the original author’s post is that the IAEA only has authority over NPT signatory states – with no penalty for withdrawal. India and Pakistan never signed the NPT, and DPRK withdrew – IAEA inspectors had no grounds to act in any of these cases.

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  17. The countries that really matter (for the most part) in addressing climate change have nuclear weapons, or could develop them very quickly — US, Western Europe, China, India.

    So, the argument is that because a few countries have tried to use development of nuclear power as a smokescreen for a weapons program, means we should deny the rest of the world (non-nuclear states) the benefits of nuclear power. Who really thinks that is practical or desirable?

    Weapons proliferation needs to be addressed, but it is a separate issue from nuclear power development whether or not it is used as a ‘smokescreen’.

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  18. Nuclear proliferation is an empty issue. Afterall Pakistan has them and is yet to fire them at India. Proliferation is only an issue for countries like US who want to wage war with impunity.

    The so called threat of terrorists getting hold of nukes is just a political ploy of neocons to terrorize the citizens into voting for them. Currently terrorists find it difficult to make an underware bomb go off.

    Instead of addressing real issues like Israel-Palestine conflict, why are we trying to put the genie back in the bottle ?

    ps : If you really want to know how someone with such little scientific / industrial infrastructure like Pakistan got hold of nukes – I can give you a hint. China.

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  19. Interesting issues in both post and comments. I’m interested in Jim’s thoughts on an analogous issue. Chemical and biological weapons are (to me) at least as scary as nuclear weapons … probably more so in the case of the latter. Why aren’t FOE and others as implacably opposed to civilian chemical and biological industries in the same way as they are to civilian nuclear power?

    Similarly, given the recent swine flu pandemic … and the tiny genetic difference between a “normal” pandemic and one which can kill 100 million people, I would have thought that closing down intensive piggeries would be on everybody’s agenda also … its certainly on mine :)

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  20. Steve Skutnik, Considering the far greater costs, technical difficulties, and danger of detection, the choice to develop even a crude RGP nuclear weapon, would be irrational, and indeed actors who might attempt it, are likely to not accomplish their goals. Our concerns should be more directed to the non-nuclear alternatives, as 9/11 has taught us. You do not ned the head aches created by attempts to fashion crud RGP nuclear weapons to destroy huge buildings and kill thousands of people. The real problem is not RGP.

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  21. I think Jim’s points in some way are sort of valid but only historically. That nations will seek civilian nuclear energy is simply happening right now. So then the question is, and the only legitimate one, is over how to stop proliferation seeing as nuclear energy IS here to stay. If this is how it is poised, we can deal with this.

    So then the question really is proliferation in general, not how it’s ‘tied to nuclear energy’.

    The only approach is, again, a political one: we have to make it *domestically* acceptable not to proliferate. that means respect for national sovereignty, No. 1.

    Secondly, we have to start with world wide nuclear *disarmament* and NOT to accept continued maintenance of nuclear weapons by those nuclear weapons states that already have them; encourage “Megatons-to-Megawatts” programs world wide. This means enforcing that part of the NPT that *mandates* this but people conveniently forget when the they dump on Iran and other countries.

    Thirdly, massive reprocessing and recycling of plutonium and spent nuclear fuel to *reduce* inventories of SNF/Pu from civilian sources.

    Continue to increase security on SNF and better regulation of research reactors.

    Lastly, *encourage* the building of new nuclear plants, research-to-deployment of LFTR and IFR, etc so countries actually have a *stake* in development, not destruction.

    DW

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  22. David is quite correct. The best nuclear disarmament, and anti-proloferation tool would be a rapid and large scale deployment of Generation IV breeders. Nations would be virtually forced to feed their weapons grade nuclear materials into the breeders, in order to feed their start up.

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  23. Are we all agreed that:
    1. It’s important to have a rigorous safeguards system.
    2. The current safeguards system falls short of the mark.
    3. Getting from 2 to 1 requires concerted action from individuals, NGOs etc … both pros and antis.

    For those who do agree with those points, it would be great to have some discussion on the most effective course of action that we (individuals, NGOs, pros, antis) can take.

    Jim

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  24. Jim,

    I do not see what you are advocating is a priority. I see it as a very low priority. If we do a risk assessment, and a return on investment analysis, we find increased funds on proliferation a very low order priority for our funds.

    FoE would do a lot more good for mankind if it got on with promoting nuclear energy and promoting how we can reduce the costs – ie basically by removing all the unnecessary impediments to nuclear energy that are making it far higher cost than it should be, given that nuclear is already 10 to 100 times safer than the only economic alternatives (fossil fuels).

    Why waste money on greater proliferation resistance when there are so many far more beneficial ways to use our limited funds?

    We’d get better bang for our buck by setting up a safeguards system for land mines and implementing gun control.

    We’d also reduce the risk of warfare much more by banning oil. Why didn’t youaddress this issue (I raised in an earlier post addressed to you?

    If FoE really wanted a solution, it would advocate Australia leasing its uranium and taking back the once-used fuel.

    Jim, I suspect you are simply raising anything anti-nuclear you can to continue the 40 year old anti-nuclear scare campaigns of the 1970’s led by the likes of Helen Caldicott.

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  25. Jim Green, on January 25th, 2010 at 13.01 asked:

    Are we all agreed that:
    1. It’s important to have a rigorous safeguards system.
    2. The current safeguards system falls short of the mark.
    3. Getting from 2 to 1 requires concerted action from individuals, NGOs etc … both pros and antis.

    I dare not speak for anyone else, but I’d agree, subject only to one caveat on (3) … which is that the antis refrain from mixing up proliferation resistance with their broader claims against a role for nuclear power.

    It seems to me that the antis may find proposing effective action quite hard. Peter Lang is surely right when he says that secure stewardship over radioactive hazmat is a key strategy, and that to make that work such hazmat should be stored where it is safest from misappropriation — and a place such as Australia would be ideal. Moreover, if countries who were outside NNPT were offered the chance (subject to random inspections and willingness to lease fuel rods from compliant countries and return them) to have nuclear power, this would be a big step forward –a carrot and rod approach. We really ought to be encouraging India and other countries to adopt either thorium or IFR technology.

    Don’t you agree?

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  26. The problem with Green’s points is that they are built on a belief that safeguards are effective, and that NGO’s can have any impact on the situation. Historically the only thing that has ever stopped a nation from pursuing a nuclear weapons program has been military force, threatened, or applied. The few examples where it would seem otherwise, like the case of Brazil and the Argentine, the decision to halt work was decided by mutual agreement before international inspection was called for.

    Implied in his argument is that nonproliferation credibility through safeguards will dissuade countries from seeking nuclear weapons. However, there are a number of reasons countries seek nuclear weapons that are unlikely to be countered: nuclear weapons are superb deterrents; nuclear weapons are seen by elites as key to their survival; (Iran, North Korea) the competitive international system is unlikely to disappear soon, which will cause declining states (to assert their importance), rising states (fearing the response of declining states), and fragile states (that face an uncertain security environment) to have an interest in acquiring nuclear weapons. In other words, it is simplistic in the extreme to assert that proliferation is a technical problem, that will yield to technical solutions.

    The problem is that the behavior of states is guided not only by normative considerations about fairness, hypocrisy and the like; it is also animated, and in many cases dominated, by security and economic interests. No country has ever proceeded with a nuclear weapons program, just because it was able to. There has to be a really strong perceived need for this capability, that when present is enough to carry the task through as much international pressure as can be applied short of military.

    As well a state may oppose a safeguards system on principle because it is unfair, and it does not follow that this state would necessarily support the obligation if the unfairness were remedied. That’s because taking on new nonproliferation obligations is not costless. Budgets and time are finite for all governments, and officials must spend scarce resources—time and money—formulating, evaluating, and negotiating the content of a proposed obligation. Then they have to implement it, which could entail a new set of costs, such as adjustment costs and a potential loss of sovereignty. In short, a state may continue to oppose a nonproliferation measure on the grounds that it will not produce a net security, economic, or prestige benefit.

    I have written this several times before, but it stands repeating: even if the question of supplying weapon-grade fissile material is removed, it still requires a sizable technological infrastructure and the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars to make a weapon. The costs of a more ambitious program aimed at producing a militarily significant number of weapons can easily run into the billions of dollars, and the idea that such a project could be carried out by surreptitiously stripping power reactors of their fuel belongs in pulp novels, not in any rational discussion of the issue.

    The terrorist threat from reactor-grade plutonium has been greatly exaggerated by the argument that what is theoretically possible to do can be done by subnational groups. The size of the effort would be staggering, require experts in several fields, and skills and support equipment that simply could not be brought together without the resources of a state. Even then the task is full of places where things can go wrong (and likely will.)

    Too consider the fact that the first nuclear weapons were. by to-days standards, simple, crude devices – they were also the size of a compact car and were crew-served. Small nuclear weapons are extremely sophisticated devices, that were only made by the two most advanced nuclear weapon states on the planet. These are far beyond the grasp of any subnational group.

    The only thing that extra safeguards will accomplish is to drive up the cost of nuclear energy, and that is the only reason people like Green and FoE are ‘concerned’ with it. They are depending on public ignorance of the real risks to use security as a stick to beat nuclear over the head with, while not giving a tinker’s damn about the real solutions to proliferation, which are diplomatic and military.

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  27. “From the point of view of someone concerned about arms control, is any enrichment facility suspect?”
    C. Paul Robinson: “Oh, of course”.
    – Physicist C. Paul Robinson, former director of Sandia National Laboratories, also led nuclear weapons programs at Los Alamos and served as a U.S. arms control negotiator in the late 1980s. (On Line News Hour, May 27, 2005.)

    Furthermore, has there been discussion about the cold, hard fact that all military nuclear facilities are EXEMPT from the safeguards system? Even the US-India deal permits India to retain 8 reactors EXCLUSIVELY for military use.

    If you oppose WMD’s (100/23,300 of which also risks a sudden climate change) you should oppose all aspects on the nuclear fuel chain.

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  28. That’s not quite true Adam, although it does bring up the connection between proliferation and disarmament which is not given enough consideration in this debate.

    The bottom line however is how does preventing Australia, for example, from operating an enrichment facility, stop say Bolivia from starting a nuclear weapons program, should they feel the need to mount one.

    Please don’t answer that somehow it gives the moral high ground to those that want to stop Bolivia, because in a world where several nations have arrogated themselves the right to maintain a nuclear arsenal, such an argument is laughable.

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  29. Are we all agreed that:
    1. It’s important to have a rigorous safeguards system.
    2. The current safeguards system falls short of the mark.
    3. Getting from 2 to 1 requires concerted action from individuals, NGOs etc … both pros and antis. – Jim Green

    Nuclear non-proliferation has a number of functions, including the preservation of the cold war balance of power. There were flaws in the original nuclear military order, several potential great powers were left out of it, the most conspicuous example being India. During the Cild War era, India had fought a war with a nuclear power, China, and felt disadvantaged as the result In addition, a second neighbor of India neighbor, Pakistan had a nuclear weapons program. It is quite clear that the Indian nuclear weapons program was a response to the nuclear weapons and the nuclear weapons development program was meant primarily to prevent nuclear armed neighbors from using nuclear weapons against it in the event of wars.

    The question is, was the Indian subversion of the Cold War Nuclear order a bad thing, or did its subversion of that order produce relatively benign results, that did not make nuclear war more likely?

    My problem with Jim’s who approach is that it reduces what are really complex problems, to simplistic dichotomies between right and wrong. In doing so, Jim unintentionally supports the military hegemony of the United States. I must ask if a world order in which five nations are accorded great power status, is desirable, and if one of the two potential economic power houses of the 21st century should be deprived of great power status.?

    Jim’s problem is that he wants to be a good person, and all good people are opposed to nuclear war. Jim’s whole approach is to make them behave. Jim is a philosophical Manichaen, who believes that the world is made up of light and dark, good and evil. Jim ignores the shades of gray. Jim seems to assume that all good people agree with the make them behave approach. My response to people like Jim is “lots of luck.”

    I would very much like for nuclear wars to be prevented, but I have serious doubts that the sort of proliferation control which Jim advocates, can prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

    A different, and probably more effective approach to nuclear disarmament would be to offer incentives for great powers and others interested in possessing nuclear weapons, to sacrifice their weaponizable stocks of U-235 and Pu-239 in the struggle against AGW. In addition the stockpiles of RGP which Jim worries about, can be used in that fight as well. This is what both LFTR and IFR backers advocate.

    The problem for Jim is that at least in theory nuclear LFTRs and IFRs can produce weaponizable material, U-233, Np-237 and Pu-239. This is true, and there is probably no possible non-proliferation order which can infallibly prevent nuclear proliferation in the event of the construction of LFTRs and IFRs. But then there is no international order which can infallibly prevent proliferation in the event than all reactors in the world are shut down.

    Indeed, It seems unlikely that building IFRs and LFTRs would increase the likelihood of nuclear proliferation, while it is far from clear that shutting down all reactors, world wide, would measurable reduce proliferation risks.

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  30. Jim, I repeat what I’ve said previously, and I second David Walters, its great to have you posting here.

    You quote from J. Carson Mark’s article, “Explosive Properties of Reactor-Grade Plutonium” in support of the idea that RGP presents a proliferation threat. You also cite George Stanford on the potential for IFRs to produce weapons grade material.

    George Stanford has in fact quite thoroughly critiqued Carson Mark’s article, and claims, in a paper with Gerald Marsh, “Bombs, Reprocessing, and Reactor Grade Plutonium”. This paper, and others on the topic from Stanford, give a much clearer picture of his view on proliferation risks associated with reactors than the single quote you offer.

    You cite Carson Mark: “Reactor-grade plutonium with any level of irradiation is a potentially explosive material.”

    This is, strictly speaking, correct. But because of the presence of higher actinides in RGP, these will be ‘fizzle’ explosions, as Barry described above. Carson Mark based his calculations on the construction of a Trinity style device. The fizzle yield for such a device is of the order of 100 tons to about 1 kiloton.

    To give that number some context, the Oklahoma City bombing is estimated to have been about 2.3 kiloton.

    Are we really going to allow our only prospect of a serious response to climate change, a disaster that threatens our entire biosphere, every existing human culture, the future of all our children, and every terrestrial and marine ecosystem, to be held hostage on the basis that, in the most improbable alignment of circumstances a malefactor might be able to do nearly as much damage as some redneck with a pickup truck full of fertilizer?

    Stanford writes, “This is also why reactor- grade plutonium must be safeguarded—it’s possible get an explosion with the stuff. Fortunately, the technical hurdles are daunting.” (Italics are Stanford’s.) The tone of this statement is a clearer indication of his view of the risks, and he goes on to describe those daunting hurdles in some detail.

    For instance, you cite Carson Mark: “The difficulties of developing an effective design of the most straightforward type are not appreciably greater with reactor-grade plutonium than those that have to be met for the use of reactor-grade plutonium.”

    This is not the case – it ignores details of implementation that are very hard to solve in practice. For instance, the heat problem. In Carson Mark’s analysis, the plutonium is going to be sitting at a temperature of almost 200 degrees centigrade. Thats really hot! Much hotter than weapons grade plutonium, which has only about 8% the heat output of reactor grade plutonium. CMOS electronics and chemical explosives just do not live very long at that temperature. But Carson Mark does some “hand waving” (Stanford’s term) to estimate that a bar of thermally conductive aluminium could remove that heat. This is almost risible – Stanford comments:

    “We intentionally use the term “hand-waving” because incorporating aluminum fins in the high explosive without interfering with the implosion process is non-trivial—well beyond the capabilities of a terrorist group. Even making an implosive assembly with no thermal intrusions is no simple task. .. Terrorist “explosive experts” can use semtex and other explosives to make bombs, but that does not mean they would have anywhere near the expertise to duplicate the Manhattan Project’s result in their proverbial basement, let alone incorporate non-perturbing thermal bridges.”

    These arguments apply to RGP. Thats all you’ll get out of an IFR. Stanford’s comment, “they could do [with IFRs] what they could do with any other reactor – operate it on a special cycle to produce good quality weapons material” is correct, but only if you add full reprocessing capability, which is simply not part of the IFR fuel cycle. The point of the IFR is that without a separate reprocessing and enrichment facility, you can’t move beyond the scenarios described above.

    Producing weapons grade plutonium from an IFR requires nation state capability and resources, and we are once again into the area of proliferation risk and capability where civilian power programmes are largely irrelevant, and military considerations and diplomacy are the determinants, as DV8XL has described above.

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  31. One other thing that seems to get lost in this debate, it the difference between an explosive nuclear device, and a nuclear weapon. The latter being yet another difficult and expensive step from the former.

    A weapon has several extra requirements that a simple device does not. First it must be deliverable, which places limits on its size, and depending on the mode of transport, it robustness. The last being especially important because for an explosion to occur, several things have to happen, and they all have to happen in a row.

    A weapon has to be reliable. If used as a deterrent, or as a last ditch defense against invasion, an unreliable weapon is worse by several orders of magnitude than no weapon at all. Furthermore it has to be seen as reliable by any and all potential enemies. Ultimately this factor in and of itself will preclude the use of RGP simply because there is no guarantee of performance, and that fact is well known.

    Nuclear weapons have to be maintained. They all have a limited shelf-life, and thus need constant maintenance and support. This means an ongoing expense that has to be added to the cost of the weapon over and above its initial fabrication.

    That’s why focusing on the one aspect of the process, the acquisition of weapon-grade fissile material, is silly. Any nation that embarks on the nuclear weapons path, is committing itself to a large infrastructure in which production of fissile material is just one part.

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  32. Jim Green asks, “Why should nuclear power proponents involve themselves in advocacy to strengthen the safeguards?”

    The answer from nuclear advocates have offered Jim is that they believe that the nuclear proliferation safeguards Jim suggests offers protection from a nuclear bogeyman, not a historically and technologically realistic proliferation threat. Jim as I have already stated is a Manichean. who sees the world in black and white, without shades of gray. Such a perspective leads to a very unsophisticated view of the proliferation problems that has been shown to failed to produce the sort of nuclear weapons/nuclear proliferations controls that Green says he wants. Rather than analyzed the source of this failure, Green offers more of the same, that is a scheme of stricter proliferation controls. Jim’s solutions are further compromised by a failure to analyze the motives and choices of proliferation various actors, .and to ask in the case of historical examples of nuclear proliferation, “why did this proliferation, and what, if anything, could have been done to prevent nuclear proliferation in those cases.” Until we have a better grasp of proliferation prevention options that might have worked in those historic cases, we cannot begin to hope that any proliferation prevention measures would have worked better than the present measures. Jim will not acknowedge this this because nuclear proliferation is one of the cudgels he uses to fight against nuclear power. Jim does not want a sophisticated understanding to of the nuclear proliferation problem. We wants a emotion laden simplistic argument to use against nuclear power. Jim hates nuclear power, because he is a Manichean, and something in his world has to embody an all black evil.

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  33. Jim, my two cents on this:

    1. It’s important to have a rigorous safeguards system.
    2. The current safeguards system falls short of the mark.
    3. Getting from 2 to 1 requires concerted action from individuals, NGOs etc … both pros and antis. – Jim Green

    Of course I don’t know anyone who actually disagrees with pt 1 above. But pt 1 and pt 2 suggest that no such rigorousness exists. I don’t agree. The mere fact that only states have attempted to engage in serious WMD programs shows that it clearly does work.

    DW

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  34. I agree with the last post. I would also humbly suggest that the three points, presented as a straightforward consensus-building exercise using “basic” premises “we can all agree on,” are really nothing more than a restatement of FoE’s basic position. That is, the three points incorporate FoE’s worldview in their terms and formulation.

    How, for example, do we define “rigorous” in the first place? And what evidence is there that the existing safeguards system is not rigorous? How do we measure a “failure to be rigorous”? By the advent of a mushroom cloud, such as pictured in the article? Or the detonation of a “dirty bomb”? What are the criteria, and do these criteria reflect the level of risk? Or do the criteria reflect something else, a perspective provided by other “stakeholders”?

    What assurances can opponents provide with respect to how they define the terms? Were the criteria for determining “rigorousness” influenced by political preferences, at the expense of a healthier balance of viewpoints?

    I made a post on the open thread mentioning an incident where I live involving a runaway train tanker carrying chlorine. I cited a university study that concluded that one such tanker was capable of quickly killing upwards of 90,000 people in the “worst case scenario.” And yet, who knows how many thousands of such tankers have passed through the heavily populated center of town over the years?

    To my knowledge, not a single environmental or public safety advocacy group mounted a campaign against dangerous shipments of chlorine in response to this or any similar incident. But we have several environmental and public safety advocates who, tomorrow, will be amassing in outraged, hyperventilating droves to voice their objections to the Yucca Mountain Project, as the NRC convenes to discuss the current licensing proceedings.

    Am I not right to suspect a kind of ideological fixation on the part of these opponents, as opposed to a rational evaluation of relative risks? What evidence have they given me that their position is in any way objective or balanced? Why should I even accept the criteria they use in formulating their arguments if they don’t grasp the basic lesson of the chlorine tanker?

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  35. Hi, I’m just a layman, but I’ve studied a bit on power generation during my Engineering course. Let me, however, comment on the proposals Mr. Green makes.

    1. The IAEA safeguards department is seriously underfunded (4). The problem is widely acknowledged yet it persists year after year, decade after decade. Perhaps the Australian government could be persuaded to kick in some more money and also to pursue this issue seriously in international fora.

    I agree; this is, however, a question of engaging the diplomatic corps (Australian in Mr. Green’s case, Brazilian in mine) to have the UN increase the IAEA inspection budget. However, for them (the national diplomatic corps) to do that they would need to be convinced that such an agenda would be beneficial to the country as a whole.

    The simplest way for this to happen would be to actually scale up the amount of electrical energy generated by Nuclear power. As the amount of nuclear sites increases, so would the governments be interested in keeping a close eye on the fission products thereof.

    2. Basing the IAEA safeguards system on periodic audits seems inadequate. Perhaps a minimum requirement ought to be that all nuclear facilities of any proliferation significance have a couple of IAEA inspectors permanently stationed on-site. Nuclear facilities typically employ hundreds of people so the additional costs associated with that proposal should not be prohibitive. Alternatively, permanent on-site inspectors or 24/7 live video monitoring might be set down as a minimum requirement.

    I actually stand behind the presence of a small IAEA staff on civilian nuclear reactors; possibly even paid by the reactors’ owner companies, if the presence of permanent inspectors could help reduce costs in red-tape involved with setting up or operating the nuclear plants. Regardless, the plans for increasing the effectiveness of IAEA oversight must NECESSARILY be coupled with efforts to make that same oversight cheaper on the reactors, such that it may be perceived as an actual benefit instead of a simple bureaucratic hurdle.

    3. All nuclear facilities processing Australian-Obligated Nuclear Materials (AONM – primarily uranium and its by-products) ought to be subject to IAEA inspections (i.e. the IAEA ought to have the authority to carry out inspections of those facilities). At the moment, it is a general rule that all facilities processing AONM must be subject to IAEA inspections but exceptions are made for the flimsiest of reasons.

    This is something the government of Australia could get behind if the diplomats could be persuaded that nuclear nonproliferation should be a priority — see my response to point 1.

    4. Important information about safeguards is kept secret by the Australian government and there is a compelling case for greater transparency. Examples of unwarranted secrecy include the refusal to publicly release: country-by-country information on the separation and stockpiling of Australian-obligated plutonium; Administrative Arrangements, which contain important information about safeguards arrangements; information on nuclear accounting discrepancies; and the quantities of AONM held in each country.

    I’m not sure why AONM is shipped overseas; can somebody explain that to me? At first glance, this should be a no-brainer: develop the handling infrastructure within Australia so that AONM don’t have to be exported in the first place. There is obviously something I’m missing; what is it?

    5. Something needs to be done about the stockpiling of ever-growing amounts of plutonium as plutonium separation at reprocessing plants continually exceeds its limited uptake in fast spectrum reactors and MOX-fuelled reactors. The problem could easily be addressed by suspending or reducing the rate of reprocessing such that stockpiles of separated plutonium are drawn down rather than continuing to expand. Failing that, one modest reform would be for the Australian government to revert to the previous policy of requiring permission to separate Australian-obligated plutonium on a case-by-case basis rather than providing open-ended permission.

    That one is a no-brainer: if the demand for reprocessing Plutonium exceeds the supply of reprocessing services in MOX or fast-spectrum reactors, the immediate response is: create more fast-spectrum or MOX reactors such that all plutonium can be processed. Perhaps the government can set up a series of reactors to do that: it can probably waive most bureaucratic requirements for itself and increase the supply more quickly than any private interest could.

    6. A credible safeguards regime for Australian uranium exports depends on having a credible safeguards agency. Sadly, the federal government’s Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) is anything but. For example, during the 2008 Joint Standing Committee on Treaties inquiry into the Howard-Putin uranium export agreement, ASNO conspicuously failed to inform the Committee that there has not been a single IAEA safeguards inspection in Russia since 2001 and instead misled the Committee with the indefensible claim that (non-existent) safeguards would “ensure” peaceful use of AONM in Russia. (Obviously the weapons genie is out of the bottle in Russia but there are other reasons for concern such as the frequency of nuclear theft and smuggling.) A detailed EnergyScience Coalition critique of ASNO concludes with a call for an independent inquiry (5) and the Australian Uranium Association has also called for an inquiry into the role and resourcing of ASNO (6). Changes are in train at ASNO with the imminent departure of its head and deputy-head. Now is an ideal opportunity to bring about much-needed reform so readers might consider writing to foreign minister Stephen Smith calling for an inquiry and for reform of ASNO.

    The simplest way I can think for Australian fissionables not be misused in Russia is for it to be well-used in Australia. Again, development of Uranium and Plutonium sinks (NPPs) could make ASNO obsolete.

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  36. John

    I don’t think you’d find much to disagree with in the FoE paper on RGP
    foe.org.au/anti-nuclear/issues/nfc/power-weapons/rgpu
    It is more circumspect than the Carson Mark quote I used. I posted the Carson Mark quote because Charles implied in the first post on this thread that Carson Mark believes RGP is not weaponizable.

    Think through Pu stockpiling in a simple risk-benefit framework. There is no benefit. Growing stockpiles of separared Pu with very limited current uptake in FBR and MOX. No need and negligible current demand for reprocessed uranium. The downside is that the proliferation resistance of spent fuel is lost, and the bigger downside is the precedent it sets. If Japan can stockpile absurd amounts of separated Pu, why not South Korea or Taiwan or any other country? If stockpiling absurd amounts of RGP, then why not stockpile weapon grade Pu.

    However small you consider those downsides to be, they must trump the benefits because there are zero benefits. And there’s a simple solution – suspend or reduce the rate of reprocessing.

    For nuclear power proponents to argue that existing safeguards are adequate – and to do nothing to strengthen safeguards – is playing into antis hands. I’d much prefer that proponents get involved in safeguards advocacy. You’ll be more effective advocates than antis. It will strengthen your credibility in public debates. And if that facilitates nuclear power expansion, so be it – antis can console ourselves in the knowledge that at least the safeguards system is more rigorous. Give us a really rigorous safeguards system and more and more antis will become fence-sitters or proponents.

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  37. Think through Pu stockpiling in a simple risk-benefit framework. There is no benefit. Growing stockpiles of separared Pu with very limited current uptake in FBR and MOX. No need and negligible current demand for reprocessed uranium. The downside is that the proliferation resistance of spent fuel is lost, and the bigger downside is the precedent it sets. If Japan can stockpile absurd amounts of separated Pu, why not South Korea or Taiwan or any other country? If stockpiling absurd amounts of RGP, then why not stockpile weapon grade Pu.

    The key word here being ‘current’. No one is talking about stockpiling RGP for no purpose whatsoever. It would be done to support advanced fuel cycles. If you want to be absolutely sure no Pu is weaponised, burn it in a power reactor. Also, I don’t see the casual leap you’ve made between stockpiling reactor grade Pu and the stockpiling of weapons grade Pu as credible. If anyone did this it would be for very specific reasons. No-one is going to go to the trouble of bringing either plutonium or uranium up to weapons grade just for the hell of it. Any bid to develop nuclear weapons would be tied to the geopolitical/strategic situation of the state in question, and it is in that sphere effective resolutions would need to take place.

    However small you consider those downsides to be, they must trump the benefits because there are zero benefits. And there’s a simple solution – suspend or reduce the rate of reprocessing.

    Reprocessiing is essential to ensuring adequate fuel supplies for our civilisation into the deep future. Your claim of zero benefits makes no sense from an economic or an environmental point of view.

    For nuclear power proponents to argue that existing safeguards are adequate – and to do nothing to strengthen safeguards – is playing into antis hands. I’d much prefer that proponents get involved in safeguards advocacy. You’ll be more effective advocates than antis. It will strengthen your credibility in public debates. And if that facilitates nuclear power expansion, so be it – antis can console ourselves in the knowledge that at least the safeguards system is more rigorous. Give us a really rigorous safeguards system and more and more antis will become fence-sitters or proponents.

    Quite the opposite, Dr. Green. Banging on about proliferation safeguards will play into the hands of anti-nukes such as yourself. Claiming that current safeguards are inadequate, mis-stating the risks of the fuel cycle, drawing the public debate away from the concrete benefits of nuclear power and into a tangle of technicalities surrounding proliferation concerns, completely ignoring the actual weapons development pathways states have chosen in the real world… this is playing into the hands of the anti-nukes. I discern the truth of the matter to be the complete opposite of what you assert.

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  38. I find it curiouser and curiouser that Dr. Green returns to hammering the point of ceasing spent fuel reprocessing as the ONLY means of reducing the (heretofore debated) proliferation risk of RGPu stockpiles, even after being confronted with the alternative possibilities of encouraging the increased adoption of MOX fuel and other means of more quickly depleting existing stockpiles.

    Neither too is the point about the adverse impact halting reprocessing would have upon waste storage as well as demand for fresh fuel. One would think that an ostensibly environmentalist organization would readily embrace technologies which both reduce the need for raw uranium as well as spent fuel storage. Instead, Dr. Green blithely ignores these points and continues to insist solely upon ceasing reprocessing as the ONLY alternative, as if increasing consumption of RGPu stockpiles were not an option.

    Why is it, I must ask, why this is the only option Dr. Green acknowledges, given its negative impact on other, more tangible matters of the environment, given that other alternatives also clearly exist?

    Increasing the consumption of MOX fuel in reactors as well as accelerating commercialization of fast spectrum technologies are a win-win for proliferation security and the environment, by his own calculus; less RGPu remains stockpiled, less long-term storage of actinides (which ultimately are the constraining issue of long-term waste storage). And yet these alternatives are left unacknowledged, as if they simply did not exist – ceasing reprocessing is the ONLY way. Perhaps Dr. Green will deign to answer this question, given that it is the second time it has been asked, now.

    Furthermore, perhaps even curiouser is Dr. Green’s repeated cajoling of nuclear advocates to become vocal advocates of more austere safeguards, given that this has already been a quite active topic of discussion within the nuclear community, with the antis being the relative latecomers to this discussion. Not to be presumptuous, but somehow I don’t think it is a tremendous reach to posit that the body of work on effective and required safeguards is far greater from the pro-nuclear community and nuclear safeguards experts than it has been from anti-nukes, whose chief agenda has been to shut down nuclear power by whatever means possible.

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  39. DV82XL, Charles Barton and David Walters posts are spot on, in my view, as they address the core of the matter, namely, the politics of national security as the key to understanding, and preventing, weapons proliferation – be it nuclear, chemical or biological.

    I taught cold war politics and the evolution of the arms race for about a decade from the early 1980s to early 1990s. Anyone familiar with the main currents of this history knows that the idea that the nuclear power plants have any meaningful linkage to nuclear weapons proliferation is wrong – but granted it has appeal to those who propogandise.

    Anyone, even half convinced, about anthropocentric contributions to climate change knows that the main game on the emissions reduction front lies with what will happen in India and China over the next two decades. But Dr Green, FOE, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Greenpeace, to name the prominent environmental ngos all stridently oppose nuclear power. Are they objectively at ease with the prospect that over the next 5 or 6 months China build the equivalent to Australia’s current coal burning for electricity capacity? They will keep on doing so, at that rate, until nuclear power slows, somewhat, the process, one hopes. Of course, here in Australia, FOE and others rally behind the Rudd Government’s refusal to help India plan its nuclear program by allowing uranium exports – that just makes the situation worse.

    Maybe I’m being unfair to say this, perhaps the ngo anti-nuclear apparatchiks believe that either the Governments of China and India will wake up tomorrow, or sometime next decade, and seek to turn back history and urge upon their populations a non-consumerist lifestyle coupled to a ‘spiritual renaissance’. Or, they will find some suitable renewable energy technologies to replace burning coal.

    Readers of this website know how fanciful that prospect is. Well, for mine, it has to be one of these fantasies, if not then it’s the former, namely they are relaxed and comfortable with knowing China and India will burn loads of coal next decade.

    I dub Dr Green and his anti-nuclear colleagues akin to ‘priests’, that’s probably unfair for Charles is more apt in pointing to a manichaen worldview – and having ploughed this path well an truly in the past, one is acutely aware of its limitations.

    So, I doubt anything will sway Dr Green and co, but he seems like he wants to be swayed… just a hint of it…

    For mine safeguard regimes will be aided by nuclear fuel leasing and Australian has enormous advantages, in terms of offering low sovereign risk of uranium supply, in shaping the regime. Clearly we could play a key role and that would be aided if more anti nuclear campaigners departed their dogmas for a pragmatic, realistic and engaged critical commitment to helping improve proliferation while at the same time PROMOTING the virtues of nuclear power…. now’s there’s a dream!

    Finally, a point not discussed so far in this wonderful blog –

    I disagree with Tom Blees that all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle need to be in government hands. Governments, alas, can be secretive and slack.

    I prefer arm’s length statutory authorities with strong boards drawn from experts [and including environmental ngo representation]. Moreover, I still believe in the ‘fourth estate’ and the role it would play in keeping the system honest – ok that is brief, I know, but the notion that big government is the best option is unconvincing and it’s impractical as I doubt any government as the capital to run the whole show – just look at some of the deficits govts are running up around the globe!

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  40. @ wtrmute:

    The entirety of Australia’s energy needs can be supplied by nuclear energy using only a small portion of Australia’s production of fertile actinide minerals; leaving heaps left over for export.

    So, no, the development of nuclear energy in Australia will not eliminate the export of nuclear fuels.

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  41. A rather dark view of 21st century energy developments from Richard Heinberg is here
    http://www.energybulletin.net/node/51313
    He envisages a doubling of nuclear output (presumably Gen III) until uranium depletion after 30 years. Governments will sink billions into CCS but society will disintegrate into self sufficient rural enclaves connected by rail. Let’s hope we can spare a few watts for internet dating services to prevent inbreeding.

    I thought Switkowski envisioned that 25 NPPs would take half Australia’s uranium output.

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  42. Given that it has been established that:

    1.) The proliferation threat from reactor-grade plutonium has been greatly exaggerated by the argument that what is theoretically possible to do can be done in practice.

    2.) The idea that the potential for proliferation will increase if spent fuel is reprocessed to close the fuel cycle and allow a rational waste disposal policy is simply incorrect.

    3.) Current safeguards have proven adequate to prevent weapon-grade fissionable material from being diverted in NPT signatory states.

    4.) The application of more rigorous safeguards on power reactors and the fuel cycle in NPT signatory states will only add cost with no commiserate increase in security.

    5.) Proliferation is a diplomatic and military issue which is not the concern of the nuclear power sector per se, beyond adherence to existing regulations.

    The conclusion that can be drawn from this discussion is that feigned concern with nuclear safeguards by FoE and other antinuclear groups is little more that a red herring, designed to frighten the public while increasing the cost of nuclear power.

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  43. JN: Short-term uranium depletion is one of those gyroscopic fantasies tossed around by anti-nukes that only stays upright because of spin. Known uranium reserves have a long window for the rate of usage of this mineral, on very little exploration.

    Assuming 1.2GW light-water reactors, 25NPPs would each require about 30 tons of fuel uranium per year, a total of 750 tons enriched uranium = 6000 tons of natural uranium per year. Given the expected expansion of Olympic Dam (since we’re not talking about this year), that would be about a third of Australian-mined uranium levels. Less than half that if natural-uranium reactors are used (CANDU etc). Luke may be referring to the availablility of thorium also.

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  44. Jim Green

    Might I ask you a few questions?

    I accept that a significant nuclear war between nations has the potential to throw up sufficient dust to create a nuclear winter (or succession thereof) and extinguish most life on earth. I equally accept that runaway global warming has the potential to be equally damaging. Which do you think is the more probable scenario?

    I accept that widespread deployment of civil nuclear power will result in a lot more people having expertise in nuclear science and technology. Do you think that lack of appropriately skilled personnel is currently preventing more nations from developing nuclear weaponry? If so, would such nations develop them for the purpose of deterrence or in order to fire them? Do you think that sufficient of these weapons could be built in a clandestine manner by a rogue state to put the global climate at risk if they were used?

    I accept that an increase in skilled personnel might make the use of nuclear devices by terrorists somewhat more likely. How would you rate the consequences of such an attack or attacks relative to those of famines resulting from energy/ food insufficiency consequent upon either peak oil or global warming?

    Have you read Peter Lang’s Emissions Cuts Realities paper? If so, do you think it has credibility? Are you concerned with environmental matters other than those associated with the alleged dangers of nuclear fission?

    What would your own prescription be for addressing peak oil and global warming? Would you place sole reliance on efficiency and renewables? Do you think these will be sufficient to deal with the 40-50% population increase predicted by 2050? Alternatively, would it be more environmentally acceptable to you to stick with these approaches even if they were not sufficient to cope with the extra numbers in the pipeline? You may feel that you were helping in getting the planet back to sustainability by accepting the loss of a few billion people in the near future rather than more billion later. It is a defensible point of view but is it one you are willing to defend?

    It seems to me that there are hard choices to be made. You have opposed the solution propagated by many here (ie civil nuclear power) but failed, as far as I’m aware, to offer a credible alternative. I would be delighted if the human global population were to ease back to comprise two to four billion with a reasonable standard of living, sharing the planet with other species in healthy habitats. However, we have first to get past a global peak population of 9 to 10 billion. It might be possible to achieve this gradually with a soft landing were we to have large amounts of clean and affordable energy. It will be achieved for us by nature if we lack such energy but the landing will be more abrupt and painful than most are prepared to contemplate.

    In summary, can you tell me what your source of affordable clean energy is, if not nuclear? Alternatively, are you prepared to stand up for the hard landing scenario?

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  45. it is just so typical of people like Jim Green that they cannot cope with the give and take of debate. Green stakes out a position, and in effect demands that we accept it. When we offer criticisms, he walks off without a further word. Clearly Green is not a serious intellectual. What is he then? He is a religious leader, an evangelist, who is preaching a basically irrational faith.

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  46. Green has constructed his whole career around being antinuclear, to the point where he cannot give a millimeter without some loss of credibility. He has made the grave professional error of painting himself into an ideological corner, from which there is no escape.

    I cannot believe he is so stupid that he cannot follow the logic know the truth about nuclear energy, but having put all of his eggs in one basket he is trapped. I feel sorry for him in a way because it must be hard for an intelligent person to have to keep pushing an intellectually bankrupt position, knowing that you are becoming increasingly marginalized, and will eventually become an irrelevancy.

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  47. “to the point where he cannot give a millimeter without some loss of credibility”

    Jim is not the only one in danger of this – although I spose when you are anonymous you don’t have to worry about credibility (and can be as insulting as you want).

    I have followed the nuclear energy debate on BNC with much interest over the past year or so and have just finished Tom Blees book. I started ambivalent, and remain so (I don’t think I am stupid – I just haven’t been convinced that its as worry-free as you’d have us believe).

    Shouting what you consider to be “truths” and facts and mocking anyone who doesn’t believe them is no way to convince people you are right – especially when there are plenty of dissenting opinions from credible experts to be found elsewhere.

    I suspect nuclear energy is inevitable and probably the only hope for the climate, and I accept that people like Barry have reached that conclusion after much careful research. But just because you have reached a conclusion after much research doesn’t necessarily mean you are correct, or that things can’t change, or that having invested all that effort to reach your conclusion you don’t fall into the trap of believing it must be correct forever. Pro-nuclear can be just as much an ideology as anti- and it certainly seems to have reached that level with some people.

    Thats why its great to have people like Jim Green on sites like this, prepared to put up different opinions. He doesn’t deserve personal attacks.

    Nobody “knows the truth” about nuclear energy, there are always uncertainties and surprises. I just hope those responsible for developing nuclear energy are less sure of themselves than DV82XL.

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  48. @dc-

    First of all to the extent that I am anonymous, (as it really wouldn’t take much of an effort to determine my real name) it is the choice I made between some loss of credibility, and not having the freedom to express myself fully on some topics. To compensate, I do my utmost to line up the facts and present as airtight an argument as I can, hoping make my point on reason alone, rather than reputation. I have posted an extended bio on my webpage, which is accurate as far as it goes, albeit missing several elements.

    Now if sometimes I am a bit strident in my support for nuclear energy, or fail to hide my contempt for the opposition on occasion, it is because they have not been particularly honest in their criticisms. Those arguing the antinuclear side have constantly lied in the face of documented fact, attempting to generate irrational fear in the public mind, rather than recognize that they have been dead wrong. It is this refusal to admit, or accept, that even if some of the things they complain about were once issues, all of those concerns have been addressed in the intervening forty years, that makes me question their motivations.

    They still harp on the waste issue, the meltdown issue, the radiation issue, and the proliferation issue. They have manufactured a peak uranium issue, a depleted uranium issue, and created the specter of ‘terrorists’ building dirty bombs. All of these little more than products of their imaginations.

    You may be ignorant of the facts, or are not able to understand them well enough to make an evaluation, but I am sure that Dr. Green does not suffer from those limitations, and therefore “knows the truth” about nuclear energy as well as I do. This is what leads me to believe he is driven by other considerations than honest disagreement.

    But that doesn’t matter to you, does it ‘dc’?

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  49. DV82XL

    Obviously I have no objection to anonymity per se (I have my own reasons*) but to personal attacks on people brave enough to publicly argue their case in “hostile” territory.

    * I stress that I am in no way involved in either anti- or pro- nuclear “industries” – I really am firmly on the fence – and I wish like hell I could get off it, because climate change terrifies me.

    But I am having trouble embracing fully the go-hung approach, and quite frankly the absolute certainty with which many people here express their opinions (and, no matter how well informed, they are opinions and not absolute truths) reduces their credibility to me.

    For example, how can I reconcile this:

    “They still harp on the waste issue, the meltdown issue, the radiation issue, and the proliferation issue. They have manufactured a peak uranium issue, a depleted uranium issue, and created the specter of ‘terrorists’ building dirty bombs. All of these little more than products of their imaginations.”

    with Tom Blees statement’s like this:

    “Privatized nuclear power should be outlawed worldwide, with complete international control of not only the entire fuel cycle but also the engineering, construction, and operation of all nuclear power plants. Only in this way will safety and proliferation issues be satisfactorily dealt with. Anything short of that opens up a Pandora’s box of inevitable problems”

    If Tom Blees is completely wrong about proliferation and terrorism risks, how can I trust the rest of his arguments for nuclear energy?

    BTW – why presume to know what matters to me?

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  50. @dc – If you are only going to read what other people write on blogs and forums to make up your mind about nuclear energy then I doubt that you will ever get off the fence you are on. Understanding nuclear energy is going to require a little more effort on your part. However, despite its semi-mystical aura, the workings of a nuclear reactor, nuclear weapons and indeed all the nuclear sector, from mine to final repository is very understandable by any reasonably bright layman. It’s not that complex. Because of the Cold War it was, for many years shrouded in secrecy, but everything you need to know to come to an independent opinion on the matter is out there, and very available.

    As well the history of the development and deployment of nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons, in exhaustive detail should you want, is also available should you want. This latter being important to understanding the proliferation question. In short, a lot of assumptions where made in the 1950’s by Herman Kann at the RAND corporation in the U.S., that formed the backbone of proliferation risk modeling that have simply been proven by events to be dead wrong.

    Unfortunately a bureaucracy, both national, and international, has come into being based on enforcing regulations that were a product of these errors. Compounding this, the antinuclear side simply refuses to acknowledge that history has given us a new set of observations to update the old model, and have served notice they will crucify and politicians that call for any change. As a consequence we are being treated to the spectacle of the USA simultaneously in possession of the fissile material to make some 60,000 nuclear warheads, sanctimoniously refusing to reprocess spent fuel, or develop fast-spectrum reactors claiming they are trying to control proliferation. Beyond the fact that this is ludicrous on its face, it also assumes that the US still controls nuclear technology, as they did in the middle of the last century, which they do not, thus these prohibitions are going to have no net influence on the spread of nuclear weapons.

    So deeply ingrained is this belief that nuclear power is an incubus for nuclear weapons, that most people do not bother to look at the facts, and that includes many who support nuclear energy.

    In fact most of the traditional worries attached to nuclear energy have been addressed and ether dealt with, or have off-the-shelf solutions. And most of them are being blocked by the same people that are raising the concern in the first place, the spent-fuel farce being the prime example.

    But again, don’t take anyone’s word for it, dig around for the facts, and I am sure you will come to the same conclusions I, and many others have. But if you are waiting for all of us on both sides to come to a consensus, you will be on the fence a long time.

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  51. dc, I have never posted her, elsewhere, or on my own blogs, under any name but my own. You on the other hand chose to post under a screen name and then have the unmitigated gal to say, “I spose when you are anonymous you don’t have to worry about credibility (and can be as insulting as you want).” Shouldn’t that apply to you as well? I have posted my views on proliferation issues on a couple of blogs, and i stood prepared to defend them against all comers. if I cannot defend my views, then I would consider it time to rethink them. Green’s views struck me as poorly thought out. He was not prepared to answer questions such as how could the policies you advocate have prevented past instances of proliferation. Green staked out his position without reference to past cases of proliferation, and that was most unfortunate.

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  52. Charles

    as I (subsequently) said, I don’t have any problem with anonymity, I have a problem with personal attacks – especially from anonymous posters.

    If you think you won the argument with Jim Green on this post, why insult him? You should be encouraging people to put up different opinions on sites like this – otherwise it will become irrelevant.

    If you’re trying to change people’s opinions, surely insulting them is counter-productive?, not to mention declaring that anyone who currently holds a different opinion than you must be either ignorant, stupid or intellectually bankrupt (as DV82XL did). This comes across as arrogant , which does not help your cause. You may think Jim Green is a lost cause, but by insulting him you risk insulting anyone who genuinely shares his concerns.

    mine may be an entirely irrational reaction to much of the contempt-for-anti’s tone on BNC (perhaps because I have lingering anti sentiments?), but humans aren’t rational, and if you want this site to persuade people you are right about nuclear power, I think you should be as conciliatory as possible (I accept that is sometimes difficult – people can be #$&*$ annoying, and that my original post was not entirely consistent with this advice).

    anyway, now I remembered one reason why I use a screen name – so I don’t spend time I don’t have explaining myself on blogs…..it doesn’t matter if “dc” is misunderstood.

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  53. dc – You are ether utterly naïve, or you have some other agenda.

    It is not the first time someone appeared out of nowhere during one of these fights and sought to undermine the pronuclear posters for not treating the other side with respect, implying that we were going to loose support, not because we are wrong, but because we are high-handed.

    If this is what you are arguing, and truly believe that the most important aspect of this debate, is to demonstrate respect to our opponents, then I suggest that you look at some of the things people like Helen Caldicott and other high-profile representatives of antinuclear side have accused the nuclear industry, and its supporters of. If politeness is the touch-stone that you use to decide matters like this, I am sure you will quickly throw your support to our side, and immediately start hectoring antinuclear commenters in their blogs and forums, about their behavior.

    The problem is that the nuclear debate stopped being polite long ago. This is not a discussion, it is a knife fight for the future of this planet, and it is viscous. It has become that way because the antinuclear side has used lies, and fraud and hypocrisy to bolster their claims and in the process forfeited any right to demand respect. Green is typical of this type, as any review of his published work will show. Thus I can unabashedly say I hold him in utter contempt.

    As for conciliation, nuclear energy has offered the peace-pipe to the environmental movement on more than one occasion, only to have it dashed from their hands. The nuclear sector has gone to great lengths to address all of the criticism leveled against it, only to have it ignored outright, or in some cases, (like deep repositories for waste) have the very solutions rejected and fought on very flimsy pretenses. There come a point where one realizes that consensus will never achieved, because they want all nuclear technology to be abandoned, and for most of them, without exception.

    Consequently, I doubt that any of the veterans here thought for a second that we would ever convert Dr Green to our way of thinking.

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  54. “You are ether utterly naïve, or you have some other agenda.”

    then I am utterly naïve.

    maybe I will do as you suggest – just go away and acquire the necessary expertise in nuclear physics, engineering, politics, terrorism, history, economics, security, etc. to come to my own conclusions about nuclear energy. I certainly try to do that with climate change- but that is relatively easy – I have the scientific and analytic training to evaluate a scientific theory – especially one that makes predictions that can be tested against a plethora of observational data. I can do that with some safety concerns re nuclear power (e.g. the health risks of living near a nuclear facility certainly appear to be low), but proliferation and terrorism are more difficult risks to asses for myself…

    good luck in your fight for the planet….I think this quote from a recent nature article might be useful to bear in mind –

    “The prevailing approach is still simply to flood the public
    with as much sound data as possible on the
    assumption that the truth is bound, eventually,
    to drown out its competitors. If, however, the
    truth carries implications that threaten people’s
    cultural values, then holding their heads underwater
    is likely to harden their resistance and
    increase their willingness to support alternative
    arguments, no matter how lacking in evidence.”

    from here
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7279/pdf/463296a.pdf

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  55. I am glad that you have chosen to evaluate this topic on your own. I am sure that you will come to the same conclusions I have on the subject.

    The quote from Nature is quite true, and I have argued along similar lines elsewhere, when it comes to the nuclear debate. I contend when presenting nuclear energy to the public, the approach should be both simple and positive, and nonconfrontational. However in this instance we were having a partisan debate, on a website that is unlikely to attract those without the intellect to judge the issues on merit, assuming they haven’t made up their minds on the topic already.

    After all, even you were willing to concede that we had won.

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  56. dc, I have very little respect for people who tout themselves as activists, but who will not, or cannot defend their views when challenged. If they cannot justify their views, why promote them? I see no point in hiding my disrespect for Green. who in my view is an irrational propagandist, who promotes a poorly thought out agenda. Why hide the fact that I don’t respect him?

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  57. @DV82XL, also Finrod, John D. Morgan:

    DV82XL, in spite of the fact that Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of Areva also sits on the board of Total S.A, and RWE and E.ON have minor NPP but major fossil fuel interests, you persist in your what I perceive as your hatred of “irrational, Calvinist (because power consumption-reducing) , religious Greens” as your main enemy. That is, you describe your attitude to Jim Green of FOE in AU and to other Renewabilists as that of a “knife fight”.

    But anyone who knows Antis will know that the level of interpersonal aggression, militarism, etc. is markedly lower on trend than in your Nukie camp and in that of Climate Change Denialists. So it is you that have the knife out, not them. And there is a noticeable lack of animosity to Big Fossil Fuel in BNC, presumably because BFF is viewed as Industrialised-Misguided rather than Green-Evil.

    DV82XL, you claimed in this blog some weeks ago that S Africa and Israel, allies of “the West”, both acquired atomic weapons for fear of “external threat” (sic) and you apparently take the current state of geopolitics to be a force of Nature which can neither be queried nor opposed. For you, the deterioration in the Anglosphere of the Gini coefficient of income inequality since 1979 is also apparently irrelevant, and the causes of the current financial crisis since 2008 too. Now as you like to impute financial greed/motivation to others (e.g. LNT proponents who live off a huge multi-decade industry, according to you), may one ask if you benefited from either the Gini or the fin. crisis?

    It is not surprising that you fail to answer dc (above) on the matter of Tom Blees’ plan to socialise NPPs. This is because for you, Antis are the enemy and not the corporate abuse of fossil fuel for private profit, whether it be that of Canadian or S African or Israeli companies.

    Do you really think that if Antinukies suddenly vanished, energy conglomerates would see the light and start building NPPs at the rate of France in the 70s? Even though they make more money with coal-fired, as stated recently by the CEO of RWE?

    Concerning religion, and I assume you are an admirer of Richard Dawkins, it is often the case among physical scientists such as yourself that you ignore/despise any other sciences, in which case I refer you to the apparently hard-wired nature of religion in homo sapiens as outlined by Nicholas Wade in his recent “The Faith instinct”, refutation of Dawkins on pp. 66-67. Wade was Deputy Editor of “Nature”, and worked for “Science” as well, which ought to give him some bona fides in your eyes.

    Your ongoing smear of Greens as “religious” (a claim also made by climate change denialists, who allege that Al Gore is an ersatz Pope) thus ignores the state of the Science which is your lodestar on the topic of Religion as such. That is, if you want to allege Greens are religious because they ignore all your Nukie evidence on LNT/hormesis, spent fuel storage, deaths per Gigawatt-hour compared to coal, etc., it would be better to attack them as factually wrong, rather than “religious”. This is because “religious” is co-terminous with “human”.

    The question of what aspects of DV28XL are themselves religious can safely be bracketed at this juncture,

    Concluding, the default setting of BNC bar a couple of self-proclaimed Marxists but including apparently yourself, DV28XL, is that of “unplug und plug in”. That is, replacing fossil fuels by NPPs while leaving the current economic and social order unaltered is in your eyes a viable and the only solution.

    Brooks recently recommended the neoliberal Haydon Manning, ex-Anti, to us as his good friend; my impression is thus that Nukies are heading for the sort of split not unknown in previous movements, inasmuch as the BNC approval of Blees/the IFR must surely stop short of tinkering with the social and economic order in any way at all. BNC on trend wants a mere “unplug and plug-in”.

    This is because

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  58. self proclaimed marxist largely agrees with Peter’s critique–except for the religion part. I don’t come here for geopolitical wisdom.

    on the other hand, that religion is hard wired makes little sense to me–given the variation in religious belief and secular thought (haven’t read the wade article but have read similar arguments).

    there are millions of secular humanists and millions more who are virtual secular humanists but call themselves some kind of religion. are they evolutionary outliers? or do they “really believe” in a “higher power” despite themselves? “higher power” can be pretty broadly defined to cover even a “faith in humanity.”

    on the other hand, rhetorically, you are probably correct in saying that people are not likely to be persuaded by being called fundamentalists. although there is such a thing, but these folks will probably have to be opposed, not persuaded.

    In yesterday’s NY Times, there was a front page article about the U.S budget deficit and that even on optimistic assumptions (coupled with the default commitment of the VERY POWERFUL to the military-industrial complex), there would be no money for significant domestic commitments until 2020 or so.

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  59. Peter Lalor, – I will try and answer that rather (unusually for you) disjointed comment. You will excuse me if I have misinterpreted some of your remarks – please do clarify, if I have.

    Yes, I am well aware of the fact that several large power companies have a foot in both, and sometimes, all three camps, (nuclear, fossil, and renewable) and that this is problematic. However clearly the impetus to go nuclear is not going to come from that part of the sector anyway. It is going to have to come by legislative means, preferably by fiat, or dressed up in whatever politically acceptable window-dressing the moment requires.

    But that does not mean I don’t think there are very sound reasons for the world to turn to nuclear energy; there are. Beyond the current flavors of the month, like global warming, and energy security, there are deeper reasons, such as raising the standard of living for the world’s poor to mitigate population growth, to promote peace through prosperity, and to help head off the looming water crisis.

    The problem is that in our culture, it is necessary to sell even those solutions that are blatantly obvious to the majority of the public, before one can even begin to lobby for governmental support. Within this context, those that opposing, provably unworkable ideas, or those that wish to see the problems continue because they hope that a collapse of the current order will allow them to replace it with one based on their particular ideology, are the enemy.

    So yes, I have issues with those who call for a return to a low-energy, agrarian economy based on wind and solar, and those that believe that our problems will go away if we just remember to turn out the lights when we leave the room. I have issues with them because they are the main competition for public opinion, which as I indicated above is crucial.

    Anyone laboring under the illusion, as you seem to be, that the the other side is somehow more reasonable need only try and post a nuclear positive comment on any antinuclear blog, and count the seconds before it is moderated away, to be disabused of that notion. I have seen more antis get a hearing on pronuclear blogs and forums, than the other way around by a very wide margin. I further refer you to any random selection of quotes from Helen Caldicott or any other of the more shrill members of the antinuclear movement, if you think that the knives haven’t been out for a long time, and who drew them first and have been wielding them the longest..

    For the record I do not regard geopolitics as a force of nature, as you accuse me of, however I do know the proper arenas in which substantive and meaningful change can be made. In the case of proliferation, nuclear energy is not one of them. At the risk of repeating myself on the subject, I have been shown no technological link between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons that would not be more trouble than it is worth, or is likely to work under real world conditions. Furthermore, I have not been shown any evidence that an energy program has been leveraged to create or support a weapons program in any of the current nuclear weapons states, be they legitimate or illegitimate under the terms of the NPT. In fact I have been shown no causative link at all between these two nuclear technologies, that hasn’t sprung from an ill-informed imagination.

    As for your accusations about my opinions on the current economic situation in the world, I will charitably assume that you have confounded my comments with those of someone else. I will say however that always asserted that the widespread adoption of nuclear energy is the key to reducing economic disparity, in fact I believe it to be the key benefit, and have since I became pronuclear in the late 60’s.

    I frankly do not care one way or the other if nuclear energy is socialized or not. Given that every reactor in Canada was built and run at one time by a crown corporation, I probably would be considered a supporter of the idea – if it mattered to me at all. Again, it is outside what I consider to be the core issues in the debate, and at any rate should be seen as a local choice.

    It is true that I am an atheist. I was one long before Richard Dawkins became a household name ether despite, or because of having been educated by French Jesuits. However I use the term ‘religious’ in the context of the nuclear debate to refer to the act of believing without valid proof, and continuing to do so after being proven wrong. In fact I have seen little evidence that belief in a deity, or the lack of one, has any real impact on a person’s views on nuclear subjects. The same broadly holds for a person’s political leanings Left or Right, which is why I do not profess a political ideology when discussing nuclear.

    I hope this has cleared things up for you.

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  60. DV: your stuff has been very helpful to me and I’ve been forwarding material to anti nukes who are not dogmatic, yet still have many moves to go before changing direction.

    your argument that widespread adoption of a particularly good energy technology is the key to reducing economic disparity might be true IF the widespread adoption takes place, but you may have noted that resources are not distributed according to merit much less equity in the world we live in, and so political questions are in fact at the heart of your argument about energy.

    with virtually nothing else in the world distributed according to canons of justice, why would you think energy would be any different? resource wars are not just caused by scarcity of resource but by fierce competition for control of markets.

    Look: we’ve had the technology to provide clean water for people world wide, but, people don’t have clean water world wide; it’s not cause of the technology.

    Technology doesn’t distribute itself to people who need it. That’s why I think Tom’s idea of a global energy democracy is a fantasy (which I hope works anyway). It’s a great idea. I’m all for it. The market people hate this I realize. But the people will not run such a group (our energy democracy). It will be run by powerful elites almost surely in the interests of the most powerful nation states, and whatever smart and decent technocrats do will have to take their lead from these elites. They will distribute this technology the same way the IMF and world bank distribute democracy and freedom.

    It’s not inevitable that we can’t have what Tom envisions, but we’d have to fight like hell for it and I’ll bet it’s Peter’s sense that many scientists and technos would rather sit this one out.

    Note that Hansen is on TB’s Science Council but he also thinks–populist moment for him–that the entire status quo has become one big greenwash.

    Thus the turn to protest.

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  61. gregory meyerson – Distributing material is not a trivial task, in the case of food, fuel and water it requires infrastructure that can transport huge amounts of mass from locations where it is in surplus to the points where it will be consumed, and economic incentive to build them and use them. These networks are complex and expensive compared to ones to distribute locally produced electricity. So while you are right that inequity currently exists, you may be oversimplifying the issue when you asset that it is largly a social problem, that can be solved through social change.

    With no intention to insult, Marxists sometimes make the mistake of only holding a hammer and seeing every problem as a nail. In some cases, and this is one of them, a broader scoping of the problem is needed. Basically nuclear energy, particularly in the form of the so-called ‘nuclear battery’ is a cheaper and easier way to address many aspects of local poverty, than redistribution of large volumes of commodities. On top of which it enables the development of secondary production of other goods that helps a community move to towards becoming self-sufficient.

    However you are right in saying that this is ultimately a political, not an economic issue – I have never suggested otherwise, but my concern at the moment is to work on the problem of having nuclear energy developed in the first place. Obviously there can be no deployment of small, compact sealed reactors to impoverished communities, if the technology itself is under a global interdiction, which is what many on the antinuclear side wish.

    To that end I devote most of my efforts to promoting nuclear energy as a technology, and correcting the misconceptions, and lies about nuclear, and caution my fellow pronuclear colleagues to not get drawn into larger geopolitical debates that are not really germane to the nuclear question.

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  62. I think it’s a humongous technical problem too, this inequity we’re talking about. this list has allowed me to appreciate this fact more than I previously had. But even before that, after reading George Monbiot’s Heat or David Mackay’s book, I had a sense of how daunting the task was if WE WERE ALL RATIONAL COOPERATORS.

    For me, the biggest barrier to rational (in the broad sense not as a synonym for heartless instrumental reason) cooperation is the system we live under.

    I think that spreading nuclear batteries is not something that will happen smoothly or quickly under an antagonistic social system–and would be an enormously complex undertaking at any rate–your point. Nuclear batteries are not like cell phones. as you know.

    I’m more interested in the massive redistribution of access to skills (in contrast to your redistribution of commodities), but as Richard Lewontin once quipped about education under capitalism: if we could all read the critique of pure reason [why reading kant stands in for sophistication is beyond me: I’d rather be able to read and understand list participants!], many of us would be reading it in the unemployment line.

    That’s close to a direct quote.

    all that said, I appreciate your drawing the division of labor as you do, focusing on the nuclear question. It’s been a useful focus.

    by the way, does anyone know, to change course here for a moment, how soft power proposes to make steel? and has anyone done any numbers on the comparative efficiency of making steel with nuclear electricity as opposed to solar electricity? how would solar power work with plasma technologies?

    (and would that count as soft?)

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  63. DV82XL, no insult taken :) (I helped start marx.org in 1995 and I’m still an Admin there).

    A true national and international deployment of nuclear, regardless of it’s format, is a function of the expansion of the forces of production…anyway it’s deployed. Marxism isn’t so much interesting, for those that care, in ‘distribution of commodities’ as DV82XL notes, but rather in the democratization and socialization of that production and distribution. Generally.

    There is a debate now on marxmail.org, a rather well distributed Marxist discussion list which is visalbe on line, where we opened a debate, short lived since the very Greenie moderator of the list doesn’t like the discussion…but others who are pro-nuclear have chimed in.

    At my site (shameless plug) I have a guest Marxist columnist (and fellow power plant operator) writing on left-atomics.blogspot.com debating the communist party of india (Marxist Leninist) on this very issue. They are likely to run part of this debate as well.

    Ideally…these political lines over nuclear get further smudged, and blurry, as it would be good for all concerned.

    D. Walters

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  64. DV82XL

    I wonder whether you could clarify for me an issue relating to weapons proliferation.

    In simple terms, what is your interpretation of what’s going on in Iran? My understanding is that Iran is claiming to be attempting to develop civil nuclear power while many other states believe that it is actually trying to develop nuclear weapons. Today, its President was reported as saying that he would be prepared to consider handing over its partly enriched uranium to Russia and France so that it could be refined, made into fuel rods for NPPs and returned. Various commentators interpreted this as either a delaying ploy or an indication that Iran’s nuclear technology had run into problems.

    You clearly have more knowledge of the relevant technology than I so I thought you might be in a position to explain what may and may not be possible for Iran to achieve and to what extent clandestine attempts at weapons production could go undetected.

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  65. Peter L, you’ve come in again with a smorgasbord of assumptions about the commenters here which, as usual, are simply false if you actually pay attention to the discussion. For instance,

    And there is a noticeable lack of animosity to Big Fossil Fuel in BNC, presumably because BFF is viewed as Industrialised-Misguided rather than Green-Evil.

    Really? My reading is that the natural gas interests in particular have received a pasting recently. Charles Barton has been especially savage. Also review some of the nuclear blogs in the sidebar to see examples of this antagonism.

    That is, you describe your attitude to Jim Green of FOE in AU and to other Renewabilists as that of a “knife fight”.

    DV82XL’s characterization is correct. Look no further than your own contributions here, Peter. Only a week or so ago, you offered the insinuation that Barry Brook was pursuing his research on Australian megafauna extinctions with the conscious intent of using it to discredit indigenous Australians’ claims to a particular relationship with the land, in order to undermine their opposition to uranium mining on traditionally owned lands, so as to speed the deployment of nuclear power.

    Leaving aside the fantastic and paranoid chain of reasoning, this is shocking, vicious and underhanded. It shows by example that there is no tactic so low or obviously false that those with your agenda won’t stoop to use it. There is no respect shown here for the basic integrity of the argument. It is dirty. It is a knife fight. It didn’t play well here, but who knows in what other more credulous fora you might be spreading this sort of poison?

    But anyone who knows Antis will know that the level of interpersonal aggression, militarism, etc. is markedly lower on trend than in your Nukie camp and in that of Climate Change Denialists. So it is you that have the knife out, not them.

    Give me a break. See above for a counterexample, or see your own reference to the sort of split “not unknown in these movements” to take the temperature of the love.

    This is because for you, Antis are the enemy and not the corporate abuse of fossil fuel for private profit,

    I think the correct characterization of a common view here is rather that certainly commercial fossil fuel is what we want to see eliminated, and that the antis, by opposing the only serious alternative, are playing into the hands of the fossil fuel interests. I think it was DV82XL who used the term “useful idiots”, which has an historical connotation.

    it is often the case among physical scientists such as yourself that you ignore/despise any other sciences

    Academic tribalism runs between and within all disciplines. But I really don’t think this characterizes the stance of any contributors to the conversation here.

    Your ongoing smear of Greens as “religious” ..

    Incidentally, I’m a member of the Greens, I self identify as a “Green”, I’ve been part of various campaigns over the years. This is me we’re talking about. And I can assure you that, for many greens, an antinuclear stance is an important part of their identity. It is received wisdom. It is an Article of Faith. Its dogmatically adhered to. To characterize this position as religious does capture an important truth. Its a different quality of religious belief to that discussed by Nicholas Wade. The qualities that allow a mind to sustain religious belief are clearly strongly adaptive, and there are good theories as to why, based in evolutionary psychology. I doubt Richard Dawkins would disagree with this. Instead, we’re talking here about dogmatic adherence to a position that offers definition to a group, in spite of rational arguments to the contrary. Though I’d speculate they’re related at some level.

    .. the default setting of BNC .. is that of “unplug und plug in”. That is, replacing fossil fuels by NPPs while leaving the current economic and social order unaltered is in your eyes a viable and the only solution.

    There’s nothing “mere” about “unplug und plug in”, as you put it. In those terms, we’d be unplugging a power source that is destroying the biosphere, and plugging in one that is not. That is incredibly significant. The beauty of it is, you can pursue whatever your aims for the economic and social order might be, by whatever methods you choose, without being constrained by having to shoehorn in a particular energy generation system. The energy and the social questions are decoupled – you have fewer constraints in choosing your New World Order.

    Peter, I don’t understand why you persist with your one man culture war. You’re clearly getting no traction, largely because you continually argue from false premises, and offer one-off factoids instead of a coherent position. In a previous comment, I observed that you had the ideology and engineering backwards, and I asked you the following question, and I am still very interested in your answer, because it might allow some sort of communication beyond simple sniping:

    How do you think our zero carbon energy system should be constituted? We all know what energy generation technologies you oppose, but what are you actually for?

    What is the change in the world that you actually want, Peter? If you don’t know, I can only assume you’re just trolling for your own amusement.

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  66. @Douglas Wise – Iran is sending uranium out to be enriched and turned into fuel rods for its MNSR 27 kWt miniature neutron source reactor, a Chinese knock-off of Canada’s SLOPOKE at Isfahan, or possibly the TRIGA reactor at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center, the latter being less likely, as the fuel is a bit difficult to fabricate. Both are pool-type ‘research reactors’ used mostly to produce medical isotopes.

    This, in and of itself is not a proliferation issue, unless Iran starts needing more LEU than ether of these reactors could possibly use. At the moment this doesn’t seem to be the case and it would be reasonable to assume that this transaction is legitimate.

    As for indicating anything deeper about Iran’s nuclear program, the question is somewhat moot, as building the infrastructure to make fuel rods for ether of these two reactors would not be cost effective given that the refueling intervals for both types is measured in decades. Of course this isn’t going to stop the propagandists from spinning this out as something nefarious.

    As to your second question, in general the total effort needed to carry through from the mine to the bomb, a surreptitious program of atomic armament on a scale sufficient to make it a threat is so vast, and the number of separate difficult undertakings so great, and the special character of many of these undertakings so hard to conceal, that the fact of this effort should be impossible to hide. However I have no access to any unbiased source of intelligence on Iran, or its nuclear efforts, so it is difficult to come to any firm conclusion about what is going on there in this regard.

    But if Iran’s aim is to expand its regional influence, it doesn’t need a bomb to do so. Simply having a clear “breakout” capacity (the ability to weaponize within a few months) would allow it to operate with much greater latitude and impunity in the Middle East and Central Asia. Following this nuclear strategy has big benefits. The country would remain within international law, simply asserting its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a position that has much support among the G20, thus making comprehensive sanctions against Iran difficult to impose, and military interdiction impossible.

    This possibility was not addressed properly in the NPT, and it has already been used by Japan, (and perhaps others) to maintain what amounts to be a nuclear arsenal, while still retaining the status of a non-weapon state under IAEA rules. Tehran may well be planning such a course.

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  67. John D. Morgan stated: “My reading is that the natural gas interests in particular have received a pasting recently. Charles Barton has been especially savage.”

    John I am not sure what your definition of savage is. My understanding is that all use of fossil fuel in electrical generation must be ended by 2050, if we are to meet carbon mitigation goals. This is simply because, the use of fossil fuels in other economic sectors, such as agriculture, and sea born transportation, may be more difficult to displace, than their use in electrical generation. With this consideration in mind, it would appear unwise to expand natural gas use in electrical generation as a carbon mitigation tool. There are other considerations. Natural gas generators are more likely to be displaced by wind and solar, than coal is.

    I have criticized the Greenpeace proposal to displace nuclear power with natural gas, and the baptizing of natural gas as a green energy form, by Joe Romm. These are both counter productive if mitigating CO2 emissions is our long term goal. Can carbon emissions be mitigated more cheaply with natural gas, than with nuclear? I noted in a comment on Green proposals to substitute natural gas for nuclear made, that based on EIA cost estimates, It would appear then that there would be a green premium – oh irony of ironies – of $53 a ton, for the use of natural gas rather than nuclear as a means of CO2 mitigation. John, Is all this savage?

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  68. Charles, I mean your criticism of natural gas, and natural gas interests, has been forthright and incisive. Its possible I have you confused with someone else, but for whatever reason its your name I have associated with a strong critique of natural gas interests.

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  69. I would not deny the strong critique, but savage would be unfair. I think my critique is nuanced. I would for example see a significant, long and productive future, providing feedstock to the chemical industry. My view is that natural gas is too good to waste by burning it.

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  70. ‘Calling for an inquiry’ carries a connotation that the person or organisation making the call is dissatisfied with or critical of the thing that is to be inquired about.
    That is why it troubles us greatly that Jim Green should say that the Australian Uranium Association “has also called for an inquiry into the role and resourcing of ASNO”.
    The Association has done no such thing. That will be clear to anyone who reads the AUA submission that Dr Jim cites.
    It seems Dr Jim might be trying to ‘verbal’ the Association so he can cite some fabricated AUA stand as evidence of support for his denigration of ASNO.
    So, lest people believe Jim Green and the AUA inexplicably have common cause in this area, let’s be clear: the AUA submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties that Jim Green refers to does not call for an inquiry into ASNO.
    Rather, the AUA notes http://www.aua.org.au/Content/SubmissionsJSCOTNonproliferation.aspx that there are challenges ahead (for the IAEA and for ASNO) in maintaining an effective anti-proliferation safeguards regime.
    The submission goes on, “and it would be wise to ensure the role of the Office (ASNO) is clear as it prepares to meet those challenges and that its resources are fit-for-its purpose”.
    The AUA suggests ASNO should prepare a report for Government on the challenges it faces. Government should also draw on the work of JSCOT and the ICNND in clarifying the role it wants ASNO to play. ASNO itself should seek the assistance of the Public Service Commissioner in determining how best to build its capability to meet future challenges.
    All this is intended to strengthen and better direct ASNO, not denigrate and disband it, as Dr Jim would prefer.

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  71. @ JD Morgan: at https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/25/nuclear-safeguards/#comment-45279

    you state that I insinuated on another thread that the Blog Owner had researched megafauna extinctions in AU with the aim of undermining AU indigenous land claims and thus enabling easier uranium mining . You then used some choice adjectives (sic) to describe me.

    You seem to be quite grown up and tech savvy, so I can safely leave you to find out whether I have been spreading poison (sic) on other blogs.

    Please read my replies to Geoff Russell on the BNC thread, during which I referred him at his request to a paper on a Perth land rights ruling by Ron Brunton.

    You will see from the exchange with Geoff that in the light of the use/abuse of archaeology in NZ, CAN and USA, all countries like AU with white Anglophones who superseded the natives by violence and subterfuge, I was merely predicting that AU megafauna extinctions will be a political weapon. Because the noticeable PC pussy-footing (eg New Scientist magazine) to date around the wording to be used in English for those who committed the extinctions evidences great reluctance to “accuse” the Indigenous ie Aborigines of anything as bad as wiping out big cuddly furry animals, which are telegenic to boot. Presumably for fear of Keith Windschuttle.

    Refer, if you like, the historical stance of Hugh Morgan of Western Mining, on AU indigenous land rights.

    So I did not impute anything to the BNC Blog Owner.

    The question of the future of the current policy in AU towards the Indigenous, cf. Indigenous Nationalists (Paul Keating etc. ) versus Settler Nationalists (John Howard, Hugh Morgan) is a separate matter.

    As regards the NPP issue on which you are doggedly pursuing me, watch this space. Do I not get a BNC prize as the only ostensible Anti who in the absence of Jim Green stays the BNC course?

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  72. @DV28XL, you wrote/implied at:

    https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/25/nuclear-safeguards/#comment-45193

    that the problem in our culture is that Nukies have to sell even blatantly obvious solutions to the majority of the public before even starting to lobby for governmental support.

    I think you have the cart before the horse. Voting populations are not independent variables as you imply subject only to the reasoned NPP arguments of people like you but dependent ones. Dependent on what they are told by governments as executive organs of ruling classes, which aim to retain markets, access to commodities, power and privilege. The history of PR in the USA (Edward Bernays and his decades-long success in all sorts of ad campaigns, eg in persuading women to take up smoking in the 1920s in the face of previously deeply-rooted concepts of femininity) shows that dependency.

    That is, governments are not passive electible agents subject to the will of the people as amenable to rational argument, as the naive theory of parliamentary democracy would have it.

    Instead, PR agencies hired by commercial interests with money, including, de facto, governments whose legislatures have been bought, can and do manipulate the public.

    Anglosphere examples of this are the Kuwaiti govt prior to Gulf War 1 peddling the telegenic story of Iraqi soldiers throwing babies out of incubators so as to ensure US public outrage; the Tonkin Gulf incident 1965; Yeltsin’s election off an approval rating of ca 4% as stage managed by imported US political consultants. Remember the approving Western TV shots of him doing the pre-election Twist on stage?

    The current spectacular example of the voting public being a puppet is the increase in Climate Change Denialism in the Anglosphere, financed initially by Big Fossil via PR agencies (see various US books on this for evidence).

    The implication of the above for Nukies is that the social engineering needed to remove fear of NPPs will not involve publicising debates on whether LNT or hormesis are true, etc. The French population is largely pro-NPP; their German neighbours are the opposite. This will not have come about because rational arguments were put in France to persuade people/remove their fear of NPPs.

    Implementation of the reasons for Hitler’s admiration of Allied WW1 propaganda in vol. 1 of Mein Kampf and his rueful condemnation of the German WW1 PR effort, or deployment of Edward Bernays’ methods (see above) would seem necessary if Nukies are to “sell their message”. As I wrote here a month ago, there is a beauty contest for Miss Atom in Russia each year, the winning girl gets a paid holiday in Cuba : why does the NPP sector in Russia run that? The answer seems clear.

    So possibly a PR consultant would advise BNC to sell NPPs in the same way, ie by playing off (for example) lust, greed and NPP endorsement by celebrities against fear of radiation and hoping that the former can outrun the latter.

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  73. On PR and climate, see Hoggan and Littlemore.s Climate Cover Up. It’s good.

    Hoggan is actually a PR guy.

    “Puppet”, Peter, is the wrong metaphor for describing PR and media power. It’s more like “you can fool enough of the people enough of the time to reproduce the status quo most of the time.”

    This is all somewhat related to science literacy in a world of powerful elites.

    in the u.s., climate skepticism is very high for several reasons, but the primary reason is scientific illiteracy (highly related to media performance), which has lead to the situation where attitudes toward global warming become a pretty tight function of when the last plausibly climate related (stat. probability of category five hurricanes etc) spectacle happened: Katrina in 2005. since 2008-9 were relatively cooler in U.S (though not the world as whole)., the trend has gone the other way. The right wing denialists (and left wing denialists too) have added to this.

    But I really think it’s like comedy central’s bit (do aussies get jon stewart?) the other night: one cc correspoondent was in washington and it was snowing (global coolling!!); another was in austrailia (it’s 90 outside and due to be hotter tomorrow!); the third was in a time zone where it was “dark and getting darker.” (global darkness!)

    of course, if “climate mitigation” were really “good for the economy” and its ruling classes in a straightforward way, we’d see the universities turned into hotbeds of demonstration projects for alternative energy–we’d see massive government led energy projects. But this would require a relatively healthy economy on capitalist grounds, a healthy financial infrastructure and a healthy and powerful capitalist state. one of the great ironies of neoliberalism is that while ruling classes have generally loved this because it has made them significantly richer relative to “the people,” and also more powerful, it has also made facing up to climate issues a real problem for elites even if they really wanted to do something.

    My university, a cash strapped public university that is science/engineering oriented, used to get 80 percent of its funds from the state. We now get 30 percent (this decline began in earnest with Reaganism). No: the private sector has not made up the difference. In a way, neoliberalism has crippled the capitalist state while making the rich richer.

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  74. @Finrod and Meyerson:

    Hitler fits in insofar as he praises in vol. 1 of Mein Kampf various propaganda methods used by the Allies in WW1 and urges Germany to adopt them. Edward Bernays and US political consultants followed on, 1920 to date. Yeltsin won because of them. Such spin doctors worked in eg Ukraine in the recent presid. election for lack of income options at present in the USA, it being off-season for campaigning there.

    Example of the method: the AU singer Kylie Minogue had breast cancer recently. The media hype around that apparently led to thousands of AU women interested in this person going for cancer checks.

    A PR implication for Nukies would be to get some celebrity to attest how her cancer was “healed by” some radioactive isotope tracer produced in an NPP, preferably by having her mince around the facility itself.

    @Meyerson:

    1. I agree with your last sentence.
    2. you write that AGW denial in USA is mainly scientific illiteracy. I have seen no studies demonstrating that scientific literacy in France is higher than in the USA. Do you know any? Yet the French public is largely happy with NPPs. How does one define scient. literacy in regard of NPPs, by the way? A good pass in Biology at university entrance level? Or in Physics without any teaching content to do with applied nuclear physics?

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  75. “…you wrote/implied … that the problem in our culture is that Nukies have to sell even blatantly obvious solutions to the majority of the public before even starting to lobby for governmental support.”

    In the case of nuclear energy, the level of public misunderstanding is very, very high in many countries. This is largely because certain NGO’s have been misrepresenting the issues. I believe that one of the first things the pronuclear movement must do is to reach out to the public and correct these common misconceptions. We must do this, I believe, before we make too much of an effort to lobby government, because, without public support, such efforts will not be as effective. I wouldn’t read much more into it than that.

    “I have seen no studies demonstrating that scientific literacy in France is higher than in the USA. Do you know any? Yet the French public is largely happy with NPPs.”

    I have looked carefully at the French public’s relationship with nuclear energy, in an effort to understand what was done right there. I am also a native Francophone, so I have been able to look somewhat deeper into this than most English commenters.

    It may surprise many to learn that the French public is just as cognizant of the potential dangers, and harbor many of the same misgivings that those in other countries have. They are also not free of many of the same misconceptions as well.

    However one should not make the mistake of assuming that France is only different from other Western nations because of the language that it speaks. Attitudes are very different, thus you can hear people being interviewed on television making statements like: “

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  76. as someone living in France, maybe I can add something here.

    In the early 90’s, EDF ran a publicity campaign telling people that their electricity was mostly nuclear. One particular ad had a man complaining to his neighbour about his electric drill, the neighbour replied that it was a nuclear drill. He was emphasising how reliable electricity in France is provided by nuclear power.

    I bet a great many people here will remember that still, and I think that it has had a long-lasting effect on them. My impression (purely personal, no numbers to back it up) is that most French are simply happy to have cheap, reliable power, and know that it is because it is nuclear in origin.

    I think a good PR campaign has a lot to be said for it.

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  77. wait peter:

    I don’t know about scientific illiteracy in france but my guess is it’s much lower. I’ll bet there is a far higher percentage of creationists, for example, in the u.s..

    but you raise the npp issue. I was talking about global warming. the american public is on the whole actually not opposed to nuclear power plants. The environmental movement is. this doesn’t mean the american public is exactly pro nuclear. It’s not that much in the public consciousness one way or another.

    I think the questions you raise are different depending on whether we are talking about npps or global warming.

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  78. “…you wrote/implied … that the problem in our culture is that Nukies have to sell even blatantly obvious solutions to the majority of the public before even starting to lobby for governmental support.”

    In the case of nuclear energy, the level of public misunderstanding is very, very high in many countries. This is largely because certain NGO’s have been misrepresenting the issues. I believe that one of the first things the pronuclear movement must do is to reach out to the public and correct these common misconceptions. We must do this, I believe, before we make too much of an effort to lobby government because, without public support, such efforts will not be as effective. I wouldn’t read much more into it than that.

    “I have seen no studies demonstrating that scientific literacy in France is higher than in the USA. Do you know any? Yet the French public is largely happy with NPPs.”

    I have looked carefully at the French public’s relationship with nuclear energy, in an effort to understand what was done right there. I am also a native Francophone, so I have been able to look somewhat deeper into this than most English commenters.

    It may surprise many to learn that the French public is just as cognizant of the potential dangers, and harbor many of the same misgivings that those in other countries have about nuclear energy. They are also not free of many of the same misconceptions as well.

    However one should not make the mistake of assuming that France is only different from other Western nations because of the language that it speaks. Attitudes are very different, thus you can hear people being interviewed on television making statements like: “Of course nuclear energy is dangerous, but we in France have proven that we can be trusted with such a technology; others like the Russians obviously cannot”

    The French population may or may not be more scientifically literate then those in the Anglosphere, that is not the relevant factor. They are however, a good deal more arrogant, and confident in themselves as a people.

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  79. Let’s hope nuclear power is not born again in the u.s. due to a spike in national chauvinism (“our confidence as a people”).

    the u.s. has done enough damage. a spike in national chauvinism coming hard upon our 15-20 percent real unemployment rate would be too steep a price to pay for any source of electricity.

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  80. @Peter Lalor:

    I rather think you slipped in a reference to Adolph Hitler for shock value.

    Anyway, If you’re saying that pro-nuclear advocates need to launch a propaganda campaign of some kind to sell nuclear power to the public, I see little to disagree with. I’ll go further, and claim that the lack of an effective campaign thus far demonstrates the extent to which this is so far a grassroots movement with little professional PR input, and little in the way of major funding from industry, govrnment, or other interested parties.

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  81. @DV82XL you wrote at:
    https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/25/nuclear-safeguards/#comment-46603

    that the French are more arrogant and confident than Anglosphere people and by implication that this drives their stance on NPPs.

    For a man who otherwise cultivates scientific stringency I find your statement astonishingly jejeune. How do you operationalise or parametrise arrogance and confidence? is your statement not equivalent to any North American person smearing countries which do not fall into line with US/CAN foreign policy as “hypernationalistic?”

    I talked today to a French national who was politically aware already in the post-oil shock 70s. She related the official Paris stance on NPPs at that time to energy autarky. She said that autarky was the NPP rationale/spin imparted to the French voters by the govt. In view of North Sea oil going strong for UK/Norway at that time I can see the point.

    By the way I am intrigued to read you stating that NPPs have potential dangers. I had thought you thought there were none, and that anybody who thought different was merely hysterical and in thrall to Caldicott? Please explain.

    Do you therefore agree with me when I say (yet again) that bureaucratic malfeasance in eg France makes the Gen II NPP at Fessenheim quite dangerous because it is near the Rhine valley fault?

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  82. @Peter Lalor – Because I consider myself more French than a member of the Anglosphere, I believe that I have better perspective that you do on how people think in France especially about themselves. However there are difficulties translating these attitudes into another language, and into the terms common to a another culture. I have failed at this in the past, and it would seem I have failed here again.

    I was attempting to describe the general feelings that seem to underlay French attitudes toward nuclear energy, and show that there appears to be a understanding among its citizens that France is a nation that can handle nuclear power, even though there is a general acceptance of the the dangers – as the population understands those dangers rightly or wrongly. It is also germane to add that this attitude is mixed with feelings about France being a nuclear weapons state. Again there is an understanding of the magnitude of the responsibility, and a feeling that France is a country that can be trusted to posses such a weapon.

    Perhaps I should not have used the phrase “cognizant of the potential dangers” to indicate that that the attitudes there are not a product of ignorance, any more than they are of indifference, and I can see how you in particular would chose to interpret this as some sort of admission that I see dangers in nuclear power. I assure you it is not, but it was a sloppy use of language, and I apologize for not being more selective in my choice of phrase.

    There is a small, but active antinuclear movement in France, however it doesn’t even come close to similar organizations in other countries, and does not enjoy the tacit support of the public by being on the side of majority opinion as they do elsewhere.

    As for France’s concern with energy independence, this is something that developed long before the North Sea discoveries. De Gaul was the one I believe who said: “No oil, no coal, no gas, no choice,” in relation to France’s need to pursue nuclear power, back in the late Fifties.

    As for your idiotic accusations of bureaucratic malfeasance, this only illustrates your own deep ignorance and does not warrant an answer.

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  83. @DV28XL:

    dear me, you are getting testy. If you going to quote de Gaulle, (not de Gaul, that is the English spelling of Gallia), please spell his name properly: “Nous n’avons aucune concession, ni même aucune amabilité, à faire à M. Trudeau, qui est l’adversaire de la chose française au Canada.”

    your apparent assumptions about my nationality, command of languages and geographical location amuse. And why accusations of bureaucratic malfeasance such as are routine in this world do not “warrant an answer” is par for your course, if I may use an Anglo golfing metaphor. Hence it is striking that you seem to be issuing all and any NPP supervisors a blank cheque/clean bill of health. But I need look no further than Tom Blees’ comments in his book on the situation in the USA, which is one of connivance.

    As regards Fessenheim, built near the Rhine valley fault, no doubt you will want to class “erreur de conception” (see text below) as being outside malfeasance, ..signed Your Deeply Idiotic Ignorant Interlocutor.

    FYI, there is a 130-strong association including the municipalities of Basle and Freiburg which have been trying at court for years to get Fessenheim closed down: L’Association trinationale de protection de la population des alentours de Fessenheim (ATPN)). They will all be Deeply Ignorant as well.

    <>

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  84. I make no assumptions about your nationality, or command of language, nor do I care. That you wish to be coy about them, only suggests that they are of little relevance.

    If the best you can do is to upbraid me for a spelling mistake, and quote an old horses’ ass who stuck his foot in his mouth, then you have apparently run out of real arguments, to the extent you had any to begin with. It still stands that French commitment to the development of nuclear energy predates any of the North Sea discoveries, which was the point of my argument.

    If in fact you know the situation in France as well as I do, then you you should know what the people there think of nuclear energy. But if you are going to suggest that there is general acceptance because the population has has been misinformed by the government, then apparently your opinion of the intellectual capacity of the French people is one of deep contempt, and one I obviously do not share.

    Again as for Fessenheim, I hardly see any evidence bureaucratic malfeasance in the link you offered, nor does the existence of a small antinuclear association prove anything along these lines ether.

    But really, the fact that you have now sunk to ad hom attacks, and making veiled insults, in an attempt to undermine my credibility, is more than enough indication that you have run out of any real arguments. If you can’t bring anything else to the table, then this discussion is over.

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  85. @DV82XL: your wanting to take your ball or puck and go home is fine by me.

    The issue of when F decided to go nuclear is a red (North Sea) herring.

    The main point is surely your obdurate or should I say fanatical refusal to address the topic of human frailty as exemplified by loose or corrupt NPP regulatory regimes in F or elsewhere. Prima facie, you seem happy to have Gen. IIIs or IVs built in seismically-active zones, the way Gen II. NPP Fessenheim is.

    Tom Blees deals with regulatory malfeasance for the USA in his book, and not only in the section dealing with GREAT. I implied months ago on this blog that BNC acolytes were de facto cherry-picking Blees’ work (which I read), and Jim Green then cited on BNC the passages I was referring to.

    We were met by resounding silence. QED.

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  86. Lalor, you have not said anything of substance for several posts now, you have systematically avoided others, when they have asked you to provide your opinions on what alternatives you would see in lue of nuclear energy, and now seem to think you can avoid it by claiming that I am refusing to address the possibility corruption in nuclear regulatory bodies

    However you have tabled no proof of your accusations at all, which typical of every antinuclear claim of conspiracy of this sort. Until you do, there is no point in attempting to address this issue, as I said before.

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  87. I find this conversation very interesting. I am trying to keep an open mind about the prospects of nuclear energy as a climate solution. One thing I have a problem with is the asumption that ONLY nuclear can solve the energy and climate problem. I, and many others, see it as a problem that needs to use every tool in the tool shed. There is one renewable energy that has tremendous potential and that is solar thermal, with heat storage. The U.S. southwest for instance has enormous potential for clean reliable power from this source. The dispatchable power from solar thermal or CSP is in some ways just as valuable as the base load power from coal or nuclear. In fact, it better facilitates the intergration of intermittent sources of renewables like PV solar and wind into the energy grid than base load does. The NREL projects electricity prices from CSP to be about 3.5-6 cents/kWh when the industry is up to scale and is past the initial learning curve. They see the learning curve as being quite short. According to the NREL, power tower type CSP plants with heat storage could have capacity factors as high as 72%. And solar trough type plants somewhere over 50%. I recently read an article about a company in Canada that says they can build solar thermal plants that produce four times the power at half the cost of existing solar thermal technology.

    We all need to keep open minds. I have not been a big fan of nuclear energy, for several reasons, weapons proliferation concerns being at the top of the list. After reading the comments here, I am still not convinced since obviously many who have studied the issue of nuclear energy much more than I have are arguing about it. I can see how frustrating it must be for advocates of nuclear to convey their thoughts to the general public on such a complex issue. It’s not unlike the confusion over climate change, since the public can’t grasp the scientific issues. Americans may say they want nuclear power, but to build say 400 new plants means eight new nuclear plants per state on average and I can’t see how that wont run into NIMBY blockages, even if peoples fears are not realistic. My opinion is that renewables that are ready to build now should be supported. Wind energy in the U.S. grew by 18GW in two years. Giving wind a 30% capacity factor makes it the equivalent of 5.5 average size nuclear plants built in two years. So lets not stifle what is working because we think there is only one solution. The new nuclear technologies that are being talked about are not ready for deployment on a commercial scale yet. In the meantime lets use all the tools we have that are.

    Australia, the Mid-East, North Africa and other areas also have enormous potential.

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  88. Pingback: Two nuclear-solar dialogues in Melbourne next week « BraveNewClimate

  89. I just wanted to re-iterate that I think it’s really great that Jim Green was willing to submit a post here, and set down his views and contentions in a detailed post, and talk about them in a constructive way, and allow them to be peer-reviewed through the comments thread.

    I’d really like to see more of this on BraveNewClimate.

    I’d really like to see more similar guest posts with names such as Green or Lowe or Ludlam or Diesendorf or Caldicott on them.

    I’m sure Barry would be completely happy to host more guest posts from these people – but to be honest, I really don’t expect that we’ll see any such posts coming again any time soon.

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  90. Pingback: Monthly Argument debate: climate change – is nuclear power the answer « BraveNewClimate

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